Couples’ friendships can enrich relationships


  • Living
  • Saturday, 15 Feb 2020

Couples therapists say friendships of four can even improve your relationship. — ZoneCreative/Westend61/dpa

Many couples have other couples in their circle of friends. They may even go on double dates or take holiday trips together.

Maybe you found each other through a shared hobby. Or maybe a close friend has brought a new partner into your friendship. Either way, regularly getting together with other couples is a plus for your own relationship, says Vanessa Jilg, a singles and couples therapist, pointing out that it’s enlightening as well as enjoyable.

“Then you and your partner don’t remain alone on an island, but get an idea of how other relationships work.”

What are the other couple’s routines? How do they talk out ticklish matters? How do they organise their day? These observations often generate ideas you can try out yourselves, bringing a breath of fresh air into your own relationship.

“The closer the friendship between the couples, the more your own relationship is likely to benefit, ” says couples therapist Volker Hepp.

Put differently, a superficial friendship in which both sides always act as though everything’s hunky-dory at home will hardly bring new impulses. On the contrary, instead of providing satisfaction, a double date under these circumstances can leave you seriously questioning your own relationship.

“It gets complicated if you compare yourselves with the other couple and conclude that they meet all the challenges better – from building a home to raising children, ” Jilg says.

A reality check helps. During a cosy dinner with your friends, for example, you can inquire whether everything is really going as smoothly for them as it appears. You may quickly learn that the other couple has problems too.

Or you can pick their brains. “You can meet up with the couple you’re friends with and simply ask, ‘How did you get to where you are? What advice could you give us?’” suggest Dr Verena Daehne and Thomas Kluge, who jointly operate a practice for couples therapy.

In Kluge’s experience, couples that are friends are usually in similar phases of life. What’s more, he says, “Couples are basically friends with themselves, which is to say they prefer friends who are like they are in terms of values, for instance, or political or religious attitudes.”

Hence a couples’ friendship is akin to looking in a mirror, enabling a couple to learn a lot about themselves too. It’s a delicate arrangement as well because the other couple, after all, are good friends with your partner.

“Within these bounds, it’s naturally difficult to complain about your partner or confide problems, ” Jilg notes.

For this, it’s advisable to talk to friends outside your couples’ friendship. “It’s important to cultivate friendships your partner isn’t part of, ” remarks Hepp, explaining that otherwise the couple risk eventually running out of things to tell each other.

Hanging over every couples’ friendship is the chance that one of the couples splits. What then? The experts concur that in most cases the quartet then dissolves. “When one of the couples break up, the four-way friendship normally falls apart and the remaining couple gravitate towards one of the two ex-partners, ” Hepp says. – dpa/Ricarda Dieckmann


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