It's only one sentence and a short one at that. But it would be foolish to skip over this vital wisdom about a healthy marriage relationship that is embedded in the colorful and even steamy narrative of the Song of Solomon. In Song 5:16, the wife describes her husband as her beloved and her friend.

I was in my twenties before I discovered the three Greek words for love:

1. Eros

This is a physical, sensual love. (This word is not actually found in the Bible; however, it is vividly described in The Song of Songs.

2. Phileo

The kind of love found between friends, or brotherly love.

3. Agape

This is a selfless, sacrificial, unconditional kind of love. Agape perfectly describes the love God has for us.

As this was presented to me, it seemed that agape was the only kind of love worthy of pursuit. That's a big mistake, especially in marriage. You might begin to think that you are commanded to love your wife, but you don't have to like her!

Dr. John Gottman, one of the foremost marriage experts in the world, concurs with the wisdom of the wife in the Song of Solomon. After studying over six hundred married couples, he concluded:

"Happy marriages are based on a deep friendship. By this I mean a mutual respect for and enjoyment of each other's company. These couples tend to know each other intimately—they are well versed in each other's likes, dislikes, personality quirks, hopes, and dreams. They have an abiding regard for each other and express this fondness not just in the big ways bit in little ways day in and day out."

A holistic understanding of the Scriptures and how all the truth of God's Word applies to marriage is critical. For instance, the phrase "This is my beloved, this is my friend" (Song 5:16) reminds me of the words of Jesus when He said, "Greater love has no one that this: to lay down one's life for one's friends" (John 15:13). From there I see a connection to this: "Love must be sincere. ...Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves" (Rom 12:9-10). There are hundreds of Scriptures like these that don't specifically mention the topic of marriage, but they are absolutely relevant.

How Can You Amp Up Friendship in Your Marriage?

Start by applying all the truth you discover in God's Word, not just specific verses that contain the words marriage, husbands, or wives. Here's just a few examples:

Philippians 2:3-4 says, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others". Clearly, there is a sacrificial, agape kind of love in that, but I also see a companionship—the kind of love between friends that motivates you to continually discover each other's interests and enjoy them together. The Bible instructs husbands to love their wives as "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her" (Eph. 5:25). That is a noble pursuit, but a husband's primary assignment is not just to physically stand between his wife and harm's way. Sometimes, I think it feels easier to physically die to your wife than it is to go on living and to die to yourself daily, intentionally discovering her needs and interests and putting them above your own. Colossians 3:13 says, "Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you". That's what true friends do. Just as God has extended grace to us, now we are extensions of His grace to others. Nowhere should that be more evident than between husbands and wives.

In John 13:14 we read, "Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet". Why wouldn't a husband who loves his wife as Christ loved the church think of applying this principle to his wife first—his beloved and his friend?

Accordingly, you must intentionally cultivate friendship within your marriage. Friends don't automatically grow together, but without attention they can easily grow apart. A loving friendship in marriage can survive many things, but it cannot survive neglect.

My wife and I are closing in on 27 years of marriage. Is that a great marriage? I think it's a really good one. We still have much to learn about being friends. When we were dating, I would sometimes say, "I need to talk to Dana, my friend." Those were times when I needed some unfiltered conversational companionship. As it turned out, that was a big need in her life too. Still is. I love her deeply. She is my beloved and my friend.

33 The Series, Vol 5: A Man and His MarriageThis article is an excerpt from 33 The Series Volume 5: A Man and His Marriage.

View the complete Video and Training Guide for Session 1 of A Man and His Marriage.

CLICK HERE to view all 33 The Series resources.

BONUS VIDEO: Paul Tripp discussing servant leadership