Deepening Your Friendship in Marriage

When our friendship with our spouse grows passionless, it reflects a numb heart towards Christ.

When my husband and I got married, it was incredibly hard. After all, marriage is the union of two sinners in a covenant before Christ.

We were both born in India but raised on opposite sides of the world. Each of us came into the marriage with different family structures, expectations, and cultural norms.

We had an arranged marriage, and we were in our twenties. We did not have the benefit of developing an understanding of who we were or what to expect. 

By God’s grace, it only took us three years to figure out what we were missing in the relationship. We were missing a friendship. No one told us the importance of friendship in marriage. So, we had to start over.

Many relationships start by knowing each other well enough to agree they can tolerate each other’s quirks and odd mannerisms. But somewhere along the line, the demands of daily life take over.

Couples become caught up in crossing obligations off a list. They become weary and intolerant of visible habits and traits. 

As a result, both spouses stop pursuing each other. I have heard several couples say that maintaining a friendship with their spouse often feels exhausting; it feels like “work.”

This way of thinking is destructive and it will lead to disunity.

The way we pursue and maintain friendships outside of marriage is the way we need to pursue friendship with our spouse.

Some Pitfalls that Hurt Friendship in Marriage

As a marriage and family therapist, although there are numerous pitfalls in marriage, here are the top three things I think couples must avoid in their relationship.

Child-centred Marriage

This type of marriage is when the focus and attention have been given entirely to the child or children.

I am fully aware of the importance of creating a secure attachment between the parent and child. Parenting schedules are full of activities, unending homework projects, and obligatory attendance to birthday parties.

However, when more attention is given to the child’s demanding schedule, it hurts the marriage.

A healthy marriage does not just happen; it gets cultivated.

This cycle becomes unhealthy when the child becomes the focal point of all conversation, and anything outside the child’s needs becomes bitterly challenging to talk about.

The effects of a child-centred marriage are that one or both spouses will struggle with loneliness and feel unappreciated. As a result, the emotional disconnection grows.

The antidote to a child-entered marriage is to pursue your spouse.

Date your spouse for the rest of your life by paying attention to how you look, act, and try to win them over, as if for the first time. One of the best gifts you can give your child is modelling a friendship with your spouse. 

Past-focused Marriage

This kind of marriage has difficulty moving towards each other due to numerous unprocessed past situations. They coast in marriage and do not have much depth as there are things that neither has discussed.

The effect of unprocessed trauma or crisis is that the couple does not trust each other, will not respect each other, and a negative narrative will replay in your mind.

The antidote to a past-focused marriage is to seek counsel from a wise and trusted professional or friend. Process the past issues and seek healing to move towards each other.

Comparing Competencies

This kind of marriage keeps a list of who does what as it relates to responsibilities. This type of marriage does not help foster a team spirit.  Here is what I mean by that. It is important to get things done but it is not helpful to compare the competency to get things done.

Often, both spouses are carrying a full load but have not communicated what each is carrying. As a result, one or both spouses could feel overwhelmed and frustrated that one is doing more than the other. 

A healthy marriage can be possible when both partners invest in their marriage.

The antidote is to take time for each other and listen to understand what each is carrying on their plate.

Listen to your partner by asking how you can help them.

Acknowledge each other’s load so the spouse feels heard and seen. Sometimes, saying a simple ‘thank you’ can help alleviate some of the stressors.

If you find yourself in any of these pitfalls or any other identified pitfalls, please seek counsel for your marriage to flourish.    

Cultivating Friendship in Marriage

A healthy marriage can be possible when both partners invest in their marriage. If you find yourself stuck in a pitfall, then start over. Starting over to create a friendship looks like this: 

  • Start with prayer. Ask Jesus to change your heart and give you a new and fresh desire to pursue and love your spouse.
    • Prayer: “Teach me how to be a husband/wife. What does my spouse need from me that I’m not seeing?”
  • Practice repentance through prayer. Pause, reflect, identify, and confess what needs to change in you.
    • Prayer: “Help me to listen to understand and not to defend myself. Teach me to communicate more clearly.” 
  • Surround yourself with godly friendships and a community that genuinely loves you and can speak truth into your life.
    • Prayer: “Help me to be open to correction and desire a teachable heart.”

A healthy marriage does not just happen; it gets cultivated. C.S. Lewis says, “It is when we are doing things together that friendship springs up—painting, sailing ships, praying, philosophising, and fighting shoulder to shoulder. Friends look in the same direction.”

The Foundation for Friendship in Marriage

When our friendship with our spouse grows passionless, it reflects a numb heart towards Christ.

One of the many gifts of marriage is to have a lifelong friend. However, if we both do not have a friendship with Jesus, then we will not be able to enjoy the friendship with our spouse. 

Before we begin a more profound friendship with our spouse, we must see the profound mercy of God brought us into a deep friendship with Christ, though we were once his enemies.

In John 15, Jesus called us his friends through his finished and sufficient work. We are no longer enemies of God, but now we get to enjoy union with him in Christ Jesus.

When the husband and wife centre their life around Jesus, they can work out conflicts and build trust. Because of their friendship with Jesus, the couple can be friends and care for one another.

My husband and I continue to be shaped and formed by God’s grace and love that is freely held out to us in Christ.

As our journey continues, we are learning and committing to building a friendship that helps us to move towards each other even on days when our feelings and emotions take longer to catch up with the gospel.