Field Report: It’s Hard To Befriend Couples

Went out to watch one of my teams today. There’s a bar nearby that the alumni association frequents as the “official” fan bar for the area. Attendance was low which had the benefit of leaving lots of seats open for the taking. I really do loathe that the first thing you have to do at one of these game-watching events is scout a seat, before you’ve made any friends or accumulated any value. It connects directly with the old “this seat’s taken” experience of being in school. Some people are fine with a stranger taking an adjacent seat, but others view it as suspicious and creepy. Not to mention lots of people don’t mark saved seats with jackets or purses or anything, which would prevent the need for anybody to get rejected.

I sat at an empty four-chair table next to a crew of what appeared to be two couples. I had slept in, so I ordered a Manhattan and a caesar salad for my midday breakfast. (My waiter didn’t know what a Manhattan was, let alone the Canadian Club version I specified – kids these days.)

I noticed after a minute that I knew one of the guys at the next table from a previous event at this very bar, which gave me an opener into the group from whence introductions were made. I initiated a bit of chit-chat about when they were in school, when they last went to a home game, and so on, but the fish weren’t really biting. We’d high five when we scored, but I would bring up topics of conversation and get one- to two-sentence answers without followup.

I noticed an engagement ring on one of the girls and asked when they were getting married. She said next year, and then started showing dress pictures on her phone to the rest of them (but not me).

I asked if they had any plans for Halloween. A dude shook his head without conviction.

I replied with mock disappointment: “don’t tell me you’re not going trick or treating!”

[Sheepish half-smile] “Eh, we’re not going trick or treating.”

They seemed like nice enough people, so I chalked it up to having all their social energy committed to each other. Fifth-wheeling onto a set of two couples who are friends already is a tough job. I sat in silence much of the day, with the anxiety tape running in my head of why I didn’t have anything good to say and how am I ever going to get back on the horse. In the end it was the situation, not me, but it didn’t make me feel much better – especially after last night’s underwhelming Halloween party experience.

As an aside, one of the interesting things about getting into a relationship as a guy is that it opens your social life to include other couples. All those dudes you never saw again because they got a wife or a girlfriend all of a sudden are open to hanging out, because you can both bring your girls and let them have a coffee klatsch while you and your bro grill or talk about weightlifting. Especially above the age of 25, there’s a steady distillation of young adults into the single and non-single camps. Thinking back on my working life, the couples I’ve become friends with usually started as work friends, and then I met their partners. Since I’ve become single, I’ve found it’s much harder to socialize with my coupled friends.

I left the bar when the game was over, getting friendly enthusiastic goodbyes from my laconic pals. Not wanting to return to my uninhabited abode just yet, I stopped into the bagel shop for a snack hoping to hone a bit of day game. In line ahead of me were an old man paying, and a slender twentysomething blonde woman ordering. She had on well-fit jeans, low-cut shoes and a zipped-up black windbreaker. She was on the phone asking someone if they wanted anything. I noticed a modest engagement ring and guessed who she was talking to.

It’s been getting colder and rainier lately, so as she hung up I remarked on her lack of preparation. “You’re the only woman I’ve seen today who’s not wearing galoshes.”

“Ha, yeah I really should be wearing them. I’m from the north, so I really don’t think of this weather as cold.”

“Really…by north do you mean like Boston or like Canada?”

“I’m from Boston.”

“Reeeeeally, I’ve spent some time up there myself. Where are you from?”

“I’m from the South Shore, near Cape Cod.”

“Funny, I had a job in one of the towns down there. Do you like the Pats?” (The New England Patriots’ headquarters and stadium are in Foxborough, in southern Massachusetts near the Rhode Island border.)

[With disbelief] “Of course! I love all the teams.”

“All the blue-collar guys I worked with were huge Pats fans, even bigger than the regular Bostonians. Even when they sucked.”

“They all sucked when I was growing up, and they got good when I left. So now my parents tell me not to come home.”

“Haha…thanks Mom!”

She paid and left, and I followed up with the same. I was enthused by her complete lack of sour or snarl. I gave her the opportunity to have an existentially meaningless two-minute conversation while we waited for our bagels to get shmeared, and she took it for what it was worth. After the buttoned-up experience at the bar, it was just what I needed.

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16 Comments

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16 responses to “Field Report: It’s Hard To Befriend Couples

  1. mmm…I would hardly ever try to befriend a group, especially couples – too much hard work. I try to target a fellow alone person that looks at around my social level or who seems to be feeling awkward because they are alone. I was particularly interested how your newly paired male friends tend to drift away. I’ve noticed this as well and attributed it to the “single woman effect”. Obviously just another case where the experience of men and women is not substantially different! Thanks for sharing! C

  2. What is the “single woman effect”?

  3. njartist49

    The female is the gatekeeper to the social calendar and friendship. Being single will prevent friendships with couples even if you share the same values or occupations.

  4. I think part of the awkwardness stems from the fact that people are generally not that friendly with strangers, especially in some cities. When I was in San Francisco last week, I went for a long walk by myself and noticed that many people made eye contact and smiled. It took me a while to adjust, as strange as that sounds. This is just not something that we do in Boston, it’s not the norm.

    [Interesting you say that - whenever I was in Boston I chatted up bar birds and cafe patrons all the time.]

  5. Opus

    Single men are social pariahs (except to other single men). They do different things and have different concerns to those people who are in couples or in families. I suspect the situation is different for women (somehow). Don’t take the rebuff personally.

  6. 108spirits

    A happy fun single bloke is a threat to a joined at the hips couple. He reminds the male of his freedom and the female of the thrills of being pursued, and both of how lame they have become.

  7. Opus-

    i’ve never had an issue with this. i can see 108’s reasoning’s and that may well be. as far as i’m concerned this is being over-thought. maybe the couple were just unsure and had poor social skills. i’m at my local ALL tha time. i’m befriended single man/women and couples. i don’t make an effort to chat up couples (or anyone for that matter), but have opined about something on television and one in the couple responded and a conversation ensued.

  8. flyfreshandyoung

    The couple’s dynamic is certainly one I think we’ve all encountered before. The thing is, from what I’ve experienced this dynamic is entirely predicated upon the man.

    For example, my friends with game who have girlfriends, they bring their girlfriends along with them, into their world, and they are just as outgoing as if they were single. They have no problem talking to others or making new friends.

    On the other side of the coin, you’ve got the other guys, the guys who let their girlfriends define their social lives. I also have friends like that, and unfortunately that is where the couple’s dynamic comes from. The friends who start hanging out with other couples exclusively, forget about their good friends, and shy away from social events not OK’d by the gf. The man allows himself to be pulled into the safety of the couples only world, where, like 108 pointed it, it’s much more comfortable for the psyches of those involved.

  9. CL

    I found SF a pretty friendly place too. Toronto is pretty cold, in every sense of the word most of the year.

  10. Hello Badger – the “single woman effect” is when couples or social groups consisting only of couples tend to shun single women – presumably because they might take up with one or more of the men. A wife may also be unreasonably jealous of a single women or a man may perceive his wife may become jealous and take preventative action, namely keeping distance from his single female friends. It’s all a bit tedious! C

  11. Badger, do you get along with your friends’ significant others? Do you feel like it’s the women who push you away, or the guys as well?

    I never experienced this issue, to be honest. Back when I was single, I was friends with serious couples – I was even friends with a married couple. & since I’ve started dating my boyfriend, I haven’t excluded my single friends. In fact, I’m a bit of a matchmaker – I love to introduce my single friends to other single people I know.

    Does the city you live in have an art scene? Honestly, it sounds like you need to take a break from the Yuppies and befriend some Hipsters. Here in NYC, Hipsters are friendly and outgoing – talk to a Hipster for five minutes and they’ll start showing you photos of their cat. If I talk to a Yuppie for five minutes, they just act distant and uninterested.

    I noticed a modest engagement ring and guessed who she was talking to

    How do you know it was an engagement ring? It could have just been a regular piece of jewelry; especially since you mentioned the ring was modest. Heck, it could have been cubic zirconia.

    *looks down at hand*

    Um, do gemstone rings intimidate men? ’cause I sorta collect costume jewelry replicas of celebrity engagement rings.

    Yeah…that might explain all the issues I had back when I was single. My boyfriend was a close guyfriend so he knew I wasn’t engaged when I started flirted with him; however the strangers I flirted with wouldn’t have known [well, unless they were jewelers...]

  12. rmaxd

    Ive had the exact opposite experience when it comes to picking up women from couples …

    Ive found as long as you congruently confidently indicate your socially more confident then the chump shes with

    Basically amped up state game, ensuring your emotional state is higher then hers & confidently none-verbally indicate what a looser she is for being with the guy, alot of women are surprisingly more then willing to ditch the guy on the spot … lol

    The majority of couples in day game, arent into deeply committed relationships, & most couples usually wandering around arent even real couples, easily extractable women

    Its just a matter of confidence & realising how much of a chump the other guy is, most guys are social enough not be cockblocking asshats, if theyre not involved & more interested in observing the interaction or pick up …

    If youre not looking to pickup, ie befriend, you better have some interesting facts, or commonalities to bond over, basic social circle game

    Infact befriending is more dancing monkey, ie jokes commonalities then routines, & how receptive they are to getting to know you via the commonalities you share & if you have none, the facts & anecdotes you put out there

    Judging a persons receptivity to their fascination of you is key to knowing how far you should invest in the interaction & how successful you end up befriending them

  13. SayWhaat

    Haha! Even BF likes hipsters! XD

  14. @BF
    Um, do gemstone rings intimidate men? ’cause I sorta collect costume jewelry replicas of celebrity engagement rings.

    I have no idea why a ring would “intimidate” a man, but if you wore a replica engagement ring on the finger where women traditionally wear real engagement rings, then someone who didn’t know you could make the reasonable guess that you were engaged to someone.

  15. Thag/CL,

    “Toronto is pretty cold, in every sense of the word most of the year.”

    I’d love to see Thag, Aoefe and Sofia have a meeting up in the big T.

    BF, it’s quite presumptuous to tell me to “take a break from yuppies” as you know nothing of who I hang out with.

    “How do you know it was an engagement ring? It could have just been a regular piece of jewelry; especially since you mentioned the ring was modest. Heck, it could have been cubic zirconia.”

    Bellita has this covered – If a woman has rings all over her hands, I might think her left ring finger ring is a decoration. If the only jewelry she’s wearing is on the left ring finger, the only logical inference is that she’s engaged. No idea why a non-engaged woman who wanted male attention would wear the cultural marker of a taken woman.

    “Um, do gemstone rings intimidate men? ’cause I sorta collect costume jewelry replicas of celebrity engagement rings.”

    I wasn’t intimidated at all – I just don’t have a lot of interest in running a pickup on a married or near-married woman. Had she not been engaged I probably would have invited her to sit and eat with me.

  16. Mark Slater

    My friends all have wives, homes, beautiful children, etc., I am the single black sheep of our little group.

    Some of them invite me over for a home-cooked meal with their families. By contrast, there are others who consider me only a “good-time buddy” and only see me when their wives are away, at work, or otherwise indisposed.

    Some couples, it would seem, have a harder time with their still-single pals than others.

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