Oftentimes you’ll hear men say they desire a female companion who will get along with all of their friends so that she won’t give him a hard time about hanging out with them. According to research, having a female companion become buddies with her male companion’s friends can cause serious s*xual issues (e.g. er*ctile dysfunction [ED]) for her significant other.
Sociologists Benjamin Cornwell at Cornell University and Edward Laumann at the University of Chicago have described a female partner who comes between a man and his male friends as “partner betweenness.”
“Men who experience partner betweenness in their joint relationships are more likely to have trouble getting or maintaining an er*ction and are also more likely to experience difficulty achieving orgasm during s*x,” write Cornwell and Laumann. The sociologists argue that partner betweenness ruin men’s feelings of autonomy and privacy, which are the core to traditional concepts of masculinity. The situation can lead to overt conflict or problems with partner satisfaction and attraction. The good news? As men grow older, their definition of masculinity changes and partner betweenness doesn’t have a damaging effect anymore. “Older men’s greater focus on close, kin-oriented relationships increases their likelihood of adopting new definitions of masculinity that emphasize conveying experience and mentoring rather than independence and autonomy, and under these circumstances partner betweenness is less likely to trigger [ED],” Cornwell says.
Laumann says the study shows the value of understanding the connections between social relationships and health. “The results point to the importance of social network factors that are rarely considered in medical research—network structure and the individual’s position within it.” Cornwell and Laumann point out that it is generally beneficial for couples to have shared friends, who contribute to a sense of “couplehood” and provide a base of support for the relationship. Partner betweenness is an unusual situation, however. Read the full details for the study here.