You just met the best friend you had no idea was missing from your life and—gasp—she has a spouse, too. Before you know it, you’ve committed you and your partner to dinner and a movie on a primo piece of social calendar real estate: Friday night. But, ugh, you haven’t even ordered food yet when you notice your better half has nothing in common with her better half. (The worst.) We caught up with Shasta Nelson, author of Frientimacy and CEO of GirlfriendCircles.com, an online women’s community, to find out how to meet the double date couple friends of your dreams.

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First, Support Each Other’s Pre-Existing Friendships

We get it—your spouse’s best friend Liam doesn’t always offer the most scintillating dinner conversation, but part of being in a relationship means being willing to show up for each other’s closest friendships every now and again, Nelson says. Best case scenario? You come to love Liam’s deadpan humor and long-winded dissection of current events. Worst case? You know how to contact your spouse’s social network in a crisis. The bottom line: Couple friendships can occur simply by making an effort to get to know the people in your partner’s life (and vice versa).

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But Give Each Other Permission to Hang Out Apart

Reminder: Liam is your husband’s friend first. Sometimes, in relationships, it’s easy to get so hell-bent on a mind-set of “the four of us or none of us” that making any plans at all becomes a challenge, according to Nelson. With couple friendships, you still have to help each other prioritize solo time (i.e., you guys hang out without me and I’ll join once every four times). Just because you’re not best friends doesn’t mean you’re not couple friends.

two sets of friends
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With New Couple Friendships, Stay the Course

A recent study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships confirmed: It takes as much as 200 hours to solidify a best friendship. (Per the researchers, it takes 50 hours of interaction to move from an acquaintance to a casual friendship, about 90 hours to move from casual friend to friend and 200 hours—or more—to qualify as a best friend.) It’s a good reminder, Nelson says: Whether all four of you are new to the couple friendship or just your spouses, it’s going to take time for things to feel familiar. Start with: “Can I survive a two-hour dinner with these people? If the answer is yes, that’s the first goal,” says Nelson.

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Remember, It’s Not an All or Nothing Thing

There’s a lot of pressure attached to couple friendships—everyone wants things to go smoothly, so the expectations are high. But keep in mind, it’s OK if you don’t have everything in common, according to Nelson. For example, if the four of you only enjoy going to baseball games together, but don’t confide in each other about annoying work stuff, that’s fine. Or if you have another set of couple friends where the kids are the main commonality, that’s OK, too. Per Nelson, we have a tendency to look for our exact friendship twins, but that’s setting an impossible standard right out of the gate. Instead, it’s fine to categorize and accept that not every friend has to fit every role.

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The Priority Is Time Together vs. Conversation Together

Yes, on the first “date,” it’s a good idea to choose an activity where you can get to know each other (like happy hour), but after that, the higher value is just getting together (a movie or a concert, for example). You could invite each other to tag onto something you’re already doing: “My husband loves this band—want to come with?” If it’s a bit more casual, it helps keep the expectations low, says Nelson.

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