Thursday, January 28, 2010

Relationship Advice: Love, Couples & Friends

Before you got into a couples relationship, you had your own friends to hang out with and have fun. You never had to worry about a partner who did not like your friends or did not want to hang out with them. You never had to concern yourself with problems that could arise if you simply wanted to spend some time with your friends rather than your partner. But once you left the singles scene and became a couple, some things regarding friendships began to change.

Following are some common challenges that couples face regarding friendships.

(1) Finding couples friends that both you and your partner enjoy spending time with.

One of you might like spending time with another couple while the other does not. So what do you do? There are a couple of factors to consider when looking for other couples to hang out with:

How time is spent together

When couples share common interests, they are more likely to enjoy the company of other couples with the same interests. For example, if both couples like to do certain things like go to sporting events, (or concerts, comedy club, the theatre, bowling, golfing, or playing cards, watching movies, or just hanging out and talking), they will all enjoy the activity and are more likely to actively engage and work together. We have all participated in things we really enjoy and find that even if we have an issue with someone or something, we can still enjoy ourselves. Personally, I experienced this when working in an orchestra. Once we got into playing the music, our differences subsided for the time being and we all had a great time. On the other hand, if one or more individuals really lack interest in the activities, there is a good chance they will not enjoy spending time together. It might be the activity more than the couple that they do not appreciate and enjoy. Finding things both couples like to do can make a big difference.

Personalities, Compatibility, and Connections

Another important factor that affects enjoying time spent with couple friends is the connection they all have. Do they genuinely like and respect one another? Are they comfortable and feel safe to open up? We connect with others when we find commonalities on which we can bond, such as hobbies, political or religious views, interests, problems, or life experiences. There are so many different levels on which we can connect. Once we do, real friendships can develop and we begin to enjoy time spent together in laughter, sharing, learning, and appreciating life together. Oftentimes, the most rewarding couple friendships develop between couples involved in common goals and interests. That is why it is important that each couple develop goals together first, then they can share them with other couples.

(2) Avoiding conflicts when one of you does not want to hang out with the other’s friends

Couple relationships require a great deal of sharing, giving, and compromise if they are going to be happy and healthy. Doing something the other person wants to do when we do not want to can be handled in several ways. First, you have the choice to do it anyway. That can be a sacrifice on your part, but you do it for your partner. Secondly, you can decide to work out a compromise. You need to discuss this and both feel good and right about it. If one partner feels taken advantage of, it can turn into resentment and bitterness that will eventually come out and affect the relationship. So, you may agree to hang out with his friends today and he will go shopping with you all day tomorrow. Do whatever works as long as you both have a good attitude. It is about give and take. The better we get at it, as it applies to our relationships, the better we can avoid conflicts and find lasting satisfaction in our relationships.

(3) Allowing each other time apart and freedom to choose how and with whom it is spent

Couples ought to have an agreed upon together or "we time" and agreed upon time apart or "me time." Me time should be used any way the person chooses, whether alone or with friends. If one partner does not have their own friends, they can use this time to visit their relatives or simply do something on their own. Whatever they choose to do, the other person’s time apart ought to be respected. It is a good idea to discuss and agree that time alone and time apart from each other will be honored and respected without resentment. The important thing is that couples are satisfied with their time together. A satisfying relationship built on trust creates security. Couples ought to be secure enough in their relationship to let their partners go when separate time is needed. Relationships require a certain amount of freedom. There is an old adage that says, "When you love something, let it go. If it comes back, it’s yours. If it does not, it never was." It is not in the best interest of a relationship to make the partner with friends feel guilty or to impose upon his or her "me time." If the issue has to do with the type of friends he or she is spending time with, this needs to be addressed. If it is his own insecurities or boredom, he ought to develop some new interests apart from the relationship or talk to a counselor who can help him work through some possible insecurities, fears, or boundary issues. Couples can also benefit from couples counseling as they establish healthy boundaries and build new friendships.

Copyright 2009 All Rights Reserved. Written by Krystal Kuehn.

I wrote this article in response to an interview for The Detroit Free Press. To read more on the topic, check out: Don’t Forget Pals When Dating by Cathy Nelson (The Detroit Free Press, January 10, 2010).

Krystal Kuehn, MA, LPC, LLP, NCC is a psychotherapist, author, teacher and musician. She is the cofounder of New Day Counseling Services, a family and couples counseling center and, an award-winning, self-help and personal growth site where you can find hundreds of free resources, insights and inspiration.

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