“I’m marrying my best friend.” We hear that often in our marriage prep and we applaud couples who recognize that a healthy marriage needs more than romantic feelings. In fact it needs a lot more because those feelings go away (and come back and go away again and again) and if you don’t have anything else or you aren’t willing to work for more, the marriage fails. At the last “Date Night” for our parish we discussed this idea a bit leaping off from a blog (likemotherlikedaughter.org) and her last post in a series on secrets for a fabulous marriage- she actually calls it “destruction-proofing your marriage.” The author talked about the energy we put into our friendships. Dressing up to go out with our friends, the upbeat mannerisms, the laughing at each other’s jokes, the positive attitude, and the ability to overlook faults and gaffes. She said if we could put a little bit of that energy toward our marriages, treating our spouse with the same positive energy and generous spirit, we would have more fabulous marriages.
I believe this is true, though it is certainly unrealistic to think we can be “at the top of our game” each moment in our marriage. Life is messy. We have conflict. We experience suffering. Our spouse will share with us many of our less than stellar moments of living. Childbirth comes to mind for me. I know, I know, it’s a beautiful event. Yes, the birth of children is amazing and I cry every time I see “A Baby Story” on TV- and I do mean EVERY time because it is so amazing. But…some of my deliveries were crazy! Emergency C-sections, preemie babies, rides in ambulances, lots of screaming, and one panic attack. Oh boy! Pregnancy with me is no picnic either. Throwing up, water retention, mood swings, and cravings to name a few of those particular joys my man puts up with. Like a good friend he was wonderful and like a lover always reminded me how beautiful I was to him even when I felt like a whale- and looked like one too. Then he would have his moments of frustration and be less like a prince and more like a frog. Through it all we tried (and we do each day try) to be friendly with each other. Respectful, forgiving, understanding and loving. It is a choice you have to make in those moments, not a feeling.
Most days I try to treat him like I would my best friend. I try to remember what he likes to eat and make it for dinner or have it in the house. I try to look my best when he comes home- not frumpy or still in my workout clothes with that workout smell to boot. I try to greet him with the energy and enthusiasm with which I would greet my friends. *When I think about this I think about seeing my friends at conference and the joyful screams and smiles we all share with huge hugs. No, my husband doesn’t get that much enthusiasm every day, but I try to put a little of that into my greeting each night when he comes home from work. No guilt here, you can be sure it doesn’t happen like this every night. Some days I never make it to the workout let alone out of the workout clothes or even to a shower. Some days I’m a grouch. Some days it’s just leftovers for dinner because I just don’t have the energy left to cook, but he is my friend and he does his best to give me his good energy and support or order the pizza if need be. It works out and it makes our marriage wonderful! Most days.
The other part of this equation is to have friends. Yes, outside your marriage. You do not ask your plumber to do your taxes, do you? Why not? Because we all have our strengths and weaknesses. We all have our own experiences and points of view. Sometimes you need a girlfriend. Your man is not a girl. I know that’s obvious. But I say it because I know women who constantly complain about their husbands and the root of the problem is that sometimes they want him to be a man and sometimes they want him to be their girlfriend. They are mad that he isn’t both. He isn’t. Recognize that and understand this is why God gave you women friends.
Choose those friends wisely. Craig read an article that said you are the average of your five closest friends (Jim Rohn). Well, who are yours? Are they women of faith? Are they women who support you in marriage and are willing to tell you the truth when you are out of line? I read an article, by Christina Weber, that said you need at least two friends in three tiers: two who mentor you, two who are at roughly the same place in their life/faith journey as you, and two you can mentor. How are you doing on those? When you have small children or a career (or both) this can be a lot harder than in sounds. Then throw in military life and a move every two years or so and it gets exponentially harder. It’s still important- work on it! These women should help you be the best version of yourself and the best wife/mother you can be. Again, I can’t help but think of those opening hours of conference where the sounds of joyful reunion fill each room and at every turn you see women smiling, hugging, and crying tears of joy. I know my heart is filled to bursting each time I go. I walk around smiling for four days. The joy and love are tangible! It recharges my soul battery to go back and be a better wife and mother.
We need each other to persevere in the journey of faith and in the vocation of marriage. The Catechism says in paragraph 166: “…Each believer is thus a link in the great chain of believers. I cannot believe without being carried by the faith of others, and by my faith I help support others in the faith.” Many times I have reached out to friends when marriage becomes difficult and many times they’ve helped me put things in perspective or called me out on my own selfishness that was the root of the problem. We have had many couples come to us for support. My close friends and even virtual strangers come to me for advice or help when their marriages are suffering. It is my joy to be love and support for them- always in prayer first, to ask for wisdom from God, then in person. Cultivate holy friendships; they make your marriage stronger.
C.S Lewis says friendship is one of the “Four Loves” we need in our lives. Be friends with your spouse. Have friends who support you in marriage and to whom you can offer support as well. Friendship counts. It is a good foundation for your vocation!
“Friends & Friendship: Foundations of Your Vocations” contributed by Kirsten Simonsgaard.