I’m always intrigued when I hear married people say, “My spouse is my best friend.” I don’t doubt what they’re saying is true. Still, being BFFs is not the ultimate nuptial goal.
The roles of friend and spouse are radically different. Friends are people we have fun with. We almost never like a person we find offensive or with whom we have to struggle to maintain a relationship.
Friendships often center around a common interest. The activity brings like-minded folks together and provides a focal point for discussion and bonding.
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Friends need only to connect on one issue. They don’t have to agree on politics, eating habits, financial strategies, home decorating or childrearing.
Friendships are generally transient. We find friends who are in sync with our current whims or stage of life. New interests are often accompanied by a new collection of cohorts.
Of course, we may keep in touch with acquaintances from years gone by. But most of those relationships are long-distance and interspersed with here-and-now comrades.
The purpose of marriage, on the other hand, is a permanent bond. When we wed, we form a partnership designed to survive many decades and include such disparate activities as buying a home, taking family vacations, funding an IRA and getting health insurance. Married folks must deal with their partners’ in-laws and alcohol consumption, spending habits and weight gain.
Couples frequently select partners who are inherently different and fill emotional and practical gaps. We’ve all known neatniks who married slobs, wallflowers who hooked up with socialites and tycoons whose spouses can’t balance their checkbooks.
Couples must navigate the potentially prickly topic of sex and decide how often they’ll have it, how they’ll handle differing levels of interest and manage physical changes throughout their lifetimes.
In addition, spouses are ultimately responsible for each others’ wellbeing and behavior. They’re the ones who spend hours by their mates’ bedside or face the consequences of their partners’ DUI. They sometimes resort to nagging in an attempt to change harmful habits. They may feel powerless to avert an impending disaster.
It’s interesting to note that many marriages begin as friendships, then expand to a higher level. And marriages based on respect and mutual interests tend to fare better than those without. Friendship is indeed one component of a successful union. But marriage is much, much more.
HOW TO KEEP FRIENDSHIP ALIVE IN A MARRIAGE
Find common activities. Look for a variety of hobbies and interests you both enjoy. They’ll provide time together as well as topics of conversation.
Spend time with friends. Joint friends infuse the marriage with positive energy. Place special emphasis on befriending couples that you both enjoy.
Keep it light. You needn’t spend all of your time discussing weighty problems. Light-hearted play and banter offer respite from your daily grind.
Have fun. Laugh often. Break out of your rut. Look for wonderment and surprise.
Join a group together. A church, political action committee or social club helps define you as a couple and directs your time and energy in a common direction.