I asked my wife, Mel, the other day if I was her best friend and she gave me a twisted, I’m confused by your question, face and said, “Well… yeah.” Her response made me feel like I was asking if water was wet. She answered with a simple certainty that almost made the question feel ridiculous.
“Why do you ask?” she said.
I didn’t know exactly how to respond. I’d been thinking a lot about our lives together and how I don’t really have that many friends anymore. Or at least anyone I really hang out with. But with kids and work and marriage, I don’t really have all that much time to hang out with my buddies. And when I do have free time, I usually try to spend it with Mel because I genuinely love her company.
I don’t think this is unusual at this stage of life. I know many other couples who are similar. There just isn’t as much time for other friends in your life. Not that if you do hang out with friends it’s a bad thing, but some of us just don’t anymore.
If I have free time, it’s Mel or the kids. That’s about it.
But Mel and I, we weren’t always best friends.
Like most couples, we fought a lot for the first few years of our marriage. There was a time, right after we had our first child, when we were both over-worked and under-rested, when I thought for sure we’d separate. I remember spending more time with friends then. I remember looking for ways to get out of the house so I could clear my head.
But once we worked through all that, moved to a couple different states together, earned a few degrees together, had a couple more children and bought a house and minivan together, gained weight together, went out of fashion together, became vegetarians together, picked a religion together, managed a budget together, went on vacation after vacation together, and shared every element of everything together, then we learned how to really — and I mean really — be friends.
I had a best friend before marriage, but no friendship has compared to the one I share with my wife. In fact, I didn’t understand what real friendship was until I’d been married for 10 years.
Now that we are coming up on 14 years, I can’t think of anyone I’d rather chat with about anything. I can’t think of anyone who better has my back, who I trust more, who listens better, who loves me more, who gives better advice, who smiles brighter when I enter the room, who I’d sacrifice more for, than Mel.
It’s a pretty wonderful feeling.
What I was trying to figure out by asking Mel that question was to see if she felt the same. I know this sounds insecure, because thinking back, I knew the answer. But the thing is, my parents blew through several marriages each. I don’t think they were best friends with anyone they were married too. To be honest, I don’t think they were ever in a relationship long enough to work through all those struggles that just happen when two people commit to each other — and I mean really commit — and then reap the benefits of sticking it out for years and years.
I think a lot about my parents (as a lot of children of divorce do), and it has left me with a sense of uncertainty. Now please don’t take this the wrong way. I know there are marriages that need to end. There are people who start out super charming, but once they get into the mix, they are toxic and damaging to everyone around them.
But what I can say is that if you have two people who love each other, are mature, and willing to work (because marriage takes a lot of work), there is this sweet friendship that develops and it’s one of the most wonderful things I’ve ever experienced.
Naturally my wife responded to my question the way I knew she would, which was amazing to hear. I didn’t know how to tell her all the above, so when she asked me “why,” I just shrugged and said, “I don’t know. You are my best friend, and I wanted to see if you felt the same. It’s silly.”
She leaned in and kissed me. “No. It’s not,” she said.
We talked about a few things. Nothing special. Then she said, “Want to watch the Great British Baking Show tonight?”
“No,” I said.
I never want to watch that show.
“But you will because you are my best friend, right?”
I rolled my eyes. “Yes,” I said. “But we are watching Stranger Things tomorrow night.”
“Fine,” she said. “But only because we are best friends.”
“We should get friendship bracelets,” I said.
Mel gave me a flat look that said, “Don’t push it.”