I sipped my salted Haitian latte and listened as my friend Annie confided the concerns and excitements she had about her budding relationship with Chris.

While I wasn’t officially her mentor, Annie often turned to me — a woman with ten years of life and almost a decade of marriage on her — for advice as she navigated the dating world. In those moments when she literally looked across the coffee house table to me for counsel, I chose my words carefully. I knew my perceptions of love and marriage carried weight with her. I didn’t take this lightly.

Yet Annie wasn’t the only one to glean insight as we lingered over coffee.

Through my friendship with her, I was reminded not merely of the importance of my own words, but why the attitudes, opinions, and conversation of those within my inner circle matters.

The Friends We Keep

The Apostle Paul recognized that the friends we keep are important. In 1 Corinthians 15:33, he wrote:

Do not be deceived: Bad company ruins good morals.

While our friends may not be “bad company” necessarily, if they don’t esteem marriage and seek to build us up in our relationship with our fiancé or spouse, than they may be ruining “good morals.” Because the truth is: The people we spend time with will rub off on us … as well as the way they view marriage.

Like Annie, I’m influenced by what those closest to me believe and say about marriage. Perhaps not as strongly as I was when my now-husband and I dated, got engaged, and first embarked into married life, but even now, I’m not immune.

It’s my guess that regardless of what season you’re in — seriously dating, engaged, or newly married — you aren’t either.

While we have little control over our family and their perceptions, we can choose our friends. We can determine which individuals we should keep at the casual friendship level and which ones we turn to as confidants. One way I’ve learned how to separate the two is by doing a friendship inventory from time to time. I ask myself three questions.

[Read the rest of the article at Start Marriage Right.]

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Ashleigh Slater is the author of the books, Team Us: The Unifying Power of Grace, Commitment, and Cooperation in Marriage and Braving Sorrow Together: The Transformative Power of Faith and Community When Life is Hard. She loves to combine the power of a good story with practical application to encourage and inspire readers.