Couples you should know

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Zawadi Lompisha

“I think we are lonely as a couple,” my husband began.

“Why do you say that?” I asked.

“It appears to me that we always hang around each other and don’t have any couple friends who we can call on at no notice and just hang around,” he explained.

“Haven’t we discussed this before and agreed that there seems to be little choice when you look around us?” I replied.

I was referring to a discussion we had held a couple of years ago about why we were finding it difficult to have peer couples to spend time with. Our problem arose from the fact that we were finding it very difficult to have genuine friendships to our relationship. Individually, we each had “best friends” who we had known for a long time; actually even before we knew each other. Our relationship and subsequent marriage had not dented those friendships significantly enough to end them.

However, the same was not the case when it came to relating with other couples. We just never seemed to raise those relationships to any serious level and had one day stopped to ask why.

One of the couples we knew fairly early in our marriage. They were older and, therefore, more established financially and socially. To them we were underdogs who relied a lot on them to help us find our way around different issues in our marriage. In those days, we did not have a car and relied heavily on hiking lifts from them whenever we had late-nights-out.

Over the years, our lot in life improved. We bought a car, moved to a bigger house and generally became less dependent on them. What came as a surprise to us was the fact that our friends didn’t seem very happy with our progress and would utter negative comments about our changed lifestyle. They begun avoiding our invites to visit with us and we were less and less involved in their life. It did not take long for us to realise we were not wanted and gradually we drifted apart. Now, we rarely meet.

My husband and I were quite taken aback when we realised that our friends, by their conduct, were implying that they would rather we remained down and low and did not rejoice with our successes and growth in life.

As I look around and talk to different couples, what comes out strongly is that many long for genuine couple friendships but have difficulty forming any. In some instances, a husband will hit out at his friend’s wife and unfortunately, that will lead to an extra-marital affair that leaves two terribly wounded spouses. Other times, couples will be in an unspoken competition with each trying to outdo the other. Who drives the bigger car? Who is in a bigger house? Who has had more holidays?

We have found ourselves very cautious about which couples we consider our friends and have set down a criterion by which to judge who we can invest our friendship in.

Are they genuine?

By genuine, we look at whether the couple presents an honest and open relationship to us. We will steer away from couples that only want us to see a picture perfect relationship that does not have any problems or difficulties. No relationship is perfect and we believe when we relate with a couple that allows us to peer into their difficulties and we can share our own, then we can have a place where we can grow together as we work through them.

Do they care for us or are we competitors?

We have no place for a jealous couple. Once was enough. We need to walk with friends who rejoice with our successes and cry at our losses. There are couples who will be happy when you go through a negative patch, like loss of a job, because then, they get ahead of you. Of course no one will ever come outright and tell you that they are happy your husband lost his job, but there are ways of telling these things.

When I was growing up, my parents had some neighbours who always wanted their children to be better than us. So if my mum bought me a dress, the neighbour’s daughter was bound to have a new dress in no time and her mum would make sure to let my mum know how much it cost. I remember hearing my dad and mum asking each other why the neighbours always thought we were in competition.

For my husband and me, a competing couple is more of a foe than a friend and we would rather stay away from them.

What’s their value system?

What do they believe in? Are they firm believers in the institution of marriage or do they think that a quick getaway is always a viable option when things are not working? For us, this is important because we believe that a husband and his wife must be ready to fight for their marriage in the face of the slightest danger. In our book, divorce is never an option and so we want to relate with couples who will be quick to remind us of this — God forbid, if we ever contemplated it — and not people who will readily refer us to divorce lawyers at the slightest whiff of disagreement.

There is a saying that a person’s character is known by the company he keeps. We have aspired to surround ourselves with couples whose company will help us keep our marriage and relationship intact.

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