Science-based Benefits of Having Your Partner As Your Best Friend

Benefits Having Partner Best Friend

When you have a strong friendship in your relationship, it ensures an impeccable sense of understanding which isn’t always present in relationships with no friendship. When your partner is your best friend, it shows that both of you treat each other as equals, and who always help each other to grow.

Being someone’s BFF is a big deal – you don’t hand over the other half of your “Best Friends” necklace to just anyone. Having a romantic partner who is also your best friend potentially sounds perfect. With your BFF as your romantic partner, you get the best of both worlds, someone with whom you can laugh, share your life, and cuddle. When you look at seemingly happy celebrity couples like Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis, or Leslie Mann and Judd Apatow, not only do they appear to be in love but they also seem to genuinely enjoy hanging out together.

How many people feel as though they have attained that type of ideal? And do psychologists confirm this new paradigm is a good one to strive for? I enlisted the help of the Monmouth University Polling Institute to investigate.

Science-based Benefits of Having Your Partner As Your Best Friend
Science-based Benefits of Having Your Partner As Your Best Friend

How many have two-in-one relationships?

To help figure out how many best-friend couples are out there, we asked 801 adults across the United States the following question: “Do you consider your partner to be your best friend, or do you call somebody else your best friend?”

Among adults currently in a romantic relationship, the vast majority (83 percent) considered their current partner to be their best friend. For those who are currently married, the rate was even higher. Men and women had similar rates, while younger respondents were slightly less likely than older respondents to view their partner as their best friend.

The overall numbers from this recent poll dwarf the earlier reported rate of best-friend romantic partners. In a 1993 study, only 44 percent of college students indicated their romantic partner was also their best bud. The difference in best-friend/love rates, almost doubling over the past 20 years, could just be an artifact of the published research’s college student sample.

Related: 8 Ways To Know Your Partner Is Also Your Best Friend

But expectations for modern relationships have evolved in the intervening years. Compared to previous generations, today’s heterosexual men and women are more accustomed to thinking of each other as friends on equal footing, even outside of the romantic realm. Once a romantic couple forms, we’re more likely to look for more egalitarian splits of power and divisions of labor. We hold our relationships to higher standards than we have in previous decades.

In particular, couples now expect their relationships to promote personal growth and help individuals fulfill their own goals. For example, your partner should help you become a better person by teaching you new things like how to make the perfect creme brulee, taking you places like the cool new trampoline park, and opening your eyes to new perspectives such as the benefits of eating a more vegetarian-based diet.

Although this expectation for growth could conceivably place an unwieldy burden on your relationship, researchers believe that modern relationships are up to the task. In fact, the idea that a relationship can help an individual become a better person, a phenomenon that researchers call self-expansion, is a useful one; relationships that provide more expansion are also of higher quality.

To hit all these self-improvement targets, you may need more from a spouse or romantic partner than was expected in years past, and a partner who is also your best friend may be a step in the right direction.

To see if those who consider their partner their best friend also expect more from them, the Monmouth University Poll asked, “For an ideal relationship, how much should you expect your partner to help you grow and expand as a person?” Our poll results indicated generally high expectations overall, and individuals with best-friend romantic partners expected a bit more from them.

Of course, while individuals can expect more, that won’t automatically translate into better results. Think of it this way: Simply because you want more from your job, it doesn’t guarantee you’re going to get what you want.

Are best-friend partners better partners?

We wanted to see if these best-friend romances were really better. To do that, we asked poll respondents, “How satisfied are you with your current relationship – extremely, very, somewhat, not too, or not at all satisfied?” We then compared those who said their partner was their best friend to those who responded it was someone else.

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Gary W. Lewandowski Jr.

Dr. Gary W. Lewandowski Jr. is the author of STRONGER THAN YOU THINK: The 10 Blind Spots That Undermine Your Relationship…and How to See Past Them. He is also an award-winning teacher, researcher, relationship expert, and professor at Monmouth University. His work has been featured in outlets such as The Washington Post, IFLScience.com, Daily Mail, Business Insider, The New Republic, Time, the New York Times, The Atlantic, VICE, CNN, and NPR. His articles about relationships have been enjoyed by over 3.5 million readers and his TED talk, Break-Ups Don't Have to Leave You Broken, has been viewed by 2 million people. He currently writes the Psychology of Relationships blog on Psychology Today.View Author posts