3 Practical Approaches to Being Best Friends With Your Partner

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Of the 3 Key Relationship Roles for Fulfilled Partnerships, being best friends with your partner is the most important to create deep trust & connection.

An intimate relationship where there is good teamwork and great chemistry, but no friendship, is unlikely to have longevity.

There are three facets of being best friends with your partner;

  1. Building Trust
  2. Causing Fun, and
  3. Contributing Quality

Those different elements can give you a quick insight into where you have strengths & gaps, as well as to inform the way that you approach building your engagement as best friends with your partner.

Common Obstacles to Being Best Friends With Your Partner

It's really important to understand that if you are experiencing any of the issues below, that it is a normal & healthy part of being in a relationship.

Any time that we bring two individuals together in relationship there will be areas where they agree and/or are the same, as well as areas where they disagree and/or are different. This is especially apparent in the context of being best friends with your partner.

It is the 'sameness' that facilitates a sense of simpatico in your connection. It builds a foundation of approaches, interests, expectations (and more!) that brings certainty & safety to your relationship.

It is the 'difference' that creates energy, variety, and interest in your relationship! This is the factor that stimulates curiosity and interest in each other, and it is the crucial factor in sexual and creative chemistry.

And so, there will be areas on the list where you are 'same', and those may feel effortless and easy. AND there will be areas where you are 'different' which you may identify as challenges. Or perhaps this whole aspect of being best friends with your partner is a strength in your relationship, in which case you might like to explore some of the other facets of being intimate partners.

Some common areas of conflict/contrast are;

• Conflict Management
• Self-Awareness/self-management issues
• Learning to co-regulate emotion with partner
• No fun together
• Lack of trust
• Feeling valued & appreciated
• Feeling prioritised
• Feeling loved/cared for
• Poor communication
• Repair after conflict
• Boundaries Issues
• Lack of quality time
• Lack of intimacy
• Jealousy or Flirting
Social Media use
Phone use
• Social Activities
• Feeling Known

• Unresolved Issues
• Respect
• Managing conflict with connection
• Commitment
• Hobbies &Time Apart
• Managing Stress
• Loneliness
• Safety, security, order, and peace
• Working with emotions
• Compromise & influence
• Navigating external influence (context)
• Family & Friendships
• Your support network, community
• Processing Distressing Events–infidelity,
• Betrayals and more
• Rituals of connection
• Unresolved conflicts

Being Best Friends With Your Partner Approach #1 - Build Trust

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Building Trust provides the foundations for being best friends with your partner; it facilitates a felt sense of safety, and creates an environment where self-expression and collaboration are possible.

This might be an area in your relationship that feels like it has been shaken - perhaps there has been some instance of infidelity, betrayal, or untruth. If that's the case, I strongly urge you to seek therapy; whether it is relationship coaching, marriage counselling, or some other form of couples therapy. This kind of issue is something that can be worked through when it is addressed early & strategically, but when left over time can erode the foundations of a relationship.

What Are the 7 Elements of Building Trust?

There is lots of research & resources about building trust, I like to use this framework developed by Brené Brown. The container for that framework is this acronym that captures the facets of trust; BRAVING.

Here is a direct extract from her resource "The Braving Inventory"

"The acronym BRAVING breaks down trust into seven elements:

BOUNDARIES, RELIABILITY, ACCOUNTABILITY, VAULT, INTEGRITY, NONJUDGMENT, AND GENEROSITY.

BOUNDARIES: Setting boundaries is making clear what’s okay and what’s not okay, and why.

[Read: An Introduction to Boundaries; A Complete Primer to Empower Your Relationships in 2022]

RELIABILITY:  You do what you say you’ll do. At work, this means staying aware of your competencies and limitations so you don’t overpromise and are able to
deliver on commitments and balance competing priorities.

ACCOUNTABILITY: You own your mistakes, apologize, and make amends.

VAULT: You don’t share information or experiences that are not yours to share. I need to know that my confidences are kept, and that you’re not sharing with me
any information about other people that should be confidential.

INTEGRITY: Choosing courage over comfort; choosing what’s right over what’s fun, fast, or easy; and practicing your values, not just professing them.

NONJUDGMENT: I can ask for what I need, and you can ask for what you need. We can talk about how we feel without judgment.

GENEROSITY: Extending the most generous interpretation to the intentions, words, and actions of others."

These elements each can be starting places for conversations, experiments & explorations, and insights for each of you as individuals as well as informing your dynamic as best friends with your partner.

What Resources Can We Use to Build Trust?

The tools that you will use to develop this aspect of being best friends with your partner are;

  • curious conversations
  • experiments & explorations
  • shared insights.

Some tangible tools that you could explore & experiment with are;

Coaching or Other Couples Therapy

  • More than any other factor, the loss of trust in a relationship can deeply erode your capacity for being best friends with your partner. Over time (if left unaddressed) this will lead to the end of a relationship. I strongly recommend you see a relationship coach or other couples therapist.

Books

  • Braving the Wilderness ~ Brené Brown. This is one of my all-time favourite books ever in the whole world. 
  • Dare to Lead ~ Brené Brown. "The ultimate playbook for developing brave leaders and courageous cultures. Daring leadership is a collection of four skill sets that are 100% teachable".

Videos

eBooks, Worksheets, Resources

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Being Best Friends With Your Partner Approach #2 - Cause Fun

Causing Fun is very deliberately phrased that way because you have to make it happen!

It's very easy to get distracted by the day-to-day responsibilities of life and find that fun & play have been moved WAAAAAAYYY down the priority list. This is a delightful aspect of being best friends with your partner, and explorations of play are some of my favourite types couples work to engage with.

Play is described by play researcher Stuart Brown as;

  • Apparently purposeless (done for its own sake)
  • Voluntary
  • Inherent attraction
  • Freedom from time (lose track & are immersed)
  • Diminished consciousness of self
  • Improvisational potential
  • Continuation desire

An approach to being best friends with your partner based on fun & play means tweaking three key aspects of your life; allocating time, experimenting together, and making it matter!

How Much Time Do We Need to Cause Fun?

Let's get down to the nitty-gritty, because I know that it can be tricky to make time for fun & play. AND if you truly want to be best friends with your partner then this is absolutely vital.

Play isn't just about having a good time, it is the cornerstone of creativity, critical thinking, and problem solving. It keeps us young & energetic, improves our memory, and encourages neuroplasticity. That is, it isn't frivolous at all, it is a crucial part of human behaviour.

I'd like to move away from identifying a 'minimum' amount  of time to play each week, but if you pressed me I'd say 2 hours together as a couple! That is distinct from time spent in play with children or other family time.

You could build this into your week as your 'date night' as per the Gottman's 6 Hours a Week for a Better Relationship.

What are the Types of Fun?

Many couples have very different ideas on what constitutes 'fun & play' and this can be a challenge in being best friends with your partner.

Stuart Brown in his book Play describes 8 different play personalities;

  1. The Joker - nonsense & being silly, practical jokes and slapstick humour
  2. The Kinesthete - movement based, physical activities like rock climbing, yoga, dance, or football
  3. The Explorer - discovering & exploring the world, physically, or through new understanding or experiences
  4. The Competitor - playing competitive games with rules to win, like cards, sport,
  5. The Director - likes to plan & execute scenes and events, like dinners, parties, excursions, and trips
  6. The Collector - to have & hold the most, best, or most interesting objects or experiences.
  7. The Artist / Creator - making things, painting, pottery, gardening.
  8. The Story Teller - imagination is key, it is the story that matters.

What's cool about this list is that different personalities may enjoy the same activity for a different reason! Like a creator & an explorer may both enjoy a painting workshop at the art gallery (I recommend this at Lake Mac gallery!)

It can also be helpful to explore The 5 Motivation Filters and understand how that applies to being best friends with your partner.

How Do We Decide What to Do?

For many adults their playful & creative part has been hurt in the past, and now there is a shame or fear that loads up in their bodies when they approach 'fun' activities.

In her book Daring Greatly Brené Brown writes;

“One reason that I’m confident that shame exists in schools is simply because 85 percent of the men and women we interviewed for the shame research could recall a school incident from their childhood that was so shaming that it changed how they thought of themselves as learners.

What makes this even more haunting is that approximately half of those recollections were what I refer to as creativity scars. The research participants could point to a specific incident where they were told or shown that they weren’t good writers, artists, musicians, dancers, or something creative.”

And so as you approach this experiment in play, be kind & gentle with yourself and each other.

The Venn Diagram of Fun

Brené Brown has a really cool exercise that she suggests for intimate partners, and families; the Venn diagram of fun. As you may have noticed I'm a little obsessed with the 'ol Venn, so it's always rad to roll one out!

  1. Take a piece of paper and draw two large overlapping circles.
  2. In one circle, write a list of all the things that you consider 'fun' and 'play'.
  3. In the other circle have your partner do the same thing.
  4. Find activities that you BOTH consider fun and write them into the overlap.
  5. Try new things together to continue growing this living list.

It is a good thing to do for your own health & happiness to weave more of your personal fun into your days, as well as supporting your partner in their fun, AND becoming best friends with your partner by having fun together.

 

What Resources Can We Use to Cause Fun?

The tools that you will use to develop this aspect of being best friends with your partner are;

  • curious conversations
  • experiments & explorations
  • shared insights.

Some tangible tools that you could explore & experiment with are;

Books

Videos

eBooks, Worksheets, Resources

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Being Best Friends With Your Partner Approach #3 - Contribute Quality

Contributing Quality is about engaging as best friends with your partner in the way that they would like you to engage, not neccessarily in your natural behavioural style.

That means having awareness, insight, and understanding into each of your beliefs, histories, cultural locations, values, behaviours, hurts, dreams... it's about knowing each other on a deeper level than just what's their favourite restaurant. This requires an ongoing conversation between you about likes, dislikes, as well as exploring & experimenting with learning about their behavioural styles and preferences.

Being best friends with your partner applies on every level from the micro to the macro.

For example on a micro level;

  • Knowing how to make them their favourite beverage exactly right
  • Being happy to see each other (and showing it)
  • Knowing how they prefer to give & receive love
  • Understanding the 5 Motivation Filters and how to apply them

And on a macro level;

It's about moving toward relational dynamic as best friends with your partner where you can both be your authentic self, AND bring a generosity & flexibility to your interactions.

What Resources Can We Use to Contribute Quality?

At the heart of Contributing Quality is endless curiosity about yourself & your partner. The tools that you will use to develop this aspect of being best friends with your partner are;

  • curious conversations
  • experiments & explorations
  • shared insights.

Some tangible tools that you could explore & experiment with are;

Books

Games

  • 36 Questions for Falling in Love ~ This series of questions is a delightful way to spend an evening with your partner. They were designed as part of an experiment by psychologist Arthur Aron (and others), to discover whether intimacy between strangers could be accelerated. Spoiler alert: it can be. It is equally wonderful with someone whom you already love.
  • Where Should We Begin ~ Created by the internationally renowned therapist Esther Perel, this game is sadly only available in the US at this moment (November 2021) but will hopefully be available everywhere soon! Designed to facilitate connection for families, friends, and couples.

Online Courses

  • Intimate Relationships 101 ~ Alexandra Solomon. How to practice relational & sexual self-awareness.
  • OMG Yes - The science of women's sexual pleasure. Clear, applicable, techniques & insights from real women. 
  • Melt: Massage for Couples ~ follow along to videos from the comfort of home and learn the art of couples massage. This is one of my favourite things I've ever bought!

Videos

eBooks, Worksheets, Resources

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Where Do We Go From Here?

The lovely thing about bringing more time, energy, and attention to Being Best Friends with your partner is that the skills you develop are directly transferable to all of the relationships in your life.

Equally, you can apply your efforts to developing those skills in relationships in other spheres including with your friends, your family, your colleagues, and your community. In fact sometimes approaching your personal development through multiple lenses can reduce some of the intensity of feeling like you need to "fix" your intimate relationship, and shift the focus towards bringing deeper support & connection to your life.

You could also explore the other facets of an intimate relationship in The 3 Key Relationship Roles for Fulfilled Partnerships, or take a deep dive into those.