Doing Family Right

Maximizing your most
important relationships.

Marriage: Do You Have Friends of the Marriage?

Misery loves company. It seems like a universal norm that people tend to look for others who will give them a sympathetic ear regarding the perils being faced in life. But what if your tensions center on problems within your marriage?

That’s when you need a “friend of the marriage”. Dr. Pat Love, author and educator on marriage and family issues, introduced me to this concept. I love it and I pass it on with some extensive embellishment.

In the same way that success seeks out a place to celebrate, pain looks for room for vent. When we are going through hard times in our marriage, we want to share our complaints with someone and have our feelings validated. When friends commiserate with us, we often grow justified in our perspective about the issues and how unreasonable our mate really is. Comments like “he is treating you so unfair” or “you shouldn’t have to put up with this” tend to both console us and empower us.

The problem with “band wagon” friends can be two-fold: they may be merely telling you what you want to hear as a sign of friendship or they can be locked into their own unhealthy perspective and be giving some rather subjective and often erroneous advice.

Let me give you an example. A couple well into their third decade of marriage was experiencing some serious troubles to the point of pending separation. In an attempt to get support, the wife sought solace in the audience of three friends. Subsequently, her desire to leave her marriage grew as she felt their validation and encouragement. Their strong endorsement of the legitimacy of her complaints gave her more resolve to move on. The end of the marriage was inevitable.

Then she ran into my dear wife – a true friend of any marriage.

Donalyn heard her out on her marital concerns but then asked some very perceptive, soul-searching questions. Further, my wife inquired about why the marriage was seemingly over in the woman’s mind. The lady sited the talks with her friends. With additional discussion, it turned out that these friends were either divorced or currently separated. Is it any wonder they were sympathetic to her pain and suggested the answer was divorce?

My concern is that we are drawn towards people who will feel sorry for us, but they might not be the ones who give us the best perspective. You need a “Friend of the Marriage”. This is a person who is committed to the value of marriage, keeps theirs a priority, and works to strengthen your primary relationship. In effect, they are pro-marriage. And we need both individual friends and couple friends who become advocates for our marriage.

There are five ways that a “Friend of the Marriage” proves genuine. You’d be wise to look for people who will do the following:

1.     CARE GENUINELY – A friend of the marriage wants what’s best for you and is in your inner circle of trust and support. They want a good marriage themselves and call you to greatness in yours. They have discussed what is important to you, and help your alignment to what is right.  They will fight for you within your marriage when you don’t have the strength to do so. They have a positive disposition.

2.     LISTEN SENSITIVELY – A true marital friend is generous with their time and will hear you out. There’s nothing cheap and shallow about their interest. While ready to validate your marital frustrations, these advocates won’t hang out with you to merely sympathize with your stupidity. No, they steer you with wisdom back to your spouse to address the issues. They have a positive approach.

3.     SPEAK OBJECTIVELY – While their friendship is genuine, their viewpoint is true. They know there are two sides to every story and will keep a balanced perspective on your marital problems. They “speak the truth in love.” They won’t let you trash your spouse. They challenge you when they see that your commitment to your mate is slipping. True advocates say what needs to be said for your own good and point out where you need to change. They bring positive conversations.

4.     INFLUENCE POSITIVELY – “Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.” Friends of the marriage will always direct you toward the truth and they do it best by their own example. Remember, you become like those you hang around with. Each of us is the average of the 5 people we spend most of our time with. True advocates are positive company.

5.     ADVISE CONSTRUCTIVELY – “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Friends of the marriage bring the best out of you. They are driven to help you do what is right by keeping healthy relational boundaries, by pushing you toward resolution and forgiveness, and by not accepting your excuses. They challenge you to do your part to turn the relationship around. Advocates help your marriage succeed. They steer you in a positive direction.

So, what’s your story? Who are the voices speaking into your married life? Who will be your “friends of the marriage”? Further, why not be an advocate for someone else’s most important relationship. You’ll never regret putting your marriage and family first and helping your friends do the same.

(Quoted above Ephesians 5:16, I Cor. 15:33 and Proverbs 27:17)

© Dr. Dave Currie – February 2011

Feature image used with permission: © ID: #21375177