Marry Your Best Friend

Perspective from a 19 year veteran of marriage.

Today marks mine and Rachel’s 19th wedding anniversary, and we celebrated the way most couples do: we woke up, forgot it was our anniversary, and then remembered halfway through breakfast.

That’s okay though, because we quickly moved on to other, far more traditional anniversary celebrations: an appointment with my oncologist, an appointment with a cardiologist, and a few precious moments outside on our patio talking about the day.

Most people celebrate 19 as their Bronze Anniversary; ours is the Cancer.

But such is life, and such is the life we’ve carved out together. We’ve seen some things, Rachel and I, and we’ve not only survived them, we’ve become better by going through them.

We’ve been able to survive and grow because I married my best friend — and so did she.

In fact, when I asked her at lunch what was her favorite part of being married 19 years, she replied, “Being married to my best friend.”

When she asked me the same question, I replied, “Being able to grow with someone every day.”

Jon looked at us and said, “That’s kind of cliché.” Then he asked what cliché meant.

Maybe it is cliché to say you married your best friend — but I don’t think so. I think some people genuinely do marry their best friend, while others marry someone they hope can rise to the call. Like any human relationship, marriage requires trust going in, if only because you can never truly know a person until you live with them daily. And even then, you only truly get to know them if you make the effort.

Rachel and I have never ceased to make the effort.

Over the past seven years, the effort is certainly more intentional than it was at first. When we were first married, I just assumed we’d grow close over time; I engaged in conversations, and we certainly grew together, but not like it’s been the last seven years.

That’s because seven years ago, I fully committed to being her partner — a 50/50 split, no lip service, no complementarian bullshit. She was my equal in every way, and deserved to be treated as such. Whatever little pieces of me I may have been hiding — consciously or unconsciously — fell away because it’s hard to hide when you’re pouring your souls out together daily in prayer.

(And yeah, I’m aware I used bullshit two sentences before I mentioned prayer. I’m cool with it.)

When we made a commitment to pray together every day, it changed everything. We were already best friends by that point, but that commitment — and the keeping of that commitment — took our partnership to an entirely different level. My trust in her deepened because she would pray things that sounded so strange, and then weeks later her prayer would prove prescient in some way. I came to see and appreciate her gifts and talents in a fresh way, amazed by what she could discern and see in the world around us.

I came to rely on her voice speaking into my life decisions; not that I couldn’t make decisions on my own, or that I hadn’t listened to her before, but her wisdom and insight sparked anew. I didn’t brush it off or feel like it was an “optional” thing to consider. She was speaking truth over my life and I was finally listening with fully open ears, no ego or mental junk clogging up my head space.

She’d have to speak for herself as to what she’s experienced on the other side of me, but I can tell you that we are closer now than ever before and it’s still not close enough. We spend more time talking after prayer than we’ve ever done before; sharing our thoughts isn’t just a once or twice a day brain dump — it’s an ongoing process, one that can take place at any time.

I love it.

Our kids love it too. Last night, all four of us sat down for dinner around 5:45, and started talking — we finally stopped talking about 9:45, and we’d covered everything from mine and Rachel’s favorite scary movies, to which stereotypical characters our kids would be in a scary movie, to relationships, to the birds and the bees (again, this time with the talk geared to Jon), to how Rachel and I met, to how we’ve maintained our relationship, and culminating with our favorite things we’ve learned from our kids.

Four hours. Just talking. Well, talking punctuated with laughter, the occasional tear, and a solid dose of life wisdom for our kids and for ourselves. It was beautiful — the best anniversary present you could ever hope to receive.

Today marks 19 years with my very best friend in the world, and I can’t imagine doing life with anyone else. Even cancer seems small because we’re in it together, pulling together instead of pulling apart.

I married my best friend, but thank God I never stopped becoming friends with her. Thank God we’ve stayed the course together — sometimes her chasing me, sometimes me chasing her, but always together, always looking for our way forward as unit. It’s never been easy, but it’s always been worth it.

And it will be worth, always. Because we choose to make it so.

Happy 19, Rachel. Once we beat cancer, we’re going to spend 20 somewhere by ourselves, toes in the sand, celebrating properly.

I will enjoy every moment leading up to that one because I’ll spend them with you.

Writer. Observer. Humorist.

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