Thursday, May 10, 2012

Making Couple Friends

Before I started dating Angela, I knew it was a done deal. That's a story in and of itself, but I was convinced she'd be the last person I would date. Turns out that's not entirely true. Now before you go spastic, let me explain. Eventually, there comes a point in your relationship when you come out of the magic pixie dust cloud and remember you actually need other friends. But the world is changed. Whether you're dating or married, you've made some level of commitment to your woman and that will impact what your other relationships in a big way- turns out the process of making friends with other couples is like dating all over again. Only it's more complicated.

When assessing candidates for the position of Mrs. Storm I typically had an easier time winning over the lady's parents than I did her. I can't really say I enjoyed dating (or trying to) before Angela. At least I got some good stories out of my endeavors. So getting person B (your pursuit) to like person A (the manstud you see in your mirror) or getting A to like B depending on your story can be challenging enough.

Enter couple dating. When the time comes that you want to start including others on all the fun you're having as A&B the search begins. Everybody knows that being the 3rd wheel is awkward. It can be tolerated every now and again, but it's definitely not a long term solution. So naturally, you gravitate towards finding other couples to hang out with. So you go on a double date with C&D. You get all dressed up, go enjoy a nice evening all the while being couple-conscious of what the others are thinking and on the car ride home you and your lady friend analyze the date to death "Do you think they like us?", "They didn't laugh at my jokes.", "Was I being too quiet?".

Statistically speaking, this is where your odds of success plummet. Here's why:

  • The constant: You're in a relationship with B and everything is swell so we'll assume that A likes B and B likes A.
  • The variable: You think couple C&D would be fun to hang out with and would make great couple friends. Now A has to like C&D, B has to like C&D, C has to like A&B, and D has to like A&B. If any one person out of the four isn't really enjoying it you may hang out a few times but it won't stick. 
  • Enter statistics and the binomial distribution or Bernoulli Trials*. We'll consider each of the above conditions as a unique trial (i.e. A likes C, A likes D, etc...) yielding 8 trials. We'll say everyone in the group is amicable and the probability that they really enjoy another person is on average 80%. The probability that everyone likes everyone else enough to make this a long term endeavor (for you math nerds P(X=8)) is... drum roll... 17%. Yep. That's it. 
All is not lost. Statistics can make this situation look grim but having successful couple friendships is very much within reach. Here's what we've learned through the last four years as an item.

  • Even though you're part of a couple, you don't stop being an individual. You had friendships before you met your gal and if you're healthy you'll make more as you go through life. Don't abandon friendships you have with another guy just because things don't work out that well when you get together with your significant others. Maintaining a healthy balance of guy time in your life is essential no matter what stage of the game you're in. 
  • That being said, when you start looking for couples to spend time with start with people one or both of you are already close with. It can seem like a no brainer- but it can be stressful. Try not to put too much pressure on the outcome of the date. Sometimes these things work and sometimes they flop. That's just how it goes. 
  • Find friends that enjoy the same hobbies that you enjoy as a couple. For example, some of our good friends from college bought a fixer upper. They love transforming their home in to a modern living space. We really like DIY projects too, so most of our dates with them are really just an entire day of remodeling work and we love it. The same could apply for traveling, camping, base jumping, or virtually any other hobby you have as a couple. 
  • Invest wisely. Just like any other friendship, you'll have couples friends on a spectrum of closeness. Be intentional about nurturing the relationships that mean the most to you. Pay special attention to the ones that are willing to make a long term commitment- just like dating. (For more on my reasoning take a look at this earlier KTF article)
  • Get plugged into a small group. Some of our closest friends come from the small group we're involved in. We really enjoy meeting with all of them on a weekly basis- they're all friends we want to keep around for a long time.
  • Don't be afraid to be multi-generational. Parents, grandparents, and older couples in your church can be prime candidates for couple friends. Enjoying the perspective they have to offer can be challenging and motivational and they probably go on dates just like you. 
  • Last, and most importantly, pray. If you find yourself in a new place or just a lack of couple friends this can be a frustrating pursuit. It takes a long time to develop these kinds of relationships, not to mention the emotional aspect can be draining if you feel like no progress is being made. I can't say how important it has been in our marriage though for us to have such good friends in our life. The Lord knows we were designed to live in community, so continue to ask him to show you people to invest your time and efforts into. It may take a year or more for that couple to come into your lives but God knows what he's doing- don't give up. 

*Binomial probability is used for calculating yes/no outcomes. For example, you want to know the probability for how many times a coin toss will land on heads. The probability in a single trial is 50%. So if you toss a coin 4 times the probability of heads on 3/4 tosses is 25%

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