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How to Nurture Friendship with Your Spouse

Updated: Jan 13


I remember a while ago seeing an episode of Last Man Standing where they were discussing if spouses could be friends. The premise of the show was a wife and a friend was a friend which is a common belief. But did you know research shows that couples who share a deep friendship are often happier in their relationship? Dr. John Gottman research demonstrates that friendship is the foundation of a strong marriage.


The cornerstones of friendship are mutual respect, care and affection for each other. With a romantic relationship you also have physical intimacy. A strong friendship will help you stay emotionally connected to each other, committed to your relationship and create more intimate moments. Here’s how you can nurture friendship with your spouse:


Tune in and Engage

In the beginning of a relationship everything is new and things about your partner are fascinating. You ask questions, you respond to conversations, you love their hair, their jokes, and the way they look at you. These things all drew you closer together.


Fast forward 2 years into your marriage and those moments still draw you but the “flame” is a little less. You might feel you’ve heard it all or take the other person for granted. It might seem like a chore to make time to be together. This is when it is the most important to make intentional work of maintaining your marital friendship. Couples in long-term relationships must turn the seemingly small and mundane into opportunities to attune to one another. For example…


“Are we out of milk? I forgot to check when I was in the kitchen earlier.” Partner shrugs and doesn’t look up from the phone.

or…

Partner puts the phone down and responds, “Hmm, I have no idea. But I’ll check on my way out and if there isn’t any, I’ll stop into the store on my way home from work and grab some.”


The difference is that you intentionally take the time to tune in, actively listen to, and respond to your partner in a way that leaves them acknowledged and heard.


Be on Your Spouse’s Team

A core component of relationships is being supportive. When obstacles and outside stressors come against your spouse, they need to know you have their back. After all, you are on the same team. That means you can show genuine interest in being on your partner’s side and try your best to never do or say anything that could leave them feeling insignificant or alone.


Examples of this look like standing up for your partner when you see them feeling uncomfortable in a social setting. Or, when your partner faces rejection or disappointment, you can say, “I know this hurts, but I believe in you.”


As with any friendship, your bond must be nurtured and prioritized. Creating meaningful experiences, showing genuine interest in one another, and being on the same team are all simple, daily actions that you can make right now to strengthen your relationship. Cultivating these will become a lifeline for you both.


Stay Curious

Think about when you connect with a friend. You usually ask them questions about their life, whether it’s catching up on the big stuff or getting updated on day-to-day happenings. You are interested in their thoughts, opinions, and activities. Maintain this same sense of curiosity with your spouse. Take time each day to check in and see how life has affected them today. Also, take an interest in what they are involved in. Perhaps your partner loves basketball. You don’t have to become a sports enthusiast. However, you can attend games with your partner and enjoy the excitement on your partner’s face when their team scores. If your partner enjoys art, take a class with them. It’s about finding activities that validate your spouse, that you can participate in together.


Practice Listening.

There are some situations where we might very well treat our friends with more courtesy than our spouse, and listening might be one of them. Since we are around our spouse so often, it’s easy to fall into bad listening habits – only giving half our attention, pretending to hear what they said, or sometimes not even acknowledging they have spoken. We would not even consider doing this with our friends because it is rude. Take the time to make the effort with your spouse, the two of you are worth the time and energy. When there are moments when you can not provide your full attention, take a moment to tell your partner that you are distracted and ask if you can have the conversation later. Remember to set a time when you are free, so they do not feel ignored or unimportant. Feeling heard and listened to is fundamental to friendship and marriage.


Have Fun.

There is a lot about being married that is not fun, bills, chores, work, navigating schedules and parenting. Its natural in the busyness of life to let the fun slip away. Fun is an important part of relationships. The playful part of a marriage not only nurtures each other it but also keeps the romance alive. Daily experiences like doing the dishes, folding laundry, watching TV, or cooking together can be opportunities for a deeper connection to occur. This is often created by being goofy, sharing cheesy joke or just enjoying each other’s company. Engaging in playful ways will strengthen your friendship and provide you strength when stress is high.


Are you ready to have a stronger, deeper connection with your spouse? Then don't stop here, keep going by cultivating your relationship into a friendship.


Warmly,

Trish Pauls, MA RP

Registered Psychotherapist

HELPPS Psychotherapy

519-601-(HELP) 4357

www.helpps.ca


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