Marriage is a combination of friendship, attraction, mutual support and shared living arrangements. Over time, most couples slip into their respective roles and keep the household running smoothly. Things go wrong when they forget to be friends.

In their book, Fighting for Your Marriage, (John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 2001), Howard J. Markham, Scott M. Stanley and Susan L. Blumberg recommend the following steps to regaining and maintaining friendship in marriage.

Married Couples Must Make Time to be Friends

While people can form friendships while working alongside one another, it is important to make space to be alone and relaxed with each other. In a marriage context, this can take many forms including the following:

Long walks together
Dinner dates alone
Weekends away without the children
Visiting shows together
Sightseeing in their own city for fun

Protect Friendship From Conflicts and Issues

One way of doing this is by agreeing that problem areas be left alone when spending friendship time together. This creates a safe space for both partners and they can talk freely and intimately without fear of attack. If the relationship is fraught with conflict, it is probably a good idea to seek some counseling or deal with these areas before working on the friendship.

On the other hand, some couples find that friendship time helps them to rediscover what they love about each other and make conflict resolution easier.

Wedded People Can Still Talk Like Friends

The authors of Fighting for Your Marriage state that friends aren’t focused on solving problems. Friends stop and chat because they are interested in each other’s lives and want to catch up on happenings and events. They don’t have a secret goal to change the other person into a better man or woman, but rather enjoy his or her company and having a laugh or two with him or her. Conversation may be deep or light but should be open and honest. If married couples aim at this level of friendship, their relationship can only benefit.

Play Together as Friends to Strengthen a Marriage

While talking together is good, adding some fun into the mix is great. This often involves other couples and outings to play mini-golf, paintball or bingo. Beach barbecues are another possibility and a games evening around a fire in winter is always fun. Be creative and initiate outings that will benefit all who participate.

The authors of Fighting for Your Marriage conclude that friendship is at the core of long-lasting, happy marriages. It often takes an investment of time and effort to keep friendships alive but the results are well worth it. Not only do the married couple benefit, but also their children, friends and members of their extended family.