It’s a good thing, right? Mostly yes, however it depends on the couple. My mother felt envious of the attention my father received from some of their friends about how young he looked. She was more introverted and felt less successful than my father to start with. When you add alcohol and self-criticism to the mix, socializing with other couples didn’t strengthen their marriage. Jealousy of other couples or the individuals of the other couple can rear its ugly head, making you feel worse than if you’d stayed home. In social situations if your partner behaves in ways you find unappealing or embarrassing you may regret not staying home.
But for most couples, spending time with other couples is better than the sum of the parts. The chemistry of the individual friendships, plus the entity that is the four of you, is unique. Joint memories are built with them that no one else shares. Together you create new experiences and are there to see each other through life’s vicissitudes.
“Couple friends can’t make a bad relationship good, but they can make a good relationship better,” says Alexandra Solomon, Ph.D., author of Loving Bravely. When two couples experience new things together it gives them an opportunity to push their own envelopes and widen their perspective. When my husband and I travel with friends we do far more interesting things than we would if we were on our own. We’ve eaten oysters right out of the ocean off the coast of France, we’ve tasted champagnes in the grower producers’ houses, and we’ve stayed (accidentally) in a swinging couples’ villa.
Seeing your partner shine while socializing can reinforce what you love about them. Telling your stories and being yourself with the other couple allows your partner to see sides of you that may not be expressed in your own relationship. Kathleen Holtz Deal, Ph.D., MSW co-author of Two Plus Two: Couples and Their Couple notes “When socializing, people are happy, which can make them more appealing. You see things that make you more appreciative of your partner than in the day-to-day of home life where you don’t have those opportunities.” This can bring out the best in you as a couple.
Time will tell…
Not all friendships last. Some dissolve because the demands of life supersede the desire to get together, and you drift apart. Sometimes health problems, financial issues, a shift in values (e.g. politics) interfere with getting together and maintaining the friendship. Life patterns such as moving, having babies, becoming busy empty nesters means herculean efforts are necessary to spend time together and that is not sustainable over time.
For those friendships between couples that do last, there is nothing quite so special as spending time with them. You have so much to draw upon and to be grateful for. When my family would take vacations with our best friends it was magical. The kids of course, were thrilled and rowdy. And the adults sat up late talking, talking and more talking – this seemed really boring to us kids, but we could tell by the quantity of laughter just how much they were enjoying each other too.
Honesty with yourself and your partner about how you feel when you spend time with another couple will help you determine if the friendship is worth the effort. There have been certainly couples my husband and I have socialized with that didn’t create that magic, and they are long gone off our social calendar. If you don’t speak up when the dynamic doesn’t feel right, it can be problematic down the road. So be honest about how the foursome feels to you. Sometimes you are better off with women only or men only socializing, particularly if one of you doesn’t like one of them.
For those couples with whom you feel that magic, make every effort to spend time together. I know that sounds obvious, but our busy lives require that we prioritize what we really care about. As challenging as that can be, it’s worth it.