So, my wife has asked me to write under the topic of ‘friendship’. I’m new at the blogging lark, so bear with me…
Friendship is an abused word these days. Facebook has done all it can to reduce something as world-changing as friendship to the clicking of a button, a desperate seeking for approval, instead of the committed, intimate growth of one person with another.
In many ways, friendship is the foundation for life. But so much of modern society causes us to isolate ourselves: social media creates a facade behind which we can hide our true selves, smart phones avoid us ever having to have any interactions with strangers. The need to be independent and self-sufficient is a very powerful voice in our culture that attacks one of our most fundamental needs.
To need another person is to be vulnerable. To be vulnerable means to risk our exposure as a failure. We all have a fear of failure – I know I do. Thanks to our culture’s “success ethic” we are taught to tie our ability to achieve to our own sense of worth. This isolates us. As we fear failure, so we fear vulnerability. As we fear vulnerability, so we alienate ourselves from others. We end up locked in a world of our own creating, one where we have many acquaintances, but no deep relationships, because we are too afraid of exposure. This is the original demon: shame.
But what has all this got to do with marriage? Well, the truest and deepest friendship I have ever encountered is the one I share with my wife. Friendship is the bedrock of our relationship. Not sex, not chemistry, not romance, not looks. These things are all temporal. But our friendship must imitate the eternal friendship of Christ.
Friendship, or perhaps a better word, companionship (literally meaning ‘the one I share bread with’), is shared with the person I spend time with, eat with, share the everyday with as well as the extraordinary moments. But above all, she is the person who calls me out of myself. Out of my fear and my shame. She edifies me in the depths of myself. Where I feel I am a failure, I find I am accepted, I am loved.
This is the gift of marriage.
1. Date nights
Dating is not something that should end in marriage. It is so vitally important to keep getting to know each other, to keep dreaming together, to keep spending quality time together.
When we were going through marriage preparation, we were encourage to set aside regular date nights (for us, that means once a week). On those nights, the phones are turned off, distractions are minimized, and we devote the night to spending time together as a couple. It might mean going out for dinner, dessert or coffee. It might mean staying in for a romantic meal together. It might mean getting out a pack of cards or a board game we enjoy and chatting as we do it. It might not even be at night – it can be a date ‘day’ going out for a picnic or visiting a beautiful park.
Date nights come in all shapes and sizes, but there are always a few common denominators: the phones are off, the focus is each other, the conversation is not about household things, tasks, or what our everyday life is filled with. We discuss hopes, dreams, fears, memories. We discover new things about each other. We fall in love all over again.
2. Good communication
We did a whole post last week on this one!
3. Natural Family Planning
The biggest gift of NFP is friendship. Not only do you share absolutely everything, but on the days you are abstaining, you have to find new ways to be intimate and vulnerable with each other. You learn how to spend more time together, how to connect on many different levels, how to pray together, how to trust each other.
Again, there is a reason we did a whole post on this in this series!
4. ‘Pillow talk’
We have some of our best conversations just before we go to sleep. There’s something about the vulnerability of being in the same bed, lights dimmed or out completely, just before sleeping, that brings out a great connection. Give it a go – it really works!
5. Finding things in common
I know “opposites attract”, but a marriage is insanely difficult if you have absolutely nothing in common. For us, although we are quite different people, there are many things that we enjoy doing together. Some we have both loved from the start, others we have discovered through the other’s hobbies.
We usually have a book we are reading to each other (we’ve just finished The Hobbit), we love playing games (especially cards), we enjoy watching TV series or films, we love walking. Doing things together makes our marriage stronger.
Other than faith, friendship is probably the most important foundation of our marriage. It affects and is affected by everything else. Friendships take work, they take vulnerability and honesty, they take time, but they are worth the effort. And none more so than our friendships with God and with our families.
Next week will be the last of the series, I hope you have enjoyed it so far. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below! 🙂