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How To Be Your Partner's Best Friend?

How to be your partner's best friend?

The phrase has become so popular that we hardly hear it anymore. "You're still my best friend," Michelle wrote to Barack Obama in an Instagram post to celebrate her twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.

In the awards ceremony, the phrase is common, as when Justin Timberlake said, not long ago: "I want to thank my best friend, my favorite collaborator, my wife, Jessica." Articles about "how to foster friendship" with your spouse are also very common.

Like the walking dead, another oxymoron, husbands-friends walk everywhere these days. Perhaps it is due to excessive attention to friends in social networks; Perhaps it is due to the decrease in real friendships in our lives or perhaps it is because we all have access to public statements of what used to be a private relationship. Whatever the reason, talk about your spouse as your best friend, your comrade, or your #BFF has gotten out of control.

It has gotten out of control so much that there is even a backlash: a marital council blog, for example, publishes the essay “Why your spouse should not be your best friend”.
So what is it about: considering your spouse as your best friend is a symptom of a well-worked intimacy, of attachment and trust, or is it a sign that they are so imbued in the logistics of the daily routine that they have sacrificed sexual attraction, passion, and erotic game? Has marriage become little more than a friendship with benefits?

There is some research in this regard. John Helliwell is a professor at the Vancouver School of Economics at the University of British Columbia and editor of the World Happiness Report. While researching social connections a few years ago, he discovered that everyone gets certain benefits from online friendships and real-life friendships, but the only friends who stimulate our satisfaction in life are the real ones.

"However, although the effects of real friends are important for everyone's well-being," he said, "they are not as important for marriages as they are for single people. This is how we conceive the idea that marriage is a kind of "super-friendship."

Helliwell and a colleague discovered that a study conducted over a long period in the United Kingdom had information that could shed some light on the matter. Between 1991 and 2009, surveys such as the British Household Panel Survey asked 30,000 people to measure their level of satisfaction with life. In general, Helliwell said, married couples expressed greater satisfaction and could respond better to a decline in well-being that most people experience in maturity while facing work stress and concerns about aging. Parents and other pressures.

But a completely separate part of the study asked respondents to name their best friend. Those who named their spouse were twice as likely to experience greater satisfaction with life. Men made that decision a little more frequently than women, Helliwell said, "and it is logical since men usually have fewer friends."

Is this feeling necessary for your spouse to have a successful marriage? I asked.

"Of course not," Helliwell replied. “The benefits of marriage are great even for those who have many friends on the outside. They are simply older for those who consider their spouse to be their best friend. It is extra. ”

Amir Levine is a psychiatrist, neuroscientist at Columbia University, and co-author of Attached. As a social relations student, Levine explained that we all have what he calls the hierarchy of attachment, which means that if something bad happens to us we have a hierarchy of people to call. During our early years, those in the highest positions are usually our parents and other family members.

"The problem, as we get older, is how do we approach someone who is basically a complete stranger?" “Nature created us with a trap called attraction. Sexual attraction breaks down all barriers, allows you to approach an unknown person in a very different physical way from how you would approach your family. ”

Over time, of course, this physical connection decreases. While some people lament this loss of emotion, Levine celebrates it. "It's very smart," he said. “If you go crazy for the other person all the time, how are you going to raise your children? How are you going to work?

Instead of complaining, we should consider this new stage as an achievement: “Well, now I have this person to whom I am attached. I have this feeling of security. That is what allows me to be an individual again and to realize myself. ”

It is this feeling of security, says Levine, that leads us to describe our spouses as "friends." But the use of that language is not entirely correct, he says. First, couples still need what he calls "maintenance sex," because it restores sexual closeness and renews attachment.

Second, the term "friendship" is "a disappointing representation of what happens," he says. “What people basically mean is:‘ I am in a safe relationship. Being close to my partner is very rewarding. I trust her. It is there for me in such a profound way that it allows me to have the courage to create, explore, and imagine. ”

Levine summarizes this feeling with the (rare) acronym Carp: which means that your partner is congruent, at your disposal, receptive, responsible, and predictable. But don't we have the words "husband" and "wife" that meet that definition? I asked. Why do we suddenly start using the expression "best friend", when that term does not seem to fit at all?

“Because not all spouses are like that,” he replied, “and in this way we show that we do not take it for granted. What we should probably say is ‘Safe spouse’. ”

And there is one more problem with saying that your spouse is your best friend: both words mean totally different things.

Peter Pearson and Ellyn Bader are founders of The Couples Institute in Menlo Park, California, and authors of Tell me no lies. They have also been married for more than thirty years. Pearson says there is a crucial difference between a best friend and a spouse.
But with a spouse, he said, you can't avoid those issues.

Bader says that, when couples are getting to know each other, they often describe themselves as partners, and that seems fine. When couples have been together for thirty, forty, or fifty years, they use similar language, which can be a symptom of a healthy relationship.

"Those who are neither one thing nor another, when they use the language of friendship, are like a kick in the liver," Bader said. “It is an alarm signal because of the number of conflicts and intensity they seek to avoid. It often means that they have given up on the complexity of being with someone else. Instead of saying ‘Well, that's right’, it would be better if they tried to solve it. ”

Bader says he would like popular magazines to challenge the notion that you shouldn't get married to change anyone.
A good marriage, he says, is when people "press, challenge and encourage each other and, yes, also when they change each other."

And maybe that is what it is: to say that the person you married is your best friend could be a form of an abbreviation that you really love your spouse and that they have shared their history, their life, and their dreams. But in the end, the expression does not do justice to the meaning of marriage as a whole or to the meaning of friendship as a whole. After all, if your spouse is your best friend, then who do you complain about your husband?
More information for healthy relationships. 
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