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Why It’s Okay If Your Spouse Isn’t Also Your Best Friend
By Alli Hoff Kosik
Ahh, the dreaded Friendzone. He likes you lots, but you just can’t figure out how to move past thinking he’s just “nice.” Or — even worse — you’re totally feelin’ it after a few dates, but your crush is making it pretty clear that they’re not super interested in moving the relationship forward. Ugh, amirite?
But there’s another brand of Friendzone — the kind that happens after you’ve survived the other potential downfalls of dating and said “I do” to your dreamboat (yay!). This is the Friendzone that happens when you begin to consider your spouse your BFF. Is this what you’re supposed to expect from a marriage? If so, what happens to your other close friendships? How do you balance friendship with that romantic flame that we all so desperately want to keep alive? If it’s possible, this Friendzone may bring up even more questions than the one we’re used to worrying about!
Turns out, relationships experts are pretty divided on the subject too, and since all of these pros deserve a shot to share their best marriage advice with you, we decided to give both sides a chance to argue their opinion.
THE CASE FOR BEST FRIENDSHIP
If you dream of sharing the coziest and most intimate of friendships with your spouse, there are plenty of experts out there who think that being besties is the ideal setup for marriage.
“I believe it is important for your spouse to be your best friend,” says therapist Kimberly Hershenson. “A healthy relationship involves trust, communication, and openness. You should feel confident going to your spouse with anything and feel completely safe and supported.”
Hershenson notes that being BFFs with your spouse doesn’t necessarily mean that you spend every waking moment together. That level of face time, after all, could be the reason some people find the marriage/best friendship combo potentially unhealthy (more on that later!). If, however, you define your best friendships based on emotional intimacy, there’s no reason your hubs or wifey can’t take on both jobs.
“Independence is healthy for every relationship,” Hershenson says. “A best friend is a confidant, someone you enjoy spending time with, and someone you have mutual respect for. All of these aspects are very important in a marriage.”
THE DOWNSIDES OF BEING BFFS
Best friendship isn’t always the perfect arrangement for marital bliss, though. People who try to wrap up a life partner and a bestie in one package are putting a lot of pressure on a singular relationship. Your spouse is probably already working hard to be the best husband or wife ever, and expecting them to always be on point as the BFF as well might be too much.
“It’s a big responsibility to be a spouse, so don’t add to that by requiring you and your partner to be best friends too,” says relationship expert April Masini of AskApril. “It’s much easier to have a successful marriage when you have friends, neighbors, work buddies, and family members who fulfill your relationship needs so your spouse doesn’t have to.”
To be clear, this doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with being close friends with your spouse. Problems can arise, however, when an intense friendship becomes a prerequisite within the marriage, and when you begin to expect your spouse to fill the BFF role.
“If you and your spouse are best friends, fabulous,” says Masini. “But when people start looking for a partner who is a best friend, they’re making a mistake. You don’t have to be best friends with your spouse in order to have a great marriage.”
To toe this tricky line effectively, licensed professional counselor Shannon Battle suggests that couples be mindful of boundaries in communication. Determining which topics can be discussed without judgment and figuring out a reasonable cadence for these conversations (e.g., not talking to your spouse about work drama every. Single. Night.) is key to staying friends with your S.O. — without using them to fill other roles in an unhealthy way.
According to certified sex coach and clinical sexologist Sunny Rodgers, issues may also emerge in the bedroom for married couples who consider themselves best friends. “When couples are too close, there isn’t any oxygen between them to fan their sexual flames,” she says. “While friendship is a great basis for relationships, I always advocate having a healthy social life and additional friends outside of their marriage as well.”
THE PERFECT BALANCE
As with so many of life’s tricky combos (work and life, chocolate and vanilla, etc.), it seems that the key to this great debate is in maintaining balance. And while most of us have learned the hard way that achieving said balance is a whole lot easier said than done, understanding the upsides and challenges of being BFFs with your spouse is a good first step. With time and practice, it may be possible to learn how to tend to multiple levels of your relationship — and it could be the best thing that ever happened to your marriage.
“I… counsel people that the more dimensions there are to marriage, the better it will be,” says counselor and coach Monte Drenner. “There is a romantic dimension, and then there are other dimensions, like friend, confidant, adviser, and so on. As a relationship progresses, it will need ways to grow to stay healthy, and these other dimensions allow the relationship that opportunity.”
Therapist Melissa Divaris Thompson echoes Drenner’s thoughts on striking that perfect balance. Solidifying your relationships with the other important players in your life may help ensure you’re establishing the best dynamic at home.
“Your spouse should be the closest person in your life,” Thompson says. “You want to strike the balance between being great friends and romantic partners, but you will still want others in your life that can fulfill parts of you that aren’t fulfilled by your partner. It’s unrealistic to think that one person in your life can be your everything.”