My husband came as a package deal: buy one (him), get one more (his best friend) for free. Yes, it was clear from the start that falling in love with my husband meant that I’d have to put up with the other guy—I’ll call him Miles. It was also clear that Miles and I were not and would never be BFFs.
The first time I met Miles I remember having a long and heated discussion about women’s issues and the economy. He was an unpleasant debater: smart, but combative. We didn’t agree on much. Thing is, the two of them had been tight since 9th grade, so Miles had a good decade on me in the being-close-to-my-future-husband department. What could I do? I grudgingly accepted him.
But I was envious of their relationship. My husband and Miles had a long and much-referenced shared history, a trove of conversation topics ranging from politics to Star Trek fandom to fantasy sports, and a way of relating to one another that had me on the outside. They also had a slew of unhealthy habits that revolved around greasy food and late night TV.
When I think back to the early days of dating my husband, Miles is often in those memories—catching dinner and a movie with us or strolling through Golden Gate park. When I look back at the photos of our wedding, there’s Miles and his date — about twelve girlfriends back. (Another thing I disliked about Miles: he seemed to go through girlfriends like the Bachelor. But I digress.)
Anyhow, time passed. My husband and I moved nearly three thousand miles away from the BFF, and during the next decade we traveled, started careers, got a dog, had kids. You know, we lived our lives. And my husband and Miles stayed close. Nonetheless, I clung to the notion that spouses are supposed to tell each other everything and be for-real BFFs.
That didn’t happen.
Sure, my husband and I were close, and our marriage proved strong and loving, but I never quite felt like his best friend. We enjoyed one another’s company immensely, had interesting conversations and great sex. We were lots of things: co-parents, financial partners, companions. But best friends? Not so much. And this failure nagged at me.
Then things changed. My husband and I went through a rough patch that turned into a rough year. I can see now that in my pain and hurt I was casting about for someone else to blame. Fearing that Miles was a bad influence on my husband—I loathe to admit this part, friends—I actually requested that my husband cut ties. I may have even given him an ultimatum: Miles or me. (Like I said, I’m not proud.)
Not too surprisingly, my husband chose me. We had two kids and thirteen years of marriage under our belts at that point. Finally, I had won my rightful place as his BFF. The glories of said BFF-ness, I strongly believed, would now rain down upon me. I’d get to know everything about him that had previously been reserved for Miles; in addition to the spousal stuff we already had, I would now be that politics-debating, Star Trek-referencing, fantasy-sports-informed kind of friend. And while I did want him to have other friends, I didn’t want him to have another BFF. I would be his most important confidante.
But, as it turned out, I didn’t grok all the Star Trek references and I sure didn’t—and don’t—give a damn about which fantasy football players he should start on any given week. It’s just not my thing. The role of BFF became more of a burden than a blessing. Time and again, listening to the merits of playing Brady or Wilson or Rodgers, I found myself wishing my husband would shut up for half a second so I could read my book, or call my mom, or think my own thoughts. Active listening on my part turned to “uh-huh,” and “okay” and “hmmm,” as I desperately strategized ways to exit the conversations.
So yeah, I failed as my husband’s best friend. We had a lot of life together, and a lot to share—yes—but I realized that maybe we didn’t need to share every last thing. He needed his own BFF. And so did I.
And that’s when I abandoned the whole spouses-as-besties notion. I finally accepted the fact that we can be the most important person in the other one’s life and not be best friends. In fact, we actually get along better when we have others to confide in, bounce ideas off of, and even to vent to (about our spouses) once in a while.
Staring longingly at the book I wished I was reading, which sat on the coffee table collecting dust, I broke down. “Please,” I begged my husband, “call Miles right now.” And, with a good deal of relief on both our parts, he did. Oh, thank God, I remember thinking as I dusted off the dog-eared book and settled into the couch.
So yes, I gave my husband the gift of not being his best friend—and it’s perhaps the best one I’ve ever given. For both of us. Meanwhile, my husband recently flew out to the West Coast to spend a three-day weekend with Miles where I assume they ate too much greasy food, watched TV until three in the morning, and overall had a great time. I’m so glad they did. As it happens, I’m a terrible BFF for my husband but I am a pretty good wife.