A best friend takes time to cultivate. I met mine in the fifth grade.

Pablo joined our class midyear and offered to help me work on a science project.

We instantly hit it off, and before long, we were inseparable. We had the same classes in high school, went to the same college, worked for the same companies—we even wound up marrying sisters.

With so many shared experiences, to say we could read each other’s minds would be an understatement. A more accurate description would be like two networked super computers working on a common goal, each fully aware of the unique capabilities of the other, maximizing strengths and minimizing weaknesses.

When facing a project together, he would instinctively handle things he knew were difficult for me. I would take care of the areas I knew were difficult for him. Together, there has never been a problem we couldn’t solve.

After my wife and I got married, my “Pablo time” was significantly reduced. Distance, responsibilities, and a genuine desire to spend every waking moment with my new bride meant I rarely saw my old friend.

One morning, when I attempted to leave for work, the car wouldn’t start.

My automotive resume, at this point, contained only two lines:

  • Expert gas pumper
  • Proficient windshield-wiper fluid filler

I had no clue what to do next. I needed Pablo. Even though we both knew very little about cars, I was confident we’d be able to figure out what to do together.

When my wife realized I was still lingering in the garage, she came in to investigate and found me leaning over the open hood.

She encouraged me to call Pablo, but he lived 70 miles away and was probably already on his way to work. I’d have to figure this one out without his help.

I stood there for a moment, considering my options.

Then I asked my wife a question that changed the nature of our relationship forever. “Could you be my Pablo?”

Happy couples

In her book Highly Happy Marriages, Shaunti Feldhahn interviewed 1,000 couples and found, “A happy spouse looks at the other person as their best and closest friend—a friend they want to stay close to no matter what.”

This shouldn’t surprise us. More than 2,000 years ago, Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 taught,

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!”

When we marry, our spouse should be the first person reaching out a helping hand when we’re in trouble, and the first person we want to hang out with when things are good.

The more time couples spend together, the better.

Feldhahn found that 83% of couples who hang out, at least weekly, rate their marriages as “very happy,” echoing the sentiment of Song of Solomon 5:16, “This is my beloved and this is my friend …” Marriage is sweeter when your spouse genuinely is your best friend.

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Developing the “best”

My wife had seen Pablo and I work on enough projects together that she understood what I was asking. I needed her to be more than my wife—more than someone I did fun things with. I was asking her to work beside me to fix this problem.

But more than that, I was asking her to be my new best friend.

She said yes, turned around, and left the garage. When she returned a few minutes later, her clothes told me she was ready to get her hands dirty.

It took a while for us to figure out this new dynamic. I didn’t simply want someone to “hold the flashlight.” I needed her help to think critically. I needed her to use logic to poke holes in my theories. A process which felt natural to me, but felt like arguing to her.

She didn’t want to seem disrespectful, but it showed me her brain was fully engaged in solving the problem. It was the exact type of support I needed.

Over the years, we’ve not only diagnosed and repaired the car multiple times, but we’ve gutted and remodeled our kitchen, run cables, paved a walkway, built a deck, and tackled hundreds of little projects together.

I still love working with Pablo, but nothing compares to working with my wife. She has become my best friend, and our bond grows stronger every day. The “honey-do” list is a thing of the past. We tackle problems as a team.

Start small

But what if you don’t share many interests or your spouse refuses to engage in the activities you care about? Start small.

Not long ago, I peeled carrots as my wife prepared the rest of the dinner. I didn’t think much of it, yet two days later, she was still thanking me. Why?

My wife is a pastry chef. She certainly doesn’t need my help in the kitchen. But when I peeled those carrots, it told her I wanted to hang out with her more than I wanted to check the computer. She was reminded she had a friend to help her tackle the challenges of life, big or small.

Find little tasks you can do together. Whether prepping dinner or replacing an alternator. Any shared activity will do. Start today, and before you know it, you might soon have a new best friend.

Other healthy habits

Scientists agree that friendship is just one of five habits that directly correlates to marital health. Read about the other habits too.

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