MWF Seeking BFF
I'd say a best friend is your weekend goes-without-saying lunch date, someone with whom it is implied you will spend the day or at least an hour. And while, sure, that's implied with my husband, men don't need to gab over drinks, analyzing every conversation, potential purchase and awkward run-in they had that week. They're happy to silently watch sports over a beer. Psychologists call these side-to-side relationships, versus female's face-to-face ones. Women like to engage in conversation; men like to bond over an activity. It's not that novel a discovery. Anyone who's seen men sit and watch the game while the women gab in the kitchen knows it to be true.
But getting to that place where I feel comfortable enough to call a potential friend and say, "What are you up to?" is tricky. It's essentially dating. At what point after meeting someone new is it acceptable to call "just to say hi"? When is it not overly aggressive to text, "Pedicure in a half hour?"
Most of us lump best-friendship in with love, one of those you-know-it-when-you-feel-it intangibles. It turns out that while we may think best friends are people with that ineffable something we can't put our finger on, researchers have pretty accurately defined the traits that propel someone from acquaintance to friend to BFF. In order for her to move from girl-date to friend, we need intimacy. Not intimacy in the turn-the-lights-down-low sense. Friendship intimacy starts with self-disclosure—sharing personal information you wouldn't tell just anyone—and reciprocity, meaning if I tell her my secret, she better tell me hers. But it's not just about disclosure. The rules of intimacy call for whoever is on the receiving end to be supportive and expressive, yet not too opinionated. So if I'm enraged that my husband canceled our Friday night plans...again...she better huff and puff and agree it was obnoxious, but she would never say: "He's such a jerk. I've never liked him." Such are the unwritten laws of friendship.
In order to move from regular friend to a best one, I will need über-intimacy but also what researchers call social identity support. That is to say, my BFF is someone who will reaffirm my social role in society—as a wife, a writer, a pop-culturist—and thereby boost my self-esteem. Sounds a bit self-indulgent, sure, but it's scientifically proven.
Can your husband be your best friend?