We’ve all seen them: soppy social media posts proclaiming that someone’s partner is their best friend. If you share that sentiment, please know I am not taking shots at you or your relationship; I am happy for you and I hope it works out. It has just always struck me as strange to place so much onus on one person. I can’t imagine doing it, for reasons I will attempt to explain here.
I have had the same best friend since Year 8. Jodie and I became friends when we were seated next to each other in Science, a pair of quiet, bookish girls who didn’t really fit in. She quickly overtook everyone else in my estimations, and before long we were inseparable. You know your friendship is solid when some of the less bright people in your year group accuse you of being lesbians.
When I moved schools at the end of Year 9, Jodie was the only one I kept in touch with. We wrote regular letters to each other, back when people still did such things. I still have them, reams and reams of paper dating back to half my lifetime ago. We remained friends throughout my time at uni, when I was off gallivanting here, there and everywhere. She is incredibly understanding, gives the best advice, and is one of the few people in the world who can tell me I’m being irrational without me being mortally offended. She’s been there for me through everything, including all my past relationship dramas.
I can’t claim to have had many boyfriends, just four (that I actually count), but none of them were ever my best friend. It’s easy to mistake them for such when they’re your go-to for everything, but when it came down to it, I always knew that title belonged to Jodie, and a good job too. If previous partners had also been my best friend, then I’d have been screwed. Who would I have gone to when the shit hit the fan? Who would I have confided in, and who would have comforted me? Not them, that’s for sure.
I’ll tell you who my best friend is. She’s the one who cleared up their mess. She’s the one who offered to jump in the car and drive the best part of two hundred miles to pick me up the last time I had my heart broken. She’s the one who shows up for me time after time after time. She was there long before those guys, and she is still here long after.
One thing I know is that your closest friends love you in a way your partner never will. Personally, I have found the love of my friends to be more dependable, less self-serving and much less easily eroded. In a romantic relationship there will always be an element of self-interest, of “what am I getting out of this?” With my friends I don’t feel that. If anything, I can be more open and honest with Jodie than I can with my boyfriend. In a relationship, there is always the pressure to maintain a certain level of desirability. Sometimes that involves biting your tongue or kerbing some of your less commendable personality traits.
Of course, there are many similarities between a close friendship and a romantic partnership. One can segue into the other, but the moment a relationship becomes romantic, its nature changes. The stakes are higher, and with height comes a certain precariousness, with hopes, fears and expectations now muddying the waters. It is a huge gamble, which is why I personally think it is safer and healthier not to have your partner be your best friend. To me, they are two very distinct roles, and that is how I prefer it.