Marriage, Is Your Spouse Your Best Friend?
By Allan N Schwartz, contributing writer
“Therapist: Who is your best friend?
Husband: George, we’ve known each other since childhood.
Therapist: Who do you go to when you have a problem?
Husband: Why, George, of course!
Therapist: Not to your wife?
Husband: No, when I have a problem, I confide in George.
Therapist to Wife: What are your thoughts about this?
Wife: I’ve always known about this. No problem.
This couple is in therapy because they fight and have no communication”
One of the assessment techniques I use in couples/marriage therapy is to ask each member of the couple to identify their best friend. In my findings, those who answer that it’s my wife or partner usually have the best outcome as a result of treatment.
This not to imply that married couples cannot or do not have good friends. Friendship does not end with marriage. However, a marital relationship is something very special. It goes well beyond any best friend relationship. This article refers to married and/unmarried, intimate couples.
According to Robin O’Bryant in an article she wrote for the Huffington Post, her husband is not her best friend. In fact, the title of the article is, “I’m Not Married to My Best Friend.” However, the distinction she makes is very thin. She states her husband is her “better half,” and the man who stands by her side. She finishes the article by writing, “He’s my husband and that’s enough.” Perhaps, that is not enough! Who better to confide in than your spouse?
According to the Cambridge Dictionary Online, “A friend is defined as someone you know well and like a lot but who is not a member of your family.”
According to the Urban Dictionary Online, “Best Friends are very special people in your life. They are the first people you think about when you make plans. They are the first people you go to when you need someone to talk to. You will phone them up just to talk about nothing, or the most important things in your life. When you’re sad they will try their hardest to cheer you up.
While there is a lot of overlap between married couples and best friends, there is one area where that is not true. A best friend can be someone to confide in, feel affection toward and even love. However, between best friends there is no ongoing and complex sexual relationship. In fact, it is the ongoing nature of the sexual relationship that distinguishes the difference between best friends and married couples. Marriage brings with it a deep intimacy that transcends other relationships, even with family members.
In the context of that marital relationship, spouses share their deepest secrets, passions, doubts, ambitions, insecurities, fantasies and dreams. Almost as important as ongoing sexual intimacy, married couples share their finances and financial struggles. Add to this the fact that, most often, they have children. This forms a bond that is totally different from the closest best friend relationship.
If these qualities are missing then there is a problem in the marriage.
According to John Gottman, Ph.D., one of the foremost experts on marriage, a sound marriage is based on:
1. Mutual affection and admiration.
2. Knowing the spouse’s life well, so that there is an awareness of what the partner worries about and what he/she is hoping for.
3. Having skills in how to regulate conflict. These include handling difficult issues with tact and understanding and respecting what the partner values, desires and means. It is also important to be able to de-escalate the emotional climate.
4. Repairing conflicts with humor and expressing remorse if the conflict becomes loud or out of control.
5. Not using stonewalling or refusing to talk or communicate. This has a punitive effect and increases anger and resentment.
6. Responding positively to bids for affection. This builds trust, caring and fondness.
If the qualities of a sound marriage are missing then it’s time to do an assessment. If that assessment results in the conclusion that things are not going well in the marriage then help is available,
Comprehensive marriage and individual counseling is available. Contact Dr. Schwartz at email@example.com and by visiting his website at http://www.allanschwartztherapy.com
Wishing You Love & Happiness,
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