Kevin: How to deal with friends

Hi Ron,

My fiancée and I have been having disagreements about spending time with our friends. We both have good friends in town and in nearby cities. 
We both talk about planning
time to spend with our friends, however I seem to be the only one who follows through on those plans. Subsequently, we spend much more time with my friends than hers. I haven't even met 3 of her best friends because she has never made plans with them and we have been together for 7 years!  The problem comes because she gets upset because "we only spend time with your friends and only do what you want to do". I have always enjoyed spending time with her friends and love her friends I have met. She makes me feel guilty about only spending time with my friends, but won’t ever make plans with hers. 
Any suggestions??
Kevin

 

Kevin,

Thanks so much for this great question.  You didn’t provide a name, so I’ll call your fiancée ‘Fia’ to simplify my response.

Friends are important; they provide outlets for fun, learning, networking, validation, clarification and more.  For a guy, well, iron sharpens iron; we need good men in our life for accountability and growth.  I have no issue with you having and maintaining friends.  This is true also for Fia though her ‘friend needs’ will be slightly different from yours.

I wonder if Fia feels something of a third wheel when with your friends, not to mention that it might be guy dominated activities.  You do what you and your friends want to do and maybe she feels left out.  No need to object that you try to get her to suggest something because I suspect this is about her feelings, not about what you suggested.

Since this is a chronic disagreement, and you say, “she makes me feel guilty about only spending time with my friends”, something tells me this is not entirely about friends so let’s evaluate. You say you’ve ‘been together’ for 7 years but you don’t say how long you’ve been engaged?  If that has been a significant period of time, let’s say 3 ½ years, perhaps Fia is thinking about creating a Fia and Kevin life more so than a Fia, Kevin and friends’ life?  Have you explored that possibility

I suggest two tracks to help get to a better place with this:

  1. Ask Fia about her feelings, not about facts, or intentions, and certainly, not about ‘friends’. This is likely NOT about friends. Think of it this way; if your friend Jim said ‘you stink’ after you just played a pickup game, you’d probably agree and the two of you would share a good laugh; you’d be sharing happy feelings. However, if that same friend ignored you by not including you in a big party he threw with his best friends, your feelings might be hurt. You see bad feelings are about the hurt and the emotional pain, not about a party.  Fia’s feelings might be hurt because she wants more of your time, not your friends’ time.
    Here’s a funny video along with some helpful commentary from Dr. Joanne Stephenson which helps to illustrate this point about feelings: “Dr. Joanne on It’s not About the Nail”. To have a successful relationship, we need to be able to negotiate these things called feelings which are more likely (about 90%-10%) to matter more so than the facts.  This means you must ask Fia about her feelings, THEN you must actively listen and care about her response.
     
  2. Alternate, ON PURPOSE, your weekly activities.  To avoid some of these not so meaningful squabbles, you must both take responsibility for your activities.  Alternate weeks; during week 1, Fia gets to choose all of the activities, ranging from a night on the couch watching a movie to a night out at the ball; of course, it’s your turn the following week.  You can choose baseball every night, I suppose.  The point is that you both decide, as I said, on purpose, your activities rather than defaulting to your agenda in the absence of Fia choosing.   =This way she gets to do exactly what she wants to do ½ the time.

Remember Kevin, it’s not likely about the nail (friends) but it is likely about Fia’s needs.  Ask her and then listen, as the video shows.
Please let me know if this helps (or not).  Thanks.

Ron Kaufmann, MA, CO LPC #11336, EMDR Certified Therapist
National Certified Counselor #267299
AASAT Certified Sexual Recovery Therapist