When you click on any relationship advice article, it's almost guaranteed that, "Marry your best friend" would be included as one of the 5 Tips or 10 Things to a happy and long-lasting marriage.
In almost every Valentine's Day or Wedding Anniversary dedication post on Instagram, you'll likely see that the couple has included, "Thanks for being my best friend", or "I'm glad I married my best friend 5 years ago" in the caption. I, myself included. More than being my husband, Boon is also my best friend, and I have many times publicly professed it. Cheesy, cliché, but there's no better way to word it.
Recently I did some reflection on our marriage as we approach our 3rd wedding anniversary in less than a month's time. With a little one well on his way, I'm currently in a state of great joy and contentment, and I'm really happy with everything that life is offering and how we've grown over the years as a married couple.
Have we always been this happy? Yes. But has it always been smooth-sailing? Not really. Over these 11 years of dating, we've had our fair share of ups and downs, struggles and rough patches. And when we entered into married life 3 years ago, we had new, unfamiliar set of issues that drove each other up the wall especially in the first year of marriage. Subsequently, we learned from each episode and slowly things got smoother and better in the second year. Now in the third year, I'm pregnant and it hasn't been easy, especially for Boon, having to travel a lot for work purposes and taking care of a hormonal pregnant wife, lol.
Over the course of these 3 short years, I learned that "marry your best friend" is one of the most valuable advice you can give to anyone.
So we all know that we should marry our best friend, but WHY is it important?
Here are some of my personal views about it:
(Disclaimer: I'm no relationship expert, but these are purely my thoughts and things I've learned over time.)
1. Because you cannot live with someone whose company you do not enjoy.
Best friends love each other's company. A best friend is your default plus one, your preferred companion on a dull day, the person you'd text first when you received news that you're promoted, the person you'd go to when you had a rough day.
You may be thinking that this point of mine is absurd. Of course I enjoy the company of my other half more than anyone else! He/she will always be my default choice of companion for anything!
Well, you'll be surprised that there are many married couples I know who prefer to hang out with other people instead of their other halves. They have more fun when they're with their girl friends or guy friends, and they feel that they can be themselves and not be judged (like they do by their other halves). True story.
Slowly it turns out that they're always at different places with different people at the same time, because they each have their own set of friends, they don't like to hang out with each other's friends, and they don't like their other halves to hang out with their own friends too.
In the end they only hang out with each other when they're supposed to, because they're husband and wife, because it's the right thing to do, not because it's what they WANT to do.
It saddens me when I see couples around me going through this. It's a lonely relationship when you're not best friends with your other half, when you don't enjoy being around each other.
This usually doesn't happen from Day One. At the beginning of any relationship, it's always exciting cos it's an early phase of getting to know each other. But slowly as things progress, issues spring up. And when arguments go unsolved and things are constantly being swept under the carpet, that's when hearts turn cold and hardened. And when hearts are cold, you'd withdraw from being physically close to each other. You'd try to distance yourself. It's only normal.
One of the most dangerous things in any relationship be in a romantic relationship or even friendships is to sweep things under the carpet. Because of the mess they'll need to clear and hours of arguments they gotta go through to solve the problem, they would rather give up and sweep things under the carpet instead. It's tempting to do that because it's really no fun untangling issues, especially if your other half isn't cooperative. Sweeping things under the carpet seems like an instant solution! After a day or two, things seem normal again, you both are happy again and life goes on.
But it's not the same again. Deep in your heart a wall is already being built. Something is standing in the way of you two being genuinely honest and happy with each other. The more things are swept under the carpet, the higher and stronger the walls are built.
If you don't enjoy each other's company, it could be a lot of issues that led up to it. Maybe you often feel judged by your partner, misunderstanding you in everything that you say. Maybe it's because when you argue, he'll always have the final say, and you'll never win. Maybe it's because when you try to bring the problems up, he never listens and never changes. Maybe it's because you've been sweeping too many problems under the carpet, to a point that you don't know where to start picking up from, and you'd rather leave it be and continue with life.
But the good news is, it is NEVER too late to pick up the pieces and break down the walls in your relationship. It is still possible, as long as both parties are willing to work it out together.
Bring each other back to the times when you treated each other as best friends, and think about what made you fall in love in the first place. Cheesy, but that's how it is.
|Taken from Snapchat during our babymoon in Sydney haha|
2. Because it is not always romantic in marriage.
I personally believe that in a relationship/marriage, you need to be both a lover and a friend to each other. It doesn't even have to be best friends, but to just be a friend to each other.
A lover is romantic, fulfills your emotional needs and makes you feel loved. It's important to know how to be a good lover to your other half, and learning to meet his/her needs and speak his/her love language is important for a healthy, happy marriage.
However, the truth is, it's not always romantic in a relationship/marriage.
What about the times that you're just not in the right mood to be all cheesy and mushy? The days that you both don't feel like texting each other because you're too overwhelmed with work or problems that flood your mind? The nights that you prefer to go without any physical intimacy and go straight to sleep because you're too tired, or simply because you don't have the mood?
Many people have learned to become amazing lovers. They're smooth, and know just what to do and what to say. But when the situation becomes less romantic than they expected, they become lost.
When the sparks that have always spiced up the relationship is gone, and when there are no electricity when you look into each other's eyes, what else is left in the relationship?
That is when many call it quits. Because they don't "feel" the same anymore. It doesn't feel like the very first day, the very first time. Things have changed. We feel different now.
Guess what, this is the reality. You WILL feel different. Things WILL change. And you won't feel the same way you did on the very first day every day in your married life. When the expectations of your in-laws come into the picture, things become unromantic. When you have a little baby wailing just when you're about to catch the first few minutes of your much deserved sleep, it's not romantic. When you're stressing about finances and the pressure of bringing money home, it's seriously not romantic.
So what are you going to do about it? Quit when things aren't fun and exciting anymore? Or to never get married in the first place, since things WILL change?
This is when the basis of your relationship is very important. When you don't feel like lovers anymore, do you have a solid foundation to fall back on? The most basic of all human relationship is Friendship. Are you able to be friends to each other when your identity as lovers is not working out on that particular day or season?
A lot of people have only two extremes, it's either they're lovers, or enemies. It's either things are very sweet and loving, or harsh and explosive.
What about the middle ground, the foundation?
I've realised that many a times when I'm unhappy with Boon, I forget to treat him even in the most basic way- as a friend, but straight away swing to the extreme of treating him like an enemy. Sometimes we treat our friends better when dealing with conflicts than our other halves. Sometimes we're kinder to strangers than our husband/wife, and I've many times been guilty of it.
During the first year when things got fiery quickly, we often found ourselves jumping from one extreme to another, from lovers to enemies within seconds. One moment we found ourselves all lovey dovey, speaking to each other in the gentlest tones with the sweetest of words, and the next, we're hurling the harshest of insults, throwing baseless accusations and calling each other dreadful names. We were kinder to strangers than each other. That made me feel like we really lost it all together, in even as early as just the first year.
I remember asking Boon what we should do about it. We were so mean to each other. And it was only our first year.
Slowly we learned to seriously compromise, manage our expectations and most of all, be KIND to each other. That, to me is the golden key in marriage. To be kind. Oh, how easy it is for us to forget to just be kind to each other.
A little bit of kindness goes a long way. When you remember to be kind, you withhold the hurtful words that are just at the tip of your tongue, all ready to be thrown out. When you're being kind to your other half, instead of judging and assuming, you try to be empathetic. You'd find yourself trying to help him/her instead of demanding for an explanation. You'd handle conflicts in a much calmer and gentler way.
A little kindness goes a long, long way.
To be a friend to your other half when you're upset takes more out of you than you can imagine. But it's the right thing to do. To be kind, to be a friend.
That is why Boon and I always tell younger friends who come up to us for advice, to not rush into any relationship but be friends with each other FIRST. It's something that this younger generation struggle with. Things move so fast these days. Everything is about speed and everything needs to be instant, including stepping into a relationship.
When Boon first confessed that he liked me, he asked me to be his girlfriend a few months after we started SMS-ing (yes, RM0.20/SMS days. Ouch!). I was only 14 and I felt it was just wayyyy too fast. Yeah I was only 14 and I don't know why I was such an old soul who thought so much, but I've always told myself to never simply step into just any relationship. I wanted to give my heart to someone whom I was sure to deserve it.
We kept in contact everyday. We texted daily but nothing more than friends. They were always stuff like "What are you doing now?", "How was your day?", and sharing our stories and interests with each other. We never called each other bf or gf or say "I love you" even, cos we were not a couple. I told him I wanted to only consider after my PMR, which was a year away. Boon gentlemanly obliged (not like he had much of a choice hahaha), but would "try his luck" (according to him) every few months to see if I'd fall into it.
But I never said yes. I would always remind him about what we agreed on, "After my PMR, remember?", and he'll be like, "Yea I know just trying my luck only haha". Anyway I'll blog about how we started on a separate post (so no spoilers here), but my main point is, we waited a year before we dated each other. During that one year, we were just friends- we spoke like friends, spent time together as friends, insulted each other like friends, and basically just treated each other like friends, but friends who are fond of each other.
Looking back, we agreed that it was a good thing we waited before we started. Because we got to know the "friend" side of each other before coming to know the "bf/gf" side of each other. And you know what, I now can safely say that I like the friend side of him as much as I like the BF/husband side of him. But how many people can say that they know the "friend" side of each other? Things happen so quickly these days. People act as husband and wives and have sex on the FIRST DAY they meet. What friend? What best friend? They never got to experience what it's like to be friends with each other, and only know how to be lovers straight away.
Someone asked me this, "Well, not everyone of us have the privilege to be friends first then only couple. What about some of us who started as a couple straight? What should we do now?"
It's not too late. While you're still dating, and while you're married even, you can still treat each other as friends/besties. Do fun things together, do unromantic things together (like how friends do), talk to each other like friends! Boon and I always debate on social issues as friends, diplomatic with no emotions attached. And it's fun! I won't get mad because he disagrees with me cos we're talking just like how friends do, and friends have no problem disagreeing with each other!
There are days that Boon and I just stay home to work on our laptops separately, me at the dining area while he at his usual spot in the living room. We may not say a word to each other, but we're perfectly happy. We may be driving in the car and not say a single word to each other, and be perfectly comfortable with the situation too. Best friends aren't afraid of silence, and best friends don't feel "paiseh" nor awkward. I can openly scold Boon for digging his nose in public and we laugh about it. I can warn him of my oncoming toxic fart and we laugh about it. I don't know how to really say it but, it's what best friends do.
There are days that you wanna be close to each other, but also days that you need some space and time away from each other. Which reminds me of a passage in the Bible that I find very true.
There is a season and time for everything, including a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing. A time to be lovers, and a time to be friends.
Many couples I know are like us, best friends with each other. But there are some who clearly aren't, and it's a pity.
I can go on and on about this point because I feel strongly about it, especially when I witness it firsthand. I may not have given the best or most suitable illustrations, or presented my point in the most articulate manner, but I do hope you get what I'm trying to convey.
For those of you who've yet to step into a relationship, or preparing yourself to step into the next one, start it right. Build a firm foundation, know each other as friends first, and grow together as a couple. Don't rush it because it's a beautiful process.
Being each other's best friends have helped us through many seasons in our lives and marriage. We're only in our 3rd year- long, long, long way to go. Many decades of joys and challenges, many storms to brave through together. But I know because we're best friends, it makes it much easier to go through life together.
I love you, my best friend.