I love spending quality time with my boyfriend, I really do! But I also love spending time with my friends. As a result of this, my ideal best case scenario is hanging out with my boyfriend and my friends at once, AKA a double date. I mean, not to be nauseatingly in love, but getting to hang with the person you're in love with, your best friends, and the people they're in love with is a wonderful thing. But the question will always remain: Is it good to double date in a relationship, or does quality time with bae take precedent?
In a recent op-ed for The New York Times entitled "For a Better Marriage, Act Like a Single Person," historian Stephanie Coontz asserted that double dates really are essential to a happy relationship. "Aside from having sex, which most of us prefer to do without outsiders around, people enjoy doing activities with their partner and friends together more than with only their spouse," she wrote in the piece.
She bases some of her claims on a 2014 study published in Personal Relationships. The purpose of the study was to see if becoming friends with other couples "can increase passionate love within couples." In order to figure it out, the researchers conducted two studies.
In the first study, the participants were assigned to do an activity with either just their partner or their partner and another couple. What sorts of activities were they doing, you ask? Well, the researchers either instructed them to engage in an intense bonding activity or a more casual interaction. This way, the researchers could really see for sure if doing a real bonding activity with another couple is any more effective at bringing a couple closer than 1) just having a casual conversation with another couple or 2) doing the same bonding activity just as a couple alone.
Based on their findings from this study, the researchers concluded that doing real bonding activities with other couples (i.e. a double date scenario) led to "increased passionate love within couples, whereas similar interactions alone with one's partner did not." So, for example, going bowling with your bae and your coupled-up friends will likely leave you feeling closer to and more in love with your partner than the two of you going on a bowling date alone.
In the second study, the researchers commissioned even more couples to engage in the same bonding activities from the first study. This time, they studied how the couples interacted and paid special attention to how the bond of a couple was affected by the specific interactions with new friends, in particular.
In this study, the researchers ultimately found that making couple friends whom you find to be responsive can lead to "increased feelings of passionate love after getting to know the other couple." So, for example, when you and your bae meet that new couple, and the four of you really hit it off, that feeling can actually increase love within your own relationship.
"Relationships do not occur in isolation but are embedded within broader social networks," the researchers concluded in the study. "Accordingly, passionate love appears to be continually shaped by novel and exciting experiences, which can include interactions with other couples." Obviously, spending quality time with your bae is still important. But making friends you like together and spending time with those friends is an almost guaranteed way to make your love blossom even more.
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