This sounds crazy, right? How can this be a myth? Here’s how: First, it may be relatively easy for men, but it’s very hard for women. (Men and Women have different standards of what a best friend is!) Second, some people really want a degree of privacy they may lose due to the vulnerability and exposure you have with a best friend. Third, this could be dangerous to your sex life—so be careful what you wish for!
Let me spell these points out a bit more.
First, standards of best friendship vary widely. If your idea of a best friend is someone you like to golf with, then you can probably achieve that in marriage. But if it is a raw, intense, tell-all intimacy, that’s a harder and riskier bill to fill.
In most studies, serious or casual, the vast majority of men will say their wife is their best friend—and mean it. Women on the other hand, claim their partner as their very best friend in far fewer numbers. And, upon consideration, even women who say their husband is their best friend will admit he doesn’t come close to performing as well in that category as her best female friend.
My problem with this? A lot of women believe that marriage is supposed to provide a best friendship, but more often than not it doesn’t. These women become frustrated, feel deprived, and wonder where their soul- mate is. Perhaps instead they should be saying, “Hey, this is marriage—this is different from best friendship and it doesn’t have to compete in the same category. I can be happy without a spouse/best friend!”
And here’s another reason to reconsider this dictum: The fact is that living with a true best friend (in the female definition of the concept) could be way more intrusive than many partners would actually enjoy. A bit of distant civility has a peaceful quality to it. Some personal privacy is allowed, failures in intuition are forgiven, and some issues may pass unexamined—as they should be. In these ways a measure of separation can be good for both stability and pride. Not all of us want to have all the layers of the onion peeled off. Emotional fusion isn’t for everyone.
Finally, there is the sexual question. Intense intimacy might lead to passion—or it might lead to siblinghood. I extolled egalitarian couples for their fairness, intimacy, collaboration, parenting, and friendship—but not their sex lives. So much talk and sharing seemed to provide so much togetherness and understanding that couples didn’t need to use sex as a way of bridging gaps in their relationships. More than a few men and some women mentioned that it was a bit hard to feel sexually uninhibited within the ‘best friend’ framework of their marriage.
Bottom line: For some people, there is nothing greater than having a best friend for a partner. Still, ‘best friendship’ in a romantic relationship is not desirable, or achievable, for everyone.