What seems to be our issue is how much time he wants to spend with them. If I don’t say anything, he’d have them over 4-5 times a week. He is in school full time and I work close to full-time, so we barely see each other as it is — and then he wants to have friends over almost every chance he gets. He doesn’t seem to understand that he’s not a bachelor anymore and can’t just have friends dropping by whenever they feel like it.
I’ve tried to find a compromise but it just isn’t happening. Conveniently, he happens to forget that we live two hours from any of my friends or family and that none of his friends have girlfriends, so it’s like I am stuck in “poker night” hell every time they are over. It doesn’t help we live in a small city where the buses stop at 7 p.m. and we don’t have a car right now and everything I would like to go do by myself is too far to walk to.
Perhaps it’s me. Am I wrong to want to have my evenings alone with my husband? I have tried to discuss this with him several times, but, every time I make a suggestion about what would work for both of us in regards to his friends coming over, he accuses me of “power tripping” and trying to manipulate him, and then he refuses to talk about it and hours go by with us ignoring each other.
I am not trying to cut him off from his friends, but I would like him to grow up a little and realize I am his first priority, not his friends. I am at my wits end. PLEASE HELP! — In Competition for Husband’s Time
I hope that unlike yesterday’s LW, you aren’t just writing for validation for your feelings and how wrong your husband is and how there isn’t anything in your power you could possibly do to help your situation. Because that’s not true. I have some practical advice for you and I hope you listen to it with an open mind and an open heart and you loosen your clutch on the excuses you’ve listed and see how you really can actively make a difference in your marriage and in your life.
All through your letter you describe how you would like your husband to change his behavior while simultaneously explaining why you can’t change yours (you live too far from your friends, you’re “terrified” of meeting new people, you’re not a social butterfly, you work almost full-time, you live in a small city where public transportation is limited and you don’t have a car, everything you want to do is too far to walk to). Enough with the excuses! It’s understandable that you want to spend time with your husband, but part of that desire is based on your simply being lonely and bored and not having anyone else to hang out with or anything else to do. I would imagine that your neediness can feel suffocating, especially for someone who is, as you say, a social butterfly who enjoys being around more than just one person.
You — your marriage and you personally — would GREATLY benefit from having some other outlets in your life besides just your husband. You’d have some of your needs for companionship and entertainment met elsewhere while at the same time impressing your husband with expressing a little bit of independence and loosening your grip on him. In your situation, compromise is much more than your husband saying he wants to be with his friends five nights a week and you wanting him home every night of the week and the two of your settling on his seeing his friends three or four nights. In this situation, compromise is telling your husband you’d like him to show more effort and interest in spending time with you while you, in return, show more effort and interest in making some local friends and finding activities to keep yourself busy outside of just work and your marriage. I can imagine that, if you told your husband that you’d find something (besides him!) to occupy your time 1-2 nights a week if he would agree to spending an additional 1-2 nights a week with you, he’d go for it. And not only would your marriage improve, but your well-being and happiness would likely increase, too.
So… what can you do to occupy yourself 1-2 nights a week when you don’t have friends and you don’t have a car and the buses stop running at 7 and everything you might want to do is too far to walk to? Well, do you have bike? Can you get one? Depending on where you live, a bike is a fun, easy way to get around at least eight months of the year. Even at night, you can stick a light on the bike and get a reflective jacket or vest to help keep you safe on the roads. You say you work “almost full-time,” but, if you don’t have children and you don’t have friends and your husband works full-time and goes to school and has an active social life, what’s keeping you from working more? You could look into getting a part-time job that would help fill your hours, maybe introduce you to new people, AND give you some extra money that you could use to buy a (maybe used) car to get you around at night. You could look for a job some place fun where you might meet like-minded people. Depending on what your interests are, consider dog-walking or working in a pet day care, or a book store, or a clothing boutique. (Or, hey, maybe a volunteer position is more up your alley; lots of organizations could use an extra pair of hands!).
Don’t feel like working? Fine. What if you started an interest group that met at your home (or looked for one that met near yours)? Like, if you’re Christian, you could start a Bible study group on Meetup.com (or through your church if you have one). Or, you could start a book club that meets at your place once a month or at a coffee shop near your home.
Also, what are you and your husband doing when you spend evenings together? Are you just sitting around looking at each other or are you doing something fun? You’re still relatively new to your area. Are the two of you exploring together? Are you actively seeking friends together as a couple or are you just relying on your husband to make friends and hoping some of them have wives or girlfriends? Making an effort to get out with your husband and actually socializing with him despite “being terrified” of meeting new people could go a long way in creating a stronger bond with your husband and impressing him with your willingness to branch out. And if you are so terrified of meeting people that it’s stopping you from leaving your house or forming friendships, you might consider seeing a therapist to address potential social anxiety.
I agree with you that spending 4-5 nights with friends instead of your spouse especially when you’re newly married sounds like a lot, but for some couples whose needs are evenly matched that wouldn’t be an issue. It’s an issue for you because you and your husband have different social needs and desires. So, it’s on both of you to compromise and to make an effort for each other — on him to spend more time with you and on you to back off a little and find other people and activities to fill some of your time. Good luck.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.