It’s always a bit strange when I find myself writing about marriage. As a longtime bachelor I’m completely out of my depth, and the stuff my married friends say can sound completely bizarre. You see, I’m often told spouses should have similar interests but that opposites attract, that men should show more initiative but let the woman take the lead, and that husband are the head of the household but the wife is always right. Marriage, it seems, is full of zigzagging pathways. Most recently, I’ve been informed that a spouse should be someone you love, but also your best friend.
Aaron Bell of Relevant Magazine disagrees with this statement. In his latest feature, the pastor and father explained why marriage isn’t about finding your “best friend.” He writes:
“The notion of being married to your best friend is a very romantic one. It places your spouse at the very top of your friend list. They are your most important friend in your life, they are your everything. That is a wonderful sentiment, but is it selling the relationship between my wife and I short?”
“She is not my best friend, she is my wife. That is more. I think we have taken this idea of what our marriages are and what they are meant to be and have tried to apply the same standards of our other relationships to them.”
Bell makes a compelling argument. Relationships are designed to play different roles and be filled by different people. A mother may love her daughter, but she can’t be both her mother and her best friend. There may come a day when she’ll need to make a difficult choice regarding her daughter’s future, and that decision can’t be made by a “best friend”. In the same way, a spouse will be required to face challenges which go beyond the bounds of friendship.
Being a spouse requires love, patience, forgiveness, but most importantly empathy. In the words of Dr. David B. Hawkins,
“Empathy is a skill that often must be cultivated. Agree together that you will develop and maintain empathy in your marriage. Be clear with one another what empathy means, what it looks like and how you both want it expressed...”
“Empathy has a better chance of occurring in an environment of trust and deep respect. It is not likely to occur where there is criticism, ridicule and constant correction. It will not occur where one or both mates experience fear. Work together to develop a trusting environment where you practice empathy.”
All in all, the only thing I really know about marriage is it's a learning experience. Husbands and wives must grow together if they want to succeed, and sometimes this means establishing the context of their relationship. A spouse is so much more than a friend, they are a partners in a holy union, held together by a sacred vow to honor, love, and cherish one another. Bell says everything when he concludes,
“To sum it all up, I believe if my wife and I are working towards being and staying best friends, we are not aiming high enough. She is my wife, we are in a relationship that demands a level of love, intimacy and vulnerability that goes beyond friendship and can only be found in a God-blessed bond.”
What about you? What are your thoughts on marriage and friendship? Leave a comment in the section below!
*Ryan Duncan is an Editor for Crosswalk.com