“I married my best friend” is a bit of a tired cliche. How often is it really the truth? How do you truly know this statement to be fact? And if that statement is put to the ultimate test and proven to be true, what do you do then?
It seems like a lot of relationships start out as infatuation/lust. Sometimes they develop into genuine friendship but all to often couples rely on that friendship developing over time and through life experiences, that can be a bit iffy. Men get their head turned by a pretty face or cute figure while women like bad boys and all too often overlook what’s right in front of them. That’s a broad generalization but good enough for where I’m going with this. How many people do yo you know that tell everyone that they are married to their best friend while finding excuse after excuse to be anywhere but around their spouse? I can still remember when I matured enough to realize that all too many people can’t wait to complain about their partner, in fact it almost becomes a badge of honor to talk trash about your “best friend”.
My wife truly was my best friend. Trust was something we had right from the start, respect was never lacking, and secrets were something shared and never kept from each other. I knew for a fact that I married up and was amazed every morning when I woke up and realized she wasn’t a dream. Maybe that is part of the puzzle of finding that perfect friend, we both thought we had found someone better than ourselves and worked constantly to be worthy of each other’s love and respect. So how can I say with such certainty that Karen was my best friend? Because when faced with the ultimate test, the sudden and irreversible severing of that friendship, I find myself completely lacking in the knowledge and skills to have and be a friend.
Karen and I were married in 1986 when we were both 21 years old. Karen had been part of the popular clique in school while I had been the opposite end of the spectrum spending most of my time behind the scenes figuratively and literally. Looking back now I never really developed any life long friends until meeting Karen, while she heard from friends from high school all the time I truly can’t remember the last time I talked to someone I was close to from back then. I spent 30 years looking forward to getting home just to be around my best friend. Actually I was rather anti-social, my go-to response when asked if I wanted to go golfing, hunting, drinking, or pretty much anything was “I’ll check with Karen”. That response probably made some friends think “boy is this guy whupped” but the reality was it was just an excuse not to be away from my bestie. Usually I never even discussed it with Karen cause I would rather be with her.
Now that she’s gone it’s the quiet support, the knowing she was always there that I miss the most. If we went somewhere she was my guide, she was never awkward and approached all situations with confidence. Now I’m consumed with doubts and anxiety at just the thought of accepting an invitation. How do you know you’re not bothering someone? How long is too long to stay? Do they really want me here or do they just feel sorry for me? And most important of all, who’s going to elbow me if I slip into my “Union Meeting” voice or get to preachy?
Karen was my validation, seems like everything I did was anchored to her. Sure I did stuff that pissed her off, that’s normal (whatever “normal” really is) and just like a child testing boundaries I usually didn’t do that again. Where and how do you find that stability, that continuity, that reassurance we all need after a stressful day, week, month, year? Lots of people may tell you that “I’m here for you” or “if you ever need to talk” but how do you get that voice in your head that’s screaming “you’re being a bother!” to shut up? I haven’t quite figured that out yet. Practicing a bit of self regulation before reaching out does seem to muffle that little jerk inside my head a wee bit.
What can you (I) do once you (I) have recognized you’re (I’m) in this circular world of needing contact, support, and validation but not believing you’re (I’m) worthy of it? As with most everything in life Practice is the key. Practicing self regulation makes reaching out just a little bit less scary. Practicing mindfulness makes the inevitable missteps less painful. Practicing being a friend helps others realize that they too are worthy of love and affection.