Photo by Yandle, Flickr CC

Around this time of year — when many people are focusing on their romantic partners — it’s easy to forget how important our friendships are. In fact, spending more time with friends may actually improve romantic relationships. In a recent article in The New York Times, Stephanie Coontz reviews social science research demonstrating that a flourishing social life can lead to a better marriage. Coontz writes,

“Socializing with friends and family and participating in clubs, political organizations, teams, unions and churches are essential components of what sociologists call social integration. And health researchers report that maintaining high levels of social integration provides as much protection against early mortality as quitting smoking.”

There are multiple ways social integration can be beneficial. For example, sociologist Kristi Williams suggests that difficulties of those divorced and widowed may be based in their lack of self-reliance skills and smaller social networks, rather than the end of their marriages. Additionally, one experiment showed that couples who went on double dates reported more passionate feelings toward their partners than those who went on a date only as a couple. So, when you’re planning your next date night, consider inviting your friends.