Written by Pamela K. Orgeron, M.A., Ed.S., BCCC, ACLC, Author
“You have to be friends before you can be anything else.”
I heard the above statement years ago as a teenager when I complained to an older cousin, “The boys don’t want to date me. They only want to be friends.” None of the boys I went to high school with ever asked me out on a date. I always wondered why not.
Later when I complained to either my mother or grandmother, the response I received was “You’re the type of girl guys like to marry but don’t want to date.” I thought, that’s crazy! How am I supposed to get married to someone if I never date. Ironically, my husband Milton and I never dated before marrying. We went from strangers to being engaged in about two weeks! We married about a year later. That goes to show you, God can work fast when He needs to.
Milton and I aren’t the first couple in my family to have never dated before getting married. Let me share the story of how my paternal grandparents got together. My grandmother shared the story with me numerous times.
“Your Papa and I never dated,” Mama always started the story. “I was good friends with his sister. He was in the military. On one occasion when his sister took me over to their house to visit, he was home on leave scheduled to head back out the same day. That was the first time we met. Just as I was about to leave that day, he asked me, ‘If I write you a letter, would you write me back?’ When I said I probably would, he got my address. He wrote me, and I wrote him back. That’s how it all started. We wrote letters back and forth the rest of the time while he was in the service. After his discharge, he immediately came home and asked me to marry him. Within a week, we were married.” I discovered later that my grandparents’ “love story” was a common scenario for couples in their generation who married.
Then I’ve heard stories of other couples who were sweethearts all through junior and senior high school, college, and dated for a number of years after college graduation. Does how long you know your spouse before marriage really matter? Personally, I do not think so because if I did then I would be limiting what God can do. Whether a couple’s “love story” is “love at first sight” or a “we’ve known each other all our lives” situation, I believe one of the most important keys to any marriage being happy and productive is whether both spouses are best friends with each other.
How do couples go about being best friends? First, I believe there needs to be mutual respect. Of course, for that to exist each spouse must have self-respect. You can’t respect someone else unless you’ve learned to respect yourself.
What does mutual respect look like in a marriage? Mutual respect in my marriage means that my husband doesn’t just see me as a “sex object” nor do I just see my husband as the “bread winner” in the family. Respecting one’s spouse should involve treating the whole person with dignity, kindness, and understanding.
For those who had a “best friend” growing up, think back to how you treated each other. Were you always fighting and screaming at each other? Did you talk bad about each other behind each others’ backs? Of course not! Neither should these behaviors occur in a marriage.
Just as with any friendship, spouses need to appreciate and edify each other. That means learning to overlook one’s weaknesses. Remember too that with any marriage comes both good and bad times. If someone thinks getting married will eliminate all his or her problems, think again! Everyone has their share of problems in life, whether single or married.
As best friends in a marriage, spouses also need a great deal of trust, both in one’s self and in his or her spouse. For those who have experienced past trauma and/or abuse in their lives, learning to trust one’s spouse fully can be difficult. In the ideal marriage, spouses should trust each other enough to be transparent enough to be able to talk about and share anything with each other. Of course, there are exceptions to sharing where one spouse works in a position that requires confidentiality on the job. Examples of such positions include those working in medical or mental health environments, such as doctors, psychologists, counselors, social workers, nurses, etc.. In such marriages, both spouses need to respect that boundary.
As best friends in our marriage, Milton and I enjoy spending time together, whether that time is spent working, playing, or relaxing. To me, whether we are out in the yard working together, playing a game of Scrabble, or relaxing over a dinner we prepared together does not matter to me. I just enjoy his company! Can you say that about your spouse?