Taken from Handle With Care by Andy Thompson. Copyright © 2014. Used by permission.
Love is not to be entered into lightly – it should mean forever. Almost every good marriage is built on a foundation of friendship because it allows for two people to reveal who they really are. A healthy dating relationship has boundaries that protect the integrity of the individuals involved. In this excerpt by Pastor Andy Thompson he explores the importance of friendship first and gives a new meaning to the term “friends with benefits.”
“Friends ... How many of us have them? Friends – the ones you can depend on... Friends. .. How many of us have them? Friends ... Before we go any further, let’s be Friends!” Beyond the experience of counseling people and couples for over 20 years, a part of what motivates me to write this – to try to share the secrets of good marriage – is that fact that I think I have a pretty good marriage. Let me stop hedging – I do have a good marriage. My wife and I love each other, but more importantly, we really like each other.
I know that so many couples think that love is the answer, that love is the key, that what the world needs now is “Love Sweet Love ... That All You need is Love.” Don’t get me wrong, love is hugely important, and I am going to talk about love in Chapter 7. But I have found the real key to a marriage that lasts – and a marriage that you actually want to last – is LIKE.
Whenever I talk about like – talk about LaShawn and I, whenever I talk about us – I always feel a bit guilty. I know I have information to share, I know and believe that this book can help you. And when someone says, “If I can just have a marriage like yours, that would be so cool,” I feel good about that. I am trying to bring marriage back – to make it seem palatable. I am determined to stem the tide of negativity about marriage – help people to realize that it is a great thing.
As I was saying, at the same time I feel guilty. I feel this way because I think that LaShawn and I had an unfair advantage when it comes to the foundation of our going on 25 years together. Even that – when I say we have been together 25 years, that is not really accurate, because for two of those years we were just friends. During that time we dated other people, and would discuss our relationships with each other.
Eventually, the fact that she wanted me desperately was overwhelmingly obvious. In a moment of crazed desire she professed her undying love and devotion to me – told me she just couldn’t live without me. Or something like that – it was a long time ago, I really can’t remember.
My point is, we were friends first. Because we were friends, there were no real surprises. When the relationship starts off super romantic – you are trying so hard to impress one another – you want to put your best foot forward. It is like the person you date is not dealing with the real you. They are dealing with your agent – you want them impressed.
However, when you are just friends, that really doesn’t matter. You go to sleep when you are tired – you don’t stay up all night talking because this is love. I knew LaShawn was not a night person – she could not hang at all. I knew she was neat, I knew she worked hard, I knew she was smart, and not afraid to voice her ideas. She was not afraid to disagree with me, we were just friends.
I really got to know her in those two years. In a way, we dated the “right way.” We spent hours and hours together with nothing physical. We actually laid a foundation for our relationship that still exists to this day. During times when sex was off the table, like the last 12 weeks of the triplet pregnancy, we just flowed back into being friends. We literally became friends with benefits – we were friends, got married and got the benefits.
That is what marriage is. There is another definition for you – friends with benefits.
Pastor Andy Thompson is Lead Pastor of World Overcomers Christian Church in Durham, NC., and author of “Handle with Care: How to Beat the Odds, Surpass Every Statistic, and Build a Marriage That Will Last - Forever."