Should Your Spouse Be Your Best Friend?

Before I get off the Mindy Kaling train, I want to mention one other concept she wrote about that I really connect with. It’s the idea the best marriages are when the husband and wife are pals but not best friends.

A few months ago, I was e-mailing with a woman who said she wanted to be best friends with her future husband. She wanted that kind of marriage. I’ve actually heard a lot of people describe it that way, using the justification that for every couple, the chemistry isn’t always going to be there, so they want a friendship at the foundation of the relationship to keep things going.

I totally agree with that justification. But to me, that’s the concept of “pals”–pals are able to joke around, have fun, tease each other, and just sit back and enjoy each other’s company.

A “pal” is a subset of being best friends with someone. But as I told that woman, I don’t want to be best friends with the woman I marry.

It’s for the same reason that my doctor and my dentist are not the same person. Sure, it would be convenient to have the same person take care of all of my health needs on the same visit, but is that really a good idea? Do you want the same person who puts their finger in your butt put that same finger in your mouth? (No judgment if you do.)

My point is that best friend territory is special and sacred, just like spouse territory is special and sacred. I think the two complement each other really well, making all of your lives healthier and fulfilling because you have that balance instead of putting all of your eggs in one basket.

So yes, I want the foundation of a great friendship with the woman I marry. I want to be pals with her in addition to being lovers.

But I don’t want to be best friends with her.

What do you think? Is it all just semantics to you married people?

17 Responses to “Should Your Spouse Be Your Best Friend?”

  1. T-Mac says:

    Just to clarify, Jaam, I hope you’re expecting your wife to be the one who puts their finger in your butt and not your best friend.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Yes! Good point. That analogy doesn’t exactly translate. I don’t really want my friend or my wife sticking their fingers in my mouth or butt.

  2. Anne Riley says:

    Hmmmmmmmmm. I think that when Rob and I were dating and engaged, we were “pals.” We joked around a lot, had a lot of fun, talked about a lot of things. When we got married, though, things changed by default. That relationship deepened. So I’d have a hard time saying he’s my pal, because that doesn’t seem deep enough.

    I’ve always thought of a best friend as someone who’s been through the ringer with you. Someone you do have fun with and you do love being around, but also someone you’ve argued with and been angry with and who’s seen your lowest level of crappiness–but they still call themselves your best friend.

    Rob watched me deliver our daughter. Aside from the whole miracle of life thing, there was absolutely nothing pretty about it. I don’t think a pal would have stuck around for that.

    And I’m not close enough to my pals to argue with them. I’d just say, “Oh well, who knows!” and laugh it off because with a pal, I can’t go too far below the surface. Things stay light and fluffy.

    Does that make sense?

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:


      Ah, I see what you’re saying. Perhaps “pals” isn’t the best word. I think the key point is that you don’t expect your spouse to be your husband AND your best friend, even though many of the qualities of the two overlap.

      Whenever someone says that they want their future (or current) husband or wife to be their best friend, I say, “Well, what happened to your previous best friend?” I don’t think you have to give up that previous friendship just because you found your soulmate. And (in my opinion), I think the healthiest marriages I’ve seen are those where each person still has their own passions and friendships–opposed to marriages where the two people (and maybe their kids) are their entire world.

      I only know about your marriage from your blog, but it seems like you and Rob fit the description of a very healthy marriage. Each of you has your own passions and outlets, and you support each other’s passions and outlets. You haven’t taken up rugby just so you can be around Rob all the time, and he hasn’t tried to co-write your books with you. You give him room to be Rob and he gives you room to be Anne. I don’t know if that applies to your friendships as well, but I would guess that it does.

      I think my overall point is that the idea of your spouse being “everything” to you is a very romanticized but very unhealthy idea. I treasure my friendships, and although I know they’ll change when I get married, I will continue to treasure them and find ways to nurture them. I think my marriage will be all the stronger because of those friendships.

      • Emma says:

        Agreed. Jamey, yes to your comment:

        “I think the healthiest marriages I’ve seen are those where each person still has their own passions and friendships–opposed to marriages where the two people (and maybe their kids) are their entire world.”


        I don’t think I would say I have a best friend. My husband is a very good friend (agreed that it’s more than a pal), but I also didn’t edge out a former best friend to get married. I think of my wedding party (including our siblings) as my best friends.

        I think you’re probably right that people shouldn’t demand/expect that a partner HAS to be a best friend, but I don’t think we should all get hung up on semantics either. Because if someone really pushed me to name my “best” friend, even though that’s not a term I use in my life right now, I guess I’d go with my spouse. So, in part, it’s semantics, but I think you hit on some really good points and I certainly don’t think your spouse should/has to be your best friend. That’s not necessarily better, nor is it necessarily dangerous if you still maintain a good balance and other friendships.

        • Jamey Stegmaier says:

          Emma–That’s a great point about semantics. Especially as an adult, friendships are so varied and diverse that the idea of having (or clinging onto the idea of) a best friend is a bit antiquated. I think what I was trying to get at is that there will always be one or two friends that stand out above the rest. Should your spouse be one of them? Sure. But not the only one.

  3. Red says:

    As Big Bird explains to Telly (Sesame Street Ep 2123 scn 2), Love is not like Birdseed. In the episode, Gordon and Susan are having a baby, and Telly is worried that with the new baby, they won’t have enough love for other people. Gordon explains to Big Bird that Love is not like birdseed, in that by giving it to one person, it isn’t taken from someone else (it is not a finite resource). However, time is (I’m talkin Love Languages for you here Jamey). And with the addition of someone else special in their life, they wouldn’t have as much time for many other things they had enjoyed doing. I think mariage fits this category as well.

    On a similar note, I remember actually ranking my friends in early grade school. I had trouble with it because the idea of one person as an overall better friend bothered me. Like Emma, I don’t know that I have a “Best Friend”, but rather many people who I rely on for deep social interaction and guidance on various topics.

  4. Steph says:

    I do believe in the idea of my future husband, should I marry in the future, to be a best friend as well. It is not necessary to be a best friend when dating or prior to marriage but realistically I do have that expectation as the relationship progresses and strengthens.

    To explain the “a” before best friends, I do not believe an individual is restricted to one best friend. “Best” does indicate excelling others. However, being realistic, one cannot be best in all areas. That being said, one might have more than one best friends and tend to have a different go-to friend depending on the circumstance. My expectation would be that my future partner/husband would have the upper hand as there is an entire different level of connection(s) that a non-lover, best friend, could not compare with.

    This may not hold true but at least my wishful thinking.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Steph–Thanks for your comment. I think I came to a similar conclusion in the comments section, that your spouse can be A best friend, but not your only best friend, because you need other outlets for close friendships beyond your spouse.

  5. ms says:

    I think you have some thoughtful readers. I like the distinctions between pals and best friend. and the idea of semantics. I also agree with the concept of having different types of best friends. But the point of a marriage is having the one person you turn to when you are down and out, or elated and happy. This should be your spouse. There are dangers if it is not your spouse. Your spouse should hold your deepest secrets private and with respect. Your friends can do this too but there is a depth that is saved for your spouse.

    How many people split from their spouse when they start to rely on conversation with other people as more important. Such discretion happen without intent but then it is too late. The spouse is no longer needed.

    Whenever I decide to do something outside of my marriage, the question I ask and expect an affirmative before acting: Will this ____ enhance my marriage? Will I be better person having another relationship or an outside interest — and bring that better person I have become in to my marriage.

    If the outside interest or outside person, weakens the marriage, then I do not participate in it. Slippery slops to infidelity can be camouflaged.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Really good thoughts here. Although I still contend that your spouse should not be your ONLY source for conversation or sharing elation, sadness, etc. It’s healthy for you to have other outlets that go beyond your spouse. That doesn’t mean that you should have secrets or that you can’t ask that great question (Does this enhance my marriage?)…I think I’m essentially saying that you should ask those same questions when you’re using your spouse as your sole outlet for certain things.

      For example, saying you’re going through a tough time at work, and you realize that you’ve been venting a LOT to your spouse–and only your spouse. You can ask yourself, “Is this enhancing my marriage?” I would contend that no, it isn’t enhancing your marriage to put all of that onto your spouse. Some of it, sure. But maybe you should also have a close friend that you can talk to, or a therapist (or both). I would think that would strengthen a marriage, not hurt it.

      • ms says:

        well said about ‘complaining about the same thing’ to your spouse. If that is all the spouse heard from you that could weaken the love. However if you used a sounding board for complain that was the opposite sex, this could be the slippery slop. So maybe the point is – an opposite sex best friend is where the risk may fall. But the same sex BFF can be just what a marriage needs.

  6. Cat says:

    I expect my spouse to be my best friend because we share intim acies that are not shared outside the marriage and I don’t mean just physical. However, this doesn’t negate me having great friends also! We can have both.

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