When you and your romantic partner lead busy lives, it can be hard to find time to enjoy each other and spend time together with friends. You may talk about going out over the weekend for dinner or drinks, but you end up staying in and watching whatever happens to be on TV. On Monday, you end up hearing about all the fun that you missed.
The next time you get an invite for a couples’ night out, consider committing to a double date. New research suggests that cultivating a friendship with another couple can help to reinvigorate your romantic relationship with your partner (Welker et al., 2014).
Researchers had dating couples come in together and take part in a discussion task, either alone as a couple, or in a group with another dating couple whom they had never met before. For some couples, the discussion task was designed to encourage self-disclosure and closeness. Each member of the group took turns answering questions that gradually increased levels of self-disclosure, starting with questions like “Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?”, and escalating to questions like “If you could go back in your life and change any one experience, what would it be and why?” For other couples, the discussion task did not invoke self-disclosure, focusing on small-talk questions, such as “When was the last time you walked for more than an hour?” After the discussions were completed, participants individually answered questions about their romantic relationship, specifically passionate love (feeling intense desire and chemistry with their romantic partner) and relationship satisfaction.
Results found that having a deep conversation was associated with greater relationship satisfaction regardless of whether couples talked alone, together or with another couple, whereas having small-talk conversation did not have positive relationship benefits. Furthermore, couples who interacted with another couple using the self-disclosure task also reported increased passionate love for their partner, while couples who completed the task alone did not.
Including another couple can have benefits for your relationship that a conversation alone with your partner doesn’t. A second study by the same researchers proposes that the act of sharing deeply about yourself and feeling understood and validated by another couple is responsible for these increases in passionate love. Receiving validation from another couple about you and your romantic partner may help strengthen your relationship with each other.
This research suggests that building a friendship with another couple can strengthen passionate love within a relationship. So, make the extra effort to set plans with friends for a double dinner date, or invite your coworkers over for a couples’ board game night. Not only will you get to reconnect with old friends or make new ones, but it may be good for your relationship!
Welker, K. M., Baker, L., Padilla, A., Holmes, H., Aron, A., & Slatcher, R. B. (2014) Effects of self-disclosure and responsiveness between couples on passionate love within couples. Personal Relationships, 21, 692-708.