If you've ever spent time on Instagram, you're likely used to phrases like, "Can't wait to marry my best friend!" and "So lucky to be dating my best friend for 3 years now." Seeing couples caption their photos with proclamations about how they're best friends is so common that "Can't wait to marry my best friend" sparked a March Madness-style bracket over the most annoying engagement Instagram captions this year.
The debate over whether or not a partner should be your best friend is widespread (much wider than a few annoying Insta captions), and has resulted in many different arguments and even some scientific research.
And, the arguments are abundant. Yes, it's okay to call your boyfriend your best friend, as long as you both have independent lives, argues a college student on Odyssey. But...calling your partner your best friend drips of codependency, and can easily become a problem when you're relying on one person for all your emotional needs, says Léa Rose Emery at Brides. Except, science says that the happiest couples are those who see themselves as both lovers and best friends, claims the 2014 British Household Panel Survey. There never seems to be a consensus, and that makes sense, says Jessa Zimmerman, a certified sex therapist and author of Sex Without Stress. Because whether or not it's a good thing for couples to also be best friends depends on the circumstances.
"It's wonderful if your partner's your best friend right? You can tell them anything, they have your back, this is somebody committed — all of that is fabulous," Zimmerman says. "The issue is if they're only your best friend." She sees it all the time in long-term couples who come to therapy. At some point, the best friend relationship they have overshadows the intimate relationship and they stop having sex. In other words: They become comfortable in their friendship and let the relationship die. Sometimes, all it takes is a little work with a relationship therapist to get back into intimate headspace, but other times, couples realize that best friends is all they were meant to be.
Does that mean it's too confusing to consider your S.O. your best friend? Of course not. "For some people, their partner really is their number one person, and I don't see anything wrong with that," Zimmerman says. It's important, though, that your partner is both a best friend and a lover. "If 'best friend' is just one of the aspects of the relationship that's wonderful, because you sure wouldn't want to have a relationship with somebody who wasn't your friend, right?" she says. And if you think about it, it makes total sense that people in a relationship would consider themselves best friends. If you've been in a relationship with the same person for a long time, then you're certainly spending more time with them than you are with your non-romantic BFF. So of course you want to like them just as much (this is not Kindergarten, and you are allowed to have multiple best friends).
So then why do we find those best friend social media posts so irritating? It's possible that reading, "Can't wait to marry my best friend" over and over again on every engagement photo on Instagram can make the phrase feel disingenuous. As my coworker pointed out, it's like listening to a dozen men on the Bachelorette say "She's my best friend" as a way to basically say they've found a real connection. "There is just no way that they're all best friends with her," she says. "Therefore, I find 'My partner is my best friend' to be a trite way to express feelings." And that's a totally valid argument. There's definitely a huge difference between telling your S.O. that they're your best friend in private versus publicly declaring your best friendship to get more likes.
"The tone of somebody's social media feed would tell you a lot about whether this is overly sweet and sort of simplistic, or if they really found a person who's got their back and is totally there for them as a partner," Zimmerman says. If you're saying it all for show, your Instagram followers will know. And if not, they should be happy for you. But still, maybe find a more creative way to caption your couple photos.