Here’s an article, posted from Crosswalk, where I participate as a contributing writer. It was posted April 13, 2016.
Soulmates. Lovers. Friends. Partners. Companions. Roommates. Co-parents, co-bill-payers, co-everything.
It’s a lot to ask of a marriage. And on your wedding day, you probably only thought about the first two titles. They are the reason you married your husband. You wanted to spend all your time with him, and it didn’t matter what you were doing, so long as you were doing it together.
And the need to stay connected with girlfriends and the need to talk about everything you think and for your husband to listen. Somewhere along the way, you discovered that in order to be together, you had to put up with things you didn’t really enjoy, like spending two hours in Home Depot.
Marriage is changing both of you. You’ve learned to compromise and take turns having your own way. But you’re starting to notice that all those little sacrifices—all those activities you’re giving up for the sake of peace—aren’t drawing you into a more intimate relationship; they are drawing up battle lines. You have lost yourself, and the replacement wife is not pretty.
Without friendship in your marriage, you will begin forming a new identity: either a resentful spouse who gives in or a controlling spouse who doesn’t. Or, you opt for becoming a marriage partner, with the freedom to do what you want by taking relatively separate journeys through life. It makes for less confrontation, less arguing, but more loneliness in your marriage (definitely not the path to deeper friendship).
The secret you’re hoping to find is how to become your husband’s best friend without losing your identity, and without him losing his. After all, you chose each other because you loved what you saw. You’re wondering what kind of companion you’d have to be to make your husband happy, without making you miserable. Is it even possible?
Take a look at this “friend” criteria of what men look for in each other (not their wives), when they hang out:
- New challenges
- Frank conversation
- No expectations
Not what you’re interested in?
The modern marriage paradigm has a solution to this problem: Take turns with everything. Set up a rotation for doing chores, choosing activities, enjoying guys’ night and girls’ nights, taking care of the kids. Just split everything 50/50. Then everyone’s happy and everything’s fair.
While the sharing of duties is necessary, please consider that the modern paradigm of fairness in marriage is not scriptural, and it will likely endanger your relationship. Ephesians 5:25 and 33 say, “Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church” (no equal split in that relationship—this love gives until it hurts), and “the wife must respect her husband.” (no criteria for respect, just a command to swallow your know-it-all attitude). God knew what challenges married couples would face, so He told us straight up: Put the other person’s needs first. That’s unconditional love.
But isn’t that how you lose yourself?
No, that’s how you love a soul-mate. It’s how you make a best friend for life.
Instead of both of you giving 50 percent and hoping the other person will come through, you can both give 100 percent, believing that the other person is worth the effort. When both partners value each other first, both end up being satisfied, with all their needs met.
As both of you feel loved unconditionally, you will prefer being together over being apart. Your marriage will become the one place where you feel completely known and completely safe.
After years of marriage counseling, we’ve seen the proof to back up Paul’s commands in Ephesians. Marriages centered on the fairness principle of 50/50 don’t last. Unless something changes, this selfish paradigm, which values protecting one’s own rights more than elevating your partner’s, leads to a 50/50 divorce settlement or at best, an unfulfilling and lonely marriage.
On your wedding day, you were all about “becoming one,” so I’m betting that dividing up everything equally is a far cry from what you hoped for when you said, “I do.”
How is this fixable? This collision course toward alienating your husband in an attempt to maintain your personality? What if you don’t like the same things? Do you have to fake it? How can you become your husband’s best friend and maintain the “oneness” objective?
In a recent poll, I asked husbands “For those of you whose wives are your best friends, what makes her your best friend?” Their responses might surprise you:
- She understands me
- I have no secrets with her/I am completely myself with her
- We love spending time together—it doesn’t matter what we’re doing
- She gives me unconditional love and respect
- We have the same goals
- She is easy to talk to/she listens to me
- She believes in me/she encourages and supports me
- She has my back—she is on my side
- She makes me a better person/she helps me be the best version of myself
- She prioritizes her time to be with me
Emerson Eggerichs, who wrote Love and Respect for a Lifetime wrote, “Your husband needs you to love him, but he also needs you to like him as a friend.” So how do you decide to like someone who leaves all the cabinet doors open and squeezes the toothpaste from the middle?
You overlook it. You focus on the parts you love. (Isn’t that what you did when you were dating?)
Maybe you’re reading this and thinking, I’ve been married too long to date my husband. I’ve got kids, for crying out loud. We’re running their schedules. I don’t have time to fall in love with my husband again.
But you want to. You may have suppressed your disappointment with your marriage, but you still crave the connection. It’s why you got married. (So it’s not too late.)
Friendship with your husband does not follow the same rules as friendship with someone else. If you look again at the husbands’ list about their wives, you will notice a common thread: vulnerability. Your husband doesn’t need roommate or a sports buddy. He needs a guardian for his soul. He longs for someone (and he wants it to be you) who cheers when he cheers and cries when he cries and laughs when he laughs. That’s what close friends do. It’s what close married people do.
Here are some suggestions to build trust with your husband, which in turn, will earn his friendship:
- Don’t criticize (it makes you his enemy)
- Don’t nag (it makes you his mother)
- Don’t interrogate (it makes you his boss)
- Seek to understand his concerns (it makes you his confidante)
- Defend and praise him (it makes you his ally)
- Generously give him time, attention, and trust (it makes you his inspiration)
- Work hard, without complaining (it makes you his hero)
- Be interested in what interests him (it makes you his friend)
What identity do you really want as a married woman? I want to be loved and cherished by my husband, with the freedom and encouragement to be myself because I’ve let my husband be himself—not because I have decreed it.
I remember one evening, years ago. My husband hadn’t spent time with his friends for quite awhile, so I encouraged him to join them on a “guys night,” even though we’d had a busy couple of weeks. By 8:00, he was walking back into the house. (I’m not tattling, but he might have had a chick flick in his hand.)
“You’re home early,” I said.
He smiled sheepishly. “It was fun, but I had to say, ‘I’m sorry, guys. I’ve got to get home.’”
“Really? How’d that go over?” I was surprised.
He shrugged, smiling. “They said, ‘Wow, she’s got you whipped.’”
“What did you say?”
He laughed. “I said, ‘Nope, I just miss my wife, and I’m going home.’”
That’s intimate friendship and a whole lot more!
image from Crosswalk.com