I need to get this off my chest: my husband is not my best friend. He’s never been my best friend and never will be. I experience some envy of the young brides and long-married wives who contentedly call their spouse “my best friend.” Facebook has a site called “My Husband Is My Best Friend” with over 170,000 “likes”! I don’t doubt that some husbands are capable of female-friendly friendship. But mine is not and, well, his relation toward me is not anything I recognize as friendship, not in terms I understand. I am not complaining. For me, not being best friends is the cornerstone of our marriage – and I love my marriage just the way it is.
In fact, my marriage – to this man who is most definitely not my best friend – rescued me from a foolish pursuit and restored my sense of self as a woman.
In my youth, I adopted progressive feminism’s delirious ambition to “level” the playing field between the sexes by coaxing and coercing women into behaving more like men. I gave this pursuit a long, honest try, even as I grew skeptical whether being more like a man was actually making me happy. But I plucked away at the enterprise. That is, I plucked away at it until I married a man. Coming into close quarters with my “feminist” goal horrified me, and finally disabused me of my own agenda.
Husband is a verb – “to manage, especially with prudent economy” – that describes mine better than the noun. Just calling him spouse, partner or companion says nothing about him. He could call me the same, his “spouse or partner or companion,” as if we are just alike, friends who got married. Husband, in its verbiage, works better by hinting there is difference between us. In my marriage, it works especially well because my husband wears his tendency to manage, direct and control all things with pride and tenacity. He is stereotypical “male” in this way – the kind of overbearing Alpha male that caused my own mother to comment “I’ve never cared for men like that.”
I don’t mind that my husband is an Alpha male and incapable of being my best friend. He is, after all, my husband: my one-of-a-kind, stand-alone, close call with being male. He’s exactly what I needed to unfurl my female self which had curled up in shame and deference to my feminist agenda. He is both amazing and terrifying and I am happy to keep it that way. I would not have become the wife (and mother) that I am without his maleness regularly confounding me, annoying me and astounding me.
What he lacks in empathy (which he once described as “Greek to me”), he supplies in courage and resolution. His enormous capacity for technical detail and reasoned analysis leaves little room, or interest, for emotive and interpersonal connection (which he, literally, entrusts to me). He cannot fret over – what he calls “remote” – risks because then he could not set off on motorcycles, road bikes, downhill skis or 4-wheel drive vehicles with his like-minded males friends to “have some fun.” Nor can he worry about offending “sensitive” people, the type who would forbid his weekly night of steak, cigars and brass banter with the “boys.”
It is beyond dispute that, were I to try to join him in his ways, I would be an utter and complete failure. I would cry, tremble or hug when my empathy got the better of me. I would say “thank you,” “I’m sorry,” and “I forgot to tell you . . . “ only to derail a deal he’d patiently and purposefully assembled over weeks. I would (and have) endangered others and crashed at speeds I had no business attempting. I have stomped out of his steak dinners in dismayed disgust. In other words, if my husband is the man I once longed to be, my ambition was a waste from the start.
My marriage is a great relief to me. I don’t have to be a man to level the playing the field. My husband can be the man he is and I can be the woman I love to be. I can supply empathy, nurturing, connection, patience and listening in all the creaky joints, knowing with passionate certainty that my husband needs me in order to be the best man he can be – just as much as I need him to be the best woman I can be. That’s a level playing field.
Our field is quite lively, level and loving, I think most people would say. We have spirited play, and tremendous exchange, between ourselves. Often, we are amazed at how entertaining and provocative our differences are. We often opt to be alone together because it’s fun. I’d say, we are like two halves of a heart. He’d probably say it’s more like a flame and a good cigar.
To give you an idea, here’s one of our favorite stories.
Over several evenings in the company of friends, my husband noted that I came away with far more personal information about the lives, troubles and joys of the people with whom we had just spent several hours. While always more versed in their new audio equipment and current reading, he felt challenged to come away with something more, something personal that he alone found out and could share with me for a change.
After our next evening out with Dr. Bill and his wife, my husband prodded, “Did you know that Dr. Bill is taking a sabbatical?”
I shook my head “no.” My happy husband described our friend’s plan to take leave from his medical practice and move abroad. Grinning, my husband poked, “You did not know any of that, did you? Ha! She didn’t tell you, did she?”
I paused, feeling sorry for him, and responded lightly, “No, she didn’t mention the sabbatical. But, honey, did Dr. Bill tell you that they are getting divorced?” He sulked the rest of the way home.
No, my husband is not my best friend. He’s my … husband – and I am his wife. Our marriage is built upon our differences, and I hope and pray it stays that way.