Both husbands and wives need outside friendships. But women often recognize this need more than men.
By Dennis and Barbara Rainey
I have a number of friends who encourage me in my walk with Christ, but my husband does not. He doesn’t even seem to see this as a need in his life; he says I’m his best friend and that’s all he needs. In fact, he seems a bit resentful that I have such good friends. What can I tell him?
Dennis: First, your husband needs to realize he does need friends like this. As I understand the Bible, it is a book that tells us about relationships—how to establish our vertical relationship with God and how to demonstrate His love in our horizontal relationships with people. In Genesis 2:18, we read: “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.’”
Initially, I believe God intended for Eve to perfectly and completely meet Adam’s need for intimate friendship. But after the Fall, I think only a part of our deepest relational needs can be met within marriage. We also need close friends of the same sex to fulfill our deep need to be known, accepted, and loved.
All of life’s changing circumstances are handled better with more than one person alongside. Your spouse especially needs a friend who will be willing to go with him through the difficult seasons of life, such as the birth of a child, the empty nest, a lost job, a midlife crisis, or difficulty with a teenager.
Barbara: It seems to me that women generally recognize their need for good friendships more than men do. In my relationship with Dennis, I am confident of his understanding of me, my role, and my struggles. We have spent endless hours talking together to create this rapport. He has been with me through many difficult times. He has been a “substitute” mother to the children when I’ve been out of the house, so he knows a great deal about that role and its responsibilities.
But there is a point beyond which he cannot go. Only another wife and mother can really understand the pain I felt in childbirth, as well as my struggles with submission, and can join with me in prayer about these issues. Other mothers can provide the support and motivation I need to carry the daily weight of bringing up children. No husband or father is able to give that same type of support.
I need a deep affinity with two or three women, and I have it. It’s wonderful. I am affirmed every time we talk by phone, get together, or correspond. And when I feel good about myself, Dennis benefits, too. He feels less pressure to try to meet all of my needs.
Dennis: I encourage men to resist the tendency to be threatened by your wife’s outside friendships with women. Give her time and encouragement to develop these friendships. You’ll never regret it.
Barbara: If your husband does not have in-depth relationships with other men, do you know why? Do you understand your man’s needs? Most likely he struggles with his time, his macho image, and his inability to know how to relate to another man.
Most men carry images of manhood they’ve picked up from the media, books and movies, and from men they have observed in their families. Generally, the “strong” men they’ve seen were not portrayed as being emotionally vulnerable. As a result, most men don’t have friendships that go deeper than a surface level. Worse, they don’t know how to deepen their existing friendships. Therefore, your spouse will need your encouragement to develop a close friendship with at least one other man.
Because women naturally tend to be more transparent, they form friendships more easily than men. Men are more inclined to find the added significance a friend provides in such pursuits as business, politics, or sports. They speak of having many “friends,” while women use the term more selectively.
Continue to encourage your husband in this area, but above all I would pray. You cannot force your husband to seek out godly men as close friends, but God can move in the hearts of other men and lead them to seek him out.
Copyright © by FamilyLife. Used with permission.
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