“So what do your friends think of your engagement?”
This is a question my husband, Ted, and I ask often as we mentor engaged couples. It may seem trivial, but we’ve found that this question can be very telling of the overall health of the couple’s relationship.
Most often, the answer is, “Oh, they’re thrilled. They love him,” or “A close friend is the one who introduced us!” They tell us of godly friends who support, encourage, and build up their relationship — who offer them accountability, prayer, or simple words of encouragement. These are the stories we love to hear.
Sometimes, though, we hear something different. He tells about how a particular friendship wears negatively on their relationship. She tells of friends who lack clear boundaries or don’t view marriage as having strong value. It’s these stories that give us cause for concern.
Why do we think friends are so important? It’s quite simple really.
The community of friends a couple surrounds themselves with can make or break a marriage relationship.
It beckons back to that “choose friends wisely” mantra most of us heard from parents, teachers and youth leaders during our middle-school days. These people reminded us that our friends influence our decisions … and we want to make good decisions, right? The logic follows that we should carefully choose those with whom we spend our time.
The same is true for husbands and wives. As Ted and I navigate our own marriage, we continually see that the attitudes and opinions of those we choose to confide in matters. A lot. What our close friends think, believe, and say about our relationship rubs off on us and influences our interactions with each other. Because of this we purposely try to pick friends who help marriage.
The same is true for you and your friendships. The close friends you keep have the potential to affect how you perceive and live out what it means to be married.
How can you ensure that you pick friends who help your marriage? Here are three suggestions of qualities to look for in your close friendships.
1. A respect for the opposite sex
It’s no secret that we live in a society where male bashing and female degradation are common. This is one reason surrounding yourself with people who have a general respect or positive regard for the opposite sex is important. Unlike popular culture, their affirming attitudes can influence your marriage for the better.
Ted and I have had our share of disagreements. Fortunately, we have both surrounded ourselves with friends who have a general respect for the opposite sex. They understand that sin is a human problem, not a male or female problem.
As a result, when we encounter conflict that our friends become aware of, they’ve sought to encourage us toward reconciliation, rather than resort to statements like, “Well, I’m not surprised. Men can’t be trusted,” or “Women are so confusing, don’t even bother trying to understand her.” A friend like this can do the same for you.
2. An esteem for marriage
Just as a friend’s respect for the opposite sex may impact your marriage, his or her thoughts and beliefs about marriage can also influence you. If those close to you strongly value this lifelong covenant, you’re more likely to also.
Should these friends have an over-the-top, idealistic view of marriage? I don’t think so. Rather, gravitate toward those who are realistically hopeful. This translates into an understanding that marriage is a highly rewarding union, yet it’s also one that requires hard work, perseverance, and a “never give up” attitude.
3. A willingness to say “no” to being a “yes” person
Proverbs 27:6 tells us that “the wounds of a friend” are faithful. In other words, a good friend will lovingly tell it like it is. He or she won’t simply affirm you with soothing words. This can benefit your marriage in a couple of ways.
One, these friends can help keep you accountable in areas of sin that may negatively affect your relationship. For men, this could be a friend who encourages you to filter your Internet access to guard against porn. Women, for you, it may be someone who refuses to engage in gossip and challenges you to also be careful with your words.
Two, in addition to providing accountability, an honest friend won’t always take your side if you encounter conflict with your spouse. Rather, he or she will offer you correction if you need it.
No matter how nice it feels to have your ego built up at times, a friend who won’t point out where you could do better isn’t going to help you or your marriage grow.
It’s not too late to pick friends who help your marriage.
Most of the time, our back-porch conversations about marriage, community, and friendship reveal that the couples we chat with are off to a strong start. They’ve surrounded themselves with close friends who make great supporters, confidants, and cheerleaders for their relationship. I hope you can say the same. If not, it’s never too late to seek out those godly influences to make sure that — in your life and relationships — friends and marriage mix.
This post originally appeared on AshleighSlater.com and was republished with permission.