Your Significant Other Doesn’t Need To Be Your Best Friend

Before a flood of happily partnered couples rush to the comment section with impassioned cries of “I wake up next to my best friend every day and it’s the greatest thing in the whole world and how dare you say otherwise,” allow me to explain: I get it. Okay? I get the sentiment. I have…

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Before a flood of happily partnered couples rush to the comment section with impassioned cries of “I wake up next to my best friend every day and it’s the greatest thing in the whole world and how dare you say otherwise,” allow me to explain: I get it. Okay? I get the sentiment. I have been in a long-term relationship myself, and I was certainly closer to him than anyone else in my life. We knew and shared and did things that I didn’t do with anyone else, including family and close friends.(Obviously)

That’s the way it should be, it’s what makes our “others” so significant. So I get the immediate connection made here: “Hey, this person knows more about me than anyone and I trust them more than I can anyone else — ergo, they are my best friend.” However, on a cultural level, I’m not sure if the expectation that a truly great relationship will imply that the lovers are also best friends is a good one.

First, we should define a friend. Dictionaries will usually define it as people who “share mutual affection, usually exclusive of sexual or familial relationships.” We can all remark on how close we are to friends and lovers in a way that mimics the intimacy we have with friends, (“my sibling is my best friend, etc”) but “friend” itself usually denotes a platonic, non-familial love in its own category. A best friend, therefore, is a friend with whom you have become closer than all others. It is true that a best friend can become a lover, or even a spouse, but the actual title refers to a platonic relationship. When we call someone our best friend with no other context, usually people assume someone we are not in a relationship with.

And what’s more significant is that “best friend” is often a title that comes with its own profound implications. Calling someone your best friend is not easy, and it’s certainly not a title we give out lightly. It’s a process that, in many ways, reflects the slow-growing intimacy and history that romantic relationships do. For many people, a best friend is someone who has become surrogate family — someone you know so well, and for so long, that you feel you can be fully yourself with them in a way you cannot with most.

Speaking personally, my best friends two amazing women with whom I’ve had a relationship of invariable closeness and trust for over eight years. They are family I have chosen, and our friendship is as precious to me as any relationship could be. “Best friend” is a title that has been developed over years, over shared experiences, over a conscious decision to love another person without any ties romantic or familial. It is its own very special thing.

If someone were to ask me who my best friend was, I would say their names without hesitation. I wouldn’t say my boyfriend, even though we’ve been together for some time and I feel closer to him than anyone else. For me, these two categories are inherently separate. The love I have for each of them — just like the love I have for my family — could not be compared, interchanged, or replaced. Each love (familial, platonic, romantic) represents a distinct part of who we are as people. I do different things with each, enjoy different parts of their personalities, and feel fulfilled in different ways. And the problem, to me, comes when we are encouraged — if not forced — to put all of these very important, very distinct loves into one person.

How much of who we are, and the love we have, should be based in one other person? It is true that marriage and children turns a couple into a new family — but does that mean their respective families exist any less, or are needed any less? Of course not. A husband or wife isn’t a replacement brother or sister, they are simply their own, distinct part of the family. And yet, we often seem to say — when we get into a serious relationship with a level of closeness we might not have experienced before — that this person is now our best friend. What of our other, original best friend?

The title itself implies that it is a role for one person(or two in my case), and yet it seems to be the default title we are supposed to bestow on a significant other when they reach a certain level of closeness. It’s as though our platonic best friends are merely placeholders, keeping us entertained and moderately fulfilled until a “real” love can come around and teach us something new and better.

But I learn things from my best friends that I don’t learn from my significant other. The way we argue, the thing we laugh at, the secrets we keep — they’re all their own distinct, special things. This doesn’t mean that the closeness I have with my boyfriend has some magical level that it hasn’t reached because I share these things with them, it simply means that a best friend and a partner are different — and so they should be. Because when we start tying every kind of love we have in one person, in one kind of relationship, we start putting pressure on ourselves to “fulfill” our purpose by finding it.

The truth is that a love one has with a platonic best friend is extremely special, and can’t be replaced or replicated by a lover. The truth is that you’re not a failure if you consider these loves to be distinct and important in their own way. And you shouldn’t spend your life looking for your “real best friend,” as though yours isn’t enough. Why would we want to narrow the kinds of love we can have in life down to such a small number? Why invest everything in one person? We each have so many different facets of our personality — so many things we could share with different people — and just because one person considers their significant other their best friend doesn’t mean you have to.

Agree or disagree? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

Responses

  1. Olubukola
    I think the reason why it is said that one’s spouse should be one’s best friend is because emotions wane. Romantic feelings die down. And that kind of deep friendship gets you through and lets you do more than tolerate each other. Doesn’t mean your entire life is dependent on that one person, or that you won’t have other mutually fulfilling and enriching friendships, it just helps. A lot.
    18+
  2. Nosa
    “It’s as though our platonic best friends are merely placeholders, keeping us entertained and moderately fulfilled until a “real” love can come around and teach us something new and better.”

    I don’t think i could have ever said it better.

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  3. Aggie
    “Because when we start tying every kind of love we have in one person, in one kind of relationship, we start putting pressure on ourselves to “fulfill” our purpose by finding it.”

    The above phrase sums it all for me. When you call someone your best friend, it means that person has absolved all aspects of your personality, sieve through them, discard the bad ones and hold on to the good ones… A significant other may not understand you to that extent or we may not feel comfortable revealing those side of us to them.

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  4. Larz
    I dont have best friends. I never have. I have friends that I am close to for a season than others but none of them have ever been my be all, my confidant in every aspect of life, my party hopping frn, my new experience junkie. In fact, I respect all my frns enuf not to burden them with more than they can handle. I trust my older experienced career driven frns with my career, my emotionally deep ones with love issue, my male frns on advice on opposite sex, my girlie frns to get different perspective on women troubles (mum, sis, other female frns), gossip frns, and forum frns to deliberate about deep stuff etc. But none of my frns at any given time had been my everything. Matter of fact, the closes to a best frn I have before my hubby is my brother. I wont be surprised if my hubby takes that spot in the future. But that is ok, but I am still surrounded by a strong support system of frns and mentors and ppl I hold in high regard and they will all still continue to be a part of my life
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  5. Gbolahan
    You have done this post justice. Each type of relationship is different, each with its own place. I can’t say I have a ‘best’ friend. I just have a bunch of good friends that I show different sides of myself to.
    1+
  6. Tush pikin
    God can only bless u for this post Amy. This has been my view for a long time only that I lack the writing skills to fully express myself everytime the subject matter Comes up. The fact that I believe your significant other doesn’t have to be your best friend has been a deal breaker for me with the ladies lately.
    “The truth is that a love one has with a platonic best friend is extremely special, and can’t be replaced or replicated by a lover.” . ………. This sums it up for me. Thank you amen.
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  7. debs
    I love this piece mainly because I can 100% relate with it. I like to think I have 2 close friends, I didn’t say best friends because I’m not entirely sure on that. I love my friends and I love my boyfriend I have enough love for all them. They are unique in their own ways. My boyfriend and I share a special kind of friendship so also my close friends and I have our special friendship, these friendships mean a lot to me. I used to think it was weird (though it doesn’t matter) that my boyfriend isn’t my best friend but this article sheds more light on it.

    More ink to your pen.

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    1. 11
      Unnecessary hype on this “friendzone” thing sef, are you supposed to fuck every lady you come across? You know it’s not unearthly to form a platonic relationship with a babe sha, not everytime kpansh, sometimes build something meaningful.
      1+
      1. Gbolahan
        Of course, you can’t bang every female you meet. You don’t even want to!
        I just can’t understand how a woman can have a male friend and like him and his personality but just wish that personality came in another body and as a result, render the dude effectively sexless.
        1+
      2. Gbolahan
        I mean, why get surprised when a guy spends a bit of time getting to know you, decides he fancies you and says something?
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  8. jedidiah
    i agree that your significant other does not have to be compressed in the ” best friend” box. but i also understand why its a big issue for most people as
    emotions and feelings do not last forever , they seek the security of a “best friend” as a future partner to fulfil that basic need for communication and friendship.
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  9. Femi
    This article made a whole of sense for me, logically. I don’t have anyone that fits into the best friend/significant other category so……
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