We often talk about how we married our best friend. It's a really solid way to start a marriage — having a foundation of friendship before romance.
However, once you get married and live with each other in the same house, we sometimes start to see more flaws, have arguments over trivial matters and don't take the time to remember why we were friends in the first place.
“The honeymoon's over,” and you now need to remember how to bring back what first brought the two of you together. “The strongest marriages we’ve seen have maintained a solid base of friendship over the years,” according to Howard Markman and Scott Stanley. Here are some ways to bring back (or keep) the qualities of friendship alive in your marriage.
Talk and listen to each other.
Think of other best friends in your life, or how it was with your spouse before you were married. You tell each other everything — the good, the bad and the ugly. They listen to you and offer support and advice. You laugh together. You help each other sort out solutions to life's problems. You vent to each other and support each other in making life-changing decisions. Having a best friend is much like having free therapy or the best support group. Remember to talk like this within your marriage.
Skip the judgments or constant “encouragement” to change.
When you were in the throes of friendship and love, you wouldn't dream of saying anything negative about your best friend or boyfriend, much less want to change them. But, as time goes on, you find things that annoy you — behaviors or attitudes you dislike. You may be tempted to become critical. This will drive a huge wedge in your friendship and marriage. Unless it's a major issue, it's best to try to ignore it. If you must say something, do it in a loving and supportive way that will not leave your spouse feeling attacked or like you're trying to control him or her. Remember you're on the same team and kicking your partner in the shins is not a winning decision.
Spend time with each other.
If you're making a girls' or guys' night a priority, but fail to do the same for your spouse, this is a problem. Have a weekly or at least monthly date night with each other. Get a babysitter or put the kids to bed early and spend time together. Laugh together. Talk about work, or your day. Share stories about the kids. Share your goals with each other. Be friendly with each other. This is perfect one-on-one time to nourish your relationship with your spouse. Spending time together will help you remember that you actually like each other.
Marriage is not based on romance or intimacy, though that is an important part of it. For a marriage to be truly fulfilling and solid, you need to be friends first. Make sure your interactions with each other don't fall into the category of a parent-child relationship or enemies. It may take some will power and change, but it is totally worth it. Marriage is like having a life-long sleepover with your best friend that you always dreamed about as a kid. It's not always easy, but remembering to treat each other as best friends will make a huge difference.
Wendy Jessen is a regular contributor for familyshare.com and frequently does media reviews. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org and she blogs at mormonmomofsix.blogspot.com.