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更新时间:2017-11-2 11:18:13 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Should Your Spouse Be Your Best Friend?

The phrase has become so ubiquitous that we almost don’t hear it anymore. “You’re still my best friend,” Michelle Obama effused to Barack Obama in an Instagram post celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary.

这种说法无处不在,以至于我们几乎对其充耳不闻。“你仍然是我最好的朋友,”米歇尔·奥巴马(Michelle Obama)在庆祝她与贝拉克·奥巴马(Barack Obama)结婚25周年的Instagram帖子中向其吐露衷肠。

It’s common at award shows, as when Justin Timberlake said not long ago, “I want to thank my best friend, my favorite collaborator, my wife, Jessica.” It’s common on how-to sites, where authors write articles on “nurturing a friendship” with your spouse.

它常常出现在颁奖典礼上,比如贾斯汀·汀布莱克(Justin Timberlake)不久前就表示,“我要感谢我最好的朋友,我心爱的合作者,我的妻子杰西卡(Jessica)。”它常常出现在指南类网站上,其作者会写一些教你如何与配偶“培养友谊”的文章。

Like the living dead, another oxymoron, spouse-friends, are all around us these days. Maybe it’s the heightened attention on friendship in social media; maybe it’s the decline of actual friends in our lives; maybe it’s because we all have access to public declarations of once-private relationships. Whatever the reason, referring to your spouse as your bestie, your bud, or your #BFF has become rampant.


So rampant, in fact, there’s even a backlash. “Why Your Spouse Shouldn’t Be Your Best Friend” one marital advice blog declares.


So which is it? Is considering your spouse your closest friend a sign of hard-earned intimacy, attachment and trust, or is it a sign you’ve become so enmeshed in the day-to-day logistics of managing your lives that you’ve given up sexual attraction, passion and erotic play? Has marriage become little more than benefits with friendship?


There is some research into this question. John Helliwell is a professor at the Vancouver School of Economics and the editor of the World Happiness Report. As he researched social connections a few years ago, he found that everyone derives benefits from online friends and real-life friends, but the only friends that boost our life satisfaction are real friends.

有人对这个问题做了一些研究。约翰·海利韦尔(John Helliwell)是温哥华经济学院(Vancouver School of Economics)的教授以及《世界幸福度报告》(World Happiness Report)的编辑。他几年前研究社会关系时发现,网络上的朋友和现实生活中的朋友都能让人获益,但只有真正的朋友才能提升我们的生活满意度。

“But while the effects of real friends on your well-being is important for everybody,” he said, “they are less so for married people than for singles. That’s how we got to the idea that marriage is a kind of ‘super-friendship.'”


Helliwell and a colleague discovered that a long-running study in Britain had data that may illuminate this question. From 1991 to 2009, the British Household Panel Survey asked 30,000 people to quantify their life satisfaction. In general, married people expressed higher satisfaction, he said, and were better able to manage the dip in well-being that most people experience in middle age, as they face work stress, caring for aging parents and other pressures.

海利韦尔和一名同事发现,英国的一项长期研究的数据或许有助于揭示这个问题。从1991年到2009年,英国家庭调查所(British Household Panel Survey)曾让三万人给自己的生活满意度打分。他说,总体而言,已婚者满意度较高,他们也能更好地应对大多数人会遭遇的生活满意度下降问题,比如人到中年,背负工作的压力,照顾年迈双亲的责任以及其他种种压力。

But an entirely separate part of the study asked people to name their best friend. Those who listed their spouse were twice as likely to have higher life satisfaction. Slightly more men than women made that choice, he said, “which makes sense, because men tend to have fewer friends.”


Is feeling this way about your spouse necessary for a good marriage? I asked.


“Absolutely not,” Helliwell said. “The benefits of marriage are strong even for those who are littered with outside friends. It’s just bigger for those who consider their spouse their closest friend. It’s a bonus.”


Others are not so sure.


Amir Levine is a psychiatrist and neuroscientist at Columbia University, and the co-author of “Attached.” A student of social relations, Levine explained that everyone has what he calls a hierarchy of attachment, meaning if something bad happens to us, we have a ranking of the people we call. In our early decades, those on the highest rungs are usually our parents or other family members.

阿米尔·列文(Amir Levine)是哥伦比亚大学的精神病学家和神经科学家,也是《依恋》(Attached)一书的合著者。研习社会关系的列文解释说,每个人都有一个他所谓的依恋层级体系,意思是说,如果遇到不好的事情,我们向人求助时会有一个次序。年少的时候,位次最高的通常是我们的双亲或其他家人。

“The problem as you grow older is, how do you let somebody close who’s basically a total stranger?” he said. “Nature came up with a trick: It’s called attraction. Sexual attraction brings down all the barriers, lets you get close to a new person in a physical way that you don’t get close to your family.”


Over time, of course, this physical connection wanes. While many bemoan this loss of titillation, Levine celebrates it. “It’s smart,” he said. “If you’re going to be crazy about the other person all the time, how are you going to raise kids? How are you going to be able to work?”


Instead of complaining, we should view this new phase as an achievement: “OK, now I have this person I’m attached to. I have the feeling of security. That’s what allows me to be an individual again and self-actualize.”


Levine summarizes this feeling with the (somewhat awkward) acronym CARRP; your partner is consistent, available, responsive, reliable and predictable. But don’t we already have a word, “spouse,” that fits this description? I said. Why are we suddenly using the expression “best friend,” when that doesn’t seem to fit at all?


“Because not every spouse provides that,” he said, “and we’re indicating we don’t take it for granted. What we should probably be saying is ‘secure spouse.'”


There’s yet another problem with calling your husband or wife your best friend. The words mean totally different things.


Peter Pearson and Ellyn Bader are founders of the Couples Institute in Menlo Park, California, and the authors of “Tell Me No Lies.” They’ve also been married for more than 30 years. Pearson said there’s a critical difference between a best friend and a spouse. “One of the criteria for a best friend is you feel unconditionally accepted,” he said. “Do I care if my buddy Mark is messy in the kitchen, leaves his bathroom a shambles and doesn’t pay his income taxes?”

彼得·皮尔森(Peter Pearson)和埃琳·巴德(Ellyn Bader)是加州门洛帕克伴侣研究所(Couples Institute)的创始人,以及《别对我撒谎》(Tell Me No Lies)一书的作者。他们俩还是结婚三十年多年的老夫老妻。皮尔森说最好的朋友和配偶之间有一个关键的差别。“最好的朋友的一个标准是无条件认同,”他说。“如果我的朋友马克把厨房搞得盆朝天碗朝地,把洗手间弄得一团糟,还不缴纳所得税,我会在乎吗?”

But with a spouse, he said, you can’t avoid these topics.


Bader said that when couples are just getting to know each other, they often say they’re companions, and she’s fine with that. When couples have been together 30, 40 or 50 years, they use similar language, and that can be the mark of a healthy relationship.


“It’s the in-between ones, when they use the language of friendship, my stomach turns,” Bader said. “It’s a red flag for a lot of conflict avoidance and intensity avoidance. It often means they’ve given up on the complexity of being with somebody. Instead of saying, ‘Oh, well, that’s who they are,’ it’s better if they try to work things out.”


Bader said that she wished popular magazines would challenge the notion that you shouldn’t get married to change someone. “I think that’s what marriage is about,” she said. “It’s where some of the juices come from, and it’s also how you get the best out of the person you marry.”