This guest article from Psych Central was written by Rick Nauert, PhD.
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His study, “When Harry and Sally met Dick and Jane: Experimentally creating closeness between couples,” which recently appeared in Personal Relationships, investigated 60 dating couples in a controlled laboratory setting. The study looked at how friendships between couples are formed, and how these friendships affected each couple’s romantic relationship.
Each couple was paired with another couple and given a set of questions to discuss as a group. Half of the groups were given high-disclosure questions intended to spark intense discussion, while the other half were given small-talk questions that focused on everyday, unemotional activities.
“In this study, we discovered that those couples who were placed in the ‘fast friends’ group felt closer to the couples they interacted with, and were more likely actually to meet up with them again during the following month,” said Slatcher.
“We also learned that these same couples felt that this friendship put a spark in their own relationships, and they felt much closer to their romantic partners.”
The couples in the high-disclosure group reported greater increases in positive feelings after the intense interaction. They also felt the interaction was more novel and that they learned new things about their romantic partner compared to couples in the small-talk group.
In addition, one-third of the couples in the high-disclosure group contacted the other couple they met in the study, while none of the couples in the small-talk group initiated contact with the couple they had met.
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“This study suggests that if your romantic relationship has a case of the doldrums, having fun with another couple may help make your own relationship more satisfying,” said Slatcher.
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