As I mentioned before, the road to commitment is long and winding, and there are a lot of pitfalls that can get the best of even the most well intentioned couple. One of the most treacherous of pitfalls, in my mind, is the mess we’ve made of distinguishing between lovers and best friends. While the concept of lovers being your best friend is the stuff of country music legend, it doesn’t seem, to me, to be all that helpful as an organizing principle. The way I feel about my best friends is not the way that I feel about my boyfriend. That’s a good thing because, while Tim McGraw, with his rugged handsomeness and perfect twang, makes the idea awfully romantic, if your lover is your best friend, and your best friend is your lover, we have a problem with the way we define friendship.
Certainly, I’m not the first to question the logic behind this statement, but it warrants continued discussion– and, perhaps, some wisdom gained from personal experience. I am very good friends with my boyfriend. I genuinely enjoy spending time with him (obviously) and sharing a lot of my interests with him. However, I do not consider him to be my best friend.
Pourquoi? You may ask. Parce que l’amour est tres, tres different avec vos amies et vos amants.
Mais, Valérie! You might exclaim [while spelling my name incorrectly because you’re French or, well, a person]. L’amour entre amies est la plus pur en la monde! Pourquoi ne voulez-vous pas avec votre petit ami?! [excuse my French but a discussion about the bounds of love only seemed appropriate in its mother tongue].
Let me explain. It’s not that I don’t want it – if I thought that it was possible, I would be all about it. I just don’t think that it is possible and that we’re making romantic relationships much more difficult by putting pressure on them to meet our every emotional need. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t feel comfortable sharing things with your S.O. or expect them to support you through the difficult times in life. They still need to be a decent human. But, we’re asking for trouble when we then ask our S.O.’s to pull quadruple duty and be our lover, mother, friend, and general dumping ground. It’s also incredibly vain to think that any of us could fulfill someone else’s needs entirely.
We all have to give up a little bit of ourselves when we commit to being with someone else. You’re not always going to get to pick the movie or dinner spot. There is someone else who now has a vested interest in making sure your dreams and hopes and wishes come true, but you also have to commit to helping make their hopes/dreams/wishes reality, too. Many times, we just have to let the lesser wishes go by the wayside (cue end of rock-star dreams) to support the common vision that develops over time.
We may defer certain dreams for a time, but that part of us that wanted those things doesn’t just die. And that’s where best friends come in. It’s great, of course, when you can share things with your S.O. – for instance, mon petit ami speaks French and I started taking French after we started dating because I wanted to learn a language. It’s fun to have completely nonsensical conversations from time to time and pretend like we’ve become the epitome of the “cultured intellectual.” Or, maybe that’s just what I get out of it.
However, one of my friends is always up for whatever random cultural event happening and another friend shares an interest in education reform, and I really enjoy getting to share those things with my besties. Not because my S.O. wouldn’t attend events with me, but because it’s a chance to indulge a part of my personality that is not core to the relationship that I have with him, and the dreams that we have for the future.
One of the things that I worry about in terms of moving in together is losing those parts of myself that aren’t seeking a future through the relationship. The minor characters who gladly step aside in service to the greater vision, but that I can imagine peeking out in five or ten years and asking where I’ve been, and why I left them all alone. I have talked about this with the boy a few times, and he understands that there are some things that I need to keep to myself, for myself. I am happy to share with him why it’s important, and the impact that those things have on my life, but I don’t sacrifice them in the name of relationship. Because as great of friends as we are, it’s important for us to maintain individual identities, which is why your lover can’t be your best friend.
Your best friends keep you grounded to the person you are – the one outside of the relationship. Your lover keeps you grounded within the relationship. These forces tend to move in the same direction and in many ways overlap, but they are not the same, and a weak hold to one only increases the work that the other has to do. So, here’s to lovers and best friends – and they’re continued separation.
Thank you Six Word Love Story for the image!
Valarie is from Georgia. No, she doesn't have an accent. No one in metro-Atlanta really does. You can read her thoughts, using non-regional diction, at thinkingaboutdoing.tumblr.com.
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