I wonder how many of my readers knew, when they married their husbands, that one day they would be living and serving in a different culture. We knew how to love our husbands in our home context, but how do we love our husbands in this context? So much has changed. He has days so filled with toil that he barely drags in the door. Other days he is flying high, filled with the joy of fulfilled dreams. How do I love this guy in this place?
Paul the Apostle wrote an honest, instructive letter to his young friend and co-worker, Titus. At the time Titus was a pastor serving in a morally confused and degraded culture. Part of Paul’s straight-forward counsel had to do with the behavior of the more mature women in the church. They needed to be reverent, not slanderous, not addicted to any substance, and capable of teaching what is good. Then he gives his reason:
‘Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children.’
Titus 2:4 NIVUK
I always assumed that the word for love in this verse was agape, or covenant love. That seemed to imply a duty to love. But the Greek word is philandros, a word that carries a feeling of friendship for the man you married. Both are great words. And both, along with eros, a word that often describes sexual love, have importance for a healthy marriage.
As PW’s we need to remember that even though our husbands might be doing heroic or sacrificial deeds, and even though we might be just as involved, our husbands need our love in all its dimensions. For now, I want us to remember the importance of being our husband’s loving friend.
I recently completed a training from the Gottman institute called Bringing Baby Home. That teaching stresses the importance of marital friendship. It seems that a new baby can consume so much of our emotional resources that couples let their friendship die.
The same can happen to PWs. It is possible, even probable, that as we are serving others, we may forget the importance of building and maintaining our friendship with our husband. So let’s consider what friendship love looks like in marriage.
When we were looking for our husband, we looked for a good friend. As my husband is fond of saying, “No one marries someone he or she doesn’t like.”
We basked in that friendship, as well as the romance, during the honeymoon. It grew as we learned more about each other. In the best cases, we revealed more about ourselves and found deeper ways to understand each other and please each other.
Then we had to settle into routines, go back to work, and face lots of new challenges. This is where our friendship started feeling the strain. Even so, most of us learned how to survive and even grow closer through the challenges.
Overseas and Underwater
An overseas assignment adds more stresses, more uncertainties, more of every kind of challenge. So we cannot take our friendship for granted. We must keep building, refreshing, and growing it, even if we feel like we might drown in this new cultural ocean at any moment. Friendship helps us stay afloat.
Here are a few ways to strengthen your marital friendship, or maybe rediscover it if it’s lost.
Our friendship deepens as we look beyond words or actions and discover the experiences that formed our husband’s character. This knowledge can help us know how to help him and forgive and be patient as we wait for change.
Friendship grows every time we are thoughtful and make life a little more pleasant for our husband. Small things often pay big dividends later. Here are a few to consider:
Find ways to affirm your husband’s strengths and progress. Let him know you notice and value his good character. He may not be a man who takes affirmation easily, but in his heart he will appreciate it.
Do things together that you both enjoy. There can be real joy in experiencing things together. Simple things are fine. Work a puzzle. Read some books and talk about them. You both may find you really like something you never would have tried on your own.
Find things to laugh about every day. Laughter makes stressful things easier to bear.
Don’t forget the value of conversation. We know a couple in a limited access country who make it a habit to sit down together and talk about their day for twenty minutes. Every day, at the same time. You don’t have to do it like them, but it is wise to make space for your friendship.
In Jon Katz’s book, The Second Chance Dog, he shared a list he made of small things he could do to show how much he loved Maria. Some, like telling her that he loved her and how much he admired her, he could do every day. Bringing a small thing that he knew she would enjoy he could do once a week. Being open to new things and caring for her when she was down would happen more sporadically.
Small acts and words like these strengthen our friendship love. And they build and maintain an atmosphere of love and joy that helps us more easily resolve our disagreements.
Why not make a list of small things you can do often to show your love for your husband? He needs a friend like you.