Every Thursday on Twitter @jdesmondharris, Dear Prudence asks readers for their thoughts on a question that has her stumped. She’ll post her final thoughts on the matter on Fridays. Here’s this week’s dilemma and answer:
What’s the etiquette when you don’t like your friend’s husband? I have a good group of girlfriends from college, and I love all their partners … minus one. He hasn’t done anything, I just don’t enjoy his company. When he’s in a bad mood, he pouts and snipes at my friend. When he’s in a good mood, he tells long, boring stories. One way or another, he wants to be the center of attention (he’s the guy who has a great voice, and so always wants to do karaoke when we’re hanging out). Our friend knows that we don’t like it when he makes a big production of sulking. But there’s also not a ton she can do about that, and he insists on coming even when he knows he’ll be a killjoy.
So far, our strategy has been to do more and more “girls’ nights,” but that sucks because I miss the rest of the other halves. One of their partners is also nonbinary femme, so it feels weird to divide the group along gender lines—but since half of our husbands (mine included) were also in our friend group in college, saying we were doing “college friends only” would mostly just be excluding the guy we don’t like and catching another partner in the crossfire. Any tips? Should I talk to my friend again? Should we try to manage his behavior better?
— Keep Him Home
Dear Keep Him Home,
I really feel for you. When a friend has a partner who’s hard to be around, it can really zap a lot of fun out of your life and ruin good times in a way that feels unfair. You didn’t sign up for this! I’ve been there. So, when I read your letter and thought about what I would do in your situation, the best thing I came up with was “just deal with it and complain a lot.” Fair warning: That might be where we end up. But when I asked readers for help with your dilemma, they said some things that I think might be really helpful when it comes to feeling better about the situation.
First of all, you say your friend’s husband hasn’t done anything. But as @piratepinup pointed out, he actually has done things!: “OP says he hasn’t done anything and lists a litany of things he has done so…..do some things with that couple and some things without.” He’s pouted, sniped at your friend, and made a big production of sulking. Repeatedly. You’re allowed to dislike that.
Despite all this, some people said it’s your obligation as a friend to suck it up and deal with this guy:
I don’t know if I totally agree that it’s the least you can do. But I like the idea of framing the choice to put up with him as a gesture of care and compassion for your friend. I’m guessing her husband is probably not a lot of fun to be in a relationship with. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s someone who frequently gives her the silent treatment and leaves her pretty miserable. So, can you reframe putting up with him as a way of supporting her by not leaving her isolated with him? By making sure she has other, more emotionally mature, healthier people in her life—people who treat her fairly and with respect?
Readers had a couple of great ideas to make this not miserable for you.
One thought: Get spiritual about it. Practice acceptance. Meditate!
“Managing” another adult’s behavior, especially someone you’re not close to is usually a futile effort. Focus instead on your own peace of mind. Speak up when specific behaviors impact you negatively. Meditate before and after group outings. And let go of what you can’t control. —@CleverWhatever
I love that. I do. But, let’s be honest. Not many of us are going around meditating and letting go of what we can’t control. If that kind of response came easily to you, you probably wouldn’t have written this letter.
So how about another approach: Have a sense of humor about what you have to deal with. I’m a big fan of enduring challenging social situations by taking mental notes to talk (and rant, and hopefully laugh) about with friends later.
I feel like invariably in large friend groups there will be friends of friends and partners that aren’t well liked and you can just not invite them as much or (my method) at the end of the day just tolerate them and mine it for gossip with other friends later. —@allenfee
Finally, you can make a pact with the other members of the group to simply refuse to give this guy a lot of energy.
There are ways of defusing the ability of someone like this to affect the group’s enjoyment. For example, an agreement that his antics will be ignored & group activities/conversation will proceed as if he isn’t there. —@mnitabach
I think this is a great idea, if only because feeling that you’re all in it together and have a plan of action will make this all more bearable. And maybe, just maybe you’ll teach him that what he’s doing doesn’t get the reaction he craves.
So like I warned, my advice ended up being something like “just deal with it and complain a lot.” But I hope one of these tips can help you do that in a way that doesn’t require changing the way you socialize and doesn’t allow your friend’s poor husband-picking skills to destroy your ability to have a good time.
My husband and I were able to both take early retirement and build our dream home on several heavily wooded acres with a pool in the back. It has been a godsend and given a certain spice to our marriage. Some wine, music, and skinny-dipping in our pool is one of our favorite activities—or it was. Recently, our neighbor knocked on our door to scold us for being naked around her children!