Letters to the Editor : Can a spouse remain that “best friend”

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Dear editor,

It was that day, not so long ago. I was sitting across, just a table or two away. The two friends were engaged in some lively chit-chat. They must have missed each other. That reunion which evokes old memories, that which takes you back to your salad days when you were green in judgment.

Anyways…. They spoke about university and their dreams and what had become of them. Then children and marriage. Seems most conversations end with these issues, or something like them. Within an ear’s shot, I overheard the other happily telling the other that she married Lamin, her best friend at uni. Then a boisterous laughter and more giggling…

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“I married my best friend” kept lingering in my mind. And yes, I have heard this refrain time and time again, especially from newlyweds. Does a spouse remain that “best friend” after the marriage, I mean that “best friend” you can tell any and everything in your life, your deepest and darkest longings; that one person you can be yourself with without censure? Or marriage often changes that dynamics? Even if we don’t marry our “best friend”, can the new life partner become our “new best friend”? Can he or she definitely be or become one?

A leading psychotherapist I read once upon a time, whose name I can’t remember now, posited that the image of a husband being a best friend is a larger-than-life image. “What you can talk about with your friends, you can’t always discuss with your spouse – and, in some cases, you shouldn’t”.

Isn’t living together and sharing that space and all a different ball game, one that alters the “friendship” in a totally different way? You certainly can’t talk about all and everything, even if you want to. That relationship isn’t about you alone or your feelings. Some things that you would gladly pour out to a best friend, you can’t to a spouse. Some things are rather swept under the carpet, rather left unsaid, unspoken. I think marriage introduces that “unspoken pact” of leaving some things unsaid.

I know torfobali ning chinika kumujang would disagree with me, that in marriage “sunshine” should be the disinfectant. That a spouse should remain the “best friend” even after the two souls become one. That marriage is supposed to improve the friendship, making it better and sweeter, maturing and deepening with time.

Maybe the torfobalis are right. But isn’t that expectation a tall order, a kind of asking for the moon in a relationship call marriage. We can tell our best friend anything but we can’t with our spouse. One can tell a best friend that one has a crush on another person but would you dare reveal this to your spouse? You cannot even tell the other that you met your ex or ask that your ex be invited for lunch at home? Woe betide the trust and security in that relationship.

I honestly think nothing is more delicate or intricate than negotiating personal spaces in marriage. In place of the unconditional acceptance in friendship, there are ego factors and desire to possess in marriage. Even the desire for “privacy” in marriage can raise eyebrows. Friends would allow you your space, even “time out”.

Yes, your spouse can be your true friend, your support system, your strength and that alter ego. But that best friend, better keep him or her outside that circumference call marriage. See, you will always need that person to who you can run to and cry out your heart; that person you can grumble to about your spouse, gossip about your in-laws, tell that secret to. You need that best friend and certainly may not be your spouse.

I can hear the torfobalis grumbling and complaining about my daring-do farrowing into this territory. But samafo. I just think that what we can discuss with our best friend, we can’t honestly and openly talk about with our spouse. If you can, thank your spouse. If you can’t, better keep that best friend.

Njundu Drammeh

Fajara