The "Best Friend" Marriage Myth—& Why It's Wrong

Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
In a new mini-series, we unpack relationship myths with expert and couples therapist Esther Perel. She answered our questions about bad sex, honesty, and cheating. Today: should your S.O. be your best friend?

Q: I love my S.O., but I don’t consider them my best friend. Is that bad?

A: How many times have we seen people say, “I can’t believe I’m marrying my best friend?” There are country songs written about this for Chrissake. “It’s a very new, very western way of thinking about your partner,” Perel says. “But in most of the world, people have best friends and then they have their partner. That doesn’t mean their partner is not a best friend, too, but they also have other best friends.”

Recent research does suggest that marriages in which people consider their spouse a “best friend” are happier and generally more successful. But asking your partner to be your only best friend might be a bit much. “Personally, I think if you’re asking one person to be everything to you — lover, best friend, confidante, intellectual equivalent, you are asking way too much from one person,” Perel says. “You set yourself up for an overburdened system. They’re different relationships. And generally, people don’t have hot sex with their best friend.”

Of course, people should regard their partners as friends — you should generally want to hang out with them, support them, and grow with them — but there’s no one-size-fits-all model of coupledom. “Some couples share the same interests, life, and values, and others have a much more differentiated style,” Perel says. “They have a few strong things they share, but also have their own pursuits.”

So if you don't want to spend 24 hours a day with your S.O., or you don't really consider them your "best friend," that's fine. Different types of relationships will work for different people in different stages of their life. And relationships will change. Whether or not you judge your partner as your best friend might evolve over time and whether or not that model works for you will also change. "We keep trying to make 'couples' fit into one little box or one definition, but there isn't just one type of couple," Perel says. TL;DR: You do you.
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