O ne of the most unfortunate statements we often hear couples say when they decide to go their separate ways is that they’ve developed different interests and as such have grown apart. This, they often say as if they didn’t sow the seeds of growing apart in their marriage, and that the drifting just appeared from no-where. Often the comfort of being in a “till death do us part” relationship lulls some spouses into mundane complacency. When that complacency is enmeshed in lack of communication, different priorities set in where eventually your spouse feels unimportant to you. Although you know how important they may be, you don’t show it, but instead communicate neglect. Your heart will turn towards anything or anyone you deliberately prioritize, and your spouse will inevitably diminish in you, if you don’t take them along.
There has to be a point in your life where your spouse is much more than your formal spouse – where you take them into your confidence and become naked without being ashamed. We simply call it, friendship.
This is someone you don’t just love, but you like, and have long made the choice to enjoy their company. This is someone you hopefully share a common purpose and a value-system with. If you don’t, you could still develop such without turning away from each other. It will just take a level of maturity and compromise on both of you.
A friend with benefits
Cultivating a strong bond of friendship with your spouse comes with benefits. Friendship helps you as a couple to feel safe enough to be more open with one another without worrying about being judged or feeling insecure. Happy marriages are based on a deep friendship, and that friendship becomes the core of a strong marriage. A high quality friendship in a marriage is an important predictor in romantic and physical satisfaction.
In fact, the emotional connection that you share as a couple that has developed a close friendship is said to be five times more important than the physical intimacy. Couples that are friends look forward to spending time together, genuinely like one another and live healthier lives. Their activities and interests actually become enhanced because they have their favourite person with whom to share their life experiences.
Nurturing and building that friendship in marriage simply cannot be left to chemistry and compatibility. It does require deliberate practice, and it takes time and effort.
Make small moments into pivotal experiences
Couples in long-term relationships must learn to make the seemingly small and mundane moments actually pivotal moments that show your spouse you are in tune with their world. You intentionally take the time to tune in, actively listen, and respond in a way that leaves them acknowledged and heard. Be present. Put away the phone or the remote control, look each other in the eyes and actually have a cordial conversation about anything. You could start by what interests your spouse, and listen.
Express genuine interest
Do you do fun things together? You don’t have to have the same interests as your spouse, but you can absolutely enjoy time spent together by engaging in one of your interests.
Open yourself up to the opportunity of doing things you may not otherwise do on your own, for the sake of your relationship. What you will find is that, through your willingness to do so, these activities actually become enjoyable. The goal is not to force yourself to like what your spouse likes necessarily, but to look for moments to enjoy with your spouse while you are doing it with them.
Make everything positive in your relationship foreplay
We believe there is actual legitimacy to the “romance starts in the kitchen” mantra. As contrary as it may sound, the smallest ways that you acknowledge your spouse’s questions and expressions are the most significant in strengthening and securing your physical bond.
Daily experiences like doing the dishes, folding laundry, watching TV together, or cooking together are opportunities for a deeper connection to occur. These can be moments to share about your day, talk about your goals, or simply to check in on how each other is feeling.
Make your friendship unconditional
When you think of your closest friends, you probably know that there are few things, if any that could dissolve the bond between you. There is an acceptance of your differences, an understanding that you may disagree on certain issues but love each other nonetheless.
Simply bringing this mentality into your marriage will do wonders for your connection and romance. Recognizing that you will have differences in opinion and ways of addressing certain issues that come up throughout your life can allow you to explore your spouse in a different way.
Be on your spouse’s team
This goes beyond being able to accept your differences. When it comes to you and your spouse versus the world, you should always take the side of your spouse. Never side with the enemy.
Show genuine interest in being on your spouse’s side, and never do or say things that could leave them feeling insignificant or alone. Stand up for your spouse when you see them feeling uncomfortable in a social setting. Ground yourselves in your relationship by reminding your spouse of your future goals when they are doubting themselves.
Cultivating the above will become a lifeline for your relationship and, later down the road, could potentially save your marriage from otherwise drifting apart.