How important is friendship in marriage?

How important is friendship in marriage?

Perhaps you overheard a couple say, “I’m glad to be married to my best friend.” Or, maybe you said this yourself. But if you think this is cliche, it’s time to think again. Friendship in marriage is important! Research shows that marital friendship increases overall happiness. It’s also one of the best ways to protect your relationship against a downward spiral of negativity. Plus, being best friends in marriage is a lot of fun too.

So, just how important is friendship in marriage? Keep reading to find out more.

Table of contents

What does it mean to marry your best friend? / What are the benefits of friendship in marriage? / Marriage vs. Friendship, What’s the Difference? / Can a couple be best friends and lovers? / Six Ways Best Friends in Marriage Communicate / How to Build Friendship in Marriage / Friendship in Marriage Quotes

What does it mean to marry your best friend?

As we are about to see, many definitions of friendship are highly appropriate for marriage.

  • How Stuff Works defines friendship as the “bonds between two or more people who want to engage with one another. It involves having mutual interest in each other’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences.” Best friends in marriage are lifelong partners with the person they want to engage with most. And this certainly makes sense!
  • Better Help says, “A friend is someone that you share close affection with…  a friend is someone you trust or enjoy being around.” Here, marital friendship means the two of you like and love one another. Best friends in marriage have a deeply rooted affection. But they also have more. These couples genuinely enjoy spending time in one another’s presence. Once again, we see a friendship in marriage is desirable.
  • Finally, the Encyclopedia Britannia defines friendship as “a state of enduring affection, esteem, intimacy, and trust between two people.” Check again! These are all qualities most people want in a marriage.

Based on these definitions, to marry your best friend means you have a lifelong partner you actually want to spend time with. It also means you value close affection, intimacy, and trust. After all, these qualities are what friendship is about.

Now, let’s explore what the research says about friendship and marriage.

What are the benefits of friendship in marriage?

Are there any benefits to friendship in marriage? The answer to this question is a resounding “Yes!” Here’s what the research says.

1. Friendship in marriage increases overall happiness.

The Normal Bar collected data from nearly 100,000 couples. Respondents were asked to categorize their relationships. Options include passionate lover, best friend, teammate, sparring partner, or sworn enemy. This is where things get interesting. “More ‘best friends’ even than ‘passionate lovers’ said they are very happy or extremely happy in their relationships.” It appears a strong friendship generates more marital happiness than great sex.

2. Friendship in a marriage creates positive relationship momentum.

John Gottman’s research shows people view their marriage with a bias. Couples are either in a negative perspective, where they assume the worst about their loved one. Or in a positive perspective, where they see their partner through rose-colored glasses. A couple deep in the negative perspective will have difficulty recalling happy marriage moments. They may even forget why they married in the first place. On the other hand, couples with a positive perspective overlook minor offenses. Instead, they think to themselves I’m sure my spouse means that nice.

Gottman says, “Friendship fuels the flames of romance because it offers the best protection against feeling adversarial toward your spouse.” The key to staying in a positive marital perspective is to have a strong friendship. When couples do the types of things that best friends do, a positive marriage perspective naturally follows.

How important is friendship in a marriage? If your goal is to create a happy marriage, the research says strengthening your friendship is an excellent place to start.

Marriage vs. Friendship, What’s the Difference?

A friend in ministry once remarked, “No one ever read Song of Solomon and came away thinking, ‘Wow, they’re best friends.'” And he has a point. There are a few marriage and friendship differences. Consider the following marriage statistics from The Normal Bar.

  • “Among the couples who give the highest possible rating to their relationships,74% of them rub each other’s backs!” Not all best friends do this.
  • Avoiding passionate kisses and treating your marriage too much like a friendship increases relationship dissatisfaction. Consider the following. Out of couples “who said their normal never includes passionate kissing, 76% also said that they are very dissatisfied with their sex lives.”
  • We also know that 58% of couples who say they are extremely happy kiss passionately several times a week.
  • 88% of extremely happy couples have date nights. And “Only 12% of our extremely happy couples never have a date night.” So if you are not dating your spouse regularly, the odds of being a very happy couple are not in your favor.

Our takeaway is couples who are best friends also take their friendship to a whole new level. This is especially true with physical intimacy. In other words, extremely happy couples are best friends with benefits! As you can see, when it comes to marriage vs. friendship, some differences exist. But most of these involve taking the relationship deeper than one would with a nonmarital best friend. So, we might say having a best friend in marriage is like having a friendship on steroids!

Can a couple be best friends and lovers?

What happens when you combine marriage and friendship? Does the passion die? According to The Normal Bar, it’s just the opposite. “Among those who regard their partners as best friends, 29% of men and 35% of women say they have a very satisfying sex life.” Interestingly enough, only 8% of couples who identified their partners as “good friends” reported feeling sexually satisfied.

It appears the quality of a couple’s sex parallels the quality of their friendship. Can a couple be best friends and lovers too? The research says a resounding “Yes!”

It makes sense that couples who are married to their best friend do have better sex. The stronger the friendship, the more comfortable the couple is in sharing their likes and dislikes. Best friends also tend to have plenty of adventures. Perhaps this applies in the bedroom too? On one hand, my friend is right in stating, “No one ever read Song of Solomon and came away thinking, ‘Wow, they’re best friends.'” Yet, this book is filled with erotic lines. Intimacy on that level requires a high degree of trust. And, as we have seen, “Enduring affection, esteem, intimacy, and trust” is the dictionary definition of friendship.

Perhaps the best description of Song of Songs is best friends with benefits—and lots of them.

Another important question to ask is, What do happily married couples do differently? Most people don’t trip and fall into marital bliss. As we will see, happy couples act with intention. Best friends in marriage communicate like best friends. And this is good news because it means you may not need to learn any communication skills you don’t already have. Here are six ways to communicate like best friends in marriage!

Six Ways Best Friends in Marriage Communicate

Best friends apart from marriage talk often. So do best friends in marriage. In our survey of over 150 happily married couples, some partners reported feeling so connected it was almost as if they could read each other’s minds. Best friends in marriage talk about everything. This includes little things, planning and problem-solving, and the deep stuff. Couples with close bonds also share different levels of connection throughout the day. All of these types of communication add value to the relationship. Below are six different ways to communicate. As your read through this list, assess your marriage. Note areas of communication strengths and weaknesses. Then, choose one communication style to practice.

Here is how we classify the six different kinds of communication happily married couples have.

1. Bids for Attention: Best friends in marriage connect just to connect.

Bids for attention are the simplest forms of communication. They involve remarks like “Look, it’s snowing out.” These casual remarks are pleas for attention and acceptance. And when our loved one responds, it feels good. Research shows “Couples that stayed married turned towards one another 86% of the time. Couples that divorced averaged only 33% of the time.” This means our partner’s bids are a big deal. They only take a few seconds to respond to. And they often involve communication for the sheer of connecting to the person we love.

2. Connectication: Friends in marriage communicate playfully.

Connectication is a combination of the words communicate and connect. We define connectiation as any type of activity where couples communicate and draw closer. Men tend to especially appreciate doing relationships side-by-side. So don’t just talk. Brew a cup of coffee. Go for a walk. Play a favorite board game. Take a road trip. Or cook a meal together. Combining activities with communication takes the pressure off and helps conversations flow.

3. Nightly News: Marital best friends keep current on each other’s news.

Friends are interested in each other’s day. This is also true for best friends in marriage. The nightly news is our term for a simple conversation about the day’s events. It often includes asking about high and low points. Nightly news conversations are conversations about things outside of your relationship. The goal isn’t problem-solving or scheduling. Instead, it’s to get an update on your partner’s world. When nightly news conversations happen daily, it helps couples reduce their overall level of stress. This, too, makes sense as best friends are often each other’s most powerful coping strategies.

4. Problem-Solving Conversations: Best friends in marriage problem-solve together.

Communication difficulties are the number one reason couples report going to therapy. So don’t wait to talk about problems until they’ve gotten out of hand. Research says 69% of the challenges couples face stick around. These issues don’t necessarily need to be resolved. Even best friends have plenty of differences. The goal is to talk about issues. Then, find common ground. Look for win-win possibilities and prevent these issues from damaging marital friendship.

5. Planning Conversations: Marriage friends are intentional about planning time together.

Friendships require intentionality—especially in today’s hustle and bustle world. Friendship in marriage is no different. Whether it’s scheduling regular date nights or creating soft landings after a stressful season of life, planning stress-free breaks as a couple is important.

6. Into-Me-See Conversations: Friendship in marriage includes deep conversations.

A deep longing of the human heart is to be known and accepted. This is what best friends do. We like to define intimacy as into-me-see. It’s the ability to peer into your loved one’s inner world while simultaneously allowing yourself to be known. Into-me-see is the deepest level of conversation. It requires vulnerability and trust. To build your marriage friendship through into-me-see conversations, check out our list of 71 conversations to help your marriage grow.

How to Build Friendship in Marriage

Building a solid friendship in marriage may be easier than you think. Here are a few quick tips.

  • Laugh Often: Best friends joke and have fun. They look for excuses to be silly. Friends do outrageous things for the sheer joy of making each other laugh. Similarly, best friends in marriage keep their emotional radars up. They don’t make light of their loved one’s pain. Or refuse to take difficult conversations seriously. But, apart from obvious exceptions, they find joy in life. So be on the lookout for reasons to laugh.
  • Make Time: Love can also be spelled t-i-m-e. Fans of The Five Love Languages books will recognize that quality time is a huge bucket-filler. Some people wonder, Which matters most, quality time or plenty of time together? The answer is both! It’s impossible to separate the two. Quality moments stem from large amounts of time together. Often, the best moments happen unexpectedly. To strengthen the friendship in your marriage, be intentional about guarding time for the two of you.
  • Find Common Interests: When we asked happily married couples, “How do you know you are in love?” a common theme emerged. Happy couples enjoy doing lots of activities together. And while shared hobbies are a plus, it was also evident that best friends in marriage do not make the interest just about the activity. The primary goal is to enjoy one another’s presence. For more ideas, check out our list of 28 fun couples activities.

These are the types of things best friends do. And research shows that these small acts of friendship strengthen the marriage over time.

Friendship in Marriage Quotes

What do the experts say about friendship in marriage? Let’s conclude by finding out! Here are some of our favorite friendship in marriage quotes.

  • It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.” ~Friedrich Nietzche 
  • There is no more lovely, friendly, and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage.” ~Martin Luther King
  • A happy marriage is a long conversation which always seems too short.” ~ Andre Maurois
    While this quote doesn’t directly address marriage and friendship, we include it because most people can relate to having conversations with a best friend where the time flies by. A longing for this similar “best friend experience” in marriage just makes sense.
  • Happy marriages are based on a deep friendship, mutual respect and enjoyment of each other’s company.” ~John Gottman

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Jed Jurchenko

Jed Jurchenko is the husband to an incredible wife, daddy to four amazing girls, and a foster dad to one more. He's served as a children's pastor, marriage and family therapist, psychology professor, award-winning writing coach, and life coach. Jed is the author of 23 books on relationships, parenting, writing, and doing life well. In his free time, you'll find Jed reading, preparing for an upcoming marathon, barbecuing, paddle boarding, and enjoying life with his incredible family. Find out more about Jed's books, coaching, and courses at