Best friends forever: How to cultivate friendship in marriage
Every happy marriage has doldrums, but it's possible that this one may just be an opportunity to focus on being your spouse's best friend. Read these tips to find out how to make the most of this time of your life.
After six months of marriage, it seemed like the newlywed buzz was starting to wear off. Things were good; we were content. But I was worried. I often equate contentment with stagnation, and that was the last thing I wanted for my marriage.
Then I remembered having similar feelings a few times while we were dating, and my anxiety melted away. Then and now, we were simply focusing on the friendship portion of our relationship. Focusing on our friendship helps us to not take our commitment for granted, and provides a solid foundation for our physical intimacy. As soon as I decided to make the most of this period of contentment, I could see that our love was deepening and that we really are best friends. You, too, can make the most of being married to your best friend with the following ideas.
Be involved in things that matter to your spouse
My husband’s Ph.D. work involves math, science, and computers, all of which tend to be way, way over my head. But not this week. I asked him to send me the summary paragraph to the scientific paper he’s writing. Then, I spent a couple of hours searching Google and Wikipedia for all the phrases I didn’t understand. Not only was it fun to puzzle through the unfamiliar concepts, but it also made for a great conversation with my husband as I recapped what I learned. He felt very loved.
I’m not saying you have to figure out what “two-stage stochastic integer quadratically constrained programming” means. Just try finding out more about something that your spouse finds important. Giving time and attention to what your spouse enjoys will help him to feel important, too. That’s just what best friends do.
Remember: your spouse is yours to keep, yours to love, but not yours to fix
Sometimes I find myself hoping to help my husband be better without considering how amazing he already is. In many marriages, this comes out as nagging or silent treatments or just a sense of dissatisfaction. I don’t think best friends do that. Today, try just laughing and shrugging off your spouse’s shortcomings, and enjoy his strengths instead. My husband is a great example to me of this. Sometimes my communication skills are lacking, but he focuses on how much he loves my enthusiasm and passionate nature instead. His love gives me the courage to change and is more effective than reminders or rolled eyes could ever be. I want to be more like him!
While writing this article, I have searched my memory for moments that I have delighted in my husband. Doing so transfers my focus from what I wish was different to what I hope never changes. It banishes any fear, resentment or apathy toward my husband. In moments when you’re focusing on unmet expectations, consider the things you have to be grateful for. This helps you to put aside the things that don’t matter and address the things that do matter with an attitude of love, not anger.
My husband and I have very childlike mannerisms, so it’s normal for me to walk in the door and cry, “Husbaaaaaaaand!” with a huge smile and outstretched arms, like he’s the best thing that has happened to me all day. (Which he is.) Revealing that you are genuinely excited to interact with your spouse can improve his or her mood because you have bolstered her confidence or given him a little more energy.
Think of your favorite college roommate, who you dearly missed, even though she had only gone to class. Or, think of the way your give your dad a huge hug every time you see him. These people are probably among your very best friends. Let those relationships be an example to you of the enthusiasm you can feel and show toward your spouse.
Marriage is a unique combination of loyalty, attraction and friendship. Sometimes we need to reiterate our commitment, or seek out moments when we can be intimate. Likewise, friendship must be cultivated in order to have a balanced, joyful marriage. So remember some key things about what it means to be a best friend. Seek out common interests, even if it means learning about something brand new. Focus on what you already love about him or her, not on what you would change.
And don’t forget to show your spouse how excited you are to be married to your best friend.