If you want to be friend with my son today, you better have some eclectic tastes. He wants to play video games for a few minutes, pretend to be a snake handler for another minute, and then shoot baskets while tossing a football. I don’t know what he will like tomorrow, but those are today’s interests. They weren’t yesterday’s interests. To be his friend yesterday, you needed to enjoy Minecraft, swords, and bug wars.
The interests of a nine-year-old change quickly. As his seasons of interests change, so do some of his friends. Some are only friends for specific interests. When their hobbies change or Silas’ activities are different, the friendships distance. Others find a way to navigate through every season. They remain friends because their interests go through the same changes.
As it is with children, so it is with marriage. Times change. Interests vary. What defines our friendship today doesn’t define it tomorrow.
A key to a healthy marriage is nourishing a rich friendship through every season of life. While some habits and hobbies will remain through every decade, much of what defines us as friends must transform.
Newlyweds are often friends in a variety of areas. Time is not restrained. Connection often comes easily.
Young parents are the first to experience stress in friendship. New demands and drained energy levels test affection.
Parents of teenagers can feel pulled in a hundred different directions. They often see no time for themselves.
Empty-nesters can struggle to recreate a friendship that’s long been dormant. While they have the time, many have lost the closeness.
A healthy marriage requires us to recreate our friendship in every season. We must continually find new ways to know and connect with one another. This requires two elements:
1. The absence of assumption. Friendship is aided by intrigue. We ask opinions, seek to understand, and value the thoughts of the other. Assumption kills friendship. When we think we already know all there is to know about another, we don’t ask questions, we fail to listen, and we stop interacting in positive ways. By rejecting assumption, we keep the relationship alive.
2. The presence of intention. The danger of friendship is that it happens so easily in the early stages of the relationship that we assume it will always come that simply. It does not. To nourish a healthy friendship through each season, we must take intentional steps to connect with one another. We have to value friendship, work on it, and continually seek ways to improve it. (See: The Number One Cause of Divorce)
Friendship in Every Season
While friendship might look different in every season, there are some common characteristics.
First, prioritize the value of friendship. Yes, it’s easy to push aside for more pressing issues, but it’s too important in marriage to ignore. You must know and commit to valuing friendship in marriage.
Second, recognize your season. This will help set expectations. Some seasons are busier than others. For parents of young children, friendship might be defined by taking five minutes to have a real conversation whereas at later times in life you might have more time for lengthy dates and days away.
Third, keep trying new things. While some hobbies last through the years, people change. Continually explore new activities, places, and ways to enjoy each other’s company. Some won’t work, but many will. Just the effort of trying new things can often be enough to connect husband and wife. If you need ideas, ask others, “What are some things you do with your spouse which help you enjoy each other’s friendship?”
Fourth, continue to grow. As we grow as individuals, it creates new opportunities for the couple. Everything I learn is one more thing I can bring into my marriage. Every new skill or hobby my wife masters is yet another way we are strengthened. When individuals stop growing, so does the marriage. When each spouse is growing in knowledge and experience, so is the relationship.
Healthy marriages consist of strong friendships. Those relationships aren’t static. They are continually growing and changing. Through every season of life, wise couples find ways to connect with one another, enjoy each other, and spend meaningful time together.