Is it appropriate for your romantic partner to also be your best friend?

Should Your Romantic Partner Also Be Your Best Friend? Here’s What Relationship Experts Say

Listen for the inevitable inquiry “what are you looking for in a soul mate?” on every reality-TV dating show. and at least one contestant will undoubtedly declare, “I’m looking for a companion who will be my best friend in life.”

To some, the combination of best friendship and love partnership may appear ideal, but to others, it’s just a sugary conflation of two independent and distinct things. But, according to relationship experts, the answer to the question “Should your partner be your best friend?” is largely dependent on your perspective of best friendship.

When you take the word “best” out of the equation and consider friendship in a broader sense, the response among relationship specialists is very clear: Yes, a good romantic connection necessitates a solid friendship, which is why so many romantic couples are friends before dating (or become friends while dating).

“All of the elements that make up a good relationship—trust, mutuality, respect, caring, compassion, vulnerability, effective communication—all of those elements should be present in your best friendships, regular friendships, and romantic relationships,” says Terri Cole, relationship expert and psychotherapist.

“In reality, friendship and the sense of support it entails is at the core of any healthy relationship.” —psychologist and friendship expert Marisa G. Franco, PhD

In fact, the distinction between romance and friendship isn’t quite as stark as popular culture portrays it to be. “We frequently conceive of our relationships as very compartmentalized—as in, we do this with a love partner, and we do this with a friend,” explains Marisa G. Franco, PhD, a psychologist and friendship expert. “However, friendship, and the sense of support that comes with it, is at the heart of any healthy relationship.”

So, should your partner be someone you consider a best friend or simply a friend?

The partner-friend dynamic becomes more intricate when the focus is narrowed to best friendship. It’s generally a nice thing to be best friends with a partner if you view a best friend as just a really excellent buddy or someone you can always count on when things got rough.

According to psychiatrist and neurologist Donald Raden, MD, “thinking of a partner in this way can bake an additional layer of respect into the relationship and your communication patterns with that person.” Those who regard their spouse as their best friend are twice as likely to report higher overall pleasure, according to data from the British Household Panel Survey, which polled 30,000 people on aspects of life satisfaction in 2014.

It’s probable that feeling seen, heard, and welcomed from all sides, platonically and romantically, contributes to this sensation of well-being. “Your spouse, especially if you cohabitate, has a rare opportunity to see facets of you that most other people don’t,” says matchmaker and dating coach Tennesha Wood.

“And feeling like they’re also your best friend might foster an atmosphere of openness in which you can be completely yourself.” To put it another way, referring to a partner as a best friend could simply be code for the fact that you enjoy and adore each other, which is a wonderful thing.

Is there anything wrong with treating your significant other like a best friend?

When superlatives are taken to their literal extremities, they can get us into trouble, and the “best” in “best buddy” is no exception. It’s likely that if you define “best friend” as a buddy who is actually ranked above all others in your life, you’ll end up putting your partner on a pedestal, setting them up to disappoint you in the future.

“Expecting your partner to meet all of your emotional demands could be unrealistic,” Cole warns. “You’re asking them to play two important roles in your life: partner and best friend.”

Holding people in this type of all-encompassing light also puts you at risk of being insular, or acting as an island, as Dr. Franco puts it. “You’re suggesting that each of you is all that the other one needs in this type of framework,” she explains.

“However, research on emotionships shows that relying on different individuals in your life to help you deal through different emotions, such as anger or grief, is linked to improved well-being.” Maintaining other friends—even really good or “best” friends—outside of your partnership is, in turn, critical to the partnership’s continued success.

Given that a romantic relationship will certainly endure difficulties that a friendship will not (such as familial and financial obligations), the “best friend” title can often be a slippery slope to conflict avoidance.

After all, you wouldn’t question a best friend about their parent’s behavior or the fact that they have a terrible credit score, but important life decisions and situations sometimes require a buy-in or even approval from both persons with a love relationship, according to Wood.

Even if shared logistics aren’t involved, it’s possible that seeking to meet all of your romantic and platonic friendship demands in one relationship could lead to entanglement or codependency. “Your entire sense of self becomes entwined with your relationship with that individual,” Dr. Franco explains, “which can reduce resilience and increase stress.”

Of course, that isn’t inherent in a best-friend relationship as long as there is enough distance in the relationship for each person to preserve their sense of self—something Dr. Franco advises in any relationship, whether it’s strongly platonic, intensely amorous, or both.

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