Friendship in Marriage

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Paul and I play Scrabble. It’s our dorky obsession. We even have a travel Scrabble board which rides around in our trunk just in case we’re stranded somewhere and are struck with a sudden, irrepressible need for a triple word score. We pull it out sometimes at restaurants and play through a whole game while sipping bottomless cokes and eating steak fries. It’s an acknowledged truth between us that, though I have the larger vocabulary, Paul is the master of Scrabble mathematics (a skill that somehow allows him to lay down only two tiles and still score a whopping 39 points.) This makes for close games, and we’re pretty evenly matched in the wins and losses department.

You know what they say: the couple that plays together stays together. Even if the play sometimes involves beating each other about the head and shoulders with a pocket dictionary. (“I told you ‘pukka’ was a word! You dare to challenge me?”)

This month’s Marriage Support Groups discussion topic is Maintaining Friendship in Marriage. Studies show that one of the biggest predictors of marital success is having a strong friendship at the foundation of your relationship with your spouse. Fun, teamwork, trust, communication, loyalty, laughter–the building blocks of a good friendship are also essential to a fulfilling marriage.

Here are this month’s discussion questions:

Ice Breaker: Many wedding invitations feature the popular phrase: “Today I marry my best friend.” What one characteristic of a good friend have you come to appreciate most about your spouse since your wedding day?

1. According to Dr. John Gottman*, the common denominator among most long-lasting, happy marriages is a firm foundation in friendship. He describes this as “an abiding regard” for each other that expresses itself in big and little ways every day. Share some of the ‘little things’ that you and your spouse do to nurture your friendship.

2. Most successful marriage friendships are characterized by something called positive sentiment override. This means that despite the usual irritations and disagreements two married people experience, their positive feelings about each other and their marriage are so pervasive that they tend to supersede the negative feelings. The natural state for a marriage in this condition is optimism. What can we do to help create this ‘positive sentiment override’ in our own marriages?

3. Research has revealed that there is one behavior that nearly all emotionally healthy marriages have in common. That behavior is called the repair attempt (though the couples who use it may not even realize it.) In an argument, a repair attempt is any statement or action-silly or serious-that prevents negativity from escalating out of control. A funny phrase, a sincere look, or a familiar hand squeeze-whatever it is, in healthy friendships it disarms the combatants and brings the tension back down to a manageable level. Share a common repair attempt you and your spouse use.

4. Emotionally connected couples tend to be very familiar with each other’s worlds–what their days are like, how they feel about things, their dreams and worries, their favorite dessert. How well do you feel you know the little details of your spouse’s life? What can we do to improve this intimate knowledge of each other?

5. Another key to a strong marital friendship is to create shared meaning, an inner life together that emphasizes the feeling of being part of a special and unique bond. We do this in a number of ways: traditions, inside jokes, personal rituals, shared goals and dreams. Give an example from your own marriage. How do you cultivate that sense of “us-ness” with your spouse?

6. Share one thing you could do to be a better friend to your spouse.

Assignment: Plan a date night this week for the two of you. Nurture that friendship with the gift of time!

*The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John M. Gottman, Ph.D. and Nan Silver

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11 responses »

  1. Since before we were married, my husband and I have a silent “I love you” code. We squeeze hands three times or tap one another’s knee, shoulder, arm or whatever, three times. It is a sweet and silent affection we’ve managed to teach our daughters without even thinking about it!

  2. My vocabulary dwarfs L’s, but I think he has beat me at every game of Scrabble we have ever played. I love playing with him anyway!

  3. We’re going to Professional Bulling riding on Sat. This is the 1st “official” (ah, hem…in 5 yrs) date since Chase was born. We’re going to be out late even. Like, 11:30 late. Weeeee! I’m so excited I can hardly stand it. Now, if we can get the kid through her first sleepover at the cousins’ house, we’ll be home free. Loved your topic today. Makes you think.

  4. Before I married him JEJ lived across the street. I had been through a painful time in my life and he came over and brought me plants, fixed my fence, shoveled snow, watched my dogs, and was a great friend. For six months we had such a wonderful friendship that included drives, coffee at cafes, and long talks about life. It was only natural it became a deeper relationship. I feel that foundation of friendship has helped sustain our marriage.

  5. I can usually win at Speed Scrabble (all of the literary pleasure, none of the waiting) but Mal can really clean my plow on Settlers of Cataan. *sigh* I love that ruthless, “take no prisoners” side of her.

  6. What an awesome little set of questions! And it made me feel great to have an instant answer to each pop in my head. How reassuring to know that Tony’s and my relationship is still going strong- especially now that we’ve brought Christ into it. Now we not only play together, but pray together- and it’s amazing how much closer we’ve become since.
    Something I have to share: our “repair” when we’re REALLY getting into a doozy of an argument- one or the other of us grabs the Book and opens it to the Love Chapter (1st Cor 13), and we stop in mid-fight and read it aloud. Each time we’ve done this, it has ended with us embracing and apologizing, realizing how love is supposed to be. Thank you, Lord!

  7. My husband and I play scrabble all the time! We love it. Travel Scrabble? I’m totally getting it! That’s an awesome idea!! 🙂

  8. I will get married on Oct. 11th, and I’m marrying my best friend in deed!!! We were best friends for approximately 16 years before a new feeling started to arise. I couldn’t be more confident about this step that we are taking together…. I guess we’ve lived a lot of things that will help us keep our friendship alive in our marriage. By the way we love to play together too…puzzles on the internet….and believe me, we act just like kids.

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