Ephesians 5: 33
…each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Song of Solomon 5: 16
His mouth is sweetness itself;
he is altogether lovely.
This is my beloved, this is my friend…
Proverbs 27: 9 (NLT)
The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense.
Countless times the question has been asked: what is the secret to a great marriage? Is it compatibility? Chemistry? Commitment? While all of these are important to different degrees, there is probably no single factor more important to a marriage flourishing than friendship. You and your spouse are best friends.
This shouldn’t surprise us. In Genesis 1–2, as God was creating the world, he looked at what he had done and repeatedly said, “It is good.” It is striking then, that after God created the first man, He said, “It is not good that the man should be alone.” (Genesis 2:18) I can’t help but ask this question: How could Adam be in a “not good” condition when he was in a perfect world and had a perfect relationship with God? The answer may lie in the statement of God in Genesis 1:26: “Let us make man in our own image.” Who is us? Who is God talking to?
God has existed from all eternity as three persons - Father, Son, and Spirit - who know and love one another. Therefore, being created in God’s image means that we were designed for relationships. The Genesis reading is implying that our deep relational capacity, created and given to us by God, was not fulfilled completely by our 'vertical' relationship with Him. God designed us to need 'horizontal' relationships with other human beings. That is why even in paradise, loneliness was a terrible thing. We should therefore not be surprised to find that all the money, comforts and pleasures in the world are unable to fulfil us like love can.
In response to being alone, God created what the text calls a 'helper-companion', a friend. So we see that, in the beginning, God gave the man a companion to be his spouse. As one pastor writes: “Marriage is about friendship. All the talk about spending time and doing life together, making memories, being a good listener, growing old and taking care of each other, being honest, having the long view of things, repenting and forgiving can be summed up in one word- friendship.” (Mark Driscoll)
Husbands and wives who want their marriages to be enduring and endearing must be friends. One of the most respected sociologists studying marriage reported that "the determining factor in whether wives feel satisfied with the sex, romance, and passion in their marriage is, by 70 percent, the quality of the couple’s friendship. For men, the determining factor is, by 70 percent, the quality of the couple’s friendship. So men and women come from the same planet after all.” (Gottman)
The female speaker in Song of Solomon says, “This is my lover, this is my friend” (5:16). Good marriages are based on a deep friendship, two people who genuinely enjoy each other’s company. Given the choice, they would rather spend time with one another than anyone else. They understand that there is always more they can learn about their spouse, they take an interest in each other’s daily lives, they freely express both their deepest and most mundane thoughts, they laugh and cry together, they are well versed in the other’s likes, dislikes and personality quirks. As C. S. Lewis said, “Eros will have naked bodies; Friendship naked personalities.”
Marriage often starts out as a journey between friends. However, over time it can get off course as friends become business partners trying to pay the bills, parents trying to raise children, caregivers trying to tend to aging parents, taxi drivers trying to transport family members to various events, event planners trying to organise everything from holidays to birthday parties, and lovers trying to keep the flames of passion burning. However, in the midst of all the busyness and craziness that life brings, when we are committed to growing in our friendship with our spouse, the rest of marriage seems to come together more easily. As Friedrich Nietzsche said, “It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.”