It’s the height of wedding season, and couples across America are kicking off their new lives with heartfelt toasts that begin, “Today I married my best friend.” Misty-eyed guests smile at the sentiment — and why not? Over the years, our culture has romanticized the idea that healthy relationships mean husbands and wives are BFFs as well as loving partners.
But is that such a good thing? A growing number of experts say no.
“Friendship is a huge part of marriage, but expecting your spouse to be your everything is unrealistic and can strain the relationship,” says psychotherapist Joyce Marter, CEO of Urban Balance LLC, a counseling group practice in Chicago. “Women need and deserve multiple people in our lives who love us and offer us support, whether it’s for a crisis like a serious illness or a daily drama with a nasty coworker. It’s not fair or wise to rely on your husband for all your friendship needs.”
Here are the top three reasons your healthy relationships and marriages can benefit from maintaining close female friendships:
It’s Good for Your Marriage.
Couples who are BFFs tend to be enmeshed, meaning they have few outside friendships and spend virtually all of their spare time together. In other words, they live in a bubble. How boring is that?
“It’s a setup for too much dependency and isolation from other sources of support,” Marter explains. Far better is to enjoy what she calls a “healthy separation,” where spouses have different friends, work and hobbies that make them interesting and whole. You’ll bring more to the marriage party if you have a life and experiences outside of your relationship.
It’s Good for You.
Be honest — does your husband really want to hear about your hair problems, the mom-cliques at your kids’ school, or who got the final rose on The Bachelorette? Probably not. But your BFF does! She’ll serve as a relief valve for your marriage — think Meredith and Cristina in Grey’s Anatomy, who call each other “my person.”
As Marter points out, “Men and women process life, emotions and relationships differently. Men like to problem-solve and make decisions, but women like to listen to details, talk things through and offer empathy. We have different menus of the kind of support we can provide, and it’s good for women to have the support of a husband and a BFF.”
It’s Good for Your Kids
By keeping tight bonds with girlfriends, you’ll give your children the gift of positive role models and adults who care about them outside the family — the “it takes a village” concept. They’ll grow up knowing the value of developing a strong social network of healthy relationships to rely on in good times and bad. What’s more, a mom who enjoys the support and perspective of gal-pals will be a happier, less-stressed parent. Call it a win-win all around!