“Marriage is for adults.” That seems like an obvious statement, but all too often couples dive into marriage before they are “fully grown” emotionally. There is a reason we don’t pop out of the womb and immediately get married. We have to grow, learn, develop, and prepare for marriage – and friends are some of the best marriage preparation agents we could hope to find.
Years ago, before I left for college, I remember a rather intense day trip with two of my friends. One of the three of us was simply not seeing eye-to-eye with the other two. She was edgy, cantankerous, easily angered, and even a little mean that day. Disagreeing with anything she said was ill-advised if you wanted to remain in one piece. ~smile~
As we were returning from an out-of-town church service, I remember my optimistic friend declaring from the back seat, “I think our friendship is preparing all of us for marriage.” What great wisdom! Within minutes, or maybe it was seconds, our unhappy friend said something that left my optimistic friend in tears. It was a rough day, but I will never forget that statement – “I think our friendship is preparing all of us for marriage.”
Our unhappy friend was not always unhappy. In fact, most of the time we spent with her was quite pleasant. She was just going through a rough patch, which lends even more credibility to my optimistic friend’s statement. Friendships ebb and flow. With close friends, we experience joy, anger, laughter, frustration, bonding, and loneliness. Friendships grow and change just as marriages do, and we can learn a lot about marriage by connecting with our friends.
Friends Bring Out Our Best and Uncover Our Worst
Our closest friends see us at our best and worst and still love us. They see us when we are heartbroken, elated, irritated, stressed, excited, and silly. The closer we grow to our friends, the more they see the real us; and, often they see traits in us we cannot see in ourselves. They can show us ways we are being selfish when we are completely oblivious. They can let us know when we are wearing a facial expression that does not match our mood (e.g., looking irritated when we are really just concentrating, looking depressed when we are just tired, etc.). They also have a way of encouraging us to be better than we think we can be, and helping us reach our potential. Obviously, it is our true blue friends that care about encouraging us.
If you have a friend who is brave enough to point out your shortcomings, and devoted enough to help you realize your goals (e.g., weight loss, finishing school, learning a new skill, moving on from a bad relationship, etc.), then you have a friend who is showing you what to look for in a spouse. Of course, your spouse won’t be an exact replica of your friends, but you can use their traits and character as a guide. My best friend is quite similar to my husband in many ways (and, in many ways, she’s completely different). She is strong in areas where I am weak, and I am glad I married a man who is also strong in areas where I am weak.
Friends Teach Us Patience
Not all friends are walks in the park. ~smile~ I’ve had “friends” who left me wanting to throw darts at balloons, and friends who would not let me get a word in edgewise. Some friends take life too seriously and others don’t take it seriously enough. Friends are human – and if they are getting on your nerves, you are probably getting on theirs. ~smile~
The more people you get to know, the more opportunities you will have to develop patience. Since most of us are not royalty, and most people are not going to bow to our every whim, traversing life with other people means we are not always going to get our own way. To have and keep good friends, we have to be givers. We have to occasionally sit in the back seat (which I hate!), and occasionally eat at Burger Barn when we are craving Wings n’ Things.
Friends will hurt us, disappoint us, surprise us, and sometimes neglect us. If they are good friends, these events will probably be rare, but they will happen; and, each time they do, you will become a little more prepared for married life. Each time you forgive an offense, you grow closer to being a mature man or woman who is ready for a marriage covenant.
Friends Help Us Learn to Get Along with Different Personalities
My mentor is an amazing lady. She has listened to me talk about all kinds of kid and teenager problems over the years. ~smile~ One day, I was telling her about my latest “friend” issue and she said something which stopped me in my tracks. She said, “Wow, God must have something awfully big for you to do since He has put all these difficult people in your life.” Perhaps she was reframing my situation so that I could see the good in it, or maybe she was simply amazed at how one person could have so many friend issues; but, regardless of her reasons for saying it, that statement influenced my perspective in a big way.
Birds of a feather may flock together, but that does not mean each bird shares the same personality – the same end goals, perhaps, but not necessarily the exact same way of looking at the world. We can’t know for sure which personality we will marry, so friends give us a buffet of personalities to experience. The more adept we become at getting along with different types of people, the more easily we will get along with our spouses and others with whom we must work and live.
Friends Remind Us of How We Should be Treated
I have had friends treat me well and friends treat me poorly. And, I’m sure I have treated friends well and poorly at different times too. It does not take us long to realize what kind of treatment we favor and what kind of treatment we dislike. Some people want a straight forward, blunt answer. Others want a little sugar coating when they are being confronted. Some people want to keep the mood light and fun at all times, while others prefer a serious tone unless the event at hand is specifically meant to be fun.
Spending time with friends gives us countless opportunities to be treated in different ways. Maybe you have a dear friend that chatters on endlessly. You care for the friend, but you know that you could not live with him or her without going crazy. Or, maybe you have a friend who tends to bring out the negative in you. Every time you are around him or her you find yourself complaining and gossiping. Plus, he or she always finds something negative to highlight about your life. As much as you may love this friend, you know that you have to be on your guard constantly when you are with him or her. Therefore, you know you need a spouse that brings out the positive in you.
We can have multiple friends, but only one spouse. Friends can give us a sneak peak at what we are unwilling and unable to endure.” I need a man who will give it to me straight since I cannot tolerate beating around the bush.” “I need a woman who is a little less chatty since I get easily overwhelmed.”
Friends Give Us Opportunities to Practice Forgiving
Forgiveness is key in any successful relationship – romantic or otherwise. We cannot remain in fellowship with someone long before our sin nature jumps in and causes a ruckus. “She is using me.” “He is taking me for granted.” “She is always talking about herself.” “He constantly puts down my hobbies and expects me to do what he wants to do every time we hang out.” “He doesn’t listen!” “She doesn’t shut up!”
With all of my close friends, I have needed to forgive, and have needed forgiveness, at various points in time. I have been selfish and I have endured selfishness. I have neglected and I have been neglected. Friends aren’t perfect and I have had to realize that my imperfections are every bit as bad (if not worse) than my friends’ faults. The same is true in my marriage. Eric has flaws, but they are no worse than mine – just different.
Forgiveness is not contingent on whether the perpetrator asks for forgiveness or shows remorse. Forgiveness is letting go of the anger and freeing the person from what they owe for the sin against you, so to speak. In marriage, you will have to forgive constantly. Some seasons, you will feel like you have to forgive daily. The better practiced you are at forgiving, the more peaceful your life will be. ~smile~
These are just a handful of ways friendships help us prepare for marriage. What are some other ways your friends have helped you pave the way towards a happy and lasting marriage? Enjoy your friendships, and use them to help you train for the day you will marry and move in with your closest friend. ~smile~
Do you feel like your friendships are preparing you for marriage?