I love you not your friends
Dr. Katherine Fiori and colleagues, in 2018, studied how couples were impacted when a spouse disliked their partner’s friends. Both Caucasian and African American couples participated in the study.
Many researchers believe that a couple surrounded by family and friends benefit from this support. This is what researchers call “social capital.” Dr. Fiori was particularly interested in the role of friends and as such, excluded family support.
While anecdotal, it seems that many couples struggle to find a good match in couple friends. The wife might really like the female in the relationship, or the husband might really like the male in the couple. Often one might be too loud, drink too much or be a little dull. These incompatibilities can spill over into disagreements between the couple or result in isolation or individual friend groups.
The study found there was a compelling association between the dislike of a female spouses friend group and divorce. This was not a significant finding for the dislike of the husbands friends. Dr. Fiori mused that women can often fill the social needs of men but that men are less likely to fulfil the social needs of women. In particular, men who perceive his wife’s friends negatively influence or interfere in the marriage are the more likely couples to experience a separation. This was not the same finding for African American couples.
For couples who have differences in their friendship engagement, this finding may be significant. It may mean particular attention should be spent understanding and setting boundaries around the marriage. This boundary setting process is complicated when each party is feeling emotional and somewhat vulnerable. Clarifying what the concerns are and how the husband may have come to perceive the existence of a threat may help the couple to decide on how to handle such circumstances in the future. Is it an issue of privacy, or certain types of information or that the husband does not benefit from the same amount of disclosure or time that the wife gives to her friend. Assessing the spouse’s conflict ritual may assist the couple in finding an intervention point to shift the pattern around these issues.
“Many couples struggle to find a good match in couple friends and these incompatibilities can spill over into disagreements between the couple or result in isolation or individual friend groups.”
A therapist with mediation skills is well equipped to ask questions that get to the root of the difference and help to create clarity between the couple. If you feel this is an issue that is left unresolved in your relationship, give me a call.
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