This post was originally put up on a portion of the site that no longer exists. The content that was on there has been archived for the past few years, but I decided to put it up rather than let it rot for eternity. This is the second of these archived reposts. You can start from the first one here.
Ask a Husband #2: The No Spouse Rule
Originally Posted July 20 2015
“A few months ago, when planning a group event with about 6-7 people one member of the group laid down the “no spouses allowed” rule meaning it was a night for just us friends to get together.
We all agreed although we noted that, at the time, he was one of the only single people in the group. Recently, however, at a similar group event where the rest of us had again followed the “no spouse” rule the same person who had been adamant about this rule for all get togethers brought his significant other along.
How can we speak to our friend about being hypocritical and rude to our significant others without attacking him?
Inviting or excluding significant others is always a touchy subject. It starts when we are teenagers, waiting all day to hang out with our best friend after school, only to be devastated when he brings his new girlfriend along and you spend the whole day uncomfortably trying to play Halo as they dry hump each other two feet from you in your parents basement. It's like f&k you Steve, I wanted to beat The Maw on legendary today, not spend four hours avoiding eye contact with the boner lump in your sweatpants.
Even into adulthood you run into it from time to time. My wife gets invited to weddings without a plus one every once in a while even though we're married presumably because the couple to be is trying to keep head count under control. If we're being honest in this situation, this is fine with me as I have no interest in attending Janet the HR person's wedding so that I can spend three hours at the weird leftovers table with someones socially awkward work friend Peg, the bride's asthmatic cousin Barry with the lazy eye and sweating condition, and a suit jacket that sits by itself on an empty seat all night because whoever was assigned to that spot did the smart thing and got the hell out of there.
I guess what I'm saying is that in all stages of life, sometimes there is going to be friction over when you do or don't bring along significant others.
That being said, this seems like it is much more commonly going to be a dating conundrum than a married person one. Married couples tend to have integrated into each others respective groups of friends, so it becomes less of an issue as opposed to when you are just dating someone, especially if it is a new relationship. Even so, I get the appeal of the no spouse rule on occasion for everyday social situations. Sometimes you just need a night with your friends minus significant others, it's healthy.
Now, it seems in your particular situation we're looking more at boyfriends and girlfriends as opposed to spouses. When you throw significant others into the mix with a group of friends, especially a 'new' significant other where they don't know anyone besides the person they came with it changes the whole dynamic of the group. Sometimes that's fine. In the sage words given to us by the Spice Girls "If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends". If a significant other is going to be around for a while, they've got to become familiar with the group at some point, otherwise you end up with that friend nobody sees anymore because his new girlfriend or boyfriend is dominating all their time. Still, sometimes you just want to go bowling or something with the old gang.
I don't know any of the people involved in this situation, so I can only speak in the most general of terms and operate on some basic assumptions.
The first basic assumption that I am making is that your friend is pretty much a good guy and not a raging self-centered douche scooter. With that assumption in mind, I don't see the request for the no spouse rule at the first gathering as totally out of the blue. As I mentioned, sometimes it's nice to just hang out with the old gang, and really nobody wants to be the only one at Applebee's who can't order the 2 for $20 because he's by himself. Is it maybe a little selfish to institute the no spouse rule if the rest of the group isn't really down for it? Sure, but I can sympathize with being socially uncomfortable as the odd man out. I feel for the guy, so I can't get too bent out of shape over it.
Now the second get-together is maybe a little harder to justify. To play devil's advocate, I guess I can understand after having been the only single guy in the group and now finally having a boyfriend or girlfriend to bring along he was excited to show them off to his group of friends. It's mildly annoying but really I guess it depends on the fit of this new significant other in to the group. If they turn out to be awesome and get along with everyone, no harm no foul for the most part. If they are an insufferable mule that makes everyone want to slam their hands in a car door so they have an excuse to leave early not so great.
As for how you proceed with this friend, I'd like to introduce you to a philosophy by which I try to live my life. A philosophy that I believe keeps me from being an insufferable piece of garbage in many situations where folks tend to take the aforementioned human garbage route. I always ask myself "Is the aggravation of pressing this issue worth the potential reward, versus just letting it go?"
Let me give you a few examples from my own life of the application of this mantra:
I used one of those photo printing kiosks you see in drug stores or Walmart to print up a few pictures that my wife wanted to frame. On one of the pictures, the printer screwed something up and left a black ink smudge across the center of the photo. I could have gone back to the store, shown the incorrectly printed photo to them, asked for a refund and had the pictures redone. Or, I could eat the $2.14, not have to fight with anybody, and just reprint that picture. I did not consider the reward of maybe $2.14 and some sort of pointless moral justice for my screwed up picture worth the inevitably awful interaction I would have had to have with an employee. I just reprinted the picture.
An additional example: Once something malfunctioned with our cable and took out our TV and internet service. I spent an hour on the phone with customer service troubleshooting before it was determined that a technician was going to need to come out and replace hardware. When it was all said and done, by the time they were able to get someone out to us, we were without TV or internet for three days.
I love my wife dearly, but there is no reward too small for her not to go through any amount of headache in the pursuit of justice. She insisted that I call our service provider and demand a refund for the time we were without cable.
To break that scenario down, I would have started this process by spending a minimum of an hour on the phone, most of it likely listening to hold music as I resisted the urge not to bite through my tongue and bleed to death rather than listen to another second of a synthesizer rendition of "I'm sailing away". Once I finally reached someone I would then have to petulantly demand that I be reimbursed for my inconvenience. I would be making this demand to someone who has likely already had this conversation approximately eighty-seven times today and gives exactly zero fucks. After all of that, presuming that I don't walk away empty handed and get I my reimbursement what have I actually won? If I pay $140 bucks a month for cable, I'm paying roughly $4.60 a day which would come out to a whopping $14 reimbursement for the days we were without service. Thanks, but I'll take not ruining my evening for maybe getting fourteen dollars or maybe getting politely told to go fuck myself by Verizon's customer service associate and have the recording of it immortalized for quality assurance purposes.
Now, apply this principle to this trouble with your friend. You may have a different barometer for your hassle/reward ratio than I do, but were I faced with this situation, at least where it came to the two get-togethers already passed, I would just let it go.
At best it goes well and you have a decent conversation with them about it, but still ends up being a whole thing. You can't get away with just texting them "Hey Ur GF can't hang with us anymore LOL!" and be done with it.
At worst they get offended and defensive and everyone gets dragged into a fight about it. A poorly handled no spouses rule violation helped break up The Beatles, don't let it happen to you and your friends too.
In all reality probably the best thing you can do is let what is done be done and take a proactive approach for future outings. Knowing that this friend has a history not quite getting the memo just realize you've got to be extra clear with them on expectations going forward.
If you do find yourself in a situation where this person is the dissenting voice in the group on if significant others should or should not invited along, avoid terms like "hypocritical" or "rude" even if they may be fitting. If you put someone on the defensive, they often shut down and you get nowhere with them.
Demonstrate that you understand their point of view and offer them your alternative. Try to make your points focused around the group as a whole rather than singling this person out as a problem. If you can win them over to the rest of the group's way of thinking without making him feel like you lectured him or hate his partner's stupid face it'll make life a lot easier for everyone.
If the group is looking for a "no spouse night" let him know that you all still like his significant other and would love to plan something soon for everyone, but that tonight other folks have already worked it out with their own significant others and you'd like to keep to the plan this time.
If its the other way around and he's pouting about significant others tagging along, make it clear that there will be plenty of opportunity to have a "just the gang" night, but it's important to welcome the partners of members of the group into the fold as well.
As I said before, this all operates under the assumption that your friend is not a rabid uppity twit and is capable of being reasonable like an actual person. I don't know him, so maybe he is in fact a giant bag of assholes. If that's the case my advice is the group just tells him to jog on.
Good luck, and may all your future outings be trouble free.