Accountability, Challenges, For Men, For Women, Love

How Our Friendships Affect Our Marriage

All too often I’m guilty of allowing ungodly friendships to have a “say” in my marriage.

I’m not saying we’re suppose to shun all of our married unbeliever friends and never hangout with them. What I am saying is that having filters on who we let have a voice in our marriage is a way of fighting fiercely for it.

Honesty without love is cold and love without honesty is shallow. Speak the truth with love.

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It means we are identifying different friendships and passionately protecting our marriage and our spouse from voices that, although may have good intentions, they speak contrarily to God’s Word.

This lesson comes from my heart and from a few friendships that have been hard to “let-go” of, but through seeking guidance in prayer and spending time in the Word, it was evident that I was letting the wrong people (with good intentions) say the wrong things about how to handle my marriage.

There are a few filters that have helped me sift through those friendships.

Use Friend Filters

Just like an infection on your body, some friendships eat away at you, and over time begin to kill (metaphorically speaking) the person God is molding you to be, which always (yes, always) affects your relationship with your spouse.

Please hear me, we are supposed to know and be friends with unbelievers and unhealthy people. Luke 5 is VERY clear about the need for us to be around people who need Jesus. In this passage, even Jesus has dinner with “unholy” people:

And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” ~ Luke 5:29-32

Honesty in marriage is like breathing: it is absolutely essential for life.

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Again, these filters are not to be used to judge others and avoid them based on some sort of self righteousness. We all need Jesus. These filters are meant to be used to carefully select those friends who hold access to speak into your life and marriage.

1: The Faith Filter

Is this person an active, faith-filled believer, pursuing Jesus on a daily basis? The bible says that we recognize a tree by it’s fruit (Luke 6:43; Matthew 7:17-18; Matthew 12:33). Now this is not a call to judgement, but a call to discernment. Is this person bearing Godly fruit in their marriage? In their life? If not, then my prayer becomes Holy Spirit, how would you have me love this friend and share you with them? It is imperative that we rely on the Holy Spirit for guidance, wisdom and counsel. Often we don’t fully understand the situation someone else is in, which means it’s our responsibility to lovingly seek guidance from the Lord and go from there. There are those moments where the Lord has convicted me to share my faith and pray for that person, but if there’s a continued rejection of the gospel, then it’s time to let some distance set in… to pray and love them from a distance.

2: The Fruit Filter

What does their marriage look like? Again, not judging, but discerning and humbly observing (Ephesians 4:2). Is it evident that they pray together, as a couple? Would this person pray for you and with you anywhere? When you’re around them, are they engaged with each other, with their children and with the people who are there? Or is it awkward to be around them arguing and fighting all the time while striving to appear that they have it all together according to the world’s standards but inside they are broken, dying and barely surviving (you know this through time spent with them, conversations, dinners, etc.) Again, is there evidence that this person is truly abiding in Jesus and His love? (1 John 3:6,9; John 15:7)

3: The Love Filter

Love is not a thing you fall in and out of, love is an action.

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Jesus gave us 2 commandments: love Him and love others (Luke 10:27; Mark 12:30). Truly loving someone (spouse, family member, friend) has to involve Jesus. We are only able to love because He first loved us (1 John 4:10,19).  Unconditional love that God gives us is not motivated by fear (1 John 4:18) – so how do we identify this in our married-friends’ lives? 1 John 3:16-18 (ESV) lays it out clearly:

“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”

Is this person first of all, in love with their Savior? And are they striving to live out their love and understanding of His love by laying down their life for a friend? Meaning are they constantly seeking what benefits themselves through your friendship? Or are they showing patterns of sincere love (Romans 12:9) towards their spouse, their children (if they have them) and you as their friend? Is there a genuine, vested interest in your life and your marriage or are you simply a means to an end?

Always be a light

To be honest these are not easy words for me to write, but we are all about transparency here. I pray that this post might shed some light for others struggling in their marriage because of some advice a non-believer friend gave them.

Just to reiterate, it’s perfectly ok to have unsaved friends (again, Luke 5:29-32), however, I’ve learned that it’s wise to be cautious when seeking advice from those friends about marriage.

None of us are perfect. We all need Christ’s unconditional love, and we are all called to be a light no matter where we are.

I am so thankful for His grace and mercies that are new every morning and I am eternally thankful for that particular Godly friend that didn’t give up on me.

Together, anything is possible.

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Question: Which friendships are negatively affecting your marriage? What does God’s Word say about how you should deal with this person?

Images by Jeff Marsh.

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  • carissa

    What a wonderful honest post. My husband and I were blessed to be surrounded by a close knit group of believers as we entered into & moved into our married life. Having people be willing to love us enough to be willing to hold us to God’s teaching was absolutely life changing. There was one particular couple who we still talk to monthly & participate in a bible study with even though we live 1,200 miles apart. I know God put them in our lives at a very specific time for a very specific purpose. Your marriage is a sacred bond that only those that respect & understand the covenant you believe in should be considered in when discussing your marriage. The best advice will always come from the Word & the Holy Spirit.

    • Selena Frederick

      Agreed! We definitely don’t have it all figured out, but having fellow believers that we can walk through the good, bad and the ugly with is such a blessing from the Lord. Seeking Him first in everything is definitely key. Thank you for sharing! Good stuff!

  • Shawn Manley

    Sound and sage advice. Thank you for sharing!

    • Selena Frederick

      Thank YOU! =)

  • Allison

    Thank you for the article. My husband worked for someone who did not attend church and did not have God in his or family life. This job almost caused a divorce several times but I prayed and held true to my love and faith. Found out years later crazy things going on inside the “family” owned and operated company (infidelity), since then our marriage has been the best ever. It’s scary how people can affect your thoughts and actions. Forgiveness is the key.

    • Selena Frederick

      Thank you for sharing. It is very scary how people affect our lives and decisions. Forgiveness is always necessary!

  • competitivenonfiction

    This makes me a bit sad, though I appreciate your honest and non-judgemental tone. I really enjoy this blog because I think you have a very helpful perspective on marriage and how being a part of something larger than yourself can help to ground a marriage, but I’m personally not religious in the way that you are (I’d prefer not to get into a discussion about why that it at the moment). I would, however, fully support a friend in having a faith-based marriage and agree with much of what you have to say about relationships. So, I guess you might not take my marriage advice, but I’ll continue to be open to yours.

    • Lena

      I agree, and I feel the same way. We are actually basically atheists, but I still read because this blog holds the same basic values our marriage does– no Plan B, complete trust and honesty, love and patience and understanding, and being graceful and giving toward others. My husband and I have one of the healthiest marriages I have known anyone to have in our lives, and I’ve counseled several of my friends through crises always advised the kinds of things you’d see in this blog, minus the prayer (and in its place, often a kind of quiet mindfulness that still looks mighty like prayer). But at the same time, I get that this is a faith-based couple and their blog, so to each their own. But it is sad that there has to be a line drawn there.

      • Selena Frederick

        Thank you Lena for sharing. Yes, we are believers/followers/lovers of Jesus =) and as we try to emulate his love more and more (by his grace) – we aren’t perfect and try to love others and share our faith the way God has led us to which in this case is via FM. We wish everyone the best and hopefully there are no hard feelings =)

    • Selena Frederick

      Thank you for sharing. I’m a little confused at why you are sad? Also, I apologize for just responding now, I didn’t see your comment until today – I am so sorry. We appreciate your thoughts =)

      • competitivenonfiction

        I think Lena captured what I meant fairly well. The idea that there could be a line between me and a friend because of her faith is a little disheartening. I do, however, agree with the underlying message of what you’re saying. Personally, I’m not interested in marriage advice or even talking about marriage with friends who don’t approach marriage as a partnership, or as a longlong commitment.

  • Sally

    Absolutely loved this and needed this! Thank you!

    • Selena Frederick

      Awesome – thank you for reading! Love how the Lord can use us all in our weaknesses – that’s when He is especially strong. Best,

  • jules

    Selena, thank you for this thought-provoking post. These truths go both ways. We are friends with a married couple, believers, who appear to be struggling mightily in their relationship. And, YES!! “It is imperative that we rely on the Holy Spirit for guidance, wisdom
    and counsel. Often we don’t fully understand the situation someone else
    is in, which means it’s our responsibility to lovingly seek guidance
    from the Lord and go from there” Sometimes we see or hear only one side of a situation and we have no idea what is really going on between two people. It’s been a tough reality for my husband and I to take a step back from this friendship, to continue praying for both of them and for their marriage, and to do our best to not judge what we don’t know. As you so succinctly put it, we ALL need Jesus. Yes indeed.

    • Selena Frederick

      Thank you so much for sharing. Helps to know we aren’t alone in our struggle of stepping back and praying. God is mighty and faithful! Thank you again for sharing =) very encouraging to me/FM community.

  • Jmom

    This article really spoke to me and another friend of mine. Just wanted to say thank you for doing what you do

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  • parkera

    What if these people are your family? How do you deal with family that are a negative influence on your marriage and bring strife to it? How do you honor and respect but love from a distance?

    • KAYLA S.

      I also have family members who are unsaved or who are saved, but do not hold true to God’s word and live it. It is a very negative impact upon the spouse whose faith is weaker than the other, or both. In my experience, for the unbeliever (family, parents) we still loved and showed our love and respect. But, if any obstacle arose (depending on which kind) we knew to say our goodbye’s and head home or face the issue and confront our feeling’s separately or together to that person or persons. If it was say your spouses parent, I have found it best to not be present and just let them two have a one on one together of what is happening or being felt. If it is a group of family at a family event, depending on your beliefs and feelings, let’s just use children as an example and drinking at a fourth of July gathering with cussing and drunkenness going on around them. We do not go to that event and let them know why. If it is a dinner where negativity is always present, use your light and shine. This is an opportunity to have Jesus shine through you no matter if the outcome is good or bad. Maybe one day, it will have an impact on someone’s life. If this is hard for one or both of you to be around because it will make you falter, I would say it is better to not be around whatever that obstacle is. If what your speaking of above is conversations between family and your family, and there is negative words towards both or the other spouse. Address it strongly, but lovingly. If things continue then stay away for a while in person and talk about it over the phone. If that does not help or get through to a family member, you cannot let it impact your marriage for the worse. You know what is best and what you two together can tolerate. Pray pray and keep praying. God’s time, not our own. Hope this helps a little bit