What role do other couples play in the quality of your relationship? Have they been a good influence or a troubling one? What have you learned?
Greif: There are some cultures where close friends are considered part of your family.
Greif: We looked into this issue because we were interested in how people manage their time and how couple manage their time together and alone.
Deal: We found a lot of positives about what these type of couple friendships provide.
Greif: Online relationships make it harder for couples to feel that they will have time together as a couple. The more a couple has a chance to be together and not be distracted, the more they're going to build a relationship that will be solidified by being with another couple (if it's a healthy couple).
Deal: There has been a slight decrease in the number of friendships people have. This is because friendships take time. In terms of couple friendships, it varies depending on where a couple is in their family development. If you have young children you'll have fewer couple friends compared to older couples.
Greif: We are looking for people to reinforce who we want to be. We are looking for commonalities. Ideally, you also learn from other couples and grow from being with them.
Deal: Two thirds of people interviewed said being with good couple friends strengthens their own relationship -- and it was very different than spending time with single friends. Spending time with couple friends makes people think about their own marriages.
Greif: We definitely found that these couple friendships can also be disruptive. Sometimes there's even a crossing of boundaries when it comes to sex. We interviewed people with and without their partners to tease out the way these relationships are built.
Greif: We met with a couples groups that meets once or twice a month to talk about strategies to strengthen marriage. These groups are often affiliated with religious institutions.
Deal: The group we met with was unusual because they had been meeting for a long time and they talked about two usually taboo subjects: sex and money.
Deal: This group tackled these topics. The couple would talk privately first and then come back and talk about it with the larger group. That made it feel safer. It was an interesting and unique aspect of this particular group.
Caller from Pequot Lakes: My wife and I love getting together with other couples because reinforces what we're doing. We always get in the car afterward and talk about how proud we are of our own relationship.
Deal: It's important to point out that they remain friends even if there are certain aspects of their relationships that they don't want to emulate.
Caller from Eden Prairie: We had a couple relationship, the wife passed away a couple years ago. We did things together, same philosophy. The husband found another relationship that is grating on us. My wife and the husband had friction in their relationship and now there's been a total separation. He's my buddy but the relationship has changed and he's caused us pain.
Greif: We have some chapters that address some of these issues. What happens when a couple divorces or someone dies, it does shift the relationship. If the divorced or widowed person marries someone new, that person can't fill the former person's shoes. It does end the relationship and it's common for people to increase the amount of individual time.
Deal: It's a double loss. You can't replace that good, close relationship.
Greif: We used to see lots of couple friendships on TV, but not so much anymore. We think it's due to the changing role of women. They're not around the house as much and they are more equals.
Deal: We found very few people who talked about sexual tension with other couples -- and we specifically asked about it. That was a surprise.
Caller from St. Paul: I'm a dance instructor so I observe a lot of couples. I can immediately tell whether their lives are public or private. The tension does show up quite often. It's usually the men who are resisting dance instruction, but when they find they can do it, they get competitive with their partner. It's very entertaining to watch. Couples who have stronger relationships with other couples are more comfortable with each other even with other challenges or stress.
Caller from St. Paul (cont.): I'm engaged and I have a relationship that can be tricky. Our relationship is very public, but I'd prefer to have a more private one. We do not interact with couple friends on a regular basis.
Deal: We found a mixture in couples that have similar approaches and others where the partners had different approaches (i.e. keeper v. seeker v. nester). How do you navigate if you're an introvert and your partner is more of an extrovert? One woman we interviewed said she (she's an extrovert, he's an introvert) has had to learn to take things more slowly with making friendships.
Caller from St. Paul: My wife and I made friends with our former neighbors. We went to the same marriage counselor as them -- our marriage survived and theirs didn't. The wife started to go out after they broke out and she was trying to drag my wife along. It put a strain on our relationship. I thought my wife was going to want the same life as this woman. Ultimately, I believed that my wife wanted to be in our family and we went out and did fun things too, so I wasn't just representing the everyday grind in her mind.
Deal: Having kids really does change the dynamic because it causes them to spend less time together. It changes everything. Sometimes couple friendships break apart in those kinds of situations. Talking about things is always the best thing to do.