One of England’s oldest married couples recently shared a great secret that we can all learn from.
Lionel and Ellen Buxton have been married for 75 years and are still going strong. They seem as happy now as the day they first met almost 82 years ago.
When Lionel celebrated his 100th birthday, Ellen, also 100, shared the secret: “We have been married happily because we have been good friends as well as husband and wife.”
Friendship is like money, easier made than kept. ~ Samuel Butler
Most married couples begin their relationship as friends. Then the friendship grows into something more. Unfortunately, for many married couples, the friendship factor in their relationship diminishes as life goes on.
Friendship is one of the key factors is a happy marriage.
Maybe your friendship with your spouse is in need of repair. Maybe it needs to be rebuilt. Maybe it could use a boost. Maybe it is going great and you just want to keep it going great. In any case, here are four ways you can deepen (or rebuild) your friendship with your spouse.
1. Prioritize your relationship
One measure of the priority you place on your friendship is the time you spend together. It has been said that children spell love this way: T-I-M-E. So it is with friendship.
Assigning top priority to your relationship will mean you take time and make time to be together. Here is a practical tip:
Regularly schedule leisurely breaks for conversation. Hey, that sounds like a date, doesn’t it?
2. Learn to listen
The first duty of love is to learn to listen. ~ Paul Tillich
Listening is a skill that can be developed. Here are a few tips:
- Listen with not only your ears but also your eyes. Watch body language and try to hear not only what is being said but what is meant.
- Avoid giving unsolicited advice.
- Show appreciation for when your spouse shares their thoughts or feeling with you.
- Make time to practice this skill regularly (see #1).
3. Create space
Friendships need space to breath. Show acceptance and allow your spouse to be who they are. Embrace your spouse’s uniqueness and be very cautious with criticism. Support times of solitude. Encourage your spouse to have other healthy relationships. Realize that your relationship will shift over time and don’t demand that things always be the same.
Love consists in this, that two solitudes protect and touch and greet each other. ~ Rainer Marie Wilke
4. Cultivate transparency
There is something attractive about transparent people. People who are transparent feel safe. A friend is someone who feels safe.
The opposite of being transparent is being opaque, which means difficult to see through. Being real, genuine, transparent and authentic does not always come easy. Some common reasons for not being more transparent are:
- We feel like it will not be reciprocated if we are transparent
- We have shared our hearts before and were rejected
- We have been ridiculed or laughed at for sharing our true feelings
To cultivate greater transparency in your marriage start with these two things: 1) share your true feelings and 2) be a safe place for your spouse to share theirs.
It is indeed possible to develop greater transparency and it will do your friendship great good.