Hi Ernest, I am considering getting into a serious longterm friendship. Many married people tell me that it is good for me and my partner to be friends. My question is, what does friendship look like? What should I look out for?
Thanks for writing, Beloved. The following is a response from our book BAESICS: Setting the Right Foundations to Marry Well on the very question:
In his book, The Meaning of Marriage, Timothy Keller alludes to three levels of friendship and attraction that are necessary for any relationship with the opposite sex to thrive. They are:
- The supernatural friendship
- The natural friendship
- The romantic friendship
The longer I minister to couples, the more I see the vital need to honour these three levels of friendship. Let us see what they are.
The Supernatural Friendship
As far as relationships are concerned, the supernatural friendship and attraction is a union between two people of the opposite sex based on their mutual spiritual journey. For a relationship to thrive, it is imperative that they have similar spiritual antennae. What does that mean? That they are both committed to the same God. That they are both growing spiritually in the same faith. When this does not happen the Bible calls it being unequally yoked (2 Corinthians 6:14). We will look at this deeply towards the end of this chapter.
The supernatural friendship in the Christian faith manifests itself in corporate spiritual activity. A supernatural friend is one to whom you can confess your sin. A supernatural friend challenges you to cultivate a deeper obedient walk with God. A supernatural friend is one with whom you can engage in the spiritual disciplines of the faith corporately (prayer, fasting, giving, ministering). The Christian faith is designed in such a way that it needs us to work in relationships. A life partner must be a supernatural friend in order for you to live out your faith effectively. A supernatural friend draws you closer to Christ.
The supernatural friendship involves pursuing spiritual mission together. A supernatural friend is concerned about bringing God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. This is someone who will help further this mission when you get married. Because of this, you must look at your spiritual gifts and all that concerns your purpose on earth before you settle with someone. You must consider theirs as well. You must ask how coming together will assist bring about God’s Kingdom’s purposes here on earth. Do you and the person interested in you have a supernatural friendship? Many a time, this is the only circle of friendship that some believers look at and believe it will be enough. But there are two more. The natural and the romantic.
The Natural Friendship
As far as relationships as concerned, the natural friendship and attraction is a union between two people of the opposite sex based on mutual leisure and preferences. All it takes is to share or engage in similar natural activities.
These activities could range from the books you prefer to read to the hobbies or pastime activities you like. While you may not necessarily have the same natural tastes, a relationship’s friendship is built when you enter into your partner’s world. You can develop a natural friendship with almost anyone. You can be natural friends with an atheist because of your mutual love for theatre. You could be natural friends with someone from a different religion because of your shared interests in classical music.
It is equally imperative that you develop a natural friendship with the person you plan to marry. From my observation, the fastest way to be someone’s friend is to go for their natural. Natural friendships are important for a couple to develop a deep bond that stands in the tough times of a relationship.
The Romantic Friendship
Finally, consider the romantic friendship. Some believers downplay this friendship a lot, yet it is a gift from God. The culmination of this romantic friendship in marriage is in the act of sex. The best way to preserve a romantic friendship is to walk in sexual purity and emotional integrity as you relate with people of the opposite sex. We will deal with this in a later chapter.
The romantic friendship includes the normal physical attraction you may have to your partner. It also involves the 5 love languages: Acts of service, Quality Time, Giving/receiving gifts, Physical Touch, Words of affirmation. It is imperative to know your partner’s love language so that you demonstrate affection in a way that builds the relationship. You can at times tell what your love language is by just simply looking at the list. However, we recommend that you read the book or take the test on www.5lovelanguages.com.
The romantic friendship can also be cultivated by examining specific gender-based needs such as The Fantastic Five by Shaunti Feldhan. The Fantastic Five are from Shaunti Feldhan’s book titled The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages. This list can help you work on your own relationship, especially if you ask your partner to show you which of the five could do with some improvement. Let us start with the women’s fantastic five:
1. Take her by the hand
2. Leave her a voice mail message, text message, or email to tell her you love her and are thinking about her.
3. Put your arm around her, or your hand on her knee, when you’re sitting next to her especially when you’re in public.
4. Sincerely tell her she’s beautiful.
5. Pull yourself out of a funk.
Now let us look at the men’s fantastic five:
1. Notice his effort and sincerely thank him for it.
2. Verbally say “You did a great job at…”
3. Mention in front of others something he did well.
4. Show that you desire him sexually and that he pleases you sexually.
5. Make it clear to him that he makes you happy.
Shaunti got her data by interviewing married people. Therefore, some of the things on the list are appropriate only when you are married (like the sexual desire and pleasure for men and the hand on the knee for women). We advocate that such beautiful erotic practices be reserved for their time- in marriage. Outside of that, the relationship will be destroyed by sin. We shall look at that in the chapter on sexual purity. However, The Fantastic Five gives you a glimpse of what romance entails for men and women. And even if you are not married you can easily practice the rest and inquire from your partner what would help them feel romantically loved.