My Friends, His Friends, Our Friends

My Friends, His Friends, Our Friends

One of the challenges couples routinely face comes when they try to get together with each other's friends. It can be difficult to find common ground between all four (or more) people. This is particularly true when the women in the group are friends but the men just don't seem to "click," or vice versa. Is there something that can be done to smooth these occasions?

"Much of what determines an individual's level of social interaction is how introverted or extroverted they are. Introverted does not imply "shy," and extroverted does not imply "outgoing," says Amois Williams, life coach and founder of Moxy Life in Medford. "Rather, the terms apply to how an individual recharges their batteries." In many relationships, she points out, the more extroverted partner plans the social events and then expects the introvert to follow along.

The dilemma could be expectations, says Tamara Burrill, a Medford-based counselor, and sometimes women are prone to something that she calls "Please Disease." Women are wired for relationships, she points out, and will spend a lot of time and energy taking the emotional "temperature" to make sure everyone is happy. Instead, Burrill recommends, "Ask why this is important to you. Talk about your expectations with your partner."

"Setting up expectations, then trying to fit reality to those expectations is a sure recipe for disappointment," agrees Williams. "Asking, 'What is it that's important to me about his relating to my friends?' brings up some important information: it's a clue to what values you hold. When we live according to our values, we create more balanced and fulfilled lives." Williams also cautions against assuming what someone else is thinking or feeling. If you know you are assuming whether someone will or will not have a good time, check it out. Ask!

That communication will be invaluable in setting both priorities and boundaries as individuals and as a couple. "You may have to accept that your significant other may not be crazy about hanging out with your girlfriend's husband, but seeing you having fun and being happy may be more important to him than staying home or going out with his own buddies," suggests Williams.

There may come a point where you have to ask if seeing these friends is going to work, says Burrill. While we want everyone to get along, sometimes it is unrealistic or even unwise. "Is there something specific?" she prompts, such as problem behavior or even an attitude that makes a group event difficult.

"If at any point either you or your husband feel uncomfortable about anything when it comes to friends of the opposite sex, it is vital that you can discuss your concerns, apprehensions and boundaries, even if they seem silly or unwarranted," adds Williams.

Burrill reminds that balance is important, too. "Some time apart can be healthy and rejuvenating," she says for those girlfriends or buddies who limit the group events.

With an open mind and honest communication, couples can learn to enjoy their outings together. Williams sums up, "It is unrealistic to try to make people like each other or change. However, if both you and your significant other are on the same page with being open, flexible and willing to be genuinely curious about the people you are spending time with, I guarantee you will find the evening much more fun and engaging, even if you don't all become best buddies."

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