I’m sure many of us have been in a situation where we are left helping
our friends with their dating relationships or on other the side of the situation asking our friends for advice about our relationships. We all know to some extent, whether we’ve realized it or not, how much of an influence our friends can have on our dating relationships and how their influence may complicate things. This can be especially true for dating relationships that often break up but get back together, commonly called “on-off relationships”. As many of us may know from our own experience, romantic comedies, or Katy Perry’s song “Hot and Cold” (2008), this type of relationship can be quite complicated and friends definitely can have their own input on them.
A recent study by Dailey, Brody and Knapp (2015), wanted to answer a few questions of how the role of friends can influence on-off relationships. The study compared how friends and dating partners from both on-off relationships and steady relationships viewed the level of friend support and influence on the dating relationship and also how the dating relationship can influence the friendship.
The researchers predicted that on-off relationships would report more negative outcomes in terms of friend support, influence and friendship quality since often times on-off relationships report lower relationship quality and more disputes than other never terminated, long lasting relationships. The findings of the study revealed that on-off relationships report lower friend support and also more negative influence toward the dating relationship from their friends. On-off relationship partners also reported communicating more freely with their friends however; the dating partner believed they were being more open than their friends believed they were. In addition, when on-off relationships are in a stage of being back together rather than separated, dating partners reported more friendship issues. Yet, friends of on-off relationships reported that the dating relationship had a helpful influence on their friendship with the dating partner.
What should we do with this information? End all on-off relationships because a study reports more negative outcomes toward friendships? NO! We cannot say just from these findings that every on-off relationship is bad for us and our friends and will always result in these outcomes. Rather, I suggest that what we take from these findings is to try and be more honest and open with our friends about on-off relationships and try to be mindful of our actions. This way we can hopefully improve both our friendship and dating relationship for the better.
Dailey, R. M., Brody, N., & Knapp, J. (2015). Friend support of dating relationships:
Comparing relationship type, friend and partner perspectives. Personal Relationships, 22, 368-385. doi:10.1111/pere.12086