My wife Tami is my best friend. But it hasn’t always been that way in our marriage. We didn’t start out as best friends. Many husbands and wives don’t.
In the beginning, we enjoyed spending time together.
I once left my university dorm room in the middle of the night and drove almost 7 hours to be with her–all because she said she missed me and wanted me to be with her. We had a long-distance relationship for a while.
But enjoying time together doesn’t make a couple best friends.
We talked about our school, what our other friends were doing. We ate meals together. Took walks. We held hands, held each other, and kissed. It was all fun.
A strong, thriving marriage needs more than fun. Not everything in marriage is fun. For a marriage to work, it needs a glue to hold it together when times are hard.
Our friendship grew over time.
The first 3 years of our marriage were rough. We argued a lot. I discovered I had a hot temper. Tami missed her parents. We didn’t like where we lived. I burned out on two jobs. Tami was lonely.
Before we became best friends, we grew apart.
We ended up talking to a counselor who helped us talk to each other. As we learned to talk to each other, we could tell each other what we liked and what we didn’t like. We learned to express our needs, wishes and dreams in a spirit of love.
I love my spouse when I value her interests as much as I value my interests.
It doesn’t take years for all couples to become best friends. But it does take effort. It takes a mutual commitment to see the husband or wife sitting next to you as worth everything you have to give.
That’s not easy.
I fudge on my commitment sometimes. It happens by mistake, not on purpose. It can be a setback. It happens. But when I realize I’ve tripped up, I apologize, get back on my feet and take another step forward.
Tami messes things up sometimes, too. I don’t hold it over her. I forgive her and we move on.
Here are the things we’ve focused on to strengthen our friendship, and our marriage:
1. Admiring each other’s character attributes.
One of Tami’s prevailing character attributes is perseverance. She finishes what she starts, overcomes obstacles that get in her way, and gets great pleasure from checking things off her task list.
I could let Tami’s perseverance annoy me. There are times when I have been annoyed–times I would have rather relaxed, when she wanted us to finish a project. But I’m choosing to appreciate Tami’s perseverance. Her attitude of let’s get it done has helped us accomplish a lot of things–things that would have taken longer to accomplish if left up to me.
One of our greatest accomplishments I credit to Tami’s perseverance is breaking free from debt. It took us 20 years. Seeing how it’s changed our lives, I wish now we would have done it sooner.
If you don’t already know your spouse’s character attributes, I urge both of you to take the VIA Character Strengths Survey. Discuss the results with each other. Make a point of admiring the positive aspects of each other’s top 5 strengths.
2. Sharing a passion for personal growth.
Tami and I each take personal time in the morning to make sure we’re connected to God by reading the Bible and praying. We make personal growth a daily habit.
We also enjoy listening to inspirational talks together. Sometimes we do this when we’re going somewhere in our car. Sometimes we watch an inspiring message on YouTube or a DVD. And most weekends we can be found in church, studying the Bible with other believers, and listening to an inspiring message from our pastor.
Personal growth is about developing your talents, skills and knowledge in areas of importance and interest.
We also share interests like healthy living, goat farming, vegetable gardening, and beekeeping. We don’t have the same level of passion for each interest. But because we’re interested in each other, we are interested in each other’s interests.
Challenge each other to list each other’s top 5 hobbies or personal growth interests. Each of you write your top 5 interests and what you think your spouse’s are. Then discuss with each other what you wrote down. Make a commitment to collaborate on common interests and support each other’s individual interests.
3. Sharing a noble life purpose.
Tami and I are committed to loving God by loving the people around us. That means making personal sacrifices so our children have what they need to flourish. It also means making personal sacrifices for the well-being of our family, neighbors, church and community. We live so others can thrive. In return, we thrive.
Last year we spent two days helping at an event that provided free medical, dental and mental health care to thousands of people in Spokane, Washington. We’re planning to participate in a smaller event in our local community this spring. There are few feelings that match the pleasure you feel when you help someone satisfy a real need.
What life purpose do you share with your spouse? If you don’t have that purpose nailed down, discuss with your spouse how you can work together to make the world a better place. Then, together, choose at least one cause and pursue it with passion.
4. Sharing an aim.
Our ultimate goal is be citizens of God’s kingdom for eternity. That influences how we live today. After God saves us from our sins, He begins a process of preparing us for a world where sin will no longer exist. The character traits we develop in this life are the character traits we’ll take with us into eternal life.
We know we can’t develop character traits fit for God’s kingdom without God’s power renewing our minds, and making us more like Jesus.
Our shared aim is to draw nearer to God. By drawing nearer to God, we’re like spokes on a wheel with God at the center. The closer we get to God, the closer we get to each other.
What are you and your spouse aiming for? While setting goals like getting out of debt, buying a house, and getting the kids through college are good aims, don’t settle for good. Aim for great. That’s what it takes to thrive.