Today, I texted my husband that I wouldn’t need a ride home from work as early as I’d thought: “I’m hanging with a friend.”
I laughed as he responded with an all caps “OK!” I turned to my new friend and said, “I’m getting major gold stars for this.”
I am an introvert, married to an extrovert. My husband studies the art of friendship, seeing it as a tool for growth and encouragement, whereas I tend to avoid potential friendships like the plague, dreading them for their potential to lay me bare.
These tendencies became most clear to me after we were married and began to work through conflict. Most of my friends lived out of state, so I had avoided learning to deal with life-on-life conflicts when they arose with people who did not share my last name. I only knew how to settle disagreements the way my family did; I only knew how to take criticism from my parents; and I only fully trusted those who had loved me my whole life.
When we were married, I had dreams of finally having the best friend I had always heard so much about. I quickly realized that, though my husband was not an automatic best friend, God might use our marriage to finally teach me some lessons about being a good friend to him and to others.
Our Friendship Isn’t Instant
If you would have asked me before why I never had any close local friends, I would quip, “I’ve just never clicked with anyone!” In my mind, I didn’t have a best friend because there just wasn’t another woman in my area who understood me. In marriage, I thought I would find someone whose job it was to always get me.
I discovered quickly that my marriage provided me with an instant mirror, instead of an instant best friend. My husband knows me more intimately than anyone else, and through our brief marriage, I have seen more of my sinfulness and ugliness than I had ever hoped to see. Because of the increasing clarity that marriage has given me regarding my sin nature, it shouldn’t come as a shock that friendship takes more work than I had previously imagined.
Friendship doesn’t always come easily. Sometimes, it’s hard fought and sacrificial. My friendship with my husband has taught me that the deepest relationships in our lives take effort and sacrifice. They also take the patience and humility to get close enough to another person long enough to get to know them, warts and all, and work at understanding and loving them better.
Though friendship does start with some level of commonality, as growth occurs, the glue that binds a friendship is made more of love and loyalty than simply similar interest.
Our Friendship Isn’t Idyllic
We’ve all seen that couple on Instagram — the ones that put up two or three pictures a day chronicling their perfect relationship. “Taking a romantic stroll in the park with my boo.” “Making cupcakes together with my one and only.” “Sipping mochas and having an amazing talk!”
Before I was married, I scrolled through those pages and inadvertently allowed them to dictate my desires for my life with my husband. I imagined our long, intimate conversations over hot fudge sundaes, our photo ops at the farmer’s market, and our road trips singing along at the top of our lungs with the windows down.
I imagined my relationship with my husband would look a little like Malibu Barbie having her dream date in Ken’s convertible.
As reality sets in, we soon realized that, although we may have a lot of fun with our loved ones, often those idyllic moments only last long enough for the camera to capture them. My friendship with my husband has taught me that this is okay; the deepest relationships in our lives have deeper moments than the froth we see on social media.
Our Friendship Is Like Family
As our conversations about friendship have continued, I’ve come to admit that my ideals about finding a best friend were rooted in the fact that I had put friends into a category of people who kind of knew me and loved all the things about me that were lovely and easy. Instead, I have come to realize that friends are the people who fully know me and love me when I’m unlovely and difficult.
Friends are like family because my friends are my family — we are members of one another (Romans 12:5).
We know that marriage creates a new family and a friendship, but maybe you’re like me and don’t quite realize that those two aspects of the married relationship are one and the same. There is a reason Paul couches his exhortations about what it means to be a loving Christian couple in the same section of Ephesians that talks about what it means to be a loving Body of Christ. The two are inexorably related. Loving our husbands well is a part of loving well in our community.
In my case, it was my husband who began to show me that I had a lot to learn about cultivating God-honoring friendships. Maybe for you, it will be different.