Should Your Spouse Be Your Best Friend?

5 tips for healthy friendships outside marriage
Couple are best friends with more friends in background

If you believe all those sappy anniversary posts, your spouse is supposed to be your “best friend ever.” But what if your first-choice date for happy hour isn’t your significant other? Are you doing something wrong if you have a bestie who doesn’t share your bed?

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“Having a partner who is your best friend can be sweet, but it doesn’t have to be that way,” says psychologist Scott Bea, PsyD. “Culturally, we have this idea that our spouse should be our best friend — but there’s no single template for a successful marriage.”

He offers his tips for balancing your buddies with your wedded bliss.

Friendships help keep you happy

Downer alert: A 2018 survey by health insurance company Cigna found almost half of Americans reported feeling lonely at least sometimes. Other research suggests that people today have fewer close pals than they did a generation ago.

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For many people, that’s a problem. Friends make life more fun in good times and offer support and comfort during rough patches.

“Having close connections with others is one of the top predictors of happiness,” says Dr. Bea. “Human beings need friends.”

Good friends, good partners

Nonromantic friendships can be an escape from the pressures of adulting. “In a marriage, you share a lot of duties: Laundry, kids, yard work, bills. With friends, you don’t share those obligations, so the friendship can feel lighter,” Dr. Bea says.

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The key to friendships outside of marriage? It’s all about finding a balance that works for you and your partner. These tips can help you reach equilibrium.

  1. Talk about it. The most important thing to remember, Dr. Bea says: Good communication is critical. Is your husband content spending all his free time with you? Does he wonder what you gain by going out with your girlfriends? You won’t know unless you ask. Just like you discuss finances and parenting, it’s good to talk about your social expectations.
  2. Respect each other’s differences. If you’re an extrovert, you might need a lot of social stimulation. If your partner is more introverted, they might be baffled by your social butterfly side. Recognize that you may have different ideas about what friendships mean to each of you.
  3. Be a thoughtful friend (and spouse). If you’ve had a disagreement with your spouse, talking it out with a friend could be a good way to gain perspective and stress relief. But constantly dissing your partner is not fair to them — and not very fun for your friends. Respect the feelings of your spouse and your friends. “Nobody loves hanging out with a complainer,” Dr. Bea says.
  4. Manage jealousy. Green with envy? Try to remember that what your partner shares with someone else doesn’t subtract from what they share with you. “We have separate accounts for people in our lives. That’s why people can love more than one child,” Dr. Bea says. On the other hand, consider how your spouse might feel if you’re out with friends every other night. “Try to be aware of your partner’s level of security when it comes to friendships outside the marriage,” he adds.
  5. Talk some more. It can’t be overstressed: Good communication is the best way to avoid hurt feelings and mismatched expectations. When you and your spouse are on the same page, you can get more out of your friendships and your marriage.

And if you find it’s easier to talk with friends than with your partner? That’s a flashing sign that you need to work on your communication skills, Dr. Bea says. Start by talking about the role your friends play in your life. And who knows, once you start communicating more, you might want your spouse to join you for happy hour — at least every now and then. 

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