It is not uncommon in long-term marriages for both spouses to lose sight of one of the things that brought them together in the first place: a strong sense of friendship. As the years of married life progress, that warm feeling of being loved and understood for who you are can diminish under the other, less remarkable parts of being married. Things such as children, job stresses, illness, and routine can bury that friendship. Unearthing it takes some work, but is well worth the effort. Here’s how to become friends with your spouse again:
1. Remember what it was like when your friendship was budding
To start bringing friendship back into your relationship, spend some time reflecting on the initial days of your courtship. Here are some questions to ask yourself to help spark the memories:
- What was it that attracted you to your spouse in the first place?
- Do you recall when you first realized that you truly liked this person? (Attention: “liked” is different from “lusted for”!)
Can you identify what you liked about them? Be precise. It could be how he made you laugh that first night you met him. Or how attentive he was to others who were speaking. Or how you could just tell he was a happy person who loved to spread joy.
2. These first impressions are still there, rediscover them
To rekindle that friendship and be friends with your spouse again, look for these long-buried qualities. Try and “catch” your spouse when he displays one or more of them and let him know you’ve remarked on it. If he still makes you laugh after all these years, tell him how much you love his sense of humor the next time he makes a witty aside or cracks a joke at the dinner table. If you’ve been rolling your eyes at his jokes in the past couple of years, stop that. Remember that it was this that you loved about him in the first place. Start looking for all those small things that you chose him for, and you will see that they are still there.
3. Date your husband like you aren’t yet married
You may already have a scheduled date night set up. But do you spend this time talking about the children, money, or how much your parents are driving you crazy? It’s great to have some one-on-one time with your spouse but to bring the friendship back into your marriage, use the time as if it were a true date and not just an escape from the children. Tune into each other. Look at each other when you are conversing. Give each other compliments, even if it is only to say how happy you are to be having this time together. Be completely present—put away your cell phones. Think about how you act when you are lunching with your very best friend: you listen intently to her and ask relevant questions about her life, right? Do the same when you are dining with your spouse. That feeling of friendship will start coming back!
4. Have you forgotten to have fun together?
So many marriages morph into a relentless routine, trudging along without any vim and vigor, struggling under the weight of all the responsibilities inherent in being a family. If this is your situation, you’ve got to go out and give yourselves a big infusion of fun! Instead of spending each weekend playing catch-up with the cleaning, grocery shopping and taxi-ing the children to their various activities, set up something that brings the two of you some light-hearted joy. Do something silly—like trying to fly a kite together. How about spending the next date night at a comedy club? Anything that gets the two of you laughing like a couple of crazy kids…it’s invigorating and will help your friendship resurface from its hiding place.
5. Be actively supportive of each other
When your spouse comes home proud and beaming because he’s just landed that big account he’s been working towards for the past six months, celebrate him. Don’t just say “congratulations, honey. Can you change the baby while I get dinner on the table?” That’s a quick way to deep six your friendship. When either of you hits a goal you’ve set for yourselves, acknowledge this accomplishment with loud fanfare. That’s what friends do.
6. Up the Hugs
Sure, you have sex. That’s one of the greatest parts of being married, and something you don’t get to do with your friends. What about including some friendly hugs in your day to day routine with your spouse? Hugging is a great way to express how much you not only love but LIKE your partner. Hugs are a tactile way to convey your friendship with each other. Pass them out freely…a big squeeze when you see him coming out of the shower, or a tight embrace to say “thanks for doing the dishes.” These hugs don’t need to lead to any bedtime antics, but if they do, that’s just a bonus!
Marriage is composed of many complex layers, but the most solid foundation you can build your union upon is that of friendship. This is what ensures a long, happy life together. That friendship may need to be taken out and re-kindled from time to time, so don’t forget to pay attention to it, as it is the key to keeping your relationship healthy and happy.