Friendship is key to create a happy marriage
By: Judi Hopson; Emma Hopson; Ted Hagen
Are you so fed up with your marriage partner, you’re ready to call a divorce lawyer?
Maybe you can’t think of one more way to fix your relationship. You’re out of ideas.
You’ve tried everything from yelling to giving each other the silent treatment.
You might even have tried couples therapy, not to mention an impromptu session with a psychic.
You now realize, however, that nothing has changed. Your marriage is as hopeless now as it was a year ago.
The relationship is going nowhere. But, the truth is, you still want it to work.
Can your marriage be saved?
Experts say marriages fail because two people are mismatched in many ways.
Being mismatched causes each of you to feel the other is not a good friend.
Before you write a goodbye note or call a divorce attorney, however, stop to consider whether you can build a friendship with your mate.
Think about ways to slowly build common ground.
Ask yourself, “Is it possible to find or create areas we feel matched in?”
Your goal is to downplay the areas you’re mismatched in. Stop focusing on those.
Focusing on what isn’t working will make you feel you’re married to your worst enemy.
To find common threads of interest, start small and keep building.
“My wife and I listed 10 things we had in common to revive our friendship,” says a college professor we’ll call Jeff.
Jeff believes that no one can really work on a marriage relationship. Instead, he says, they must work on the basic friendship.
“If there’s no friendship, you have nothing to build on,” Jeff declares.
Jeff and his wife focused on doing small things together, such as watching the evening news and playing miniature golf.
“We started checking out travel films at the library just so we’d have something upbeat to talk about,” Jeff says.
“We try to avoid hot topics that cause us to get into heated debates.”
Learning to become a good friend to your spouse means taking charge. You can’t allow other people or problems to erode your basic friendship.
These tips can help
Avoid people who cause negative feelings. This means you must scale back time spent with in-laws and others who bring bad feelings into your home.
If necessary, screen your calls and don’t return certain messages.
Tackle tough problems together. That’s what friends do.
If, for example, an ex-spouse is trying to divide you and your mate, don’t allow this to weaken your united front. Never put your spouse out on a limb. Get out on the limb with him or her.
Make sure fun times outweigh bad times. Never allow your marriage to become chiefly a problem-solving forum. Avoid debates altogether.
“My husband and I had too many friendly debates,” says a psychologist we’ll call Joy. “Before long, we’d broken our friendship. Our boats drifted apart, and we divorced.”
Joy says she felt awful that her marriage failed, especially because she is a marriage counselor.
“I’m in a second marriage now,” Joy says. “It’s working because we work on the friendship piece of it. We don’t debate!”
Joy says her second husband is not superior in any way to her first husband.
“It’s just that I’ve paid more attention the second time around,” she insists. “I don’t neglect the friendship part of marriage, even if I have to drive to my husband’s office to take dinner for the two of us.”
Joy continues, “Being a liberated woman, I used to ignore all domestic chores — like not cooking at all — in my first marriage. My first husband nurtured me, but … he got nothing from this old gal. How awful! Live and learn!”
Last year, a woman we’ll call Sherry told us, “My husband is so opposite of me, I want to scream!”
Sherry said her husband is a control freak, compulsively neat, and will not do anything spontaneous.
“We can’t even plan to see a movie unless I give him two days’ advance notice,” Sherry confided. “He is a scheduling nut!”
Sherry was in a bind. Living with a man who is inflexible could drive any wife over the edge.
But we advised Sherry that the only reason any marriage survives half-decently is that a couple finds more things to agree on than disagree on.
We advised Sherry to work on “matching” up her goals, plans, and dreams to those parts of her husband’s personality that would support her vision of happiness.
Because her husband is basically a “homebody,” Sherry needed to use this to her advantage.
“My husband doesn’t mind that I bring lots of friends home,” Sherry explains now. “Besides, thanks to my obsessive-compulsive husband who cleans and vacuums, our house is always neat. He always has the fridge stocked and the bathrooms clean, too.”
Sherry’s husband also doesn’t mind that she has gone back to college. He loves to stay close to the nest after work.
“My husband is perfectly comfortable at home while I take night classes,” she says. “I have lots more freedom than most married women. He is perfectly happy to putter around the house and watch TV while I drive to the university campus three nights each week.”
Making a marriage work means figuring out the upside to everything. There are advantages to almost any situation imaginable.
“My wife had a car accident last year,” says an associate of ours we will call Henry. “The two of us got a lot of reading done while she recuperated. We grew closer during all of this because she and I tried to read many of the same books.”
Friendship means helping the other person feel good as much as possible.
Ask yourself, “How good can I make my mate feel? How can I explain to my mate the good feelings I need in return?”
If you can make good feelings flow, you are having a true friendship.