Recently a friend and I were texting about the idea of “marrying your best friend,” and I couldn’t stop thinking about that this past weekend as we celebrated Valentine’s Day. And by “celebrated,” I mean, “sat around the house super sick with tissues inserted in my nose before watching The Fast and the Furious and eating leftovers.” Ever the picture of romance, that’s what we are.
But the rest of the weekend we spent with all sorts of friends (who are probably now reading this and wondering if I transferred my germs to them before succumbing myself to this nasty cold…. love you all!). We had friends over for dinner on Friday night, our first proper dinner party in our new place, and I went to bed with a smile on my face because people stayed for around 5 hours. Any less than that is always disappointing when you throw a dinner party, as I feel that the event should last at least as long as the time it took you to shop, cook, and clean, but sadly that is rarely the case in DC. People are always “stopping by” or eating quickly before getting back to something else, making hosts everywhere feel like little more than servants. But I digress. Friday night we stayed up late, talking around our fireplace with friends and eating copious amounts of good food.
On Saturday I met some girlfriends for brunch, all of us leaving our husbands with the kids- “Dad camp,” I informed James when he asked why he was waking up so early on a Saturday. I intended for this post to be peppered with beautiful pictures of our tasty brunch in Old Town, but we got too distracted talking for me to ever whip out the camera. And because 2 out of the 3 of us were pregnant, it was the very best brunch complete with extra pastries and a couple bouts of tears because HORMONES Y’ALL.
I had a childhood friend passing through this weekend and we went out to dinner with her and her fiancé on Saturday night before heading to other friends’ house to watch the debate. Thus, while Sunday was an epic crash into a pile of tissues and lots of time just with James, the weekend was full of good times with the good friends that bless our lives.
So back to my original query, the spouse-as-best-friend thing.
On one hand, it is true. Good marriages have good friendships at their core, because the skills it takes to be a good spouse are the same as those required for being a good friend. Communication. Patience. Understanding. Shared interests. You marry someone and instantly find yourselves spending LOTS of time together, not just romantically, but in a sort of comfortable companionship. If you don’t deeply enjoy just being around your spouse — your marriage will be the one that makes us all wince. We all know those couples, and we all try to avoid them. For all these reasons, James is my best friend. I really like hanging out with him. I think he’s funny, we have a great time, he challenges me, and we can talk about anything and everything from the comfortable place of two people who will still love each other no matter what is said.
But I would never expect him to replace my other best friends, the girls in my life who are the ones I text or call daily with questions or announcements or maybe just random pictures of my hair. There are aspects of female friendship that I would never dream of asking James to fulfill because frankly, he would be bad at them. I have my besties, I need my besties, and loving him doesn’t mean rejecting them. He is more important than anyone else in my life, but that doesn’t revoke their status as deeply important. They are the ones who help me process all the struggles of being a woman in the modern world, the ones who have infinite patience for minute decisions that James struggles to grasp, the ones who — by nature of being female — can dissect a situation for hours with me without proposing a solution. They are my girlfriends, and I need them. Especially since I grew up without a sister (though marriage has given me the BEST ONES EVER), I rely on my female besties in a powerful way.
I think we do marriage a great disservice when we harp too much on the “best friend” aspect of it, however well-meaning the impulse is. When we start demanding that a spouse fulfill not just the colossal role assigned by marriage, but also all our other community needs, we start developing crushing expectations. We start thinking that one person will complete us, that one person will be enough, that one person will always be our favorite companion for every activity, that one person CAN and SHOULD make us happy.
They can’t. And they shouldn’t. If you expect someone to be your everything, you start getting unreasonably stressed because you will realize that they can’t- no human can. You find yourself tired of hanging out with your spouse, or wanting to spend time with other people, or feeling drained without cause and you wonder DO I NOT REALLY LOVE THEM???
No, you just need some other friends. Good friends, the type who help you process from a more objective standpoint because they aren’t married to you. They type who don’t compete for the place that your spouse fills, but fill instead their own vital role as a best friend.
I am a firm believer that good marriages are surrounded by good friends, by a community that helps shoulder the burden of our human need for companionship. A community that lets us see other people struggling with the same things, working through the same life stages, facing the same world. Couple friends yes, but also single friends, work friends, people from all aspects of lives that help us look outside of our little world of marriage and gain new perspective. They remind us that the world is more than just us two, and that by constantly looking beyond our little unit, our marriages somehow become stronger.
So this Valentine’s Day, I’m thankful for the love of our friends. I’m thankful that, even if we didn’t get a candlelight dinner for two, we did get laughs with our people, with our village, with our friends.