There are lots of predictable occurrences in life. You can pretty much bet that if you straighten your hair or wash your car, it’s going to rain; or that Googling any number of random symptoms, no matter how minor, will convince you that you’re afflicted with a life-threatening illness. And when someone posts a Facebook status or meme about their wedding anniversary or Valentine’s Day—or buys a card, or makes a verbal statement—it’s practically guaranteed that the phrase “best friend” will be thrown in there somewhere.
I married my best friend. I’m so lucky to wake up to my best friend every morning. So thankful for my best friend. Hashtag best friend, hashtag blessed.
But I don’t like to say that. Because my husband is not my best friend.
Saying he’s my best friend is like saying “it’s a little breezy” while a tornado blows your house to smithereens. It’s like calling the Grand Canyon a ditch. There’s no phrase that could ever adequately encompass the level of closeness between us, no pithy saying that could ever do it justice.
Before you start rolling your eyes and/or gagging, let me say this: It’s not because we’re this exceptional partnership, or some epic love story for the ages. This is not a “my marriage is better than your marriage” type of thing. We’re a normal couple who has been together for a long time (over 20 years, if you’re wondering).
We argue over stupid stuff, over important stuff, because one of us is being difficult (never me, of course). We butt heads on issues big and small, reasonable and petty. Life gets in the way, and we realize it’s been months since we’ve had a date night or weeks since we’ve gone to bed at the same time. And he knows how to push my buttons quicker than anybody else on this earth, ever—exactly what to say, what to do, what look to give to rile me right up (like pooping at inconvenient times, for one thing).
But therein lies the beauty of our relationship, and the reason that “best friend” seems like an insufficient title. Not that he knows exactly how to piss me off, but that he knows me so intimately in every aspect, and vice versa.
My best friend might know that I’m petrified of zombies, but my husband knows that I’m petrified of zombies because when I was five my older siblings let me watch Return of the Living Dead while they were left in charge (great call, Mom and Dad).
My best friend might be able to tell you that I despise fish, or that tequila gives me a wicked hangover, but my husband can tell you my social security number, what medication makes me swell up like an overfilled balloon, and the story behind the tattered and dirty stuffed bear I still display in our bedroom.
He has seen me dressed to the nines, in full hair/makeup/Spanx, and in food-encrusted sweatpants with stubbly legs and greasy hair. He has seen me birth babies and, embarrassingly, the turds that sometimes precede them. He has seen my biggest triumphs, and he has seen my broken heart.
He can also tell you how I’ll react to any given situation, what I love more deeply than anything, and the fears, experiences, and traumas that cut me to the core. He knows the things I don’t say, and feels the things I can’t put into words.
I love my best friends. They are dear and important and a vital component of my well-being. We’ve had some fun, hilarious, amazing times together.
But as much as I adore them, I’ve never made critical decisions based on their circumstances. I’ve never cried with them as I watched our shared life crumbling beyond our control, or fought like hell beside them to patch it up despite our differences. My friends can offer advice on major issues, but they’re not as emotionally invested because—at the end of the day—it’s not their life, not our life. And when I look at them, no matter how eternally thankful I am for their presence, my heart doesn’t squeeze until it feels like it could explode.
Friendships take effort, sure, but not the same as partnership. Friendships are relatively easy, but marriages are not. They take work and sacrifice and endurance. It’s staying afloat together when the world is a shitstorm, and paddling hard to right yourselves when you capsize. It’s an exertion that deserves an infinitely more distinct title than “friend.”
You can “friend” someone you don’t even know on Facebook. It doesn’t come close to being in the same category as the layered, messy, beautiful, tangled, hard-earned love I share with the person I married, not even when you slap a “best” on the front of it. The term “soulmates” doesn’t cut it, either, because it indicates some kind of effortless romance so perfect that it transcends the everyday crap—and we’ve worked for the relationship we have, dammit.
So until someone comes up with a better turn of phrase, I’ll just buy my husband a card that says something funny, and his laugh will make me laugh, and we’ll share one of the moments that make us who we are: so, so much more than best friends.
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