Marriage: Building Lifelong Friendship with Your Spouse
Learning to Gel: Building Lifelong Friendship in your Marriage
I grew up on “Jell-O”. It’s that rather inexpensive gelatin that comes in a variety of flavors and colors. Looking back, Jell-O served as a staple product in most poor family’s cupboards. Add carrots and celery and presto, it was a salad. Stir in marshmallows and top with whip cream and sprinkles and bingo…a dessert. Jell-O conforms to the shape of the container it is put into, sometimes even a mold like a Christmas tree or a heart. I distinctly recall my mother teaching me how to make Jell-O… pretty simple even for a preschooler. Just add the powder to hot water, stir, chill and eat.
Jell-O is much like friendship in marriage – two radically different colors and flavors of people when mixed together and put in the right environment, can gel uniquely and become inseparable forever. They take on this new shape once combined called a couple and the new blend of connection is something both desirable and delicious.
God talked about two becoming one in marriage in a way that no man should ever try to separate. Great idea, this two gelling into one (see Mark 10:8). It was God’s plan for a commitment to lifelong friendship. My goal is to make a few suggestions to help you get the right mix in your marital mold – one that satisfies both of you. To build an ongoing and growing companionship with your spouse, there are five key ingredients you’d be wise to consistently stir in. In doing so, you’ll more fully enjoy your mix.
For friendship in marriage to grow, it is critical to keep doing things that get both of your blood pressures higher – and no, I am not talking sex! It’s being intentional about having just plain fun. That’s the thrill part and I think many of us grow up far too fast after we get married. You learned how to enjoy each other in your dating years doing all kinds of wild and crazy things. It didn’t matter much what it was. I remember ice cream fights, surprise dates, and little trinkets we’d give that we found a way to give meaning to. I still enjoy impromptu races or meaningless competitions where one of us usually cheats to declare a win. There have been late night swims in cold lakes or getting dressed up to go to a nice restaurant. Our fun includes snorkeling, finding a favorite crepe place, roller-blading, sunset walks, mountain hikes, playing crib, and a favorite park to swing together in. Keep the thrills coming…do things together. Be willing to pretty much go anywhere or do anything for the sole reason of seeing your spouse smile one more time. For more practical help, read “The Secrets of Happy Camper Dating” on my website.
Another key aspect of marital friendship is building a state of endearment between you. These are the signs that you are still ‘in love’. At the heart of true love is selflessly thinking about the other when you are not even with them. It’s keeping them on your mind by calls, texts and emails showing ongoing interest in how their day is going. It comes out in an overall softness toward them. Kind treatment is as simple as getting her a coffee, too or putting toothpaste on his toothbrush. It’s living in true tandem where day-to-day happiness between you is the norm. This aspect of love displays you know them well enough to be sensitive to their needs – inside and out. Tenderness includes reassuring touch, supportive hugs and encouraging words that warm the heart. It knows when to just listen. So, hold hands in public. Hug often. Speak with gentleness and respect. Be patient. Let your spouse receive your best treatment. For more great help, go to the website and look for the article called “Connecting for Life: Moments that Matter”.
Trust is a two-sided coin. It includes who you are when away from your spouse and with others and also who you are when alone with just each other. On one side, it holds a deep assurance that “I know I am unique. I am your one and only. There are no close seconds.” We live in a world of relational compromise. It is often mused, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” Very foolish thinking. Yet, many can so easily justify outside friendships with old flames, Facebook friends, and co-workers. Simply put; you maintain trust between you by living trustworthy. Friendships with others of the opposite sex require healthy relational boundaries. To build trust when you are away from each other, a fierce loyalty must exist, a true faithfulness to the core. Your spouse needs to feel safe when NOT with you. On the other side of the trust coin, your spouse has to feel safe when with you. Do you keep your word? Do you speak the truth? Are you open and honest? There needs to be a sense of exclusiveness in comments made to each other. When hearts are shared, the discussion won’t go anywhere. You need to feel free to be “you” without scrutiny or belittling. You are never criticized in front of others. Difficult issues are always handled privately and respectfully. You work to forgive fully, freely and frequently. You feel each other’s respect. You have a unique and safe place in each other’s hearts. That’s the two sides of the spirit of trust in lasting friendship.
To live thankful is to validate your spouse’s contributions in your life. Face it. We are drawn to grateful people. It’s nice to be noticed for the part we play in life. To grow your friendship in this area includes showing appreciation for routine things your spouse does daily. Don’t take each other for granted. It’s also remembering to express sincere gratitude for the extra special effort they make to help you – it’s noticing when they go above and beyond to display their love to you. Show your pleasure for the thrills shared, the tenderness shown and the trust expressed. Include in your forms of gratitude hugs of appreciation, notes of thanks, emails of acknowledgement and texts of admiration. Extend appreciation for who they are from time to time and not just what they do for you. Be sure to put your heart into it; don’t just say the words. Frankly, the greater the effort your spouse makes, the greater your gush of gratitude. Flaunt your approval for your spouse in front of others, too. There’s nothing like bragging about them to shout our appreciation. Your spouse won’t get tired of you if you are consistently acknowledging and constantly appreciating their contributions. Be thankful.
This final aspect of companionship may be as much a result as an intention. It’s about being deeply connected in heart and in life. God was right in the first place (we are not surprised) when He said that it was not good for man to be alone but He will make a partner suitable for him (Genesis 2:18). There is nothing like having a true counterpoint in another person – one who is your life compliment. Possibly the greatest joy to the human heart is to be known and still loved – by God for sure but also from at least one other person, usually your spouse. You can’t be known or get to know them in a vacuum. It takes time. Get into each others schedules for chunks of time together. Always choose to carve out moments to connect daily. Share openly. Offer yourself. Work to have the two of you become one unit – distinct people appreciated for their unique perspective but also two that willingly lay down their independence to have real oneness. Like two blades of a scissors, that once combined and working together, create something powerful and effective, you combining your lives in lasting friendship is a great tool in the hands of God. Look forward to being together and look forward to talking more. Make the effort to truly be ‘together’.
Okay, so you admit your marriage may not be gelling like Jell-O. It is never an instant stir and mix. Many couples are missing this growing friendship. At different times in our nearly 38 years of marriage, our connection has been lacking, too. Maybe you, like too many others, only appear to have a good marriage. To be honest, you live with a huge distance between you – separated within the same house. The fun is missing. Words are sharp. Trust has eroded. There is little to no connection. Please don’t quit now. We have all gone through times like this.
If you are missing the right ingredients in your companionship, it’s time to talk and re-engage. Use this article to stir things up on how you are doing. Ask God for help and perspective – forgiveness and honesty too if needed. Some couples…and wise they are, seem willing to go to any length to fully understand and appreciate who their spouse is and to work towards an awesome marriage. Maybe this is your next step in companionship. I hope things really start to gel for you. I’d love to hear from you. What you are doing to get the right mix?
© Dr. Dave Currie – April 2012