“True love is finding your soulmate in your best friend,” wrote Faye Hall in
This sounds beautiful – and it is. But, when falling in love with your best friend, isn’t it wise to use an extra layer of caution?
After all, there is far more at stake than in a typical relationship. Breaking up with a significant other is painful, and losing a best friend is much more so. To risk it all, one must be pretty sure of their partner – and sure of themselves.
But isn’t that the point?
In choosing a partner, pursuing a relationship with one’s best friend is, from a statistical standpoint, the greatest gamble possible. As is often the case, the risk involved is proportional to the reward. The potential for pain is astronomical, but so is the possibility of finding happiness. Researchers at Monmouth University sought to gather some data to find out how common best-friend romantic partnerships actually are.
After all, conventional wisdom dictates that it’s foolish to date your best friend, lest you ruin the friendship forever.
However, a scientific poll of over eight hundred people found that that 83% of American adults currently in a relationship report that they consider their current partner to be their best friend. These numbers were even higher among married couples, at nearly 90%. This would suggest that not only do most couples see value in combining their romance with friendship, but that those who do go on to form more successful and long-lasting connections.
As Dr. Gary Lewandowski, a professor and chair of psychology at Monmouth University who researches the dynamics of romantic partnerships, explained, “Considering your romantic partner to be your best friend is an important component of quality relationships. In fact, when researchers asked couples who have been married over 15 years why their relationship lasted, the top reason was that their partner is their best friend.”
This is a very different attitude than was prevalent 25 years ago. In a 1993 study, only 44% – less than half – of respondents who were in a relationship indicated that their partner was their best friend. The idea that those numbers have nearly doubled is not a coincidence, and it represents a shifting idea of romantic relationships in our society.
As we push hopefully toward gender equality, we are more conscious of splitting household chores and financial responsibilities in an equitable way. Although we are far from total fairness, we are much more conscious than previous generations were in regards to the work that our spouse does. Fathers are becoming more involved as parents than ever before. Mothers are taking on the role of breadwinner in increasing numbers.
There is still a very, very long way to go. However, as we begin to better understand and relate to one another, we are becoming more capable of seeing one another as more than partners – as best friends.
But does it work?
According to more science, yes.
Across two studies with nearly four hundred participants in relationships, the respondents who claimed to place a higher value on their partner’s friendship also reported deeper levels of commitment and a greater magnitude of loving feelings. They were even shown to enjoy more satisfying sex lives than those who did not consider friendship to be an important aspect of their romantic connection. It would seem that Friedrich Nietzsche was on to something when he said “It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.”
As for me, my husband is, absolutely and forever, my best friend in the entire world. I can’t imagine my life any other way.