Falling in love is easy.
It’s staying in love that people have a hard time with.
Falling in love is easy because what most people think is “love” is a subconscious, neurological, chemical reaction to another person.
Attraction is based on differing DNA, and we pick up on attraction through visual cues and scents, all of which signal to us that someone has chromosomes enough unlike ours to be a suitable candidate for reproduction.
(This is also why incest seems so disgusting — we do not want to reproduce with someone who has similar DNA to us.)
But what people do is that they write a deep, mystical narrative around this experience.
They find someone with whom they swear they have an other-worldly attraction. They can list the ways in which the stars have aligned and the boxes have been checked and it seems, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that all the “coincidences” surrounding their relationship are a sign from a divine force beyond them that they are meant to be together.
This is the way the brain makes sense of the intense physical experience that it’s having.
But what the brain doesn’t know to consider is this: if I had to take sex out of this relationship entirely, would this person still be someone I’d want to hang out with?
And therein lies the (not-so-secret) secret to why some couples stay in love, and other couples can’t make it last: best friendship.
The reality is that the best, happiest, most stable and long-lasting couples are as much best friends as they are lovers.
This is important because the sexual aspect of your relationship takes up a very tiny percentage of your overall time together.
Your life partner is the person with whom you will share at least one meal with every night for the rest of your life. They are the person with whom you will take every vacation, spend every weekend, and see every morning.
They will be the person you talk to the most, the person you go shopping with and for, the person who is there to comfort you in times of need and encourage you in times of doubt.
This person needs to be your best friend.
The person you want to call before you’d call anyone else.
The person whose opinion you trust the most.
The person who you want to be around as much as you can.
Because once all of the glossy-eyed awe of the honeymoon period wanes, what you will be left with is the reality of your relationship, and this is the point at which most couples break.
The true test of the strength of a relationship is what happens to it when sex is no longer a part of it. Because in life, there will come days, weeks, or months when sex is out of the question. Maybe you’re traveling, maybe you had a baby, maybe you’re just so busy that neither of you really want to do the whole candlelit dinner, romance thing.
And that’s ok. That’s life.
But if you want to be with someone you know you can count on even when you’re going through those dry patches, if you want to be in a relationship that you are confident will last through the years of challenges, you need to make sure that person is your best friend.
You need to make sure that you are not committing your life to someone who you can only tolerate for a few hours on a Saturday night when you get dressed and go out and have fun.
Because if your relationship isn’t stable when its in that phase, you’re in trouble when reality sets in months or years later, and it’s just you — your whole selves, your honest selves — on the couch in your sweatpants talking about money and work and whether or not you want to go to your friend’s party next weekend.
When your partner is your best friend, all of that is fun. The relationship feels more effortless than it doesn’t. You’re still happy even when you aren’t being romanced. You’re not being thrown around by your emotions, by doubts, by “timing” or whatever other excuse one of you comes up with.
The right relationship is the person who can be your best friend as much as they are your lover.
That is the love that lasts.