A Lie Worth Noting:

We bring up sons and daughters to be brides and husbands

Perhaps I’m on a fault-finding roll. Or perhaps I’m just rebellious. But lately something that’s been bugging me for a long, long time, has finally come to the surface. Like a pimple. No longer a vague irritation, it’s burst through the skin for all to see.

It’s a lie, perhaps never spoken aloud, but never-the-less implied. It rages through the Body of Christ. Here it is:

My spouse should be my best friend.

I’ve heard it everywhere, from the pulpit, from the lips of guest speakers. In introductions, “Meet my wife. Stand up, honey. This is my best friend. . .”

And I want to stick my finger down my throat.

Now before you assign me to the cell for the blasphemous, let me explain what I perceive to be the dangers looming in that kind of statement. First, when a teacher or speaker says this, he implies that ALL husbands and wives SHOULD be one another’s best friends. That this is the ideal state of marriage. This implication is magnified by the kinds of promises and expectations foisted on us by well-meaning folks in Christian publishing and broadcasting. In an effort to strengthen relationships between husbands and wives, books paint pictures of rapturous hours spent together understanding and meeting one another’s deepest needs. Of husbands who completely understand their wives (an oxymoron at best), and of women who can fully relate to their man.

Publishers are pretty famous for making rash promises. Five ways to heal after adultery. Six steps to end pornography addictions. Ten steps to forgiveness. Seven ways to captivate your husband. We promise quick results at the end of a ten dollar investment and 220 pages.

And sometimes, by way of our words, we promise things that aren’t even scriptural.

By way of example. Can anyone site a scriptural admonition to be your spouse’s best friend? No? Sure, we have plenty of husband/wife admonitions. We are to mutually submit. Husbands are to love their wives. Wives are to respect their husbands. We are to care for and grow our sexual relationship together. We are to be faithful for a lifetime. Of course, all of the “one-another” commands of the New Testament apply to husbands and wives. Love one another. Pray for one another. Encourage one another.

And yes, these admonitions involve elements of friendship. But best friends? To the exclusion of others? I don’t think so. To imply that this is required of a good marriage is to “bend scripture to our own image.” It is saying far more than God himself was willing to say.

In truth, a few husbands and wives may actually be best friends. Or they may actually think they are best friends. I suspect many, many husbands and wives are good friends. My hubby is my most loyal supporter. We play well together. We talk. We share common goals. But is he my best friend? No. I am grateful to be surrounded by many good friends.

You can see that I’m not advocating an enemy status.

What I am saying is that men and women are very different. They enjoy different kinds of friendships. Men tend to do activities together. They tend to solve problems. They tend to use fewer words to express their issues. Women tend to just “be” together. They process problems rather than solve them. They tend to use many, many words in their processing. These are just some of our gender differences.

What I wonder is this: When we imply that a man should be his wife’s best friend, are we setting him up to fail in her eyes? Can he ever be the only friend she needs? The kind of friend she expects? Can he be a better friend than another woman? And when that expectation (that he should be my very best friend) is disappointed, doesn’t that set her up for the temptation of friendship offered by another man?

After all, any man can listen, empathize, praise, and flatter in the early stages of a relationship. By simply focusing on her, he promises the “friendship” she isn’t getting at home. His flattery fills the void left by unmet expectations. And the “friendship” at work grows into something clearly forbidden by scripture.

At the very least, a woman who believes that her husband “should” be her best friend, may isolate herself from the very fulfilling and healthy friendships of other women. In this way, she cuts herself off — not only from their understanding and support — but also from the support and wisdom she has available to offer other women. Instead, she may spend long hours wishing for, or waiting for more than her husband is able to provide — when what she needs is readily available to her.

The other reason this isolation is so important is that female friendships are most critical in women with difficult marriages. When a husband cannot identify with, support, or understand his wife, she can safely have those important needs met in the context of healthy female relationships. But to do so, she must have the wisdom to let go of her unreal expectations for her husband. And she must have permission to seek healthy support among safe friendships.

So what do you think? Do you agree? Have you heard the lie? Can you see other unintended consequences of this message to husbands and wives?


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5 Responses to “A Lie Worth Noting:”

  1. Laura Says:

    Wow, Bette, this is really valid. I myself never expected my husband to be my “best friend” but yes–I’ve certainly heard the phrase many times. Like you point out: fine if you are, and can be, each other’s best friend. That might be fine and good for some marriages. But each marriage has its own personality and dynamic. In my marriage we tend to talk too much about our businesses, and we are trying to expand into more personal discourse. Shocking to some, perhaps, but that is where we are.

    • Bette Nordberg Says:

      Laura, thanks for this. Truly. Kim and I have been married 37 years, and as I work on this new book project I find myself growing so much. It’s called (for now) 50 shades of purity: cherishing, protecting and growing your sexual relationship with your husband. I thought authors wrote books about what they know. This project is different. I start out writing about what I know, and I end up writing about what I am discovering. It’s quite the adventure. We’ll see where it lands. Could really use prayer. Thanks for being so honest. That is the best gift we can give the Body of Christ!

      • Laura Says:

        Oh my—GREAT new title. (I get it.) That’s gonna be refreshing. I’d never give that other “50” book even a glance. Not interested. But yours I will buy. Taking on this topic surely does take courage. Not for the faint of heart. I will keep you and it in prayer. Blessings.

  2. Duane J. YOUNG Says:

    Bette, did I hear a hammer hitting the nail on the head? (A great male imagery.) My wife and I shared 2300 mile car trip recently and this very point was one of our discussions.

    I had recently asked a small group of men if they had a friend. Other than their wife, who of course they admitted, was their best friend, they didn’t have another friend. I challenged them to call one other member of our small group and meet for coffee one time within the next five weeks. I did and had a great conversation with one of the men.

    Several years ago I met a man and when he found out I was a writer he wanted to meet. We have met once a month since.

    One of the sad realities of many men’s lives is that they don’t have a friend. Being a man can be very lonely when your wife is your best friend.

    Men don’t seem to mind not having a close friend until they stop and see how much that friendship could have added to their life. By then years have passed and many of the social skills needed to initiate, maintain and foster a friendship have been forgotten or certainly never developed. Like rust on an unused machine, the mechanism of friendship can hardly be turned over enough to get a puff of smoke. The effort needed can’t be generated.

    My wife and I share your view wholeheartedly.

    • Bette Nordberg Says:

      DJ. Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I have to admit that I published that blog with fear. Scary to go against the tide of opinion. I hadn’t thought about this from the male point of view as thoroughly as you. I appreciate your insight. Let’s take the pressure of expectations off husbands and wives!!!

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