The Importance of Friendship in Marriage

When I got married one of the questions that couples and counselors were discussing was:  Should husbands and wives be each other’s best friend?  The very question itself is probably a dead give-a-way as to how long I have been married.  Today however, the consensus is pretty strong and most experts agree; friendship is a vital key to making marriage a success.

We are all familiar with the term.  The word “friendship” conjures up thoughts of companionship, shared interest, honesty, vulnerability, mutuality and certainly commitment. C.S. Lewis said of friendship: “It is when we are doing things together that friendship springs up — painting, sailing ships, praying, philosophizing, and fighting shoulder to shoulder. Friends look in the same direction.”

Marriage guru John Gottman, professor at the University of Washington, and author of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, says “Happy marriages are based on a deep friendship.”  As Gottman explains it this friendship is founded upon “a mutual respect and enjoyment of each other’s company.”  These couples tend to know each other intimately and they are very familiar with each other’s likes, dislikes, personality quirks, hopes, and dreams.  They have an abiding regard for each other and express this fondness not just in the big ways but also in small gestures day in and day out.  It is this deep friendship that results in a higher percentage overall of marital satisfaction.  In fact, the emotional connection that married couples share is said to be five times more important than their physical intimacy.

That doesn’t mean that physical intimacy or romance is lacking in the marriage.  Rather, Gottman has found true ‘friendship’ is the foundation for love and fuels deeper passion in a marriage, because it offers the best protection against feeling adversarial toward your spouse.

One interesting study on marriage asked 351 couples, married 15 years or longer to list the “Top reasons for their marital success”.  Even though the couples answered independently, the wives and the husbands produced almost identical lists: Not surprisingly, the number one reason given was, their spouse was their best friend. * Lauer, J.C. & Lauer, R.H. (1986). ‘Til Death Do Us Part. New York, NY: Haworth Press.

What are the traits of a strong friendship in marriage?