Recently Scarlett Johansson said her fiancé, Romain Dauriac, is her best friend. Obviously it’s always a positive to like the guy you’re in love with, but what’s the line between enjoying each other’s company and being the co-dependent couple who can’t swing going solo anywhere?
“Couples who have enduring relationships tend to be the ones who say their partner is their best friend,” says Charles Schmitz, Ph.D., a relationship expert and co-author of Building a Love That Lasts, who, along with his co-author and wife, Elizabeth Schmitz, spent two years interviewing happy couples around the world as research for the book. What the Schmitzs found: Out of the more than 100 successfully married couples they interviewed, many of of whom had been together for 20-plus years, all listed their spouse among the top five closest friends in their social circle. [Tweet this fact!] “But that doesn’t mean they’re smothering each other or that they have to do everything together. It means that they support each other, have each others’ backs, and genuinely love spending time together,” Elizabeth Schmitz explains. Here, four ways to keep your BFF-bond—without becoming that creepy couple.
1. Know yourself. The next time a friend invites you to hang out, check your gut before you check if your guy wants to tag along. Does the invite sound fun? Lame? Or do you have no idea until you ask your guy what he thinks? “Not having a clear sense of what you want can be a sign you may be too swept up in the relationship,” warns Barbie Adler, relationship expert and president of Selective Search, a Chicago matchmaking firm. Instead of phrasing the invite so the decision is all on him (“Jen and Mike are going rafting on Saturday. Should we go?”) get in the habit of including your thoughts (“Jen and Mike are going rafting on Saturday, and I think it’d be so fun to go!”) when you present the idea. Is he not that into the plan? While it’s not a red flag if you’d honestly prefer to turn down the invite in favor of spending the day together, if you feel you’re the one always passing up plans, or that he’d be mad or jealous if you went without him, it could be a warning sign that the relationship may not be as close as it seems. “You should never feel pressured to spend time with your partner,” Charles Schmitz says.
2. Leave some breathing room. Even if you want to spend 24/7 together, a little distance is good for both of you, says Adler. Not only does occasionally doing your own thing keep you both growing as individuals, it also ensures you keep your other friendships from fading. “Friends serve a different purpose than boyfriends,” Adler says. “For one, because they’re not as close to you as your partner, they can help give perspective to situations in your life, including relationship situations that may arise.” Plus your friends are friends for a reason: You have a past together, you share the same interests, or you can spend entire workdays sending emoji-filled texts to each other that only the two of you understand. “No matter how much you and your guy may have in common, no one person can play all those roles in your life,” Adler says. The more you remember this, the more you see your guy as one essential part of your world, and not your entire planet.
3. Keep some secrets. While you should never have secrets from your boyfriend or spouse, there are some things he just doesn’t need to know. [Tweet this tip!] For example, say a friend reveals she has doubts about her upcoming wedding and swears you to secrecy. You’re dying to tell your guy, but first ask yourself why. If it’s because he might have good advice—maybe his sister was in a similar situation or he has a broken engagement in his past—ask her if she wants his input before you blab. And if she says no? “Respect that,” Adler says. Even if he’s 100-percent trustworthy, there are plenty of ways he could accidentally spill the beans, leaving both of you in an uncomfortable situation with your friend. “If it doesn’t affect him or your relationship, there’s never any reason to spill secrets,” Adler adds.
4. Start new traditions with old friends. It’s normal for your friendships to shift when you get serious about a guy—after all, you probably want to spend Friday night hanging out with him rather than prowling the bar with your single girlfriends. But it’s not healthy—or nice—to totally let them fall off your radar because you’re obsessed with your man. So do the legwork and schedule hangouts with the other people who matter in your life. Maybe it’s making a point to go out with the girls once a month or having a standing pre-work coffee date every Monday with your former roommate. And make sure your guy gets solo time with his boys too. If he’s watching the game with the guys on a Saturday, join him if it’s something you’re genuinely psyched to see, but if you’re not into sports, use the time to hit up a matinee with a friend.