What Really Keeps a Marriage Together?

This is a guest post by John Marshall, LMFT. He is my own therapist and coach. He just started blogging, and his first post was so powerful, I asked for his permission to re-post it here as a guest post. You can read his follow-up post here. I think he has a great future as a blogger! If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

For the last eight months I’ve been seeing a thirty-something male client who is a month away from his divorce being final. He is relieved that this painful experience is almost over, but he is also very sad. He’s grieving the marriage that he wanted to have—the one that he wishes they would have had together.

A Couple Holding Hands - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/Bryngelzon, Image #6332570

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/Bryngelzon

By the way, this tells me he is dealing with his divorce in a healthy manner. I never trust anyone if they tell me they have no sadness about their marriage ending and that they are simply glad that it is over. Marriages are investments and we are always sad when an investment goes belly up.

So he sits down a couple of weeks ago and right off the bat tells me that he has a question that he desperately needs answered. He tells me that his future depends on it, and that he is afraid because he isn’t able to answer this question.

He asks me what “type” of love keeps a marriage together since their kind obviously didn’t do the trick. I remember sitting for a couple of minutes before answering.

In that time I considered my own marriage of almost thirty-three years, the countless couples I have seen as a therapist, what messages the Church and my upbringing taught, and the dozens of books I’ve read on the subject over the years. I surprised myself by sharing with him the following ideas.

First, I told him that I used to think that agape was the most important kind of love for a marriage. But no longer. This Greek word suggests that a spiritual love is the number one priority—a love that is sacrificial and focused on commitment more than feelings or your own needs. After all, haven’t we all heard more sermons than we could count where this was the bottom line?

Don’t get me wrong, I told him, agape is very important in keeping a marriage together. But not the “most” important kind of love. Many couples have intact marriages but no relationship at all and are living under the stoic belief that happiness isn’t even a possibility.

Secondly, I said that eros is really wonderful but that it doesn’t “keep” a marriage together either. We all love passion. We all want there to be chemistry. We all dream about great sex that will keep us interested over the years.

Our culture is so sex-obsessed that we are easily convinced (especially early in a marriage) that the lucky ones can’t stay out of the bedroom. This is the secret to a long relationship.

Don’t get me wrong, “feeling” in love with your partner is very critical. Too many accept a relationship that is boring and no longer has any passion. Eros can be restored and must be worked at over the life of a marriage.

By this time he knew where I was going. I found myself telling him that based on my marriage and the successful ones I’ve seen over the years that philia was most important. Committment and chemistry are ingredients you don’t want to leave out of the recipe but without friendship you can’t bake the cake!

To be friends with your mate means:

  • You respect her.
  • You treat her like your equal when your upbringing and your own selfish ways try to convince you otherwise.
  • You talk about how you feel and think about the good and bad of your life together.
  • You even risk conflict by being more honest than you are comfortable with because it builds intimacy into your marriage.
  • You plan and dream together because life is too complicated to just wing it.

In other words, you treat your partner like your “best” friend.

Sadly, like so many people, what my client never had with his former wife was friendship. He said nobody ever told him it was the most important thing! In fact they even had the other two ingredients the majority of the time.

As our session continued, a big smile came over his face as we continued to talk about how exciting it could be to have a best friend in your wife. He said he was growing hopeful as he sat there thinking about this new possibility for the future.

I hope what I told him is realistic and not too pie in the sky. All I know is that next month I will have been married thirty-three years to my best friend. Thank God for friendship!

Question: What kind of love best characterizes your relationship with your spouse. You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://twitter.com/AmyHefferan Amy Hefferan

    Great blog! That was beautiful and honest advice! Thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.leahadams.org Leah Adams

    Awesome post!!  I’ve never thought about it like that. I was married the first time to someone who was…well, not my friend. I looked at him more like a protector and provider because I was young and immature. I did not love him when I married him.  The man I am married to now….we were friends for 15 years before we began dating and ultimately married. We are still friends and probably that has been a big reason for us staying together when it would have been easier to NOT.

    I am currently writing content for a class the Lord is pushing me to teach on the importance of covenants in our relationships. We, in American, have little reference for the sanctity of a covenant and how God feels about them. I did not until I did a study of them. I truly believe if we better understood covenant relationships many divorces would not happen.

    thanks for a great post.

    • http://twitter.com/CoachTheresaIF Theresa Ip Froehlich

      Leah, I’m so delighted you are teaching the class on the importance of covenants in relationships. Commitments, community, and covenants seem to be a lost art in American society as it becomes more and more individualistic.

      • http://www.leahadams.org Leah Adams

        Thank you Theresa. I’m praying that the Lord will open doors for me to teach this locally and beyond if he desires. God bless you.

    • http://twitter.com/jmhardy98 Jim Hardy


      I wish you the best of success with this. We need this in our lives right now as a society.


  • Guest

    My husband and I have been married for 19 years. I have to agree with you on philia being the most important ingredient. But a healthy dose of stubborn commitment to actually being and staying married is important too. 

    We have both gone through times when we wondered why we married and if we should stay married but when we experience those feelings it forces us to talk and work things out so we are both happy with our relationship.

    We know far too many people who’ve walked away from a relationship because daily maintenance wasn’t part of the picture they had when they ‘fell in love’. I feel sorry for those people.

    • http://twitter.com/CoachTheresaIF Theresa Ip Froehlich

      May God bless you for your deep commitment to work things out. Many people think that happiness is something we get by changing circumstances or changing partners. I find that in my marriage, the happiness comes from working things out in partnership with each other.

    • Joe Lalonde

      Commitment is a good thing to have in a marriage. I believe the commitment only gets stronger if you keep developing the friendship.

    • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

      You address an important ingredient–commitment. Ellen and I celebrated our 28th anniversary this summer but we’ve had our share of tough times. Some have been self-inflicted. Others external in nature. Commitment helped us endure without the pressure of “Is he/she going to stay?” We had a better question. How do we make this work? Our marriage hasn’t just worked but thrived.

      • http://twitter.com/jmhardy98 Jim Hardy

        They need to read the five love languages. It is a great book and they have one  just for men also.


    • http://twitter.com/jmhardy98 Jim Hardy

      Love takes hard work and commitment. Congrats on your 19 years. Others need to take notes from your success.


  • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

    In life we may only have a handful of friends that are truly there for us thick or thin. Friends that are willing to tell us the truth when it may hurt. Friends that have our back in tough situations. When you have a spouse that is a true friend, you have a marriage that will last forever. I am so lucky to have married my best friend.

    • Alfred

      Good for you John, I rejoice with you for having such foundation of friendship in your marriage.

      • Alix

         I read it it’s helpful but sometimes one person gives 110% of everyone of those languages & it still isn’t enough. Been married 7 years now & we are having a rough patch. because apparently my cooking isn’t up to par :(

    • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal


    • http://twitter.com/jmhardy98 Jim Hardy


      Those kinds of friends are hard to find.


  • http://chriscornwell.org Chris Cornwell

    My wife is easily my best friend. Hands down. I can honestly tell, there is no other person in this world who I can’t wait to share things with, no matter how important or how trivial. No other person in this world I would rather go see a movie with. No other person in this world I would rather go to dinner with. I am thankful she puts up with me!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I feel the same way about my wife. It is a blessing, isn’t it?

      • http://chriscornwell.org Chris Cornwell

        Truly it is. I thank God everyday for my wife. She truly is a gift to me.

      • Bill Brown

        I’m with both of you. My wife is hands down my best friend. No person I would rather be with and after having been in a marriage before that was both without Christ as the center and friendship, I can tell you that there’s no comparison in having both. Great post.

    • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

      A simple meal at McDonald’s with Ellen beats any meal anywhere without her as far as the delight factor goes. What a gift when you love and enjoy the one you’re with!

      • http://chriscornwell.org Chris Cornwell


      • http://twitter.com/jmhardy98 Jim Hardy

        You are correct. That is why my wife and I worship together and we have a weekly date night. I would suggest it for everyone.


    • http://twitter.com/jmhardy98 Jim Hardy


      mine is to and it is such a bless when you get to spend everyday with your bst friend.


      • http://chriscornwell.org Chris Cornwell

        Absolutely Jim. Totally agree.

  • Denise Speer

    Great blog!  After two failed marriages and a third hanging by a thread, I have just discovered that without friendship the other stuff really doesn’t matter.  If only I had known that 3 decades ago!  Anyway, better to know it now…than never.  Working toward saving the marriage, but it really is a lot of work.  Thanks for your insight–absolutely accurate!

  • J-mo

    Wonderful advice!  One of the traps I see  couples in my age group (late 30’s) fall into is what I call “Business parterners”.  We spend so much time dealing with finances, schedules, activities, insurance, mortgages we forget the friendship! 

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      That’s a really good point. My wife and I were talking about this very thing last night.

    • http://www.jdeddins.com JD Eddins

      I think that is why you see a lot of couples divorce once the kids leave the house.  They have spent so much time invested in the areas that seem vital to raising their children that they forget the the most important thing their children need: parents who love one another.

      • Joe Lalonde

        Good point JD. Many marriages focus on the kids(while important) and not their own relationship.

      • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

        We’re post son and the friendship continues to deepen. We’re such a team on so many fronts that I couldn’t imagine the excuse “we’ll stay together until the kids are out of the house.” If you’re saying that, it’s time to re-invest time, money, and effort into your partner.

        • http://www.jdeddins.com JD Eddins

          You and I are on the same page.  I’m definitely not advocating the “stay together until…” approach to marriage.  That approach could include kids leaving the house, until my spouse cheats, or until I found someone who is better able to meet my needs.
          Such an approach will only set up you up for failure.  Marriage requires full commitment.

          • http://twitter.com/jmhardy98 Jim Hardy

            I agree 100%


        • http://twitter.com/jmhardy98 Jim Hardy

          I always say that if you put as much effort into your marraige after as you did before, most marraiges would not end.


      • http://twitter.com/jmhardy98 Jim Hardy

        They should realized that once the kids leave, it is like dating all over again. They should wait before they leave each other and work on the dating process again.


    • http://brevis.me Robert Ewoldt

      Great point!  We spend time doing the activities of living, that we don’t spend time as friends…

    • Alfred

      Right on J-mo. Thanks a lot for sharing this. Many marriages have lost their sweetness because of this.

  • http://jasonfountain.blogspot.com Jason Fountain

    I waited 37 years to find my wife – it was worth the wait! She is my best friend and I love walking through life with her. Tony Robbins says that relationships magnify the experiences of life. I love the fact that my wife and I are experiencing life together. Great post that I absolutely agree with!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I love the Tony Robbins quote!

    • http://brevis.me Robert Ewoldt

      Someone once said that you’ll be the same person in 10 years that you are today, except for the people you meet and the books that you read.  I think it’s Dave Ramsey who often quotes that, but I don’t think he was the originator.  Relationships definitely magnify how you experience life.

      • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

        I love that quote! I don’t think Dave is the originator either, but I’d love to know who is. It might have been Zig Ziglar.

      • http://twitter.com/jmhardy98 Jim Hardy

        I have heard John Maxwell say that, not sure, he may have coined it. Great quote.


    • http://twitter.com/jmhardy98 Jim Hardy


      What a great thought. John Maxwell has said that we need to create moments that last. We need to create memories and it sounds like you are.


  • Nettie Fick

    Philia is working great for, we met in High School, playing violin together and dated after 9 years of friendship! We cycle together and have entered a 900km stagerace over 9 days , planned for Apr 2012 in South Africa.  We are partners in all we do and our children (3years, and 1years) already start to understand that we want to and need to spend time alone together.  Nettie and Coenraad Fick (www.unsafechallenge.com) 

    • http://brevis.me Robert Ewoldt

      Nettie, that’s great!  There was someone who also said that the greatest example that one can set for their children is how one treats their spouse. If you treat them well, and emphasize that you need time alone with your spouse, then your children will learn to emulate that in their own relationships.

    • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

      Ellen and I have had our common interests but many have emerged over the years while other interests remain his and hers. I’ve gone places because of Ellen’s interest in historical sites. I’ve also learned the art of reading because of her. On the other hand, I cycle. She says, “Have a good time.” I do short-term missions. She says, “Have a good time.” She bakes. I say, “Can I have some?”

      • http://twitter.com/jmhardy98 Jim Hardy

        My wife and I read the same books and enjoy exercising together. It is nice to have a partner.


    • http://twitter.com/jmhardy98 Jim Hardy


      That is awesome. Great motivation and team work!


  • http://www.facebook.com/sarahkovac Sarah Taylor Kovac

    I found this post really helpful… thanks for posting!

  • A. B. England

    I’ve seen way too many folks believing eros is the be all, end all of romantic love and letting that belief lead them from one failed relationship to another. It’s like they think life is just like the movies.

    And yes, agape came to mind at first. With just about every sermon on marriage stressing the overarching importance of that serving type of love, it’s hard for it not too. And it is important, don’t get me wrong. If you only think about your wants and needs all the time, you’ll end up resenting anyone who gets in the way of what you want after a while.

    So, I guess, “Never date someone you wouldn’t want as a friend,” would be a good rule of thumb. Lord knows it’s worked for Hubby and me too.

    • http://brevis.me Robert Ewoldt

      The more I think about this, the more I agree that philia is the most important.  Agape could see some relationships through to the end–pure sacrificial love–and eros could see some to the end–pure passion–, but for the majority of relationships, there MUST be that friendship-love that’s holding things together.

    • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

      Somewhere in the back of my head is this idea about your beloved and your friends. How does one feel about the other? In particular, what does your possible future spouse think about your friends? I know that Ellen and I met through the common friends we both knew. We hung around with these friends and simply enjoyed running with the same crowd. No pressure to date. Something about seeing her in that environment helped me to like her before I loved her.

    • http://twitter.com/jmhardy98 Jim Hardy

      A.B. you are correct, people cannot get over the eros and realize the true love. If they would, then maybe more marriages would last.


  • http://cynthiaherron.wordpress.com Cynthia Herron

    Wow! What fabulous (and frank) advice! (And John is right–I’ve heard the “agape” kind of love–as being the most important–preached from the pulpit since I was a little girl.) Having recently celebrated our 27th wedding anniversary, I can honestly say that my spouse is my best friend.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Good for you. This is a gift. I don’t know too many couples who can say their spouse is their best friend.

    • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

      Congratulations! That’s wonderful.

    • http://twitter.com/jmhardy98 Jim Hardy


  • http://twitter.com/RookieWriter David Barry DeLozier

    Profound insight into what makes a healthy marriage – thanks for saying it so precisely.  My wife and I celebrated our 18th anniversary this past Sunday.  We were out of town at a lacrosse tournament for one of our boys, doing “ordinary life” stuff, no big fanfare, which on some level made it more special.  Though it deserves our full attention, our friendship doesn’t require a lot of orchestration; somehow it flourishes whether we’re on a high adventure, a roller coaster ride, sweating through a ballgame or sitting at home reading next to each other on the sofa.  I’m one lucky guy to wake up next to an angel’s face every day.

  • Papabos

    After nearly 50 yrs I am convinced during the rough times just being true to the commitments made when vows were taken will carry one through until the rough times have passed. Honoring the commitment proves love, maturity, ………………..

    • http://twitter.com/jmhardy98 Jim Hardy

      Wow! fifty years, we all need to take notes and learn from you.


  • http://www.roccocapra.com/ Rocco Capra

    The one thing that saved my marriage was when I realized how much God loves me. Seems simple enough, but do you truly know how much God loves you? Do you see Him as a Friend, a Passionate Lover? 

  • Charissa Steyn

    Love this post!! Married two years this August and I can testify that this philia love is the one that carries us through every hard time…. My husband and I are convinced that growing in our friendship is one of the most important parts of our marriage :)

    • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

      May you be blessed with many more years together and may you be like so many older couples finding that each year the friendship deepens.

      • http://twitter.com/jmhardy98 Jim Hardy

        Here is the link to the five love languages http://www.5lovelanguages.com/


        • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

          Thanks, Jim. I’ve read the book and given it away to newlyweds. It’s one of the most insightful books on relationships I’ve read. It doesn’t just translate into a marital relationship. It also helps me understand my guy friends. Three of us meet together on a regular basis and I’m the one who speaks in the language of quality time so I recognize that I’m the one most likely to call. Thanks again for the link.–Tom

    • http://twitter.com/jmhardy98 Jim Hardy

      Sounds like you are off to a great start. Keep up the hard work and we will see you at fifty years one day.


  • http://twitter.com/jmartindaniel Martin Daniel

    Wow! Awesome post!. Me and my wife have always been like friends. We love, laugh and fight like friends too. Its a great feeling to know that you’re wife is your best friend. 

    Thank you for sharing.


  • Anna

    Having been married almost 24 years,  I am often asked what is the secret of a long lasting marriage. I could not agree more with these views–I would add that a marriage is never static and that we must keep working at it…if we stop putting our energy into it,  the relationship will wilt and eventually die.  Thanks for sharing this!

    • http://twitter.com/jmhardy98 Jim Hardy


      great point, it is about effort and energy and it can never stop!


  • Janellrardon

    On the eve of my 27th wedding anniversary, I completely concur with the fact that philia love is key! My husband is definitely my best friend and was when I married him. Both of us had alcoholic fathers and consider ourselves a living miracle to have stayed married for so long! Oh, yes, intimacy is critical and loads of fun but it is even better with my man who unconditionally loves every little part of me!!!! Great reminder!!!

  • Anonymous

    Loved the timely post Michael.

    It got me thinking – I imagine that there’s a question from people who don’t have much ‘philia’. And what to do to about that…

    The actions you mention could be seen as the result of that type of love, or the cause, or both..  :-)

    Thanks again,

  • http://geoffreywebb.wordpress.com/ Geoff Webb

    Sarah and I have always felt lucky (and thankful) that we each get to be married to our best friend—like it’s some kind of bonus that no one ever told us about. 

    Growing up in the church I always felt these 3 loves were like grades: you get an A if you reach agape, an F if all you care about is eros, and if you find philia, well, we’ll give you a C. In truth, all three are important and have their place. 

    But of the three, I agree that philia has had the most consistent and satisfying presence in my marriage.

    • Alfred

      I like the way you put it. Nice one.

  • Poirier4justice

    I think it also helps immensely to have a common mission/vision/struggle. When you strive together you learn to trust and depend on each other, and form a powerful bond.

  • http://roborr.net Rob Orr

    I’m glad to say that I’m married to my best friend. We’ve had our fair share of trials and difficult times, but I would rather be with no one else in the entire world than with her. Our 8th anniversary is later this month.

    • http://twitter.com/jmhardy98 Jim Hardy

      Congrats on your friendship and your marraige.


  • http://twitter.com/burlw Burl Walker

    Great advice! I have only been married 4 years, so it is great to get wisdom from someone whose marriage is standing the test of time!

  • http://amylynnandrews.com Amy Lynn Andrews

    Agree. My husband and I just celebrated 14 years of marriage last week. We agree that God’s grace alone has gotten us this far, but we’ve been running on agape. Honestly, our lack of philia has made our marriage flat (he would say the same). We’re now making a conscious effort to nurture the philia and it’s like someone is turning on the color on our black & white TV—so much more depth, beauty and enjoyment.

    • http://twitter.com/jmhardy98 Jim Hardy


      I am glad that God has had an important role in your life, your belief in him will help you get through many tough times.


  • http://www.jdeddins.com JD Eddins

    Great post! As someone who also has a degree in Marriage and Family Therapy I think you nailed it on the head.   I can remember counseling with several couples during my practicums for school that were doing pre-marital counseling and only one of them seemed to be marrying their best friend.  How sad!
    As for myself, I have a wonderful wife.  We share so much in common when it comes to hobbies/interests, life goals, thoughts about finances, and so much more that the friendship aspect of our relationship has been easy.

  • me

    After 40 years of marriage, friendship and sharing are the things that kept us together. But that doesn’t mean doing everything together and not spending time doing things that the other partner may not like or can’t do. The point is that after he takes his raft trip with his buddies or she goes on a seaside shopping vacation with her friends, they, together, do something that they enjoy without amomosity. honesty folks.

    • http://brevis.me Robert Ewoldt

      Congratulations on 40 years of marriage, and thanks for the advice to do something that we enjoy together.  My wife and I have been married for 4 years, and we try to get away (just the two of us) and do something together that we enjoy.

    • http://twitter.com/jmhardy98 Jim Hardy


      forty years! That is amazing. You are correct, you have to have balance, but each marraige and each person is different.


  • cara davis

    For young couples who begin having children, I think the friendship focus is a blessing and a curse. Too often it’s easier to settle into a routine of becoming roommates instead of husband and wife. Having dates seems a luxury you can ill afford – for time and financial reasons. I think different seasons of marriage require a focused effort on fostering different types of love. 

    • Anonymous

      It is sometimes a struggle. When we had three kids 6 and under and no budget, we couldn’t find a way to go on dates. We ended up making it up: Friday nights, the kids went to bed a little early and we went to the farthest end of the house (with the baby monitor until everybody was old enough to not need it). We would cook our own dinner, then play games (literally: Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit, you know, grown-up games), or watch a movie (Redbox/Netflix made that more possible), or watch TV, or do other crazy things. One night we took pens and paper and designed our “ideal” house. We bought a DVD with Ballroom dancing lessons and tried that for a few dates.

      It has paid off. Now, the kids are old enough to fix their own supper on Friday nights (because they eat sandwiches) and our budget lets us buy a little better on ingredients for making our own special dinners. We rarely get away from the house, but get a little insulation. It takes some effort to shift where my mind is. Sometimes we’ll dress up as we would if we were going out, just to help.

      In all, it has helped us keep ourselves reminded that we’re not just parents, friends, and roommates, but that we’re husband and wife and all those other things are part of that.

      • http://brevis.me Robert Ewoldt

        This is a GREAT idea!  My wife and I set out a goal to do one “outside” date per month and two “inside” dates per month.  I’ve found that I look forward to these inside dates where we talk or play games or just sit together.

    • Bridget

      Cara – We have four kids and the two most difficult years of our married life was when one was 4 and the other was 2. ( We had the first 2, two years apart and then 6 years later had another set of 2, two years apart!) Each time, we had a 4 and a 2 year old in our house, it was a huge challenge. Their needs are so great at that stage, it is hard to focus on your marriage.  My advice is – give yourself a break when you don’t feel like the perfect parent and stay in it and focused together. The rewards are great, but it is not easy! One of my favorite memories was having a picnic in the backyard with my husband with Peanut Butter sandwiches and bananas that he made look like a flower arrangement.  No money – lots of laughs!  

      • http://twitter.com/jmhardy98 Jim Hardy

        I agree totally.


    • http://twitter.com/jmhardy98 Jim Hardy


      you are correct and you both still need to have time with each other. Marriage is a relationship and without time, their is no relationship.


  • http://LookingForPurpose.com Dylan Dodson

    Great post, friendship is key!

  • http://rumorsofglory.net/blog/ Lucille Zimmerman

    I agree with what you say. I also wanted to share this:

    I have spent the last year training in one of the most successful marriage therapy models. It’s called Emotional Focused Therapy (EFT). The smashing point is that partners who get into trouble, can’t turn towards each other from a vulnerable place to share what their hurts and desires are. They think they are telling each other how they feel but in actuality they are lashing out or pulling away. 

    The model’s founder Sue Johnson is one of the leading researchers/clinicians on marriage. She is interviewed here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1dab34E4ON0

  • Vsbrowning

    Celebrating 21 years on August 12th. It has been a journey filled with amazing highs and some incredible lows. And through it all, we have forged a wonderful marriage.

    We have been through cancer, bankruptcy, business failure, and more in that time. Looking back, I would not have wanted to face these challenges with anyone else. She truly is the best friend I’ve ever had.

    • http://brevis.me Robert Ewoldt

      That’s an amazing story… it’s good to have someone to go through these things with you, even if only to have someone to commiserate with :)  I can’t imagine doing any of those things alone.

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  • Anonymous

    Totally agree with this. I’m fortunate to have that friendship with my spouse, as well as the agape love. The eros comes and goes and is worth working at. But the friendship is the key…when we find ourselves drifting apart it is usually because we stop seeing things we have in common to talk about and do together. When we make the effort to discover those things again and really be friends, marriage is pretty awesome. 

  • Jack Lynady

    Great read. My wife and I have the best marriage in our group of thirty somethings hands down. We are best friends no doubt. But additionally we both understand how much our marriage is opposed. Best friends is important. Buddy in a fox hole…invaluable. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tina-Shepherd-Gist/1400228004 Tina Shepherd Gist

    I agree that Philia is the most important basis for marriage. Agape is very important and a relationship with God builds strength and foundation. Eros is the benefit in my opinion of a great relationship.

    Agape – Spiritual Love – very important and grows as your relationship with God grows

    Eros – Physical – chemistry – a wonderful marriage has this as a compliment to the marriage – not a foundation.

    Philia – Friendship – truly the best part – the person you can always count on to be there and listen. This is the one thing that has always kept us strong.  When I remember I am his best friend – I remember to treat him that way and vice versa.

    The only thing I would add is that in any relationship – Marriage or not – you must have a RICH philosophy in life:
    This is what I keep in mind all the time to be sure I am treating people the way they should and that I want to be treated.

    Thanks for reminding me that I have a great marriage!

    15 Years this year! (we both had a failed marriage in past – we got it right and are not giving up – we are each others best friend).


    • http://twitter.com/jmhardy98 Jim Hardy

      It sounds like you are getting it right this time. Great post!!!


  • Ruthie Dean

    Thanks for this post, John! I have only been married 2 months and am rejoicing this morning that my husband and I were best friends before we were married. I tell my friends the best part marriage (so far) is living life with my best friend! Thank you for your encouragement.

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  • Anonymous

    I will definitely clip this into my marriage preparation file here at church. Good, sound words.

    One thing my wife and I have been asked, partly because we went from “not dating” to married in 5 months (13 years ago!), is “How did you know you should get married?” I think the friendship aspect shows in this part of her answer: We realized that where we were both going in life was the same direction, for the same purpose, and we knew that we’d rather walk that road together than separately.

  • Mark Haines

    That is a great answer to a vital question.  I hope those of us who are married to our best friends will pass this “secret” on to others.  Thanks for sharing this post.

  • Agatha Nolen

    How true! I’ve had two failed marriages–agape and eros snuffed out any friendship early on. Married both husbands within months of dating. Now I have concentrated on learning how I can be a better friend. I think that is the first step. Not finding the right person, but being the right person–the friend that will love through thick and thin and go to the mat for you. I’ve got a circle of Christian friends who have shown me Christ’s love through friendship so that I am free to love others through friendship too. I’m convinced that a friendship takes time to develop; it doesn’t happen overnight. But the wait is worth it! Friends are invaluable!

  • Brad Nease

    I agree with Guest below. . .  philia is a necessity, but there are times where stubborn commitment is a requirement.  I remember a men’s retreat I attended at Forest Home.  The speaker was Charlie “Tremendous” Jones.  He made us commit to doing one thing when we got home to our wives.  Walk up to her and whisper in her ear with as much commitment in your voice as possible and truly mean it:  “I WILL NEVER, EVER, LEAVE YOU!”  As I went back to that men’s retreat over the years, the amount of feedback the men brought back about how secure it made the relationship feel was amazing.  I will never ever leave my best friend, Holly.

    • http://brevis.me Robert Ewoldt

      Stubborn commitment is good… but I think that stubborn commitment is part of the “agape” love–you’re loving that person by sticking by them, even when you don’t feel like it.  You’re loving them without anything in return.  And stubborn commitment can get you through a lot in a marriage.  It can even keep some marriages together “’til death parts.” 

      However, I think stubborn commitment is the key in a culture that honors commitment above anything else.  In today’s American culture, I would say that comfort trumps commitment, in a lot of cases.  People divorce because they don’t “feel it” any more.  So, this post is written for today’s culture.  If you develop that friendship in marriage, you can always “feel it,” and will make the stubborn commitment something that’s not needed as much as in marriages where there’s not a friendship.

  • Anonymous

    Not getting married any time soon, but I should save these tips always.

  • Joe Lalonde

    Great post John. It’s something that we need to keep in mind. It’s also something that we need to continuously work on. The busyness of our days can get in the way and that friendship can wane.

  • Bridget

    Amen!  My husband and I were just talking about how we are looking forward to spending more time together as we get older!  We laugh every day and he is truly my best friend! Most importantly, I can be broken with him and he puts my pieces back together like best friends do for each other! Great post and I would love to read more blog posts from him!

  • http://www.forward-living.com W. Mark Thompson

    We must be doing something right regarding the right love. Been married for over 10 years now – with 2 stepsons & 2 biological sons. I believe, in retrospect, we’ve made it past the critical stage due to being able to lean on and carry each other as friends. Sure it has been bumpy at times. But because we have had a healthy dose of each kind of love mentioned above, I believe we’ve beat the odds. We’ll continue to beat them by continuing to practice the sound advice in this post. Great stuff! God bless.

  • http://twitter.com/CoachTheresaIF Theresa Ip Froehlich

    John Marshall’s explanation (or exposition?) of the three Biblical concepts of love shines the light on marriage. I like to think of philia (friendship kind of love) as the foundation of a house while agape (godly and unconditional love) as the frame. Without these two, eros is meaningless. About a year ago, I wrote a very similar post for my own website, called “Why My Marriage Works.” I highlighted the importance of having my husband as my best friend. We’ve been married 28 yrs and we do count each other as best friends.

    John Gottman, psychologist and best-selling author, also said (in a seminar) that one of the best predictors of marital success is whether or not husband and wife can disagree with each other without raising their voice!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Gail and I are reading through Gottman’s book now. Really excellent stuff.

  • Kimberly L. Smith

    In fact, I do think your advice is “too pie in the sky.”

    I am, like you seem to be, blessed in that my mate is my
    best friend. However, I disciple a good many young couples who, frankly, will
    never be fortunate enough to know that sort of love, for a number of very harsh
    realities. So, what hope could I give them if “best-friend love” was their
    strongest hope?

            Instead, the
    more I get into the mud with another’s struggling, the more I see the myth of
    our Western view of marriage—which seems to take precedence over Biblical.

            Would you call
    Moses, Abraham (who gave his wife over to another,) Paul, or Peter’s wife “their
    best friend?” It doesn’t seem so.

            It seems that
    is what our cultural Christianity prefers, but that Biblical principals make
    any “successful” relationship much less humanly rewarding. It seems the models
    presented to us Biblically are much more about simply accepting our call and
    working that out within the context we’re both “placed” and which we’ve “chosen”
    without any great heroic thought or act on our part.

    The ultimate redemption is not in
    our choice, act, or feeling, but in God’s faithfulness in spite of us all.

    In a Fallen-Broken World, oft times
    the thing that fails to keep a marriage together is simple faithfulness,
    without human comprehension.

    Just my thoughts for the day.

    Love, your sister along the
    journey, k

    • http://twitter.com/jmhardy98 Jim Hardy


      Thank you for this. I will keep this for future use.


  • http://www.prokopetsstudio.com/blog Candace Prokopets

    That was a great first post! I love it! But everyone should go read his follow-up post. Hilarious!

  • Rodneywelsh

    As a youth pastor I read this and thought, how many of my students really know how to build a friendship? It’s scary considering some research suggests that our social media is diminishing our youth’s ability to build real social skills. Without the capacity to build friendships, where will their marriages be?

  • Momofjustsix

    Yes, this is probably true. I’m in a “great” marriage of more than 31 years. My husband is not really my friend, and I’m very unhappy but no one would ever know it. Husband is fine and I guess I just live with the status quo. But I’ve know for years that this man was not interested in being my “soulmate.” Kind of sad because I see myself as a happy, vibrant, talkative person in the company of other people. Around my family I’m more of a recluse. But I swear no one seems to notice! :*(

  • Housebj2003

    My husband and I on August 20th will be married for 45 years. It hasn’t always been easy. But I know two things that helped me stay in the marriage. One is the vow I took 45 years ago and that was to love my husband in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer till death due us part. The other is knowing the Lord and He has seen me through all kinds of things. Love my husband no matter what. I may not like what he does but God is the judge. And oh my-I have put my husband through a lot of trials with all kinds of health problems. And I find my husband loves me unconditionally.

  • Daniel

    My wife and I have been married for 4 years, and just had our second little boy. Our kids have made us realize the importance of friendship as we once again deal with sleepless nights and for the first time deal with a quick moving toddler. When before “I love you” meant only … (you know what I mean), now “I love you” oftentimes means something like “How about we lay down and fall asleep in each other’s presence.”

  • Cole

    A wise friend once told me that good marriages aren’t 50/50.  They 80/20 with both people and the magic is in the overlap.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I totally agree with that.

  • That HR Girl

    I think that the longer you are together the more “vested” you become, as you watch the marriages around you dissolve, it makes you more resolute in staying together.  Challenges/Problems will bring you closer if you allow it.  My husband and i have been married 19 years (after dating for 8 years) and I love him more now than the day i married him.  The best reason?  He makes me laugh.

  • Ramon Presson

    From RP, co-author with Dr. Gary Chapman of Love Talks for Couples (Moody Press)

    I draw for my therapy couples the Marriage Triangle (which I got from Drs. Les & Leslie Parrott who got it from someone else).  The foundation line is Commitment, and sometimes the church has wanted to believe that was the only line that matters. But what we know and experience every week as Christian therapists is that 1) God created us for intimacy not just commitment, and 2) without these other two slopes of the triangle a marriage will not be Satisfying and ultimately will not be Sustained.  (Your grandparents may have stayed together while being distant, mean, and miserable for 40 years but present and generations will not. )Slope #1 is Companionship which is really the Philia you are speaking of.Companionship is conversation, mutual interests, shared activities, care & support for one another. Most the things really we experience and expect in same gender friendships.Slope #2 is Passion which is the Eros you are speaking of.Passion is not just sexual intercourse, etc. but is Affection. (Affection includes Casual Affection, Playful Affection, Passionate Affection, and Compassionate Affection.)  A marriage without affection is at best two pals living together, and more likely two roommates and co-managers of a household.Most couples come to me because when it gets right down to it, their Commitment is weakening because Companionship and/or Passion is weak or missing altogether.Having worked and written with Dr. Gary Chapman, I know how core and crucial that Communication is to both Companionship and Passion.  Interestingly, the two topics most difficult for Christian couples to discuss openly and honestly are 1) their Spiritual Questions & Doubts and 2) their Sexual Needs, Desires, & Expectations.  (Think of it–what is more personal than those two topics? Where could we possibly feel more fearful of being judged or rejected?)  I’m not a sex therapist–that’s not why couples come to me, and yet very few of the Christian married couples I see aren’t claiming conflict over sex as one of their presenting concerns.  I can’t think of one couple I’m seeing right that started counseling being mutually satisfied with the type/frequency of affection and sexual intimacy in their marriageI’m not elevating Passion’s importance over Companionship. Lord knows, we live in a sex crazed culture where the pursuit of satisfying orgasm seems the highest of all human aspirations and achievements. That’s shallow and sad.But I’m also hesitant to make Companionship ( philia ) a starter while Passion ( eros ) rides the bench.  Both need to be on the court playing…or the team will lose.www.LifeChangeCS.org  &  www.RamonPresson.com

    • Ramon Presson

      Dang, I had spacing, line breaks, paragraphs, bolding, underlining, and italics all through my post and it removed all of it. Sorry this is so jammed together and hard to read. 

      • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

        Sorry about that. That is one of the limitations of most commenting software. You can, however, use a little HTML if you know it. For example, I can make italics with the emphasis tag.

    • http://twitter.com/jmhardy98 Jim Hardy


      That is fine, it is a great piece and I am sharing it with my wife.


  • http://twitter.com/RachelSayers Rachel Sayers

    Thanks for sharing!  Friendship is soooo important!  Not just with our spouse, but with God as well.  Enjoyed reading!!

  • Sarah Sumpolec

    I completely agree with this…there is no one I’d rather simply hang out with or spend time with than my husband (16 years & counting). He is my best friend and my confidante, along with all those other things…:-)

  • http://www.betterhealthtoday.co Kay Wilson

    aha, wonderful John Marshall to hear from a man who really gets it!  It’s true, my best friend is also my man.  Nothing like feeling his hand enclose mine as we walk together.

  • http://www.livesimplylove.com Merritt | LiveSimplyLove

    Great post! I’ve never thought of it this way, or put these words to it, but I would agree that friendship is key. In fact, being friends first (with no agenda) with the man I would marry meant we were able to have really frank and important conversations as we considered dating. Conversations that weren’t tainted by masks or fears. Since the friendship had already been established, trust was there too (another important ingredient). Thanks for re-posting this as a guest post Michael. Great read for me today!

  • Tracy

    Definatley we have the Philleo love in our marriage!  We love spending time together and do so on a regular basis.  For us, we work very hard at keeping the Eros love alive…..that is something that is easily stolen from us.  We just know that we have to work on it and we try to keep the lines of communication open.  I know how important Phileo love is because my parents have been married for over 40 years and they are the best of friends!  It is a blessing to watch them grow old together.

  • Heatherlconrad.com

    I absolutely loved reading this just moments ago. I am not deserving, yet blessed to call my husband my best friend. It has come with the uncomfortable at times, and indeed it builds intimacy. I too have many friends without this label for their spouses, prayer and hope. Thanks for inspiring this today.

  • http://ourprairieashram.com Jen C

    After reading some of these comments, I’m realizing that I must have had some wonderful adults mentoring me before we got married.

    I knew the types of love and their importance in marriage, but I remember being told repeatedly that after you’ve lived as a couple, then as young parents, and as parents of teenagers, eventually you’ll be back to living as a couple again.  You need to enjoy being together through all of that, or you’ll never enjoy being together once its just the two of you again.

    And, I can honestly say that my husband is my best friend.  We just celebrated our 11th anniversary last week.  We have also been through some life stress lately.  And it really is that best friend-ed-ness that gets you through.

  • http://theforwardjourney.com Michael Vaughn

    This is a great post! My wife and I have been married for 26 years. We dated for 5 years before getting married. Those 5 years were critical. They helped us to build a genuine friendship with one another. That friendship has grown over the years. It’s essential now that we’re empty nesters! Thanks for affirming the importance of friendship in marriage!

  • http://refreshmentrefuge.blogspot.com Gina Burgess

    I agree with you, John, and…

    I belonged to a very old church that has a huge senior citizen membership. We celebrated the longevity of marriages by giving certificates to those who were married at least 50 years or longer. I wanted to know why those marriages worked and others did not. So, I asked everyone why they thought their marriage had lasted so long.

    The most common word used was Commitment. The second most used was friendship. The third most used was a phrase, “love in spite of the flaws”.

    I concluded, commitment is the foundation. Friendship is the rebar reinforcement, and love is the mortar of marriage. All three creates a marriage that can withstand the hurricanes of life.

  • http://chrisvonada.com chris vonada

    Beautifully spoken and on the mark… philia love and respect, for this there is no substitute. Thanks John and Michael!!

  • http://twitter.com/AGoodMansWife Christina Sterling

    Hello Michael,

    I find myself truly in awe of the providence of God in this particular moment. You see, a few weeks ago, I did not even know you existed. I was preparing for a final presentation in a communications class, researching some things for the thesis. Somehow, a search into Google led me to your blog, and I found insight that helped me shape a point of view which led to receiving an A on my final report! That is not why I am writing, however.

    Through a mutual connection on Twitter, I found you again, but at this time, I still had not made the connection: Your Twitter account + thesis research for final paper = same guy. It was not until today, actually, that I marveled at the divine road God has laid before me when I read this particular blog post and I recognized the heading with your name on it – I put it together and laughed because you are  the same guy!

    Right now, my marriage is, well… It is not in a place of particular happiness. I am not ashamed of this, in fact quite the opposite, because I know our struggles are not unique to us. I am ready and willing to receive help from all angles – in addition to the counseling we are currently receiving through Church.
    What we are facing is a mixture of things but primarily built upon two separate hearts failing to come together for the same purpose; at least, by ease of explanation, we do not see things as One, but approach our life from the roots of two very different beginnings.

    My husband and I attend Oak Hills Church in San Antonio (which, subsequently enough, I just learned you will be teaching there this month on the 25th). I have been a member there for a few years, and I find a great sense of spiritual belonging that Max and Randy offer – this sense of belonging is confirmed in great measure right now as in a strange seemingly innocuous chain of events, it has placed you in my line of sight through school research, through twitter, and now, within the walls of that Church building in a few short weeks. After reading this blog about marriage, I am renewed in my belief that we are not doomed – my husband and me – and we have help from places we never thought possible if we just keep our hearts and eyes open to it.

    I suppose I should conclude this in some manner… But fear I have nothing to say that can accurately display my gratitude that you are present in this world, and that you are offering insights into marriage knowing, or at least hoping, someone is paying attention. Well, Mr. Hyatt, someone is listening, and I am eternally grateful that you spoke just when, and just what, I needed to hear.

    Thank you!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thank you for your kind comment, Christina. Providence is a mystery, isn’t it? I marvel at how God had brought various people into my life when I needed what they offered.
      I hope to meet you when I am at Oak Hills. Blessings!

  • Alfred

    This indeed is a 5 Star article. I enjoyed every bit of it. I have always promised myself that my Wife would be my best friend and Our Home would be my best place. So when My Wife and I started our courtship, I withdrew from a lot of close friends and activities and I gave priority to developing A Beautiful Friendship with My Bride. And yes it worked and it is helping Our Marriage today. I realize now that there are so many issues that would have blown out of proportion but Thank God for that Strong Bond of Friendship.

    In fact, Jesus Himself looked at His disciples (who represents the Church – His Bride) and said “I call you FRIENDS”.

    • Alfred

      And yes, MY WIFE IS MY BEST FRIEND. She says the same of me. We exchange that reassurance almost everyday. I think I need to give her a call right now.

    • http://soulstops.com Soulstops

      I heard a talk on Christian radio this morning where the speaker recommended what you did w/ your wife….which is for new husbands to make spending time w/ his new bride a priority over time w/ his buddies, especially in the beginning.  It is great that you took the leadership in developing your friendship/ relationship w/ your wife.

      My husband of almost 20 years is my best friend and I attribute that (in part) to us both making time for each other a priority – most of the time… I wish I could say all the time but that wouldn’t be true given the mix of life. 

      Ultimately, it is God’s grace and an ability to say “sorry” when we’ve blown it, and the ability to forgive each other.

      • Alfred

        Thank you for your comment. I believe it is easier and better to start building such a Friendship before marriage. It might not be easy in marriage especially after many conflicts and frictions, but couples just need to work towards it as they do with other friends.

  • Ramon Presson

    RP, marriage therapist and co-author with Dr. Gary Chapman of Love Talks for Couples (Moody Press)

    re-posting this because my earlier attempt somehow posted with no line breaks or
    paragraphs which made it impossible to read.)

    I draw for my therapy couples the Marriage
    Triangle (which I got from Drs. Les & Leslie Parrott who got it from
    someone else).  The foundation line is Commitment, and sometimes the
    church has wanted to believe that was the only line that matters. 

    But what we
    know and experience every week as Christian therapists is that 1) God created us
    for intimacy not just commitment, and 2) without these other two slopes of the
    triangle a marriage will not be Satisfying and ultimately will not be
    Sustained.  (Your grandparents may have stayed together while being
    distant, mean, and miserable for 40 years but present and generations will not.)

    Line: COMMITMENT.  (It’s not much of a stretch to see the congruence here with “Agape”)

    #1 is COMPANIONSHIP which is really the “Philia” you are speaking of. Companionship
    is conversation, mutual interests, shared activities, care & support for
    one another. Most the things really we experience and expect in same gender

    #2 is PASSION which is the “Eros” you are speaking of. Passion is not just
    sexual intercourse, etc. but is Affection. (Affection includes Casual
    Affection, Playful Affection, Passionate Affection, and Compassionate Affection.)
     A marriage without affection is at best two pals living together, and
    more likely two roommates and co-managers of a household.

    couples come to me because when it gets right down to it, their Commitment is
    weakening because Companionship and/or Passion is weak or missing altogether.

    worked alongside and written with Dr. Gary Chapman, I know how core and crucial that
    Communication is to both Companionship and Passion.  Interestingly, the
    two topics most difficult for Christian couples to discuss openly and honestly

    their Spiritual Questions & Doubts and

    their Sexual Needs, Desires, & Expectations.  (Think of it–what is
    more personal than those two topics? Where could we possibly feel more fearful
    of being judged or rejected?)

    not a sex therapist–that’s not why couples come to me, and yet very few of the
    Christian married couples I see aren’t claiming conflict over sex as one of
    their presenting concerns.  I can’t think of one couple I’m seeing right
    that started counseling being mutually satisfied with the type/frequency of
    affection and sexual intimacy in their marriage.

    not elevating Passion’s importance over Companionship. Lord knows, we live in a
    sex crazed culture where the pursuit of satisfying orgasm seems the highest of
    all human aspirations and achievements. That’s shallow and sad.

    I’m also hesitant to make Companionship ( philia ) a starter while Passion (
    eros ) rides the bench.  Along with Commitment (agape), all 3 need to be on the court playing (because
    that’s God design for marriage)…or the team will lose. 


  • Susan

    Respect, trust and compassion for one another is the key to a successful mariage. And most importantly is allowing God Jehovah into your lives and home on a daily basis..

  • http://www.ispyanimals.com I Spy Animals

    If it wasn’t for the friendship my husband and I have, our marriage might be intact but no fun. No matter the trial, my two best friends (Jesus and my husband) make all things bearable. 

  • Hein van Wyk

    Simple. Unconditional love. Hence the word UNCONDITIONAL. The term “Divorce” should not exist in your vocabulary. If you know there is a way out, you’ll take it. If you both agree that no matter what, divorce is not an option, then you’ll be fine. Given that marriage is not a walk in the park.

  • Carenshaw

    My Hubbs and I are lucky enough to have made it going on 11 years. I noticed a difference between our marriage and a lot of my friends that ended theirs and the difference is we “show up’ We ARE best friends, we have a great time in bed and we know what each other is up to. When I spoke to the friends whose marriage ended they always had this communication gap. For example I would call one to ask what time they were coming over for a dinner party nd find out they never discussed it….the other just agreed on what to do the next evening without consulting the other. WEIRD!  So just show up, consult, ask questions….it is the best friendship you will ever have if you get it right! Love you baby!

  • Jenica

    My husband is definitely my best friend and I am his. We both do what you have listed, and it’s wonderful! While we have only been married for nine years, I look forward to many more!

  • http://www.thehahnhuntinglodge.com Nikole Hahn

    I started to get worried until I got halfway down…yes! Friendship! My husband and I have that intimacy, that friendship and share everything together. In fact, just the other day I think he finished my sentence. He knows me so well that if there’s any money in our little coin tray it will be spent before he gets home from work on a latte. LOL.

  • Pingback: Marriage | Pumpkin's Boutique Blog()

  • Steve Decker

    A few years into our now 32+ years of marriage, my wife and I decided, since we’re in this together for life, we would be foolish not to be the best of friends, to choose to cherish each other, to have plenty of fun and enjoy the ride.  The life-long commitment was the foundation on which we matured as people and as a couple.

    Commitment is the first necessary ingredient, I believe.  People can divorce ‘as friends,’  but not as committed life partners.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=728976634 Teressa Pence Morris

    My husband and I met on a choir tour to Vancouver in 1983.  We were both 16.  He says it was love at first sight and I say he grew on me, LOL.  But we have been married for 23 years and I can truly say he is my best friend.  Even in the early years of our marriage, when we had a fight and I was so mad I couldn’t speak to him I would want to call my best friend to complain about my husband – but he WAS my best friend!!  So we never stayed mad at each other for long.  I do think friendship is the most important thing to a healthy marriage.

  • http://www.rickwomack.com Rick Womack

    Just celebrated 20 years with my best friend who is also my spouse – friendship, from the beginning, was the foundation of our relationship. We still work on our friendship because we want it to be stronger with every passing year.

    Great post, will definitely use this approach as I mentor students & young leaders. Thanks John (& Michael).

  • Pingback: What kind of love keeps marriages together? | In Pursuit of Life()

  • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

    Good thoughts. Best friend? That’s my wife. She’s the person who has weathered the storms and enjoyed the good days of sailing through life. We started out as best of friends before we ever considered “dating.” And the friendship continues to grow and deepen. Thanks for the post, the question, and a platform to share this simple truth. God blessed me with a wonderful friend when I met my Ellen. I’m thankful she’s both my wife and my best friend.–Tom

  • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

    Thanks for stimulating so much conversation on the topic of marriage and friendship. Reading other people’s posts encourages and blesses my soul. I’m glad to read again and again how people are married to their best friends. Glad to see both men and women making these comments.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I agree, it is encouraging to read all this.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RIB2ZQ6MYFNF6NDLQGUP643VUU user2468user

    I don’t have a clue how to face my marriage. He doesn’t like to come home. As a Christian, I don’t want to get divorce, but I don’t think I can stay in this marriage much longer. He doesn’t want to get help. 

  • Zipporah Moses

    Check out http://www.wisereaction.org – AWESOME  BIBLICAL Website on Marriage, Fornication, Adultery etc.

  • Zipporah Moses

    We believe Marriage is a
    Covenant: unconditional, irrevocable and

    unbreakable.A Contract: can be broken and dissolved.

    In a contract we protect our rights and limit our
    responsibilities.In a Covenant:
    we lift up our responsibilities and lay
    down our








  • Zipporah Moses

    We believe Marriage is a
    Covenant: unconditional, irrevocable and

    unbreakable.A Contract: can be broken and dissolved.
    In a contract we protect our rights and limit our
    responsibilities.In a Covenant:
    we lift up our responsibilities and lay
    down our





  • Zipporah Moses

    We believe Marriage is a
    Covenant: unconditional, irrevocable and

    unbreakable.A Contract: can be broken and dissolved.
    In a contract we protect our rights and limit our
    responsibilities.In a Covenant:
    we lift up our responsibilities and lay
    down our






  • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

    Yes, that is true. C.S. Lewis covers this in his book on the four loves.

  • Elizabeth

    My divorce was finalized last month… and we were best friends.  In fact, we’re still good friends.  But that’s all we were.  We leaned on each other and supported one another spiritually and emotionally, we spent time together just enjoying life, doing things we both had interest in,  had lengthy, in depth conversations about many things… and yet, here we are – divorced.  I have to disagree that a friendship is what it takes. … because in the end, that’s all we were – friends, and that wasn’t enough.  I wanted a husband, and he wanted a wife, and these two spirit filled ministers couldn’t get beyond the feeling of “we’re just friends”. 

  • Margie

    This is a tough one, I think you did great with it! (Congratulations on the 33 years! Mark and I hit 25 in December!)

  • mdmaurer

    Thanks for such a great post! So glad you shared it! We are celebrating 12 years this year…and he is my best friend. We are taking a day together without the kids to just go and play.  I do agree that it is about friendship…but I don’t think I’ve ever heard it before. It just makes so much sense! Almost like a “duh” moment for me. =) 

  • Molly

    Several years ago a woman I just met made the comment to me “I can tell that you and your husband are best friends.” This was after a brief ten or fifteen minute encounter as we were looking at a house she owned and we wanted to rent. Although we both have always believed we married our ‘best friend’, it was affirming to have it noticed. Does that mean we’ve never had our ‘moments’?? Heavens no!

    I wholeheartedly agree that being friends with your spouse is a vital part of the relationship.

    (By the way, we just celebrated our 35th anniversary.)

  • Jleriger

    I believe with all my heart that this mans marriage can still be saved and every marriage for that matter, if we as men apply everything written in a blog previously sent by Michael called HOW TO BECOME YOUR SPOUSES BEST FRIEND. I’m trying to stay focused on applying it’s content, although it’s not easy  sometimes because of distraction’s from the invasion of so much information, but I know that because I have the holy Spirit living in me, combined with applying the daily actions of how I can become my spouses best friend, my marriage will be saved.  If the greater is he that lives in me really is in me, than there is no doubt that  which is in the world(lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life) can’t take my marriage down. EPH 4:27 Neither give place to the devil. IF WE CAN SHUT EVERY DOOR CLOSE EVERY WINDOW, AND SEAL EVERY PLACE IN OUR LIVES THROUGH WHICH THE ENEMY WOULD TRY TO ACCESS US, WE CAN PREVENT HIM FROM GETTING INTO THE MIDDLE OF OUR RELATIONSHIPS . So, I had to ask myself, am I reading these blogs because there a good read, or from the perspective that what is written is inspired by the Holy Spirit, I can live the abundant life that God has in mind for me, IF I APPLY IT, which will prevent the enemy of my soul from devouring  my marriage, my children, and all relationships. 

  • andera padoker

    That is really stunning and very educative commitment and realistic are the most effective way to keep you close.

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  • Joefox

    Dear Michael,
    I am a new subscriber to your web site.  I have enjoyed the content I have received.  However your recent post “How to really keep a marriage together” has got me thinking.

    In my 30 years of ministerial experience, I think to say Philia love is more important than Agape is too strong a statement.  It is like putting the carriage before the horse.  I believe you can have a great friendship and never take it to the degree of agape love.  But, with a true foundation of agape love (selflessness) it will lead to the practical expression of friendship.

    In many years of marriage counseling I don’t remember a single couple that didn’t have somewhere in the root of their problem the issue of selfishness.  I often use Jesus’ words, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”  If you are your greatest treasure, and you are, where you give of yourself is where you will have true feelings of affection.   (You won’t fall out of love.)  Those feelings will manifest themselves in Eros and Philia.

    In tough times over the last 41 years it wasn’t my friendship with my wife that was our foundation, it was the covenant we shared with God.  I would guess that your 30-something friend and his wife didn’t really give each other themselves in time and interest.  I use to have the couples go home and look for ways to bless the other; and noticed the ways the other blessed them.  That exercise turned many of their relationships around.  And as I followed up later they would confess that when they didn’t “look” for ways to bless, and became more selfish, their relationships would suffer.

    I think you told him right about developing a friendship with his wife, but that will take an agape love (selflessness) to accomplish.  I have been married forty-one years to my best friend.  Thank God for Agape love.
    Joe Fox

    • http://beckfarfromhome.blogspot.com/ Beck Gambill

      That’s a lot to think about but I think I have to agree with you Joe. There have been a couple of times in my twelve year marriage I would have bailed and it wasn’t friendship that kept me from leaving. My commitment first to God and then to my husband is what kept me in the marriage, it was God’s love in me flowing out to my husband that made the difference. My husband is my friend, I like him better than anyone else I know, but I really don’t think I could over emphasize the importance of the deep spiritual connection of our love.

  • http://snappycasual.tumblr.com kelsey williams

    I love this. I wrote a post on our blog called “12 Reasons We’re Still Married.” Michael Hyatt’s wife, Gail, even commented on it! It is our most popular post to date and something we’ll refer to for many years! 

  • Mdrinkwitz

    I think there is so much wisdom in this. I find myself asking this question. What does it take to have a healthy marriage? I like his thoughts.

  • http://www.yourockmom.wordpress.com Ellen

    I prayed the man I would marry would be my friend first.  God gave me him 18 yrs ago on 8/14! And tomorrow my parents celebrate their 50th anniversary! 

  • http://beckfarfromhome.blogspot.com/ Beck Gambill

    Interesting food for thought. I’m so thankful to have been married to my best friend for twelve years. However, it’s not our friendship that’s kept our marriage together, though it’s certainly made it sweeter. Perhaps it’s important that a healthy balance of all three be present to sustain a marriage, not singling out one aspect as more important. Through the roughest times of our marriage, moments that I wanted to walk away, it was my spiritual commitment to God and my husband that kept me there. Striving to maintain affection, friendship, and self-sacrifice in balance adds depth and strength I believe.

  • Anonymous

    I read this the other day based on your Twitter referral.  It’s really made me think about our church’s approach to marital and premarital counseling.  I’m glad John added the RSS feed to his blog.

  • Anonymous

    Interesting that this article seemed to get more comments from the ladies than is typical for your blog.l

  • http://gracehlewis.com Grace Lewis

    This is such a wonderful post. I love how you mention the importance of each type of love, and then come to the one that will hold you together when the others are floundering. This is really encouraging to a person who has grown up around people who only focus on the agape part. Yes, they’re married, but that’s about it. No fun, no connection, no enjoyment in each other. It’s encouraging because a year ago tomorrow I married my best friend. I’m happy to know that we are on the right track toward staying together AND actually enjoying it for the rest of our lives. Thank you.

  • http://www.freelancewriter.co/ Harleena Singh

    A beautiful post! I love the honesty with which you shared the post. Yes, first and foremost is the trust and commitment you develop with your spouse, by making them your best friend. Everything else comes in later!

    Thanks for sharing!

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  • Iulia V

    I agree 100% that being friends with your husband keeps the marriage going. My husband and I, we also have the love (I miss him when he’s at work!!) and the passion (can’t wait for our intimate moments!!) in our relationship, we have the responsibility (our kids, our home, etc) but most of all, we have a strong friendship that keeps us united.
    Great post!

  • Feliciaterrybrown

    Your posts are always so great! I will be married for 10 years in September but I just experienced this this week. My husband suffered the loss of his best friend of over 20 years two years ago. I have seen him struggle with that loss. He is a people person but does not allow many in his inner circle. He contacted me at work and said he had been praying for someone else to be his best friend, someone he could trust, share his dreams and fears, to be able to let his hair down with. He said during my quiet time I realized a best friend had been right by my side all this time. That conversation has taken our marriage to a new level. I will always remember the day my husband said I love you as my wife, but thank you for being my best friend.

  • guest

    Even “best friends” have rough spots and you need agape love to overcome those rough spots. So I still think agape love rules and that “eros” and “friendship love” are subsets of agape(in a marriage context). Don’t get married unless you are willing to serve.

  • Marcia Richards

    We’re definitely best friends! We’re 58 and 62 and found each other 3 1/2 yrs ago. For the first time in our lives we have a great friendship and common interests as well as a deep love and intimacy. Too bad we didn’t know the best way to choose a mate when we were in our 20s. 

  • Cam

    Some good points here but I believe off base. Friendship love is very important. So is Eros. Both of those won’t make for a complete marriage. Agape is what binds them together. You can have an empty marriage without friendship. A marriage devoid of romantic fire will also be empty. It takes all three to have a healthy, successful marriage.

    • http://brevis.me Robert Ewoldt

      Cam, I think you’re right about the necessity of having all three types of love in a marriage. However, I don’t know that you could say that agape love is more important than the other two. I think that, at the beginning of a marriage, there is the foundation for all three types of love, and as you nurture your philia love and your eros love, agape love grows. I think that your love rooted in commitment compels you to pursue both philia love and eros love. It’s a complex entanglement of all three types of love that develops over time.

      Also, each type of love can spur someone to act out their love for their spouse, which is what builds their overall love.

      I think the overall thrust of this post is good: pursue your spouse as a friend, not just as a lover or because you made a commitment.

  • Bishop_gemma

    wish it worked for me :(

  • http://www.CFinancialFreedom.com Dr. Jason Cabler

    Absolutely I think you are right.  Philia means you have respect for your mate and you’re actually sharing your life with each other.  The dreams and sorrow, the ups and downs, and the sometimes brutal honesty that only those closest to you can give you.

  • Troy Spencer

    Tonight my wife and I celebrated our 23rd wedding anniversary. We dated for 10 years prior, off and on (she was 11 on our 1st date, rafting down the Chattahoochee with my parents). The reason we kept getting back together and eventually getting married was because we enjoyed each other so much as friends. I’ve said that we had all of our divorces and separations before we got married, and got married because we were best friends. Twenty three years later I feel the same way!

    • http://brevis.me Robert Ewoldt

      Congratulations, Troy!

  • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

    That a good kind of advice to people like me who are single. (who could prepare themselves well for a future life)

  • http://twitter.com/hmgullett Helen Gullett

    We started our relationship as best friends and we are still best friends! Keep it that way because we know that being a best friend to each other will help us to get to know each other closer each day, sharing everything, and supporting each other in any circumstance. As best friend, we be honest to each other… I totally agree with your post!

    Thanks for sharing and it’s a good reminder for me personally.

  • http://twitter.com/hmgullett Helen Gullett

    I totally agree with what you say here:To be friends with your mate means:You respect her.
    You treat her like your equal when your upbringing and your own selfish ways try to convince you otherwise.
    You talk about how you feel and think about the good and bad of your life together.
    You even risk conflict by being more honest than you are comfortable with because it builds intimacy into your marriage.
    You plan and dream together because life is too complicated to just wing it.In other words, you treat your partner like your “best” friend.My husband and I started our relationship as best friends and we are still best friends and we will be… :)

  • http://neuropoet3.wordpress.com Nonna

    This is brilliant… I wish more people went into marriage understanding the importance of friendship. My hubby and I have been married 15 years… we’ve been through a lot of ups and downs (others could say the “downs” have outnumbered the ups!)… We have two sons on the autistic spectrum, I have developed serious health issues we never dreamed of dealing with when I walked down the aisle at 17 years old, and due to these realities financial stability has always seemed just out of reach. But, we’ve been through it all together. We are best friends. I know that he’s always there for me, and he knows I always have his back. While agape and eros are big parts of marriage, I can’t imagine trying to live a common life without the solid ground of true friendship. 

  • http://twitter.com/stephsday stephsday

    I love this! I’ve been married to my best friend for almost 10 years. We really, genuinely like each other. We respect each other. We laugh with other. We have so much fun together. If you asked me who I would most want to spend a day with, I’d answer in under a second, “Tim!”

  • Toddsandel

    Great post.  As a marriage therapist (LMFT) myself, I like to help guide couples toward falling in “like” with each other as opposed to falling in “love”.  They already love each other but when they find me, they do not like each other at all and haven’t in quite some time.  I appreciate John’s candid post and bravery to help couples fully realize the power of marital friendship as God designed it.

  • Carla

    I have to agree with you that Friendship is the best kind of love.  I was friends with my husband of nearly 25 years before we started dating and eventually got married. 

  • Arielle Ford

    Tonight my best friend/husband/soulmate and I celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary — we had a delicious, romantic dinner al fresco at our favorite restaurant and talked about how blessed we have been and continue to be to share such a delightful loving marriage.  We practice what we call “Wabi Sabi Love.”  Wabi Sabi is an ancient Japanese art form that honors things old, weathered, worn, impermanent and imperfect.  It finds beauty and perfection in imperfection…..and that is what we do….we find beauty and perfection in our own and each other’s imperfections.

  • http://RenovationMalaysiaHq.com Renovationmalaysiahq

    This is a great article. One of my criteria when I wanted in my wife was that she & I be friends first, then lovers. Well my wife had that criteria too in a mate. We’ve been married 8 years so far, God willing till death do us part.

    I think being best friends with your spouse is very important since you are going to spend so much time together. I want to spend as much time as possible with my best friend, my wife, and not anyone else.

  • Jan Drake

    We attended a Marriage Encounter weekend in 1980 because our marriage was at it’s lowest.  All feelings of love were gone.  We didn’t want to divorce yet we didn’t know how to mend it.  My husband wouldn’t seek counseling.  BUT, after a series of circumstances took place, he consented to attend the ME weekend.  Well, we gained tools on that weekend to help mend our marriage…and much of what you share about Phileo love is what we gained.  Our love for each other was rekindled.  And we used the tools to where we are now best friends.  We share our feelings and share our dreams.  I ask God for help often to serve, support and hear my husband.  He does really well at serving, cherishing and hearing me.  Want to take your marriage to the next level, rekindle love or just take your marriage from good to GREAT?  Attend a Marriage Encounter weekend. 

    Jan Drake

  • Juliaanderson1987

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  • Jaraker

    I would call our love compromising love. It’s more important to love than to be right. We have found the need to be right causes all kinds of unhealthy conflict.

  • Kcolclesser

    Completely agree with the thought process. I had all 3 in my marriage for most of eleven years. Unfortunately, when one or both turn away from the other even those three things can fall apart. I’ve turned to God and faith to get me through and hope for the best. What we all forget is regardless of those three things we are all broken people on some level. We don’t realize that and when its exposed we are shocked! Gods planned to join me (in my broken glory) with my “perfect” broken man. I’m banking on the fact that a. He will guide me and b. He doesn’t like divorce.

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  • Jim Hamlett

    My wife and I celebrated 35 years in August, and I’d say the type of love that best characterizes our marriage is not in the list. I’d call it “reliable.” It’s probably a close cousin to philia/phileo, but the average person doesn’t think of their love in NT Greek terms. They want something that will come when they holler for help. The best friends are the ones who show up. She’s always been there for me. I can count on her. (And it goes both ways!)

  • Squarepeach

    We have been married for 47 years.  We have the agape, we have the eros, but the phileo is what holds it all together.  Marriage take work and dedication, it needs the understanding that there is really not much to argue about, and that grace and forgiveness are strong elements of forgiveness.  I am human, and my husband is gracious enough to accept that.  He is human, and I respect that.  Two is better than one, stronger, more fun, and God has blessed us in so many ways.  Thanks for the article.  You are right on the money.

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  • grateful

    I couldn’t agree more.  After 45 years (ups and downs, frustrations and joys,) our marriage has evolved to a friendship level unlike any I have with anyone else.  This must be the filter through which our culture’s view of marriage is viewed.  I once heard a marriage counselor say that if couples on the brink of breaking up would spend time together “going through the attic” of memories, experiences they’ve shared, they might change their mind.  It takes a long time to build deep healthy friendships.  As I move into the “winter” season of life, honestly there are regrets, things I wish I would have done differently….but one regret I will NOT have, is the continuing decision to build this special friendship.

  • Anonymous

    I agree 100%. And marriage takes work, anything worth having does!

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  • Formehden

    thanks for the post. I wonder where spiritual discernment  enters within the bounds of marriage.  I was asked to share about this and I was just thinking of…hmmmn, discernment on infidelity or will it be much more on knowing how you will be a blessing to  your spouse and together you build each other?

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  • Splinter John

    Words reflect concepts.  Greek words (eros, philia, agape) reflect three concepts.  The only reason these three words have any presence in our culture is because they are used in scripture.  Otherwise they’d have gone the way of Atlantis.  The most critical piece in understanding love, is a commitment to serving, centered upon absolute values.  This is an “other-focused” exercise (as observed in Mother Theresa and the lepers of Calcutta) , as contrasted with self-focused (i.e., immature) attachment.

    At its highest pinnacle, love is not earned.  It is not given because of feelings.  It is given simply because the giver wishes the highest and best for the receiver.  It is capsulized in the statement, “It was while we were yet sinners, that Christ died for us.”  In one marital example, it involved my wife fixing my favorite meal and serving it to me out on the deck, surrounded by flowers, after I’d been a crap-head all day.  Not because I earned it.  Not because she felt soft and gooey, and not because she wanted to make me feel like the jerk I had been.  But because she was committed to my highest and best in spite of myself.

    At its pinnacle, love takes us out of ourselves, to a higher plane of behavior than we would normally even seek.  Anything less than that may have one of the many words (Greek or otherwise) that are associated with the English word, “love,” but at its pinnacle, love is best defined by behavior aimed at the other person’s highest and best, in spite of themselves.  (See 1 Cor. 13:4-7 for a behavioral definition of love.)

    John Splinter

  • Splinter John

    In my previous comment I failed to mention another source of reflection on the subject of love.  http://www.family-legacy-institute.com, click on the “Pre-marrying” dropdown, and then on, “So You Think You May Be In Love.” 

    John Splinter

  • Ginascamp74

    Well… I need a lot of prayer then. My husband and i were best friends in high school – after we each had a failed marriage, we married 17 years later – – after we have given the best of ourselves to our previous spouse. we are no longer best friends, and I, in fact, feel like i am losing my mind. i cannot talk to him without him freakin gout because i should just ‘get over it’, and ignore anything….
    i need help. i am so lost. i am beginning to think that i am losing my mind.
    my first husband left me and married  someone that was just barely legal (he was 40), she is not pretty, doesnt cook, clean, work, and is on verge of suicide every week….
    My relationship with my husband now can be really good, as long as i don’t ‘talk’ about how i feel about things, or say i want to do something different than he does. it didn’t start this way…..it has just become this way.

    i am starting to think maybe i should go find a hole and hide there.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      Gina, I so sorry for your pain. I’m sure you feel alone and completely overwhelmed.  Is there someone you can talk to? Are you connected with a local church or counselor? I’ve discovered both of those resources have been huge for me when dealing with significant struggle and disappointment. Gave me hope when I didn’t think there was any. Praying for you.

  • Lehlagare Masemola

    the most important thing before we get into marriage is asking ourselves the question? is it our will or God’s will? I think there are permisive will of God marriages, perfect will of God marriages so before everything we should ask God firt. 

  • Drindu_aiims

    brilliant! what an honest,genuine and marriage(life) saving message!

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  • Dorothy

    Thank you for this article and I totally agree with you that you never loose the love of your life as your best friend next to Jesus. Another thing that I would like to add is a commitment never to go to bed angry or upset with each other over a circumstance that appeared between the two of you. Sometimes it is you at fault and sometimes it is your partner. Forgive each other and in the morning you won’t even remember the circumstance and you are free once again to walk in perfect love. I talk from 51 years with the love of my life who has gone to be with the Lord Jesus and I am filled with wonderful memories and that was the key that filled our marriage with His love. Now I am still married for 57 years and still loving him as my very best friend. I pray that this will help even one person to fall in love so commited that you will find out that it is all about Jesus and really not about you. It is a wonderful place in life to be. Thank you for listening and may the Lord Jesus bless your marriage and help you to really focus on the things that cause you to stick together like glue.  Dorothy

  • Neo Menwe

    Godly wives (A capable wife – Proverbs 31)
    ·        Have an intimate relationship with God (you need God’s strength and love to be able to be a capable wife). This applies to husbands as well.
    Ø  Ask God to help you understand your husband (remember God is our creator – he knows everything about our husbands that we don’t know)
    Ø  Ask God to help you love your husband His way
    ·        Respect your husband unconditionally – irrespective of what he does. Play your part and be obedient to God (if you love God, you will obey His command). God blessed you with a husband (order = God > husband > you); he then commands us (wives) to be humble and respect our husbands. This is the trick that will make your husband love you more.
    ·        LOVE WITHOUT EXPECTATIONS: Love your husband unconditionally without expecting anything in return – true love is when you love the person without expecting; your feelings do not matter. When you love is not for you but for the person that you love. This applies to husbands as well.
    Ø  It is a painful exercise to go through in the beginning, however you get used to loving without expecting. When Christ was crucified; it was not for Him but for us and He went through pain – because He truly loves us unconditionally.
    Ø  We are also empowered to love unconditionally – for we can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens us. Christ lives in us and in union with Him we can do more than we can imagine / think. If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes. Nothing is impossible with God RIGHT>.
    Ø  BIGGER PICTURE: Please remember that you are doing this to be obedient to our Heavenly father. Do you love God? Then OBEY him?
    ·        Be committed to make your marriage what you want it to be: (both husbands and wives)
    a)     Where are you now in your marriage? What is happening NOW?
    b)     What is it that you want out of your marriage? Be clear
    c)     What are you going to do to get to where you want to be? (actions – be clear)
    d)     What are the 10 consequences of not achieving (b); write down 10 reasons why you should achieve (b)
    e)     How are you going to feel if you achieve (b); what would be happening in your life when you are at (b).
    ·        Just like in the beginning when you started dating – go all out every day to impress one another. This is what you were doing right – then do it.
    ·        Do not be a person who falls apart if things don’t go his/her way (James 1:2-4) – remember God is in control and He won’t let you be tempted beyond what you can handle.

  • Hurt


  • hurt

    those principles dont work in second marriages when there is an ex wife and a child in a previous relationship. commitment? he will commit to his kid. not to his second wife. better exit that situation and find someone single. no kids. no ex wife. then I would happily apply those principles.

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