I’m in a slightly unusual situation. You know how people say, “I married my best friend?” Well, I actually married my best friend. As in, we were platonic best friends for a long while before we started dating. But because of that, when people comment that I married my best friend, my gag reflex totally comes into play. Because the thing is, I didn’t marry my best friend. When David and I started dating he stopped being my best friend and moved into a totally different role. Now he’s my husband. There are plenty of responsibilities that come with the role of husband, and for me, best friend isn’t one of them. On Monday, we talked about how having a community around you statistically helps a marriage to thrive, and I think that totally separate friendships is a key part of that. And it turns out, sharing values with your partner is vastly more important than sharing hobbies with them when it comes to long-term health of a marriage. So today we have Rowenna talking about how she wouldn’t be friends with her partner if they weren’t married, and she’s fine with that (as well she should be).
When my husband and I first got together, I worried that we had nothing in common. As we got to know each other, I realized that not only did he listen to completely different music than I did, he despised my favorite songs and artists. I gave him my all time favorite book to read, and it sat on his shelf for months, untouched. I took him to see my favorite movie, and he made fun of it. I thought, “How can I possibly last with him if he hates everything I love?”
He had his own group of friends, as well as regular hobbies and activities, few of which overlapped with my own. Even though we went to the same small college, our lives were quite separate. We struggled to find joint activities that we both enjoyed.
This made the beginnings of our relationship difficult, and I often questioned whether it would last. I was clouded as well by several of my prior serious relationships, in which I’d fallen fast and hard for a kindred spirit. I would find someone who loved the same things as me, and at the time, it felt like we were made for each other. We’d spend all of our time together and forget the rest of the world. Despite the fact that these relationships never went anywhere, this was my precedent for how things should be.
I was confused and troubled about the lack of common ground with Nate, yet we stayed together, and eventually got married. We’re thrilled to be married and have no doubts that we’re perfect for each other, but it still irks us every time we hear someone proclaim, “I married my best friend!”
We wondered about this recently after both having negative reactions toward the statement. We both confirmed that we certainly are not, nor have we ever been (nor do we ever plan to be) best friends. I asked myself what it means to be a best friend. Various sources say it’s the person who is closest to you, someone you know well and regard with affection and trust. Certainly, my husband fits that bill, but that does not make me comfortable calling him my best friend. That we were never friends before we began our relationship is one reason for this hesitancy. We maintain that if we weren’t married, we wouldn’t even be friends with each other, much less best friends. So what is it about our relationship that makes the term best friend seem like such an inappropriate description?
Even though we had very little “in common” when we met, that’s only partially true now. Sure, Nate still goes out with gaming friends every week, and though I’ve made attempts, I have no interest in that hobby. I have a season pass to Six Flags, and I go with my sisters and friends, but Nate does not share my enthusiasm for roller coasters. Even when we’re at home, we’re often doing our own things.
We also have found common ground. There are things we generally love—hockey, for example—which I’ve grown to love as much as he does, and crossword puzzles, which he’s become addicted to by exposure to my habit. He still hates my indie and alternative music and show tunes, and I haven’t exactly come around to his hip-hop tastes, but we’ve found new songs and movies that we both enjoy.
Even more than these superficial activities, we have all the important things in common. The truth is that you don’t need to like the same things in order to be married (or even to be friends!). What you need in order to have a strong relationship is shared values. He may hate the Barenaked Ladies, but he wants to live a frugal, debt-free life full of strong experiences instead of material items. He supports me in my career, but also in my desire to eventually quit to homeschool our children. Our long-term goals align with each other’s. In those things that are truly important, we don’t clash.
A best friend can be described as someone you can come to with any problem, issue, or request; someone you share everything with. Though there are many situations where my husband is the one I turn to, I don’t look to my husband to solve every problem, or fill every role. I still Skype my brother when I have a problem with my computer; I call my sister to talk about books and movies and songs; I gripe to my best friend about my job because she’s in the same field. No one person can fill every need, and if you expect your partner to be the right person to come to about every issue, that’s unrealistic. This is why there are so many people in our lives! Everyone needs friends, family, acquaintances, people to vent to. Some of these might overlap, but one person can’t satisfy them all.
My husband is there to support me, to comfort me. He is there to share my life—not to be my life. It took me a while to realize that my initial fears that this relationship was inferior to my previous ones due to lack of “chemistry” were actually signs that this relationship would be strong. While my head was thinking, “How can I love someone who doesn’t love my music??” some rational part of me was attracted to Nate because I knew what I really wanted. Because of this, our marriage is built not on what our tastes were in that first year we met (which describes the inevitable demises of my prior relationships—as soon as those commonalities changed, things dissolved) but on deeper ties that don’t change with our whims.
Five years later, I don’t worry about us not being good friends. At a friend’s party, while discussing my love for dancing, it came up that my husband and I did not dance together at our wedding. I assured them that dancing is something I love, and I had a great time dancing with other friends, while he had a great time watching and socializing. People seemed affronted that he wouldn’t have danced with me to make me happy, and I had a difficult time explaining that it didn’t bother me at all. Dancing is my thing, and I don’t need it to be his thing for me to enjoy it; he doesn’t need to participate in order to support me and encourage me in my interests.
After discussing this subject with Nate, we began wondering if we were in the minority. It became the new topic we brought up with friends and acquaintances, and it seemed a natural question to bring up with Meg at her DC book talk. I know that Team Practical has more to add to the discussion, and I can’t wait to hear all about it!
Photo by: LeahAndMark.com (APW Sponsors)