People tend to get a little uncomfortable with the "marry your best friend" narrative. Much like the classic soul mate quandary, people wonder whether it’s really healthy or even possible for your spouse to be your best friend.
As a single woman, I think it was harder for me to reconcile my understanding of best friendship—which was closely akin to sisterhood—with my future husband.
The truth is, there are just some things that you don’t talk to your husband about, and there is pretty much nothing that you wouldn’t share with your closest girlfriend. It’s not that it’s a secret you don’t want your husband to know about, it’s just that you know your girlfriend will understand. It’s also common for married couples to have separate passions. He might love fixing cars and you might love baking. With these essential differences, is it really fair for us to think of our husbands as our best friends?
Dr. John Gottman, marriage expert and author of Why Marriages Succeed or Fail, would say that, yes, it is natural for your to think of your spouse as your best friend—it's really very important for your marriage, in fact. According to Gottman, deep friendship is the foundation of a happy marriage. In his book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, Gottman explains what this friendship should look like:
…mutual respect and enjoyment of each other’s company. They 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 but in little ways day in and day out.
Notice, Dr. Gottman doesn't say anything about sharing all of the same passions and interests or even having the same point of view, as we do with many of our close girlfriends. This deep friendship is borne out of respect for one another, knowledge of one another, and really enjoying spending time together. These are really the essential qualities of best friendship, and out of this foundation shared interests and passions can be formed.
Indeed, shared interests should not be ignored in marriage. Zach Brittle, a Gottman certified therapist and co-founder of ForBetter.com, explains that shared goals and interests builds solidarity in marriage (or "we-ness" as he calls it), which is key to a happy and secure marriage.
Sure, your friendship with your spouse might not look anything like your friendship with your closest girlfriend, and that's OK. To use Dr. Gottman's definition, your spouse should be the person you regard the most, meaning he is the one you consult with first, depend on most and whose well-being you think about before your own. You may not love the same sport and you might not be able to bond over the shared experience of womanhood, but he is the one who knows you the best.
Newly married, I was surprised by how quickly this best friendship solidified. The vulnerability and total self-gift of marriage forged the deepest friendship I have ever known. For me, best friendship in marriage looks just the way it sounds. My husband is my partner in fun, personal goals, creative projects, lazy days, difficult days, and spiritual growth. What matters to him matters to me because he is my best friend.
Curious what best friendship in marriage is like for other women, I asked six women for their thoughts.
I’m the most vulnerable me.
For Katie, married ten and a half years, her husband is the man who knows her best. "I trust him completely with the most vulnerable sides of me," Katie explains. "He gets how my mind works and what I need, both emotionally and in what makes me tick and laugh." Suzanne, married three years, also said that it is their level of vulnerability that makes her husband her bestie. "I am real with him," Suzanne explains. "He knows my weaknesses and strengths. Even all my ugly facial expressions."
Marriage opens up a world of vulnerability, a level of intimacy we have never experienced anywhere else and this makes friendship in marriage special.
I trust him the most.
Claire explains, "Being married to my best friend means I know he always has my back and genuinely has my best interest at heart." Emma, married one year, also explains that she had always wanted to marry her best friend, but she didn't. "Only after being married for at least six months did I realize my husband had become my best friend," she explains. "We started off pretty selfish, but after our trust in each other grew, we felt safe to just want the other to be happy and feel loved."
We don’t necessarily have the same interests.
For nearly all of the married women I spoke to, they mentioned that they don't share the same interests with their spouse and that this doesn't impact their friendship in the least bit. Margaret, married forty years, explains, "We feel fully secure being very different personalities and accommodations are lovingly made for our personal needs," she explains. "This might mean I need to talk with the girls and he needs to watch football, or he needs to be the driver and I need to browse for hours in the garden center or at home depot."
"Although we are incredibly different, we are not whole without each other," Margaret explains. "Our purpose and are lives are completely interwoven. We can be happy spending the evening on opposite sides of the house doing different activities but feel utterly alone if the other is out of the house." Claire and Emma also explain that, while they don't share all the same interests as their spouse they respect the other as a person and love spending time together.
We nourish our friendship.
In the same way quality time and shared experiences are important for keeping your female friendships strong, so too must you nourish your friendship with your spouse. Suzanne explains the best friendship in marriage is "a relationship that needs to be nurtured to remain healthy." Maria also says that, after four years of marriage, she and her husband have to make an effort not to take one another for granted. "We've chosen to rekindle our friendship because we're so different from who we were when we got engaged," Maria explains. "This means asking about one another's hopes and dreams, putting ourself in the other's shoes, affirming each other, and being intentional about how and when we connect—just as we do in our other friendships. Prioritizing and appreciating the person beyond who they are as your spouse or the parent of your children is, to us, what it means to be married to your best friend," Maria explains.
Photo Credit: Erynn Christine