There is something so beautiful about a wedding day. Incredible hope fills the air. Friends and family gather to celebrate love and new beginnings. All of the fun and stress of the preparation culminate to this day of vows, music, great food, and ceremony. I recently attended a friend’s wedding and it was equal parts magic and reality. That is rare. My heart was full and I danced the night away. I left reminded from the words spoken that friendship truly is the make-or-break in romantic longevity. I was inspired to explore the impact of true friendship in marriage.

On this day [the wedding day], we stand before God and our loved ones and make this commitment to each other. We show accountability in the exchange of promises. We smile and look in each other’s eyes with boundless love and care and responsibility. We kiss and walk up the aisle to forever. However, what happens when we are faced with the tough challenges of life? We will have to forgive and learn to forgive over and over. We will get mad at one another. Mess up. Say hurtful words. Disagree. Family issues can arise. Health problems may take a toll. What happens if we change our minds about stuff? Important stuff. Will the vows still be true or should we throw it all away? What happens when we grow, mature and realize just how hard marriage is? Not hard like you didn’t pick your socks up off the floor, hard like we are on completely different pages– how do we align again?  What happens when a vision that was once so clear becomes blurry? You rely on God and your friendship.  I feel that friendship is key because it sets the tone for love to flourish. I love my friends and I want to talk to them and check in on their well-being.  I’m honest and give what I would like in return. I have patience and listen. I don’t want to hurt them or see them in pain. If a situation happens and feelings are hurt, I apologize. When they are living their dreams, I am sincerely happy and supportive. There is absolutely no space for jealousy. When they need a shoulder to cry on, I want to be there. When they have challenges, I am available to listen and help if I can. I allow my friends to be exactly who they are and I love them as they are. We encourage and motivate each other when necessary in order to grow. Those needs are essential in a loving marriage. But sometimes that gets lost. The friendship gets misplaced. Issues with resentment and trust and miscommunication can take up more space in the relationship than friendship.

It reminds me of a film’s tagline that has permanent residency in my heart. “Get Together. Fall Apart. Start Over.” That is the tagline to Love Jones. It has its own special place in my life. Solidified upon the movie’s release in 1997, I (a hopeless romantic) connected with a love story of these two Creatives finding each other all while chasing their individual dreams and my view on forever was never the same. I feel like that is marriage in many ways. You set out on this fun adventure, then life happens and feelings happen and questions arise.  Sometimes things do not go as planned and a “start over” or new start is essential. Sometimes we have to rewrite our story, recognize that it’s okay to redefine happiness. Sometimes it’s ok to fall apart because the rebuild is so much more beautiful and solid. Friendship has to take its proper role in the relationship.

I love to see older couples together. It reaffirms my faith in forever. A few weeks ago, I bumped into a couple from my old apartment building. They had so much joy on their faces. They told me about the different restaurants that they have been going to and how the neighborhood is changing– simple things, but all I heard is love when they spoke. They are empty-nesters and living life. So full and so obvious. It’s so evident that they are friends first. They have a respect for one another that exudes from them so effortlessly. I’m sure that they have a history of ups & downs– there’s no such thing as a perfect relationship. But what resonates is the happiness and chemistry that they have. It’s sweet. They genuinely enjoy each other’s company.

I have heard many pieces of advice when it comes to marriage. One that really holds true in importance to me is, “Have scheduled date nights.” 7 years into my marriage and 6 years into motherhood, I know that time together is essential to maintaining the friendship. It helps keep the passion alive. It cultivates intimacy. Setting aside time to talk, reflect, set goals, have fun and remind each other of the reasons why the choice to be together was made to begin with– a must. Work, school, chores, appointments, activities, overall parenting, life responsibilities and just being tired are all challenges within a marriage. We crave balance, but let’s be honest– what does balance truly look like?! In my mind, balance is achieved when everyone is fulfilled individually and as a family and that can change depending on the day, week, month & year. We try to do our best, though. It’s up to us to define that, what our best is, on our own. There is no exact formula for every household. It all goes back to friendship– communication of needs, wants and solutions.

What it comes down to is: relationships are work. Marriage is work. When we choose a person, with whom we can create a beautiful life with, the life that we have been destined to live–friendship will bring us back to the same page when things get off track. Being whole and happy as an individual leads way to a meaningful, lasting friendship. I truly believe that friendship can help carry us through the difficulties if we understand its importance to our sustainability. A healthy friendship is the foundation for respect, effective communication, fun, countless memories, and joy.

Tiffany Reneé is a writer, poet, mother, wife, activist and Ohio native, based in New York. She is a free spirit who loves to truly connect with others.

She believes that life gives us opportunities to learn and grow daily if we are open to see the beauty in the expansion. Family time, deep conversation, wine, cooking, music, laughter, and travel are a few of her favorite things. She’s a soulful dreamer from the Midwest who has always been drawn to the city lights and the possibility of choosing “more”.

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