Good marriages seem rare these days. In fact, when you find one, it can surprising rather than the norm. I think we have made marriage more complicated than it needs to be. We have grown up with the idea that the man should be the knight in shining armor who sweeps his bride off her feet and the woman should be the quiet, timid princess who is in need of a rescuer. But marriage should not be that complicated or difficult. Friendship is at the core of a strong marriage.

Friendship between couples means they know each other intimately and are well versed in each other’s likes, dislikes, personality quirks, hopes and dreams. John Gottman, who wrote The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work says couples in good marriages “have an abiding regard for each other, express this esteem in many ways large and small, respect each other and enjoy one another’s company.” Gottman has also found that the quality of a married couple’s friendship is the most important predictor of satisfaction with sex, romance and passion. He emphasizes the importance of love, respect, and compassion – all important elements of strong friendships – as essentials of a good marriage.

The principles that make a marriage work are "surprisingly simple." Happily married couples aren't smarter or more beautiful than others and they don't live in castles in the clouds where there's no conflict or negative feelings. They've simply learned to let their positive feelings about each other override their negative ones. They understand, honor, and respect each other. They know each other deeply and enjoy being together. They do little things every day to stay connected and to show each other they care. In short, they are friends.

How well do you know each other? Do you know what stresses your spouse is currently facing? Do you know some of your spouse’s life dreams? Do you know your spouse’s favorite music? Movies? Food? Aspirations? Do you ask your spouse about his/her world on a regular basis? If you can answer yes to these questions then your friendship with your spouse is an area of strength in your marriage. You know what makes your spouse tick. If you didn’t do so well, plan now to get to know your spouse better and become better friends.  Like all worthwhile goals, you'll need to make building the friendship in your marriage a high priority.

As simple as it sounds, happy marriages are based on a foundation of friendship.