Friends and Marriage

by Sally R. Connolly, LMFT and John E. Turner, LMFT



  
Good friends, especially couple friends, can be very good for a relationship. They can be playmates, sounding boards, and support through tough times. Some friendships enhance a couple’s relationship; however, while others seem to steer things off in the wrong direction.

It is important to pay attention to your friendships and decide if they are ones that will support you through your lives together or promote heading in a different direction and away from your marriage.

You can learn a lot from others who are going through or have gone through some of the same struggles that you experience. What a relief it is to know that you are not alone in the struggles of parenting or dealing with career and family or aging parents … whatever stage of life you are in at the time.

Think about the relationships that you and your partner have right now and see if you can determine what category they might fall into as supporters or detractors for your relationship.

 Friends That Enhance a Marriage


Supporters

Cultivate friendships with couples who are glad to be a listening ear and yet will always direct you back to your partner to work through problems. Sometimes, talking out loud about situations in your relationship can help you to calm down and develop a better perspective on a situation. At other times, sharing with someone who has gone through a similar problem, can offer suggestions for solutions.

Friends who will also encourage you to work through problems with your spouse are good supporters for the marriage.

Committers

Couples who believe in commitment are helpful when the times are tough or the “itch” to give up bubbles up.

As a marriage and family therapist, I am always happy when I hear couples use phrases like “I know we will get through this” or “We are committed to our marriage and divorce is not an option”. When that value is present, then problems are dealt with very differently. Choosing friends who also have that same belief will support a marriage.


Learners and Enrichers
Couples who bring new interests and activities can enrich a marriage. Life can become boring if you do the same old things all of the time. Having friends who bring new stories, activities and interests can keep relationships vital.

 

Couples who have new and different experiences also get some of the same changes in their brain chemistry that comes from an affair, although not to the same intensity. It is a good thing to have new, first time experiences.


Seek out couple friends who know how to expand their lives and join them in pursuits. Ballroom dancing classes? Golf or another sports activity? Travel with and without children? Movies? Classes or restaurants?



Friends That Can Hurt a Marriage


Personal Happiness Champions
Some will support you and keep you on track while others, who don’t value marriage, might very well encourage you to walk away from your marriage for your own personal happiness. With friends like this, there is often a disregard for commitment and finding ways (and help) to work through tough situations.

Personal happiness gurus might think you are better off on your own or looking for a “better” relationship because, they might say, “your happiness is most important“.

Flirters and Wandering Eyes

Watch out for friends who enjoy a “good chase”. Whether they are some one who, if you were single, might be of interest, or buddies who believe that a little “playing around” really never hurt anyone.

Hanging out with friends who have a different belief system can encourage wandering or other problems. When there is a “culture” of flirtation, it is hard to go in another direction.

Partiers
A good time with friends is usually a good thing for a couple. For some, there is a culture of partying a lot, often accompanied by a lot of alcohol. Good judgment and healthy marriage behavior can be lost when hanging around others who value a good time more than they value marriage and family.

A word about individual friends.


By all means, hang on to your good friends from childhood, school, neighborhood or work, especially if they are supporters or encouragers in your marriage. If your spouse has any objections at all to these relationships, however, then it is time to take a good hard and objective look at them and decide if those relationships have become more of a priority than your spouse.

Too much time spent in individual relationships and activities can lead to growing apart rather than growing together. Seek out couple friendships and make sure that you are socializing and sharing more with your spouse than all of your other friends put together.

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