Social interactions of all flavors are important, and even your relationships need other relationships to keep things interesting. You might have a perfectly satisfying romantic relationship with your partner, but you might want to get some “couple friends” too (see this article at salon.com). How do friendships between couples develop, and are they important for your own romantic relationship?
Recent research by our colleague Dr. Rich Slatcher addresses these questions. Two pairs of dating couples (i.e., groups of four) were randomly assigned to one of two 45 minute discussions: (1) either they engaged in small talk, discussing mundane topics (“When was the last time you walked for more than an hour?”), or (2) they were prompted to have deeper conversation, or what the researchers called a high self-disclosure dialogue (“For what in your life do you feel most grateful?”). Those people engaging in deeper self-disclosure reported feeling closer to the other couple. That’s right…the depth of the conversation enhanced the quality of the bond formed between the two couples. Interestingly, a third of the couples that met in the high-disclosure dialogue condition ended up contacting each other in the subsequent month (even though this wasn’t part of the study…they were just staying in contact with their new friends), whereas none of the small talk couples continued their interactions after the discussion task.
If you’re trying to get to know another couple, having a meaningful conversation with them is a good way to build closeness with your new friends. But does the quality of your friendship have an effect on your own romantic relationship? Yes. A month later, couples in the high self-disclosure condition reported more closeness with their own romantic partners. Self-disclosing in friendships had beneficial effects on one’s own relationship several weeks later because of the positive emotions generated through self-disclosure, which then led to more closeness in the romantic relationship.
So get out there and meet some other couples. Getting to know them can lead to more closeness with that couple, but also increase your closeness with your partner.
1Slatcher, R. B. (2010). When Harry and Sally met Dick and Jane: Experimentally creating closeness between couples. Personal Relationships, 17, 279–297.
Dr. Benjamin Le – Science of Relationships articles | Website/CV
Dr. Le’s research focuses on commitment, including the factors associated with commitment and its role in promoting maintenance. He has published on the topics of breakup, geographic separation, infidelity, social networks, cognition, and need fulfillment and emotions in relationships.