Friends First

A Discussion on Marriage and Relationships

For millennia, marriages have been arranged. The likelihood of being able to marry a person’s “true love” was not good. So, how have marriages survived? Some kind of understanding had to be established.

There is the military approach, where the husband is the general and the wife is the soldier; there is the dictator approach, where the husband is the supreme authority and the wife is the second-class citizen; there is the Puppet kingdom approach, where the wife rules vicariously through her husband; there is the lovers approach, where everything is based on how much love they are feeling for their mate at the moment; and then there is the Friends approach, which is what I think is the true approach to marriage.

The Friends approach views marriage as an opportunity to multiply life. There are many benefits to partnership. Two are better than one in work, health, business, love, and family.

  • Work- Two men can lift an average of four  times the weight of one, and four times the size of load. Some things cannot be done alone quickly or efficiently.
  • Health- When one gets sick or injured, the other cares for the one and picks up the slack where needed.
  • Business- Men tend to make good dreamers and workers; women tend to make good managers and details people. It’s a good fit.
  • Love- The heterosexual relationship is designed by God to join two sides of a coin (two VERY DIFFERENT makeups) to create a new identity, a new “person.” Of course, there is also the literal creation of a new person in children.
  • Family- The man is traditionally the Provider/Protector and the woman is the Household Manager/Nurturer. These positions were never intended to be done by just one person, and, indeed, cannot be done proficiently. Grace is given when needed, but the ideal cannot ever be realized singly.

The Friends approach is the practical side of marriage. To like each other is much more necessary than being in love with each other. In the book/movie, “Love Comes Softly,” two frontier people come together out of necessity in a type of business arrangement in order to survive. They become friends, and eventually come to love each other. By the way, the relationship was platonic until much later in the story, which goes to show that sex, though necessary for procreation, is not necessary for relationship. Lovers need to understand that when there is a breach in relationship, it is best to back off the physical demands and concentrate on repairing the breach. Friendship first.

When two people live together, they are roommates, and roommates need to have a contract between them, figuratively speaking. There is security in knowing where the lines are. Boundaries need to be set, jobs assigned, and plans made. Then, and only then, can peace rule in the house, and love grow, whether it’s romantic or filial.

Protection is the first order of business. We must protect each other’s information, belongings, feelings, opinions, dreams, and beliefs. We must know our “roommate” well enough to agree with all of these areas before “signing a contract.” This contract can be a marriage license or a sexual relationship. Both are binding.

The second order of business is mutual respect. In the Declaration of Independence, the phrase, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” gives three examples of “unalienable rights” (impossible to take away, God-given). The pursuit of happiness for Christians is wrapped up in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Non-believers need simply to be on the same page worldview-wise. “Life” means, “the right to live;” we respect that! Liberty means, “the focus of the state or condition of people who are able to act and speak freely,” but restrict themselves for the sake of others’ right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Friendships are fun until conflict arises. That’s when both parties need to fall back to what I call, “the Civil mode.” In order to show respect to the partner, it is imperative that we maintain a civil tongue and demeanor. We treat each other like acquaintances with the idea that we want to make/keep this person as an ally, if not a friend. We review the contract and our goals and boundaries, as well as the assigned job descriptions, and negotiate if need be. The goal is to remain friends and for the relationship to have an opportunity to grow, even flourish.

The third order of business is self-denial. Most people do not realize that liberty is self-denial. We give up certain freedoms in order to come together in community. This “self-death” works on all levels of civilization, particularly in marriage. We must make the commitment to do “whatever it takes” to reach the goals set forth in the marriage contract. The traditional marriage vow says, ” I, (name), take you, (name), to be my lawfully wedded (wife/husband), to have and to hold [pertaining to mutual ownership of possessions and bodies, where sex is concerned] from this day forward, for better or for worse [circumstances], for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love [sacrificially] and to cherish [hold in high honor and esteem]; from this day forward until death do us part [a lifetime].” This kind of love is the love that God showed the world by giving his Son, Jesus, for us. If we have nothing else–no “lovey-dovey” feelings, no shared interest, even no enjoyment of being together–we have the shared commitment of serving each other out of self-denial and self-sacrifice. We preserve something bigger than ourselves when we honor the marriage contract.

Why work at being friends? Because our friendships are what make our lives enjoyable. Our mates need to be our best friend. To share that position with anyone else jeopardizes the foundation of our marriages. Let’s work hard to recover and maintain the Friendship of our mates. It’s important–no, it’s VITAL!!!

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