Couples find socializing can create problems
Secure relationships help couples mix life, love and friends.
Chris Crytzer loves theater, everything from children's productions to traveling Broadway companies.
Her husband, Robert, enjoys watching sports of all kinds on television and in person.
They love each other but aren't equally passionate about each other's pastimes. So they often socialize separately with friends who share their special interests.
"It's always been that way, and it works out great," says Crytzer, 41, of Robinson, Pa. "Then you can come back [together] and have different experiences to share and have more things to talk about."
For a couple, mixing life, love and friends -- old and new, coupled and single -- can be a delicate balance.
What works for one couple won't necessarily work for another. There probably are as many ways to negotiate this as there are couples. And there are more than 54.4 million married couple households and more than 5.4 million opposite-sex and same-sex unmarried partner households in the United States, the U.S. Census reports.
Singles often socialize mostly with singles, couples without children often socialize with similarly situated couples, and couples with children often socialize with other couples with children.
"Successful or healthy socialization within the couple depends on how secure the relationship is between the two of them and how much they like and want to socialize with other people outside of the couple," says Lynn Coghill, a licensed clinical social worker who counsels couples and teaches in the University of Pittsburgh's School of Social Work.
Five years ago, when Jennifer Stroschein started dating her husband, Robert, they were in different phases of their lives. She, the more outgoing type, had just finished her master's degree and was still in college mode, routinely hanging out with school friends. He, a bit older and more the homebody type, was working full time and on weekends.
Spending too much time apart became a problem. They fought more as they spent less time together. So they made some changes. She socializes less without him, and he socializes more with her.
And that's what couples should do, experts say.
"If you're having a friendship with someone who's single, you really want to be sure that you bring that relationship into the marriage, telling your spouse where you're going, what you're doing, including the other person in the loop," Weber says.
Victor Cauley learned this lesson only after he was married.
"A single friend will get a married man in trouble," says Cauley, 38.
With six children, Cauley and his wife of nine years, DeShonna, are very busy. They socialize a bit with couples from church, but for the most part keep to themselves.
How well couples balance nurturing their own relationship with friendships and parenting often is a function of time.
Professional couples with young children have little free time and usually socialize mostly with family or the families of their children's friends. Couples without children or with children who are away at school have more free time. So they may have more opportunity to socialize with colleagues and individual friends.
Madeleine Hershey and her partner of 11 years, Michelle Wirth, were married last year in Canada. They have more couple friends now than when they first met, but also good individual friends.
"It's also important that we [each] have a place to go where someone can just listen to us and be with us and not feel that they're being disloyal to [our partner]," says Hershey, 43.
Friendships are extremely important. Couples simply need to guard against them going too far.
"If couples do have friends who are single, try to keep the personal stuff between you and your [partner] personal," says Weber, who has seen more emotional infidelity than physical infidelity in her practice in recent years.
Having good couple friends is important, too, to share similar concerns about being a couple and even get ideas about rituals to incorporate in one's own relationship.
Years ago, a friend told Hershey he couldn't hang out with her one Sunday afternoon because that was his "date time" with his girlfriend. He planned to work on the computer and his girlfriend planned to watch a basketball game.
"How is that a date?" she asked her friend. "Your computer and television aren't in the same room."
"When you are partnered some day, you'll understand," he told her.
Back then, she thought he was crazy. Today, she understands, though she says her dates with her partner are face to face.
"I get how just being available to your partner is an act of partnership," she says. "Even if it's not active, even if you're not giving the person your undivided attention, there's a satisfying and fulfilling sense of companionship just being at home together."