Your wedding anniversary is round the corner. Or your spouse’s birthday is near. You are racking your brains to buy a gift for the one you love.
“Shall I buy her a branded handbag?”
“What about the latest smartphone model for him?”
It is very natural for us to give our spouse tangible items to express our love on a special occasion.
But we all know that the best gifts in life are often not bought with money. So let us get creative and give our spouse something priceless and meaningful – the gift of friendship.
Walk down memory lane and reminisce the times (even before “I Do”) when you were just friends. You enjoyed being together, looked forward to common activities or projects, and confided in each other. You appreciated the little things about each other, shared the good times and weathered the storms in life together.
There was a deep sense of emotional connection, and your friendship helped form the foundation of your relationship.
Research shows that couples who share a deep friendship have greater marital satisfaction. John Gottman, author of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, asserts that friendship is an important ingredient in a happy and lasting marriage. It is also a key predictor of a successful marriage.
Friendship between husband and wife does not mean there is no romance or it overrides the importance of sexual intimacy. Sex is an integral aspect in marriages, but it is not everything. Our physical attributes will fade, and our sexual desire can ebb and flow in response to life circumstances or bodily changes.
But when we maintain a strong friendship with our spouse, we experience emotional intimacy – a sense of being fully seen, known and accepted – that not only enables the marriage to stay strong, but might also amp up our sex life.
I wish I can unabashedly say my husband and I are the best of friends after being married for more than two decades.
Because of the stresses of life, personal issues and taking each other for granted, the friendship ingredient is not prominent in the mix.
We are, however, determined to recalibrate and increase the crucial friendship element so our marriage can rise and thrive beautifully.
So, if you find yourself in the same place as I am, take heart. We can rebuild or enhance F.R.I.E.N.D.S.H.I.P. with our spouse in the following practical ways:
Find common interests:
The fastest way to bond with our spouse is to engage in meaningful activities or shared experiences. Stories are aplenty of couples volunteering for a worthy cause, starting a new business venture, or exercising together.
Remember to be nice and kind:
Have you ever thought to yourself, “He speaks more politely to the barista at the café than to me”?
If so, you are not alone. We often have the mindset that because we are comfortable with our spouse, we do not need to use niceties such as “Please”, “Thank you” or speak kindly as much as we would when we are out in public. But our spouse deserves better. Why would we give our spouse – who loves us, warts and all – less of our kindness than the waitress at the restaurant?
Invest time and be committed:
Enhancing the friendship element in your marriage is not a magical process. A few positive experiences would not make you the best of friends.
It takes intention + time + sustained effort to foster a deep friendship with each other.
(Friendship = Intention + Time + Effort)
Extend forgiveness and grace:
Couples who have a healthy friendship choose to think the best of each other. They admit their faults when they make mistakes. They forgive often and work towards reconciliation when things go awry instead of harbouring grudges.
Nurture your individual identity:
Being “one” in our marriage does not mean we have to be inseparable or lose our individual identity in the relationship. It is important to have our own individual space and do things we enjoy on your own. And let your spouse do the same. Our friendship can only thrive when we have our own space to grow and be who we are.
Date each other:
This does not need to be a candle-light dinner or a meal at a high-end restaurant. If you have young children, it does mean finding a trustworthy baby-sitter to care for your kids while you spend some couple-time engaging in activities that both of you enjoy.
Having fun and a good sense of humour not only adds freshness to the relationship, but it can also deepen emotional intimacy.
Decide on which relational attributes to work on together – such as respect, encouragement or unity – and live out these values in practical ways.
Have face-to-face conversations:
While there are advantages to use e-devices to communicate, sitting down and having face-to-face conversations can go a long way to deepen trust. So put down the smartphone and practise attentive listening to enjoy a meaningful conversation.
Inculcate values and qualities that make your friendship shine:
Every couple has their vision of marital friendship. Decide on which attributes to work on together – such as respect, encouragement or unity – and live out these values in practical ways.
Prioritise the relationship:
Taking our spouse for granted and putting him/her low on our priorities list is a surefire way to jeopardise our marriage. Close friends make time for each other.
Friendship is an essential ingredient to maintain a successful marriage. It takes work and commitment to remain best friends, but the rewards are tremendous. Regardless of how much this core ingredient is currently in your marriage, it is never too late to reset and add a generous amount to the mix.
What steps will you take to re-ignite your friendship with your dearest and nearest?
© 2022 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.
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Swee Fen is an ordinary woman who desires to inspire others to make an extra-ordinary impact through her family life and life skills workshops, counselling training sessions and writing. She can be contacted at [email protected].
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