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As a woman who works a full-time job, has been divorced, and dislikes children, I have absolutely nothing in common with these women, and, to be honest, I wouldn’t hang out with any of these women if it weren’t for my boyfriend. And yet, we (together and also me separately) get invited to EVERYTHING. My calendar fills up with dinner parties, birthdays, and baby showers for these people faster than my actual friends can make plans. These women also have a nasty habit of getting extremely butt-hurt if you decline an invitation. I started lying about work responsibilities and other plans to avoid attending their dull engagements, but due to the nature of their husbands to pop by unexpectedly I’ve gotten caught on a few occasions watching Netflix on my couch on a night I claimed to be working. I feel like I have to hide or fake a smile and deal with it.
My boyfriend’s family is another matter altogether: half are overly conservative judgmental types (I get regular lectures about my social media posts and opinions on everything from gay marriage to lack of interest in having children) and the other half are full-blown drug addicts (loud, draining, and in denial). Every holiday has ended in a blow-out. I am exhausted.
My boyfriend is a kind, caring, hardworking individual. He acknowledges the problems I have with his friends and family and even agrees with my complaints (especially where his family is concerned) and yet, if I suggest we skip a dinner or gathering, he gets upset. He claims he doesn’t know what to do because I “hate” his friends and family and he still wants to see them ALL THE TIME. I’ve been trying to just let him go on his own, but then I am bombarded by texts asking where I am. I don’t understand how people who ignore me so much could possibly be so interested in my attendance at their events. I have half a mind to just tell them I don’t like them, but I don’t want to damage my boyfriend’s relationship with his long-time friends (and I definitely don’t want to piss off his screw-loose family members).
Meanwhile, I have an amazing family (whom my boyfriend loves) and really cool and interesting friends. However, when we spend time with them, we are met with guilt trips. My boyfriend’s mom complains when we leave her house to go visit my family on holidays and, if we tell his friends we have made plans with my friends, they sulk and try to convince us to change our plans. My boyfriend does not stick up for us and instead just ignores their remarks and complaints. I was unaware this would even be a problem as an adult. I am not sure what to do anymore. Any advice would be appreciated. — Over His Friends and Family
While I do empathize with your situation, the thing that stuck out to me the most while reading your letter was your judgmental tone/language and your martyrdom attitude. You act like something is wrong with the wives of your boyfriend’s friends that they discuss their kids so much. Okay, maybe it’s ad nauseum, and, yes, I can see how that would be incredibly dull for you, especially since you don’t have or even like kids. But just because YOU aren’t interested in the topics they’re discussing, doesn’t mean the topics of parenthood challenges and child-rearing aren’t interesting to the people who are, in fact, parents. What you consider “droning on” may just be what other people consider “conversing.”
Furthermore, it’s ironic that you call your boyfriend’s family judgmental when you literally seem to extend nothing but judgment toward them (or, at least, that’s what you’ve expressed in your letter). They’re “overly conservative” or they’re “loud, draining, full-blown drug addicts.” Where’s the empathy? Where’s the effort to find anything good about them or to understand a viewpoint that differs from your own? Look, I’m about as liberal as they come and yet I manage to get along great with conservative family members. I manage to express my opinions without alienating people I care about whose opinions differ from my own (well, most of the time). I’m able to listen to opposing viewpoints with compassion (usually), and, when the opinions begin to upset me, I am able to disengage and turn the conversation to something less polarizing. I, and many others who live in this world with people who hold completely different views, are able to do these things because we understand that it’s kind of a necessity if we have any chance of not walking around being bitter and angry and frustrated with, like, half the people we interact with on a regular basis.
You know what else is a necessity for not being bitter, angry, and frustrated with people you have to interact with on a regular (or even irregular basis)? Not caring so much what they think, and not taking everything they say personally, and not looking for things to be upset about. So your boyfriend’s family gives you a guilt trip any time you want to spend some of a holiday with your family? SO WHAT. That’s what family does! At least, some families. Your boyfriend’s family, apparently. It’s how they show you guys that you are loved and that they enjoy your company and that they will miss you when you leave. Yeah, I can see how it’s annoying, but instead of viewing their comments as “guilt trips,” or even complaints, try to see their comments as their unique expressions of love. It may not be how YOU or your family would express love, but it doesn’t make it less sincere.
So, here’s some concrete advice for you: if hanging out with your boyfriend’s friends is so unpleasant, stop doing it so much. Continue making up white lies about why you have to turn down certain invitations. If you get caught in a lie, just say your plans changed. Who cares if these wives stop liking you? Maybe then you won’t get invited to so many things and you can’t stop lying about why you aren’t available. And when all the couples are together and the group starts dividing by gender, break the divide. Go hang out with the men who are doing “guy things.” You can do guy things, too! What’s going to happen? You think they’re going to tell you to go play with the wives? No. You think the wives are going to side-eye you? WHO CARES!
I have another idea: start hosting and/or organizing events (dinner parties, float trips, ball games, picnics, BBQs, whatever) where you invite sets of people from both your and your boyfriend’s friend groups. See what happens when you blend your “really cool and interesting friends” with your boyfriend’s more traditional (or, as you might say, “boring”) buddies. Don’t always invite the same people. Mix it up. See if you can find a good group dynamic. See if some of your friends can bring out the personality of your boyfriend’s friends. Maybe they can even help you see some of the value in these people you have so far turned your up nose at.
What if you hosted a cookie exchange over the holidays and these homemaker women you have nothing in common with introduced you and your friends to some amazing recipes you never would have tried on your own? What if you let them see you in more of your element, surrounded by people you actually really like instead of just tolerate? What if you had the reinforcement of your cool friends to help drive the conversation and keep it veered away from constant kid-related chatter and on to topics more appealing to you? How would that change things? It’s worth a shot. If you love your boyfriend and you see a future with him and the major issue in your relationship is your relationship with the other people in his life, it is worth it to make an effort to bridge the gap.
One more thing: You say you get regular lectures from your boyfriend’s family about the things you share on social media, from your feelings on gay marriage to your lack of interest in having kids. My advice: either stop sharing these personal feelings on a public platform, or block the offending parties from reading your status updates. Also, I guess I don’t know why you need to broadcast that you aren’t interested in having kids (if you do broadcast that). If you are regularly making disparaging comments about children or about parenthood or about how your choice to remain child-free is better than other people’s choice to have kids, I could understand why that might rub people the wrong way.
Basically, what I’m saying in this long response is: Check yourself before you wreck yourself. Or, more accurately: before you wreck your relationship.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at email@example.com.