Why Marrying Your Best Friend Isn’t a Great Idea
It’s a nice sentiment but not one without concerns.
Last week, I saw pictures of a couple, wrapped up in each other’s arms and beaming with love. Her in a white dress and him in a nice suit. There was the proclamation from one of them of how lucky they were to have married their best friend. It’s sweet. It feels nice.
I have concerns.
Marrying our best friend seems like the ultimate meeting of our needs. We’ve found that person we know will be by our side no matter what. After all, how many times have we been told that romantic partners may come and go but friendship lasts a lifetime? Combine the two and magic happens.
But does it?
The biggest issue I have with declaring your spouse, or soon to be spouse, your best friend is boundaries. It’s a lot to place on one person.
I am a very independent person. I’m now in my first relationship since my second divorce and every day I work on this fledgling relationship. It’s not hard work but, having failed miserably at two marriages, I know where and why my train has come off the track. I want this train to stay where it is.
I adore my boyfriend, but I don’t want to be his best friend and I don’t want him to be mine. He’s dating me. That’s enough work for him as it is. His hands are full.
I don’t want him to be the sole bearer of the weight of my happiness and my sorrow. I like to spread that around to various people. I’m a giver.
My boyfriend is not my everything. Certainly not three months into this crazy thing we’re starting. But, even three years from now, I would say the same thing. I need boundaries. Calling my partner my best friend seems too enmeshed for me.
I recently wrote about how important it is to have sacred space in your relationship — space that only the two of you occupy and the noise of the world isn’t allowed in. The converse is also true.
We need to have autonomous space outside of our relationship. This space is filled with a myriad of people that are our best friends. It’s important for one huge reason: we can’t expect one person to be our emotional support system every time we need one. Doing so makes that thin line called codependency even thinner. It makes that sacred space too large.
My relationship with my second husband walked that thin line. I had many friends outside of our marriage, him less so. One of the hardest but also the truest things I told him as we were getting divorced is that I couldn’t shoulder the burden of all of his joy. Being responsible for that was too much.
Our partner needs a break from us. We owe it to them to grant it.
It’s also perfectly acceptable to enjoy life with other people. There are plenty of moments in a relationship that we can revel in and carry with us for the rest of our lives. Those moments when we experience something and look at our partners and think, “I’m so glad I got to share this with you.” You’re not missing out by doing something you really want to do with someone who is not your life partner.
Just because an experience is going to be amazing and our partner is amazing doesn’t mean they have to be amazing at the same time in the same place.
I don’t believe in the concept of having a soul mate. I think our souls are more complicated than that. I think our souls are comprised of connections to a whole myriad of people. That connection can be platonic, familial, romantic. I’m just not one for limiting emotional connection.
It’s absolutely possible to be connected to others while remaining emotionally faithful to our partner. We execute that, as well, by understanding that beautiful thing called boundaries.
Certainly, instances do actually happen where someone literally marries their best friend. My first husband was my best friend. When I weighed the pros and cons of spending the rest of my life with him, I decided to move forward because I couldn’t think of a reason not to.
Our marriage lasted five years because marrying my best friend turned into spending my life with someone who was fun and liked Jimmy Buffett as much as I do but who was wholly wrong for me as a partner. We were way too different. Being best friends was not enough. We confused genuine appreciation and enjoyment of each other with once in a lifetime love. It’s easy to do.
Side note: If you have to make a pros and cons list to figure out if you want to spend the rest of your life with someone, the answer is no. No, you don’t.
Different doesn’t matter with your best friend because you don’t have to live with them. I love my best friend to pieces but we are very different in a lot of ways. What makes our friendship work is that after spending a day with her, I send her back home to her husband who is not her best friend. If I had to live with her, I’d kill her. She’d same the same for me.
What makes her marriage work is that the venting she has to do about a family member of his falls on my shoulders and doesn’t tax their relationship. Her husband is not so great at the listening and processing of someone else’s thoughts. Listening to her venting doesn't have to fall on him. That’s my job.
Friendship is a major component to any relationship but perhaps the grand status as being the end all be all of friends isn’t necessary. Friends is amazing. Best friends? Maybe not so much.
I’d also venture to say that what’s really happened isn’t that you married your best friend. It’s that you met someone, fell in love with them, and realized that your close bond holds more than romantic feelings and physical attraction. That extra something is mutual respect, appreciation, and enjoyment of each other’s company. The friendship side of the relationship is your growth and evolution as a couple. That’s good enough.