Secret #1: Your Spouse Doesn’t Have to Be Your Best Friend

According to Dr. Scott Haltzman, author of The Secrets of Happily Married Men, “If you hold to an ideal that may never be met, you lose the opportunity to appreciate the good qualities of what’s already in front of you.”

Seth, Reva, First Comes Marriage

I’ve been reading Reva Seth’s book on arranged marriage, First Comes Marriage, which is basically a handbook for women who are seeking marriage. She offers wisdom from the age old tradition of arranged marriages to help women think about what they are looking for in a husband.

Seth has me asking the question, “But what about all of us who are already married?” She is helping me see the unreasonably high expectations I brought into my marriage. I’m playing with how her advice might be applied to undo some of the damage I’ve inflicted, and find a place of deeper contentment. In a previous post I suggested that you reflect on the expectations you brought to your marriage, and see if you could begin to let go of many of them, in a spirit of grace. Seth’s 7 secrets of arranged marriages are all connected to the importance of letting go of expectations.

Her first secret is: Don’t expect your spouse to be your best friend.

This simple secret has stirred up more memories than I can keep up with. For instance, when Holly and I first married I had already developed an interest in running. Being the incredibly wise and older spouse in our relationship, I brilliantly concluded that Holly needed to be interested in running also. I didn’t just ask her to run with me. I pushed her… goaded her… into running with me. My memory is that she didn’t really enjoy it, but she did it. I recall that some of our biggest fights started while we were running. But, she ran with me. And guess what, she eventually began to love running. However, she did not begin to love it until she stopped running with me!

When we moved to Louisville Holly began to teach at a little private school where she met a couple of other teachers who were runners. She enjoyed running with them MORE THAN ME! Thirty years later she has a few half-marathons and marathons under her belt, along with a triathalon. Very few of the many miles she has logged had me at her side. She runs with her friends, and many of them become her best friends. It took me years to realize that it was just fine for me not to be one of those friends. Of equal interest to me, being a guy who still enjoys running, is my discovery that I don’t like running with people, at all! Running has become one of my very favorite solitary activities.

This is only one of a myriad of examples regarding how my definition of best friend set me up for frustration. And I think Holly would agree that the same is true from her side. She has expressed much sadness and anger over the years when I’ve lacked enthusiasm for participating in various activities that were important to her.

Is this an issue in your marriage? Are you frustrated by the lack of shared interests you and your spouse have? If so, here’s a question: Even though my spouse and I don’t have many shared interests, do we have shared values? It seems that couples can do without much of the former if they are solid on the latter.

I can see now that at least a portion of the glue that has held Holly and I together over the years has been shared values. Much of our conflict has come from how we prioritize these values differently, but we generally hold the same values. For example, we would both agree we both value invigorating experiences AND financial responsibility. We just tend to define and prioritize these values a bit differently.

I don’t know of a couple who couldn’t benefit from discussing these two questions:

  • What are our values?
  • How do we prioritize them?

Wes

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About Wes Eades

I've been a pastoral counselor, marital therapist, and overall listening ear since about 1989 or so.
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