Last year I met with a couple who had been married over 20 years. A year after their youngest child left for college, they realized they were married to strangers. The only time they talked was when they were talking about the kids. The only time they spent together was at a school or sports related event for their kids. Their children were the glue that held them together and now they were gone. They had gotten so busy taking care of everything else that they forgot to take care of the marriage.
Whenever a couple tells me:
they have drifted apart,
they fight and bicker about every little thing,
and they just aren’t spending quality time together, I immediately know what the problem is.
They simply aren’t friends.
Yet friendship is the foundation of every successful marriage. It’s an overlooked fact that we take for granted.
Most women get married because they fall in love their husbands and want to be with him forever. But loving him forever doesn’t guarantee that they’ll like him forever. And if you don’t like each other, it’s impossible to be friends.
Maybe they stopped liking him because they stopped getting to know him as he matured over the years. Maybe they fell in love with the idea of love or with the person she wanted him to be instead of the person he really is. Or maybe life got in the way and distracted them from what really matters most. After working all day and coming home to take care of kids, bills, and extended family, it’s easy to forget that you also have a relationship to nurture.
So, what do you do if you’re not friends anymore and you don‘t like the person that you love? Use these 8 tips to intentionally become friends again.
- Establish weekly couple-time and set boundaries around it: no kids, phones, or business being discussed. Just relaxation and fun.
- Find common hobbies and do them together. My radical Relationship Library has several worksheets to help with this. One of them is the “Bucket List for Couples” and another one of my favorites is the “Date Night Survey” to help you map out a plan.
- Don’t just spend time together. Spend time getting to know each other. Share all the deep stuff that you’ve never shared with anyone else. Inside the radical Relationship Library is an experiment called “36 Questions.” Several years ago, it was used by researchers, to help complete strangers fall in love by increasing their intimacy. Imagine what it can do for “strangers” who are already married.
- Establish “togetherness” habits around your daily routines. Hugging and kissing before/ after work, praying together, reading a devotional together, and eating dinner together are just a few that you can start with.
- Study each other. Share what you like, dislike, and all your dreams and goals. Use the information that you collect to plan dates, surprises, and to buy gifts for each other. The “Spouse Study Guide” , in the relationship library, will help you gather this information.
- Call him what you want him to be such as your boyfriend or best friend. This is a psychological trick that says people become what you call them. If you call him your ball and chain or a pain in your side, the more you both believe it and the more he begins to act that way. But if you refer to him with endearing terms such as boyfriend or best friend, you’ll both begin to see your relationship in a new light.
- Share your secret and not-so-secret thought life— that you would normally share with your girlfriends—with him. This may take him by surprise at first, if he’s not used to being your confident. Overtime, he’ll get used to it and start to love being your shoulder. I know you want to talk to your girlfriends, but it’s impossible for him to fill a role in your life that’s already filled. If you’re used to going to them every time you need to talk, it will be hard for you and your husband to bond. Don’t you think it’s time you gave him that role in your life?
- Accept him for who he is. When you accept him without trying to change him, you open the door for him to let his guard down and let you into his heart more. You may not like everything he does or says but that’s because he’s an individual. He’s not a clone of you. Intentionally avoid criticizing him and putting his ideas down—even if you think they are silly. Let him be who he is and you can be who you are. Together, you will complement each other.
That’s what friendship is all about.
Most of this is common sense that we tend to apply it to every relationship we have except the one with our husbands. If you practice this at home, I guarantee you’ll be friends again and your relationship will stand the test of time.
If you want a friend, you have to be friendly. Proverbs 18:24