Althea and I had become friends well before we ever started dating nearly 23 years ago, and our entire relationship now is still predicated on friendship. Although we both have our individual interests and need for our own time and space, our foremost want is to be with and around each other, so nurturing friendship is how we strengthen our marriage. To do this, we’ve developed some habits to keep friendship alive and well:
Making time for each other – Too many couples become merely as “ships passing in the night.” To stave this off they MUST devote time - a lot of time - to each other.
We both lead busy lives, as most of you do too, but we’ve made the conscious decision to put some reasonable limits on our busy-ness and the way we do this is by making virtually all “non-busy” time about being with each other. Whether it’s time spent together just watching TV on the couch, getting out to try a new restaurant, developing a new project to do together, traveling, or taking up a new hobby, for us it’s all about being together.
When you were kids who did you spend most of your free time with? Outside of school and related extracurricular activities, or with family, it was probably your best friend, right? (In fact, you probably spent a lot of time IN school and extracurricular activities – and even during family time – with your best friends) You sought out those sorts of friends, made them a priority, and sought solace and fun in their company. That’s how the friendship became “best” and grew, and how it was sustained. However, when time and distance came between us and our best friends from youth what usually happened? The friendship cooled (even if you may still, years later and miles apart, consider each other with warmth as friends) and we moved on. That happens – it’s expected to happen when we’re kids – but it shouldn’t happen with our spouse or significant other in adulthood. And yet, it too often does.
When you do have time off from necessary responsibilities, how do you fill it? Are you finding ways to be together, or do you add things that push you apart? Are you having date nights and special events (quality time) as well as time together just hanging out doing nothing in particular (quantity time)? Relationships are nourished more by the day-to-day, often mundane moments when you are merely together as a couple.
Learning new things together – Getting out of the rut of the “same old, some old” creates memories, builds positive feelings about and for each other, and puts partners on a level playing field.
Building positive memories together not only creates a bank of happy, shared experiences that build friendship, it also builds our self-esteem, increases our opinion of our partner, and can heal even serious past hurts.
Most relationships will have some stagnation over time; ours was no different. We fall into ruts and routine, stick with what’s safe and well-known, and become predictable and dull. While that may be reassuring in some ways, it can also foster boredom with life in general, and the relationship in particular, and that is dangerous. Althea realized this early on and has been a catalyst to make sure we are constantly learning, experiencing, and growing.
There are certain activities we’ve always had shared interest in, such as travel, reading, and good food, and we’ve indulged these loves together and individually. But we have also stepped off into the unknown together on a number of ventures that, left to our own devices, we might not have chosen on our own. Together, and in the very deliberate interest of building memories, we’ve taken ballroom dancing classes, learned to play tennis and taken up hiking and running, become devoted golfers, and leaped into the world of writing and training. We’ve traveled extensively and learned the art of performing improvisational comedy. We constantly seek new things to do and learn together so that we are constantly adding to the memories.
Showing courtesy to each other –People in a relationship often take each other for granted, or stubbornly defend their “right” to do whatever they want, whenever they want to do it, with little consideration for their partner.