“How’s your marriage?” I was asked one day at church. Initially I answered with a laugh, but later became annoyed. Why was I being asked about my marriage? Did it appear there was something wrong? Were they implying we might need some help? Counselling? An intervention? How offensive.
That curious interaction happened over 10 years ago and looking back now it makes me cringe.
Why did I get my back up? We were part of a small church community and asking how things were going was normal. It wasn’t to be judgemental, nosy or invasive, but to be supportive, encouraging and helpful.
I’ve learned a lot since that day, mostly how important building a supportive community, or marriage tribe, can be. Here’s a few ways I’ve worked at building mine.
1. Find people you trust and feel comfortable sharing with. I’ve found over the years having a two way conversation is usually best. But don’t be offended when not everyone wants to share. Some of my closest friends are very private and I like to respect that. I remind myself I’m trying to build a supportive tribe, not force someone to accept and adopt my ideals.
2. Have a few people to share with from different demographics. I’ve drawn a lot of wisdom from those in my life who are at completely different stages in their marital journey. I would also include different cultural demographics. Each culture has their own rich traditions and we can learn a lot from broadening our scope.
3. Be honest (within reason), check our judgement at the door and stay humble. To genuinely build a supportive relationship, honesty is key – though I say that loosely. There is such a thing as TMI, “too much information”. Nobody wants to fall into that. What we want is to build quality interactions which means being honest with ourselves and with our friends. It also means removing all judgement and staying humble. Just because we may not be struggling with the same things at the same time doesn’t mean one marriage is better than the other. It just means we’re dealing with different things. Nothing more, nothing less. We are ALL dealing with something.
4. We are friends not counsellors, know when to recommend further help or input. We can’t always solve each other’s problems, and there are times when we shouldn’t even try. If there is an open, honest, and trusting relationship then being a good friend sometimes means recommending talking to someone who’s better equipped to help. And on the flip side, if someone we know and trust recommends extra help to us, don’t be offended. Remember, we’re all just trying to love and support each other.
5. Be a good listener. This is something I need to work on regularly. Being a good listener means not always trying to draw comparisons or share what we’ve learned from being in the same position. Staying silent can feel uncomfortable for me, but sometimes I can stop someone from fully sharing because I’ve tried to talk instead of listen.
6. Do something together to enrich our marriages.There are lots of ways we can work together on our relationships. Read and discuss helpful books, become marriage mentors, work through a small group workshop or even attend a marriage retreat. FamilyLife has great resources for all of those!
- Attend a Weekend Getaway marriage conference together. Find locations here and take advantage of the group rate or watch for the BOGO offer that’s on through September 15.
- Browse and buy great books online here
- Find out more about the Marriage Mentoring Initiative here
- Do the 5 session online workshop, Together for Good, together! Find out more and purchase here
It takes time to build a tribe you can trust and share your marital journey with but it’s so worth it when you do!