[From Noel] We had a great week in our small group this past Sunday as we discussed the friendship element of our marriages (Chapter 2 of the book Real Marriage). This is one of the big ideas in the book and the Driscolls do a good job of examining the role of being a good friend to your spouse. Marriage often starts out as a journey between friends but it can easily get off track as outside pressures start to take their toll. The key is to make your friendship a priority through out your marriage.
Julie surprised me with her post last week. I really wasn’t aware of the depth of discomfort she was experiencing. I knew we weren’t clicking like we typically do; these things usually work themselves out but I wasn’t aware of how out of step she felt.
Chapter 2 was just what we needed to hear last week. Mark Driscoll talks about marriages that can be described as “back to back,” where each person has “turned their back on the marriage.” When a marriage is in a “back to back” rut things are not good at all. Each person in the marriage is directing all their energy outside the marriage. Effectively they are both saying, “We are done working on it, done talking about it.” In this kind of marriage bitterness is building and often it takes having a third party step in and broker a attempt at establishing peace. Mark says more about this in Chapter 5 (my favourite chapter). If things are in a bad way, you might be living life “back to back.”
Another phase of married life is the, “shoulder to shoulder,” phase. You and your spouse are in solidarity, focused on the same thing. All your energy is focused on the task at hand. No matter what, some of your married life needs to be spent in this groove. If you are both working and covering child care yourself you are in a “shoulder to shoulder,” phase. What I really appreciated out of chapter 2 was the realization that all marriages spend time in this phase but you need to attend to other phases of your marriage at the same time. When you are shoulder to shoulder with your spouse, you are not fighting, there isn’t necessary any unaddressed conflict, but while you’re “gettin’ ‘er done,” you aren’t likely tending to the friendship that you share with your spouse. Mark calls the friendship phase of a marriage, “face to face.”
What I heard in Julie’s post last week was, “We are working side by side by I am not experiencing any “face to face” time. I was so busy getting things done (both with Julie and on my own) that I wasn’t tending the friendship in our marriage very well at all. We were like coworkers who sleep together. It’s important to understand that the “face to face,” phase of a marriage doesn’t literally require time spent in physical proximity, It requires spending time and energy focused on the friendship within the marriage. Spending time with your spouse is important (don’t get me wrong). The problem is you can spend time together and not spend time tending to the friendship in your marriage.
The trick is that Men and Women do friendship differently. Women tend to experience friendship through conversation and guys tend to experience friendship through activity. Last month Julie and I spent a couple of days in Washington. We did lots of fun stuff together; I thought we were reconnecting, it was good. But I was talked out. We spent two and a half days in constant proximity to each other but we spent very little energy as friends. Instead we were physically intimate tourists.
A healthy marriage spends time working side by side but also takes time to experience friendship; both in conversation and in activity. The “face to face” phase of your marriage