(Editor's note: This article originally appeared on Babble.com. It has been reprinted here with permission. Disney is the parent company of both Babble and ABC News.)
Looking deep into my eyes, some time after our seventh wedding anniversary, my husband took my hands into his -- calloused and rough from years of sandpapering and woodworking -- and whispered solemnly:
“You are not my soul mate.”
I admit I was a bit taken aback. It wasn’t exactly the romantic sweet nothings I had been expecting, but then again, what about marriage after seven years is what you expect? Heck, even our actual anniversary night had been anything but champagne and roses.
But without divulging too much of our personal life (because sometimes even writers get tired of having their guts splayed out all over the Internet to be judged), I will say that for us, our seventh wedding anniversary was a milestone for an evaluation of sorts for me -- an opportunity to ask, 'Are we OK?'
And with one eye scrunched up tight like my 2-year-old pretending to sleep, I finally got brave enough to take a look around -- and much to my surprise and relief, I found that we were.
I guess I expected us to be in trouble after seven years in and four kids out -- but I found I was content, happy, light-hearted even on some days when we would joke and flirt in the kitchen. Which led to the whole soul mate conversation -- and my shock at my husband’s declaration that I was not, in fact, his soul mate.
My surprise at his statement was only equaled by my own realization that I agreed with him. After seven years, I think it is safe to say: My husband is not my soul mate.
But he is my best friend. And as it would turn out, that friendship may be the best thing for our marriage.
The National Bureau of Economic Research just released a new report detailing the positive effects of marriage -- in short, that it makes people happier, more successful and improves not only their well-being but their economic status, as well.
And the biggest factor in those happy unions came down to one crucial element: friendship. Spouses and couples in long-term partnerships are happier overall when they report that their partners are also their best friends.
“What immediately intrigued me about the results was to rethink marriage as a whole,” John Helliwell, one of the study’s authors, told the New York Times. “Maybe what is really important is friendship, and to never forget that in the push and pull of daily life.”
The study came as a relief to me in light of my husband’s admission because, honestly, there have been times when I’ve wondered if there was something wrong with us that we spend more time cracking each other up or that our once-a-year date night is spent eating ice cream in the Dairy Queen parking lot rather than staring into each other’s eyes with smoldering passion.
Theoretically, my husband could have married many different women, just as I could have chosen many different men. We were in the right place at the right time when we met each other, which could be construed as an orchestrated meeting of fate and passion, or it could have been just two students passing each other in the hallway. The happenstances of our beginnings are not as important as the choices that we have made to keep choosing each other, day in and day out.
Because, more than having a bond held together by the belief that we were meant to be, I am more comfortable with the evidence that we choose each other because we are more than lovers, parents and partners. I choose this man because, in many ways, I genuinely enjoy being with him more than any other person on this planet. Which comes in handy when you’ve pledged your lives to one another, I’m just saying.
So science may be backing up what many of us who find choosing a friend is more important than a soul mate in the marriage game already know -- that underneath the flames of passion, the nights of waxing romantic at each other, or the long-winded conversations you can’t imagine doing now, that what really matters is the one thing that won’t change no matter how many wrinkles you add, stretch marks you see, or diapers you change.
Which is the fact that a foundation of friendship is what makes a marriage.
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