Friendship in Marriage
Last August I officiated at the memorial service for one of my best friends. Though 20 years apart in age, God gave us a bond which endured more than 40 years, until he was overtaken by dementia.
Dick knew me as I considered proposing to Rondi and walked with me through marriage preparation. Then, with his wife, mentored us. Most of the mentoring took place while eating chocolate desserts (never the same one) at the end of a monthly meal together.
When we left Oregon in 1985, we decided we were covenant friends. Time and distance would not change our bond. We exchanged visits and phone calls for 25 years. They were the adopted grandparents to our kids.
We opened our lives to them. After a week-long visit, there was a debrief. We asked for their observations about our marriage, our children, and our parenting. What blind spots we had! What help we received! Through their loving clarity, we pulled many weeds in our marriage and parenting before they had a chance to spread. Our marriage was enriched when pursued in close relationship with a few others.
Through their counsel we made unity the big goal of marriage. Why? God says the purpose of the marriage (Gen 2:24) is that the two become one. From them we learned that whatever the decision, however we lived out our roles, the goal was being one. This required the deepest respect, thoughtfulness, patience, communication, and pursuit of agreement in major decisions. Christ, they said, was the center of marriage and the ground of unity.
Through their counsel we learned that marriage can be work. They did not have an easy marriage. It is hard to imagine two people more different. He loved to read and discuss ideas. She was a doer. He loved camping. She enjoyed hotels. He was an extreme extrovert. She was an extreme introvert. But they lived out their unity with daily disciplines. They even asked for our help at times!
Dick brought us simplicity. As a therapist with 25 years’ experience, I respected his vast experience. One day I asked him for a list all the reasons people have bad marriages. Notepad in hand, I waited. “Selfishness,” he responded. Sensing I was still alert for more, he said, “That’s it.” True words he spoke.
Selfishness is broken by Christ, the servant. When we are selfish, we fight to get our way. Christ laid down his life for us. They taught us to have “un-fights.” An un-fight is a battle to serve. It’s a battle to prefer the other as more important than myself.
They taught us about budgeting, shopping, sharing housework, and about confession and forgiveness when we sinned against each other. We saw in them a humility, 20 years our seniors, to ask us for help in their marriage.
Rondi and I have known the enrichment of our marriage because we invited others into our lives. Dick and Doris were the first. Others followed.
What about you? Would you benefit from asking people you trust into your marriage? What might be the benefit of a first conversation around these two questions:
- What two things have helped you grow in your marriage in Christ?
- What two mistakes hindered you and how did you address them?