It’s a terrible thing to throw up on a roller coaster. Especially one of those new roller coasters with a tight harness that prevents you from turning and sending the vomit over the side. Add in the twists and dives…and well, it’s a mess.
But, the nausea and wreckage of puke covered clothes are far from the worst part.
Nope, the worst part is the face of the one doomed to ride in your seat next. The wide eyes and the moan as you limp away. That is the worst part.
And thus was the scene a few Fridays ago that concluded a date I was on with my husband.
You see, every time for the past 8 years of marriage that we’d crossed the Elizabeth Bridge while driving into Pittsburgh, Bill has taken a minute to point down a road curving off to the left.
“That’s the way to Kennywood,” he’d say. “I’ve gotta take you there some day.”
Kennywood is a large amusement park packed with roller coasters and all sorts of other rides I rode and threw up on in my youth. So every time we’d make that turn I’d smile at him and say, “yeah, someday,” glad that today was not that day…until suddenly it was.
With the kids safely in the care of my in-laws, Bill and I were finally, fearfully, on the way to Kennywood where I would be jostled and tortured and ultimate succumb to the humiliation of motion sickness at 10pm on something called the Sky Rocket, all for love of a husband, my dearest friend.
Because before anything, and often despite of everything, he is my best friend, for whom and with whom I am willing to do just about anything.
The concept of marital friendship has been in my thoughts a lot lately. I’ve spent the last 6 months ankle deep in marriage research and again and again the triumphs and struggles of marriage come back to one thing: FRIENDSHIP.
Sex, parenting, money issues, housekeeping, dreams, and work stress are all made glorious or miserable as a result of the friendship we share with our spouse.
In a way that seems exciting, doesn’t it? I mean, friendship sounds a lot simpler than marriage.
But, in a very real way, the challenge to be friends–BEST FRIENDS–with your spouse can seem daunting…
When everything he does you find annoying…
When you have suffered real wounds in his hands…
When you have inflict real wounds with your own hands…
When kids and jobs and obligations have reduced your relationship to something that feels more like co-workers on opposite shifts.
Yet, despite all of these complications, the literature on marriage, including the writings of Pope Saint John Paul II agree.
You NEED to find a way back to friendship with your spouse.
Well, friendship boils down to 3 key things:
And the uniting element in all of these? TIME.
If you are struggling to feel close and bonded to your husband, you need to create time alone with him.
It is as simple as that. You need to make the time.
And I get how tough finding alone time can be. Especially during the years of babies and stressful jobs, time is a hot commodity. But, time does not have to mean whole weekends away or even leaving the house.
It simply means time alone. Without the kids. Without Netflix. Without Facebook. Just time.
You make this time valuable by talking, sharing an activity and working toward a common goal.
So, if you are serious about working on your marital friendship, here is the road map.
First up, CONVERSATION. Although there are countless nuances to the life-giving or life-killing conversations we can have with our spouse, and that all is WAY too much to cover here, here are 10 quick tips for creating beautiful conversations with your husband.
- Turn off the TV
- Don’t interrupt. Listen
- Avoid the usual topics of work and kids.
- Take real interest in what he is saying (even if that means doing a little bit of research on topics you aren’t naturally interested in)
- Ask caring questions.
- ALWAYS TAKE HIS SIDE. Remember, you are a team.
- Laugh at his jokes.
- Look in his eyes and/or Hold his hand
- Share your dreams. Listen to his dreams
- Share more with him than ANYONE else.
I know that is a quick list with no explanation, but conversations with these elements will pull you closer together as a couple. And, perhaps more importantly, avoid the conversation killers of Criticism, Defensiveness, Contempt, and Stonewalling.
Make it pleasant and remember, you are in love. (why is that so difficult to remember some days?)
Another way to really nurture your friendship with your husband is to DO something with him. Like ride roller coasters ;).
For women, talking is often enough. But, for men it is much better to be doing something together while you are talking, as opposed to just talking. This is for lots of reasons, but men, stereotypical, are doers more than talkers. Also, it is very important to them that they share experiences with those they love and men typically bond with the people they do these things with. So, won’t it be great if your husband was bonding with YOU when he went golfing instead of his work buddies?
So, to nurture your friendship with your husband you need to do more than just talk. You need to DO with him. Here are 10 simple ideas for meaningful things you can do with your husband on a regular basis. What works for each couple will be different. It is only important that what you do allows you to feel like a team and that you both, in some way, enjoy what you are doing. Also, pick something that you can do regularly together.
- Clean the kitchen
- Play cards or board game
- Play a sport
- Go for a walk
- Travel or go for a drive
- Cook Together
- Take a class together
- Ride Roller Coasters (AHHH!)
Finally, JPII defines virtuous friendship, the highest type of friendship and what he uses as the basis of married friendship, as a friendship where both are focused on a bigger common goal. It is that big goal (or goals) that pulls our focus away from selfishness and truly unites our life with the life of our spouse.
In fact, the more meaningful goals you share with your spouse–goals you can both actively work toward–the better.
Over the course of marriage, goals change, and you likely have goals already. It is a great idea to re-evaluate these goals and draft new ones while engaged in the other two pillars of friendship: conversation and shared activities.
Here are 10 examples of wonderful goals to share with your spouse:
- Raising Holy Kids
- Save up to buy a house
- Remodel a house
- Move to a farm
- Retire comfortably
- Advocate for a vulnerable group (ex: those with disabilities, vets, etc)
- Help other married couples
- Start and grow a business
- Get healthy
And there are countless more.
Regardless of how long you have been married, the number of kids you have or the level of stress you live under, your husband really does NEED to be your best friend. That needs to be the case. And not later, not after the baby is weaned and work settles down and we finish remodeling the basement.
Make the time. Talk about it, find something fun to do together and start striving for those goals.
And, if need be, ride a few roller coasters.
Keep up the good and holy work, sisters!
PS–The Catholic Wife Academy will be launching soon (August 8th)! Stay tuned for more details.