We all have "package couples" in our friendship groups. The pairs that can't do anything without each other. Wherever you invite one of them, their significant other follows – whether they're asked for or not.
Fancy a pizza night with the girls? Better set an extra space for Stacey's partner Rob. Boys night out on the razz? Matt is bringing Alex whether you like it or not.
You probably think I'm being harsh by inferring that my friends shouldn't bring their boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, or wives to social events. So let me clarify: I don't hate your partners. They're completely welcome to occasions when other people's partners will be present, or you've asked, "can I bring Rob?", or "do you mind if Alex comes too?"
The problem is most apparent when you're expecting a one-on-one catch up with your mate. You have stuff to discuss – maybe a very personal issue – in confidence. But lo and behold, up rocks your friend and his/her partner. The objectives of your catch up won't be achieved because there's a third party – a usurper – in attendance.
What package couples represent is a loss of independence by two people. For whatever reason (maybe it's jealousy, insecurity, or just an inability to be alone), they now go arm-in-arm everywhere. Why is this so erroneous? Because it's healthy to spend time apart. It benefits your interpersonal dynamic, your conversational ability, and your sex life.
When you do everything – and I mean everything – with your partner, you become co-dependant and it's easy to move into the "friend zone" with your significant other. You're with them all the time, so you have little to talk about – no stories to tell, no experiences you had that they didn't have too. This can remove a lot of excitement from a relationship. Rushing home (with gossip) after doing something social is one of the best parts about coupling up.
When it comes to sex, all the package couples I've spoken with have less of it (when compared to the independent couples who retain their own lives and have time apart for social activities). They're often more like flatmates, not lovers. Owing to some sort of separation anxiety, they never have the chance to miss each other. This stops fuelling sexual desire as time goes on.
There is good news here. If you're part of a package couple, you can consciously un-package yourselves and still retain all the good things about your relationship. It does, however, involve some conversations, and some hard questions, including the following:
• Does one (or both) of us feel threatened when we're not together, and how do we change that?
• How do we create complete trust in each other?
• What is it about being alone (or "left out") that hurts, and how can we rectify that feeling?
• Would our relationship, and our sex life, benefit if we had a little time apart with our own friends?
• If we're not sure, would it hurt if we tried it?
I get it, you love your partner. You love spending time with them, and you should! Yet package coupling, eventually, comes at the expense of your emotional and physical connection with each other.
If you're afraid that not inviting your partner (or having their presence being negotiable) will offend or hurt them, you need to figure out why, and get past it. Being in an exclusive package couple will – if not now, eventually – eat away at your link together, and eventually probably push you apart.