It’s not wrong to say that effective conflict resolution will benefit a couple. But according to relationship expert and researcher Dr. John Gottman, conflict resolution isn’t the most important element to a successful marriage—friendship is. 

Keep reading to learn why having a good friendship with your spouse can help you succeed in the long-term, and how you can build that friendly bond together.

Why Friendship is the Most Important Element of a Healthy Marriage

According to Dr. Gottman’s research—which he talks about in great detail in his book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work— couples who develop and invest in a shared sense of friendship are more likely to have healthy and long-lasting marriages.

This is because:

  • Friendship helps build intimacy, emotional and physical, between couples.
  • Friendship fortifies a marriage by helping each partner feel more loved and appreciated for who they are.
  • Nurturing your friendship with your spouse builds up positive capital in your so-called emotional bank account. You’ll begin to share many more positive experiences together which can outweigh the negative experiences—a nod to the so-called “magic ratio” which Gottman says is the key difference between happy and unhappy couples. (For every 1 negative interaction between a happily married couple, there will be 5 positive interactions).

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Five Ways to be Better Friends With Your Spouse

  1. Set aside time with each other on a regular basis to simply talk and catch up. Use this as an opportunity to learn more about each other’s: past (e.g., childhood dreams, favorite activities/teachers/school subjects), present (e.g., how their day was, what they’re currently excited or worried about), and future (e.g., major goals).
  2. Do something fun you both love, especially if you haven’t done it in a while or have never done but always wanted to. Try heading to a comedy club, trying out a new sport, working on a jigsaw puzzle, or volunteering together. Approach this playfully and creatively. The point is to create opportunities for you to connect—just like you do with your other friends—but in a way that feels distinct from the normal rhythm of your marriage. The novelty helps stave off feelings of being “stuck in a rut” and can remind you both of how much you enjoy each other’s company!
  3. Tell others about the things you admire about your spouse. Think for a moment about your best friend or someone you admire. How would you describe that person to others? You’d probably include a lot of genuine compliments…which feels good to share! If you don’t already—or aren’t sure you do it enough—take opportunities to share kind words about your spouse. Don’t think about it as “bragging,” but rather an expression of genuine respect and appreciation.
  4. Do a routine chore together—but do it better. Never miss a small opportunity to bond and build connections with your spouse. After all, isn’t the small moments we always seem to miss the most, later on? To do a chore together but differently, do it with great presence. Don’t take peeks at your phone or have the television on the background. Focus solely on the one chore you’re doing at the moment, whether it’s washing dishes, folding laundry, or cleaning out the garage—but feel free to make it a little fun by playing great music.
  5. Be a good friend. If this last step sounds straightforward, it’s because it is! But because we’re so often hardest on the people we love the most, we tend to forget about showing our spouses simple acts of friendship. You can do this by being honest and dependable, being forgiving and considerate, making each other laugh, hug and high five each other, celebrate each other’s successes, support each other through your challenges…and whatever else you do that makes you such a loyal and lovable friend.

Would you love some help reigniting the flame of friendship in your marriage? Are you having trouble improving the health of your relationship? If you are looking for a marriage counselor, contact The Marriage Restoration Project to schedule an appointment with a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist.


  1. The Magic Relationship Ratio, According to Science. Benson, Kyle; October 4, 2017. The Gottman Institute.


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Jennifer Long

Jennifer Long is a writer, author, and multiple hat wearer with experience across many different industries.