People call their spouses their best friends or soulmates for a good reason, but these don't quite capture all that marriage and friendship are!
Just one verse each day.
Newlyweds often describe their spouses as their “soulmate” or “best friend.” But I wonder if we aren’t doing ourselves any favors by thinking of marriage in these terms.
After all, if you’re holding out to meet some magical “soulmate,” you might be missing a happy and fulfilling opportunity with a good and decent person right in front of you.
That’s why Dr. John Gottman, an expert on marriages and relationships, encourages couples to find happiness with a “good enough” marriage instead of expecting perfection. He writes:
In a good enough relationship, people have high expectations for how they’re treated. They expect to be treated with kindness, love, affection, and respect. They do not tolerate emotional or physical abuse. They expect their partner to be loyal.
This doesn’t mean they expect their relationship to be free of conflict. Even happily married couples argue. Conflict can be productive because, when handled in healthy ways, it leads to greater understanding.
His words put me in mind of some wise advice from our pastor when my husband and I were preparing for our wedding.
He encouraged us not to think of our spouse as our one and only “best friend,” but to make a real effort to cultivate and maintain other friendships outside of each other.
I think people refer to their spouses as their best friends or soulmates for a good reason. They want to compliment their spouses, to show how much they love being around each other and enjoy each other’s company more than anybody else’s. And that’s a beautiful thing.
At the same time, it might not be 100% accurate to describe your spouse as “your best friend,” even if you’re wildly crazy about each other.
There are two important reasons that “best friend” isn’t the best way to understand the spousal relationship.
1It doesn’t capture all that a spouse is
A great marriage involves so much more than friendship, thanks to everything from sexual attraction to combining two different family histories and traditions into one.
“The term friendship is an underwhelming representation of what’s going on,” one marriage researcher told The New York Times.
2It doesn’t do justice to the need for close friends besides your spouse
More men than women describe their spouse as their best friend, but this may be putting an unhealthy strain on marriages.
When a spouse bears the burden of meeting all or almost all social and emotional needs for their partner, there is just no way to live up to that expectation. People need other close friends, and expecting your spouse to fill that role entirely can lead to loneliness, frustration, and an unfulfilled marriage.
One in five suicides involves intimate partner problems, and I wonder what difference it could make to focus on other close friends and sources of support outside of marriage, and have realistic expectations within marriage. It’s hard to really know, of course, but perhaps these things could relieve some of the burden of pressure on a marriage.
Knowing all this, I have to admit I have a feeling I’ll still call my husband my “best friend.” He is my favorite person to spend time with, after all, and my biggest source of support.
But I also want to remind myself to prioritize strong friendships besides him and remember that marriage is so much more than just friendship.
So I think a more accurate description would be to say, “He’s one of my best friends … and he’s so much more!”