I saw a post on Facebook that read, "Build a friendship before marrying someone. Marry your best friend." It got me thinking about what that actually means.
People probably think I moved into marriage quickly, especially people who have known me for a while. I'm the kind of person who doesn't make rash decisions, so when I publicly dated a guy for 4 months before saying yes and was engaged for 2 months before I said, "I Do," I'm sure many people were thrown off. Even people that have met me since seem thrown off by the timeline of my relationship with my husband.
You're supposed to date for years before you agree to marry them, and then wait more before you actually marry them. I did neither. What few people realize is that my husband proposed, and I said yes, on the 1-year anniversary of the night we met. We had only spent the last 4 months publicly dating, but we had spent the last year becoming best friends.
My friendship with Andrew was easy to build. I'm so used to explaining to people who I am and why I am the way I am. Andrew is one of two people I've met in adulthood who I didn't need to explain that to, even though I still did and do. He just knows and understands. More importantly, I was the same for him. Outwardly, our relationship seemed to get serious in November 2017 when he got diagnosed with Crohn's. In reality, I had decided he was the person I was going to more than likely marry in March 2017, even if he didn't ask until New Year's Eve of that year. I knew already, and that was scary.
It's scary going against both the timeline that you've set for yourself and the timeline society had set for you, but as the saying goes, "when you know, you know," and I knew.
This doesn't mean marriage has been easy. Forging a partnership between two people is never easy, and that doesn't change when it is legally binding 'til death do you part. Being best friends makes it easier to do the work, though.
That's what marriage is. It's work. It is saying to another person that you are determined to never stop getting to know them. It's pushing through any issue that doesn't let you openly and truthfully communicate with your partner, whether that's an issue between the two of you or within yourself.
Marry your best friend, because while marriage is still work, it's work you want to do every single day. It's satisfying, fulfilling work. That other person is your ultimate support network and you are theirs. They are the person that will take care of you when you're sick with the flu and only tease you about being gross lovingly, the person who will help you make your dreams come true and push you to not give up on them, and the person who never wants to stop learning about you.
They are the person you do the work for because you realize that if you don't, you'll lose them. That's who "the one" is. It feels like this person should be able to read your mind because they know and understand you so well, and sometimes they will know what you want or need without being expressly told, but that’s not a given.
Many will tell you that communication is key in a lasting relationship, and I agree. I think what is missing from that advice is the part that tells you what that communication looks like.
It looks like little things.
It looks like asking them to grab you something while they’re up.
It looks like talking about your days when you get home, phones down, actively listening.
It looks like constantly learning about your partner, whether it’s a story you’ve never heard before or them singing along in the car to a song while you think, “They are so stinking cute. When did they learn this song?”
It looks like big things.
It looks like hard conversations. I don’t mean fights. I mean discussions where you are doing your best to hear the other person out and they are doing the same for you. No snide remarks. No tearing the other person down. Open and honest conversations.
It looks like support and understanding, not compromise.
It looks like recognizing when resentment is building for any reason and addressing it. I don’t mean pushing it down, so you don’t feel it anymore. I mean truly sitting down and thinking about why you are feeling this resentment and how to fix it.
It looks like addressing your own issues instead of ignoring them or expecting the other person to fix them. This is the biggest act of love I’ve seen in my life. It’s easy to say, “well, this is who I am so deal with it.” It’s so much harder to say, “I want to be better for both of us,” and then actually do the work.
My wedding vows went like this, “I, ____, take thee, ____, to be my lawful wedded (husband/wife), to learn and grow with, to come to in both happiness and sorrow, to confide in and trust above all others, to respect you in everything as an equal partner, but, above all, to love you with all my being.”
I strive to live up to my vows every day. I strive to grow myself and keep Andrew updated about my growth, so we aren’t pushed apart. I strive to be the best partner I can be and to voice my needs. My spouse can’t read my mind. He has to remind me of this from time to time.
The death of marriage and partnership is a lack of open and honest communication. This allows for love to weaken, trust to erode, and resentment to build. Keeping marriage alive is work, but it’s worth it, especially if you’re married to your best friend.