How do we cultivate friendships as a married couple – both together and separately? In this episode of the Honest Marriage series Josh and Phy discuss the nuances and difficulties of friendship after marriage. Some friendships are for seasons, others are longterm. Making friends as adults can be hard, especially when you have to take into account your spouses’s preferences and opinions.
- How friendships change in marriage
- Why the kinds of friends you have determines whether or not you grow
- How to cultivate friendships with extroverted and introverted personalities
- Why spontaneity shouldn’t’ be idolized
- How to cultivate friendships after kids
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Phylicia: Welcome to Verity. I’m your host, Phylicia Masonheimer, an author, speaker, and Bible teacher. This podcast will help you embrace the history and depth of the Christian faith. Ask questions, seek answers, and devote yourself to becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ. You don’t have to settle for watered-down Christian teaching. And if you’re ready to go deeper, God is just as ready to take you there. This is Verity, where every woman is a theologian.
Hey guys, welcome back to Verity Podcast. I’m Phylicia Masonheimer.
Josh: And I’m her husband, Josh.
Phylicia: We are in Episode 10 of our honest marriage series. In this episode, we’re going to be talking about friendship and forming friendships both individually with friends of the same sex. So, female friends for me, male friends for Josh, and then, also, forming couple friendships. So, hopefully, we can touch on a few practicals in this episode, and why friendship is so important to a healthy Christian marriage. But as usual, we wanted to start with a passage. And today’s passage is Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. Josh, do you want to read a couple of these verses?
Josh: Sure. So, starting with 9, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up. Again, if two lie together, they keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? And though, a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him, a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
Phylicia: So, I think, we often hear this one in wedding ceremonies. I mean, have you?
Josh: Yeah. I’ve even seen like the braiding of the cord.
Phylicia: Braiding of the cord. [laughs] And the threefold cord is that idea of the husband, and the wife, and the-
Phylicia: -God being the cord. But this isn’t specifically talking about marriage. We apply it to marriage, but it’s not specifically talking about that. It’s talking about friendship with another person. So, what I think interesting here is, you know, that we often think of it in terms of marriage or think of it in terms of friendship, but we don’t think of it in terms of friendship while you’re married. [laughs]
Josh: Yeah, that’s true.
Phylicia: And that’s kind of the application I like to use it for today, because I think our friendships that we cultivate can either support a healthy marriage, or they can actually damage our marriage, or draw us away from a healthy marriage. What do you think?
Josh: Yeah, they’re your peers. So, if you surround yourself with good friends, then, you’re going to be going in a good direction and having accountability that brings you toward God, rather than if you have a negative crowd of peers, they are going to obviously bring you away from God and that will hurt your marriage just naturally.
Phylicia: Yeah. I think, proverbs talk about how bad company corrupts good morals or virtuous character and that is so true, regardless of what stage of life you’re in. If you’re single, it happens, if you’re married, it happens, the people who are speaking into your life on a regular basis are shaping your character, and I think that’s something that we often forget because when we’re married, sometimes, we can get in the habit of falling into friendships that aren’t best for us.
Josh: Yeah. We’re like, at first you maybe justify it as just kind of being a witness into their life. But how much time you spend with them and are they like your best friend, where the iron isn’t going to sharpen iron there. It’s going to dull your blade.
Phylicia: Yeah, I think that proverbs 17:17 may be that you just quoted. And when iron is sharpening iron, it’s not a comfortable process oftentimes, right?
Josh: No. You’re taking steel off.
Phylicia: Right. Yeah, you know more about that than me. He’s the one who watches Forged in Fire. [laughs] But that’s so true that it’s not a comfortable process to have a friend in your life who will say, “Hey, you know that maybe the way you’re talking about your spouse isn’t wise” or maybe they don’t even say something that direct. Maybe they just are redirecting you back to the truth about your spouse or about your marriage.
Josh: Or, even just having you reflect, like, asking you, what are your priorities?
Phylicia: When we were talking about this episode, I thought we’d talk first about individual friendships and the importance of those, and then, talk about how to have couple friendships, and then, maybe conclude with cultivating friendships after you have kids. Because I think a lot of people really struggle with that. So, first, let’s talk about cultivating individual friendships. So, for you, as a guy, and then for me, as a woman, it looks different for each of us and how that, because men and women are different and they connect differently. So, you’ve said and this is proven true scientifically that, men often connect by doing an activity together.
Josh: Yeah, that’s why so many like to bond over sports. But tendency is that, you never go beyond talking stats and such.
Phylicia: Right. So, it can stay pretty shallow.
Phylicia: So, for you, how have you cultivated deeper friendships or quality friendships that aren’t surface level?
Josh: I think that the initial small talk definitely helps you find where you relate with somebody and that helps like grow the interest of going deeper with them. So, you have to get to the point, though, where you actually do go deeper and aren’t afraid to ask that question. For me, I think, I’ve mentioned in previous episodes that, I’m in an accountability group with a few guys and it’s just a very close-knit crowd. Then, we see each other at church, and in our group meetings, and at social activities throughout the week. So, it is cultivating like a relationship with them beyond just the accountability. But that accountability expands outside of that group meeting because I’m seeing them hanging out with them, like, they’re witnessing how much fruit or lack of fruit I’m actually bring into the table.
Phylicia: That’s a super good point, that it’s not like you’re meeting, and then, you’re going about your life out of their context, they can actually see how you’re living, and, you know, either speak into that, or congratulate that, or whatever. They’re in our house, you’re in their house. So, there’s this element of just repeat exposure.
Josh: Yeah. It may seem clicky, but for me, I’ve found that, I have to go deep with a few and then, still have friendships with those outside of that group. But knowing that, that crowd is one that I’m going to continue to cultivate a relationship with, and be accountable to, and hold accountable.
Phylicia: Yeah, and something, this is just a general friendship rule, I would say or community rule. We’ve learned having moved multiple times, having switched churches several times, I think, because of moving mostly. Certain friendships are for a season. They’re not forever. And well, I would say, all friendships require that at least, the parties make equal effort to engage with one another. If one person is constantly being the initiator and there’s no reciprocation, that’s just evidence that it’s not important to that person and it’s probably time to seek a friendship elsewhere. And you’ve done that, where you tried to cultivate friendships with people you admired or in our circles, and it just didn’t work. So, you moved on to someone else.
Josh: And our circles changed as well with the seasons of our life like you were saying. Sometimes, in that season, that person is just what you needed to further refine or to pour into their life.
Phylicia: It’s not wasted.
Josh: No. It’s not and there’s definitely growth to be had from it. But it can be just another chapter in a book, not to belittle the friendship but once the season changes it was great while it lasted and now it’s over.
Phylicia: Yeah. We found we live in a small town, most of the towns here are about 30 minutes apart. I’d say that’s probably normal for most areas of the United States. Even in a 30-minute distance, you’re not going to see people who live that far apart super often.
Josh: It’s a different community.
Phylicia: It’s a different community. So, oftentimes, you’ll see some drift in friendships over the course of seasons just by nature of physical distance, just by nature– And we have friends in other states when we’ve lived in Virginia and Pennsylvania that we see them once a year, and we pick up where we left off for that time. But we can’t be super, super close with them because of the distance. So, it’s just being okay with the change in those personal friendships because of that.
Josh: I’ve also developed a couple of online friendships. Like people I’ve met in person through Phy’s colleagues, and such, and then a buddy from college, and I’ve kept those relationships alive just to kind of pour into their life and allow myself to continue to be poured into from these healthy people that I know. Phy, you have a number of people-
Phylicia: I do.
Josh: -that you stay in communication with online.
Phylicia: When I think about my friendships, I have quite a few local friends and some of those are couples. Like, he’s friends with the husband, I’m friends with the wife. Well, I’m friends with the husband, too. He’s friends with the wife– [crosstalk]
Josh: You grew up together.
Phylicia: Yeah, yeah. I don’t think that maybe, we should touch on that like opposite sex friendships. I don’t want it to seem like, “Oh, my gosh, only Josh can be friends with the husband and the couples that we’re friends.” And I think, there’s a lot of room to be friends in Christ with people of the opposite sex. But my female friends, I probably tend to be a little bit more on the extrovert end of things, I have more friends than the average person, and I think everyone has those concentric circles of friendship. You’ve got your acquaintances, distant acquaintances, then you’ve got your, you would definitely call them friends. You have history with them but maybe they were friends that you were closer with in a past season. And then, you have your inner circle.
My inner circle is probably bigger than most people’s inner circle. I have probably about 10 people in my innermost circle. Some of those, I’d say about half of them are long distance. So, I talk with them daily, I text with them via Voxer, voice messaging apps, or texting, etc., and we keep up that way.
Josh: Yeah. There’s definitely like an ongoing dialogue for most of the day.
Phylicia: But maybe that’s an example of how women connect a little differently. We either connect by, “I have some local friends who I’ll do errands with, or we’ll meet up for coffee, or we’ll do an activity with our kids. It’s face-to-face, it’s talking, and then, my long-distance friends, it’s more I keep up with them by talking via Voxer and we just talk about things.” So, I think, Josh and I do connect differently with people. Like when you’re talking to your long-distance friends, what are you usually doing?
Josh: I’m usually sitting there looking at my phone talk.
Phylicia: But you’re also playing a game sometimes.
Josh: Oh, yeah. I’ll socially play online games with them. But if we’re talking, just to talk. Then that’s the only thing we’re doing. Whereas you are like, making dinner, clean the house, writing a research paper or something, or a book.
Phylicia: [laughs] What’s funny is I can hear them doing the same thing, they’re always banging pots and pans on their end of the phone or you hear kids running around in the background. It is true. We’re multitaskers when it comes to friendship. But it looks different for Josh and I both to connect with same sex friends. But it is a priority and I would say that my friends, my women friends have been so helpful to me in our marriage because in my ministry, I’d say the ministry that I have today would not exist without the women who are behind the scenes, praying for me, and talking to me, and working through things with me, and they’re a huge support. But also, they’re supporters of my marriage, and they champion my marriage, and they pray for my marriage, and they speak into it, and they speak life over it. Those are the people I want to have in my corner.
Even when my marriage is struggling, which I have a select few that I can say, “Hey, my marriage is struggling. I need prayer for this, etc.” I know that they won’t judge me or Josh beyond speaking truth to me. They’ll speak the truth, the gospel truth to me, but they’re not going to be like, “Oh, my gosh, I can’t believe that you are having a problem in your marriage.” So, it’s great to have those people who help you.
Phylicia: Okay, let’s transition to cultivating couple friendships like cultivating friendships together. I think, this can get a little wonky because sometimes if you’re friends with someone and that person’s married, and then, you go out as a couple, the spouses like, one spouse might be friends with the other spouse, but then their wives don’t get along or their husbands don’t get along.
Phylicia: You don’t really know.
Josh: Is everybody going to get along the same amount?
Phylicia: Do you have any tips or thoughts about how to -?
Josh: I think, it’s really important. Oftentimes, there will be two extroverts in the room and two introverts. And the introverts usually just end up staring at each other while the extroverts are just talking all sorts of [unintelligible [00:17:35] and stuff.
Josh: So, I think it’s really important for the extroverts to include the introverts, and pull them into the conversation. Even though, they may not like, it seems like they could keep pace, they could at least be involved and just be included with that or maybe you just have to slow down a little bit to include them because it can be weird. If the extrovert is your wife and their husband, it’s really hard to have male-on-male like female-on-female conversation. I think it’s important to try to include everyone.
Phylicia: Yeah. Well, slowing down is just so hard for those extroverts.
Phylicia: But I would say also on the other end of things that for introverted spouses, I would encourage literally researching how to cultivate small talk, and how to engage someone, and to learn how to be better at conversation because I really believe that a lot of the problem that happens with couples and going out or cultivating friendships comes back to this extrovert-introvert problem. But I think, in today’s world, sometimes introversion isn’t the problem. Just being quiet or exhausted by people, that’s not always the problem. The problem is, a social anxiety brought on by not knowing how to talk to people. That’s because we don’t teach etiquette anymore. That’s my theory is that, we don’t teach etiquette, we don’t teach how to introduce, how to hold small talk. So, people hate it because it’s unknown, and then, they get super anxious about those social situations.
If you have a spouse who’s like that, of course, they’re not going to want to go on a double date with people they don’t really know. And inviting people you don’t really know into your home and into your life is a fundamental of Christianity. That’s hospitality. I would say, the reason that we’ve been able to be hospitable is because you, Josh have cultivated a humility and a teachability in this area where you’ve grown in your conversational skills, and you’ve always worked really hard to learn how to hold a conversation, even when you weren’t comfortable with it. I think because you were willing to do that and you’re willing to grow, we’ve been able to have people in our home, we’ve been able to go out with a variety of different couples and get to know them. It doesn’t mean, we’re perfect at conversation by any means, but I would say that you are always willing to grow in that area. I know from hearing from wives that not all husbands are that willing to grow. Not all wives are that willing to say, “Hey, you know what? This is an area of growth for me. I’m going to work on this, I’m going to learn how to ask good questions.”
Josh: Yeah. Something you said was interesting, you said that, it was an effort to be hospitable. So, including people and talking to the person who doesn’t have anyone to talk to, that is a form of hospitality. If they’re in your home, and you want to be welcome in, like you want make sure everyone feels welcomed and included. So, for someone to reach out and do that, even if they feel introverted is definitely important thing.
Phylicia: Yeah, for sure. Okay, so, talked about cultivating friendships one on one, and then cultivating friendships as a couple, what about cultivating friendships after you have kids? Because I hear from culture, not so much from like my followers online or our listeners, but more from culture that, once you have kids, your friendships are going to die. I don’t feel like that’s been true for us.
Josh: Yeah, I think that different life stages does create a hurdle, where it is a little more strained when you have kids you usually schedule stuff more. And then, people who don’t have kids are much more flexible. So, they live a slightly more spontaneous life and maybe even adverse to scheduling.
Phylicia: I want to say one thing about that. I think our culture celebrates this idea that spontaneity is better, or spontaneity is more fun. This applies to sex, it applies to schedules, it applies to dates. If it’s spontaneous, it’s better. I would say, I think, we have to let go of that lie because it is a lie. That if it’s spontaneous, it’s better, because I think that, that is an expectation and a lie that gets adopted and it actually causes a lot of couples who don’t have kids yet to be afraid of having kids. Don’t you think? Because I mean, certainly, there are times where we’re like, “Yeah, it’d be a lot easier to just go out on our own, and not have to book a babysitter.” Sure. That would be easier.
Josh: I think some of the spontaneity allows people to, like, at the time that they have the free time and the choice to do X, Y, Z, they can look at all their options and say, “I like that one best.” So, they have the options, the choice to decide what’s best. So, planning stuff sets you in a rail where you don’t have that option. If something else were to come up and you’re like, “Ah, that sounds really fun to go to. I can’t do it because I scheduled this.”
Josh: So, a lot of people love younger generation I found is very interested in options.
Phylicia: I would say that’s almost like a zillennial- millennial thing. Yeah, the younger, well, we’re millennials, but maybe the younger millennials, it’s like, “I have to have all my options.” I think, we just have to be careful where our idols are. If your idol’s structure that’s wrong, you have to have it this way. It has to go according to plan. It’s also wrong to idolize spontaneity and to worship your schedule in that way, or to let that become your God to the point that you devalue having kids in human life. So, we can go either direction for sure. But I think, you made a great point.
But I would say one of the benefits actually to me of having kids and having friendships is, you have less options. There’s less decision fatigue, or there’s less overwhelmed like, “Oh, we could do all of these things until it’s too much. So, we just stay home.” Instead for us, I feel like, it’s like, “Okay, the nutcrackers this weekend, we would like to dress up and go. Let me arrange to see if there’s a babysitter available,” and then it’s like really special because we have planned for it.
Josh: Well, it’s intentionality. For our experience, I guess, I would say that having kids has made us more intentional because when you have that time, like, you’re going to make it worth it, so, you schedule the time and you’re all in, you are devoted, and like when it comes to going on dates, it’s like, “Well, okay, we hired a babysitter. We got some skin in the game. Let’s make this date worth it and we’re gone.” Just be totally invested in and I’m just like, “Ah, this is just another Tuesday night.”
Phylicia: Yeah. At home, dates haven’t worked super well for us. But I will say, it’s been good in the sense that when you’re having friends over, if you have to have an at home date, it can be fun to do it by having other couples join you because then it isn’t just you and your lounge pants. Well, maybe [crosstalk].
Josh: [crosstalk] like a game night.
Phylicia: Yeah, we’ve done game nights.
Josh: Coffee, tea, and–
Phylicia: Or, we’ve had some friends who don’t have kids yet, and they’re super gracious, and we’re like, “Oh, darn, we couldn’t get a babysitter. It’s okay, well, just come on over.” So, there’s a lot of ways to do it. I think, a lot of people run into problems in their friendships when it comes to different parenting styles, and we’re not going to comment on different parenting styles. I would just say that you have to give a lot of grace, and then figure out like, “Are you close enough to the person?” If it’s a really big problem to speak into their life about their parenting? I would say that’s pretty rare that you can be that close to somebody.
Josh: And that’s not a huge deal on like a double date or something.
Josh: When you have the families together, you go on family trips to sightsee or whatnot, that’s when it becomes like you know–
Josh: Like how are my children witnessing things and like–
Phylicia: You have to have close enough values where that’s not going to be a problem. And we have one family that we’ve traveled with multiple times, and we’re traveling again with them very soon. I’d always go so well, so far. I think, I’ll will continue to because they’re great people. We’re close enough now with them. We’re like, “We don’t mind–” We cannot parent each other’s kids but you can say, “Hey, Adeline,” she can say, “Hey, don’t do that, Adeline.” I’m not upset about that or we can direct their kids back to whatever we were all doing, and they’re not going to be offended at that. So, I think the closer you get with a–
Josh: Have a mutual understanding.
Phylicia: Yeah, you grow as couples together and as families together, it gets easier to continue to form those relationships in a positive way. But when you say, a lot of friendship is seasons, trial and error, and finding people who truly are humble and working on humility yourself.
Josh: Yeah. I would say that for me, the Lord has definitely brought friends into now my life, but like He has answered prayers about bringing friends into my life.
Phylicia: Oh, for sure. Yeah.
Josh: I’ve had dry spells and through prayer, I was brought close friends and like this accountability group as well. So, that’s been such a blessing for me.
Phylicia: And that’s something I prayed for him for months and years was that, he would have quality friends who were strong in their faith, and could walk alongside him as he grew in his faith, and not just be weaker than him. That was something as a wife that I really wanted and prayed for and the Lord totally answered that. He’s also answered my prayers for myself to have good friends and community. Every time I’ve prayed that prayer either for Josh for myself, God has answered it. But it was perseverant prayer. I’d say, it was not overnight, right?
Josh: Yeah, it was not.
Phylicia: And it takes time. Well, hopefully this gives a few ideas for cultivating friendships as a couple. Again, as we’ve said in every episode of this series, we do not consider ourselves experts. We’ve only been married almost eight years. But in those eight years, we’ve packed in a lot of transition. There’s been a lot of stress in our relationship, and we’ve learned a whole lot the hard way. [laughs] So, hopefully, it just encourages you wherever you are at in your own marriage to seek the Lord to keep Him first, and to keep one another first as well. We want to thank you also, last week was the launch of The Flirtation Experiment, December 7th, 2021.
We wanted to just thank you so much, those of you who bought the book, who made it number one in Christian marriage on Amazon, it just meant so much to us that you would support the book that way me, and Lisa Jacobs, and my coauthor are both just so excited for the book to get out into the world, and grateful for your support. We will be back next week with Episode 11, and then, we only have one more week after that. Thanks for hanging with us. We hope you have a great week.
Thank you for joining us for today’s episode of Verity. You can connect with fellow listeners by following me on Instagram @phyliciamasonheimer or on our Facebook page by the same name. Also, visit phyliciamasonheimer.com for links to each episode and the show notes.