It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.
“Once people get married, they seem to feel relieved of social obligations toward family and friends. Cocooning is the couples version of social isolation. It does increase closeness in marriages. It also increases the fragility of marriage, the burdens placed upon marriage and, over time, it increases the likelihood of both divorce and loneliness.” (The Lonely American by Jacqueline Olds and Richard Schwartz)
There has been an increase in spousal communication over the last two decades. The amount of people who include a spouse in their circle of closest confidants increased by 8 percent in the years between 1985 and 2004. It speaks well for the future of marriage. Long and happy relationships are made of trust. But while it’s great that more people can confide in their spouses, the number of people who reported that they can confide in only their spouses increased by almost half.
Confiding in your spouse: good. Confiding in no one but your spouse: bad. What if something happens to your hubby? Or if he’s the very person you want to vent about? Then who do you turn to?
This is where things get tricky. Alongside the increase in communication among spouses has come a tendency for couples to isolate themselves from the rest of their social network. In fact, married couples have fewer familial ties and are less likely than single folk to socialize with neighbors or friends. A 2010 study found that when the average person couples off, she drops two friends.
While maintaining a close friendship with your spouse is one of the key predictors of a long and happy marriage, making your spouse—or romantic partner—your only friend is a great way to end the relationship all together, according to the authors mentioned above.
I can’t tell you how often I hear from women in new cities that, sure, they’d love a new friend or two, but they don’t really need one, because they have their boyfriends/husbands/whatever. Now, I’m not one to go giving advice where it’s not wanted—at least, I try not to—but since this is my blog it seems an acceptable place to get on my soapbox and say:
You. Need. Friends.
An intimate romantic relationship is all sorts of great. I get it. But one day, you might want to talk to a lady friend about girl stuff. When you realize said lady friend doesn’t exist, you’ll try to chat about girl stuff with your husband. Believe me, he will not like this. There might be a fight. A long one.
I know this because I’ve been there. Pre-friend-dating, I was that girl trying to squeeze some semblance of girl time—the detailed analysis of every conversation and awkward run-in of the day—out of my husband. This friend search was a life saver in that capacity. Now I have girls for girl talk, and my husband for husband talk. Separate roles, both totally necessary.
If you’re reading this blog, you likely already give some weight to friendship. But that friend currently spending her days gazing into her significant other’s eyes? The one who you don’t see anymore because she’s constantly holed up with the man in her life? She might need a wake-up call.
Have you ever seen a couple isolate themselves to the point where it hurt their relationship? Have you even been in that situation? Have you seen friends diappear because they started dating someone?