My Husband and My Best Friend

I love when an APW post inspires someone to think something over, decide that they agree with it (or not), and write a follow-up post. It’s even better when that person is on staff, or is Associate Editor Maddie. So after our post about how spouse and best friend are not (always, at least) the same thing, Maddie did some thinking. And she came up with a beautiful meditation on what being a partner really means. In sum: good, but sometimes damn hard.

The other week, my husband, my roommate, and I were invited to a party. Having a roommate who is also our best friend (a badge of honor I’m sure he wears proudly. Sigh. Poor guy), Michael and I often get invited to places as three. And we’re fine with that. In our situation, having a roommate with whom we spend most of our time has yet to feel, for lack of a better word, third-wheel-ish. In fact, having three people in our home usually serves as a way to improve our dynamic. (I’ve written about this before, but having an extra person around keeps Michael and me on our best behavior. Not to mention, Joe is enjoyable company and his dry humor is usually a hit at parties. Also, have you ever tried to play board games with two people? Exactly.)

But sometimes, I’m embarrassed to admit, I forget that we aren’t actually a three-person team. So when I received the party invitation, I hastily RSVP’d with an enthusiastic yes on behalf of the whole house. And then the day of the party rolled around. As Michael and I got dressed to leave and Joe settled into the couch to watch a Warehouse 13 marathon, it became increasingly evident that Joe had no intention of joining us. I started to get miffed. Joe knew about the party, we’d been talking about it for days. Didn’t he know how important this was? How was this going to make me look, if my best friend, my roomie, declined an invitation to hang out with my friends? Would they think he hated them? What if he did hate them and he just wasn’t telling me? And yet, there he was, practically waving his free will in front of me and refusing to go. The nerve. So I tried to convince him to go. Tried coaxing him with promises of beer and bratwurst and new friends. He wasn’t budging. When he starting feeling me getting more flustered, Joe turned to me and said, exasperatedly, “Listen, I am not married to you. I don’t have to do anything.“**

Wait, huh? What does marriage have to do with it?

Well, I guess, it kind of had everything to do with it.

You see, the problem was, I was treating my best friend like my husband. Because when your roommate is looking for a job, and you work from home, and you spend almost every waking hour of every day together, and you’ve been friends as long we have, well it’s easy to start blurring the lines between best friend and partner.

Which is when it hit me. Ever since we ran that post about your partner not being your best friend, I’d been looking for clues in my own marriage to figure out where I stand on the subject. (Because believe it or not, Meg and I don’t always agree on the opinions we post. Sometimes I just give her the benefit of the doubt about these things. Heck, sometimes she doesn’t agree with the opinions we post, because APW is complicated. But I digress.) Because on the one hand I kind of knew it was true, and on the other hand, I wasn’t totally buying it. Of course my husband and I are besties! We travel together; we know each other’s favorite color, favorite car, favorite breed of small mammal. We fart in front of each other for Christ’s sake! If that’s not a best friend, well, you tell me what is.

And of course what my actual best friend had pointed out to me, if not somewhat (ahem) rudely, is that of course my husband is all the things I want in a BFF. But he’s also more. And more comes with a lot of responsibility. It is never going to be Joe’s job to come to family functions with me. It’s never his responsibility to pick me up when I’ve had a bad day. He doesn’t owe it to me to come get me at the airport in the middle of the night when I fly home from the East Coast. If he does these things, it’s out of generosity and kindness (and he’s done plenty of these things), but the difference is, of course, that I would never, and should never, expect it. And, well, with my husband I do.

Now before you discredit me for making painfully obvious observations, let me clarify. Of course marriage brings extra responsibility to your relationship. And yes, it’s a no-brainer that I should be perhaps expect a little less involvement from my best friend in my day-to-day life. But the important takeaway here isn’t about Joe and me. I don’t even know if it’s about Michael and myself. I think maybe what the takeaway is, is what it means to be a partner. Because as I get older and am surrounded by more married couples each day, I’m seeing how hard it is to navigate the space between being best friends, or romantic buddies (notice how I just avoided the word lover), or roommates with your significant other and being partners. It’s a scary step when you accept the responsibility of caring about someone else as much as you care about yourself (and it’s one that plays out in practical ways like sticking up for your partner to your family or accepting each other’s financial debt as your own or compromising your career goals so that you can live in a city that will sustain both of you).

So what living with my best friend and my husband has taught me, is that expecting your partner to be your best friend is a cop out. What we should be aiming for is so much more than that.

Because being a best friend is kind of easy. You can promise forever, but it’s OK if you grow apart. You can be 100% supportive of your best friend, and still put yourself first. Simply put, you have minimal obligation to consider your best friend’s thoughts and feelings as you go about your daily existence.

Being partners isn’t easy. Having to think of two people when you make a decision is daunting, especially if you’ve had a lifetime of independence to enjoy before meeting your person. (Which I’ll admit, is not a struggle I’ve had to deal with much myself. Michael and I have been together since we were teenagers, so we’ve always been building towards our shared future. But that doesn’t mean we don’t fall into the trap sometimes ourselves.) Which is actually where all of this thinking came from to begin with. You see, when Michael, Joe, and I first moved to the ranch, I started to get this twinge of guilt whenever I thought about my relationship with Joe. It’s just so easy. We hang out, we cook dinner together, we watch reruns of Dawson’s Creek on Netflix. It’s all fun all the time (until he won’t come hang out at parties, that is). And sometimes Michael and I have these things. But sometimes we don’t. And I worried about what that meant (no surprise there).

I worried that if the relationship with my husband is more difficult than the relationship with my roommate, that maybe we were doing something wrong. I mean, I know marriage is work, but isn’t it also supposed to be easy? (I feel like I hear both arguments with equal frequency and sometimes I forget which to listen to.)

But as I’m spending more time in this living arrangement, I’m realizing each day that what sounds easy in theory is actually really hard in practice. There are certain days when it would be much easier for Michael and me to be best friends, to have fun in each other’s company and then take care of our own interests. There are days when it would be so much easier if we were twenty-years-old again and all we had to think about was who would be paying for dinner instead of where we might end up in ten years.

But I’ve seen what happens when relationships don’t evolve past this point (there are plenty of examples in my own family). And what I’ve witnessed, and am learning first-hand, is that if I don’t challenge my marriage to be more than a glorified friendship, if I don’t fully commit to the idea that we are a unit, that we must think as two but act as one, then we run the risk of missing out on all the rewards that marriage has to offer (like stability, and the strength of a support person in your corner, and the security of knowing that you are looking out for each other’s best interests). And the thing is, I already have a best friend (actually she’s probably reading this right now and wondering what the hell all this nonsense is about Joe being my best bud). And I’m just not sure that I need another one. Not to mention, I can’t help but think it might send the wrong message if my husband and I walked around every day wearing matching broken hearts around our necks. But maybe that’s just me.

**Editor’s note: Ten years of friendship makes statements like this permissible. On a separate note, can someone please give me a good reason not to go out and buy these now that I know they exist?

Photo by: Emily Takes Photos

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  • Parsley

    This is a fabulous post, and there is so much in it, but the line that jumped out at me was “we must think as two but act as one.” That’s such a simple but profound way of getting at the balance between staying two people but being married that I’ve been trying to feel my way into now that my wedding is just 17 days away. This was a hugely helpful little phrase in the middle of a great discussion of other things. Thank you!

  • Gillian

    I love this dialogue about your partner not being your best friend (I’m in that camp), and I love your thoughts on it as you work through your position. Thank you for sharing!

  • Paranoid Libra

    I see what you mean about best friend being different than partner. I can fully appreciate those of you who say their partners aren’t their best friends, but for me he still is my best friend. Part of that might be from my evident inability to make any friends on my own where we currently live. There are so many things that he is the only one I can confide in fully. Everyone else even the person I consider my best friend I still can’t confide a lot too just out of fear of judgement.

    Don’t buy the bacon BFF’s because those charms aren’t real bacon and everyone knows fake bacon just isn’t as good as the real thing…..that’s my best reason why not to buy them.

  • This was a really good post. I often wonder when I see wedding things saying “today I am marryign my best friend” what is meant by that statement. My best friend and I talk about things my partner isn’t interested in – like the teeny weeny speedos on some of the male olympian swimmers this year – but he supports me in ways she cannot. He can be there when I feel homesick and want to cry, and I expect him to push me harder than she does. I’m not yet expected at family gatherings (we are not yet married), but it seems like with my fiance, there is starting to become that expectation there, even if it is unspoken. I’m not obligated the same way to my BFF. I love her to death, but I don’t know that I’d want to have that husband/partner/wife obligation in the same way with my BFF.

  • PA

    The best reason not to buy those necklaces is that it would be way more fun to go get sculpey and MAKE them.

    Also, a lot to think about with this post! It’s a good way of describing the changes I’ve been seeing in the relationship and in myself as my fiance and I prepare for our wedding. Just a lot to mull over in the quiet moments of today – thank you for sharing!

  • Margot

    Great post! The line that struck me was
    “accept the responsibility of caring about someone else as much as you care about yourself”. It says it all.

  • Senorita

    I’ve been thinking about it since the original article too, and my fiance really is my best friend. I always have the most fun when I’m with him, and everything is better when he’s there. However, I try to make sure that we don’t fall into the trap of being each other’s only close friend. Because I enjoy spending time with him so much, it’s easy to be lazy and not drag my butt out the door for social gatherings.

    I read an article by a woman who’s husband was her best friend, and when he died from cancer, she realized he had become her only good friend and she was very much alone. Not something I want to happen to me, but it’s hard to put the effort into maintaining all those other networks when you already have so many pulls on your time and are just trying to make sure to prioritize your partner, let alone everyone else.

    • One More Sara

      That is such a good point!

  • carrie

    I can’t say how much I love this post in this space, so I’ll say thank you for putting it so eloquently. Because I’m in the my partner is also my best friend camp, but I always had trouble qualifying it and as it turns out, it’s because he’s much more than that. Although I stand by my BFF in her struggles and triumphs, I can back out when it’s too much for me. But never with my partner. We are two who stand as one. Thank you.

    Also? hahahahahaha and YES: “We fart in front of each other for Christ’s sake! If that’s not a best friend, well, you tell me what is.”

  • I’ve thought a lot about this too since the original article, and I’m not sure where I come down on the issue.

    I certainly like Maddie’s take here that spouse-hood is friendship+. My husband is my friend AND my sexy partner AND my co-parent AND my obligatory date to the family reunions, AND AND AND…(!)

    But intimacy, trust, enjoying each others’ company, collecting inside jokes, sharing our trials and tribulations, giving (or not giving) advice, endlessly hanging out… having dance parties, sharing great songs, crying together during movies–all of that seems like best friend stuff to me (except for the fact that even after years and years together we can’t keep our hands off of each other). I totally talk to my husband about the same shit I talk to my girlfriends about.

    But perhaps I’m just not lucky enough to have a best female friend geographically close enough to enjoy all of those things, and that’s the reason I say, “but my husband IS my best friend.” AND so much more.

    • Ambi

      Manya, this is where I cam down in the last debate and I still agree with it. I absolutely believe that different couples have different experiences, and there is no right answer regarding wether your spouse is your best friend, but for me my guy is my best friend, has been for almost a decade, and I neither have any doubt about that or any worries or guilt about it. I have great girlfriends. I have one or two that I am closest to above all others. But they aren’t even in the same pool as my guy on any measure of friendship. Yeah, there are a few things that my girlfriends are more eager to talk about and that my guy is less excited to talk about, but that is such a small part of my friendships with any of these people that it just doesn’t even register. But yes, I do agree with Maddie’s assessment that a husband or partner has huge added responsibilities that your friends do not have, but I guess to me that still doesn’t mean that my guy isn’t also my best friend.

      As a side note, I am really curious to hear from same sex couples about this issue. I think a lot of the best friend vs. husband debate can sometimes get caught up in gender issues (for example, discussion about how your best girlfriends talk about things and do things that you like to do, which your husband isn’t interested in). I am not assuming that all same sex couples have similar interests or anything like that, but I would be curious to hear whether they feel differently about the best friend vs. spouse debate.

      • Alexandra

        I don’t think you need to draw the gender line. For instance, Maddie and Joe up there are best friends and not girlfriends. I have a best friend and a fiance. My best friend is male, and we’re quite close. There was almost something romantic even going on initially. But in the end, he’s simply settled into a best friend role. And it’s true what Maddie says. I love him (platonically) but I’d never expect him to come to family events, or to push me into joining a gym, and I accept “Sorry I flaked out on visiting today, I was up til 6 AM online.” as reasonable excuse from him.

        I feel like the best part about having a best friend, particularly one who doesn’t live with me, is that it means there’s always unique conversations to be had. My fiance and I, we tend to know almost everything that happens to the other, as soon as it happens, (Except for work, but well, not every workday is really interesting to share with someone). And while that’s great to have that kind of connection, well, it’s nice to have someone who can tell me about something I haven’t heard already at an event I wasn’t present for and people I don’t know.

        • Ambi

          Alexandra, I agree that you don’t need to draw a gender line, and there are plenty of people out there who have best friends of the opposite gender. All I am saying is that both the comments today and the larger social message seems to emphasize the importance of same-gender friendships. Society places a lot of value on deep, strong all-female friendships, for example (and I personally do think there is something special about these relationships). It seems like part of the message when we talk about whether “my husband is my best friend” revolves around the fact that your husband can’t really fill the role of an all-female friendship (although, maybe he can – I don’t know – this is just what I view as the cultural narrative). My curiosity was about how women in same sex relationships viewed this. When your partner can fill all of those stereotypical roles that a best friend usually fills, do you feel differently about needing or wanting friends outside of the relationship? I have tried to be clear though that I don’t assume all heterosexual or all gay couples think alike; I know each relationship is different. I’d just love to hear a same-sex perspective on having your spouse as your best friend.

          • Alexandra

            Suppose that makes sense. My BFF who’s female is also my sister, so… There’s really not much conflict between that and husband.

    • Maddie

      Sometimes I think the reason I have such a hard time with this debate is because I *wish* my husband was more like my best friend. I secretly want to be one of those couples that works together and plays together and likes a lot of the same things and hangs out like BFF’s, but we really are just more like husband and wife. (Like, Michael gives TERRIBLE advice. I just can’t ask him for advice about something that isn’t directly related to our relationship together.) And sometimes the popular narrative about husbands as best friends makes me feel like we’re doing something wrong because we don’t have that.

      Of course, we’re not and our relationship is just what it needs to be. But sometimes the doubt creeps in.

      • Ambi

        I remember that last time we discussed this topic, this is what a lot of it boiled down to – for me, I sometimes get insecure that I should have a best friend outside of my relationship, that I should have a stronger bond with my girlfriends, that I should have been better about keeping up childhood friendships through adulthood so that I could now have that lifelong best friend . . . And then some people feel a bit insecure that their husband is not their best friend. I think this reinforces the fact that there is absolutely no right answer and no approach to this issue that is any healthier or better than another. I don’t think it is fair to say that having a best friend outside of your marriage will make your relationship stronger or that spouses who really are best friends in every sense of the word are any closer or more bonded than other couples. We all form the types of relationships that work for us, and who knows, it may change over time. For example, since moving back to his hometown, my guy has become much much closer with his parents, to the point that he would probably now include them in his list of best friends. A few years ago, this wasn’t the case. I am growing even closer to my best girlfriends as we support each other through major life events like marriage, babies, divorces, and the death of parents. Those bonds are stronger than I’ve ever had before with any friend. So, ask me in a few years and I may have a completely different answer to this question.

  • Marina

    What is this, Completely Brilliant Posts Week??

    • Ambi

      Yep, I think it may have become All Brilliant, All The Time.

      • Paranoid Libra

        Really though when wasn’t APW brilliant all the time though?

        …don’t mean to put that kind of pressure on the Practical Staff, but seriously always good stuff no matter the tone or subject. I think we are all always learning.

  • Ambi

    Maddie, about a year ago my guy and I welcomed a good friend into our home while he was going through a difficult divorce. He and his toddler stayed with us for about 6 months or so, and I can honestly say I loved having them there. Even though it was hard because he was emotionally a wreck and we had a few incidents where either he kind of melted down or his (now ex) wife showed up and created major unwanted drama at our house, I still remember that time period very fondly. Both my guy and I are social people, and we really thrived in such a full house. We cleaned more, we cooked more, we were more active and engaged in the evenings after work rather than just coming home and eating dinner in front of the television. We planned fun weekend events and created holiday traditions for the little boy. Overall, it was really nice, and we were genuinely sad to see them go, although we knew it was best. (As a side note, how incredibly fucked up is our justice system when the fact that a single father was choosing to live in a safe and responsible housing situation with two other adults (my boyfriend and I) who loved him and his child and helped him provide a stable and very happy home environment for the child is something that the court will use AGAINST him when determining custody? In order to prove that he was a fit parent, he had to move out, rent an apartment by himself, and HIRE childcare, when the three of us had created a very successful system that let him have free childcare on us and save money to buy a house while we had the joy of taking care of his precious little boy whom we love and miss dearly. Anyway, my rant is over.)

    • Not Sarah

      That is so sad and so broken :(

      • Ambi

        Yeah, sorry I got off on a rant. I only started that comment to mention to Maddie that she was not at all alone in enjoying having a roommate even though she already lives with her husband. My guy and I enjoyed having a full house so much that, once our friend and his child left, we actually invited my brother to move in. We just do better in a busy, full, social environment. Left on our own, we tend to fall into a rut of work, tv, housework, and not much fun.

        But yeah, it is broken. Part of it was that we were not married, so it looked bad to the judge that he had taken his child and moved in with an “unmarried cohabiting couple” – and I get it that the judge wanted to see that he could support himself and the child. BUT, our friend was being beyond responsible – he had moved his child into the most stable and loving environment available to him at the time and was saving money to buy a house rather than pay rent on an apartment that he really didn’t need (since he was welcome to stay with us). Overall it just made me mad that the judge couldn’t see past the fact that his living arrangement was a bit non-traditional and realize that it was actually very smart and healthy. And, by the way, his ex wife wasn’t really the one fighting him for custody – her parents were. It was all messed up. It really did make me sad to see a devoted and loving dad fight so hard for the best interests of his kid and get hammered at every turn for it.

    • MDBethann

      Ambi, that is completely sad and broken. I hope your friend retains custody of his little boy!!

      • Ambi

        Oh, he has custody now! Sorry I didn’t make that clear. (He has his son most of the time, and the mom has visitation). I just think it is really effed up that, in order to meet the court’s requirements for being eligible for custody, he had to move out of our house and ultimately pay for child care even though we were providing it for free. My boyfriend and I do still babysit the child often, and he remembers living with us and sometimes talks about wanting to come back. And I guess in the long run it is good that our friend has his own place and is moving on with his life (I think that dating would probably be harder if he was still living with us). Overall, I was just ranting because, at least here, the courts seem to have a very narrow-minded view of family, and they were much more likely to let the mom live with her parents and get support and help from them than they were to let the dad live with two of his best friends who are in a long-term committed relationship but unmarried. We were in the early stages of becoming certified as foster parents, for goodness sakes! There was absolutely no allegation that we were anything but great for the child, and in fact the little boy was old enough to speak for himself and he loved living with us. I think he had a more stable home life with us than he had had for months or years before his parents separated. But all the judge heard was “young unmarried cohabiting couple” and it was an immediate no.

    • Maddie

      Ugh, that is so messed up. But the rest of it is so spot on about how we’ve felt the change in our home as well.

  • I like this post very much. Seems to me that being a best friend is just one of the jobs of my other half, not THE job.

    Also, related to the post about being a wedding guest, if my husband was to going to make a decision that I thought was going to be terrible for him (something akin to marrying a terrible person), it would be my job to discuss this with him because it affects him and could have tremendous impact on me. Sure, my best friend’s big decisions affect me (like who she is going to marry), but there is much more autonomy in our decision making. If she married someone I hated, it would change our relationship, but I could go on about my life. Maddie nailed the fact that we are much more enmeshed with our partners than our best friends. For better or worse. (hehe). I suppose you could say it comes down to semantics, but husband and wife definitely have greater weight than “best friend.”

    Now, at different times throughout my life, I can honestly say that my best friends and I were much more enmeshed. We were single (mostly) and we provided each other with another level of support that is beyond best friend. We consulted each other on decisions, we took care of each other when we were sick, we even celebrated holidays to protect one another from loneliness. And we mourned each other when one of us “found someone” because we knew roles were going to change.

    Yet, I still agree with Maddie on this one. My husband and I do all of those things, but our being a collective unit will not change. It may shift, switch around, even temporarily be forgotten, but now we around bound more tightly than I am to my best friends.

  • Rochelle

    I really love this post, and though I have yet to marry, it resonates with me. I always say to my significant man “We are best friends”. Of course I mean we are best friends as well as more; partners, romantic buddies, support system, team mates.

    When he reply’s with “We are not best friends” I almost feel heart broken that he doesn’t think of me in that way. Then he goes on to state that we are more than that (while not including best friends as a subcategory).

    I feel like you explained his side of reasoning. Thank you. I do really appreciate this.

  • MMS

    So I was thinking about the husbands and best friends thing the other night actually, after squabbling with my best friend a mere 24 hours after her arrival. We do that, you see (she would probably say “No, we don’t!!”, but yes, we do). We’ve been best friends for nearly 2 decades, and we don’t see each other most of the year, but have us hang out for a few days straight and inevitably we will bicker over something.
    As I just got engaged this month, I started to wonder the other night if S and I will end up doing that in 2 decades. I mean, S has seen my bad side at times, but I’ve only known him for 3 years. Is it that my bestie knows me better? Or that you get less careful with your relationships after 20 years?
    And then I remembered reading an archived Team Practical where it was pointed out that sometimes, you are friends with someone for so long, you stop being friends and become a lot more like family. The way my best friend and I get annoyed with each other is rather similar to the way my parents can annoy me after only a couple days together. She is ABSOLUTELY part of my family of origin. And I guess I’m just hoping families of origin work a bit different than the families you create…?
    I mean, I chose my best friend when I was 6. I’m choosing my husband as a 25-year-old. I guess they are both my best friends, but in totally different ways?

    • KB

      I love this post and I love this comment. Your partner IS so much more than your best friend – they are the family that you choose. People say that about friends, but I think it’s more true about the person we choose to commit the rest of our lives to because, like it or not, you are stuck with them. And if you choose to get “unstuck,” I would say it’s comparable to disowning someone in your family of origin because, even if it’s the most amicable separation in the world, you’re still indelibly linked to this person. So I think when people say “I’m marrying my best friend,” it’s an analog to an unknown word or phrase that encompasses the fact that you are attracted to this person, you want to spend time with them, you share the same values, and you’re committed to making yourselves and your life better with them in it for the long-term.

      • Ambi

        Absolutely! I want to add something, but first let me preface this by saying that this is NOT implying that any one type of relationship is better or more desirable than another:

        I do think of the “my husband is my best friend” marriages as being a certain type – they tend to be the couples who share the majority of their interests and spend a huge amount of their free time together. In my experience, these can often be the couples who have been together for a very long time, maybe even grew up together. They often have mutual friends. On the other hand, there are many happy successful couples where each partner has very separate and individual intrerests, their own group of friends, and where each spouse pursues their own activities and hobbies without the other spouse. Neither is good or bad! And of course there is huge gray area where these types of relationships overlap. For me and my guy, we have been together forever and knew each other as friends long before that, we have one unified social group rather than our own separate groups of friends, and we do tend to spend our evenings and weekends pursuing hobbies and activities together that we both love (camping, canoeing, antiquing, watching live sports, gardening, etc.) – BUT, we also have our own separate interests, and my boyfriend especially has a few hobbies that I care nothing about and he spends several hours each week on those things without me. So there is no hard and fast rule. I just think that it can be shorthand not just for the indescribable closeness you have with your spouse, but also shorthand for a certain type of relationship.

    • Maddie

      OH THIS.

  • Carmen

    “You can be 100% supportive of your best friend, and still put yourself first. Simply put, you have minimal obligation to consider your best friend’s thoughts and feelings as you go about your daily existence.” And this totally addresses the strain I’ve been feeling over wedding choices that put my intended first and are nowhere near my preferred choices.

    I’ve been so focused on the perceived obligation/requirement of considering my partner that it’s twisted from a want to a should. And I was starting to grow bittercakes. Thanks Maddie for the reminder on what the whole marriage thing is about.

  • This post was the perfect follow up to the last discussion because it’s really addressing the fact that the statement “my partner is not my best friend” can mean that one’s partner is MORE THAN a best friend, and really puts the focus on what a partner is that a best friend is not.

    I’ve had experiences when I was very involved with my best friends and would say I was closer to them than anyone else in my life – particularly in university where I lived with my best friend and our lives really revolved around each other. In fact, there were frequent jokes that our relationship at that point was as much spouses as friends, and a lot of our mutual community considered us a package deal (which could get really, really annoying sometimes!)

    Looking back though, when I compare my friendship at that point to my relationship right now I can still see very specific differences that I really believe can only come in a romantic, committed relationship. So if call my fiance my “best friend” I’m really shortchanging what his actual role in my life is, because he is so much more.

  • I’ve been thinking about the original post on this subject for a while. In fact that original post made me surprise my husband when he got home from work that day by meeting him in the garage and asking him if we were friends. Probably should’ve said hello first.

    And now this post has me thinking even more, especially since I’ve been going back through the emails we have from when we first met (we met online, our courtship is almost completely documented electronically), and comparing the relationship we had back then with what we have now.

    Maybe I need to write my own follow-up.

    Thanks for the thought provoking post.

  • May I suggest just going and eating a plate (or two) of bacon with your best friend? Honestly, sounds like the best best friend-date I can imagine right now.

  • MDBethann

    For me, it comes down to this: Do I want to marry my friends? No. But do I want to be friends with the person I marry? Yes. That doesn’t mean our relationship doesn’t go deeper than friendship, which it does, but to me that means I LIKE the person as well as LOVE them. Marriage didn’t always mean these things though – sometimes you didn’t love, like, or even KNOW your spouse before you married them. Obviously, that’s changed, at least in much of the world. For me, my husband is my #1 person – he’s one of my best friends, he’s my family, he’s my partner, he’s my roommate, he’s my other half – and the title of husband or spouse encompasses all that to me – I don’t think he can’t be those other things because he’s my husband. He’s my husband in part because he is all of those things and is more than a sum of those parts.

    And like some of the earlier posters today, I definitely have to work at maintaining my friendships with my girlfriends a bit more than I used to, because I have a ready-made friend living with me who likes to do many of the things I do.

  • ElisabethJoanne

    This is very interesting to me because, while I agree with the overall idea, the examples don’t work for our relationship.

    It happens almost daily that I’ll say something like, “I’m going to make pasta for dinner, if that’s OK with you,” and my future husband says, “Like I could stop you from doing what you want to do.”

    And I used to cry every time I listened to “Goodbye Earl” from the Dixie Chicks – not because of the wife beating, but because of the beauty of the friendship: “…put her in intensive care. / Right away Marianne flew in from Atlanta on a red-eye, midnight flight. / She held Wanda’s hand / And they worked out a plan / And it didn’t take them long to decide…”

    I have had non-romantic friends I could call at midnight in emergencies. I chose a spouse who could handle his own emergencies – not that we wouldn’t call each other first if we were in the hospital, but that if we couldn’t reach each other during an emergency, no mental breakdown would occur, unlike some of the less mature men I dated before my fiance.

    • Ambi

      Before I move on to your larger point, let me say “exactly” to choosing a spouse who can handle his own emergencies. I have never quite thought of it in those terms, but I have said to my boyfriend before that I trust him completely, and that means a lot more than trusting him to be faithful to me. It means trusting him to be competent and responsible and handle things. Whether it is trusting him to care for our pets (and eventual children) or trusting him to be able to go to the grocery store and get what we need without me micromanaging it, I tend to think of this type of confidence in your spouse as a form of trust. And I am so relieved to be with someone I can trust like that. I see a few of my friends who do not have that kind of confidence in their husbands (whether the husbands deserve it or not), and it just makes me tired. I can’t imagine a relationship where I didn’t trust my spouse to make good decisions. That is why I picked the person I did.

    • Ambi

      ELISABETHJOANNE, regarding your larger point about friendship, I completely agree that there is something really wonderful and special about having those kind of support-each-other-through-thick-and-thin, jump on a plane if necessary friendships. For the first time in my life, I have those now. My small group of girlfriends is exactly like that. When one of my girls found out her husband was cheating on her and decided to leave, she called us, and we dropped everything and spent a few days packing her house for her. When another friend had flown across the country for a work conference and went into premature labor and ended up delivering her baby early in a distant city, we all sprung into action and did everything from setting up her unfinished nursery to shipping her boxes of clothing (since she and her husband suddenly had to stay in that city for weeks while their baby was in the NICU – she is healthy and perfectly fine now!). When I had a very public and horrendously embarrassing failure at work, my friends showed up that night with a wine and let me cry. And even for the smaller, day to day stuff, we are all there for each other, to watch each others kids or help with a yardsale or whatever needs to be done.

      I don’t get to see these girls nearly as much as I used to, due to how busy all of our lives have gotten. Now our friendship has changed from one of weekly social activities, vacations together, parties, book club, etc. to one where we see each other much less but are all absolutely there for each other when needed. Very much like a family.

      I still consider my guy to be my best friend, and that has more to do with the dynamics of our own relationship. If I didn’t have him, I would still have them, and they’d be my best friends. But I am lucky to have a boyfriend that is even more of a best friend than they are – it is just icing on the friendship cake, I guess.

  • Lauren

    Did anyone else have Tim McGraw’s “You’re My Best Friend” running through their head while reading all these comments? No? Just me? Okay.

    Everything I could add has already been said, so I’ll just leave it at that!

  • ProjectWed

    I have no good excuses to offer you for NOT buying the bacon necklaces. In fact, I may have to go get some now.

    (Sad what working in a country without pork products makes you focus on…)

  • Laura G

    I think for me it’s more of a continuum than dichotomy between non-partner best friend/housemate and partner.

    An ex-housemate of mine and I functioned in many ways like partners (assuming the other would be willing to pick you up in the middle of the night at the airport, taking care of you during illness, sharing financial resources, going to family gatherings together, etc), but we did not have the expectation / commitment that we would stay together and did not prioritize doing so in long-range planning. Strangers usually assumed we were romantic and life partners, but we were not. But if she hadn’t wanted to find a life partnership with a guy who could be a (biological) co-parent and romantic/life partner with her, we might have decided to ‘upgrade’ our relationship to a non-sexual life partnership. it would have taken work on our communication skills, but that is work we’ve both had to do anyway after moving to different cities. I do think our obvious intertwining interfered with both of our love lives.

    I’ve had other friendships and housemate situations that were located at other points in the matrix of commitment, interdependence, time spent together, emotional sharing/knowledge/trust, financial intertwining, etc. But I think the expectations of friendship often vary and are too infrequently explicitly discussed / negotiated the way we negotiate out romantic /sexual /life partnership expectations.

  • Jes

    One of the best things about my wedding was getting so much time to hang out with my best friend who isn’t my husband. Now we’re back to texting twenty times a day. Sad face for long distance.

    I will say that without having her to turn toward for advise, encouragement, or excitement, my relationship with my husband wouldn’t be nearly as strong and happy as it is. Like the post the other day said, you need the friends who will help you with The Dishes. Talking to her about The Dishes is never unproductive, and I always come away calmer, happier, and more doe-eyed toward my partner.

    Also, we used to have five roommates (all guys, plus me). I stinking LOVED it (but it helped that I had my own bathroom).

  • Jen

    I like your description that your husband is your best friend and more. That resonates with me. I thought my ex was my best friend and told him as much, but he said I was not his best friend. That was just one of our issues. To me, it is important to have friendship in a relationship. There was this episode of Scrubs where JD said he couldn’t be friends with his girlfriends, and that seemed very wrong to me.

  • Carrie

    For me, the big difference between my husband and my best friends is, actually, the commitment to live with my husband.

    My best friends* and I don’t have to take each other into account when we choose what job to take, where to go to grad school, where to buy a house. We consider each other like brothers and sisters — we keep in touch, we share each other’s joys and sorrows, we’ll always love each other, we generally would like each other’s advice about major life decisions, and if one person needs help, we’ll move heaven and earth to be there for them. I’ve lived with two of my best friends and quite enjoyed it; I’d love to live with/near them again. But we don’t feel an obligation to stay physically or geographically near each other. One of my best friends announced he was moving to the other side of the world a few years ago, and my response was “AWESOME! I’ll miss you! But awesome!”

    My interactions with my husband are pretty much like my interactions with my best friends (although I only sleep with my husband). We share a lot of interests, do a lot of hobbies together, enjoy just hanging out and talking together. But with my husband, I’m committed to live with him, share our daily lives. One of us could not unilaterally announce they were up and moving to South Korea. If one of us wanted to, the conversation would be more like “So, I’d really love to do this. How would you feel about moving there for a year?” and then go from there. It would be a joint decision.

    Our lives are a team effort, in a way that my life and my best friend’s life aren’t. It would be unhealthy if I thought of my best friends like that. But it’s healthy when it’s my spouse.

    (This is not to say my husband and I don’t have boundaries or independent interests and personalities. Obviously we do, and it would be super unhealthy if we didn’t. But the big-picture course of our lives — where we live, what we do for a living — is shared.)

    *I have three people I consider to be equally “best” friends.

  • Jo

    I just have to say – being a unit is a totally incredible feeling that brightens each and every one of my days. Having never seen my parents be a unit successfully, I had no idea (ok, no tangible day to day idea) that it could work like this. Yes, it’s hard. Maggie said it well. But sharing your life and your soul with someone else as a team is just… well it’s just fabulous. And hard. But I already said that. :) Good things are often hard to build, but SO SO worth it.

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