Skip to main content

Sure, a lot of people tend to think that we’re supposed to be best friends with our partners but perhaps that’s not true. Don’t get me wrong, all relationships are different but what is healthy as a whole?

According to NY Times actually having your partner as your best friend is a very good thing and that people who think of their spouse or partner as their best friend tend to be satisfied with life overall more-so than most others. This makes a lot of sense because as we grow older we don’t really tend to have as many friends as we did at our younger age. The few friends we do have are real friends and the person we are most often times closest with is our partner. 

NY Times wrote as follows on some research behind this:

There is some research into this question. John Helliwell is a professor at the Vancouver School of Economics and the editor of the World Happiness Report. As he researched social connections a few years ago, he found that everyone derives benefits from online friends and real-life friends, but the only friends that boost our life satisfaction are real friends.

“But while the effects of real friends on your well-being is important for everybody,” he said, “they are less so for married people than for singles. That’s how we got to the idea that marriage is a kind of ‘super-friendship.’”

Dr. Helliwell and a colleague discovered that a long-running study in Britain had data that may illuminate this question. Between 1991 and 2009, the British Household Panel Survey asked 30,000 people to quantify their life satisfaction. In general, married people expressed higher satisfaction, he said, and were better able to manage the dip in well-being that most people experience in middle age, as they face work stress, caring for aging parents and other pressures.

But an entirely separate part of the study asked people to name their best friend. Those who listed their spouse were twice as likely to have higher life satisfaction. Slightly more men than women made that choice, he said, “which makes sense, because men tend to have fewer friends.”

Is feeling this way about your spouse necessary for a good marriage? I asked.

“Absolutely not,” Dr. Helliwell said. “The benefits of marriage are strong even for those who are littered with outside friends. It’s just bigger for those who consider their spouse their closest friend. It’s a bonus.”

Others are not so sure.

Overall, this is something that a lot of people have conflicting opinions on but that doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong if your partner isn’t necessarily your best friend. This kind of thing varies from relationship to relationship and is often quite gapped when it comes to men and women when things are broken down. That being said, I guess you could say there are positives to both sides of things. 

Psychology Today wrote as follows on the topic:

To help figure out how many best-friend couples are out there we asked 801 adults across the United States the following question: “Do you consider your partner to be your best friend or do you call somebody else your best friend?”

Among adults currently in a romantic relationship, the vast majority (83 percent) considered their current partner to be their best friend. For those who are currently married, the rate was even higher. Men and women had similar rates, while younger respondents were slightly less likely than older respondents to view their partner as their best friend. 

The overall numbers from this recent poll dwarf the earlier reported rate of best-friend romantic partners. In a 1993 study, only 44 percent of college students indicated their romantic partner was also their best bud. The difference in best-friend/love rates, almost doubling over the past 20 years, could just be an artifact of the published research’s college student sample. 

But expectations for modern relationships have evolved in the intervening years. Compared to previous generations, today’s heterosexual men and women are more accustomed to thinking of each other as friends on equal footing, even outside of the romantic realm. Once a romantic couple forms, we’re more likely to look for more egalitarian splits of power and divisions of labor. We hold our relationships to higher standards than we have in previous decades.

In particular, couples now expect their relationships to promote personal growth and help individuals fulfill their own goals. For example, your partner should help you become a better person by teaching you new things like how to make the perfect creme brulee, taking you places like the cool new trampoline park, and opening your eyes to new perspectives such as the benefits of eating a more vegetarian-based diet. Although this expectation for growth could conceivably place an unwieldy burden on your relationship, researchers believe that modern relationships are up to the task. In fact, the idea that a relationship can help an individual become a better person, a phenomenon that researchers call self-expansion, is a useful one; relationships that provide more expansion are also of higher quality.

I guess the answer overall to whether or not it’s healthy is that it can be depending on how things play out and how your relationship is as a whole. We need a lot from our partners and while that can be damning in some cases, it can help things flourish in some. What do you think about all of this?