In marriage, intimacy is much more than sex. Marital intimacy is a unique closeness, shared only by a man and woman joined in marriage.
Common Ground and Companionship
Friendship is the common ground of our marriage relationship. We build it from all the shared joys and sorrows of a lifetime. Friendship develops in the ordinary days and times, not the unusual ones. Companionship lies at the heart of it, and we must, must, make time for companionship. It is so important that it deserves a place on our calendars. In other words, schedule it if you must. But do not neglect it.
It’s an interesting word, companionship. It come from two words that mean, to eat bread together. The table is one place to rebuild friendship or keep it strong. Eat together. Turn off your smartphones. Be there. Share some food and share your lives.
Most couples began their friendship before marriage. Sadly, many do not continue it in their marriage. And, without friendship, their marriages become empty. It’s like the difference between a living garden and a dead one. When you walk in a beautiful garden your soul feels refreshed. You want to linger. But let that garden die, and you will feel depressed just looking at it. Marriage without friendship is the same.
Friends with Benefits
Marital friendship has many benefits. As you read over this list, think about how many of the items apply to your marriage
- Friends experience life together. They never abandon each other or ignore each other.
- Friends support each other, and both of them are stronger because of that support.
- Friends value each other. You will only have a few close, reliable friends in your life. Make sure that you and your partner value the friendship you have. Let it grow through the years, becoming deeper and more valuable.
- Friends are safe people in a dangerous world. I hate to see marriages where, when one partner goes through a struggle, the other one becomes one more adversary. What a lonely life.
- Friends are the ones who love us even when we do not like ourselves.
- Friends laugh and cry with us.As the Bible says,
“Be joyful with those who are joyful. Be sad with those who are sad.” Romans 12:15
- Friends enjoy talking and listening. They help each other find clearer understanding. They are not harsh, but they are truthful.
- Friends make time for each other. You write appointments in your diary to play golf with your buddies, or meet your girlfriends for lunch. Do the same for your marriage partner, if there is no other way to guard some space for each other.
- Friends refresh us with the safety, security, and comfort they give us.
- Friends refine us. All of us have some mixed motives and confused ideas. A good friend helps us find clarity. As an old proverb puts it:
“You can pour the contents of your heart out to a friend, like wheat and weeds mixed together, knowing that their gentle hands will sort through it all, keeping the wheat and letting the weeds blow away.”
Now, recall some moments when your friendship has made you stronger, or helped you through a challenge. Talk about it together and discover the ways that your friendship shines, and what might need a little polishing.
Flexible, and Durable
A good friendship is flexible, therefore durable. Friends travel through life together, adapting and adjusting to each other and to the changing seasons of life. But, couples can destroy their friendship by becoming rigid and unyielding. Joe and Mary were like that. Though they had been married for more than twenty years, they had no friendship. As I counseled them I tried to get them to agree on just one action, a little step that could begin their journey out of frustration and into marital fulfillment. But every time I would suggest something, one of them would become rigid, like a branch, once living and flexible, but now dry and hard. I could not help them.
On a visit to Northern Ireland I had the privilege of meeting a wonderful old man, James. He and his wife, Sophia, lived in Ghana, Africa, for almost forty years. Sophia died a few years before I met James, but the memory of their lifelong friendship was still there. As he told me of their life together he paused, looked into the distance, and said, simply, “I liked that woman.”
You expected him to say he loved her, didn’t you? He could have, surely. Yet with one profound statement James painted a lifetime of friendship. I could picture them enduring the difficulties of Africa together– laughing, crying, talking, listening– glad to be together whatever happened.
Couples get busy. Life is complicated. Demands are many. That puts great strain on their friendship. Without constant care and planning, common ground will disappear. When that happens, one, or both, will be tempted find their friendships elsewhere, and often their intimacy, too. Simply put, without common ground we have nothing in common.
As one wedding invitation put it, “Today I will marry my best friend- the one I laugh with, share life with, and love.” May it ever be so.