Do you remember picturing your future husband and imagining that the two of you would be the best friends ever? That he would be some delicious combination of passionate lover and cherished confidant who would always take your side? Only to get married and realise that you didn't marry your best friend – you married a husband.
It often happens that a partner is a shining example as a husband but doesn't even come close as a friend. Oh, he will let you talk and talk, but does he listen? Or does
he contribute to the conversation? Friendship in a marriage is possible, but it's not an automatic extension of love – in fact, there's nothing automatic about it at all.
What's so hard about being friends?
The problem with treating your partner as a friend is that you are more than friends. There are issues that complicate matters, such as: sex and money, sharing sexual intimacies and pooling economic resources. They are powerful bonds between spouses, but they're also fraught with stress.
It's easy for a friend to urge you to buy something – it's not their money – but the rules are different for couples.
The intimacy of marriage can actually encourage teasing, tactlessness or insults. You might repeat an embarrassing story about your partner without really thinking, but you would consider it disloyal to do that to a friend.
Friends aren't identified with each other's quirks, but spouses are. And the more our individual boundaries blur, the more we're likely to insist that our partner follow our rules. We make friends because of who people are, but we often marry someone for who we think he should become.
All these issues can be obstacles to friendship – but they needn't be. You may not be friends automatically, but marriage provides opportunities to develop and deepen the bond.
Random acts of friendshipStop criticising. Do not express – even with an eye roll – any criticism. Try it for a day, a week, a month. A criticism cease-fire is the most effective way to rebuild a friendship.
Make one or more of these friendly gestures and see how your partner appreciates, and how it affects your marriage.
Listen to him. Married people tend to tune each other out. Yet we would listen to a girlfriend go on about her frustrating romance or troublesome teenager.
Be on his side. Help him to get something that he wants instead of telling him why he shouldn't want it. Agree with him publicly when you think he has made a good point and stick up for him if someone is critical of him. Brag about him to other people when he can hear you doing it.
Pay more attention to your personality differences. If one of you is a saver and the other spends, stop arguing, get your issues out in the open and come to an agreement.
You can renew your marriage by just deciding to be a friend. And when you treat each other like friends – with support, loyalty, affection and acceptance – you're also likely to revive the spark of other neglected areas of your relationship.
Got any marriage tips to add? Put them in the comment box below.