Friendship Garden: Cultivating a Friendship Based Marriage
A Happy Marriage Secret
One secret to a happy marriage is friendship. In our previous blog we discussed having fun in marriage. Remember the couple we discussed who appeared to be enjoying their time together? I would venture to say that, if asked, the happy duo would say that “they married their best friend.”
What is a Friend?
How someone describes a friend is a bit different for everyone. One way to characterize a friend is someone who is a favored companion. They are supportive, a good listener, and trustworthy. Many ideas exist about what makes a person a friend.
What does the dictionary say about it? On Dictionary.com, it states that a friend is “a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard.” All of these are accurate ideas, but behind every word is a history.
What is the History of the Word “Friend?”
The history of the word “friend” comes from a form of the Old English word frēond. Frēond means “to love” and “to honor. We have already talked about the importance of honoring our spouses. It comes as no surprise that it connects to “friend.” Both are foundation principles needed for a healthy marriage.
What Makes a Best Friend?
If a friend means “to love” and “to honor,” then a “best friend” is a person who excels at loving and honoring. Both are two of the promises we make on our wedding day. When we recite our vows, we are laying the foundation to commit to being best friends.
A Foundation Principle
Friendship is a foundation principle needed for a healthy relationship. In fact, many marriages begin as friends and grow into budding romances. Others may shape it during the dating phase. Couples who start as friends continue to build on the foundation they framed before the “I do’s.” Laying the foundation of a solid friendship is essential to help bridge the valleys and pitfalls of life.
What do we do if we have not built that foundation, or it has fallen apart over time?
Build A Friendship Garden
Developing a friendship in marriage is like planting a garden. You have to cultivate and nurture it for it to produce fruit. There is no quick scheme or magic bean that will instantly sprout a special relationship.
We insert it over time.
“Feed Me, Seymour”
Over the past few months, we have written about communication, intimacy, honor, and many other topics (check them out here). Why have we been covering these ideas?
Well, sure, we are a marriage ministry, so we are SUPPOSED to cover those topics. However, all of those issues directly correlate to the method of building a life-long friendship with our spouse. The topics we have covered and will cover in future blogs are the “best friend” fertilizer. Applying them cultivates the friendship garden.
Being best friends with our spouse is the kind of marriage we want, but often find it difficult to accomplish.
Why is it Difficult?
Quite simply, we get lazy, sometimes, even a bit selfish. Ready to string me up for that? Hang tight. Hear me out before you exit this page. It never is an intentional move to become lazy or selfish with our affections. It slips in a little at a time.
Affection suckers like TV, personal hobbies, phones, careers, and routine latch on one-by-one. Before you realize it, there is no time left to nurture the garden. It happens, and everyone has those little pests draining the life out of our growth. What are your affection suckers?
Life. Gets. Hectic.
The average couple only spends 4 minutes A DAY alone together! I spend more time eating lunch than that. Four minutes a day is not enough time to cultivate the friendship garden.
How Do we End Up with so Little Time?
For most, it is a fact that we have a ton of responsibilities and “irons in the fire.” We have work to juggle, kids to care for and shuttle around, house and car maintenance, yard work, dinner to cook, and ministries to attend or run. The list could go on for miles. If we are not careful, building a friendship with our spouses could end up miles down the list.
We did not intend for our marriage to fall so far down the list, but it happens if we lose sight of tending to our friendship garden.
How Does it Happen Then?
What happens is we start reasoning with ourselves. We find ways to justify why other responsibilities or interests take precedence over spending time working our friendship garden. We do not have time right now, but “When it slows down, we can carve out time to getaway or have alone time together.”
The reality is that by the time it slows down, it is too late. Your beautiful garden, once vibrant and full of life, is lifeless. All the growth is choked out by gnarly weeds tangled across the landscape.
It is not too late to weed. Maybe you have a tangled mess of weeds right now. How do you start clearing it out?
“Get the Weed Hacker Vern”
There are several answers to how you can start weeding your friendship garden. We will focus on 5.
If you have been too busy to build a friendship with your spouse, you were likely too busy to pray for them or your marriage. God is a master gardener. He will guide you best on where to begin weeding. Praying together is one of the most intimate things a couple can do.
2. Make the time
Remember when I said the average couple only spends 4 minutes alone together each day? Examine what weeds have grown that could be cut out? If you were to scrutinize your day, I bet you would find a whole mess of unnecessary time suckers in there.
3. Add Fertilizer
It is imperative that we feed our relationships. Nutrients to grow your friendship garden include excellent communication skills, honoring our spouse, having fun together, and building intimacy in marriage. Need more? See other blogs we have written over the last few months.
4. Change the pattern
The pattern of not cultivating a friendship in our marriage did not happen overnight. We developed a pattern, a habit of putting other things first. It took us a while for the weeds to take over, so it will take some time to clean it up. Experts say that it takes approx 66 days to develop a new pattern of behavior.
5. Be consistent
A garden needs care daily. Sometimes this may be more difficult, and some days are more hectic than others. Don’t give in to the urge to table it until tomorrow. That is how the mess started in the first place.
Marriage is meant to be the closest bond humans form on earth. The only connection higher is with the Lord. God did not just give us marriage to procreate. He designed it because “it is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). It is God’s desire that we form the closest and deepest relationship with our spouses so that we cannot tell where one begins and the other ends. It is what he meant when he said, “and the two are united into one. Since they are no longer two but one” (Mark 10:8). It is divinely appointed, but the process of cultivating is our assignment.
Becoming best friends with our spouse is a process. It does not just happen without intent and daily care.