I recently saw an advertisement for a special two-diamond ring. It's for the lady in your life, and each diamond represents a different facet of your relationship: true love and best friend. That's nice, and I'm sure it's true for plenty of couples, but it just doesn't work for me. You see, my partner isn't my best friend. And, honestly, I'm totally fine with it. I don't need (or even want) my husband to be my BFF in order to have a wonderful relationship and fulfilling life. I certainly don't consider "best ever" friendship to be a prerequisite for a long-lasting, loving marriage. One person doesn't have to fulfill every other relationship role in your life, and my husband certainly doesn't fill the role of "best friend ever" in mine.
My husband and I weren't high school, or even college, sweethearts. We met in our 30s, both of us well into our careers and in the process of buying our first homes. I think one of the reasons we "clicked" is that we each fit so nicely into the other's already established life. We've never had that much in common. Basic values and goals, sure, but in terms of interests and activities, we couldn't be more different. He's at home watching his favorite sports teams and playing poker, while I'd rather pole dance or go to a play.
But here's the thing: our relationship works. We enjoy one another's company, but we don't have to be together. Frankly, I'd rather poke out my own eyes than go into a Jos. A. Bank with him. I'm not going to say that I don't call my husband my best friend because he's just so much more than that. To me, that smacks of "my relationship is so much deeper and better than yours." And it rings false. My husband's role is just different from that of best friend. He is my partner. We are financially bonded. We run a household together. We are communally raising children. We are committed to each other for life.
Your tolerance levels are greater and your expectations lower for a best friend than for a partner, and that's OK, because they are distinct relationships.
That's drastically different than a best friend. A best friend is a listener, counselor, and confidante. They know you and your history and can be what you need, whether that's a shoulder to cry on or a swift kick in the ass. They'll answer your texts with more than "K," tell you honestly if you can rock that romper, and read Oprah's latest pick with you. If things escalate quickly at Target, you don't have to answer to your best friend (who probably encouraged it). Likewise, you don't care if she uses the good bath towels to dry her car (as if). Your tolerance levels are greater and your expectations lower for a best friend than for a partner, and that's OK, because they are distinct relationships.
Throughout my life, I've surrounded myself with a supportive network of family and friends. These are people I've relied on for decades. They've known me in a way that my partner simply can't in the span of four years. If I want sympathy during an illness, I'm going to call my mom. When I was at my wit's end with potty training, I called my mom BFF. My girlfriends from high school, who make up my "Holy Trinity," can always be counted on, whether they were holding my hair back after too much partying in my 20s or, now that we're parents, to dispense advice on everything from breastfeeding to discipline. I don't even consider my husband my soulmate. That's my sister. We're 13 months apart and she's the one I want in an existential crisis (or to be reassured that you cannot actually bleed out from your butt).
I don't even consider my husband my soulmate.
I've had individual "best friends" in the past, but that never really worked out for me. We burned out from all that together time. I think it put too much strain on the relationship, and I certainly don't want that to happen with my marriage. I choose to see my husband as a significant addition to my network. I rely on my husband as my anchor. His even-keel personality is a perfect balance to my high-strung one. I count on him to make me laugh when I'm taking myself too seriously. I expect him to be by my side until the end, but that doesn't mean he has to sit next to me during Pitch Perfect 3.
Can a spouse be both partner and best friend? I'm sure, but I don't think it's a prerequisite for a happy, successful relationship. Friendship is foundational to a romantic relationship, yes, but best friendship? Research would seem to support the partner as best friend role. A study out of the University of Vancouver found greater life satisfaction for couples who that identified their spouse as their best friend. But that doesn't tell the whole story. According to Psychology Today, separation of "partner" and "best friend" is the way to go for some people.
I don't need (or even want) my husband to be my BFF in order to have a wonderful relationship and fulfilling life.
By having best friends outside of my primary relationship, I think that I'm actually helping to preserve my marriage. I have more of myself to offer when I've been able to express my some of my worries and stresses to another person. It keeps me from dumping on my partner because, honestly, I have a lot of feelings, and I need to spread that sh*t out. I don't have expectations that my husband is going to meet my every emotional need (which, by the way, is impossible), so he can't inevitably disappoint me. He, in turn, doesn't resent me for relying on him for everything.
If you post about your "bestie for the restie" on your anniversary, well, good for you. I might not be able to control my eye roll, but I'll give it a like. Just don't assume that my relationship is exactly like yours, or that because it isn't, there's something wrong with it.
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