The Hard Facts: You Need Couple Friends

It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.

“Healthy couple friendships make a marriage more fulfilling and exciting for several reasons, such as increasing partners’ attraction to each other, providing a greater understanding of men and women in general, and allowing partners to observe ways that other couples interact with each other and negotiate differences.” (“Couples Friendships Make for Happier Marriages, Relationships” ; Science Daily 8/19/2011)

When the discussion turns to making new pals, the issue of couple friends comes up quite often. Finding them is hard. Not only do you need to like the other woman, but now your partner needs to like the guy. It’s hard enough to find two people who click, getting a strong foursome can seem nearly impossible.

I’m adding this new book, Two Plus Two: Couples and Their Married Friendships by Geoffrey Greif and Kathleen Holtz Deal, to my reading list. It looks at all the ways that having couple friends can help your romantic relationship. The one that I can relate most to, personally, is the idea that being in a couples friendship helps you see your partner in a new light. “Some couples said, ‘When I see my husband or wife with other people, it really makes me appreciate them in a different way. I see how charming or thoughtful they are or what a sparkling conversationalist they are,’” Greif told the Chicago Sun-Times.

It’s so easy to fall into a routine at home, speaking to each other in the same way, doing the same things, that you aren’t always seeing your partner when he is “on.” Which is to say when he might be at his funniest, most charming self. It’s a fun to watch your partner win over others when you’re out with couple friends. It renews that sense of pride that this is your guy.

Not unlike regular friends, though, it can be really hard to find new couple friends. According to this book, most people do it by starting with a twosome and extending it to four. Deal, one of the authors “says she was surprised to find that she and her husband were in the minority because they set out as a pair to make friends with other couples.”

That hesitance we feel about picking up new friends seems to extend to couple friends. Starting from scratch can feel awkward–and, of course, you probably can’t help wondering: What if they think we are swingers? (I’m just saying, it’s a concern.)

I also like this classification of couple friends: “Couples fall into one of three categories, according to how they approach their friendships with others, the research shows. … Greif and Deal describe seekers as extroverts who are often looking for another couple with whom to socialize. Keepers have full lives and many friends, and are not necessarily looking for more. Nesters tend to be introverts who have a small number of couple friends and are content with that.”

That breakdown can probably be extended to good ol’ one-on-one BFF searching too.

Do you find it easier or harder to make couple friends? Have they improved your relationship? Are you a seeker, keeper or nester?

Remember how I just wrote about how much I love Hello Giggles? And how I just heard from a wildly successful old classmate who was somehow duped into thinking I was the “older cooler girl”? Well, that old classmate wrote a hilarious review of MWF Seeking BFF on… Hello Giggles! I’m so excited, even though I still can’t wrap my head around anyone thinking my crazy scrunchie collection was cool.

13 Comments

Filed under The Search

13 responses to “The Hard Facts: You Need Couple Friends

  1. Another factor in making couple friends work is that even if I like the woman, and my husband likes the man, I may dislike the man and not want to spend time with him. My husband, for whatever reason, is attracted to male friends who are kind of overbearing or overconfident, laugh at their own jokes, talk as if their opinions are the only right ones, etc. and I dislike spending time with those kind of people!

    On the upside of couple friends, another benefit that I think makes us stronger is seeing how the other couple interacts, especially if we perceive it as negative. Sometimes my husband and I will sit around after spending time with another couple and just say, “Thank God we don’t do that… I’m so glad you’re like this and not like that…” and so on. Not bashing so much as noticing differences and what we appreciate in our own relationship communication style.

  2. Darlene

    Ooh, this is tough! My partner and I have tried repeatedly to make couple friends without much success. For us, the sticking point seems to be that he does not like or follow any kind of sports. It is HARD to find other guys who are not at all into sports — most of them at least will watch the Super Bowl or other major stuff and will want to discuss it. He is a huge sci-fi geek, into Star Trek, Doctor Who, etc., but, well…. other men who are interested in sci-fi tend to be, uh, perpetually single.

    I wish there were a solution to this but so far we have not had any luck, and he thinks (and I agree) that he should not have to feign interest in sports just so we can have a social life as a couple.

  3. may I leave a note on behalf of singles? I think it is important to single people to have couple friends. If you are looking to become a ‘couple’ and only spend time with other singles the whole couply thing can seem a bit alien and therefore, out of reach. This is important the longer you are single, when the idea of sharing your space can seem only viable if you own a mansion! Couples bahave differently with each other and that ‘oh i know you’ banter and easy way is nice to be around. That is all a bit ‘one way’ though. I wonder whether couples have benefits from single friends? Odd numbers at gatherings…grass greener…I guess, pinging it back the other way may make the couples grateful THEy are not single and can give them new ideas for things to do as singles to ‘generally’ tend to make more effort to go to new places.
    found you through Nina Badzin’s blog. I love your writing. I’ve been pondering on BFF’s and being single for a while on my blog too. It is good to know that finding friends is universally a challenge. I thought, for far too long, it was just me. I read a book called Loneliness and it helped me see that wanting friends is not needy but NEEDED. Improving health, outlook etc. I’ve been using http://www.meetup.com a lot and your writing is giving me courage to acutally stand forth and say ‘will you be my friend’ without feeling like a stalker. Thank you. Every awkward moment you went through is helping to open up the whole subject, to make it easier. That’s awesome.

  4. Jen

    We have had ZERO luck in making friends, period, post-college, never mind couple friends, even though we’d like both types very much. I wish it wasn’t so difficult, especially now that we’re in our mid-30s and still haven’t had kids yet, which seems to be the way many couples meet and bond. We belong to a church (with lots of old people), we’ve taken classes separately, DH belongs to a sportsman’s club (most of the guys are older). I know everyone says it’s easier to meet people when you’re out and about, but you can’t just turn to another couple in a restaurant and say “hey what are you doing afterwards?” Also, we don’t drink much and aren’t into bars so that limits socialization.

    Like Jessica said (BTW, hi Jessica! I know her from the blogosphere.) about husband #1 might not like wife #2 and vice-versa, we actually had that with one of my former friends (someone from HS) and her husband. My DH couldn’t stand her and found the husband rather dull and not really “into” anything. My DH really likes another friend from HS, who lives very far away so we can’t all really be couple friends, but her DH doesn’t say much, so the few times we’ve been able to hang out have been quiet.

    Darlene, we’ve run into similar things re: sports. That’s ALL our neighbors talk about–they get together to watch football and have invited us/him (hard to tell when it’s a group of guys and me standing outside and there’s a casual invite) over, but DH doesn’t really like football, or most sports. He used to be a die-hard baseball fan, but is losing interest in that. He hunts, fishes, gardens, has a boat, but it seems that many guys our age in our area aren’t into these things. We went to one neighbor’s house for football and it was not social. It was also right after we hosted a holiday open house; in the two years we’ve lived on a small street where everyone seems friendly, no one has done anything. No cookouts, no holiday parties, nothing. I know they are all friends and their kids play together, but we feel like the odd couple out, especially when they’ve been there since the street/houses were built ~10 years ago. The women rarely go outside, so it’s not like someone is easily approachable while weeding her garden, like I am.

    India–I have two very dear single friends and I often hesitate to invite them to hang out with just me and my DH because I don’t want them to feel weird or lacking a partner. When I was single, I often felt that way. Everyone’s different, and they might not feel that way, but I’d never want to come off as one of the “smug couples” from Bridget Jones’ Diary!

    Sorry this is so long, but this (as well as the blog itself) is a subject near and dear to my heart.

  5. Beetlebuggy

    I’m in the same predicament! I left my BFFs behind when I got married and moved to another country. So, forget about BFFs, I’m still struggling to make ANY friends at all in the past year. Just when I thought I had made two really good friends, one a single and the other a couple friend, I found out that the couple friends are moving this summer :( I’m in the dumps now over that.

    I agree with Jen here about how being out and about to make new friends is not as easy as people make it out to be. I attend a Church with old people too so, I’m craving for company my own age. If it’s a couple that we can hang out with, that’s a bonus!

    We’re actually at this odd stage as a couple, we’re married so we don’t fit with the singles as much and we don’t have kids, so we can’t really maintain a very close tie with young couple with kids, who have different priorities and things to talk about. The ratio of married couples our age (in our 30s) without kids is miniscule and I have no idea what to do!

    I’m going to get your book because I’m sure I’ll be going “Oh yeah, that happens to me too” a lot as I read it!

  6. Melissa (danz) Best

    We are working on making more couple friends, but honestly, most of them are my friends who are married/engaged and we “kinda” force our men to be friends. Now, don’t get me wrong, the guys all like each other and get along, but only one of my husband’s friends is married (and we do see them alot).
    I think alot of it has to do with our personalities, my husband is a nester, and I am probably more of a keeper, so I want to keep my current friends, by ensuring that our husbands are friends too. Does that make sense?

  7. I agree with all the comments here. It is difficult to another couple where you mesh with both the husband and wife. My husband and I have only a few couple friends that we hang out with. We hung out with one couple friend every Friday night til’ 5am for a time that we are still very much friends with but don’t hang out with often as our schedules have both changed.

    We had another very close couple friend that ended up getting really bitter at us because, amongst other issues the wife had with us, I introduced her as, “My husband’s best friend’s wife.” … and not “my friend” even though we hung out both as couples and just her and I all the time. I shared confidences with her, cried in her lap at one time (you have to be really close for me to reach out to you at my lowest point), and invited her places. I’m not sure what else I could have done to let her know she was my friend and I was proud of the fact we were friends and she was also my husband’s best friends’ wife. We still love them but no longer see them. Even after trying to repair the relationship, once I realized how much she had and continued to judge us, it was too much to spend energy on.

    These days we only have a few couple friends we’ve hung out with two or three times collectively in the last year, though we still count them as very close and ones we would hang out with more often if we were able. After the best friend and his wife fiasco, my husband decided I’m the only friend he needs. Sad, but I’ve come to realize that, in the end, it’s just he and I, and have reciprocated the feeling. Even though I still have plenty of single and married girlfriends, I have given up on the idea of finding those super close couple friends, or even that the idea is necessarily necessary.

    Also, I have to say, I completely disagree with the “allowing partners to observe ways that other couples interact with each other and negotiate differences” part of the quote. When the issue arose with this couple she wrote us a three page letter complete with red underlined capitalized angry words. We found out that is the way she communicates to her husband, and family, as well, and we had no idea that went on before the incident. We always imagined them to be the perfect couple and looked up to them in a way. Little did we know, they had as many issues as we did, possibly even more. From that experience, my guess is when couples hang out with each other, they are highly likely to hide the way they truly interact with each other.

  8. This is EXACTLY what The Boy and I were talking about the other night – being a couple in our 30s without kids makes things tougher to make friends, but we’re working on it. And despite the idea that you can’t just turn around to people and ask them ‘out’, we’re doing just that in a lot of ways. It’s tougher as a couple in our 30s without kids and plus we’re not big drinkers so it makes some socialising harder (there’s a big drinking culture here in Australia).

    That said, we’re both working on ‘following through’ – i.e. when we meet someone we think we’d click with (either individually or as a couple), we’re suggesting hanging out and following through with it. True, not every couple we go out with will end up being our friends, but we’re more likely to make friends than not. Having moved countries a bunch of times between the two of us, we’re both having to make new friends so this way, we do the friend dates together.

  9. Tracy

    Makes me think of the new movie coming out, “Friends with Kids”. Following a group of 3 pairs of couple friends. (did I just describe that correctly?)

  10. Anonymous

    After 17 years of marriage, I have also come to doubt the reality of couple friends. I have not seen in real life, even one long-term couple friendship that was healthy..or even legitimately close…There are people who spend shared time at a frequent shared event like church or kids sport..they feel close…but once that shared activity is over the friendship drifts apart.
    What I have seen ALOT of is couple friends gone HORRIBLY wrong…with extremely bitter endings.
    Just doesn’t seem that friendship transfers well into a foursome…too many dynamics to maintain.

  11. my husband and i were talking about this after we saw an episode of “how i met your mother” where lily and marshall have couple dates to find the best couple friends for themselves. we have couple friends, but it’s harder with kids…finding sitters to be able to go out is a challenge sometimes. we usually end up having couples without kids over after our kids have gone to sleep and we just play board games. it is nice to have that camaraderie between couples though!

  12. Annie

    Making couple friends: I can’t believe there’s a whole blog for making friends – it’s like one my life’s main quests. And I’ve just discovered books and blogging about it – so thank-you so much! My hubby and I have just made a new couple friend. It started with me hanging out with a new friend, and our husbands happen to get along and share some interests. And now we’re planning a trip together. Hope it all works out! :) Just gotta take some chances.

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