One Friendship Doesn't Diminish Another (Or Your Marriage)
June 19, 2018
Part of the beauty of friendship is that one friend can’t possibly be adequate to share every discovery and experience with us. Having another lover would dishonor and diminish a marriage, but additional friends actually enhance the friendships that we already have. God has fashioned friendship in such a way that we can learn different facets about one friend from another (see C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, 61).
For example, my elder Dave Myers has a shared interest with me in friendship between the sexes, since his roles as a Christian counselor and a church elder deal with relationships. We had many fruitful conversations on this topic as he read my manuscript and offered his insights. But my husband’s friendship with Dave through their service in the church shows a different side of Dave to me. Additionally, we look up to Dave and his wife, Dawn, for encouragement and advice in parenting, as all their kids are grown. My friendship with his wife has taught me more about Dave’s history and faithfulness. And, through his friendship with someone else at the church, I’ve learned that Dave is quite the jokester. Dave’s many friends, and his exclusive relationship with his wife, boost my own friendship with him because they enhance his many qualities. I get to know more of Dave through other friends. Likewise, his and Dawn’s many friends do not take away from their marriage but enrich it.
At the same time, we have a greater natural affection toward some brothers and sisters in God’s household than toward others. While Scripture directs us to act in loving service toward all our siblings, we enjoy investing extra time with some of them, sharing joys, struggles, interests, and counsel more deeply. Some we will hold as closer friends. This isn’t something to feel guilty about; Jesus himself had closer relationships with certain men and women than with others. It’s impossible to be “close” with everyone, so enjoying deeper friendship with a few brothers and sisters is a gift. And these closer sibling relationships should benefit our godly marriages, not the reverse.
This is not only a warning for male-female relationships. I have seen numerous situations in which a husband is out with the guys so much that his wife is feeling neglected, or a husband is hurt by his wife’s excitement for talking and hanging out with her best friend, while she lacks interest in him. Friends and siblings should never come in between a marriage unless abuse, addiction, or adultery calls for advocates to step in.
This is especially true with male-female relationships. I would never want another wife to feel threatened by my friendship with her husband. I would never want to step into their exclusive inner circle—not just physically, but emotionally as well. My aim for my brothers in Christ is that my friendship with them would encourage them to love their wives even more, and I expect the same from my brothers with whom I invest my own time in friendship. Friendship is not exclusive like marriage is, so there is no need to behave as if it were. Marriage is exclusive, and therefore we should care for it in that way.
Exclusivity in a marriage relationship does not mean that our spouses will fulfill all our relationship needs. While Matt and I have a lot in common and enjoy doing many things together, there are areas in which we are not as compatible, and we are both happy that we have numerous other people in our lives, both single and married, with whom we can still grow and can share those separate interests. Or sometimes I need the kind of conversation that I can get only with another sister, as wonderful as my husband is to talk to. While my husband is the only one I look to for romantic affection, it is unfair of me to look to him alone to fulfill all my social, emotional, and intellectual needs. We need good friends. That’s why God has given us brothers and sisters as well.
Matt and I share most of our friends in common. I am thankful that my sisters and brothers in Christ spur Matt on in his love for me— whether through razzing him, encouraging him, or praising him. That’s what siblings do! They look at us not as singles but as two people joined together in the covenant of marriage. Likewise, we honor our marriage by speaking well of each other to our friends. We want to build each other up to our siblings, and our siblings reciprocate the respect we have for each other. Matt and I do a good bit of socializing in groups and sometimes double-dating. We also open our home to friends often. So our brothers and sisters are familiar with more than just whichever one of us they may feel closer to; they are familiar with our marriage dynamic as well.
Friendship welcomes others into our circle who share our convictions. This is particularly special in the context of spiritual friendship, as Lewis points out, highlighting the joy of adding others into friendship while we all reflect Christ in different ways. “In this, Friendship exhibits a glorious ‘nearness by resemblance’ to Heaven itself where the very multitude of the blessed (which no man can number) increases the fruition which each has of God” (The Four Loves, 62). Additional friends do not diminish our existing friendships. Rather, we get to know more of Christ through our various Christian friends.
*Excerpt from Why Can't We Be Friends, p. 100-103.