One of the justifications that I see all. the. time. around here is “He’s my best friend”. A woman will describe a veritable nightmare of a man and when someone points it out, the inevitable response is: “He’s my best friend” with a handful of trite niceties thrown in.
So let’s talk about the idea of a partner versus a best friend. Your man should not be your best friend. He should never be your best friend. The boyfriend, fiancé, husband role is different from the best friend role. When there is overlap you risk failing to vet properly, you lack an external support network, and you accept behaviors that are not acceptable from a partner.
The Best Friend vs The Boyfriend
Ask yourself: What are the biggest things I’ve done for a best friend? How optional was it? How optional would it be for a partner?
Here are two of mine:
When my BFF had her twins, I visited for a weekend to give her some relief. When the weekend was over, I went back to my life. Her husband, doesn’t get the option to go back to his life. He was right there in the trenches with her the whole time. There was no break for him, no returning to work on Monday. And you know, her family thought I was just wonderful for the time I spent. What they didn’t see was her husband doing laundry at 3am so she could sleep and the house could still function. It was optional for me, it was parenthood for him.
We’re at an age now when grandparents are dying. When my BFFs grandfather died, I didn’t make the funeral because it was up in Queens and that made it entirely impractical. When my dear friend from HS’s grandmother died, I did make it to the funeral because it was in our hometown on a Saturday. I love them both equally but I had the option to attend these events and I did as much as I was able to do. But do you know how didn’t have an option – their husbands. Those men were there holding their wives and supporting them through it all.
You may take care of a friend when she is sick, drive her to the hospital or pick her up from the airport. I say may because it’s not your responsibility. If there is something more pressing in your life, you handle your other responsibilities first. But if your partner needs a ride to the hospital, you will leave work at the drop of a hat to take him and sit with him for the duration.
The role of a friend and a partner is simply different. You make vacation plans for next year’s trip with your best friend. You make plans for where you will move with your partner. You share all your life’s details with your best friend because that it how you bond. You share all your life’s details with your partner because what happens in your life directly impacts his. You discuss a job offer with a friend to get an opinion and help you decide. You discuss a job offer with a partner because it means reassessing your future together.
In my job, we tell married clients that they have to be rowing the boat together to reach their goals. To stretch that metaphor – your partner and you must row one boat together, your friends and you are in separate boats heading along a similar path.
This is a good thing because while you are rowing along, you don’t see the boat from the outside. Your friends are there to look out for you. She sees things that you might not see. She is there to give you support if you start to tip over. She’s there as a companion while the Captain is busy charting the course. And sometimes, she’s there to throw you a line when you can’t row anymore.
You cannot combine the roles. If you do, you become to insular in your relationship and can lack socialization. You lose an outside perspective. You need outside support when you and your partner go through hardships and cannot fully support each other. All this can be a problem in a marriage but it is a much bigger deal during the vetting stage.
And those are the women who most often default to this idea.
Because if you are vetting and you’ve become so attached that he is your best friend, a break up means losing both your boyfriend and the future you see with him and losing your best friend, your social outlet and your emotional support.
Further, we love our friends and it is easy to forget that what is acceptable behavior in a friend is not always acceptable behavior in a partner. You may not care that your best friend smokes because you don’t live with her and you don’t plan to have children with her. You can be concerned about your best friend’s drinking but her addition wouldn’t derail your future. You can even quietly think your best friend is terrible for cheating on her man while still loving and supporting her because it’s not you she is betraying. Any of these behaviors in a partner is a massive red flag that needs to be examined.
Don’t use “he’s my best friend” to justify allowing bad behavior from a partner. Fear of losing two roles at once makes us hold more tightly to men we should not. Don’t look to your partner to fill a role that rightly belongs to a woman who is dear to you. One person should not be responsible for fulfilling both roles. You will lose out if you fill them with one person. In short: if your boyfriend is your best friend, then it’s time to find a new best friend.