When the rubber meets the road, there is one person I know I can count on no matter what. Barb. And no matter how much I bond with my brothers in Christ, Barb really is my number one friend—my best friend.
My friendship with Barb is what defines much of our marriage. I not only love her with an agape (unconditional Christlike) love. I also am in love with her with an eros (romantic) love. But my deep phileo (friendship) love for my wife is as essential as my agape and eros love are. It is no coincidence that our survey research about spouses’ love needs (for our book The 5 Love Needs of Men & Women) indicates that a husband’s top three love needs mirror the biblical descriptions of love. Agape, eros, and phileo love topped husbands’ responses to needs in their marriages (and in that order).
What Does Your Husband Need in a Friendship with You?
Friendship doesn’t happen overnight, even between marriage partners. True friendship, which involves trust and vulnerability, honesty and encouragement, shared interests and activities, takes time to develop and mature. And friendship between marriage partners requires the same.
With that in mind, then, let’s look at some of the ways your husband may need your friendship.
He Needs You To Have Realistic Expectations
Your husband is not your girlfriend. Think about that. Wives and husbands approach this need for friendship differently. Your husband is never going to be just like “one of the girls.” That’s not the kind of friendship and companionship he needs from you. He isn’t one of the girls. And you don’t want him to be.
What Barb says she needs from a female friend is a ton of words, a trusting relationship in which she can explore a whole range of emotions, and a whopper of a hug when the conversation ends on a deeper note. What I often need from Barb, as a friend, are fewer words, a short range of emotion so I don’t feel out of control, and a whopper of a hug after a heart-to-heart conversation.
That doesn’t mean I don’t need Barb. It means I need her to understand that fewer words do not mean less of a need for companionship. We as men don’t dip into that whole range of emotions as frequently, expressing them as readily and as freely as you do. When you do experience that with us, you want more of it—and that makes sense. Just realize that most men won’t go there as often or perhaps as deeply.
He Needs You to Speak the Truth in Love
Being honest means being vulnerable, and vulnerability can be murky water for men. First of all, it’s very tough for men to open up to other men, primarily because of this pride thing we have going. It’s often called “being macho,” but what it really is, is being afraid of looking like a jerk.
If we get too honest, we figure we’re admitting we need someone to help fix a problem. In essence we’re saying, “I don’t know how to do this. Will you tell me?” (It’s like having to stop and ask for directions!) Then we feel inadequate, and when we feel that way, we’re afraid we’ll end up looking like a jerk. And we hate looking like a jerk to another man. But there is one thing we hate even more: looking like a jerk to you. But if we husbands are truly going to be best friends with our wives, we have to develop a level of trust that will enable us to feel that we can be honest with them.
He Needs You to Be Forgiving
Many couples live with past (or current) hurts that have caused distance in their marriage relationship. The reasons may be different, but the result is the same. All kinds of things can cause problems in a marriage, and they need to be dealt with. But we must not allow past issues, or even current problems, to get in the way of building a great marriage. We need to work through the problems, and once we have done so, we must not carry the bitterness with us.
He Needs You to Be Honest
Honesty builds trust. Trust builds friendship. Dishonesty breaks down trust. Distrust impairs healthy relationships. When a husband knows his wife is honest with him, he begins to trust her and becomes increasingly vulnerable with her.
Honesty is crucial in building your marriage relationship and meeting each other’s needs. Without honesty, ordinary friendships are flimsy or superficial at best. But without honesty in marriage, true companionship between husband and wife is impossible.
He Needs You to Enter His World
Barb was having lunch with some of her female friends one afternoon, and one of the women began complaining that her husband was going golfing too often. “Why don’t you go with him?” Barb asked. “I can’t stand to golf!” her friend proclaimed. “But you love your husband, Anna. Go out and play with him. Join him. Crawl into his world.”
What Barb helped her friend get a handle on was that you don’t have to be “good” at everything your husband excels at and you don’t have to be as enthusiastic about things as he is. What matters to him is that you validate his interest and join him in some of his activities.
How can you meet your husband’s friendship needs?
The best place to start building your friendship with your husband is by informing him that, from your perspective, this is a real need in your relationship. Let him know you want to be his best friend. If your husband knows you want to spend time with him—other than just taking care of the household needs and parenting the kids—he may take the risk to ask you to join him. So where can you start?
- Take inventory of some of your husband’s hobbies and interests, and ask him if you can join him in one of them.
- Share some of your own experiences with him to draw him closer to you as well.
- Remind him that your relationship is a secure and safe place to sort out whatever is going on in his heart. Anytime. Anyplace.
Intimate friendship. Marital oneness. That is what Barb and I have, and that is what we want for you. Why? Because this is God’s plan. For some of you, this means taking a baby step in the right direction. For others, you’re already there! We want you all to be able to celebrate a marriage friendship of three: the Lord, your husband, and you!