The word "friendship" conjures up thoughts of honesty, vulnerability, companionship, and mutual respect. It also implies a certain outlaying of time and energy. C.S. Lewis said of friendship: "It is when we are doing things
together that friendship springs up – painting, sailing ships, praying, philosophizing, and fighting shoulder to shoulder. Friends look in the same direction."
Meghan and Pete's close friendship in college was very real, but after fifteen years they are no longer looking in the same direction. Indeed, in many ways, they have grown to be very different people.
"Marriage without friendship cannot work in our culture," says Bill Hanawalt, who has conducted pre-marital and marital counseling for 30 years as the executive pastor of the Vineyard Christian Church of Evanston, Il. "Friendship
has to be nourished and nurtured regularly or it faces the danger of becoming a business relationship. I have seen many distant and business-like marriages where careers have developed and children have come into the picture, and the priority of emotional connection has been left to die on the vine. Couples that don't give attention to developing their friendship often come apart. It also creates an opening for marital infidelity."
Glenn Stanton, an expert on marriage at Focus on the Family and a husband and father of five children, echoes this sentiment. He says that a weakened friendship can lead a spouse to seek intimacy in other places. "When the luxury of being friends with one another takes a back seat, friendships that are deep and intimate can develop in other places resulting in emotional, and even physical, adultery," says Stanton.
"These kinds of friendships are obviously easier. Unlike your spouse, the other party has the luxury of being transparent and real without all of the other encumbrances and responsibilities of your family's life. We have no
problem calling deep emotional intimacy between a spouse and another of the opposite sex wrong, however, if we're investing emotional capital in a same-sex relationship at the peril of the marriage, then that this also dangerous.
"In marriage the final answer is am I investing more emotional energy into husband than I am in a friend or child? Or, where is it that I'm investing most of my emotional energy?"
A lapsed friendship can be restored with intentionality, sacrifice, perseverance, and especially prayer. A good first step is to find activities that you like to do together – and then make the time do it. "And simply be together," says Stanton. "Jesus went off by Himself to be quiet with his Father. Make this a time when you're not doing and running around, but that you're just being together."
Pete and Meghan have taken small steps toward this end. Though Pete works long hours, he takes time during the day to call home and see how Meghan is faring with the children. If he's working late, she'll bring dinner to the
hospital because she knows he hates hospital food. Their date nights no longer fall prey to the tyranny of the urgent. They take the time to get together weekly, not only to catch up with each others activities, but to check in on