Marriage without friendship is a lot like the Earth without the Sun – survival may be possible for a short time, but ultimately, it is doomed to fail. If the partners we choose to spend most of our lives with can also be considered our friend, the trials and tribulations of everyday life can be a lot easier to get through. It’s little wonder then that the strongest relationships are those where friendship is valued and nurtured every day.
A healthy modern marriage needs something more enticing than financial security or an amazing sex life to stay strong. When it comes down to it, friendship – and the mutual respect found within all good friendships – creates the ultimate bond between couples. Like the sturdy roots of a tree, your marriage has a far greater chance of standing strong if it has a solid foundation to help it weather life’s problems – and friendship are those roots.
A 2014 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research into marriage and happiness found that people who think of their spouse as their best friend are reported to have twice the satisfaction levels in their marriage as other couples. These findings and similar studies are revealing something interesting about the changing values and re-shaping of the ‘traditional marriage’.
- Benefits of Cultivating Friendship in Marriage
- Nurturing Friendship in Marriage
Benefits of Cultivating Friendship in Marriage
A strong friendship is the foundation of a happy, fulfilling marriage. When you treat your spouse both as your best friend and your life partner, your relationship gains amazing benefits.
Seeing your spouse primarily as a friend deepens intimacy and connection. You make the choice to be vulnerable, open, loyal, and caring – the hallmarks of true friendship.
Daily stresses and responsibilities can strain marriages over time. Prioritizing fun, laughter, and good times together injects vitality back into the relationship.
Shared experiences and inside jokes create a sense of closeness and partnership. You feel united with your spouse, facing life as a team.
Companionship provides spouses with reliable support. In good times and bad, you know your partner has your back.
Friendship in marriage means you often give your spouse the benefit of the doubt. You avoid thinking negatively about your spouse’s intentions.
Increased Happiness and Fulfillment
- Studies show that married people report higher levels of life satisfaction compared to single people. However, a good quality marriage is what really increases happiness.
- Approaching marriage as a friendship leads to greater effort in understanding each other’s needs and emotions. Receiving this kind of care and validation is incredibly fulfilling.
- Regular shared fun and laughter increase feel-good hormones like dopamine and oxytocin, providing a biological boost.
- A strong friendship means you celebrate each other’s wins and support each other through losses. Having someone always there to support you feels amazing.
- The companionship in marriage naturally protects against loneliness. Humans thrive when they have a genuine emotional connection.
Increased Emotional and Physical Intimacy
Vulnerability and openness foster deeper emotional intimacy between spouses. In such an environment, spouses feel safe confiding their true feelings, fears, and dreams.
Physical intimacy extends beyond just sex. Affectionate touch, hugs, hand-holding, and thoughtfulness all keep passion alive.
Physical intimacy is sparked by playfulness and teasing. Over time, many marriages lose this sense of playfulness.
Approaching sex both as an act of friendship and passion reduces performance pressure and heightens satisfaction.
Showing true empathy for your partner’s sexual needs makes your partner feel cared for.
Trust and Forgiveness
- In a friendship, you believe the best about your partner, not the worst.
- In conflicts, fighting fair is important because of the value you place on the relationship. This means avoiding name-calling and contempt.
- Friends admit when they mess up and sincerely apologize. Owning mistakes deepens trust.
- Caring about the friendship makes it easier to let go of grudges. Forgiveness repairs bonds.
- Couples with a shared history and commitment can move past betrayals or hurts. Friendship provides resilience.
Better Conflict Resolution
Approaching conflicts as friends trying to solve a problem together puts you on the same team.
Showing compassion and empathy towards your partner’s views leads to compromises.
Choosing which issues to address helps avoid major arguments over minor matters. Consider whether a disagreement is significant enough to risk damaging the friendship.
You feel safe expressing grievances, knowing that your friendship is strong enough to handle them.
Having shared goals, history, and commitment drives you to resolve issues constructively.
Nurturing Friendship in Marriage
So how do you go about creating and holding on to friendship in a marriage? Assuming both partners are willing to try, it’s never too late to start making the effort. And a good way to start is to talk more, listen better and make time for each other.
So before you book an ill-advised ‘save our marriage’ type of vacation, take things back to basics. Here are a few good ways to start:
- Communicate more – it may sound obvious but talk more often to your partner! Silence builds up resentment in a marriage and if you’re not sharing, you’re just shouldering burdens until they implode. Simply asking how their day was each night and making plans for tomorrow is a great way to start.
- Try new activities – if conversation isn’t flowing too easily for you both, take up something new together. Take a class you’d both enjoy, go for runs, try couples yoga…anything! And while you do, don’t be afraid to tease each other and get competitive about it. Pick something that you know will bring out your silly side.
- Make your spouse feel prioritized – we get a rush out of feeling prioritized and important when our best friend singles us out for life advice or to confide in us and only us. Make your partner feel that way too. Do your bit every day to make sure their opinion counts to you.
By trying these things regularly, you’ll begin to discover what your common ground is and you can start to strengthen your friendship from there. As well as trying the steps mentioned in this article, it might also be helpful to take a free marriage assessment with your partner. This might help you see what needs improving. In the meantime, take a look below at some tips for becoming better friends to each other:
How Can I Be a Better Friend to My Husband?
- Re-frame criticism – when you have a bone to pick with him, pretend our husband is a male friend and ask yourself “would I criticize a friend for similar behavior or choices?
- Practice more tolerance – if he hasn’t made the bed or tidied an area in the way you would, be tolerant of his attempt and show more acceptance
- Take an interest in his hobbies – you don’t have to watch every game with him, but take the time to be more thoughtful about his interests. Ask questions and celebrate with him when his team wins.
How Can I Be a Better Friend to My Wife?
- Help out more with chores – A 2008 study from the University of Michigan found that husbands create an extra 7 hours of housework for their wives! As well as sharing more of the chores, why not throw a surprise dinner party with her friends and offer to cater? This simple act will make her feel like more than just mom and wife for the day.
- Use ‘we’ more and less of ‘I’ – if you’re the breadwinner, you may take charge of a lot of decisions and tend to use the term ‘I’ a lot more than ‘we’, but if you try switching to ‘we’ more often, it communicates to your wife that you are a team.
- Show support throughout the day – while it’s good to have space away from each other, women appreciate being thought of throughout the day, so send your wife a quick text or leave a note before going to work to show she’s in your thoughts.
Can existing best friends make good marriage partners?
You hear of best friends making a pact to get together if they still find themselves single 10, 20 years down the line, but is this a wise decision? According to Gary Lewandowski Jr, Professor of Psychology at Monmouth University, converting a long-term best friend into a romantic partner risks ruining your friendship. What’s important is finding a partner with your ideal qualities in a friend.
How can you tell if you’re ‘more than friends’?
Intuitive Dating Coach, Diana Dorell suggests that the signs that you’re falling for a friend are things like feeling hyper-aware of yourself. You will begin to feel self-conscious about your mannerisms, feel nervous in their presence and the big clue – you may start to imagine them kissing you or in similar romantic scenarios. If you notice nervous behavior in them too, they may feel the same way!
Can friendship with other couples improve your own marriage?
According to a 2018 study involving 123 couples, having friendships with other couples can have many benefits including a greater understanding of men and women and increased levels of attractiveness to each other’s married partner. The findings also revealed that those seeking couple friendships tended to be extroverted, so couples consisting of introverted and extroverted partners may be less likely to seek out couple friendships or report lower satisfaction levels.
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Mike is the Founder of Familylifeshare. Mike is well-knowledged in marriage, parenting, dogs, blogging and committed to sharing his knowledge and expertise with his readers. Know more about Mike from here.