Choosing to remember and value why you married your spouse will help you enjoy the friendship your marriage is built on.
In his book I Still Do, David Boehi tells the story of Robertson McQuilkin, who was the president of Columbia Bible College when his wife of 30 years, Muriel, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Muriel slowly lost most of her memory, but she would still remember her Robertson. As the disease progressed, Muriel would walk half a mile several times a day to his workplace at the college just to be near him. Realizing that Muriel was content when she was with him but distressed at his absence, Robertson eventually left his position to care for his bride full-time.
He found it to be not a duty that he needed to care for her — “till death do us part” — but rather a delight. He would say that he didn’t have to care for her, but rather, in his words, “I get to!” He enjoyed her, loved her. And Muriel loved him back. Her last words ever spoken were a simple expression that let him know that she knew who he was and remained in love with him. Robertson expected that he would be leaving his ministry and impact, and he seemed to be at peace with the decision. What he discovered was that his life expanded as he gave up his ministry for the sake of his wife. His love grew and, to his surprise, God used his sacrifice to impact thousands.
In his 30-year research on marriages, John Gottman has suggested that marital friendship is the foundational level of successful marriages. Couples that know each others’ worlds and who express a kind of admiration and fondness toward one another — in short, couples who routinely look at and see each other and express the delight they have in what they see — are those who go on to develop a healthy and thriving relationship that gives both partners joy and meaning.
Marital friendship becomes a secure base from which the partners can grow individually as well as grow together and a safe haven to which the partners can return when life inevitably comes at them with hurt and pain.
The Bible tells us that “a friend loves at all times” (Proverbs 17:17). It is easy to imagine expressing love to your spouse during the excitement of courtship or even during the big moments of a life together — the birth of a child, perhaps, or celebrations of birthdays and anniversaries. But it may be in the day-to-day moments that friendship is meant to flourish the most.
How do you greet your spouse in the morning, or when you leave the house or return home?
Do you have moments throughout the day or week when you check in with one another, times that you simply look at one another and remember the things you appreciate about each other, the reasons you choose one another?
In the hustle and bustle of a busy life, with work and kids and demands, it’s easy to forget how important these check-ins are for the vitality of your marriage.
Schedule a time with your spouse this week where you will check in with them. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a lengthy conversation. Sometimes during a particularly hectic week, my wife and I will simply ask each other to share two words to describe where we are in a day. It may be “weary and nervous” or “excited and energized” or anything in between. Also, take a moment this week to think of the qualities about your spouse that you love and make a list of just a few of them. Then, find a time with your partner that you can sit down and tell them what you appreciate about them. Be specific, letting them know of specific moments connected to each of these qualities, times they exhibited these attributes.
With friendship as a foundation, couples can then develop healthy conflict and build a meaningful life together, working to fulfill each other’s’ dreams and collaborating with God in shaping and deepening each others’ hearts and souls for all He intends for them. Marital friendship takes time and energy to create and care for, but it is worth the sacrifice. Let’s follow God in the pursuit of building our marriages into the soul-shaping and joy-giving adventure they are meant to be.
Dr. Brian Fidler
Dr. Brian Fidler is an assistant professor of counseling at Colorado Christian University and a psychotherapist in private practice, helping couples for more than a decade. He has worked with hundreds of couples through the years who wish to work through their marriage struggles and deepen their intimate connection. Dr. Fidler and his wife have been married for 20 years and enjoy spending time with their family, reading, and exploring the outdoors.