Should Your Spouse Also Be Your Best Friend? Damn Straight!

Should Your Spouse Also Be Your Best Friend - Damn Straight

I’m about as evangelical as you’ll get when it comes to the virtues of marriage. Of course, that comes with a certain bias: I am a dating coach who has used my own advice and is now just about the happiest married guy on the planet. Of course I’m going to wish for everybody to drink my Kool-Aid, because it’s so darned tasty.

I can cite statistics that remind you that married people are the happiest people in the world, and those statistics are true. It doesn’t mean, however, that marriage is what caused their happiness.

This Business Insider article digs deeper.

Sure, you may have heard that married people report being happier overall over their lifetimes than single folks, or that people tend to say they’re more “satisfied” with life just after their weddings.

A recent bright spot in the research suggests that it isn’t marriage that’s the key to happiness, but the quality of the relationship itself.

But is it actually the act of marriage that’s causing those benefits?

Probably not.

Which makes sense. I recall reading somewhere that 2/3’s of marriages aren’t happy marriages. So if that’s the case, then clearly, putting a ring on one’s finger doesn’t magically sprinkle fairy dust on your life. There’s more to it – and it’s quite simple:

A recent bright spot in the research suggests that it isn’t marriage that’s the key to happiness, but the quality of the relationship itself.

A 2014 working paper from the National Bureau of Economics Research found that if the person you call your partner (or significant other, or whatever) is also the person you see as your best friend, you don’t actually need to be married to reap the benefits of a long-term relationship. And it’s this factor, rather than getting married (or not) that appears to matter the most for happiness.

Amen. I’ve been called “conservative” on here (Ha ha ha!!) simply because I am an advocate for marriage. But the truth is, I don’t give a shit if you’re married. I just want you to be happy and feel secure in a relationship with your best friend.

Your thoughts – on marriage, living together, best friends, and the like – are greatly appreciated below.

18 Comments

  1. A 2014 working paper from the National Bureau of Economics Research found that if the person you call your partner (or significant other, or whatever) is also the person you see as your best friend, you don’t actually need to be married to reap the benefits of a long-term relationship. And it’s this factor, rather than getting married (or not) that appears to matter the most for happiness.
    Thanks for posting this, Evan. Having been married twice–once in my mid-twenties for nine months and once at thirty-one for 22 years–I’m not sure when or if I’ll ever want to be married again. I just know it’s not my goal right now.
    I’m not against marriage. I guess, if I had to put what I feel into words it would be “Been there. Done that. Have no burning desire to do it again.” But, with my whole heart,  I am seeking the type of relationship described here and I have been for most of my life.

  2. The happiest couple i know has been together for twenty years (college sweethearts, still going strong) and only have a registered partnership because that was easier for house ownership in my country. That is all they will ever need, and they are the one couple i believe will be together until one of them departs this world.
    I believe happy marriages/LTR’s are down to two people coming together that are a good fit, are attracted on different levels to each other and have attained as individuals a certain level of emotional stability. That ensures you are not in a so-so or dissatisfying relationship but a great one. The couple I described above are by no means the picture perfect individuals you would expect. He has Asperger’s, she is a workaholic. But they don’t let either the disability or tendency to chase ever-higher goals prevent them being together and nourishing their relationship. I believe that comes down to their exceptional emotional maturity and recognizing a good fit when they meet it instead of chasing the latest hit of chemistry that comes their way.

  3. Yet Another Guy

    As Barbara mentioned, thanks for posting this blog entry.   While I do not see myself remarrying, I would like to eventually share my life with a woman.   I am currently struggling with defining what “sharing my life” entails.  What I desire from a woman has changed quite a bit since my ex and I first separated, which is weird because I thought I knew exactly what I wanted when I started this journey.  I also realize that I turn and run every time a woman attempts to get close to me.  I am trying to keep it light, airy, and fun.   A lot of older women are so hungry for closeness with a decent guy that they fail to realize that they are scaring the bejesus out of him.

  4. Yet Another Guy
    A lot of older women are so hungry for closeness with a decent guy that they fail to realize that they are scaring the bejesus out of him.
    Before I married, often, I was definitely that needy woman you describe. After I married, I was that way with two of the men I dated. Then I found Evan, read “Why He Disappeared,” and saw the light.
    I’m 55 and this is the first time in my life I’ve lived by myself. Before now, in order, I lived with my parents and siblings, roommates, my ex husband, as a roomer in a family’s home, as an apartment mate, and as a wife again.Until now, I’ve never lived alone. I’m loving it.
    My kids live with my ex because that’s the only home they’ve ever known and they were already young adults when I moved out. I live a few minutes away and will be even closer next week when I buy my first house(!) It’s on their street. (I hadn’t planned to move back on my ex’s street. But the house is perfect in every way–including being a two-minute walk from my children.)
    That will even be more awesome–owning a home that I purchased, not one I moved into because I married its owner.
    This is a wonderful time for me. I feel like I have the spirit of a 15 year old with the wisdom of a 55 year-old. I don’t need a man because I’m lonely. I want one because having the kind of relationship mentioned in this article is my last great unfulfilled desire.

  5. I said:
    After I married, I was that way with two of the men I dated
    I never dated while married. I meant, after I left my ex husband.

  6. Emily, the original

    YAG,
    A lot of older women are so hungry for closeness with a decent guy that they fail to realize that they are scaring the bejesus out of him.
    There are a lot of older men like this, too. Especially if they just got divorced and the spouse left them or the marriage was bad.

  7. Hi Emily,
    You commented a few days ago about your college days and all the socially awkward guys on your campus.
    I have noticed the same thing! Now being on campus with the eyes of an adult you see and notice so much more than you did when you were a young confused kid like all the rest.
    I think in general there are more men who fit into YAG profile then women (though of course I can’t speak for older men and women).
    This may not be politically correct to say but it just seems like even socially awkward women a.k.a women so hungry for closeness still instinctively know how to interact and be around people of the opposite sex or just how to act around people in general. But I have noticed that if a man is socially awkward around “people” it doubles around a woman that gives him a little attention.
    I’m not talking about flirting or trying to ask him out, I mean just a woman who gives a friendly hi or ask how was his weekend.
    And OMG PLEASE don’t let her be attractive! He then starts dancing dangerously close to creepy stalker territory. Again I know women are the same but it’s not as open and blunt.
    At best, most of the socially awkward women I see are very reserved, quite and shy as their default mode of operation.
    I’m not saying it doesn’t happen with women; I am just saying that I see it more in men than in women.

  8. Emily, the original

    Hi Adrian,
    At best, most of the socially awkward women I see are very reserved, quite and shy as their default mode of operation.
    I think I know what you are writing about. That the socially awkward men you know seem exponentially more awkward than the socially awkward women you know  ??
    In terms of where I went to college, imagine Berkeley but smaller. Very crunchy/granola. The students were very smart but very nerdy. I was, too, but I tried to mask it under platinum blonde hair and bright red lipstick. I felt very out of place.

  9. I would not date someone without seeing the possibility of marriage at this point. While I am not racing to the altar by any means, I won’t date a guy that I can’t see myself marrying (and I would need to feel that he feels the same way over time). I was married before but only for a short time (4 years). And, I refuse to let that experience haunt the possibility of what could be. And while marriage is not for everyone (and especially if you’ve done it a time or two), I still see it as the ultimate commitment (and it is – legally, financially, and physically). The real issue is that we sometimes marry the wrong person.
    The guy I am dating now told me recently that he is really enjoying the relationship. I don’t nag. I give him more than enough space. He can tell me just about anything (and yes, that includes convos about other women), I don’t try to change him and I highly respect him (and vice versa).  So yes, the person you’re with has to be your best friend else what is it all for? My ex husband and I were not compatible in so many ways but I still took the plunge because I was caught up with chemistry. Boy have I learned. I just thank God for second chances.

  10. Stacy 
    Congratulations. That’s awesome!  I was also married to a “10” chemistry-wise, but it only lasted a few years. I’m impressed with your ability to form a new, happy relationship that’s clearly very different from your marriage. You sound calm and content. Do you mind me asking what you looked for/focused on when dating?
    I’ve been dating for a few years now and I’ve been on over 100 first dates. I seem to be doing a combination of over correcting from my ex, or falling again into the chemistry trap with unavailable guys, or having what Malika describes as ‘beige dates’. I’ve benefitted enormously from Evan’s work and have opened up to a range of ages, looks, education levels, etc, as well as online dating prolifically. Was there a point at which it “took” for you? Was there something you did to change it up?
    Here’s my last few weeks dating: a lunch date with a very attractive guy who’s been messaging me prolifically & flirting non stop fot weeks (he’s been away for work), but who then couldn’t manage to ‘find a time’ for another date before going away again, a beige date with a lovely guy who felt more like a brother, a date with a hyper guy with no filter who asked me for money to pay his rent (as he’d been robbed the day before) and the reappearance of another beige guy I hadn’t heard from in weeks (and I assumed was not interested)! Oh dear…
    I’d love to put my skills to work in a relationship, but none of those are even second date appropriate!

  11. To all that care to answer…
    I’ve never been on a “beige” date but from the women who first described it on this site to me; it seemed that “beige” dates are fun and full of lively conversation
    HOWEVER…
    There is just no chemistry (-_-)…
    So how did others break it to the person that you did not want a second date?
    I understand if both parties did not feel the chemistry but my question concerns going on a “beige” date where you did not feel the chemistry but the other person felt great chemistry.
    How did you break it off with them?
    …   …   …
    I am liking the comments on this post about best friends so much better than the comments on a post Evan had a few years ago when he spoke about men making women their best friends…
    The comments in that post were pretty harsh with many women complaining that men need social skills, need more outside friends, and need to stop being so clingy and wanting to do everything with her because he has no other friends.
    I can’t tell if this is a sign that we as a community has grown or if it is just different commentors. I think we can all agree that there is a difference between a person who wants to share and be around you a lot because they see you as a best friend and a person who is just too needy and clingy.

  12. Emily, the original

    Hi Adrian,
    I understand if both parties did not feel the chemistry but my question concerns going on a “beige” date where you did not feel the chemistry but the other person felt great chemistry. How did you break it off with them?
    Doesn’t Evan have a template for that?  🙂    “I enjoyed meeting you but did not feel the necessary connection to proceed forward. Good luck in your search.”   (Or something like that. It can be sent in a text or email. If they badger you for a more defined reason, you certainly aren’t obligated to give one.)
    I think we can all agree that there is a difference between a person who wants to share and be around you a lot because they see you as a best friend and a person who is just too needy and clingy.
    Yes. Everyone should have some kind of hobby or passion or interest he/she had BEFORE he met his/her partner and one he/she continues to do after he/she meets his/her partner.
     

  13. Hi Marika and Emily,
    Emily said, “It can be sent in a text or email.”
    Why not just tell them at the end of the date?
    Marika said, “People have tried to shame or guilt me for saying a polite no thanks.”
    This happens to me so much and I always feel incredibly guilty over it.
    I can’t remember who was the female poster that said that calling, leaving a voice message, emailing, texting, or simply ghosting on a person is just the cowards way to handle letting a person know you are not into them so I always do it face to face.
    I have found that their are two types:
    1. The one’s that though clearly disappointed, still give you a gracious thank you for the date and walk away with their heads held high.
    2. The ones who try to interrogate you… in an attempt to change you mind.
    Emily your template is great for type 1 but for type 2…
    Because the template is a lie! It is a way for us to not have to disclose the fact that they are fun but physically too fat or too skinny, too old (compared to their picture), or whatever!
    I can’t speak for others but I always run into type 2 more than type 1.
    …   …   …
    I think can’t remember the name of the old post but from what I remember, many women (not all) where complaining that their boyfriends and husbands had them as their main friend while the women had girlfriends who were their best friends
    To be fair I kind of want to re-read it because I may be taking the post out of context. I just remember it leaving a sad impression on me about wanting to have the person you date and marry become your best friend.

  14. Hi Adrian,
    As much as we’d like to, we can’t keep everyone happy.
    I am not a fan of a face to face polite “no thanks” (as either the rejector or rejectee) early in the dating game. Later on it’s definitely the right thing to do, no matter how awkward, but after one or two or dates – notsomuch. I don’t think it’s fair to leave someone hanging, though, so a polite text is a happy medium for me. If you can handle doing it in person – more power to you, but as a person who seems to be quite sensitive you may find the face to face thing a bit draining & daunting after a while.
    Find something positive about them that isn’t a lie. There’s always something. So if you didn’t enjoy meeting them, something like “thanks for your company tonight. You seem really fun/nice/interesting (interesting can be used in pretty much all cases!), but I don’t feel that we are right for each other. I wish you all the very best (I’m assuming you always would, so that’s no lie) in your search & take care.
    If they interrogate you, just stop responding. It’s going to get you nowhere. You’ve done your bit. Sometimes things just don’t work out. If they interrogate you in person, I’m not sure! Just say a polite sorry & walk away?
    You don’t owe someone a relationship.
    From what you’ve said, you would be a great catch, so girls will be disappointed, but that’s not on you. No one wants to be in a relationship out of guilt.
    I find none of this easy myself, btw, and its a learning curve. I have a tendency to stay in bad situations way too long as I don’t want to hurt people, but in the end it helps no one to stay if you’re not feeling it.
    Karl R has some great comments in this regard and he’s able to put things in a way I hadn’t considered (about honesty, ‘ethical dating rules’ and letting people be responsible for their own feelings & reactions). Can’t recall which posts, though, unfortunately.
    Adrian, I actually have a feeling you won’t be single for long 🙂

  15. Oh and PS, remember when the accountant lady said she wanted the truth from George on Seinfeld about why he was breaking up with her, and then he gave it to her (too pretentious, weird hair do) and she ended up in a mental health facility? And threw away all of Jerry’s tax papers..!
    Yep, no one wants the truth.

  16. Emily, the original

    Hi Adrian,
    I reiterate what Marika wrote:
    I am not a fan of a face to face polite “no thanks” (as either the rejector or rejectee) early in the dating game. Later on it’s definitely the right thing to do, no matter how awkward, but after one or two or dates – notsomuch. I don’t think it’s fair to leave someone hanging, though, so a polite text is a happy medium for me.
    I HATE, HATE, HATE being confronted face to face. I hate being put in the awkward position of having to reject someone. Do women really ask you during the date if you want to go out again? You are not required to respond face to face to a virtual stranger. Just say, “Let me think about it. I’ll check my calendar.” When you get home, send a text saying you thought about it but have decided you’re not a match. You don’t owe anyone a detailed explanation at that early stage of dating. And you would only owe her the text if she asked about going out again on the date itself or contacted you after the date. If she doesn’t contact you and you don’t want to go out with her again, you’re off the hook. After only one date, no contact implies lack of interest. At the end of the date, if you know you don’t want another, simply say you enjoyed meeting her. Don’t make some vague promise about contacting her if you don’t want to.
    I think can’t remember the name of the old post but from what I remember, many women (not all) where complaining that their boyfriends and husbands had them as their main friend while the women had girlfriends who were their best friends
    Most men don’t have close friendships with other men, so their main friend is their partner. Women can be close with their female friends in a way that is different than with their partner. For example, women may discuss past boyfriends or famous people they’d like to hook up with. That’s usually not a conversation you’d have with a partner.
     

  17. Adrian
    Correct me if I’m wrong, but a few of your comments imply that you’re trying to get it all perfect and not hurt anyone’s feelings. It feels like you’re scared of just getting out there and giving it a go, in case people get hurt. While that’s admirable, it’s just not possible in dating. As long as you don’t ghost a person, just sending a polite message explaining that are fun, nice or whatever, but you aren’t right for each other is all that’s required.
    They may be temporarily hurt but will move on. If they overreact or get angry, that’s just a sign of immaturity and they wouldn’t be a good partner. That’s not for you to take on; it’s part of dating. People have tried to shame or guilt me for saying a polite “no thanks”, but I just remember all the people who have done the same to me and I took it on the chin.
    I don’t know the post you’re referring to, but I believe friendship is a must. Have you ever lived with a housemate who was nice but not a good friend? You can’t keep that up for the rest of your life (not only live together happily but completely share your lives). You don’t want to be their only friend, or feel like they don’t have a life apart from you, but definitely their friend.

  18. I never cared much for the institution, but I do believe in a partnership.  I guess, having never been married, I want someone to choose the ultimate commitment to me if I’m willing to for him.  I thought in my younger days about having a commitment ceremony but in the years since I find that men (not to generalize but just my small sample set I know or read about) just don’t treat anything less the same way. Is it the financial commitment? I don’t know.  Society doesn’t, either, and that gets tricky over time. I tried to think of another substitute but it gets difficult.
    But the logistics (finances, health insurance, etc.) aside, I want to go through it together with someone. I don’t care if he’s divorced, but I do care if he’s jaded.  I think if both people just want to live together as older adults, who cares as long as they are happy.  But I do want someone to commit for life with me because that’s what I want to offer as well.  It’s harder as one gets older, even never married men are bitter, trying to be players, or they are desperately lonely or not emotionally stable as a few commenters mentioned above.  But I still believe I’ll find my person or he’ll find me.  And his optimism about this partnership is key.
    I never thought any long term partnership would always be easy. But I do think if you choose the right person, things can be easier.
    The best friend idea is an interesting thing. I make friends fairly easier and good friends.  It has been difficult for me to be friends with men I meet online.  The mystery of whether there will be chemistry seems to overshadow everything else.  It just starts things off on that foot.  Maybe I bring that or they do, I don’t know.  I can see being best friends men I start out as friends with.  But that’s because with my friends we have so much in common: hobby, lifestyle, values.
    That commonality and best friend potential has been harder for me to find in online dating.

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