Monday, October 04, 2010

Lasting Marriage: Friendship

I don't know about you, but before I got married I loved observing happy couples. I liked it when I saw a couple who looked very comfortable, smiling, joking and playful with each other, regardless of how long they have been married. I've seen enough miserable-looking married couples and I never wanted my marriage to be like those. So whenever I saw a happy couple, it often felt like a breath of fresh air. I would look at them and wonder what makes them tick. I wanted to know what they are doing right that is sustaining their level of friendship and enthusiasm for enjoying each other's company. And I wanted to emulate that in my own life when I got married. I wanted to retain that freshness and excitement in my marriage whether I was a newly-wed or an old married woman at the age of sixty. So I started to ask questions. I observed even more couples. I read loads of good books on the joys of a happy life-long marriage and how to achieve it. I prayed and asked God to help me to be wise. And I listened to advice from people who had got it right.

In other words, I did something very deliberate.

About a week ago, I was talking to a friend of mine who is getting married soon. He said he was looking forward to marriage, but dreading the inevitable.

I asked what was inevitable?

He said something like: "You know that after the first two years, everything goes downhill. Love and happiness doesn't last for so long once a couple get married."

I was a bit sad to hear that and I told him: "That's not true. I've been married for five years and I'm happier and more in love with my hubby than ever before, and enjoying my marriage more now, than I was in the earlier years. And I'm sure he will say the same too."


The next thing my friend said was: "Well you know you are not normal, you might just be lucky, so I'm not going to raise my expectations based on your own experience."


I was quite shocked. I thought; is that really what most people think about marriage? That after two years, the joy and happiness fades away and you are left with nothing but a miserable existence? That except for the "lucky few" who somehow stumble into lasting happiness, the rest of us are doomed into living in a boring prison for the rest of our lives? So what happens to the fun and excitement after a while? It goes away and can never be recaptured?

I think that's such a sad and pessimistic view of marriage, and it's not helped by the statistics and things we see around us. Many people have this wrong view of marriage because they are not prepared to see things in a long-term view. We have swallowed the hype of "hollywood romance" and "fairy-tale happily ever after" that lets us believe that once we have fallen in love, the euphoria of the early days will continue endlessly and we would never have to make the effort to keep it going. However the reality is, those feelings of euphoria are terribly unreliable and they tend to come and go. So when the euphoria dies down, Hollywood leads us to believe that we are now doomed to be unhappy forever, unless we can recapture those feelings with a new person.

Nowadays, we have this "throw-away" mentality, that is, if something is broken or not working, we would prefer to throw it away and buy a new one rather than trying to fix it. Sometimes we carry over this attitude into marriage and so when things start getting a bit boring, instead of thinking of creative ways to spice things up and rekindle our romance, we can fall into the trap of thinking that there's nothing we can do, apart from quitting or putting up with it. This mentality is what leads to broken marriages and affairs.



I once saw this status on somebody’s profile on Facebook: If we see a smile on a newly-wed man’s face, we all know why. But if we see a smile on a man who has been married for ten years, we all wonder why.


But let's go back to the original design for marriage. Whose idea was it? Marriage was God's idea. And He designed it to be a long-lasting lifelong and secure commitment where two people become one, until death parts them. So if the world’s view is that two years into the marriage, there is no more fun, excitement, love and happiness, does that mean that God’s plan was for us to live miserably for the rest of our married time on earth? I would say a resounding "NO!". Of course not. It is we who need to re-align ourselves with the truth - marriage is meant to be fun and joyful all the days of our lives. And we need to make sure that we constantly put the effort into our relationships to keep them strong, happy and beautiful. But how?

I'll talk about three important things: friendship, quality time and forgiveness.

Friendship: I know that in these days of social networking, the term "friendship" has taken on different meanings. But I want us to think about friendship in a true sense of mutual trust, closeness, openness, kindness, acceptance, caring and love for each other. Friendship is one of the most basic needs that we have as human beings. We were created to need companionship, support and encouragement from other people. And this is one of the reasons why God ordained marriage in the first place - for companionship. We marry so that we can have at least one person in the world that we can call a friend. 

Now most of us have many acquaintances but very few true friends. But the few friendships we have, we know that we have to nurture them to keep them going. If you have a friend you don't see, you don't speak to, you don't hang out with or keep in touch with, what's going to happen? Sooner or later, that friendship will wither and suffer and probably die a slow death. And it's the same with marriage. 

I know many couples who work long hours outside of the home, have to raise young kids and look after so many other responsibilities that their marriage inevitably suffers for it. By the time they get home at night, they are too tired to do anything apart from having dinner in front of the TV and falling asleep. If all you do with your husband or wife is see them first thing in the morning on your way out and last thing at night before you sleep, what will that do to your friendship? It will be choked to death! The fact that you live in the same house doesn't mean anything - even enemies can live under the same roof. You have to be very deliberate about talking to them (and not just about who paid the last water bill), listening to them and having fun with them without the distractions of everyday living. Basically, you have to rearrange your priorities so that your marriage doesn’t suffer due to neglect.

Friends never run out of things to say to each other, and it should be the same between husband and wife. Some couples talk to their friends and colleagues at work more than they talk to each other! I heard of a woman who said she’s dreading retirement because she doesn’t know how she'll cope with being at home with her husband all the time. Over the years, they didn’t maintain their friendship and now they don’t have anything to say to each other anymore. But it doesn’t have to be that way. I think it’s very important for couples to keep the lines of communication open all the time. Make conversation an essential part of your day. Talk, talk, talk and keep talking. You can talk about any topic – politics, world affairs, your plans for the future, a book one of you is reading, what happened in the office today – anything. Just don’t let a single day pass by without having an interesting conversation with your spouse. It is surprising how much bonding takes place over a stimulating conversation.

But this sounds easy in theory. In practice, sometimes you have to make hard choices: like you may have to choose between attending a friend’s wedding and spending the only free weekend you’ve got at home with your spouse. Sometimes it may mean missing your favourite TV show and going for a walk/drive/quick meal outside with your spouse instead. It may mean banning the laptop/TV/long telephone calls for a while so that you can enjoy some time together without interruptions. But those little acts add up to something far more rewarding. I think it's better to miss a TV show than have a neglected spouse. That closeness and connection with your spouse will more than make up for the effort you put into maintaining your friendship.

For me, recently I was reminded of an episode. It was a Saturday night, the end of a very busy day. Hubby and I had been out all day running errands, shopping, visiting relatives and all that. We didn’t get home until very late, and we were both tired. As soon as we got in, he wanted to unwind and spend some time gisting with me in the living room before we retired to bed. But as soon as I stepped in, all I saw were the pile of chores I hadn’t done, and I immediately went into the kitchen to start washing the dishes. Hubby called me several times to leave the sink to come and relax with him and I kept saying – give me 5 minutes. In the end, I didn’t stop my chores until the kitchen was spick and span but by then I was too tired to spend any time with him and I just went straight to bed.

It wasn’t until a few days later that I realised how selfish my attitude was. The dishes could wait – of course they could. But I had made them a priority, instead of time with my husband. All too easily, I took it for granted that he would still be there no matter what, and that was wrong. If I put myself in his shoes, I would have been quite upset if I wanted to spend time with him but he preferred to devote time to his own chores instead. I have since made a note of this, and resolved that I would re-order my priorities. House chores can wait, hubby comes first.

So to sum up, we have to continually work on keeping the friendship with our spouse alive by making sure we put them first in our minds, with our words and the activities we do together. The rewards are soooo worth it!

That’s all for now, I’ll talk about the other two points in my next post. I’ll leave you with this quote:

“Staying together in marriage is not by accident, and it’s not luck. The harder you work at your marriage, the luckier you get.”

Have a great week!

FG

27 comments:

Gitts said...

very good advice. So easy to take people in our lives for granted

WASParty said...

lovely post. what most people don't realise is that marriage is hard work and like any other thing in your life that you want to succeed you have to put the effort and time into it. May God help us all.

Your hubby coulda come to help with your chores and you coulda have still spent time together as well, no? Just thinking out loud! :)

Favoured Girl said...

Thanks guys:)

@WASParty: He offered to do the chores the next day but I didn't want to put them off :)

enobongekpott said...

So its like salvation which is worked out...hmm,am not yet married though I am counting down now BUT right now,relating with my man could be like dry and rainy season.But I want to have fun in marriage and am learning DELIBERATELY from u and others,not to allow miscommunication,distance and all becloud us amen.
Pls do me a huge favor?could u pls send this post to my box so could share with the "only him"in my life :) plssss...enybeejesus@yahoo.com(no piracy pls)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post.

Even if he wasn't down in helping with the chores, think your hubby should have just sat in the kitchen with you and the conversation would have still flowed (My partner does that with me sometimes) since washing the dishes was also important for you.

Being best friends as you've pointed out though is very key. Compromise from both parties sure does help a great deal.

doll said...

thanks for sharing..this was so insightful, i made a mental note for the future...thanks once again

Anonymous said...

@anonymous: sometimes the husband needs u to come join him in the sitting room first, den he'll join u in the kitchen. As difficult as it can be to want to fight 4 ur women rights, sometimes just going along with ur husband builds on d friendship (ur desired goal, after all). My mantra is there's a time to stand up 2 ur right (so bobo doesn't take u 4 granted) & dez a time to stoop to conquer.

@FG: thanks 4 dis reminder

Tetekai said...

Thank you and like 'doll', i made a note too. :)

Myne Whitman said...

This is so true! Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

@ Anon 10:05 no one said anything about women rights sweetie, I only gave a personal example.

One of the features of blogging is to teach and also learn from others. It is not my intention that the lesson of this blog post be lost on us, i was only sharing my experience. There may just be a young man reading and he could take tips as well.

2cute4u said...

Nice place you've got here.. Need I say, I'm not leaving here same as I got here

braids said...

This post was simply beautiful, though not yet married myself I have learnt alot from this post (and your blog in general) to carry with me into marriage. God Bless you FG, continue to be a vessel unto honour, never for dishonor.

Can I also point out that as many couples co-habit and or engage in premarital sex, that is where the two-year of happiness expiry mark stems from. Hollywood and the world around us in general will you that thses things are okay but God says otherwise. Its no coincidence that divorce rates are at their peak since co-habiting and premarital sex have been widely accepted into society.

braids said...

Those commentors pointing out the fact that her husband didn't help out with the kitchen chores, its minor things like this that cause major problems in marriage. Whilst it is every woman's desire to have a man who will help with the chores and cook, its not mandantory and anyone fortunate enough to have a husband who cooks and cleans, see it as simply the icing on the cake. God doesn't give us everything we desire in a spouse, if He did, then how would we grow? As someone said "God's design for marriage isn't to necessary make us happy though it does have its blessings, instead God's design for marriage is to make us holy".
There might be other "greater" things than lending a helping hand in the kitchen that her husband brings to their marriage but when people start to point out what a persons spouse did or didn't do, whats going to happen is comparison will start taking place which will then lead to discontentment which then leads to a whole load of other problems. Each marriage is different.
What God has joined together let no man put asunder. Be careful that you don't make yourself the cause of someone's marriage breakdown with your words and actions.

Favoured Girl said...

At this point, I feel I should add a few words to the discussion regarding my example in the post.

As I replied to WASParty's comment earlier, hubby did offer to help me do the chores the next day. I could have accepted his offer, and left the kitchen immediately, but I was thinking that I didn't want to wake up to an untidy kitchen in the morning, so I was determined that the chores had to be done that night.

I could have also asked him to join me in the kitchen there and then, but that would have been unwise. I knew he was tired when we got home - like I said we had been out and about all day and he had been driving round town for over ten hours. So of course it would have been unreasonable for me to expect him to join me in the kitchen when he needed to rest.

Unrealistic expectations are one thing I try to avoid because they always lead to unnecessary conflicts in the home. I think every couple needs to know what is reasonable to expect from their spouse, and what is not, as well as the right time.

I used chores as an example this time, but I could have been caught up in anything else. I have ignored hubby before to do other things like chatting with a friend, checking Facebook or watching TV. The point is that, whatever else I may be doing that's not urgent, it should not take priority over spending friendship time with my husband.

PS: Thanks to everyone for their comments. We are all hear to learn from each other's views.

Anon 4:57 said...

FG, it was so sweet of you to come back and painstakingly explain your post. We all know u have a great husband and even if we don't, you do and that's all that really matters. As i said i was just writing of my experience, nothing personal.

@ Braids, God's primary purpose for marriage is primarily for companionship - Gen 2:20

Thanks for the post FG

Hadassah said...

Thanks for this FG, I've heard that statement so many times. A colleague said 'we talk about our son, bills, work but not really to each other, we've passed that stage'after 10 years of marriage! Whenever I send out anniversary prayers I say for your love to be like wine that only gets better with time. That you love each other more deeply, more, more, more. That's what I want to experience in my own marriage too. God bless you

Jamie said...

1. It's so sad how true the "throw away" mentality is used in marriages.
2. The Facebook status you quoted is also sad but true...it's sad how people can't wrap their heads around the concept of being happy with one person forever.
3. I've been married since this past April. You've been married 5 years. I am in the so-called "honeymoon stage," but hopefully my husband and I can stay happy the way you are!

Your blog is inspiring, and with all of the stuff we're already going through together right now, I'm gonna think back to this post and make sure we don't forget each other in the midst of everyday living.

Gospel Girly said...

Oh FG, loved the post!!

So true, it is possible to have a happy marriage, not married yet but I know a couple that's been married for 8 years and they are still in love like newly weds. It just takes work and commitment.

I feel you, sometimes we get so selfish and forget the other person's needs...mental note on that for the future...wink*wink*

Informative and fun to read, thanks for sharing.

GG

Mola said...

Lovley advice it sure is sumtin u work at everyday! wishing u continued bliss :)

Tisha said...

I don't know the A-Z of relationships but i know i want to hook up with someone who is like my brother.
Apart from all the attraction and sh***t, it would be great if he had values, a lot of them.
Anyone less would be me doing myself a great dis service and i won't do it.
I don't know much but i love the relationship i have with my siblings and my bff, its not plastic.

Rita said...

Really have a lot to learn from you...

Gwen said...

What a beautiful and insightful post.

Anonymous said...

Great post! Really learned a lot from it. I actually got a lot from your comment about "unrealistic expectations"...that's a major food for thought for me! Thanks and God bless ya! Please I'm patiently waiting for the other 2 points!

Selena Gomez said...

I have visited many of blog but did not get such impression with content creation and information as here. It is an inspirational stuff.

Alex Wilde - El Experimento said...

I totally agree that friendship and open communication are the key to a happy and long lasting marriage. Romance may fade but friendship will remain.

Cheers!
Alex

Miss C.C said...

first time on this blog and I'm loving it already
I totally agree on putting your spouse first before any other thing because one mistake we make is we think they would always wait or be there..
The talking advice is a good one as well xx

Sharon Stonyclif said...

That's so true..

P/S : I even shared it on my FB b'coz it's so inspirational, thou..

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