Aristotle pointed out that the strongest type of friendship is a “virtuous” friendship. In a virtuous friendship, two people love each other, but they also love something that transcends both of them. In essence, the friendship becomes built upon more than a mutual caring for each other. It is this type of friendship that undergirds the strongest marriages.
If two spouses only fall in love with each other, the marriage can quickly devolve into a utilitarian type of relationship. The focus becomes, “What’s in this for me, and how can my spouse deliver it?” In a virtuous relationship, the focus is, “How can we both work together to achieve the higher good we both believe in?” In such a marriage, both partners become accountable to that higher good, not only to each other.
It is the virtuous friendship that becomes the foundation of a strong, lasting marriage. The utilitarian relationship may only last as long as both partners feel they are getting their respective needs met by one another. When a couple shares a higher purpose, however, they are more likely to tolerate annoyances and disappointments in the relationship for the sake of their mutual cause. There is also a better chance that their accountability to the higher purpose will prompt them to strive for unity and collaboration in the relationship. Consequently, levels of trust and intimacy tend to increase.
The marital friendship is ultimately what holds the relationship together. Therefore, when considering a marriage partner, it is helpful to seek out a person that shares a common passion or cause. The resulting friendship is more likely to have the virtuous quality that produces a strong and lasting marriage.