5. Give up controlling behavior. See to it, however, that your requests for change in your spouse are reasonable. We are not called to mandate every detail of our partner’s life. Beware of trying to convert your mate into your very own personal robot, with no identity of his or her own. This personal freedom is even seen in our friendship with the Lord. It is important to remember that He doesn’t try to control every decision we make; how we wear our hair, what we eat, or who our friends will be. He gives us the freedom to make our own choices over all of the non-moral issues in our lives.
In his epistle to the Romans, the Apostle Paul taught believers this principle to keep them from battling over non-essential issues. Some of the gray areas in those days entailed questions related to what days they were to worship and whether they were to eat meat or only vegetables. He explained that they had to decide these issues individually and not allow others to judge them for their choices. In order to avoid unnecessary conflict among the brethren he taught, “Let each be fully convinced in his own mind” (Rom. 14:5).
In your marriage relationship there are a multitude of non-moral and non-biblical issues that can create conflict. Some spouses condemn their mates, refusing to allow them the right to a personal opinion. When this occurs it is simply a problem of self, of trying to remake your spouse into your own image. This hard-line philosophy will only destroy the friendship you possess. True love chooses not to criticize one’s personal opinions but allows and accepts them.
Let me give you some examples of controlling behavior in the context of friendship to illustrate my point. Would you go into a friend’s house and begin to criticize the decor of his or her home? Would you reprimand your friend every time he or she did something you personally disliked? Would you interrupt a friend and declare that his or her opinion was unimportant? Never! If you did, you wouldn’t be friends for very long. In our normal daily relationships we never try to control every detail of our friends’ lives because we realize their decisions are of a personal nature and are, therefore, left to individual choice. If we are so tolerant and respectful of our friends, shouldn’t we give the same benefit to our best friend?
If you see the wisdom in these examples, why then do you show a lack of acceptance for the personal decisions of your spouse? How can you be fair with one person and so unfair with another? It basically comes down to selfishness. I am not saying that you shouldn’t discuss gray issues or try to compromise over them, but at some point you simply have to accept the different ideas and opinions of your mate. Your spouse will never be just like you!
6. Spend some recreation time together. When you first dated, recreation was a very important part of your courtship time. You found fun things to do together and spent hours talking about things that you had done and hoped to do in the future. These times together deepened your friendship, which eventually lead to romance and marriage.
However, after marriage many couples fail to continue to do the very things that made them such good friends. It’s easy to get caught up in the demands of the children’s needs, of business or job pressures, or in personal hobbies or sports. Consequently, many couples spend less and less time together and the friendship slowly dies.
It is interesting to note that one of the keys to the friendship and romance between Solomon and his wife was to take opportunities for recreation together. The record reveals that they were constantly doing things together. They met and spent time together in the field where she kept her flock (Song 1:7-8). He came and met her for a spring-time walk, just to smell the flowers (2:10-13). They also took time to go away for a trip to the villages and to walk in the vineyards (7:11-12).
What fun things do you do together on a regular basis that would encourage friendship with your spouse? Do you make the time to be together or has your mate been squeezed out by other priorities? For this activity to be successful in building friendship, it must be something you both enjoy doing and preferably something that is as inexpensive as possible. This is important because if you aren’t both excited about the activity or it costs too much money to do on a regular basis, you won’t continue.
Find as many activities as you can that will encourage communication together. Going out to a movie is a great date, but it doesn’t allow for much communication with each other unless you go out beforehand to dinner or go for an after-movie walk to discuss your ideas about it. If you can find recreation that simultaneously allows for communication, you are enhancing friendship in two areas. Outdoor activities such as walking, hiking, fishing, bike-riding, or camping can be fun and are often inexpensive while facilitating conversation.
Find more of Pastor Steve Carr’s teaching in this series in How to Build Friendship In Your Marriage- Part II.
Excerpt republished with permission from Covenant Keepers by Pastor Steve Carr, Copyright 2013.