Friendship in the context of marriage has seemed to be a big theme in my work lately. I have many couples come into session and tell me that their problem is communication. They’re right; they may not communicate well. But, there’s usually more to the story. After exploring their relationship and figuring out where the communication hits a snag, I often explain that I can give them an arsenal of really practical and helpful communication and resolution skills. But, there’s more to it. Friendship needs to be at the foundation of the relationship in order for these skills to create intimacy and connection.
John Gottman, who is a renown marriage therapist and researcher, wrote an important book called “Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.” In it he concludes that 70% of couples said that the quality of friendship with their spouse was the determining factor in the level of their marital happiness.
It makes sense, right? If you are friends with your spouse, you are more likely to actually use the tools to communicate better and actually get to a resolution after fighting. Friends are more likely to have empathy and listen better than just simply react. If you like each other, you will fight together against things such as depression, financial issues, family drama, or other difficulties. Friends are allies. They join forces and they fight against the exterior issues without turning against each other.
I understand there are certainly complications and exceptions to this. But in general focusing on growing the marital friendship has a long lasting and rich outcome which can be the launching point for other aspects like better communication, emotional safety and sweeter quality of time spent together. The Bible says it best. Ecclesiastes 4:9 reads, “Two people are better off than one, for they help each other succeed.”
We put so much importance of friendship with our gal pals or our work buddies, but do we lose that importance with our spouse?