The Art of Couple Friendships

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Men's View of Friendships

"Men have a different standard of friendship," says Jan Yager, PhD, the author of Friendshifts (Hannacroix Creek, 1999) and When Friendship Hurts (Fireside, 2002). "Traditionally, women bond over an emotional connection, while male friendships are based more on activities," says Dr. Yager. "Men tend to let people in only when they are convinced that it won't hurt them personally or professionally."

Your best bet, then, for setting up a new fab foursome may be to see if you connect with, for example, the wife of your husband's business associate or golf partner. There is, however, one caveat: When introducing spouses into an already established relationship, whether between two men or two women, the original friendship can't be too entrenched. "If there's so much history between two people, the others may always feel like outsiders," says Dr. Yager. Molly Smith and her husband are a case in point. "We get together with some of my college friends and their spouses every once in a while, and I would love for us all to be friends, but my husband doesn't like hanging out with them," Smith laments. "He says we talk too much about what we did in college and he feels left out."

When the original friendship is between a man and a woman, other predicaments can surface. "Will the husband like a man who is close to his wife?" says Dr. Sills. What if someone likes the opposite-sex friend too much? "There are sexual undertones to any friendship between a man and a woman," says Dr. Sills. "It's when they become sexual overtones, or when you're dealing with people's insecurities, that you have a problem." Just ask Elizabeth Brown* of Norfolk, Virginia, who had cut ties with a couple after the other wife began hitting on her husband. One time the other woman actually slipped her tongue into her husband's mouth when he leaned forward to extend a polite kiss on the cheek good-bye after a get-together. "He told me about it, but I thought he had to have misconstrued something," says Brown. She decided to give the couple another chance.

The next time they got together -- for dinner at the Browns' home -- Brown's husband noticed the other wife wasn't wearing underwear. He had no choice but to notice this: She was sitting across from him in the living room and, says Brown, "kept crossing and uncrossing her legs, like Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct!" Brown's husband told her later when they were alone. "He was dumbfounded. Of course I had no idea. I was politely commenting on the hors d'oeuvres while this woman was flashing my husband!" Brown declined the couples' future invitations to get together without explanation. "It was uncomfortable when we saw them around the neighborhood. We just made excuses 'til they stopped asking," she says.

*Some names have been changed to protect privacy.

Continued on page 4:  The Importance of Couple Friends


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