New research suggests having friendships with other couples improves relationships.
The benefit of friendship extends to married couples or between adults who are unmarried partners.
The findings are presented in a new book entitled “Two Plus Two: Couples and Their Couple Friendships.”
Co-authors Geoffrey Greif and Kathleen Holtz Deal believe that when couples agree on how they spend their time alone and with others, they are more likely to have a happy marriage or relationship.
The book offers language that couples can use to talk with each other to find a balance that works for them.
Grief and Deal base their findings on interviews with 123 couples with both partners present, 122 individuals who were alone when questioned about their relationships, and 58 divorced individuals.
The stories of these couples, who remain anonymous, are highlighted in the book.
Couplesâ€™ friendships may be influenced by a variety of factors. Some people prefer to have someone of a similar background to share emotions while others see the purpose as fun and recreation.
The ways the friendships get started also vary, with the majority growing out of a typical friendship between two people that widens to encompass all four.
Perhaps the men were work colleagues, or the women met at a school event for their children and decided to see if their spouses might get along, too.
Deal, who has been married 43 years, 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.
They established friendships with a group of five other couples that have lasted for over 30 years. They have shared social events and vacations.
“We can talk about anything we want to. We have shared sad times, and good times,” she says, calling the group of friends, who met one another at church, “a huge influence on my life.”
Greif says that he and his wife of 36 years “feel very comfortable” in their friendships with other couples and that work on the book has given him the “language to think about how couple friendships are begun and how they are maintained.”
The authors found that little had been written on adult long-term relationships.
Greif and Deal conclude that 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.
However, they found that the topics of sex and money continue to be taboo even among friends.
The authors discovered couples fall into one of three categories according to how they approach their friendships with others — partners can be described as seekers, keepers or nesters.
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.
However, life is complex and compromise is required when an introvert marries an extrovert. Moreover, a couple’s outlook may change as life stages do.
Source: University of Maryland Baltimore