Marriage (and relationships) means sharing: sharing finances, sharing space and, oftentimes, sharing friends. Although it’s normal and fun to have a big crew of “couple friends,” it’s also crucial to both partners’ well-being that you maintain friendships of your own, whether those be with work wives, sorority sisters, or Pilates pals. Kevin Darné, the author of My Cat Won’t Bark! (A Relationship Epiphany), tells us why keeping up with and developing friendships should be a top priority.

Women laughing together

1. Friendships allow for privacy. We all have a gripe every now and then — and sometimes that gripe is about your partner. As long as your complaints are minor, there’s nothing wrong with them. In fact, Darné says expressing these frustrations is a healthy release. But in order to get them off your chest, you need friends whose loyalty belongs to you. “The benefit of being able to open up to someone without fearing everything you say will get back to your spouse or partner is reassuring,” Darné says. “[Find] a friend who is a sounding board who can offer advice or simply someone who feels your pain and laughs with you.”

2. Friendships take some pressure off your spouse. Your partner plays a lot of roles: lover, friend, confidant, roommate, you name it. That being said, they simply cannot (and should not) have to be everything for you. If your spouse loves sports, you probably appreciate it when they take their buddy to the game instead of you. Now, apply that same mentality to your own hobbies and interests. “Just because you’re married does not mean you have to do everything with your spouse,” Darné explains. “Odds are, they would rather hear about you having a great time than having to suffer through a compromise by attending an event with you.”

3. Friendships act as a safety net. Although few people get married with the intention of getting divorced, the stats are pretty undeniable: Many marriages do end. In this event, it’s critical that each partner has their own friends with whom they can grieve and on whom they can rely for emotional support. “Whenever someone goes through a divorce or even a painful breakup, [if] all of their friends are tied to their former mate, they can easily feel cut off and alone,” Darné says. Post-split, most people implement a “no contact rule,” either explicitly or implicitly, and abiding by this rule becomes nearly impossible when everyone you typically spend time with is also part of your ex’s inner circle. For this reason, independent relationships are a must.

One caveat: Darné cautions couples about engaging in what he calls “secret friendships.” “Your spouse should have at least met your friends and be aware of who you are spending your time with,” Darné says. “The truth is, the minute you decide to hide a friendship from your spouse, you begin to embark on a dangerous journey.”

How do you make friends outside of your marriage? Let us know @BritandCo.

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