I’ve heard many people say they “married their best friend,” and I’ve always felt a bit bewildered by that statement because that was not my experience. I didn’t marry my best friend, but with a little intentionality, the man I married is becoming my best friend.
While there was certainly an aspect of friendship in our dating relationship, we never filled the role of “best friend” for one another. We shared a few common interests, but overall our personalities were too different for us to share all of our passions.
A decade into marriage, my husband and I found ourselves sitting in a counselor’s office. We realized we no longer knew how to have fun together. Our relationship had become transactional in nature.
“We aren’t friends,” I told our counselor.
Even though our early friendship had all but evaporated, we still loved each other. We were doing a decent job raising our kids. We could efficiently tackle projects around the house or for our work. But we didn’t even enjoy each other’s company some days. Five kids, three moves, cancer, depression, and a whole lot of life had slowly pushed us apart. We had been in survival mode for far too long. Just keeping everyone alive and healthy had sucked any real life out of our relationship.
There was no quick cure, but we both knew we didn’t want to continue in a marriage devoid of fun and friendship. So we adopted a new commitment to rediscovering each other. It was a bit depressing to realize many of the things we enjoyed as a couple earlier in our marriage no longer interested one or both of us. My husband had become very involved in Crossfit. Not something I was interested in. At. All. I looked forward to spending as much time outside as possible—something he found exhausting.
Regardless of our own likes and dislikes, we made an effort to care about the other person’s interests. Even if I had no desire to go to a Crossfit class, I could still ask my husband about his workout and listen to his answer with genuine interest. When I did, I actually found it interesting and wanted to learn more. He did the same for me, inquiring about my long days homeschooling our kids. Moreover, he made sure I had time to pursue my passion for writing each week.
We struck a deal with some friends and started swapping childcare so we could go on a date every other week. Our counselor suggested a few date night rules: no talking about work or kids or anything stressful. This made for some awkward silence at first but we eventually got the hang of it and learned to talk about ourselves, our dreams for the future, and just the plain ol’ fun non-stressful stuff of life.
I started laughing at my husband’s jokes again, instead of rolling my eyes and wishing for a serious conversation. I started flirting with him in the morning while he cooked breakfast instead of waiting for him to leave the kitchen so I could make my breakfast without him being “in the way.” I complimented his work and thanked him for all the things he did around the house.
My husband upped his game when it came to helping me take care of the kids. He got back into the habit of taking them on “dates,” which was good for me and them. He took initiative in planning our dates and surprising me with fun nights out. He made to do a better job checking in with me and my schedule before making changes to his calendar that would affect our whole family.
Now that I have experienced the ebb and flow of our relationship I see the value in investing in friendship with my husband. It’s ok that I didn’t marry my best friend twelve years ago. To expect one person to completely fulfill me always seemed a little too much like a fairytale to be true. But that doesn’t mean we should settle. We can’t avoid dealing with the mundane or stressful aspects of life, but we are finding that our lives together are enriched by investing in fun and friendship with each other. We’re in this, and we’re in this together.