Several years ago we wrote a Marriage Message titled, “Are Your Friends Helping or Hurting Your Marriage?” We featured this topic because we heard from so many spouses where their friends were hurting their marriages. They didn’t know what to do.
We’re revisiting this matter again (and updating what we wrote) because many others have let us know that they are facing this same dilemma. We hope this will help.
Fortunately, many married couples have great, supportive friends. We have many wonderful friends ourselves. They are a blessing in so many ways. We love our friends. But through the years we’ve had to change out some friendships. We either grew in different directions or these friendships (for whatever reason) began hurting our marriage rather than enriching it. So we distanced ourselves from them.
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Sometimes you have great friends that you’re close to before you marry. But the “greatness” of some friendships change after marrying. You enter into a new season of life. And different seasons usher in different challenges. After marrying, you may need to ask yourself if these friends are helping or hurting your marriage. (Hopefully, they’re helping!)
Friends Helping Marriage or Hurting It?
It’s difficult to think that our friends could hurt us in any way. After all, they are our “friends” aren’t they? We were close to them before we married. But the fact is that when we marry we enter into a sacred covenantal partnership with our spouse and with God. And that changes whatever we had going for us before marrying—especially our priorities. Our spouse should then be our top human priority.
You may have had some great friendships before marrying. But sometimes those same friends just aren’t good ones for you to continue at this stage of your life. They want more from you than you’re able to give them. Your priorities have to change after marrying; but they may not see or understand that. Concerning the friends you keep after marrying:
“Make sure you spend time with friends and couples who encourage you to strengthen your marriage. And spend less time with people who tempt you to compromise your marital commitments.” (Bruce & Lauren Ashford)
On that same note, Dave Willis points out this truth:
“I’m convinced that one of the biggest factors that lead people into affairs is the friends they choose to hang around. This might sound surprising to you, but I’ve seen it play out over and over. In most (not all) cases of adultery, the spouse who had the affair had also been spending time with friends or co-workers who don’t encourage marital faithfulness. Surround yourself with friends who strengthen your character. Make sure you remove yourself from those who attempt to compromise your character.”
Friendships that Corrupt
Here’s one way of looking at that dilemma: When fruit is ripe, it’s good to partake of it. But when it turns rotten, then it’s time to get rid of it. This same principle can apply to friendships. The Bible says, “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’ Come back to your senses as you ought; and stop sinning. For there are some who are ignorant of God. I say this to your shame.” (1 Corinthians 15:33-34)
It’s noted in Mark 10:9 that Jesus said, “What God has joined together, let no one separate.” And that includes friendships. So if a friend causes even emotional division and separation between you and your spouse, that is problematic. Do what you believe Jesus would have you do. It may not be what you want to do; but it’s necessary.
A spouse might say that if they let go of this friend, they “won’t have any friends.” And that could be true. But in reality, it would be better to not have any friends than to have friends who pull you in wrong directions. It’s the Matthew 5 principle that if your “hand” or your “eye” causes you to do what you shouldn’t, then you must get rid of that, which is causing the problem. Friendships can be disposable; marriages are not supposed to be. It’s important to stay true to the vows we made to our God and to our spouse.
It just comes down to the fact that sometimes friendships can trouble the health of your marriage.
“There are a number of ways in which friends can be detrimental to your marriage. One is when a friend, whether same-sex or opposite, becomes your main confidant. That kind of sharing is what builds true and deep intimacy. Thus, when you confide your concerns and fears, your hopes and dreams, your struggles and temptations with a friend to the exclusion of your spouse, you forge your strongest bonds of intimacy with the friend.
“Another way in which friends can hurt your marriage is when they consume too much of your discretionary time. Couple time —the time you spend connecting with each other and nurturing your relationship —is a premium for most of us. Friends who expect or demand so much of your time that they deprive you of couple time are foes to your marriage.” (Jeannette and Robert Lauer, from the Marriage Partnership article “With Friends Like These”)
Friendships that Change in Healthiness
When I was mentoring two young ladies a few years ago, they both complained that they were having a difficult time finding friends who were helpful and encouraging of their marriages. As I told them —that’s then it’s time to look for new friends. If these “friends” cause division with your spouse, then they cease to truly be friends. It’s then that they become marital adversaries instead. Just because your friendship was a good one previously, it doesn’t mean that it’s good now. If you throw out junk mail, you should throw out junk friendships, even though it hurts for a time.
Concerning this matter, here are a few “tough questions” to ask yourself about your friendships (which Jeannette and Robert Lauer came up with):
• “Do they enjoy the kind of activities and conversation that strengthen marriage?
• “Do they make you feel better about your spouse?
• “Do they respect and support your need for couple time?
• “Do they celebrate marriage as a rich human experience?”
And here are a couple of additional questions from Sabrina D. Black, from the book, “Can Two Walk Together?”
Sabrina Poses the Questions:
• “Are these people building a hedge around your marriage?
• “How concerned are they about godly things?
• “Are they the types who say, ‘Well, I never really liked him anyway?’ Or do they say, ‘you know, I didn’t like it when he did this the other day,’ or ‘I don’t believe you should put up with that!’
“Make sure your friend is concerned about godly things. Make sure they know the Word of God and will turn to it when you call. Always keep in mind that friends are people who should draw you closer to God. Therefore, if they are telling you something that is contrary to the Word, then they are not really your friends.”
Does this mean that we shouldn’t have outside friendships? Of course not! Healthy friendships can help you in your marriage! Friends can be great encouragers and a lot of fun for both of you. Plus, they can partner with you in praying about matters of concern.
“There are powerful examples of committed friendship in David and Jonathan; Ruth and Naomi; in Jesus and his close friendships with people like Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Friendships like these strengthen and shape us, and our need for them doesn’t evaporate when we marry. Sure, things change—and they ought to! But we lose out, as a couple, if we think marriage supplants all our friendship needs.” (Kelli B. Trujillo)
Just make sure you choose your friends wisely. Make sure that they make you feel better about your mate and about your God. If they don’t, then make the hard decision of parting ways with them.
If your spouse has a friend that threatens your marriage, ask God when and how to approach your spouse over this matter. Don’t nag and push so hard that your spouse keeps the friendship(s) just to spite you. That will just cause further damage. But ask God to give you wisdom to do what you need to do. As we’re told in God’s Word:
“You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” (Hebrews 10:36)
We hope this has given you some food for thought on the issue of friendships. If you have other thoughts you can share to help others, please do.
— ALSO —
Here are two related articles posted on this web site that we encourage you to read:
May we hold to the standard where our friends are encouragers in our marriages! And may we always strive to encourage our friends in their marriages!
Cindy and Steve Wright
— ADDITIONALLY —
To help you further, we give a lot of personal stories, humor, and more practical tips in our book, 7 ESSENTIALS to Grow Your Marriage. We hope you will pick up a copy for yourself. (It’s available both electronically and in print form.) Plus, it can make a great gift for someone else. It gives you the opportunity to help them grow their marriage. And who doesn’t need that? Just click on the linked title or the picture below:
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