I’m certain most married men can relate to this. My wife, Lisa, is frequently trying to find us couple friends to hang out with. This involves starting with a woman she is already friends with, usually someone from work or from high school, then introducing the husbands into the mix. In order for this to be successful, the husbands (me and the other guy) must become friends. Ideally we would become the kind of friends who would hang out without our wives around, thus creating a sub-group within the couple friend dynamic. The statistical probability of this formula working is approximately 285:1 against. The obstacles to success are abundant, but I’ll pick off a few obvious ones.
. Men don’t quickly bond with other men. The bonds among men take years to form and are often shaped by shared tragedy or at least shared adversity. I’m pretty sure this is true of most male mammals. If you need examples, check out monkeys, lions or elephants. The herds, or whatever, are made up of females and babies. The males are either off somewhere alone or with males with whom they grew up. If a new male is introduced into the pack of males, it is summarily humiliated, beaten and assigned a lesser position in the chain of command or it takes control of the pack by ousting the current leader (this might happen in human groups if The Rock showed up).
Social Disorders. I used to think I was introverted, but now I’m certain that I’m antisocial. I’m comfortable in crowds, and I’m okay being openly antisocial. There is a quote in the new BBC “Sherlock Holmes” series where Sherlock says, “I’m not a psychopath. I’m a high functioning sociopath. Do your research.” I get that. As Lisa has tried to bring her friends’ husbands around, I have picked them off, one by one, as unworthy. I am willing to admit that if I had a problem with one man or two or even three, it could be them. But if my problem is with every man (or, let’s face it, every man, woman and child), it may be me. I remember when I was much younger, choosing not to ask a girl out because she had a bunch of friends, and I really didn’t like them. It seemed easier to just not try, than to start a relationship that would end with me telling her that everyone she knows is an asshole.
Offspring. We have a twelve year old son. If the other couple has a child of similar age, then they must also get along. If the other couple has a baby or toddler, then it’s just never going to work. I am past the point in my life where I want to make social arrangements around a little child. I don’t want to double date to a Pixar film or have to work around naps or listen to tantrums. Sometimes Lisa, who is a Labor and Delivery Nurse, will meet people at work who are having a baby and who seem like a perfect match to us socially. All I can think when I hear this is, “do I really want to spend a lot of time around a baby?”
Alcohol. We like to drink. I like it a lot. I drink in crowds. I drink alone. It’s one of the only ways I am able to function socially. That Lisa also likes to drink, and is okay with my constant drinking is one of the magic bonds that hold us together. Trying to be couple friends with people who don’t drink is a deal breaker. If their reason for not drinking is religious, all the more so.
Humor, politics, and religion. I have a very dry sense of humor, and a caustic wit that is fully engaged 95% of the time. If you look up caustic wit, you will probably find sarcasm as a synonym. If the other couple is not of a similar demeanor, this could be a problem. Lisa and I are both quite liberal in our social politics and in our religion. Of the two of us, she is the one you would describe as having a religion. Any one of these factors if discussed openly can make or break a friendship.
So if you’ve been friends with my wife for years, and your husband and I are on an equal socio-economic plane, and we have shared a trauma together, probably brought on by being drunk, funny and antisocial in a public place, then this could work. If it’s not a perfect fit, but you’d generally describe yourself as a secular humanist and you’re willing to let your husband narrowly avoid being arrested or beaten up in a bar fight then it may be worth a try. Provided you don’t have small children.