Your friends influence your marriage probably more than you realize. That’s what we’ve seen, at least. Some friends influence their friends for the good, and others negatively influence their friends. We may think of them as our friends, and perhaps they might have been at one time. But if they are now causing problems in our marriage, or we cause problems in our marriage when we’re around them, it is not a “good” friendship. And we aren’t being a good “friend” to our spouse if we allow the negativity to continue. Our spouse should come first in human priorities.
It’s important that we remember that we’re warned in the Bible:
“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)
That’s a strong warning! So don’t ignore it.
Friends Influence for Good
Thankfully though, we can also have friends in our lives that act like Jesus with skin on. They show love to us, as Jesus would have them. They live out the proverb, “A friend loves at all times.” (Proverbs 17:17) Here’s something that Fawn Weaver says about friendships (that we totally agree with):
“Find at least one friend who has the same desire in their life as you do so you can work toward healthy goals together. When you begin drifting from the plan you set in place to create a happy, loving marriage—your friend will help bring you back to shore. Keep a friend close by who’s positive and sees life as you do and encourages you to live your life in line with your stated prioritizes.”
That’s what we’ve tried to do with our friends over the years. And that is the type of friendships we gravitate towards and enjoy. We love being with friends who enjoy being married to each other. It can’t help but rub off on you. It’s just a positive delight to be with other happily married couples. It’s not that they don’t experience troubles at times. But their posture in marriage is to continually work through and beyond those “bumps” and sometimes major roadblocks that they encounter. And when you are able to pray for and help them, it deepens your friendship all the more.
Another Angle on Friendships
But lets take that a step further as far as a friends influence on the marriages surrounding them. What if your friends saw you doing something that could hurt your marriage? What would you do if they confront you? Would you embrace their loving confrontation? Or would you push them away? The Bible tells us that the “wounds from a friend can be trusted. But an enemy multiplies kisses.” (Proverbs 27:6) The footnote explanation for this verse in the Life Application Bible says something worth thinking about concerning this matter:
“Who would prefer a friend’s wounds to an enemy’s kisses? It would be anyone who considers the source. A friend who has your best interests at heart may have to give you unpleasant advice at times. But you know it is for your own good. An enemy, by contrast, may whisper sweet words and happily send you on your way to ruin. We tend to hear what we want to hear, even if an enemy is the only one who will say it. A friend’s advice, no matter how painful, is much better.”
That’s true! But what if the situation is reversed? What if you see your friend doing something harmful to their marriage? Are you the type of friend that would keep quiet? Or would you confront them about it? Loving confrontation can and should go both ways, when it’s applicable.
When Friends Confront and Become Involved
One of the definitions in the dictionary for the word “friend” is, “A person on the same side in a struggle —a supporter.” We are not to be “nit-picky” about every little fault our friends have. But we also are not to stay silent about that, which is blatantly wrong and harmful. We’re to poke holes in darkness even when it brings discomfort to our friends.
Friends Becoming Involved
With this in mind, we’d like to share something written by Henry and Richard Blackaby. We pray as you read what they wrote the Lord will speak to your hearts as He has ours on this issue:
“As Christians, we’re called to become involved in the lives of others, especially when we see someone headed for trouble. It’s actually our responsibility, when we see a fellow believer drifting toward sin, to warn that person of the dangers ahead.
“Sometimes we’re reluctant to say anything to others because we don’t want to offend them. We don’t want to act ‘holier than thou.’ Besides, if we point out the sins of others, they might point back at us and begin naming our sins!
“So often we say nothing and think that’s the most Christian thing to do. James argues, however, that when we help someone avoid the danger of sin, we’re saving that person from death! We need to check to see what’s happening in the lives of people around us. If our friends keep falling into sin and we keep minding our own business, we have failed as a Christian friend.
“Is there someone you need lovingly to warn of the danger ahead? Take courage. Regardless of the response you receive, speak up before it’s too late. Do so out of genuine concern for the well-being of your friend.” (From their devotional book, “The Experience: Day-by-Day”)
Biblical Counsel on Friends Influence
The Bible says, “Whoever turns a sinner from his error will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” (James 5:20) Concerning friendships, we’re also told in the Bible:
• “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person. Do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared.” (Proverbs 22:24-25)
• “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” (Proverbs 13:20)
C. S. Lewis must have had that scripture in mind as he wrote: “The next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are.”
Additionally note, concerning a friends influence:
“The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.” (Proverbs 12:26)
That wisdom from the Bible is shown in something that Dave Willis wrote:
“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 and remove yourself from those who attempt to compromise your character.”
Friends Influences That Are Positive
With all that said, we have seen that outside friendships can have both a positive influence and a negative on your marriage. First, there are the positives. We have loved the friends we choose to hang around with. They have helped us to grow all the closer to each other as they support us in so many ways. We can go to them for sound, biblical advice, prayer support, etc.
There are a whole host of positives that they bring into our marriage. They care about us and our marriage. We could go on and on about all of the positive effects our friends, from our perspective. But here’s another perspective about the positive effects a good friendship can have on a marriage:
“The reason outside friendships are so important is the dilemma marriages face when both spouses are hurting. If a hit assaults two of you at once, the person you should normally expect the most care and empathy from (your spouse) is reeling as well. This compromises your spouse’s ability to care for you. He or she is numb, just like you are. They have their own questions, their own anger to process. They need to vent, not listen. The challenge is that both of you need to vent, so if neither of you have a different outlet, you’re in trouble.
“That’s one of the many blessings of wise friends. They can temporarily step in and serve the nurturing role normally played by a spouse so that you can receive care and go back to nurture your spouse.” (Gary Thomas)
To learn more from Gary Thomas about the importance of good friendships read:
But then there is the flip side of outside friendships. Some “friends” can cause problems. It’s something we have personally seen happen over the years in workplace situations and other places:
“A study from researchers at Brown University, UC-San Diego, and Harvard University has found that having a divorced friend can increase your own risk of a breakup by 75 percent. Even more, simply having a divorced acquaintance bumps up your risk by 33 percent. In short, divorce can be contagious. The researchers write in the study’s abstract that ‘the results suggest that divorce can spread between friends.'” (Alexander Abad-Santos, in his article, “Divorce Can Be Contagious”)
Now we’re not telling you to de-friend your divorced friends. Absolutely not! But rather we want to make you aware of your friends influence one way or another. Be on the alert when you’re talking with those who tell you that they’re glad they divorced. Their situation should not send you in a direction you shouldn’t be entertaining in your thoughts. Here’s a quote we totally agree with:
“Make friends with fighters. Make sure you spend time with friends and couples who encourage you to strengthen your marriage, and less time with people who downplay the value of marriage or tempt you to compromise your marital commitments. You need some sparring partners to keep you in the ring.” (Bruce and Lauren Ashford)
Lastly, Concerning a Friends Influence:
Here are two things to prayerfully consider, written by a great husband and wife team:
• “If you expose yourself to people who talk down about their spouses or don’t invest time in their family and marriage, it will rub off on you, to the detriment of your marriage. If, on the other hand, you expose yourself to people who speak well of their spouse, invest time in their family and marriage or are just overall marriage friendly, it will encourage you and help you grow in your marriage relationship.” (Lori Byerly, from The-generous-wife.com blog, “It Will Rub Off on You”)
• “Is your peer pressure positive or negative towards your marriage? Are your friends moving you towards being loving, generous, and giving, or are they pushing you towards being selfish, stingy, and lazy? …On the other side, what kind of peer pressure are you putting on others? Make a commitment to providing positive influences.” (Paul Byerly from The-generous-husband.com article, “Is Your Peer Pressure Positive or Negative?”)
Are you ready to make that commitment? Work on your marriage, above all. And don’t put your marriage into an unhealthy place while you are helping others. But also, when it’s possible, don’t sit on the sidelines when you see other marriages around you in trouble. Step outside of your comfort zone and do what you can to help. You may not have the perfect marriage. But who does? Don’t let that stop you. Do what you can to positively influence the marriages around you. And put yourself in places where friends influence your marriage in positive ways.
Steve and Cindy Wright
— ADDITIONALLY —
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