The Difference Between Friendship and Marriage

playing around

Sometimes I wonder what the difference is between friendship and marriage.  Not casual friendship, or even good friendship, but really-close, best-friends, rely-on-each-other-for-everything friendship.  If we look to the media for answers, it seems to imply that the only difference is physical desire.  In movies and television, the only or at least primary distinguishable change in the relationship between two characters that are best friends, and then become something more, is that their relationship adds a sexual element.

Those are usually my favorite types of stories (as opposed to ones where the characters aren’t friends but jump right to dating), only because I like seeing romantic characters have moments when they hang out just like friends.  Friendship is an essential foundation of romance and marriage, after all.  It just leads me to wonder sometimes: is the only difference in dynamics between romantic relationships and close friendships physical?

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this.  It doesn’t have any bearing on my own life; I just have a curious nature sometimes.  I think I’ve pinpointed another real difference: expectations.  We expect different things from our friends than from our romantic partners, even our very close friends.

Obviously there are a few disclaimers: we’re going to have more expectations and higher standards for our best friends than we are from someone whom we’ve just started dating.  I’m contrasting the difference between a lifelong best friend and a married partner.

Nothing I say will be true for everyone, because there are exceptions to just about everything.  But I think that for most of us, we’re always going to expect constant support and dedication from our romantic partners at a level that we don’t from our best friends.  We expect to be the most important person in our spouse’s lives, but we don’t necessarily expect that from our best friends.

Now, I don’t like how this leaves out people who are single.  Does this mean that they can’t expect to be the most important person in anyone’s life?  I think that’s horrible and untrue, especially because most of my closest friends are single.  So I want to frame this a different way, and it’ll be easier to do so with an example.

I ask more of Jonathan than I do of anyone else.  I’ll never feel bad showing him my worst when I’m not doing well, and I expect him to always have my back.  I’d do most of this in front of my best friends, but I wouldn’t expect as much of it.  I’d want to put on a good front around them sometimes, even if I was doing poorly, and I wouldn’t expect them to always drop everything for me the way I might for my husband.

I realize this is making me sound like I’m just awful around Jonathan all of the time and make him follow me around.  That’s not what I mean, I’m just trying to contrast the level of support expectations I have from a spouse versus a best friend.  It’s lovely and wonderful to have really close friends who always have our back, no matter what.  It’s one of the best things in the world.  I think we just expect a little bit more than that from our spouses, and that’s the difference between the two.


*(The above image by photostock is from