Love is the answer to all questions? Not quite. She also represents quite a few. Psychologist and couple therapist Oskar Holzberg this time clarifies whether a common circle of friends is necessary
Togetherness or together in a group?
When Maren and Jens moved into their shared apartment, they gave a housewarming party for their friends. Actually, it was two festivals in one. Even though Maren and Jens had been together for almost a year, most of Maren’s friends now saw Jens for the first time, and only one of Jens’s friends knew Maren. Also on this evening, the friends circles barely mingled. Later, this did not happen either. And even later, certainly not, because then Maren and Jens had already separated again.
I do not want to say that it was because they had no common good friends. But it was already noticeable how isolated the two were as a couple. And, in effect, her tight-knit circle of friends also reflected something about their relationship: that they had never fought the clashes that each couple must wage to not only remain two, but also to form a unity.
Everyone needs their own friends, sure. Even though no one understands what connects us to Babsi, who lives only for her art and is terribly quick to offend, or why we meet again and again with Herbert, whose only other friends are Netflix and his smartphone. But if we have a circle of friends in which the partner does not participate, there is always the danger that he feels excluded. A very threatening feeling, because somewhere deep in us there is the fear of our ancestors: who was excluded from the group, had little chance to survive alone. With good common friends, however, there is no jealousy. And they are the important witnesses of our relationship: they speak when they perceive tensions in our partnership. We can ask them if they have noticed our sweetheart so absent lately. When we experience a couple together with friends, we discover sides that do not show up in our togetherness. In the partnerships of our mutual friends, we also respect our own relationship: Do you treat each other more sensitively than we do? Are you missing our humor? Could we also, like them, differentiate ourselves more clearly?
Through mutual friends we just feel better
But above all, common good friends set the scene in which we live, laugh and feel ourselves safe. Involvement in a social community, support from other and dependable close relationships have more impact on our well-being than organic food and any fitness training. And through good mutual friends, we escape the horror of the nuclear family best. We go on holiday together, we celebrate with them, our kids discover in them other important adults for themselves. And last but not least, they take an overstrain of our relationship: the loved one no longer has to be our sole donor.
Oskar Holzberg, 64, has been advising couples in his Hamburg practice for more than 20 years and repeatedly gets relationship questions. His current book is called “New Key Phrases of Love” (242 p., 20 euros, Dumont).