"My wife is my best friend," I often hear. One hopes she would be and in many exemplary cases, she is. Yet realistic expectations for spouses are often clouded by the singular focus society asks them to put on each other.
Marriage should be practical and then idealistic. No rite of marriage in any mainstream Christian denomination asks the bride and groom if they love each other, only if they promise to love each other. John Rotondi has an insightful piece about a fairly niche issue, which is the tendency in some traditionalist families for men to lose any and all sense of personhood, to disappear into domesticity, devoid of friendships and hobbies, two very conventional ways in which men built their personhood in prior, more Christian times when unions were, coincidentally, more based on agreement than 18 months of buying dinner.
God bless men who provide for their families and who do not obstruct His gift of life through artificial means. All the same, you have seen it at the local traditionalist parish sometimes, have you not? A few burnt out fellows providing $55,000 per annum for their seven children and wife, huddled together saying the Rosary with every possible Fatima oration added; they look glazed, tired, and desperate to be interested in what is transpiring at the altar if only to offer the sacrifice of themselves to God.
Restricting one's self to the nuclear family, something all too common both in Catholic and non-Catholic families, narrows one's potential co-enthusiasts, confidants, and friends. Indeed, friendship is an image of the Divine Love in that it is entirely volitional and offers no physical reward (not that married love is not also, in its own way, an icon of the generational love of God). What I once termed "romantic friendship" may be the most under-appreciated sort of relationship out there, wherein you find a little of yourself in another. In a spouse this is a unique gift because of its rarity, but in any friend it should be the glue.