“Spending time to build friendship with your fiancé, husband or wife is an investment worth making.”
How do you want your life to look in 10, 20 or 50 years’ time?
You might hope to be surrounded by family and a loving spouse you’ve grown old with. With supportive relationships forming part of the ‘golden triangle’ to wellbeing according to Deakin University and Australian Unity’s Wellbeing Index, it’s a good aim to have.
Often this picture of “growing old together” is taken for granted. In fact, according to the educators at the Pre-Marriage Preparation courses in the Life, Marriage and Family Office of the Diocese of Parramatta, some engaged couples haven’t thought that far ahead.
When marriage educators Nerissa and Arts Calub ask how many engaged couples are ready for “the pitfalls”, it’s sometimes the first time couples have thought about it.
Friendship in marriage
Seeing your husband or wife as a friend, in fact your best friend, provides a guide on how to keep the respect, fun and intimacy in a marriage, say Nerissa and Arts. “Think about how you treat a friend,” says Nerissa. “You treasure the friendship, you want to make your friend happy and have fun and even adventures with them. Be realistic with your expectations.”
Briony and Jesse Mowbray are another couple who lead the pre-marriage courses. “Be intentional about keeping the friendship in a marriage,” advises Jesse. He and Briony know this is easier said than done of course. “Yes, I get cranky,” admits Jesse. His advice is to realise when it’s not a good time for important discussions. “Allow time for emotion to settle, so you are acting with your head,” he says. “It’s ok to take a break and resume the conversation at a better time.”
Briony recommends really seeing your spouse as another person. “No one is perfect but look for the things they do well and focus on those qualities,” she says.
All four educators see sharing a faith will make couples closer. Making vows before God, gives couples a reference point to refer to when times get tough, says Nerissa. “When people are at their lowest ebb in a relationship, we recommend going back to their marriage vows and remembering that these vows were made for the other person in the marriage. Reflect on ‘What was it that I actually promised to do for that other person?’”
Kristelle Elysee and Stephen Curry attended a marriage preparation course in February this year. They were inspired by Nerissa and Arts’ close relationship. Kristelle laughs at how many times they have referred to the phrase the marriage educators often used in the course: “There are ‘other ways’ (of doing things).” “When one of us now uses that line, the other knows what they are talking about and backs down,” she says.
Arts’ favourite thing is to go up to happy looking older couples, maybe doing something simple like walking in the sun or buying an ice cream, and asking “What makes your marriage so beautiful?”.
He recommends couples aim for the goal they want, right from the start. “As you age, you’ll realise the value of friendship in your partner and how much you rely on each other,” he says. “The time to start thinking about the fun you’ll have as an elderly couple is when you’re young.”
Tips for creating a friendship in marriage
- Think about your husband or wife as a friend. How would you treat a good friend?
- If you disagree with them, say your opinion respectfully like you would to a friend.
- If you’re on the receiving end of criticism, be open to what they are trying to say before getting defensive. Use ‘I’ statements when discussing a difficult issue.
- Be conscious of the example of marriage you were set by your family. Be aware when you bring these attitudes or behaviours into your own marriage and whether they are helpful.
- Approach difficult conversations when everyone is fresh, in a good space and definitely well-fed!
- Think of your marriage as a chance to serve others, the ‘other’ being your husband or wife.
- Let Jesus be part of your marriage and your journey together through your married life.
The Diocese of Parramatta runs marriage preparation courses for couples regularly throughout the year. To find out more, visit parracatholic.org/pmp.
This article was originally featured in the Ordinary Time/Winter 2021 Edition of the Catholic Outlook Magazine.