It’s that inevitable plot turning point in every classic Hollywood ROM-com, from “When Harry Met Sally” to “Some Kind of Wonderful” to “My Best Friend’s Wedding” ... that moment approximately an hour and a half into the movie when two platonic BFFs, each mired in his and her own romantic dilemmas, look at each other across a lowball in a dimly lit bar and lean in for the kiss that’s been 10 years in the making. It's that pivotal moment in which “Zack and Miri Make a Porno” turns into “Zack and Miri Make Out” (as if you didn’t see that coming).
But what happens after the film credits roll, when you find yourself blindly navigating your way through a relationship in which camaraderie blossoms into romantic love, when suddenly the guy on whose shoulder you once wept because some other dude dumped you becomes the guy suddenly sharing your toothbrush?
Does marrying your best friend work out in real life?
If you wind up arguing over things that happened before you were together, it likely means that you’re not meant for one another.
Nancy Pina, relationship adviser and author of "The Right Relationship Can Happen"
Waiting on a Friend
Patricia Allen, Ph.D., therapist, relationship expert and best-selling author of “Getting to ‘I Do,’” declares an emphatic “no.”
“You cannot marry your best friend,” asserted Allen, who remains skeptical of marital unions lacking passion from the get-go. She’s not suggesting you jump into bed on the first date, but if the desire to isn’t there fairly early on, it might not be the best match.
“We live too long and sex is too important,” she affirmed. “There might be one night when the two friends drink, get turned on and [have sex], but that’s called a one-night stand. They become friends, but with perks.”
According to Allen, there are three essential components to falling in love: chemistry, compatibility and communication. If any of those criteria are not firmly in place, the relationship is likely to fizzle, and your best bet, she suggests, is to sow your proverbial seed elsewhere.
“Friends communicate equally; lovers are complimentary,” Allen explained. She believes that for any fruitful marriage to last, one partner in the couple has to be the Fred (Astaire) and the other the Ginger (Rogers), like two corresponding pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. While some call Allen’s findings politically incorrect, she contends that they are absolutely, 100 percent scientifically accurate.
“Marriage between two friends usually doesn’t last longer than a few years,” she said, comparing the scenario to convenient green card marriages. “The first year you’re fascinated, the second year it’s enjoyable, and by the third year you’re bored stupid. It’s like a corporate partnership.”
Relationship adviser Nancy Pina, author of "The Right Relationship Can Happen," sees things from a drastically different point of view, arguing that every successful romance rests on a foundation of friendship. Sex ultimately fades away in any relationship, especially when kids come into the picture and you’re too busy changing dirty diapers to have much time for romance. For a marriage to withstand that loss, you need to have your best friend by your side.
“There are a huge number of benefits to marrying somebody who you were friends with,” she said, “because you each know how to receive and give love to one another. A lot of people jump to the physical intimacy part because they think that equates to love, but once you do, that level of getting to know one another generally stops.”
If you’re friends first, Pina opines, you get a chance to establish an emotional connection that outweighs any perceptive loss of not having had sex earlier in the relationship. That closeness will later help you and your spouse weather any ups and downs in your marriage.
“You have to be attracted to each other,” Pina advised, “but it doesn’t have to be the driving force.”
But don’t assume your best guy friend is only hanging out with you because he thinks you’re the perfect beer-guzzling, ballgame-watching buddy. Per Pina, if he’s spending more time with you than he is with any other girl, it’s safe to presume that he would like to do more than just shoot pool and chew the fat.
“Men generally tend to not hang out with women they are not attracted to,” she pointed out. “They always want to take it to that other level. They are waiting for the signal from the women to make sure they’re not rejected. The problem is lots of times the women are the ones who have no interest in a sexual relationship.”
Let's Wait a While
Waiting to have sex until you’re in a monogamous, committed relationship increases your chances for marital continuity and longevity, asserts Patricia Allen, therapist, relationship expert and author of "Getting to ‘I Do.’"
“Passion is what gets you interested in researching the compatibility of relationship,” proffered Allen. “But if a guy picks your cherry right off the bat, then he’ll never want to get to know you.”
But Allen is no moralist; if anything she’s a pragmatist who bases her relationship advice on firsthand observations. Feeling like you want to sleep with someone without doing it within the first few weeks of dating, Allen suggests, is a great way to let that longing grow in intensity while also nurturing your emotional needs. Plus, it gives you both a chance to make sure you’re on the same page relationship-wise.
“For the relationship to go anywhere,” Allen said, “you need to make sure you’re both heading toward the same goal.”