It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.
“New research shows that a woman’s friendship with her partner’s friends ruins their sex life. … ‘Partner betweenness,’ the name the authors gave the phenomenon, means that when a man’s wife or girlfriend has stronger relationships with his friends than he does, she comes between the man and his friends. This may occur if the wife is a ‘domineering’ personality who acts as the gatekeeper for the household or with couples where the man socializes primarily with her friends.” (“Another Reason to Avoid His Friends”; New York Times 9/18/2011)
Just another reason why couples should make maintain independent friendships. Apparently, if your partner is only friends with your friends, or if, for some reason, you’re in better contact with his friends than he is, you’ll sense it in the bedroom.
My first question, when I read this study: In what world would a wife be better friends with her husband’s friends than the husband himself? But I guess it’s simply a matter of being in more contact–which can happen if you’re the kind of “domineering” woman who makes all the plans, I guess, or if the men only see each other during couples outings.
Some facts to note before I deliver the big news: This study, which is published in the American Journal of Sociology, looked at sexual dysfunction in men 57-85 and the relationships between these men and partners. The authors say they chose this age group because that is when “social lives contract, male identity is challenged and erectile dysfunction often sets in.” The contention, however, seems to be that the effect translates to all ages.
So when they say this ‘partner betweeness’ ruins your sex life, what kind of ruin are we talking about, exactly? “A man whose wife or girlfriend has greater contact with some of his good friends than he does is about 92 percent more likely to have erectile dysfunction than a man who is closer to all his friends than his partner is. The younger men (57 to 64) were two and a half times more likely to have erectile dysfunction. The good news? As men enter their 70s, the negative impact wanes and disappears.”
I mean, I guess that last part is good news. Though I have a hunch the post-70 impact wanes because the sex wanes, not the sexual dysfunction. But what do I know? It’s entirely likely that the post-70 retirement crowd is one horny bunch. Like I said the other day: Assisted living! Sign me up!
So why the problems in bed? Researchers say it’s not jealousy, but issues of autonomy and privacy. Basically, he wants his friends all to himself and it turns him off when his woman is all up in his social life and emasculating him. Without even knowing it–I thought guys wanted us to be friends with their friends!–you could be challenging his male identity.
As men get older, they’re less likely to hang with their male friends one on one, according to research. We’ve talked about this. So take those fading relationships, couple them with a woman’s over-involvement with her husband’s friends, and you’ll feel it in the sack next time. Or, I guess, you won’t feel it.
The lesson here: It’s important to know and like your husband’s friends, but remember they are his friends. Both of you should keep independent relationships. Your sex life will appreciate it.
Has anyone out there noticed this effect? Does it seem logical to you? I think it makes sense–men need to feel like their life isn’t totally controlled by their wives. They need something for themselves. I know this is a tidbit I’ll be keeping in mind for the long haul. It’s sort of fascinating, no?