The objective of this study was to make clear the effects of interactions between two couples (earlier unknown to each other) on their relationships. It was seen that when couples shared personal information with other couples, they not only grew closer to those couples but also to each other. On the other hand, couples who made mere small talk with other couples did not develop their friendships further; neither did their meeting result in better intimacy among the partners themselves.
On the social front, people around us play a critical role in influencing our relationships. This study examines how the closeness of a couple is deepened by interaction with another couple not previously known to them. There is experimental evidence to support the hypothesis that strong social interactions strengthen relationships among couples. From this study, there is proof of improved within-couple closeness as a result of such couple-couple friendships. The exact mechanism is suspected to be either self-expansion to accommodate the partner, discovering new things about the partner, or the interest in the interactive activity itself.
* Sixty unmarried couples of diverse ethnicity, dating for at least a year, were selected for this study.
* The intimacy of their relationship with each other was understood from questionnaires that they filled out at the beginning of the study, then again after a 45-minute interaction with another couple and finally one month after the study period.
* For the interactive sessions, the couples were randomly placed into one of two conditions: “high-disclosure,” where they had to share personal details with other couples or “small-talk,” where the couples talked about general matters not involving much personal information.
* The effects of these interactions between couples and within the couples in terms of better intimacy were analyzed.
* Shortly after interacting with other couples, the high-disclosure group recorded more closeness within each couple and with the couple they interacted with. The small-talk group did not show any effect of the interaction.
* Individuals in the high-disclosure group also reported more interest in performing the interactive session and more things they learned about their respective partners than those in the small-talk group.
* In the one-month follow-up, the high-disclosure group reported greater closeness among the different couples and the desire to further interact after the study.
* Another interesting observation was the hope between couples about the prolonged success of the other couple’s relationship.
The study presumes that the within-couple closeness is a consequence of positive affect during couple-couple interaction; but the reverse (that increased couple-couple closeness leads to within-couple closeness) is also possible and needs to be evaluated. Secondly, only the larger effects were found in this study while the case of content couples seeking friendships were not analyzed. Also, it may not be appropriate to extrapolate these results to married or older couples. Finally, the specific context of interaction that triggers the closeness needs to be investigated.
The study design assessed the comfort of couples to share their private information or routine daily information with other unknown couples in an interactive session. In a controlled laboratory set-up, the closeness-induction method helped simulate the correct environment for this analysis. The participants in the high-disclosure group had a positive feeling of wanting to stay in contact with the couple and meeting them even one month after the study period. However, the small-talk group did not experience any of these and split at the end of the study without emotions. Thus, the authors suggest that, “shared interactions with others can be beneficial for couples.” It is also hoped that this study will pave the way for more research into the contacts between outsiders and couples and their effect on intimacy in relationships.
For More Information:
When Harry and Sally Met Dick and Jane: Creating Closeness Between Couples
Publication Journal: Personal Relationships, 2010
By Richard B. Slatcher; Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan