My husband and I love to talk, to ponder and to dig into everything from the most important things, like how to encourage a love of Scripture in our children, to the most silly, like how one might systematically train to be a carnival ride designer.
Recently during one such chat, we got on the topic of the phrase, “Today I married my best friend.” As we went back and forth about the pros and cons of the phrase and some theoretical relationship embodied by it, I felt this immense gratitude that, when I got married, I had both a husband and a best friend, and they were not the same person.
I think there is something beautiful and valuable about a married couple who are also best friends. I don’t, however, think that this means that every couple needs to seek to be best friends before the marriage starts. I might say that my husband is my best friend now; but he was not when we were dating, and I’m glad. I might even go so far as to say he was ONE OF my best friends when we got married, but I’m glad he wasn’t my ONLY best friend.
Here are my top three reasons why:
1. My husband is my #1 (after God), but he isn’t my everything.
I got into many relationships when I was younger where my boyfriend quickly became my best friend, and all my other friendships took a back seat. I would share everything with my boyfriend, and we would go everywhere together. When I looked to my boyfriend for everything I needed from other human beings, it wasn’t a far jump to also looking to him for things that only God can provide me. When the relationship ended, I not only lost a boyfriend but also my sense of who I was. I had neglected my other friends and was left floundering. This wasn’t healthy, and it led to a lot of heartbreak.
In his book True Friendship, John Cuddeback makes the argument that “friends are a major determinant of your self-image; and your self-image, or how you see yourself, is a major part of who you are.” My identity as wife is a major part of who I am. My husband is the only human being with whom I have entered into a covenant and have vowed to love and honor all the days of my life. Before we were married, though, he didn’t hold this place. Having other great friends gave us the freedom to discern marriage well. He wasn’t my everything, and that was a good thing.
Even now, I can’t fulfill my husband’s every need, and he can’t fulfill mine. We need other human beings who care for us deeply and are willing to make sacrifices to support us. I’m blessed to have a best friend I can talk to when I’m struggling, when I’m feeling lonely or when I’m excited about something and just have to share it with someone. Do I do all these things with my husband too? Definitely. But if he was always the only one I could go to, we’d be worse off for it.
2. My husband and I were good friends when we got married, but he didn’t know everything about me (and probably never will).
My husband and I were blessed to meet each other at a time when we were both free to pursue marriage. We were intentional about the time we spent together and the kinds of things we shared with one another without the need to artificially slow things down to wait “until we got older.” We traveled to meet each other’s families, friends and co-workers. We discussed our values, our hopes and dreams and our struggles. After about a year of getting to know each other, we decided to make the leap into marriage. My husband and I grow in friendship every year; but at the time we got married, my best friend had a six-year head start on her own marriage. And that head start was a blessing to my marriage.
Many a time, my husband has remarked how watching my best friend and I interact has helped him to know and love me better. She walked with me through my conversion to Catholicism, the death of my father, my first “real” job and my first big move out of state. Along the way we learned how to weather fights and repair the relationship, how to help each other work through our struggles and how to celebrate the little things that were actually big things for the other. Because of the quality of our friendship, she is also perfectly situated now to see things in me and in my marriage that my husband and I cannot. Time and time again she has challenged me, asked questions and provided advice that has strengthened my marriage and helped me grow in love and friendship with my husband.
3. I’m glad for the boundaries we set while we were dating.
My best friend is someone I can share anything with, someone who has seen me at my best, my worst and my most mundane. This is all true of my husband now, but it wasn’t before we were married.
I lived with my best friend for over two years in college, and I’d often stay at her place for a week or more off and on after we graduated. I’m not saying you have to live with someone for them to be your best friend; but in my case, it did mean there were some things my best friend knew about me that my husband didn’t know before we got married. Most any married couple can quickly recall a whole list of things that they learned about their spouse for the first time after moving in together. Living together can create an intimacy that I’m glad my husband and I waited until after marriage to experience. (For more information about the disadvantages of living together before marriage from a secular source, check out this article from the New York Times.)
There are also certain topics of conversations that are worth avoiding during a dating relationship that are perfectly fitting to discuss with a best friend or a spouse. Just as my husband and I kept parts of our bodies veiled from each other until after we were married, there were parts of our souls we chose to keep veiled as well. It wasn’t that we were keeping secrets from each other. It was just that there were certain topics that we chose to only talk about to a certain depth out of respect for each other and the reality of our relationship at that moment. No matter how much I desired to give my whole life to him and him to me, we had not yet made those vows; and we wanted to be honest about that, not just in our physical intimacy, but our emotional and psychological intimacy as well.
“A faithful friend is sturdy shelter; he that has found one has found a treasure” (Sirach 6:15). I remember reading a book in college that stated that, if you are able to find five true friends over the course of your life, you are extremely blessed. Years later, looking back at all the effort and sacrifices it has taken to maintain long-term friendships after college, through moves and big life changes, I feel extremely blessed to have found (and fought for) the friends I have, including my husband.
I am eternally grateful for the treasure I have found in my best friend and for the decade-plus she has walked alongside me. I am also eternally grateful for the friendship that continues to blossom between my husband and I. But I am even more grateful to have them both.