Aleteia

Is conjugal friendship a sign that your love is fading?

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What role does friendship play in the relationship of two spouses?

Long ago, our ancestors had four words to describe love: Eros (a sexual kind of love), Philios (friendship), Stroge (the empathy we feel for others), and Agape (a devotional kind of love involving abnegation and sacrifice). A Christian union that forever binds a man to a woman in the eyes of God has the capacity (the duty) to develop all these forms of love.

In his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle describes friendship stemming from Philios as “an affection that makes us love someone for what he or she is and not for what they can give us.” If we can feel such unselfish love for a friend, why would we not be able to feel it for the person we have bound ourselves to for the rest of our life?

“My spouse is my best friend”

Concretely, this means paying a close attention to the other and improving our intimate knowledge of them. We need to learn what they like or dislike, dream about and hope for. We need to know about their fears and shortcomings, how to be a part of their joys and sadness. Couples who share this beautiful friendship know how to forgive each other’s weaknesses and avoid divisive subjects.  They feel deep tenderness for one another.

If you can claim that your husband or wife is your best friend, this means that the partner you have chosen is the friend you know best and who knows you best. It’s the person you can depend on, share dreams and plan your future together.  

So conjugal friendship can be that force of love compelling us to give our own life for our spouse as the Apostles John (John 15:13) and Paul (Eph 5:25) exhort us to do.

Marie-Noël Florant (Marriage counselor)