Lots of research has been done around how the opinions of a person’s friends and family can help or hinder their relationship. But now attention has been given to how the couple’s perspective of each other’s friends impacts their romantic relationship. There are important lessons to be learned, especially if some friendships are causing tension in our relationship.
I have said it before in these posts and I will say it again, I love listening to podcasts. I think it’s a great way to pass the time and a good way to drift off to sleep at night.
One that I listen to from time to time is called ‘Relationship Matters’. They explore lots of different issues to do with relationships of all kinds. But episode 65 caught my eye recently. It’s called ‘I Love You, Not Your Friends’.
I Love You, Not Your Friends
You can listen to the full podcast here. In summary, it discusses new research in the area of couple’s relationships. Specifically, how the perception of each other friends impacts their relationship.
They interviewed and followed 355 married couples over 16 years, and some of their findings were surprising.
That couple was twice as likely to divorce
The main finding that stood out was that after two years of marriage, if the husband thought his wife’s friends interferred in the relationship, that couple were twice as likely to divorce. Twice as likely!
The other equally and shocking finding was that, if the wife thought her husband’s friends interferred in their relationship, it didn’t increase the chance of divorce at all.
The researchers put this down to a few reasons, some of which were majorly playing to stereotypes, but in their words, they thought that:
- Wives have stronger emotional attachments to their friends, so are less likely to ‘give them up’ if the husband feels threatened. Which makes the husband feel more hurt and disconnected.
- Wives are more likely to arrange social activities between couples, which means the husband sees her friends more and therefore makes him more aware of any perceived interference.
- Husbands tend to rely more on their wives for friendship and support, whereas wives have more friends outside of the marriage. This means any ‘interference’ is more of a threat to the husband.
It’s clear that the success of a relationship is majorly affected by how friendships are perceived
These reasonings are just theories, and the researchers cannot be 100% sure why the findings are what they are. However, it’s clear that the success of a relationship, especially a married relationship, is majorly affected by how friendships are perceived.
I found this study interesting, even if it raised a lot more questions than answers. But I do come across people who say things like, ‘I’m not getting on with my wife’s friends’, or ‘My boyfriend’s best mate is a pain’, or ‘They always talk about our problems with other people. I don’t like it’.
Men and women, married couples and people who are dating, say things like this. It can be a real problem when people you care about don’t get on. The research may have focused on the husband’s view, but this can be a problem for anyone.
This research should serve as a warning that in our marriages, and romantic relationships like dating, these issues and feelings can grow into major problems.
If these friendships are perceived as problematic then there is an issue
So What Can We Learn?
I always say that being married, or having a girlfriend or boyfriend, is not enough to fulfil us. No matter what our relationship status is, we need to have wider friendships and hobbies and interests. No one person can answer all of our needs. (Read Have You Fallen Into the ‘Relationship Status’ Trap?)
However, if these friendships are perceived as problematic and ‘interfere’ with the relationship, then there is an issue that needs addressing. Between what I think and what was suggested on the podcast, the advice would be to:
- Try to focus on the positives. If you have a problem with your partner’s friend, try to appreciate the fact they are also generous, help out, etc. Don’t just focus on the negatives.
- Don’t give ultimatums. Don’t say it’s them or me. But try to explain why you have a problem. If it’s your friend, listen and acknowledge why it is upsetting for your partner.
- Come up with fair boundaries. For example, it’s not okay to talk about this area of your relationships with friends because it should be private. Compromise and agree on rules. (Read How To Communicate Well When We’re Annoyed)
People do not always get on. It’s a fact of life. Sometimes we need to negotiate how to relate to two people we really care about who don’t get on.
Imagine if we didn’t just ignore problems or ignore people’s feelings, but really tried to work through solutions. Our partner’s perception of our friends massively affects the strength of our relationship, so it is something we cannot just ignore.
Have you been in this situation, have any advice? Comments welcomed below.