“Marriages are forms of super friendship”
— John F. Helliwell, Senior Fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research
Some marriages begin with love at first sight. Usually, but not always, they fail after the initial buzz wears off. Others begin with a friendship that grows into love. This kind of marriage is more likely to succeed in the long run.
Love at first sight is based largely on fantasy and romantic longings. Don’t get me wrong — I love romance. It’s just that it’s not the main ingredient for an everyday fulfilling, lasting marriage. Romance is more like a condiment; it’s there to spice things up.
Spice is nice...very nice! But it’s there to enhance what already is nourishing. If friendship is lacking in a marriage, romance and attraction won’t last or the relationship won’t be satisfying overall.
What qualities do you value in a good friend? Are you drawn to someone with similar values who supports, respects, and understands you? A trustworthy person with whom you enjoy talking, laughing, and just hanging out?
Friendship Is Key for Lasting Happiness
Ample research confirms that friendship is the main ingredient for a lasting, fulfilling relationship. When the British Household Panel Survey asked people about their closest friend, half of them said it was their spouse. For those who called their partner their best friend, the benefits of marriage were about twice as great as for those who didn’t.
Researcher John F. Helliwell states that happiness in marriage “has less to do with your social status or financial stability, and more to do with sharing wedding bands with your BFF.”
A 13-year longitudinal study by Tom Huston at the University of Texas Austin (Huston et al., 2001) found that “couples with steady, longer courtship periods and awareness of each other’s strengths and weaknesses were more likely to remain happily married over the long term. By contrast, couples with ‘Hollywood Romances’ — bursting, passionate courtships that quickly result in marriage — quickly grew dissatisfied as spouses, and predictably, were more likely to divorce within seven years.
Best Friend Spouses Are More Sexually Fulfilled
Researchers found that “valuing your friendship with your partner helps create relationships with more commitment, more love and greater sexual satisfaction.”
It seems only natural that sexual intimacy would be more emotionally and spiritually fulfilling when you feel truly understood, loved, and cared for by your partner.
Other Friendships Are Important
Of course, no matter how wonderful a spouse is, he or she cannot meet all of your needs; no one person can do that for another. Supportive friends can fill the gap. Treasure yours, keep in touch, and spend quality time with them. Freeing your potential — or actual — spouse from the absurd expectation of being your “everything” supports both of you and your relationship.
After marriage, certainly romance and sex should spice things up. But most of your time together will be spent relaxing, talking, eating meals, and dealing with chores and other responsibilities. A spouse who is your best friend will be there for the happy times and the challenging ones.
* BFF stands for Best Friends Forever
Marcia Naomi Berger, MSW, LCSW, author of Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love: 30 Minutes a Week to the Relationship You've Always Wanted (New World Library, 2014), is a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist in private practice. A former executive director of a family service agency, she previously worked in the fields of child welfare, alcoholism treatment, and psychiatry. She teaches continuing education classes for social workers, psychologists, marriage and family therapists, and counselors. www.marriagemeetings.com