“Who is your best friend?” I ask.
“My husband” answers a good friend whom I have known since we were 10. It’s easy for her say this confidently; she is the one who has a 25th anniversary party lined up this weekend.
Another friend who completed one year of marriage a few months ago has a different response. “My husband is not a friend,” she says. “He is my husband, he doesn’t have to be my friend.” This is a woman whose first husband was a friend, a colleague who then became a spouse and later, an ex.
“Is it necessary for your spouse to be your best friend?” she counters.
I don’t know. It would be nice if he was, is what I am thinking, although I don’t say it aloud.
I have no BFF. I have many friends.
I have friends, who once sat next to me on the school bus, wearing the same blue uniform and shared their candy.
I have helpful friends, who were once my neighbors, who collected my mail and watered my plants when I traveled.
I have good friends who used to be coworkers and suffered similarly with deadlines and bosses.
I know there is friendship in families, the kind related by blood.
My mother brought me into this world and has been my biggest influence on how I see it today. We started with a typical parent-child relationship; she said, I did; I rebelled, she nagged. Once I grew out of my teens, she moved from authority figure to adult, I graduated from child to friend.
My older brother drove me around in his tricycle when I was two. My younger brother taught me to ride a bicycle. I developed social skills and practiced basic survival techniques, trying to hold my own between two boys under the benign supervision of our parents. Today I connect with my brothers because we are friends.
I have gained family from friends too, bonds forged by tears and tribulations.
A friend welcomed me into her home when I left my (ex) husband’s home. Another drove me to doctor’s appointments when I couldn’t do it on my own. Other moms picked up my child from daycare on days I had to work late.
What about the relationship between a husband and wife? We are family. But are we friends? Is friendship essential in a marriage? Is it even necessary?
A part of me thinks it is. Of all the people who came into my life, either as family or through other means, I have chosen to cherish the connections that endured beyond our initial reason for meeting. Erstwhile classmates, colleagues and neighbors continue to merit attention because we are now friends. For an association to endure, friendship seems key. Shouldn’t the same hold true of marriage as well?
Beyond the initial attraction and euphoria, sleepless nights and long discussions, a spirit of openness and vulnerability that underscores a deep friendship is important. A friend need not know all your secrets; he needs to accept you knowing that you have them. A friend may not share your enthusiasm to run the marathon but will show up to cheer you along the way. A friend doesn’t need you to stay the same as when you first met, he holds your hand as waves of change cascade on you.
My husband takes off from work one afternoon to watch a movie with me. I gamely attend his office parties. He puts up with my whiny self. I let him have his space when he is in one of his moods. We discuss our shared goals and debate the best way to reach them. I hope he will continue to accompany me on our nightly walks, even if I slow down with age. I would like us to take selfies as we do now, regardless of the wrinkles and lines we accumulate. Looks like friendship to me.
We have been married for a year now. My husband is my friend. Does he consider me one? Maybe. Does his ambiguity bother me? Yes. But I try not to mind. Like other lasting friendships, this one will take time.
For a marriage to endure, friendship is key. Until our friendship matures, I have to endure.
To answer my own question, my husband is (not yet) my best friend.