Double The Fun: Tools and Rules For Hanging Out With Other Couples
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By Mia Bolaris-Forget
Hanging out with friends poses little “problem” before the “Big M” (marriage), but once you move in together and merge your lives, that also means merging your friends. While no one expects or suggests that you give up your single friends (after all who will you hook up with his single friends?), you’re more likely than not, to want to hang out WITH your significant other than WITHOUT him or her. Doing “the group thing” may be fine for you, but for singles, sandwiched among several happy couples may be a bit stressful, intimidation, and simply enhance the pressure of finding someone they already may be experiencing. So, it stands to reason, that, more often than not, you’ll wind up doing the “couples thing”.
But even than can be trick. What if your husband simply doesn’t like your girlfriend? What if the feelings are mutual? You’re more likely than not to NOT like his friends, especially the “commitment-phoebe” still single ones who are staunch bachelors and partiers whose “only” goal is Monday night football and whose “only” concept of “housework” in putting another notch on the bedpost. What if you like his friends and not their wives, and vice versa. Your girlfriend may be “GREAT”, but her significant other may rub YOURS the wrong way.
With similar expectations of rewarding interactions and friendships, you’re both traveling down the same road, just in different lanes and the merge sign is quickly approaching. But before you can merge, you must first yield to each others feelings, wants, needs, and opinions, even if that means reserving hanging out with your best bud or gal pal, less frequently and when your partner is okay without you.
Bonding issues are quite common among couples and not just between the two marrieds.
When it comes to “relationships” between couples, the biggest stumbling block is getting the men to get along. Each brings his own opinions and sense of pride (and prejudice) to the table, and is likely not to tolerate anyone or anything that threatens it. Even if your friend and her significant other have “irritating” habits, you may be able to overlook, your husband may analyze the situation more skeptically. He may find your friend too giddy, independent, conservative, demanding, etc., and doesn’t want these qualities (though they haven’t yet) to rub off on you. Furthermore, he may find HER significant other too brazen, outspoken, reserved or may simply not understand what kind of man can put up with “that” kind of woman.
Besides, experts point out, that most often, it’s the women who do the social organizing (before and after marriage) and are likely to make the decision on whom to hang out with. If you already don’t like his buds, why would you even want to give the woman they are involved with a chance? After all, you already don’t know anyone worthwhile who’d want to date a “man like that”, and can’t understand “how” he became friends with your husband. Guys tend to get lax about maintaining their (former) friendships after marriage and so, male partners now have to find a new crowd to fit in with, and, while they may not generally be as picky (as we ladies are) that’s not as simply as it seems.
Understanding The Guy Connection: According to experts, it’s difficult for men to bond, because they base friendship on totally different criteria. Men hang out with other men to meet women, or play sports, or if they have “nothing better to do”. Rarely if ever, are their connections emotional or based on an exchange of thoughts and ideas. They refrain from getting too personal, too confrontational, or too attached, probably because they realize that career and relationship may “threaten” the bond, and so to avoid “the hurt” (women often experience via “loss” through marriage or a move) they simply keep it “superficial” (even with their best buds).
Professionals point out that unless your significant other is extremely easy going and willing to embrace your circle of companions, or you are able to hit it off with his buddies and their partners, your best bet is to search for a connection with the counterpart of someone HE already associates with (such as a colleague, team-mate, brother, etc.). Experts note that when introducing spouses into established relationships (either between two men or two women), there’s the risk that if the relationship has a “history” one of the partners may feel excluded or left out. For instance if you have friends you grew up with and you all talk about the “good ole’ days” your husband may feel he has nothing to contribute or share.
There's also the threat of “gender” gaps. Men are often “threatened” by relationships their wives had (even if truly only platonic) with other men. Unless your man is extremely trusting, confident and secure, he’s bound to worry about potential sexual undertones and not be able to afford your friend (even if he’s married or serious with someone) a chance.
Making Couplehood Connections: While it may simply be “easier” to suggest that he hang out with his pals (without you) and you with your girls (without him), except for special occasions that warrant one of you put up with the situation for a day or afternoon, experts say there are merits to spending couple time with others.
They suggest that couples need to connect with others in order to enhance their own relationship, giving them something to focus on, discuss, and allow you to grow as a couple. Professional point out that when socializing with others you are forced to address them and your spouse in a different manner (that extends beyond daily concerns and conversation) and sheds new light on the person sitting next to you and that you see every day and every night, often giving you new respect for your relationship.
They key to finding a couple you both like, is finding people who can enhance who you (both) already are, what you aspire to, and what your values are. Seek out couples that not only share your interests, but your ideals and personality. If you uncomfortable with any aspects of your character or personality, then seek out friends who are where you would like to be and who can help you grow in a positive direction.
A good place to start is by joining groups or organizations that you feel cater to “what you (both) are all about” and that will allow you to meet others with a similar perspective and outlook.
Using Family As A Resource: Family is a great way to form new friendships. Brother and sister-in-laws, cousins, parents, etc., may give you the chance to hang out with others who you like, enjoy, and can have a good time with, without worrying about the relationship. Plus, friends of your family’s can frequently become personal friends to you and your spouse.
Children are another excellent source for forming friendships. Even parents of adult children can use their kids as a social resource. Remember your young kids will require involvement in activities, social and school functions, spiritual guidance, play dates, parties, etc, that will allow you to meet and get to know parents of other children (always a good idea anyway, to know “who” your kids are hanging out with); and older kids will be involved in hobbies, organizations etc, that will allow for social connections, while married offspring provide connection with in-laws and other “family” acquaintances.
Group gatherings, via “family” gatherings, fund-raisers, etc., are an ideal way to take the pressure off. With ample opportunity to interact with more than one couple (without seeming rude) you can effortlessly escape those that are not a match for you and your mate, while still keeping your options open.
Forming And Maintaining A Healthy Bond: Once you’ve both found another couple (or few couples) you enjoy socializing with, it’s important to remember, that they hold no special allegiance to either one of you. Unlike hanging out with your “old cronies” who know you and love you “just the way you are”, your newfound friends are equally “attached” to both of you.
While hanging out as couples may give them special privileges into the inside “scoop” of your marriage, your best bet for a continued happy, healthy friendship and marriage, is to not reveal any secrets about your spouse to your mutual friends. Keep relationship issues to yourself, or save it for a heart to heart with your favorite gal pal (from decades ago).
Experts also suggest that you and your spouse set boundaries for what you allow your new chums to tell you. Getting too close and personal may jeopardize a good thing. Let others know that YOU don’t keep secrets from your spouse and anything that may damage his perspective of the friendship is not appreciated. Remember, marriage is a commitment, and encouraging others to breach that commitment and loyalty may be more damaging than you know or think. Since you are friends with both parties you may feel the need to “intervene” and let the other partner know what you now know, which may do more harm than good. Instead experts suggest you talk about differences in a positive light and manner and use each other as a support system to continue to grow in your lives, love and friendship.
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