It’s all the rage to name your spouse as your best friend. No anniversary Facebook post is complete without the words “and he’s my best friend in the world!” But what if your husband just plain isn’t your best friend? A friend of mine asked me recently, “Is that okay?”
In the past six months, I’ve seen a small backlash against the idea of “spouse as best friend.” But it doesn’t begin to stem the tide. According to my Facebook feed, this world is chock-full of women blissfully wedded to their BFFs. Perhaps the claims will make it true? But what I see in real life doesn’t quite match up. So why is everyone claiming their spouse is their very best friend?
I think it’s just shorthand for “We’re married. And we’re glad we’re married.”
We all jump into marriage expecting that our spouse will meet some kind of emotional need in us. Usually, our expectations are unrealistic. Often, they are dashed upon the cliffs of reality. And it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s something wrong with our marriage. The real problem is our expectations.
When I got married, I had this hare-brained idea that I would never be lonely again. After all, my husband would be my constant companion, my lover, my everything. And then, he wasn’t. If I can be perfectly honest, he was very occasionally a tiny bit of a disappointment. Our stars may have been aligned, but sometimes our plans for the evening weren’t. Sometimes he wanted to go out when I wanted to stay in. Sometimes he wanted to watch a kung-fu movie when I wanted to watch Sense & Sensibility. Sometimes he wanted to listen to Radiohead when I wanted to rehash a conversation with a coworker. It may sound a bit stereotyped. But the cliché exists because it is true. He’s a stereotypical man. I’m a stereotypical woman.
Worst of all, sometimes he wanted to go play poker with his guy-friends and leave me at home. Turns out, he didn’t always want me around. It was a heartbreaking discovery. All my life, I had functioned like “one of the guys.” I paint-balled. I spelunked. I watched The Matrix, and played ultimate frisbee. All the guys had been happy to have me along. But now that we were married, I couldn’t function as one of the guys anymore. After all, to the rest of the guys, I was taken. And for my husband, all he wanted (I can only assume) was a little bit of guy-time—something he used to get anytime he was home alone or with roommates. I don’t blame him. After all, I needed girl time too.
If your husband isn’t your best friend, it is okay. Opposites attract. Men and women are beautiful counterparts to each other. But it doesn’t stop there. Introverts and extroverts. Adventurers and homebodies. Careful planners and careless improvisers. Talkers and listeners. Thinkers and feelers. Many of these opposites find one another in love and in marriage.
The fact is, marriage is so much more than friendship. I am 100% in favor of spouses being best friends. If your marriage is also your closest friendship, that’ s fantastic. But trying to upgrade the status of “husband” by adding “best friend” is kind of like saying, “Yeah, she’s my mother. But get this—she’s also my hairdresser!” My husband is many things that a best friend can never be. He is a provider, a protector, a lover, a father to my children, a comrade in arms. And unlike “best friend,” “husband” is an exclusive label.
Friendship is a good base for a healthy marriage. But when we make “best friend” a prerequisite for our spouse, we’re usually setting unhealthy expectations. A husband cannot and should not meet our every relational need. Women need girlfriends—someone who can understand the struggles that are unique to being a woman, from bad hair days to bad PMS days. I have sisters and friends and best friends, and my marriage is happier for it—because I’m not an emotional leech on my husband. I don’t expect him to nod sympathetically at just the right moment, or help me pick out a sexy pair of mom-jeans. And he has friends, too (yay!) which releases me from any obligation of watching kung fu, helping him move a washing machine, and (for the most part) discussing the intricacies of computer coding. And for that I am thankful.
Song of Songs 8:6
Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame.