Should your spouse/partner be your best friend? I was watching an episode of ‘I’m Sorry’ (BTW- amazing show with some colorful language) and the husband made a comment about being his wife’s best friend. She laughed and told him that he is NOT her best friend and was surprised when he said that she was his. It made me wonder who is really best friends with their partner? AND is that what we should strive for or do we need an outside best friend. Let me be clear – I have no idea what the correct answer is to this question. Seeing how I don’t excel at romantic relationships, I can only share my experiences.
One of the things I’ve learned from my counselor extraordinaire, Deb, is that you need to have the freedom to say anything that is on your heart to your partner. Anything. No rules, no restrictions, no caveats – just rigorous honesty. I remember when she first told me this, I thought she was crazy. Many of the relationships I’ve witnessed in my life and had in my life have had lots and lots of rules. I was even with someone for a long time who would tell me to “Stop talking” and add, “I said we’re done.” Hmm, I wonder why I lost my voice in that relationship?? The problem is that once those types of restrictions are put on communication, it’s extremely hard to recover from. When one person tells you what they’ll allow you to communicate about or tells you when to stop, it’s controlling and counter-intuitive to intimacy. When I think about the most intimate relationships in my life, it all has to do with an amazingly strong bond of intense communication. It’s the ability to speak your heart, your fears, your past and your hopes for the future and not only not be judged but be encouraged to explain more.
I’m not sure why, but for some reason intimacy scares the crap out of us. My own personal experience tells me it’s the vulnerability piece. Being vulnerable is taking all the masks and self-preservation that you have off and just being naked. Not really naked, but that is a great analogy of true vulnerability. For me a huge killer of intimacy/vulnerability is criticism. If you’ve ever been with a critical partner you know that being criticized kills that bond. If you’re the critical spouse – trust me you’re KILLING intimacy in your relationship. Someone who constantly points out your short comings, is not someone you want to be vulnerable with. So I wiped off the counter-tops ‘wrong’ or I didn’t park my car in the exact right spot? You get the point. And by the way, the intimacy I’m talking about here isn’t physical – although I believe it’s all connected.
So back to the best friend question….I think I’ve realized an answer for me as I’m writing this. If you have a best friend outside of your partner, it shouldn’t be because you can’t be your true authentic self with your partner. That best friend shouldn’t meet communication/emotional needs that your partner can’t. What makes sense to me is that the best friend isn’t replacing something that is lacking, but is a friendship that adds to your already full life. I remember a friend of mine telling me that her husband never liked to go out with just the two of them. Years later they divorced and she told me, I should have known. It made me realize that what was missing for them was that true intimacy. So maybe the question isn’t about a best friend, but about having real intimacy in our relationships.
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