The couple in the picture above looks so happy, don’t they? Life is good. All is bliss. We walk with our spouse through fields of wheat holding hands to show how much we love each other.
Oh that life was really this easy and peaceful! If you’ve been married for more than a week, you know it’s not!
Marriage is hard. It takes work. It gets messy and complicated sometimes. Life happens. Kids. Jobs. Bills.
And somewhere along the way the blissful friendship that led us to the altar can easily disappear. What once was a friendship for the ages becomes a quest for surviving today.
OK, maybe blissful friendship and a quest for survival are a little dramatic – two ends of the spectrum in marriage – but you get the idea. We come together as friends, fall in love, dream of the perfect relationship…but it’s very hard to maintain amidst the distractions and demands of life.
So once we’ve begun the struggle and, perhaps, lost some of that intimate friendship with our spouse, how do we recover? What can we do to become better friends while managing the demands of all that life throws our way? Here are 5 ways I’ve found to make it happen . . .
How To Be A Better Friend To Your Spouse
Something happens when we pray. Not only do we move the hand of God, but He moves in our hearts, as well. It’s hard to let other things take priority over what we are praying for. It’s hard to be angry with, or resentful of, or uninterested in, what we pray for. This includes our spouse.
Praying with our spouse in mind keeps them front and center in our thoughts – right where they should be. It keeps us thinking about their needs and wants. It leads us to desire those things for them. And, of course, it leads us to bring them before God Himself, a powerful way to draw us closer to them.
Two ways we can pray with our spouse in mind:
- Pray for your spouse. Do you know what your spouse needs? Do you know what they are struggling with? Do you know what they fear, what they dream of, what their biggest goal in life is? Pray for these things. The process alone draws us to knowing our spouse more deeply, opening the door for a more intimate friendship.
- Pray with your spouse. Something happens when we pray for our spouse. Something also happens when we pray with our spouse. It seems to me that praying for them helps us understand what they need, while praying with them helps us understand who they are. We see and hear their heart. We are exposed to what’s important to them, their passion. Again, this is something that can hardly help but draw us closer to them.
Prioritizing your spouse simply means making what’s important to them, important to you. It doesn’t mean making those things important to the exclusion of all other things. But we can’t let other things completely block out what’s important to them.
Let me give you an example. Last weekend was the 24th anniversary for my wife and I. Is that important to her? Yes! But did it mean that I had to be home celebrating on the very day of our anniversary? No. I was in Ethiopia, doing something else that’s important – my job, and what God has called me to do in this season. But that doesn’t mean that our anniversary (something that’s important to my wife) wasn’t a priority. Before I left I gave her a gift that I knew would communicate that she is my priority. And I told her what I specifically wanted to do to celebrate when I got home. I made her my priority even though I was going to be gone on the actual anniversary.
When we make what’s important to them important to us, we give them value. Value opens the door for friendship.
In my experience and observation, not playing together is, perhaps, the biggest factor in spouses drifting apart in their friendship with each other. Friends do fun things together. It’s a core friendship-building practice, and too often we stop playing together when we get married. Or when we have kids. Or when our job gets more demanding. Or all of the above!
Sure, it’s hard to find time to play sometimes. It’s hard to justify playing when there are so many other demands. But playing together – and by that I mean just finding time to have fun and enjoy doing something without distractions or demands interfering – is critically important to maintaining a close friendship.
To create space to play together:
- Identify things that you both enjoy doing. I like to think small ~ find things that are easy to do, like hiking, or exploring nearby places, or going to the movies.
- Get playtime on the calendar. If it’s not on the calendar, the time will likely get consumed by the distractions and demands of life. Even a couple of hours on a Saturday morning can make a big difference.
- Plan for the necessary resources to make it happen. Playing doesn’t have to be expensive, but if dinner and a movie is something you both enjoy, you might be looking at a hundred dollar evening. If that’s a challenge, then create the plan to put that away so that, once a month, you’ve got the resources to go play without feeling guilty.
When we come together in marriage, we are uniting as one. What hurts your spouse hurts you, and vice versa. Too often, we are so busy taking care of ourselves and our interests that we leave our spouse an open target.
We can’t do this. We need to protect their time. We need to protect their dignity. We need to protect their interests. We need to protect their reputation. We need to protect them physically. We need to protect them in any way possible. And when we do this together, it brings us together, promoting a friendship of trust an vulnerability.
Of course, we need to protect in a Godly and Christ-like way, not one in which we hurt others as we protect our spouse. But we were never made to do life alone, and looking out for the interests of the other (which should seem obvious), too often doesn’t happen. Actively and intentionally have each other’s back, and you will grow closer because of it.
Do you know what your spouse loves to do (even if you don’t)? Do you know what they are really, really good at? Do you know when they need a break, and what it is that will refresh them the most?
Promote these things. Encourage them to pursue their God-given passions. Find a way to make it happen. Be proactive in enabling them to do the things they love to do and were designed to do in life.
When we promote our spouse, not only will they be more likely to thrive, but so will we. And the sense of value for you as the giver, and for them as the receiver, will promote a more intimate friendship along the way.