Think your wife is your best friend? You’re wrong. It doesn’t mean your marriage isn’t wonderful—it’s just a recognition that friendship and marriage, while they share key areas of overlap, are fundamentally different relationships.
And conflating the two can cause far more problems for your marriage than your friendships, experts warn.
“In most cases our friends do not live with us, are not financially, legally, relationally entwined with us. Our friends are attached to us because they want to, when they want to,” marriage and family therapist Carrie Krawiec told Fatherly. “They have volition and empowerment to leave or at least take space from us when necessary. Our partners are connected to our homes, family, schedules, life.”
It makes some sense why marriage and friendship might be confused for one another. It’s well-documented that marriage is good for individual health, well-being, and longevity, and the same is true for friendship. Married people also tend to rely less on friendshipsthan single people. But that’s not because their spouses have stepped into the best friend role—it’s because everyone else has. “When married, you also have each other’s parents and siblings as sources of support — or even children,” Krawiec explains. “Married people tend to have a broader pool of potential supports.”
However, that’s different from friendship and mistaking one for the other can cause conflicts in marriages, Krawiec warns. Husbands who expect their wives to be their best friends may develop impractical expectations for how they should support them and their decisions. If a man were to quit his job to pursue a passion for carpentry, a friend could easily be his cheerleader. But his wife? She’s going to have questions.
“When we mistake our partners own questions, fears, concerns as a lack of support we are holding them accountable to a friend standard that does not exist for our partner,” Krawiec says.