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For most people, marrying their best friend is the ultimate goal. We want to walk down the aisle and into the arms of the one person in the world who knows us best. But for those of us who didn’t meet the man of our dreams in high school and hope to get married, um, yesterday, this goal can seem daunting and maybe even a little superfluous.

Of course, once you are married, your spouse instantly becomes so much more than a best friend. As writer Julie Baldwin puts it, “It may sound nitpicky, but ‘best friend’ can never do justice to the far more intimate calling of the marital relationship.” But there is a lot about marriage that is way easier when you have a strong foundation of friendship before you say your vows.

Blake Lively, Glamour magazine’s September cover star, talked about how her friendship with her husband, Ryan Reynolds, has made their marriage that much more dreamy. (And, yes, Lively says she is aware of all the eye rolls.) Turns out, there’s plenty of research to back up her marital bliss. What’s behind the friendship-meets-romance magic? Read on.

Intimacy comes naturally.

In her interview with Glamour, Lively explains that having been friends with Reynolds for two years before they even started dating changed the way they handle conflict as a married couple.

"In other relationships, if something came up, I would call my girlfriends or my sister, and say, 'Hey, this is what he did—what should I do?' Where with him, we were friends for two years before we were ever dating. And I treat him like my girlfriend. I’m like, 'Hey, this happened. It upset me. This is how I feel. What do I do?' And he does the same for me. He treats me like his best buddy." 

This kind of natural intimacy, especially in the face of conflict, is one of the big perks of a strong friendship in marriage. In fact, Dr. John Gottman, marriage expert and author of Why Marriages Succeed or Fail, says that deep friendship is the foundation of a happy marriage because of the way a couple can support one another very naturally. 

You’re less likely to take one another for granted.

Another reason Lively and Reynolds’ marriage appears to be so awesome is because of how much they seem to adore one another. In her interview with Glamour, Lively gushes about how she loves when Reynolds tweets about their family life. ". . . I’m so in love with him when he writes that stuff. I mean, I’m in love with him most of the time, but especially with that."

Lively says she added that "most of the time" part in because she is aware of how she can come off—a little too perfect. But she clarifies, "There’s never a time when I’m like, 'I don’t really love you.' Still, in a sound bite? It can be eye-roll-y. I have to learn to stop being defensive."

Sound bite or not, what Lively is describing sounds a lot like how Dr. Gottman describes the kind of friendship that sets couples up for happiness and fulfillment. Gottman says of these couples: "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."

For most people, a deep understanding of a person begets love. When a couple is truly attuned to one another (like really good friends are), turning toward one another—a term Dr. Gottman uses to describe the way happy couples respond to their partner’s bid for attention—frequent affirmation, and relational happiness come easily.

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