Endless romance. Hot sex. Being best-best-best-best friends. These are just some of the idealistic hopes we pile onto marriage. There are good motivations behind each of these hopes, but . . .
Though it is a wonderful thing to be your husband's best friend, I actually don't think that is necessary for a great marriage. In fact, putting the expectations of best friends, steamy lovers, and perfect co-parents all in one relationship can end up hurting your marriage by making it seem subpar.
While being your husband's best friend may be unrealistic, being his friend is a critical aspect of a healthy marriage. Like most aspects of marriage, friendship doesn't just happen. You have to work at it. Think about the friends you had in college. As much as you may have loved and enjoyed them, you've probably lost touch over the years. Your lives have drifted apart. Even though you live under the same roof, this can happen in marriage too. You and your husband can forget to have fun, can develop separate hobbies and passions, and can lose the art of enjoying each other's company. You can slowly start to exist as roommates.
So how can you prevent the friendship-fade in marriage? Here are three tips for nurturing a friendship with your husband throughout the decades of marriage:
1. Just do something. When it comes to friendship, men tend to like to do life together while women prefer to process life together. For you, building a friendship may mean weekly coffee dates where you share your thoughts and feelings with your husband. You connect by talking. Most likely, your husband isn't wired this way. He feels connected with you by doing life with you. Guys don't usually meet at Starbucks to share thoughts and feelings. They golf, bowl, or work on a project together.
While there may be times for a "talking date," make the effort to become your husband's friend by sharing in what he likes to do. Watching a movie, running on side-by-side treadmills at the gym, or going to Home Depot may not seem very romantic. But even if you aren't talking, this may be how your husband shares friendship with you. As you spend time doing life with your husband, times to talk become a natural part of shared activity. This morning, my husband and I did a 5 a.m. swim class together. Not exactly my cup of tea, but it made his day. As I was swimming my laps, I'd hear him yell across the pool, "I love you! You're doing great, Juli!" After our swim, we went out for coffee, which made my day. (Now if I can just stay awake!)
Juli Slattery is a widely known clinical psychologist, author, speaker, and broadcast media professional. She co-founded Authentic Intimacy (www.authenticintimacy.com) and is the co-author of Passion Pursuit: What Kind of Love Are You Making?