My Husband is Not My Best Friend
Marriage isn’t just friendship; my spouse is literally a part of me.
My Facebook feed is awash in anniversary posts celebrating “my husband, my best friend!” and birthday pictures of spouses with hashtags like #BFF. These posts are sweet, but I can’t help feeling they don’t really apply to me.
My husband is not my best friend.
I have best friends. The friend I see when I feel a little down and want to hear her upbeat take on life. The friend in Israel I can call when it’s the middle of the night for me and I know she’ll be up. The friend I phone when I want to share the latest cute story about what my kids are up to. The friend I take classes with, whose thirst for spirituality is inspiring and has rubbed off on me. I can’t imagine living without any of these “BFs”.
But the closeness I feel to my husband is different. It’s a bond that transforms the two of us more than our closest friendships can.
In the Torah, the first man and woman were originally one being: Adam and Eve were created as one entity and then separated by God. When Adam first beheld Eve, his wife, he exclaimed “Now this is the bone from my bones, and flesh from my flesh! Therefore, every man shall leave his father and mother, and join his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:23-4). Judaism understands marriage to be a spiritual transformation of two halves that unite as a single, complete unit we were originally created to be.
Marriage isn’t just friendship; your spouse is literally a part of you.
The first time the word “love” is used in the Torah it’s an expression of total giving and devotion: “Abraham loved his son Isaac” (Genesis 22:2). Anyone who’s ever been kept up all night by a screaming infant or had to change countless diapers can attest that this sort of love doesn’t exist because of the pleasure and enjoyment it necessarily brings. It’s something deeper: we recognize that our children are an extension of us, and that is why we love them. No amount of crying or sleepless nights can ever change that.
The second time the word love is used in the Torah is between spouses: “Isaac loved Rebecca” (Genesis 24:67). Their love was also unconditional, like the love between a parent and their precious offspring: they each saw the other as an essential part of themselves. And that connection is permanent, eternal. Your children will Godwilling grow up and create their independent life; your spouse forever remains a part of you, even in the Next World.
Living with this mindset doesn’t guarantee that spouses will never argue or go through difficult times, but remembering that your spouse is your other half can help you be more understanding and patient.
Rabbi Aryeh Levin, a famed tzaddik of Jerusalem, once went to the doctor with his wife Tzipporah who was suffering from a foot ailment. When the doctor entered the room, Rabbi Levin exclaimed, “Doctor, my wife's foot is hurting us!” Rabbi Levin and his wife were a true unit; her pain was his pain, her joy was his joy.
No matter how important our friends are to us, nobody is in our corner like a spouse.
Modern research shows that marriage profoundly changes us. The long-running Harvard Study of Adult Development, which has been tracking the lives of adults since 1938, has found that having a strong relationship with your spouse is the single greatest predictor of happiness and good health. “Those good relationships don’t have to be smooth all the time,” explains Dr. Robert Waldinger, the study’s current director. “Some of our octogenarian couples could bicker day in and day out. But as long as they felt that they could really count on the other when the going got tough” marriages were associated with markedly better well-being.
I adore my BFs. They enrich my life and I don’t need a Harvard study to tell me that they make me happier and healthier. And sometimes I even prefer to spend time with them than my spouse (girls night out!). But decades ago, a Heavenly voice called out that my husband and I were destined for each other and that we complete each other. That’s more than even the best of friends can provide.
When I look at my husband, I see not only him, but also of all the time, all the energy and love, all the devotion and commitment he’s poured into our marriage. All the countless hours spent at work to help support us, the intensity of emotion he’s poured into our family to help it be strong and vital, the uncounted hours he’s given and given and then given some more to our marriage.
No matter how much we might bicker, no matter how important our friends are to us, in an ideal marriage nobody is in our corner like a spouse. No one else is a part of us, no one else completes us, nobody else enriches our lives as only a husband or wife can.