Being married to your best friend can lead to greater life expectations and happier marriages, but it can also be a burden. Almost half of couples and married people living together say their partner is their best friend, with men more likely to say so than women. Forty-eight percent of married women say their spouse is their best friend, compared with 64 percent of men in a 2017 study.
Is being best friends with your spouse too much?
Couples who are best friends say they work at it. They share feelings, thoughts, affection, listen, and explore new things together. However, relying on one person to be your everything, like your cheerleader, lover, partner, and counselor, can be too much, even for married superheroes. Joshua Coleman, a psychologist specializing in family dynamics, says couples are adding ‘being a best friend’ to the list of everything else a spouse should be.
Coleman says he typically hears from women, who usually have richer social networks, that they wish their husbands had more friends. Having a different confidant to give objective advice and listen when you’re worried about things at home is beneficial. Similarly, you can be deeply in love and have a healthy relationship and still want to go to a baseball game, shopping, or out for a beer with a friend from work or high school.
Ely, Nevada resident Bill Gittere counts himself in the 40 percent of Americans without a best friend. The 59-year-old and his wife, Laurel, knew each other for a year before marrying in the Las Vegas drive-through Little White Wedding Chapel in 1995. Gittere says he fell in love at first sight but admitted that Laurel wasn’t his best friend. He said the couple had to prove that to each other, which meant living through military deployments. Laurel agreed with her husband.
Former partners betrayed both, and building trust and becoming best friends took time. However, she says one of the best things they did was discuss everything they wanted from their relationship. Now a prison warden, Gittere says his favorite day is Saturday when he’s not working. He says it took some time for the both of them to wrap their heads around being spouses and best friends simultaneously.
Are millennial couples best friends with their spouses?
According to Liz Higgins, founder of Millenial Life Counseling and millennial married to her best friend, millennial couples typically feel pressured to have their partner as their best friend. Some in their late 20s and early 30s saw their parents stay in unhappy marriages or divorce and want to avoid that, thinking that having a best friend-partner will help.
She says that if that’s the goal, they should focus on what it means to be a best friend and work on that with their spouse. One key is exploring new things together and remaining curious. Higgins says you hit a dead end when you think you know everything about your spouse. Higgins added that it’s also essential to remember that marriage is a journey, and there will be times when you feel your partner is your best friend and times you don’t. However, that doesn’t mean you’re with the wrong person.
Canadian economist John Helliwell researches happiness and co-wrote a 2017 study on friendship and marriage. He says being best friends with your spouse increases some of the well-being benefits of marriage, like life satisfaction. Helliwell says he and his wife, Millie, weren’t best friends when they married in 1969. They were deeply attracted to each other and smitten, but you don’t know each other when you start out. Millie says Helliwell is her best friend, but she works to keep friendships outside their marriage, which helped during his career, several moves, and in other times of need.
After losing a grandchild, the couple consoled each other. However, the hurt was so deep that she reached out to other friends who could listen without experiencing the pain. She said she needed to get it off her chest and not put it on his.
Can spouses be best friends and business partners?
Kirsten and Maria Palladino got married in 2009. They run a business, Equally Wed, from their home and have twin boys. They talk for hours without running out of things to say and love each other. They would list grade school and other high-school friends if asked to name their best friends. Maria says she’s quick to call her high school friends her best friends and wouldn’t apply that term to their relationship.
Kirsten noted that for some time, same-sex couples have been described as “good friends,” adding that people would say ‘That’s Uncle Larry’s very good friend,’ or ‘Mary and Dolores never married, but they have each other. Isn’t their friendship special?’” Still, Kirsten says she and Maria are much more than good friends, and she’s always hesitant to use language that was used to disparage their community.
Rachel Collins has two best friends. A 2019 Wall Street Journal article profiled her friendship with Jen Corp. Her husband, Jen’s brother, has become her second best friend and their connection deepened during their 14 years together. Collins says each relationship is different, but both can be your best friends. Rachel’s husband, Josh, says he didn’t have a best friend before meeting his wife. He has a group of three church friends whom he trusts and can ask for their advice. Still, he believes he can have only one best friend, which would be Rachel.
There’s nothing wrong with your spouse being your best friend. However, having other friends outside of your spouse may be healthy to get advice from. You’ll get a limited perspective if only one person is acting as a sounding board. On the other hand, if you seek advice from different sources, you’ll get different perspectives.