"I married my best friend."
You often hear this said, from new brides to celebrities. Even the President of the United States says he married his best friend.
As nice at it may seem, a man should not marry his best friend. He should marry his wife, who should understand that she is not his best friend. A man should have a male friend who is almost an equal to his wife.
This is the idea of a book that was recently published, The Double: Male Eros, Friendship, and Mentoring -- From Gilgamesh to Kerouac. Edward Sellner, a professor of theology at St. Catherine's University, argues that while a woman can indeed be a great friend, most men never lose the craving for "the double." The double, an idea out of Jungian psychology, is a male with whom a man can share a special kind of love and intimacy. This is not a homosexual relationship. Rather, it is a "soul figure" that allows a man to become and remain fully masculine.
As Sellner explains it, every man has a small part of "anima," or female energy, in their psyches, and must integrate it into their persona in order to be healthy (Women on the other hand have to integrate "animus," male energy, into their psyches). But simply integrating anima into the male psyche is not enough. Men also need to integrate energy from other men in order to achieve wholeness. It is a role that a woman, no matter how close a friend she is, simply can't fulfill. Quoting Jungian analyst Mitch Walker, Sellner offers this: "Every man and woman -- whether one is straight or gay -- carries within his or her soul this psychic pattern, expressed in the need for same-sex relationships of love, tenderness, intimacy, and joy." Women usually form these relationships easily; they tend to be friendlier, conversational, and less guarded than men.
A man's double goes beyond a mere buddy or a wingman. The double is a mentor, hero, teammate, and confidant in sexual matters. He is someone whose sensitivity and humor you admire and whose strength you strive to emulate. He is someone that you love. You can talk to him freely about your fears, brag about your conquests (including female ones -- a double is not a double without absolute freedom), and explore the dynamics of your soul.
Saying that you love another man has become problematic today, not because of the gay rights movement, but because of our sexually infantile culture. If one man expresses love for another, there are instant jokes and comment threads on the Internet making the usually sophomoric gay jokes. But in countries outside of America, it's not unusual at all for men to express love for each other. In The Double, Sellner quotes a researcher who traveled to India in the 1950s, where he found it was common that a man "would be married twice in his life, first to his buddy, then to his wife." Sellner then offers this lovely observation: "the double is manifest in a variety of ways, and there is an element of eros, that spiritual power of connection, in all male relationships of intimacy -- not only those which are explicitly homosexual -- or there wouldn't be the natural attraction, warmth, or sustainability that characterizes them."
In modern Western societies, a man's expected relationships are laid out in a specific way. He will form male friendships in school, probably even have a double in high school and college. But then he's supposed to get married -- to his "best friend" -- and spend the rest of his life going to work and watching football in his suburban man cave. If he gets into trouble financially, or with drugs and alcohol, he becomes the problem of his wife, who is instantly shifted into the position of caretaker. Of course, spouses should take care of each other. But today we have spouses who are emotionally and spiritually overburdened because they become each other's sole support system.
It's no wonder that many crack under the pressure.