Friendships are a valuable possession. Without them, you have an increased risk of loneliness. With them come connection and support. But what about when there’s a question mark as to whether the friendship is helping or hurting your marriage?
Friendships can play a crucial role in the health of your marriage. I’ve had friends support my wife and me through some extremely difficult times. I look back and wonder how different our marriage would be if not for some of those amazing relationships. On the other hand, I’ve listened to friends do and say things that can cripple or sabotage a marriage.
Just like a virus, your friends can spread their values, priorities, and attitudes. Research shows that the tighter the friend group, the more easily these things spread. This can be a positive or a negative depending on your friends.
When you’re in that uncomfortable place of trying to determine if a particular friend is hurting your marriage, here are some things to consider.
- Is your friend for your marriage? Are they for marriage, in general? Some people have a sour outlook on marriage; they are generally cynical toward marriage and have difficulty believing that it won’t eventually end in pain. Does your friend encourage you to turn away from your marriage or lean into it?
- How do they talk about their own spouse? If your friend is constantly complaining about their spouse, unless you are intentional about doing something different, it becomes easy to join in. Therapist and author Michelle Weiner-Davis says the more you complain about your spouse, the less likely you want to go home and be more loving to them. And while she was specifically talking about wives, the same is certainly true the other way around.
- Are you discussing things with your friends you should be discussing with your spouse? It’s ok to bounce ideas off your friends. But this should never replace intimate or tough conversations with your spouse.
- Is your friendship helping you be a better person? Is your friendship encouraging you to be more thoughtful or selfish? Are they encouraging you to look out for you regardless of the impact on the ones you love? Yes, there are times when a friend must help you focus on yourself. Your good friends will help you be healthy, not self-centered.
- Does your friend always take your side? Friends who only tell you what you want to hear aren’t going to help your marriage. Good friends of your marriage will help you better communicate with your spouse. Instead of saying things like that, “I can’t believe your spouse would do something like that,” they ask questions like, “Have you asked your spouse about it?” They use some discernment to help you see things clearly.
- Do they respect your spouse? Your spouse may not have been who your friend would’ve picked for you. Even amid the differences, friends should learn to respect your decisions and the differences between them and your spouse. After all, you married your spouse, not your friend.
As you reflect on your friendships, it should be clear whether your friendship is supportive of you being the best version of yourself.
Not just as a spouse, but as a person. Good friends can help you see whether you’re just trippin’ or if you’re missing something important. Overall, they should help you be closer to your spouse while also helping you know if you’re losing yourself in your marriage in a negative way.
Don’t be afraid to make necessary adjustments to your relationships. As you go through different seasons of life, what you need from a friend may change. There’s nothing wrong with that. Letting some friends go can be helpful. Adjusting the amount of time you spend with friends may change. And holding tight to some friends may be imperative.
In all this, keeping your marriage as a priority is a must. A friend that helps you do that is a friend that’s helping your marriage, not hurting it. The study, “Breaking Up is Hard to Do, Unless Everyone Else is Doing it Too: Social Network Effects on Divorce in a Longitudinal Sample” did discover something extremely hopeful. “Interestingly, only outside support from friends and family predicted marital success in the time period examined.”
***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***