Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash
WHY YOU SHOULDN’T MARRY YOUR BEST FRIEND
by Shannon Frost Greenstein
Whatever you do…don’t marry your best friend.
Wait…what? What was that?
Yes. I’ll say it again. Don’t, under any circumstances, marry your best friend.
I know. It’s mind-blowing.
And that, to be clear, is the best advice you’ll ever receive, if you’re anything like me. As I understand marriage, if I can tell you anything about marriage, after ten years of marriage, about your best friend and marriage, the best friend whom you’ve known for fifteen years, since you were 22, since you were a baby, it’s that you should NEVER marry your best friend.
I should know.
Because I did.
Your best friend will badger you. Your best friend will nag you. They will yell at you. They will break your confidence and your trust, go behind your back, tell you untruths to get you to do what they want. Your best friend will be a thorn in your side and a yoke on your back, and if you happen to have married them, it’ll be that way for the rest of your life.
When you marry your best friend, you answer to your best friend. Your best friend holds you accountable. Your best friend speaks to you objectively, honestly, with your own best interests at heart, even when you cannot keep them there yourself.
Your best friend will care for you, even when you’re so furious at them you wish they wouldn’t, wish they would just go away, and you wish it so hard you say things to hurt them. Even though it’s really yourself at whom you’re furious, even though the words are fuled not by conviction but by self-hatred, you say things to hurt them. And then you’ve hurt your best friend.
You shouldn’t marry your best friend. They won’t let you self-destruct.
I was at a club to see a band, and he was in the band, and I noticed him right away. I noticed him again at various points, and finally, as I sat outside on the club’s stairs smoking a cigarette and shaking off the residue of a social-anxiety induced panic attack, noticed him loading instruments into a van in a parking lot.
He came over to me with his hand outstretched.
“Would you like an Altoid?”
Naturally, Altoids are a thing for us now.
I took an Altoid.
We got to talking, and I still remember what we said: We discussed Carl Jung. In my defense, it was the first thing I could think of to talk about with a cute boy who was paying attention to me as I struggled to act normal in a crowded club…me, to whom no one paid attention, which explains why I thought talking about Carl Jung was a good idea.
I’d like to say that we had a long and insightful journey getting to know each other, slowly learning little tidbits and idiosyncrasies about one another, but that would be a lie. I’d also like to say we didn’t end up in bed on the first date, but that would be a lie, too.
The point, though, is that I met my best friend and fell immediately in love, in an instant, in a Tony-and-Maria-meeting-at-the-dance-in-West-Side-Story moment, so that when I eventually became his wife, we had been best friends first.
I married my best friend.
This is what happened.
My eating disorder has been decades-long, my companion for more of my 37 years than not. It waxes and wanes, going into remission, rearing itself during relapses, always at the foundation of my living experience but varying in the noise that resonates through my cerebellum, calling me names, convincing me of my worthlessness, desperate for control, desperate for bone, desperate for relief.
There have been good years and bad years, but when you’ve been with your best friend as long as I have, it’s a mathematical probability that they’re not only going to experience the good years. And now we’re coming perilously close to why you should never marry your best friend.
When you marry your best friend, you’re unable to hide this from then. Despite however hard you may try, they are going to notice; they are going to notice you losing weight, and isolating, and self-harming, and drowning in complete existential misery.
And meanwhile, while you’re suffering, your eating disorder is fighting back. It senses your best friend’s concern, and perceives them as a threat, and will fight tooth and nail for survival. It tells you your best friend is lying. It tells you being thin is more important than your best friend’s feelings. It makes you draw into yourself, to block your best friend’s attempts to help. It will fight you to the death, one way or another.
Your best friend is going to fight the eating disorder, fight it as hard as they can. There will be arguments if you marry your best friend like this – oh, the arguments. There will be anger, and pain, and frustration and rage when you marry your best friend, but at the foundation, it is all fear.
Your best friend is just worried they are going to lose you, and mortal terror makes you battle in any number of ways. It will feel like your friendship is ending. It will feel like you’re alone. When you marry your best friend, you will worry your marriage won’t make it.
You shouldn’t have married your best friend, your brain will whisper.
And it will get louder and louder as your best friend also gets louder and louder, until the noise in your head gets to be just too much and something has to break.
You shouldn’t marry your best friend unless you’re ready to cry in front of them. You shouldn’t marry your best friend if you wouldn’t go through therapy with them. You shouldn’t marry your best friend if you don’t want someone after you, relentlessly, tirelessly, ceaselessly, to eat breakfast, to do the DBT, to resist the compulsions, to work, and work, and work.
You shouldn’t marry your best friend because it is terrifying to go through something like that together. It shakes the very foundation of your friendship, of your being, let alone your marriage, and you shouldn’t marry your best friend if you’re not ready for that.
If you, like I did, care only about the control, the bone, the deprivation, the atonement, the power of the eating disorder, care, like in my case, only about being thin, then you definitely shouldn’t marry your best friend.
But if you can see through to the other side…the other side of the eating disorder, with your best friend right next to you, supporting you, keeping you whole…if you can work harder than you’ve ever worked, work so hard that you go away from your best friend to get better, to leave them, willingly, inexplicably, for treatment…then marrying your best friend doesn’t seem like such a bad idea.
When you’re alone in treatment, for months, facing the horror and self-hatred that comes with recovering from an eating disorder, and the only bright spot is the daily visits from your best friend; when you can trust, absolutely, that your best friend will be waiting for you at the end; when you finally, finally leave treatment and your best friend is there to pick you up and take you home...then you might be able to understand marrying your best friend.
And if you do marry your best friend...if you go through everything above, if you nearly split apart because a relationship can’t include self-destruction, but then you hang on; if you grow, and grow together; if you move forward, and onward, and have cats and apartments; if you grow some more, and finally are ready for a baby, and then, three years later, another; if you and your best friend can enjoy vacations and holidays and surprises and memories and life…well, then marrying your best friend just might be worth it.
I’ll let you know.
Shannon Frost Greenstein resides in Philadelphia with her children and soulmate. She is a former Ph.D. candidate in Nietzschean Philosophy and a Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize nominee. Shannon harbors an unhealthy interest in Mount Everest, Hamilton, and the Summer Olympics. Find her work in McSweeney's Internet Tendency, Chaleur Magazine, Crab Fat Magazine, the Ghost City Review, Bone & Ink Lit Zine, and elsewhere. Follow her on twitter at @mrsgreenstein or on her website: shannonfrostgreenstein.wordpress.com.