Is It Important to be Your Spouse's Friend?
Dear CMR Staff,
Is having a friendship in marriage really important, and what role does it play?
Signed, Friendly Fred
In a word, yes! Research shows a close friendship between spouses is foundational for a happy marriage, providing the ingredients—e.g., respect, commitment and trust —necessary for deeper intimacy. Couples that report a satisfying and enjoyable friendship also report a more satisfying sex life.
According to marital expert Dr. John Gottman couples with deep friendships have “…mutual respect and enjoyment of each other’s company…– they are well versed in each other’s likes, dislikes, personality quirks, hopes and dreams.”– (The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work). While the amount of time you spend together is important, it is often the quality of that time that forms the building blocks for an intimate friendship with your spouse.
A great way to nurture such a friendship is to do what you did when you were first getting to know each other: Tell stories; relish curiosity and discovery; spend time together doing things you both enjoy – it is in doing things together that friendship springs up (C.S. Lewis). This creates a framework for exploring each other’s likes, dislikes, personality quirks, hopes and dreams.
Much of what makes friendships so enjoyable are shared interests, and learning more about each other through asking good questions. Below, we have an exercise we recommend that is a series of questions you can ask each other, preferably on a date night.
Remember, focusing on your friendship is one of the best things you can do for your marriage as a whole. Plus, it just makes being married a whole lot more fun!
DATE NIGHT QUESTIONS TO INCREASE INTIMACY
Directions: Each person should answer a question before moving to the next one.
- Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
- Would you like to be famous? In what way?
- Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
- What would constitute a "perfect" day for you?
- When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
- If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?
- Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
- Name three things you and your partner have in common.
- For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
- If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
- If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
- If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?
- Is there something that you've dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven't you done it?
- What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
- What do you value most in a friendship?
- What is your most treasured memory?
- What is your most terrible memory?
- If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?
- What does friendship mean to you?
- What roles do love and affection play in your life?
- Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner. Share five items.
- How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other’s?
- Make three true "we" statements each. For instance, "We are both in this room feeling ... "
- Complete this sentence: "I wish I had someone with whom I could share ... "
- Tell your partner what you like about them.
- Share with your partner an embarrassing moment in your life.
- When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?
- What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?
- If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone? Why haven't you told them yet?
- Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?
- Of all the people in your family (besides each other) whose death would you find most disturbing?
- Share a personal problem and ask your partner's advice on how he or she might handle it. Also, ask your partner to reflect back to you how you seem to be feeling about the problem you have chosen.
Adapted from: Aron, A., Melinat, E., Aron, E. N., Vallone, R., & Bator, R. (1997). The experimental generation of interpersonal closeness: A procedure and some preliminary findings. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 23, 363-37
Christopher Grace serves as the director of the Biola University Center for Marriage and Relationships and teaches psychology at Rosemead School of Psychology. He and his wife, Alisa, speak regularly to married couples, churches, singles and college students on the topic of relationships, dating and marriage. Grace earned his M.S. and Ph.D. in experimental social psychology from Colorado State University.