My partner and I have a friend-couple where we really like one spouse and the other one, not so much. It’s actually kind of painful to be around them. The two bicker with each other in front of us and, when they aren’t bickering, the one we don’t like is super morose. When we hang out with the spouse we like, the other spouse gets jealous. We have considered hanging out with this couple in bigger groups, however, we don’t want our other friends to be stuck with the grumpy spouse. What would you recommend?
You and your partner need to decide which is more important: spending time with the person whose company you enjoy, or avoiding the person whose company bothers you. Even with the best advice, I’m not sure you can get your best-case scenario.
Hanging out in a group does seem like an option worth trying. Though Grumpy doesn’t shine socially in your current configurations, maybe this person would do better with a different mix of people. You’re not responsible for inflicting this person on anyone, and your other friends can navigate the interactions for themselves. Grumpy might also prefer a larger group where s/he can fade into the background and doesn’t have to be as present as in a group of four.
Depending on the strength of your relationship with the other spouse, you could ask if something is up in their relationship, or, even, if there’s something about hanging out with the two of you that is a source of some tension. Maybe Grumpy would prefer to stay home, but they feel a social pressure to socialize as a couple. Maybe they have tension around these interactions but don’t know how to bring it up. There may be some social anxiety at play or something else challenging for this other couple.
Your mention of jealousy suggests there are larger issues unrelated to you, so providing an opening to be a good listener might be really helpful overall, especially because jealousy in particular can be a warning sign of other problems. I wonder about approaching Grumpy and saying something like, “We really like you guys, but you don’t seem to have much fun when we’re together. Is there anything we should know?”
If you can’t find a way to be with them that’s tolerable, you may need to let the friendship slide until something else changes. Ideally all of our friends would have equally engaging partners and everyone would get along all the time, but that’s not reality. Your best option is to make the decisions that will most protect your social time and not create new problems for either couple.