Ask Pastor Mark: How Do You Stay Best Friends in Your Marriage?

couple holding hands

The couple were devout Christians and virgins when they first met. Forty years later, the pain of their marriage showed on their faces. As they spoke to me of their troubles during our pastoral counseling session in my office, they each hung their heads in loneliness and grief.

There had been no adultery. There had been no divorce. But there had been no friendship. Although they did a lot of work together, they hadn’t had much fun. With their children grown and home empty, the glue that once held them together was gone, and they were reduced to life as nearly sexless roommates.

In the most painfully awkward moment of the conversation, I asked the wife what she wanted from her husband. She said that every evening for forty years she had sat on the couch just wanting him to sit and visit with her for twenty to thirty minutes. But he rarely did. Indeed, twenty to thirty minutes is not a lot of time. But when it is missed nearly every day for forty years, a debt of roughly five thousand to seven thousand hours has accrued.

The husband tried to defend himself, talking about the quality times they had, in an effort to excuse the lack of quantity time. But she would have none of it as her bitterness and loneliness seeped out. What wisdom could touch the pain caused by a dying marriage? I struggled with that question as I counseled this couple, and it became obvious to me that they had missed out on God’s true design for marriage and sex. And they were far from alone in their struggles.

When my wife, Grace, and I speak at marriage conferences, an overwhelming number of people of all ages come up to us with the most heartbreaking stories of loneliness, marital infidelity, childhood abuse, and extremely detailed “can we do this or that?” sex questions. Often their shame and embarrassment keep them from getting the help they need in their marriages. In local church ministry, we have spent more than twenty years counseling people before they were married about how to live as a Christian in such a sexualized culture, what’s okay—from a biblical perspective—to do in bed once you are married, and how to deal with intimacy issues all throughout married life.

Grace and I weren’t strangers to those issues ourselves. As a young couple we had to deal with the fallout from sexual sin before our marriage, and we hadn’t had anyone we could turn to for help. The ramifications would play out in some painful and frustrating ways over the years, but by the grace of God, we’ve been able to work through the mess and have emerged as best friends and lovers in the way God intended.

Today, we have an awesome friendship that is a lot of fun. Together, in the following video clip we answer this question someone asked us, “As a wife, when we were first married I felt like we were best friends. As the years go by, I feel my value sliding in priority. I long to be his best friend, but I cannot make him choose me, after all…there is golf!”

What would you say?
Here’s what we said.

Much of this blog was adapted from the book Real Marriage by Mark and Grace Driscoll


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