Table For Four
A Man, A Woman ... And Their "Couple Friends"By Brett Smiley
One surprise that comes with a long-term relationship is that dating doesn't really end — even after you've found your soul mate.
Put simply, "couples dating" is when couples do things together (not to be confused with swinging, of course, though I guess there's that, too). Yet, it's different from the one-on-one, getting-to-know-you activities that precede a relationship. Typically, one member of each couple has a preexisting connection, more likely a friendship or work relationship, however, a couples date is still a date in the strict sense because plans are made, and at least two members of the couples might have never met.
According to a Today Show report, over 75 percent of couples want more couple friends. “The one great thing about couples dating versus single dating is you have someone to talk about the date with on the car ride home,” said one woman interviewed by the show. And since this social activity is likely already part of your relationship, or at least inevitable at some point, here are three more benefits of couples dating, as well as three potential drawbacks:
1) Socializing with your partner strengthens your relationship. It's the most obvious positive and one of the greatest. In a report for the Wall Street Journal, which focused on couples meeting entirely new couples, Elizabeth Bernstein writes that research shows how couples who are friends with other couples have happier, longer-lasting relationships with each other.
“If you have friends who enjoy you as a couple, you may feel better about your union,” Bernstein says. “These other couples can be a support network. And the process of making new friends together may inject energy into your relationship and give you something to bond over.”
My girlfriend Michele and I hosted a dinner party for three other couples last week: We all ate well and drank about six bottles of wine and were having so much fun we even broke out the rest of a bottle of tequila stashed in a pantry.
By the end of the night, around 1 a.m., Michele had plans with one of the other ladies she just met to get manicures and lunch. After the couples left, Michele turned to me and said, obviously excited that the night was a success, “We're party hosters! We host parties!”
2) Double-dating expands your social network. Not only was Michele thrilled to bring four couples together for a good night, but she made a new friend through one of my college buddies — a connection made even better because of the fact that the woman had moved to town recently to be with my friend, but hadn't had the chance to go out and meet many people yet.
Given how hard it can be to meet new people after the bubble of college bursts, the Telegraph reported in 2007 that many couples may soon turn to the Internet to meet other couples. However, the three sites cited as the driving force (Kupple.com, Couplets.com and Couplicity.com) don't seem to be thriving (nor do any others based on my own review). And one of those sites, Couplicity.com now sells lingerie products, so it looks like they've decided to couple with intimate wear, rather than match couples. Calling up your old pals is still the way most people go, it seems, when choosing with whom to double-date.
3) You really get to know your partner's friends. In a new relationship, seeing your guy or gal in mixed company is a great way to see how they act in various settings, which may be different than the person you crush a bag a chips with during a TV movie. Do you still like this person? Do you like his or her friends? The people someone keeps as company says a lot about that person. And for established couples, it's a sign of respect to both the partner and his or her friends if you want to get to know the friends. Put simply, it shows the person is interested in your friends. If they're not, that's a red flag.
And … The Drawbacks:
1) There's a chance everyone won't just get along. This is the biggie. What if your friend's significant other clashes with yours, or if they simply have nothing in common? This can strain and possibly end a friendship.
“Before Rich and I started dating,” says Donna, 47, of her husband of 25 years, “I went out all the time with a friend of mine who was already married, just me and her. I tried bringing Rich into it early on, but he just didn't connect with her husband. I don't know if he felt threatened by our friendship, or if the husband just wasn't his kind of guy, but as much as she and I liked hanging out, we just drifted apart and I went Rich's way.”
On the Today Show, Dr. Robi Ludwig offered a solution to this issue. “If you don't work as [couples], include them in groups, or have a dinner party so you're not just with that couple, but with several other couples so personalities are diluted,” Ludwig said. “It's a way to be inclusive, not rejecting, have them in your lives, but not as intense.”
So be prepared to deal with a clash. Michele knows well that if she brings me around a guy who doesn't follow sports at all, my brain nearly shuts down. I'm not so narrow I can't find other things to talk about, but just know what you're bringing your partner into before it's too late.
2) Couples dating excludes single friends. What do you do if you're having a dinner party and only couples are attending, or if you're just going out to dinner with another couple? A friend who is single may call and ask what you're up to that night, and you tell them, but do you invite them? Awkwardness ensues.
It's never fun to be the fifth wheel or the lone single person. The situation might not faze some people (or the couples), but, for many, it would. (And bringing another random single of the opposite sex isn't a cure-all. It pressures the singles to hit it off and basically creates a blind date within the context of a group-date. First dates are uncomfortable enough without a captive audience.)
3) You can feel pressure to do things you really don't want to do. Sure, this is no real hardship, but after a tough week at work it stinks to spend a Friday or Saturday just going along with something your partner arranged for the both of you. You may just want to chill at home in pajamas one night but are instead obligated to dress up and make (intelligent) conversation with your partner's boss.
Overall, the benefits of couples friends certainly outweigh the drawbacks. And, in case you were wondering, no, Facebook and Twitter are not truly “social” — so get out there and make some real, tangible friends, or call up some old ones. That way you can keep the “dating” going well into the golden years of your relationship.
Holding a dinner party at home is a great way to get couple friends together for good conversation and group bonding.Art Vandalay/Getty Images