To gear up for the Real Marriage 2014 live event on February 21–22, Pastor Mark and Grace Driscoll are answering your dating and marriage questions here on Resurgence. To submit your own question, post it on Twitter and tag it #RM2014.
If you could change one thing about the first ten years of your marriage, what would it be?
“This is my beloved and this is my friend.” –A wise wife in Song of Songs 5:16
March 12, 1988, was one of the most important days of my life, right after the day of my birth and the day of my new birth as a Christian. It was on that day that I had my first date with Grace. We were both 17 and could not have fathomed where we are today, with five kids and a ministry trying to help others with honest, practical, biblical teaching. My relationship with Grace involves numerous roles, but one that we both cherish is our friendship.
Our relationship started as a friendship, but somewhere along the way got stuck. We talk about some of this in honest detail in Real Marriage, but the big idea is that we did not pull the weeds in our friendship, and pretty soon it began to wither. In more recent years, by God’s grace, we have been hard at work to pull those weeds, and our friendship has flourished as a result. We dedicate an entire chapter in Real Marriage to friendship, and it’s the favorite chapter for us both.
Reflecting on friendship in marriage more recently, I can think of seven reasons why friendship is essential to a healthy and happy marriage.
1. Friendship makes a marriage more resilient
Many relationships come and go. When we are in school, for example, some relationships feel incredibly close and important, but then we graduate and never again speak with the people who filled up our yearbook with declarations of lifelong friendship.
When we are in the workplace, we can spend so many hours together with coworkers that it seems like they are near and dear friends. But once we get another job, we never return to our old place of employment and quickly lose touch with nearly everyone we used to eat lunch with on a regular basis.
There are seven reasons why friendship is essential to a healthy and happy marriage.
If we look back on our lives, the relationships that are most likely to endure transition through such things as life stages, employment, and geography are friendships. When we have true friendships, we endure a lot more to keep those relationships, and as a result they are more resilient.
Subsequently, when a husband and wife have a genuine friendship that they have invested in and are committed to, their marriage will be more resilient. It will endure the ups and downs, trials and temptations, and celebrations and frustrations that life brings, because that what friends do: they hang in there.
2. Friendship makes a marriage more natural
When someone is your friend, they do not have to push themselves into your life or pull you into theirs. With friends, the door to your life is just open. Friends call, drop by, check in, and ask favors pretty much whenever they need to. When you are going to do something fun, you reach for your friend. When you’ve had a rough day, you reach for your friend. When you are facing a big decision, you reach for your friend. When something wonderful happens and you have to share it, you reach for your friend.
When we have true friendships, we endure a lot more to keep those relationships, and as a result they are more resilient.
When a husband and wife are friends, life together is simply more natural. They just communicate more, hang out more, share more, and do more together. This is not because they have to, but because they want to. This is not because it is a duty, but because it is a delight.
3. Friendship makes a marriage more forgiving
Like a precious jewel, a genuine friend is hard to find and devastating to lose. A friend is so valuable that you are more likely to repent of your sin against them, and forgive their sin against you, because the friendship is so treasured that it is worth the occasional withdrawal.
Friendship is one of the great antidotes to the three-headed marriage monster—bitterness, unforgiveness, and unrepentance. Friends figure it out. Friends clean it up. Friends get over it. Friends move on…together.
4. Friendship makes a marriage more sacrificial
We do things for our friends that we’d never do for anyone else. If a friend calls you at 2 a.m. because their car broke down, you will likely go get them. But if your boss calls you, it’s likely you’ll just let it go to voicemail. Friends go out of their way to do sacrificial things for one another without expecting to be repaid in some way. I can honestly say that Grace is the most sacrificial and servant-hearted friend I’ve ever had.
A genuine friend is hard to find and devastating to lose.
5. Friendship makes a marriage more Christian
The God of the Bible is Trinitarian: one God in three Persons—Father, Son, and Spirit. To have a Christian marriage includes reading the Bible together, praying together, worshiping as part of a church family together, serving God together, and so on. But a Christian marriage has to be between friends to truly be Christian.
Since our God is a community of three loving, united Friends who communicate with and care for one another, there is no such thing as a truly Christian marriage without friendship. After all, marriage is in large part supposed to be a reflection of the nature and character of our glorious God (Eph. 5).
Friends go out of their way to do sacrificial things for one another without expecting to be repaid in some way.
6. Friendship makes a marriage more fun
Grace says this one with a smile. A husband and wife should spend a lot of time together, and if they are friends that means they can find ways to have a lot of fun even when they’re doing something ordinary, like shopping for groceries while laughing along the way.
Grace says having fun makes the relationship “safer,” because it allows you to relax, not be on edge, and not fear doing or saying something wrong. As a result, you can just have more fun.
Religious people who read this will start to quibble over the difference between joy and fun, because religious people are not very fun. Joy is something you can have all the time in spite of circumstances. Fun is something you can have some of the time because of circumstances. We are fans of both. Go for joy all the time, and take time for fun any time.
7. Friendship makes a marriage more safeguarded
My pastoral ministry now extends 18 years since the core group phase at Mars Hill Church. One tragic thing I have seen over and over in churches across the nation and the world is that when a husband and wife are not growing in a godly friendship, they are more susceptible to a dangerous slippery slope. It starts with an encouraging friendship with someone of the opposite sex, and it grows to become adultery of the heart and eventually adultery of the hands.
When a husband and wife are friends, life together is simply more natural.
This can be a “work spouse” who fills the role of an emotionally supportive partner on the job. Perhaps it could be someone who starts counseling you on your marriage, and/or someone you just enjoy hanging out with, and eventually find yourself preferring their company over the company of your spouse.
A godly, genuine, and growing friendship with your spouse helps to safeguard against emotional and/or physical adultery.
How is your best friendship?
The importance of friendship in marriage relates in some way to everyone, whether married or not:
- Single person who is dating: Are you building a genuine, godly friendship, or are you allowing something like sex get in the way of establishing a firm foundation in your relationship?
- Engaged couple: Are you truly committed to always seeking to be better friends to one another, and helping one another to do this in encouraging and not criticizing ways?
- Married couples: Is your friendship growing, or have you allowed bitterness, distractions, duties, chores, tasks, kids, work, responsibilities, and/or extended family to contribute weeds that have led to the withering of your friendship?
Grace and I had a friendship while dating, but we neglected our friendship until some years in our marriage. Our friendship in marriage was not what it could have been or should have been. Between working long hours, starting a church, having children, and the busyness of life, our friendship was not the priority it should have been.
Go for joy all the time, and take time for fun any time.
By God’s grace and some attentive care, I am glad to report things are different now. Grace’s nickname for me is “friend,” so when I get home I hear her say with a laugh, “Hi, friend!” Our kids have noticed this. For example, on a recent trip I was loading up the car and one of our daughters asked, “Where will the suitcase of your best friend go?” Of course, she was talking about her mom.
I’m glad our kids see that we are friends, and I pray they grow up to marry someone who is their friend. Grace and I want the same for you!