“Happy marriages are based on a deep friendship.” – John Gottman

“This is my beloved and this is my friend.” – Bible

During their dating period, John and Joyce became best of friends. They would go for walks together, talking about anything and everything or maybe just quietly enjoying each other’s presence without any conversation at all.

They both enjoyed tennis and would often have an energetic, challenging and fun match on weekends or whenever they could squeeze out the time.

So they married each other – best friends! But something happened. They allowed their jobs and separate interests to consume their energy.

Life around the home became very ordinary – and dull. They started taking each other for granted. The fun was gone.

Bill Hanawalt, executive pastor of the Vineyard Christian Church of Evanston, Ill., who has conducted pre-marital and marital counseling for 30 years, says, “Marriage without friendship cannot work in our culture. Friendship has to be nourished and nurtured regularly or it faces the danger of becoming a business relationship.

“I have seen many distant and business-like marriages where careers have developed and children have come into the picture, and the priority of emotional connection has been left to die on the vine. Couples that don’t give attention to developing their friendship often come apart. It also creates an opening for marital infidelity.”

Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott, co-directors of the Center for Relationship Development at Seattle Pacific University, and Alyson Weasley with Focus on the Family, offer some suggestions for keeping friendship in your marriage.

First of all, be willing to look at things through your spouse’s eyes. The husband may see nothing wrong with leaving his woodworking tools on the kitchen table for a while, but if he looks at those tools and their location from his wife’s perspective, he may come to a different conclusion.

The Parrotts suggest an exercise designed to help couples empathize with one another.

Imagine what life would be like as the other person. Start at the beginning and walk through as many details of their daily routine as possible.

Write your thoughts and feelings and then share them with each other. See how your perspective changes.

Next, make time for the two of you. Our priorities determine how our time is spent.

Once you are married, you may feel like you’ve accomplished your goal. Time together will come – later. But later never arrives.

Quoting the Parrotts, “Most married couples ‘borrow’ time from their marriage and spend it on everything ‘out there,’ hoping to repay their time debt sometime in the future. They believe someday they’ll have more, tomorrow they won’t be so busy and eventually things will be different.” But that’s not good enough for good friends.

Laughter is also essential for good friendship. Learn to enjoy life together.

Laughter has a way of relieving tension and even breaking down walls.

Enjoying experiences together tends to create a bond that will strengthen your marriage. You can share happy memories.

Find things you enjoy doing together and make an effort to schedule them regularly.

Take the time to find out what your spouse likes to do, and be willing to spend time in those activities. You may have to work at this at first, but the dividends are worth it, and they keep on giving.

Protect each other’s back. Your spouse should be able to trust you in any situation and know that you will be looking out for them.

One simple example is to never say anything that belittles your spouse in front of others.

We all face difficulties and disappointments in life, and it is very comforting to know that our spouse is there with us, through thick and thin.

We can rely on them to stick up for us, and to be loyal to us no matter what.

Finally, keep up the communication, both the daily small talk and the deep conversations.

Find out how your spouse’s day went. Then ask them how they felt about it. Without communication there is no relationship.

The Family and Marriage Coalition of Aiken, Inc. (FAMCO) provides resources for you to succeed in your marriage and families. Roger Rollins, executive director of FAMCO, can be reached at 640-4689, rogerrollins@aikenfamco.com or www.aikenfamco.com.