Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Too much time with husband's friends wears on wife
Q: I've been married for two years, and I no longer want to socialize with my husband's friends. Early in our relationship he told me it would be a deal-breaker if I couldn't get close to the two people he's closest to; he doesn't have much of a relationship with his parents, so they have been like a surrogate family to him.
I find them to be boring, too alcohol-dependent, and just not worth all the time we spend with them. But I know how badly it would hurt him if I said this. How do I get out of seeing them as much as he expects me to?
Carolyn: You need to talk about this with your husband. I'm sorry. It's not one of those problems you can solve by begging off every third outing — although that's not a bad intermediate step to take, if you're not as fed up as you sound.
Start by saying you get how important these friends are to him. Then say that, like any family, they have positive and negative attributes. You are particularly uncomfortable with the amount they drink, a negative attribute that's hard to argue with (unless you define excess as a second beer).
Then ask if he shares your concerns. The earlier you can make this a conversation between you, versus a declaration by you, the better your chances will be for an outcome you can both live with and respect.
If he leaps right to defensiveness, then that will make a rational conversation harder, but not impossible. You just have to resist the urge to get defensive right along with him, and instead show sympathy for his . . . well, sympathies. "I hear you, and I'm not trying to get between you and your friends. I'm just asking you to think objectively, if you can, about the amount of our social time that revolves around them/revolves around alcohol. I feel uncomfortable with it, to the point where I'm speaking up even knowing how you feel."
Anonymous: Try thinking of them as in-laws, a major, legitimate, nonnegotiable part of his past, present and future. Make a genuine effort to appreciate them. See how they support your husband, even if it's in ways you wouldn't find supportive yourself. You love your husband, he loves you, and he loves them; surely there is some common ground in there, somewhere. If nothing else, they make him happy.
Carolyn: A good suggestion, thanks, that gets even better if she incorporates this into her conversation with him: "I see these friends as your family."
Anonymous 2: Besides the alcohol, you find them boring? That is a poor excuse to not spend time with them. Marriages are give and take — put in time with his friends and he puts in time with yours. And you keep your opinion to yourself unless it's a major issue (like the alcohol).
Carolyn: I agree with the give-and-take part.
But: Volume counts. Imagine a spouse expected to see non-scintillating in-laws three times a week; "suck it up" is not a fair answer. Spouse has every right to say, "We're spending more time with In-Laws than I'd like" — without fear of guilt-tripping by other spouse.