Couple friends: Double dating to strengthen your marriageWritten by Greg Smalley
What's inside this article
From the beginning (Genesis 2:24), the Bible tells us that when they marry, two people “become one flesh.” That’s true. But when we read that verse, we can lose sight of another equally important truth: Marriage is a team sport. We can’t successfully do it alone.
When you read the Bible carefully, you see that God emphasizes community. He designed people to depend on one another and lift one another up when they need it. Marriage is a great example of that: two people helping each other, in good times and bad. But God’s design goes beyond just that community of two. Along with a couple’s relationship with God, it takes a supportive community of friends and family to keep a marriage strong.
Even the healthiest relationships go through difficult times. And in these dark, painful seasons, Satan does everything he can to isolate you and keep you suffering alone. Why? Because he knows we’re weaker when we’re isolated. We were never meant to tackle the challenges of life and marriage alone. As we read in Ecclesiastes 4:12, “a threefold cord is not easily broken.”
How do we add cords to our most critical relationship? We connect and surround ourselves with other like-minded couples. They help strengthen our marriages. We help strengthen theirs. Those relational cords can keep our marriages strong and even help hold them together.
“It’s not unusual for couples to start withdrawing inward and becoming a society of two,” according to dating coach Harris O’Malley as quoted by Anna Goldfarb in Forge. Goldfarb adds, “Over time, you may find yourself relying on your partner to fulfill more of your social needs and vice versa. Socializing with other couples gives you both a break from that pressure.”
Benefits of double dating
They’re right, but the benefits don’t stop there. In fact, I can think of four other benefits.
When it comes to couples doing life together, those ecclesiastical “third cords” are woven at first through fun. You enjoy shared interests together. You laugh. You jokingly argue over who’s going to pay the dinner bill. Soon, you’re having more meaningful conversations with each other. And eventually, you’re supporting each other during difficult times that every couple experiences at some point. As it says in Proverbs 17:17, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
Giving and receiving support
Hebrews 3:13 says, “exhort one another every day.” Exhort means to give advice. You’ll have many opportunities to give and receive advice about several types of marital issues – everything from dealing with children to dividing the chores. You’d be amazed at how many issues can be sources of conflict. But as you talk with other couples about these common issues, you’ll gain new perspectives and different points of view. You’ll find that you’re not the only couple dealing with these issues. Geoffrey Greif, researcher and co-author of Two Plus Two: Couples and Their Couple Friendships, says this in USA Today: “Being close with another couple and watching how they manage their ups and downs is a role model for how you can manage your ups and downs.”
Over time, many couples get stuck in habits and routines, and that can breed boredom. Double dating with another married couple can create new and exciting experiences that are important for keeping a marriage relationship fresh. Join another couple at a restaurant or a coffee house you’ve never tried. Play a game. Go for a hike or picnic. Sign up for a cooking class or dance lessons. Whatever it is, share these exciting experiences with another couple.
Increasing positive feelings for your spouse
According to research from Colorado University, when you hit it off with another couple, you feel greater love for your own spouse. Kathy Deal, researcher and co-author of Two Plus Two: Couples and Their Couple Friendships, found the same response in her research with Greif. She’s quoted in USA Today: “Some couples said, ‘When I see my husband or wife with other people, it really makes me appreciate them in a different way. I see how charming or thoughtful they are or what a sparkling conversationalist they are.’ ”
How to find couple friends
Regardless of the benefits, a lot of husbands and wives might have a hard time finding new couple friendships. It’s not as easy as it might seem on TV, but I have a few ideas.
Talk with your spouse
This is exactly what my wife, Erin, did recently. Erin expressed her desire to find new friends. We made a list of couples and then we took the initiative. You can do the same thing.
Notice couples who are already in your sphere, be it at work, at school or in your neighbourhood. Look for new relationships, too. C.S. Lewis wrote, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’ ” What are couples doing in your area? Every community has ongoing group activities where you can meet couples with similar interests. Places like health clubs, volunteer organizations or even dog parks can be a gold mine for potential couple friends.
Look for different types of couple friends
The best way to build and maintain a strong support system is to look for three different types of relationships – an older couple who can offer you godly advice, a couple in the same season of life as you and your spouse, and a younger couple you can encourage.
A popular saying goes, “Every love story is beautiful, but ours is my favorite.” Sharing your story – the good, the bad and even the ugly – helps you deeply connect with another couple, especially when you share about God’s role in your marriage story. And it helps you remember the bigger purpose of your marriage – that it’s part of God’s storyline. So when you’re out with another couple, ask to hear their love story and tell yours.
It doesn’t matter if your story isn’t ready for Hollywood rom-com treatment. What matters is how you tell it – hitting the high points, the low points and the turning points. Your story can help other couples with their own stories and vice versa.
And, of course, happy couples give credit to God as the author and sustainer of their love story. I like Eugene Peterson’s impression of Romans 12:1 in The Message: “Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.”
Ultimately, developing friendships with other couples means sharing your stories. You speak into another man and woman’s story. They speak into yours. Our stories weave the threefold cords, strand by strand. And once they’re twined together, they’re not easily broken.
Dr. Greg Smalley is vice president of Marriage and Family Formation at Focus on the Family and the author or co-author of several books, including Crazy Little Thing Called Marriage.
© 2022 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Originally published at focusonthefamily.com.
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