#999: “Where’s [Spouse]? Is he avoiding us?”

Hello Captain Awkward,

I have an ongoing issue that I hope you can help me with, perhaps in the form of a script. I have been married for 24 years. Our marriage is far from perfect but we have worked out some of the major kinks. So here is the issue.

My husband is an introvert, I am an extreme extrovert. We are both ok with that. He doesn’t mind if I socialize and I do not care if he takes a pass on 99% of the invitations sent our way. He is fine with family events and hanging with a few close friends. All good. The problem is the rest of the world. We get invited to a lot of events that the majority of the guests are couples. Neighborhood parties, extended family stuff, work events etc. Again, my husband hates, I really enjoy. People are ok if I attend one or two events solo, but begin to get awkward and insulted beyond that. There are just so many “Husband is sick” “Husband is working on a project” excuses I can make before it becomes obvious that he is just not going to be showing up.

I have no idea what the right approach is to this is. Do I just say to everyone ” Hey husband hates parties and hanging out and makes it a misery for me til we finally just leave early”. I have started to just not attend things myself which makes me sad and resentful.

Any thoughts on how to make this less awkward?

Thanks!

Somebody at the party will probably always ask you that question because curiosity is human and they think enquiring after a person’s spouse is a routine & polite thing to do. You can’t change their behavior, but you can try to approach your replies with more “IDGAF” and see if they get better at taking cues from you.

The biggest recommendation I have is: DON’T LIE ANYMORE. You may think you need to tell white lies to spare the host’s feelings, but that’s part of why you feel resentful about the whole thing. You don’t actually owe the hosts any explanations, and being forced to lie is uncomfortable, so, let it go and tell the truth. He’s not sick, he’s not at work, he’s just not here.

Scripts, which nearly all come with “+ [a subject change]!” after them:

  • Oh, he’s at home.”
  • “He’s doing something else today.” 
  • “He’s not a party person, but I am!” 
  • “Oh, I like to come by myself, and he likes the quiet time at home. Everyone wins this way!” 
  • “We have a mixed Introvert-Extrovert marriage, so, you’re stuck with me for the rest of time.” 
  • “Oh, I can almost never never drag him out of the house for parties! He really loves his solo time, and I love being here with all of you.”

You say people are getting insulted, like, they might feel like your husband doesn’t really like them. That’s awkward, but at the end of the day, so what? It’s not your job to be his neighborhood friendliness ambassador. He’s not hurting anybody.

Your marriage is just fine, and their opinion of it doesn’t matter, so the worst thing I can come up with is that if they are obsessed with even numbers and couples, some people might stop inviting you to things. That would sting, but it’s not something you can actually control. Or, they might awkwardly ask, wait, doesn’t he like us? And you can say “I don’t know, he’s certainly never mentioned anything about that to me. After 24 years I do know that even when it’s his very best friends or family, big gatherings aren’t his cup of tea. It’s not personal, and it’s never gonna change! Good news, though, you’re never getting rid of me, ’cause I love it here.”

I’m gonna end with a compromise suggestion specifically for neighborhood gatherings, specifically for things that are walking distance and don’t require dressing up. Once a month or so, could your husband wander over and say a 10-minute hello to the hosts as a favor to you? Would it, like, crush his fragile spirit to drop in and say “Hey, bud, looks like a great gathering! My wife’s been looking forward to it all week! You know I’m not a party person but I wanted to stop by and say hello for a minute.” Then, he can leave whenever he wants to and you can stay all you want.

He certainly doesn’t have to do this (invitations are not commands, the neighbors are not owed 2 guests just because they invited 2 guests), but one thing I see is you doing a bunch of emotional labor around this and him doing zero. I used to think I hated “small talk” and only wanted to connect over deep truths but it turns out SMALL TALK IS AWESOME IT GREASES THE WHEELS OF THE SOCIAL CONTRACT AND ANYONE CAN DO IT FOR A FEW MINUTES, YOU WON’T DIE OF A BRIEF EXCHANGE ABOUT LAWN CARE OR THE WEATHER INSTEAD OF YOUR INNERMOST THOUGHTS.(See also: IT’S OKAY TO BE A LITTLE BIT BORED/BORING AS LONG AS YOU ARE KIND).

Your social life and relationships with the neighbors are important to you, so if him going for a few minutes would make you feel less awkward and smooth your way, I think that’s an okay thing to ask him to try out this summer.

 

Closing comments as of 7/23.

 

259 comments
  1. karifur said:

    I too am in a mixed introvert/extrovert marriage (I’m the extrovert). Most people know this about my husband already and don’t ask, but if they do, I usually say something like “My husband is an introvert and he’s all peopled out right now, so he stayed home to recharge.” Most people seem to understand how that works and don’t take it personally. We’ve been together for 20 years and so far no one has doubted his existence or attempted to make either of us feel guilty about his absence.

    • JenniferP said:

      Great script!

      • ashbet said:

        I had people joking that my (now-ex) husband really *didn’t* exist, because I’m a social extrovert who loves to go out, and he was a grumpy homebody.

        (Not all homebodies are grumpy — this one was.)

        I just smiled and said “Yep, he’s completely fictitious!”, and carried on with the social stuff that recharged my batteries.

        I deliberately tried not to take on a ton of emotional labor about it, because that made me enjoy myself less. Thankfully, most people were willing to let it go.

        • McStabbity said:

          As the homebody spouse, I would enjoy the heck out of this. Eventually I would show up and meet people; I’d get to introduce myself laughingly as Ashbet’s Fictitious Spouse, and we could all treat it as a private running joke that I was fictitious.

          So many things are not actually a thing as long as you treat them as not actually a thing.

          • Turtle Candle said:

            My college best friend’s boyfriend had a girlfriend (they were poly) who was very busy and almost never could come to things, and it actually worked quite well that the running joke was that she was Rayne the Invisible. No pressure on him or her, and we all felt fondly toward Rayne the Invisible even in absentia.

        • Chameleon said:

          One time my husband came to a party and several of my friends teased me later saying I must have hired an actor to play the role of my fictitious husband. Every party since then, the question “where’s your actor?” comes up at least once.

        • Some of my partner’s friends still occasionally joke about me being a figment of their imagination, because my introvertedness + schedule = I didn’t meet them for like a year after he’d started hanging out with them.

          Also, “peopled out” is a gem of a phrase that I use all the time. I bet the LW would get a lot more mileage out of it than they’re expecting.

    • Jynnan_Tonnyx said:

      I’m an extrovert, my spouse is an extreme introvert, and this is pretty much word for word what I tell people under these sorts of circumstances. With people who know him better, I might make a joke about him being a hermit, or telling them that if they want to see him, then they have to come to us. He’s the ultimate homebody. But we trust each other, I never tell white lies about why he’s not present, and it works beautifully for us.

    • Dana said:

      So much this.

    • As an introvert in an introvert/extrovert marriage of 20 years, I enjoy being asked, but I bow out far more often than not. When I do go out, I find knitting, pets, and small children to be my go-to diversions for calming myself from being over-stimulated. With two vehicles or short distance, the “Hi, glad to see you…. hang out for a little…. had a great time but all peopled out” is a great idea.

  2. I have something similar going on in my marriage, although our trouble is more that my wife is badly depressed and has been for some time. She’s more social when she’s NOT depressed, but right now her anxiety is so bad that she just has no ability to cope with it. I don’t want to be too specific about what’s going on for her privacy, so I tend to say things like, “No, she’s not likely to come to things. She’s just not very sociable right now” or “She’s interested in coming someday (to a regularly-occurring thing), but right now she can’t” or “You might meet her someday, but then again, maybe not.” If somebody gets really nosy, I might go as far as “She has some health issues” in a repressive tone. (This is all for people I know socially who don’t know her. Our actual friends all know the score, and generally don’t expect her to be anywhere at all, but will say things like, “Well, tell her we miss her and we hope she feels up to something soon.”)

    • TootsNYC said:

      “in a repressive tone”

      Like!

      This is a tool–we should all use it.

  3. jm said:

    There is a guy in my college friend group who married an extreme introvert. After a few outings where we saw him solo, he was honest that she didn’t like big group things and we all took it fine. most of us were on the introverted side anyway. Having all known eachother for a while, we felt very comfortable with eachother so it wasn’t as stressful for us at weddings and parties, but I totally get that it was for her and had no problem with it.

  4. Slow Gin Lizz said:

    You’ve probably already thought of this, LW, but could you guys go to these events separately? That way, he won’t feel trapped and you won’t feel pressured to leave before you want to. If he doesn’t want to attend these events *at all* then this wouldn’t work but maybe if he knows he can leave when he’s ready to go he might be more willing to show up for awhile.

    But I can totally understand where he is coming from, because part of my anxiety about large social gatherings is trying to figure out how to leave when I’m feeling overwhelmed such that it’s often easier to just not go in the first place.

    • I totally agree with attending separately and want to add that it’s completely okay to stay for just a little while. I think a lot of people get the idea that if you come to an event at all then you have to stay for Long Enough or people will think you didn’t like them or their party, and oh god the pressure.
      I’m pretty social for an introvert even I have a much, much easier time with events where I know it won’t be weird if I show up for one drink and then bail. It’s not unusual for me to stay a lot longer than I expected, but I have to know it’s okay to leave in order to be comfortable enough to stay.

    • theluidaeg said:

      I have a couple of extroverted friends who have introverted spouses who do this very thing, and it has generally worked well for them.

  5. Turtle Candle said:

    Captain, I know you meant it in a tongue in cheek way, but as a socially anxious introvert, the phrasing “would it crush his fragile spirit” made me recoil. I know you wouldn’t use this phrasing about, say, depression or neuro-atypicality, and it honestly shocked me to see you say it about introversion. It’s very unlike you. Please reconsider what thought process led you to that dismissive-to-the-point-of-mockery phrase.

    The advice itself, including that compromise may be possible, I agree with.

    • Kat Siddle said:

      I disagree — I’m also a socially anxious introvert and sometimes my spirit is fragile and easily crushed! I appreciate the Captain’s vivid language, and I didn’t read it as dismissive or mocking.

      • Turtle Candle said:

        Well, that’s fair. But I’m having trouble imagining the Captain saying “would it crush his fragile spirit” about a depressed or autistic or physically disabled person when encouraging them to move outside their comfort zone. And as he so often suggests, I was expressing my upset directly by Using My Words.

        If she would/has said that about e.g. depression, I stand corrected.

        • Turtle Candle said:

          As she so often suggests. Autocorrect.

        • JenniferP said:

          Hi.

          I’m sorry my words hurt your feelings. I really value your comments here, a lot. I did mean it as a self-deprecating joke or the way spouses can make fun of each other a little about quirks. I am an introvert and that’s how I might make fun of my “ugh, people, can’t” mood, like, ugh, a party, why are you breaking my spirit? I ❤ HYPERBOLE FOREVER

          Introversion is not an illness or disorder unto itself. It is not like depression, or autism. Introverts, absent covalent conditions that are actual illnesses, CAN "people" just fine (express emotions, make small talk, work in people-centered jobs), they just need a certain amount of alone time to recharge. Extroverts CAN enjoy long periods of solitude and quiet reflection, they just will eventually be happier and energized if they have some interaction. It's not about what you can and can't do, it's about what you'd prefer to do, or what makes you function at your very best vs. drains you. Social anxiety is another kettle of fish. Maybe the husband has that going on, too, but we don't diagnose stuff here and the LW didn't present it like it was a scary, upsetting problem for them.

          One possible answer to "Would it break his fragile spirit" is "Yes, yes it would." In which case, abort.

          I'm not deleting it at this point (partly because it's being discussed) but I will be more mindful in the future.

          • Turtle Candle said:

            Thank you for your considered and considerate response; I deeply appreciate it.

            Part of the reason I used autism as an example, actually, is that many, many neuro-atypical people consider autism to be not a “disease or disorder” but another, equally valid way of being. In that sense, I think that introversion and neuro-atypicality are very similar.

            I spoke because I, like a lot of introverts (with or without anxiety), have had similar comments weaponized against me–“can you go to this, are you just too much of a delicate flower?” “are you coming to the party or are you just too fucking crazy to manage it?” I realize that not everyone has that background, which is why I mentioned it (and I tried to do it as calmly and non-accusatorily and use-your-words-y as I could; I do hope that came across, and I am sorry if it didn’t.)

            I think in a lot of ways this is like, well, like at one point when I was severely depressed and having difficulty getting out of bed, my partner said, “So, can we go to the grocery store or are you going to be a slug today?” He meant it, and I took it, as you say–as a genuinely loving joke between people who understand each other deeply. I took no offense and understood precisely what he meant; it just would have looked terrible outside of that context. So, I do totally get that.

            Anyway, thank you; as I said, I appreciate your response a great deal.

          • JenniferP said:

            You were as considered as you usually are and my first thought was, oh crap, I don’t want to make introverts feel sad, they are the best and also like 95% of my readers!

            Thanks for the reminder that you can say stuff with love but other people can just hear the words and not the love. Intent continues being Not Magic. ❤

          • Turtle Candle said:

            ♥ Thanks, Captain.

          • sophylou said:

            “Extroverts CAN enjoy long periods of solitude and quiet reflection, they just will eventually be happier and energized if they have some interaction.”

            As an extrovert who also reallyreallyreally needs alone time to recharge, I totally want to hug you for this, Captain. Thank you.

          • B2 said:

            Thx – that line struck me a little off too but I guessed it was meant teasingly rather than condescendingly. I think it was the context of LW asking “should I just tell them husband will be a drag until I am forced to leave early” that influenced the tone. That would be a pretty mean thing to tell other people about your partner! And even if LW knew it’s not the right thing to say, it seems to be how they’re viewing the situation. As the introvert of an introvert/extrovert pair I’m grateful my husband doesn’t pressure me hard or think unkindly of me for essentially being who I am. (But yes I do pop over to neighborhood stuff and attempt a little chatter – I just try to have my own escape route because husband always wants to stay waaaaaaay longer than I do)

          • SophieK said:

            Actually, no,.

            It’s not a disorder. There’s nothing wrong with introverts, but our brains do work differently. The difference in that we are already topped out on serotonin and thus happy staring at an ant dragging a leaf across the sidewalk. Overstimulation, generally in the form of people, overloads our serotonin receptors which causes a domino effect of stress hormones which *are* harmful to our brains and bodies.

            Extroverts, on the other hand, are low on serotonin. They are literally looking for a “fix.” Sooooo….they need to get their fix from other extroverts. Not from me or other intros.

          • cavyherd said:

            SophieK: Huh. Do tell! I’m (way) behind on my science reading; I hadn’t realized they’d found a neurochemical connection.

            Cool! Explains some things about my brain. (I’m an extrovert. Except when I’m an introvert.)

          • Saturngrl said:

            I think I was a but surprised by the phrase, but decided it was in reaction to the description of how miserable Husband makes *LW* when he does attend. Which, I totally can sympathize with his discomfort, but I have the grumpy partner and it sucks to have to do all the emotional work around their overwhelm. Maybe my own frustrations with a fragile-ego husband who just makes helpless-hands and turns into a raging asshole in response to overwhelm made me more open to that particular descriptive term.

          • On comparing autism to introversion because many people on the spectrum consider it different and equally valid … This is true, and important. It’s also worth being aware, though, that if that position is applied equally to everybody on the spectrum, it can become an overly sweeping generalization. Some people find their autism frustrating; others have impairments that go well beyond ‘different’ in terms of limiting their independence and quality of life. We just seldom hear from the latter, because impairments that major tend to involve language impairment; you can’t make socio-political arguments if you can’t talk. The spectrum is an extremely broad thing.

            So yeah, for some people autism is a valid identity that creates as many benefits as problems, and those people are often cool and interesting, and I hope that when my son grows up that’s how he’ll feel about his own autism. (I can’t overstate how much I hope that!) But at the moment it’s far from certain, and if it turns out to be more of a problem than an identity for him, he and other people like him are going to need the world to recognise that this experience of autism is as valid and real as that of someone better able to put their case across in confident and coherent language. Not least because he’d need social and financial support, and people don’t lean on governments to provide those if they don’t see them as necessary.

            So while I certainly don’t want to disparage the experience of the people who feel comfortable with the different-not-disabled line – like I say, that’s what I want life to be for my son – comparisons like that make me edgy, because they have a tendency to leave people whose autism is most impairing out of the picture. Autism is very complicated and very diverse and doesn’t lend itself to simple analogies.

            Not trying to have a go at Turtle Candle, nor introverts in general – nor, indeed, autistic people who feel it’s an apt comparison (because I certainly don’t get to speak for them). Just trying to present another facet of a many-sided thing.

        • I feel, though, that an illness/disorder/other diagnosable condition is something that sometimes makes a person legitimately unable to do the thing they would like to be doing (hence why it’s a disorder–it’s disruptive to the life they wish to lead). Introversion is not the same. It’s just a personality trait. I am an introvert. I don’t like many social occasions. That doesn’t mean I can’t occasionally move myself to stop by them at least briefly, especially if I know it’s important to my SO. I think that’s all the Captain was suggesting here: Compromise is probably possible, and, absent any actual disorders (social anxiety, etc.), it won’t actually hurt him to throw LW a bone twice a year or something and pop in for ten minutes to say hi.

          • Turtle Candle said:

            It wasn’t the possibility of compromise being possible that I objected to–in fact, I posted downthread with a number of ways that my partner and I compromise on this. It was specifically the “crush his fragile spirit” phrasing. (I’m not going to reiterate it because I am quite happy with the discussion I had with the Captain on why I find that phrasing deeply problematic, but I wanted to emphasize that I am not saying “Never compromise!!!!!111eleventy” I’m saying “this kind of comment can be hurtful, especially if there’s a history of pressuring someone to do something.”)

    • I appreciate your saying something to the Captain. I, too, recoiled a bit when I saw her phrasing and having seen the explanation, I get how she meant it in a joking way, but I most certainly did not take it that way without context. Of course, this could have to do with disliking teasing and it being weaponized at me when I was a child. It can still really get my hackles up, and I personally prefer that people don’t tease me unless they know me well. So again, thank you, I appreciate it.

  6. Andie said:

    I’m a fan of “He had some stuff he needed to do at home.”

    (that ‘stuff’ might be watching tv and actively not being around people, but)

    I do think that the Captain’s advice regarding making a brief appearance at local events is good advice. Coming up with reasons is taxing, and shouldn’t be entirely on LW’s shoulders.

    • Slow Gin Lizz said:

      Agreed. This falls under the same kind of advice Captain gives when folks write in about how to deal with overbearing friends and relatives. “Sorry, can’t talk right now, have to do Things.” Even if Things = washing your hair, organizing your sock drawer, whatever.

    • Dana said:

      Based on my experience, I have to disagree. I have come up with a two-sentence explanation for why husband will not be present, and it’s accepted. After one or two uses in a given group, people quit asking and quit worrying.

      I do have to say that I have taken some good natured ribbing, mostly among work colleagues, about the possibility that my husband does not exist! He did come to a work-related event that was aimed at our kids (he always steps up if it’s something about our kids), and people I work with were obviously fascinated to see him in person. They didn’t mob him or anything, but I’ve been at my job for nearly a decade and this was the first time they had seen him in person. It was pretty funny. Luckily he has a good sense of humor. He’s just an extreme introvert who hates social events with anyone that isn’t immediate family. I am going to a family reunion of my father’s side this fall without him, by the way.

      I quite being upset about this 15 years ago or so. For my own sanity. It’s worked out fine.

      • Turtle Candle said:

        I have actually found that sometimes embracing the joke can help! (Not always, and maybe not for you, but sometimes.) One of my coworkers is very reticent and doesn’t like to hang out after work, which is fine. At one point, when the team was planning a (totally optional) dinner get-together, we asked him if he wanted to come, and he deadpanned, “Oh, I can’t. It would interfere with my being the office Man of Mystery,” which cracked us all up.

        Anyway, it turned into a(n affectionate) running joke, to the extent that during a Secret Santa joke gift exchange he was given a Man of Mystery kit including a pair of Cool Mystery Shades and a toy Aston-Martin.

        It doesn’t always work, and obviously it only is acceptable if the person in question is cool with the joke (this coworker thought it was hilarious, or we wouldn’t have done it), but in the right circumstances “oh yeah, my invisible husband” or “my Girlfriend Who Lives In Canada” or “my partner, the Man of Mystery” can defuse the weirdness quite nicely.

        • Amphelise said:

          I once (ONCE ONLY) managed to get my wife to a meet-up with a particular social group, and proceeded to introduce her with variations of “This is the MYTHICAL MRS AMPHELISE – see she does exist!”

    • Saturngrl said:

      But my impression is that the LW has been using this sort of half-truth and it’s getting old. And it does wear thin over time, becoming a clear Excuse if you use it a lot with the same people (and even in your own soul, if it always feels awkward). I think this is a great situation for something closer to truth (nope, he isn’t here, but it’s not personal or something you need to worry about on my behalf, it’s just how we roll in this partnership).

  7. Another extrovert married to an introvert here — LW, your patterns sound very much like ours. And I am happy to report that I cheerfully accept invitations solo all the time and no one ever gives me flack about it. It helps (?!) that we have a toddler, so either an event is something to which I can take her along, in which case it’s understandable that I’m giving him a nice break by doing so; or it’s not, in which case it’s understandable that he would “need” to stay home and do kid care. Tag-teaming works beautifully both ways. And in either case, “He’s taking care of some stuff at home” is 100% true even if the “stuff” is “his own idea of how to spend a pleasant evening”.

  8. BotBot said:

    I guess everyone is different but I am totally open about my SO’s introversion. It’s nothing to be ashamed of and most of my friends can be understanding. Even better, some of my friends have also openly said that they are too (sometimes surprising ones!) so then I go out of my way to connect him to those people so they can sit in a corner having a one on one convo instead of needing to party with the whole group, which seems less overwhelming for him sometimes.

    • That’s so nice of you! I would be so touched if an extrovert friend went out of their way to introduce me to other introverts.

  9. Tree By Leaf said:

    I have the same situation. What’s worked out well is some variant of “Partner likes you just fine! But s/he has a smaller ‘socialization tank’ than most people, and has to save what little energy s/he has for me, his siblings etc. S/he likes you more than most people actually, but you’re still ‘people’ and that’s harder on him/her than it is on most others. Best not to expect him/her to take you up on any invitations, but I’m always happy to go solo!”.

    Past that point, people are going to have feelings but most of them will eventually take their cues from you if you act like it’s not all that big of a thing. I’ve found a lot of people tend to have some sort of feelings along the lines of ‘Her partner never goes anywhere with her?! Are they having problems? Either they’re having problems or their partner doesn’t like me. Maybe their partner is just really unsupportive or neglecting her? Do I need to be sensitive to that?”, and are actually relieved when you give them another plausible explanation that means they don’t need to worry about you/what they may have done to piss someone else off.

    • Saturngrl said:

      Yes, this! The advantage of giving the truth in a no-nonsense way is that it helps reassure people who worry that all those evenings with “something else he has to do” is an indicator that they should be worried for you.

  10. I also have a mixed marriage, as do many of our friends—I wouldn’t have thought it was so common, given the challenges, but once we started explaining we found many of our favorite couples were introvert/extrovert pairings. “He’s not people-ing tonight” works just fine for most anyone we’d want to socialize with.

    For people who really don’t get it, there’s always “We’re actually the same person, so it takes a lot of energy to project both images simultaneously.”

    • LOL! Love this!!

    • GinnyQ said:

      I’ll have to remember that one for the future. That’s hilarious!

  11. On the (occasional) host side, it’s reassuring to know that it’s not specifically that someone would literally rather wax the poodle than spend time with me specifically, it’s that they’d rather wax the poodle than spend extended amounts of time in a large-ish crowd. That way if I really want to catch up with someone, I can maybe try for a (much) smaller gathering.

    I am fairly sociable for an introvert, but I really appreciate it when hosts make sure there’s a quiet space for recharging.

    • TootsNYC said:

      That’s why I’m not so sure it’s wise to say, “He has things to take care of.” I’d far rather hear, “He’s not into parties” or “This is not his type of get-together” or best of all, “He’s pretty introverted, so he doesn’t come to very many parties.”

      “Introverted” is not shameful–it’s like saying, “She likes art” or “He enjoys meeting new people” or “she’s very talkative.”

      • Natatat said:

        I agree. I feel like the “he’s at home” “he’s doing something else” suggestions could just lead to more questions if the partner is continually not coming.

        And as an introvert, I would not be offended if my partner was honest with people asking and said “She’s introverted. She’s not comfortable with large parties”. It’s an explanation I have given directly to people when needed. Of course, LW doesn’t owe people a deeper explanation than “he’s at home” but if the introverted partner doesn’t mind, it seems simpler to just be honest. Most people seem to understand.

      • OMJ said:

        Yeah, I also have an introvert spouse and I use “He has things to do tonight” if it’s a one-off and he’ll likely come to the next event. If I know he’s unlikely to ever want to come, though, then I say something like, “He’s an introvert and parties/events like this stress him out (he thinks you’re great people, though).”

        I figure an excuse once is fine with most hosts, but an excuse every time starts to feel passive aggressive.

      • Serin said:

        > “Introverted” is not shameful–it’s like saying, “She likes art” or “He enjoys meeting new people” or “she’s very talkative.”

        I agree with this, but I’ve been amazed at the number of people I’ve met who have treated the word as if it were an insult, so that when I’ve said, “I’m an introvert,” I’ve gotten back responses like, “Don’t be so down on yourself!” It’s very strange.

        My kid, at about age ten, patiently explained to my mother-in-law that an introvert was a person who needed some time alone to recharge, and my mother-in-law replied, “Hon, that’s not normal!”

        • cndbain said:

          Grandparents are hard. After a long day at Disneyworld with all of his cousins my son sat by himself on the bus on the way home. Nothing I could say to my mom would convince her there wasn’t something “wrong with him”.

  12. Awesome Person said:

    With these kinds of things I am always totally frank and no one seems to care. Why would they? If they get offended, I’d say that’s a pretty immature reaction. I haven’t been in this specific situation, but if I were I’d probably just laugh say, “oh, Joe HATES socializing. He’s an introvert. It’s nothing personal, he just doesn’t like parties” and I’d trust that the other person will appreciate the frankness. Whenever you share something honest about yourself, it’s an opportunity to build intimacy, and most people value bids for intimacy. So everybody wins with that approach.

  13. Draz said:

    I have a wonderful amazing long-term friend who is very outgoing, and her husband is 100% not – in 6 years of knowing her, hanging out, birthdays, and co-curating a gallery for a year together I have never ever met or seen her husband. After a few awkward invitations she simply said, “My husband is a very private person and prefers not to socialize” and that is 100% cool with her entire extended friend group. Don’t worry! Good people get it.

    • Dana said:

      LOL This is totally us. Thank you.

  14. slfisher said:

    I tend to use, “Oh, he’s shy.”

    • Turtle Candle said:

      My partner uses something similarly lightweight, a cheerful “Oh, she’s not a big party person.” It works because treating it as a nonissue makes others more likely to accept it as a nonissue.

  15. oh my god OP you took this question right out of my mouth. I have exactly the same problem. my partner doesn’t mind having people over to the house but any social occasion we are invited to as a couple is like pulling teeth. We were invited to a friends birthday dinner last winter and he opted not to go but neglected to send his regards. It ended up being extremely awkward with people at the dinner asking me over and over: “what’s up with partner? why isn’t he here? He ended up talking to friend one on one and explaining why he’s absent from these things sometimes. I am learning to live with the fact that he does not love socializing the way I do and pushing the point or forcing him to spend his free time doing things he doesn’t want to is unpleasant and unfair to both of us. I did put my foot down on this issue when we were invited to a friends wedding and he wanted me to go stag which would have been really embarrassing. He grumbled all the way but he understood why I pushed the point and we both had a nice time. It’s so difficult to manage other people’s expectations around socializing

    • slfisher said:

      We have three ranges of things.

      1. Unless it’s work or illness, you must go. Example : my daughter’s choir and theatre performances.

      2. It would be nice if you could go. These are friends, they know him, it’s a topic he would enjoy.
      3. He is invited but not expected. These are larger gatherings or people who don’t really know him and there’s not any particular reason I wish to appear coupled.

      As long as there’s not too many 1s, I get an occasional 2.

      Now, there was one recent event where this one woman mentioned multiple times that she’d tried to talk to him and she got monosyllables and she finally changed her seat, which struck me as an overreaction, and that got the explanation that he’s on the spectrum and in fact several other people in the group are as well, it turns out. I think she gets that. If it’s not okay for him to show up and talk on his own terms, he’ll just never come to that group because neither of us wants to deal with that.

      • GinnyQ said:

        I left a more long-winded comment below before reading this, but I second the ranges. I have a few trump cards I can pull and say, “I’d really like you to go to this thing,” and as long as I give him enough of a heads up and it’s not the type of thing he despises (it never is, I wouldn’t do that to him), then he’s usually game.

        • Turtle Candle said:

          Yep. Sometimes my partner says, “So this specific thing is really extra super important to me,” and I always go to those. The reason it works is that I know he won’t abuse the privilege.

          • Um, need a name but don't have one yet. said:

            I learned the hard way that if I really want my spouse to be at something, I need to tell him flat out. I can’t hint, I can’t skirt around it. I need to use my words and say “it’s important for me that you come to this” I don’t think it matters if you’re an introvert or an extrovert, when it’s important to you, use your words.

      • Parenthetically said:

        This is REALLY important. My husband and I are both, broadly, homebodies with similar tolerance and preferences around socialization, but I have so many friends in mixed intro/extro marriages and stuff like this makes a massive, massive difference to their frustration levels. And they’ve also found that if both people are really making an effort (extrovert doesn’t shoot for dream situation of “she goes everywhere with me” but really prioritizes certain social events, introvert adjusts her “I get every weekend alone” expectations and both anticipates and *prepares for* a good bit of socializing), it goes a long way toward reducing the conflict and general wear and tear on their social and recharging needs.

    • Why would going to a friend’s wedding without your partner be “really embarrasing”? What would you have done if he had been down with the flu?

      • Viva said:

        I can’t speak for the other person, but for me I dislike attending large functions where partners are invited – especially weddings – unescorted by my SO. Weddings in particular have a weird social and emotional baggage attached. If I was single and people knew I was single, no problem. But I’m not, so I prefer attending those types of gatherings with my partner. Why? The uncomfortable truth is that as a woman I just don’t want to attend certain functions alone. It makes me feel vulnerable. Attending big gatherings with my partner or some friends feels more comfortable for me. Some women are awesomely fierce and independent but I, alas, am not one of them. I’m just not.

        In the example of partner having the flu, if it was a wedding where I knew the couple/family involved, I’d go by myself if we had already RSVP’ed yes. But if I was his plus one and didn’t really know the people, then I’d stay home with him.

        • Parenthetically said:

          Cosigned. Weddings are totally unique deals in my mind as far as going alone. There’s a whole set of social expectations around wedding dates that don’t exist around a lot of other social functions. Plus I spent 34 years of my life going stag or with friends, and I want my husband there with me, dammit!

  16. Nicole said:

    I’m the introvert in our mixed i/e marriage and I love neighborhood things because we often go together and then when I’m tired or socialled-out, I head home while he stays awhile longer. I think the Captain’s suggestion about him stopping in occasionally is great too, and I agree with everyone who has said that talking about introversion has always been easily understood and taken. In fact, the last time I decided to leave a small gathering earlier than Husband because I was ready to go home and read, another person took my exit as her chance to leave too. On our way down the stairs, she told me she really admired me leaving when I was tired and glad I had!

  17. like an angry apple tree said:

    As an introvert who is trying to get better at people skills: thank you for the bit about Small Talk Is Not the Devil.

    I have seen the chat hate tip into performative introverting far too often. “I get drained by big parties” vs. “I’m too smart and deep to mix with people who are beneath me.”

    It’s like the difference between “oh, I don’t watch that show, but have you read xyz?” and “I don’t even OWN a television, blah blah zombies, blah blah wake up sheeple.” It’s secondhand-embarrassing.

    • Turtle Candle said:

      Hah, yes! I am a serious business introvert, but I actually LOVE small talk; for me, it acts like a kind of grease that makes social situations actually quite a lot easier. If I need to be at a social event, I would one thousand percent rather do the “how do you like this weather? what have you been reading/watching lately? Oh look, ice cream! blah dee blah” thing than have someone corner me at a party and attempt to have a Deeply Meaningful Conversation. I save my Deeply Meaningful Conversations for people I already like…..

      One of the great discoveries of my life was that small talk was a learnable skill, and that learning it makes sooooooooo many things easier.

      (and yeah, I share your eyerollingness at people who are like “I am just too smart and deep to interact on a ~superficial level~.” Yeah, okay, have fun with that. Me and the other sheeple will be over here having ice cream.)

      • yarnofadifferentkind said:

        Yeah, I don’t want to have a Deeply Meaningful Conversation with you (general you) until I’m reasonably sure you won’t be a jerk and will at least try to be interested in what I have to say. If I start off with, “So how about the Pirates sweeping the Brewers! Pretty awesome!” and you say, “Ugh, baseball is so boring,” or start lecturing me about the 57 reasons the Pirates will never make the playoffs so why bother caring, I am out and I’m glad of it.

        Another great discovery is that small talk is not intended to go on forever. After a few minutes it should settle into normal talk (meaning talk you are actually interested in) or the conversation can end (though I’m still not so good at that part).

        I will definitely attend the sheeple ice cream party. Because ice cream.

        • I know nothing about sports. If someone says “So how about the Pirates sweeping the Brewers! Pretty awesome!” I will reply, “Yay! Go Pirates!” because that is what I’m supposed to do. This has gotten me into awkward situations, however, when the next sentence or two reveals my lack of knowledge that the Pirates are a baseball team as opposed to a theme park ride.

        • Parenthetically said:

          I am no longer in this environment, but the best (WORST) people like this are the religious version. Sample:

          Me, at nice party, to dude: So Chad, where’d you do your undergrad?
          Insufferable Religious Bore: IU
          Me: Oh cool! (Inanity about Bobby Knight, chair throwing, my mother being a Purdue grad, etc.)
          IRB: WELL ACTUALLY the only thing that REALLY matters about Bobby Knight LIKE EVERYONE is whether or not he’s a BELIEVER.
          Me: *physically recoils*

    • Buni said:

      As a reasonably high-functioning ASD bod, I made a point of ‘learning’ small talk the same way that I learned French, i.e. this is a foreign language but it has rules and here are some handy phrases to get you through.

      I’m sure my small talk still comes across as a little stilted / off-key, and I don’t always enjoy it, but I could say the same about my conversational French. I have had to function in France so learning the language helped; I will encounter social situations, so I need to have the relevant tools.

      • Turtle Candle said:

        That’s pretty much how I learned small talk, too! For those of us for whom it isn’t a “native language” so to speak, I think we mostly start out memorizing phrases (“so…. how do you like this weather? did you… do anything fun over the weekend?”) and fluency comes only with practice. But like any language, it is learnable by most people, and practice helps a ton.

      • Mary said:

        I’m not really sure that small talk is a native language for anyone. There are people you meet and you attempt formal-small-talk-as-a-foreign-language, and you quickly click and move on to an actual conversation you both enjoy. There are other people where you never get past the formal-small-talk-as-a-foreign-language because you just don’t click so you stay at that level. There’s definitely something where it’s easier for some people than it is for others, but I think the chemistry between the two people attempting to make conversation is at least as important than either person’s individual skill/effort levels at making small talk!

      • I think it can help to think of it not as a language at all, but as, like,

        – filler to give two people who don’t know each other well an excuse to smile at each other
        – a demonstration that they each think the other worthy of attention and warmth
        – a vector to pass that attention and warmth across to each other

        like, the weather is boring, we know what the weather is because we can *literally see it going on above our heads*, it doesn’t really matter what we say about the weather, the point is to smile and feel like it’s us against the weather.

        • yarnofadifferentkind said:

          The Cap once explained it as something like “Hi, I’m a human. I see you’re also a human. Here’s a topic that is so obvious/well-known and generally relevant that we are both sure to have something to say about it. Let’s relate!” I have quoted this more than a few times.

          • Kaz said:

            I’m also autistic, and the thing that made me understand small talk was a linguistics professor in undergrad talking about how one theory of how language evolved was as a substitute for grooming behaviour to cement social relationships among primates. I don’t know if this is still a valid theory, but it’s always made SO MUCH sense to me. As you say, it’s code for that sort of acknowledging-each-other-as-human-beings thing that is vitally important to have a functioning society.

        • Weather is not at all boring!!! What are you talking about!!!

          …I may have taken a meteorology course and ended up fascinated by weather.

          • Amphelise said:

            I LOVE weather talk. I may or may not have 3 weather-related tabs open right now… because it’s raining.

        • Saturngrl said:

          I think the point about learning a language is helpful, though, because I believe all of your points to be true, but in the moment I have *no idea* how to actually do the small talk. I am feeling excited about this language-learning concept because: I can memorize a handful of stilted phrases like when I was traveling in Europe and made sure to learn how to ask for the toilet/WC in 7 languages; even though I may never think in the language, I can gain increased fluency and maybe someday do near-instantaneous translation.

          But…where do I learn this language? Anybody have some sources they found really helpful? Especially something for spectrum/ADHD sorts of challenges?

          • Turtle Candle said:

            tl;dr, sorry, this got long.

            For me the way I started was to quite literally memorize some phrases. I picked:

            – “[vague observation about weather]” This wasn’t as useful where I lived at the time (Los Angeles) as it is here, because “sunny again!” doesn’t get you very far, but you can always say, “Wow, it’s hot today!” If you live somewhere with more variable weather (as I do now) there’s always something to comment on. It’s okay if it’s as trivial as “It’s really pouring out there! Hope you didn’t get too wet coming over” or etc.

            – General travel/transportation question. This was actually more useful in Los Angeles than weather, because traffic in Los Angeles is like weather everywhere else–it applies to everyone and everyone has an opinion, but it’s not terribly controversial. “Wow, traffic was crazy on the 405! How was your drive?” or “I can’t believe the 101 was so clear today! How was your drive?” were reliable conversation starters where weather might not be. This is especially useful for things like conventions or conferences where many people have traveled long distances.

            – Discussions about the last weekend/the next weekend. I know that these stress some people out because they feel the need to come up with something Interesting to say, but to be quite honest, I’ve never found that anyone was judgmental if I said, “Oh, I spent the weekend catching up on my reading!” or “I marathoned Leveraged reruns” or “I’m going to clean out my closet,” so that’s totally legit. “Do anything fun last weekend?” or “Have anything fun planned for this weekend?” are especially useful because sometimes they can get you onto a more interesting topic; if they say “I’m going to try to catch a showing of Wonder Woman” or “I’m going to weed my tomato plants,” then you have a built-in follow-up.

            – If you know them slightly, questions about their pets or family or work are often magical. This was the first trick that I learned that made me feel superpowered; my partner has a very difficult uncle, but I discovered that I could avoid all of his Obstreperous Difficult Conversational Topics by heading him off at the pass and asking him about his daughters. He LOVES talking about his daughters, he is clearly gratified by the opportunity to talk about his daughters, and it keeps us away from tricky political questions. Similar things can be asked about someone’s dog or parrot or job. This is going to sound stupid, but I actually used to keep discreet notes on people I was likely to repeatedly encounter–I mean, I wouldn’t make them in front of the person, that would have been weird, but when I had a spare private minute I’d jot down, “Bob, loves to garden, has a cat, is about to start a new job.” Then before I’d see Bob again I’d glance at my notes and then I could ask “How’s your new job?” or “How did those tomatoes you planted come out?” and then I could sit back and let him roll on that topic. This makes people think that you are a WIZARD, and also the most charismatic human they have ever met, because people LOVE when you show interest in them. And as an added bonus, you don’t have to do much–just keep making interested noises and most people will quite happily roll with it.

            The big thing for me was that once you’ve deployed one of these memorized phrases, what you do next is listen, actively and intently. Usually you will find something to follow up on after just a few exchanges, but you have to be listening for it. Many people will drop in something to follow up on–maybe they note that their drive was longer because they dropped their son off at soccer practice, and you can ask how old he is or whatever. Maybe they’re glad about the rain because their rose bushes really needed it, and you can ask about their garden. Maybe what they’re doing this weekend is attending a Weird Al concert and you can talk about that. Now you’re not doing Small Talk, you’re having a conversation.

            Sometimes it takes a few conversational sallies to find something to talk about. Sometimes you don’t find any, but as someone else said elsewhere in this thread, if you’ve done 2-3 of the topics above and nothing has clicked, you can deploy another stock phrase, like, “Nice to see you! I’m going to go get some more water” and vamoose. If your small talk runs out and you haven’t found anything else, you can excuse yourself.

            The books that I have found most useful in this are pretty much anything by Suzette Haden Elgin (I’ve found that the Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense books are highly useful even if you aren’t under attack), Robert Cialdini’s Influence (which is much more science-y and less sales-y than it probably sounds), and Crucial Conversations. I also like Networking for People Who Hate Networking by Devora Zack, but that tends to be a love-it-or-hate-it book, so maybe try the sample first.

          • slfisher said:

            So, what do you think about the weather? Is it exceptionally hot, cold, wet, dry?

            How is the local sports ball team doing?

            What are you doing this weekend, summer, Christmas holiday?

            How do you know the hosts?

            Have you lived here long? Where else have you lived?

            Tell me about your pets/children.

            What do you do for fun?

            Have you seen new movie /book/concert /art exhibition?

      • lalouve said:

        I learned how to network in that way – I’m a undercover introvert (can handle large groups but not for too long or too often) and I network like a boss precisely because I had to learn it as a skill. It has advantages, too, when things don’t come natural.

    • twomoogles said:

      Performative introverting! Thank you so much for putting into words something I have felt about some people for awhile now.

      I get annoyed with small-talk when I am not likely to see the person again, because I don’t find it enjoyable in and of itself and it can be tiring for me – it was one reason why travelling was a bit rough for me. Having the same conversations with different people and rarely getting past that felt like never getting dessert. 🙂 But it is a very useful way to grease the wheels as said, and is not something I am a better person for not liking!

      • MamaCheshire said:

        Seconding the thanks. I’m an extrovert, and my parents are…not.

        There was a LOT of performative introverting in my household while I was growing up, mostly about how shallow and superficial anyone who claims to be a “people person” or have a lot of friends are, because they are obviously covering up for their lack of serious interests and talents and skills, and besides if you have more friends than you can count on two hands they aren’t REAL friends, because who has time for that? And blah blah blah, that’s not how I roll.

        • Y-U-C-K!!! I’m so, so sorry you had to grow up with decades of that, MamaCheshire! *throws a cold spaghetti sandwich at your parents*

    • Cor! said:

      Yep, the Cap really hit the nail on the head with that comment. I think nearly everyone who falls into the introverted, shy or not a socially butterfly camp has at some point (especially when young) dissed small talk or considered it ‘below them’. It’s a defense mechanism, a way to feel proud and satisfied with yourself as opposed to derided and excluded ( where my ‘shy kids who always got concerned-trolled for not making many friends’ at). But bumping up your ego can only go so far if that extra confidence lacks empathy and kindness. Once I matured, mellowed out, not to mention got better after my depression, I stopped hating small talk and started to just appreaciate the moments I got with people, nothing had to be philosophical or deep, I could just let go and have fun.

    • If anyone uses the word “sheeple” in my presence, I will start baa-ing.

      • Thistledown said:

        I highly recommend looking-up the XKCD comic about sheeple. (Google XKCD and sheeple.) I saw it years ago and it still makes me laugh, especially when somebody uses the word seriously.

    • tessiselated said:

      It’s also helped me to realise that small talk is also casting around for deeper conversations.

      ‘How is the weather?’ can segue into preferred climates and where people have lived. Or it can not if people don’t want to steer it that way. It can segue into talk of outdoor hobbies if that’s a thing that people are interested. ‘Are you up to much this weekend’ can lead into talks of hobbies, or families and kids. Good small talk casts out lines that people can hook into if they have something to follow on from or let die if it’s a topic they’d rather avoid.

      • Mary said:

        I remember one awful column by someone declaring that he hated small talk and would always seek a “deep and meaningful conversation” with strangers, and it was like, OK, firstly, dude*, nobody OWES you a deep and meaningful conversation, and I might very well decide that I don’t want to share Mi Innermost Thorts with you. Secondly, how the hell are you going to establish a topic for your deep and meaningful conversation without small talk? Questions like, “did you have a good journey?” “are you going anywhere on holiday this year?” “how old are your kids?” “how do you know the bride and groom?” are there to find out whether we have any common interests or enthusiasms so we can move onto a more meaningful conversation if we want to!

        *Spoiler: the author was a man.

      • Turtle Candle said:

        Oh yes, that’s very true too!

        I once was at a work conference eating lunch at a table mostly full of strangers, so I did the “How are you liking the weather?” thing at the person next to me and she said she was enjoying the sunshine because there was a cold snap back home and in fact she’d just had to weatherproof her barn so the water for the horses wouldn’t freeze.

        Horses! I used to ride fairly seriously. So I said that and asked about the horses, and we had a lovely and very interesting conversation about types of horses, dressage, etc. that carried us very pleasantly through lunch.

        Afterwards, a coworker of mine who had been at the table said, half-joking but actually also half-puzzled, “How come you always end up sitting next to the interesting people?” But the thing is, he’s the kind of performative-introverting person who just can’t be bothered with small talk, and… talking about the weather was just an icebreaker as the two of us sort of felt out where we might have common interests. How d’you like the weather, how was your trip, are you doing anything fun this weekend are just ways of putting out feelers in a low-pressure, neutral-friendly way.

        It would have been bizarre for me to have wandered the conference center being like “Do you like horses? Who here wants to talk about horses?” But the small talk got us to that.

      • Saturngrl said:

        O.o ??? (Furiously taking notes on this, and the point upthread about how small talk either leads to deeper talk or comes to an end and you move on…) I think also, in this context, small talk can be painful when it’s with people you have an attachment to going deeper with, but you can’t find the way to get there due to poor skills.

    • I used to be that person who claimed to think Small Talk was useless and something only sheeple did. Because I was very insecure and very bad at it and it felt a lot better to be Person Above All That than Person Bad At Peopleing. I got over it though, enough to laugh at my old self when I saw http://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/smalltalk a while back.

      • CarpeFelis said:

        Funny… but did it really have to call being bad at small talk a “character flaw”?!

        • That bothered me a bit too. A bit off topic, but personally I’m bad at small talk because I was brought up by a narcissist who can’t/doesn’t really relate to others and only likes to talk about herself rather than asking social questions. I’ve been working hard on this for years but I still never seem to know what questions to ask people and always seem to be just answering and talking about myself and then going “how about you?”

          • thetigerhasspoken said:

            SAME. I was also raised by a narcissist who did the same thing. I *just* learned how to ask people follow up questions rather than continually turn the conversation back to me. Not because I think I am just so much more interesting or important – but because that’s all I had modeled for me.

            But once I realized that people genuinely do not GAF about me as long as I am not rude, I was able to relax, stop performing, and just (as Polly would say) Be a Person in the Room. And that makes listening to others and building connections much easier. Also, I find after asking boring ice breakers, catching onto anything they mention and asking follow up questions helps. Even if it’s just – how did you get into that? what do you like about that? how does that work?

        • I think I must have read it as “character flaw” being “pretending to be above something instead of learning it”, rather than “being bad at it to start with”. After your comment I re-read it and now I wish I hadn’t posted it to start with.

    • Emmy Gregory said:

      This comment made me laugh because I used to post regularly on a forum where there’d be the occasional “let’s talk about [name of TV show]!” thread and within three responses, someone would have come along and pointed out in smug tones that they hadn’t owned a television for years and were sooooo much happier for it. Like it didn’t even come up in a conversation they were already in – they went intentionally looking for the threads.

  18. Night Squirrel said:

    If the host perspective here is not appreciated please feel free to delete: I am part of a group of friends who are all pretty social, and only two of us, myself included, have partnered with other folks who like to be social (or at least, are willing to expend social energy in front of me). I totally get that an introvert is not forced to go to the friend-hangouts with their outgoing spouse, but it royally sucks that without fail all the significant others bag out but mine (even in their own homes when their spouses are hosting), so while the invite looks like a broad group (S.O. and kids invited), it turns into 10 people who all do the same specialized work plus their kids, and then there is my S.O. entertaining kids while people try not to exclusively talk shop to be polite. I am fine with him not going to everything, certainly, and he stays home when he doesn’t want to be the only plus one, but I wish every 5 or 6 times or so the S.O.’s would save their social spoons for this group and come. Some of these S.O.’s I have seen neither hide nor hair of in years, even when I am at their homes. While I totally get that for an introvert, accepting all these invitations would seem like torture. But I also can’t *not* be insulted when showing up for 30 minutes of one of many fairly frequent meetings, when we have all known each other for 5-10 years, when some of these are close to or at your house, do not warrant the expenditure of your social energy ever. I am not the only one who hosts, so I don’t think it’s active dislike of myself or my S.O., but it feels crappy.

    I do not demand couple or gender parity. We are not all same or opposite sex couples. While the Captain is totally right that hosts are being weird if they want all spouses at all times, a courtesy “yes” every once in a while from the non-outgoing spouse can go a very long way in keeping the other half of this interaction (the inviting party) from not feeling slighted over time. The hosts, upon whom your outgoing spouse relies on for their own emotional/social needs, feel supported if you stop by or poke your head out for 10 minutes to just acknowledge you don’t hate them, which allows them to continue to enjoy hosting, which then makes your outgoing spouse happy and energized. (One of them did this a few months ago and I was truly appreciative of the gesture.)

    I guess this is a long-winded endorsement of the suggestion to consider driving separate or extended a brief courtesy appearance every once in a while.

    • Turtle Candle said:

      So, I actually feel this because I have been in the situation where I was the only one who didn’t know the “shop talk” or gossip. (It was because I joined a pre-existing social group who had all gone to college together, and this was when we were all 22-25 and college was still a very recent memory, so there was a TON of “remember [anecdote]?” or “lol, [inside joke]!” or “did you hear about [person I don’t know who they all went to school with]?”) I do get that.

      So the other perspective that I have is that I am, um, not here to make friends, to use a terrible reality show phrase. Or to put it another way: I only have enough energy to make and maintain a certain number of friends and friendly acquaintances, and my dance card is currently full. Reserving spoons for people I don’t yet know would mean having to cut something else–and I get that you think it shouldn’t be hard to save the social spoons at least a couple times a year or something, but my spoons are all kind of…. claimed. Saving spoons for two new parties a year might mean reducing my coffee dates with my BFF from twice a month to once a month, or skipping an old friend’s birthday party, or cutting back my volunteer hours, and… well… it’s going to take more than “someone who I don’t know well wants me to do it” to convince me to do that. I’m not trying to hurt anyone, but if someone is going to be hurt if I don’t take spoons away from those things, then… yeah, I’m afraid I’m probably going to hurt them. I actually need my more extroverted spouse to have friends who are not my friends, because that gives them a way that they can fill up their social tank without draining mine. It’s an active positive, for me, for my partner to have friends who are officially Not My Friends Too. We seek it out!

      I feel like this issue has two prongs. One is that you want there to be people there who can talk to your SO about something other than specialized work topics. The other is that you feel insulted that these people aren’t saving up spoons for you. I feel like the former is probably actually an easier problem to solve than the latter.

      • anatu13 said:

        I think it would work best for (1) the original group of friends (not the host’s SO) to take turns entertaining the kids and (2) for the original group of friends to go a little out of their way to make the host’s SO feel included in the conversation. I’d leave the house and do something else if I were the host’s SO and was expected to take care of everyone’s kids while they had fun talking shop, frankly.

        • Turtle Candle said:

          Yes, exactly! “My partner keeps having to watch the kids” and “My partner is left at loose ends while we talk shop” are much more solvable problems than “My friends’ SOs should want to socialize with us.”

    • I think that if this kind of thing is important to you, you should be selecting for it in meeting prospective romantic partners, rather than trying to force it ex post facto. And it sounds like you did! Congrats, you have a partner who is okay with accompanying you to your stuff!

      But as a host, trying to enforce that behaviour on the partners of other people seems…what’s the word I want…oh yes GUTSY. Super, super gutsy.

      If you want more people at your parties, invite more people who like to come to parties.

      • TootsNYC said:

        I don’t think “enforce” is a fair word here. Nor is “gutsy,” really. I’m not sure you read Night Squirrel’s entire post thoroughly.

        Night Squirrel *did* select for a similar outgoingness when choosing -their- mate.

        I was a little aghast that these introverted partners/spouses didn’t even stick their head in to say hello when the gathering was *in their own home*. That -is- a little insulting.

        If you don’t want to feel obligated to return any attention to the hosts who are inviting your spouse places, or the friends who are fueling your partner with their invitations and attention–sure, fine, don’t. But Night Squirrel has clearly outlined that you risk damaging the support system that your partner relies on.

        • So first of all, I am a giant extrovert, and I think you are assuming I’m an introvert? But I also am a firm believer that Mandatory Fun is neither.

        • Turtle Candle said:

          Well, I mean, my partner has some friends who I have no objection to but who I don’t particularly want to be friends with because my social slate is honestly all full up. He has them over for games sometimes and I either go elsewhere or hole up in my room and read or write.

          And if the choice was “socialize with them when he invites them over for game” or “forbid him from inviting them over for games so as not to be insulting,” I would lean heavily toward the latter. I suppose maybe I should discuss whether he’d rather never host? But I’m not sure how exactly else to resolve this kind of thing.

          • Erin said:

            I have a similar set up with my husband for game nights at our home, though I have the added excuse of currently pursuing a master’s degree. I may briefly make an appearance to grab a drink or some sustenance for studying, but otherwise, I do not participate. I never thought of my behavior as rude or odd because to me, we aren’t hosting game night together, he is hosting his friends. We had a bit of a role reversal in this respect when my daughter had a slumber party recently. I was on kid duty as the mom of the hostess and he helped with certain things, but was otherwise not involved.

        • Nanani said:

          But the partner isn’t the one who invited them. They are allowed to not participate an event, even if it’s being held in their home.
          I don’t see the rudeness in that. They do not get mandatory hosting duties because they live in a space SOMEONE ELSE is hosting an event in.

        • unlurking said:

          If work-pals are getting together to do a work-pals thing, it’s not insulting when other people let them do it and enjoy it. I’d let them be, so they can do their fun thing without me getting underfoot. That is a polite thing to do, actually. It sounds like it is a *different* polite thing to do than what you and Night Squirrel would do in the same situation. But can you see why it is not something that is a slight? That to the person it is actually *also* a polite thing to do, that when “the gang” all arrives they clear out so y’all can have your fun? There is not a reason to be slighted here. Not everybody has to hang out with literally everybody literally all the time. And definitely not a reason to punish one autonomous person (the friend) for soemthign a completely different autonomous person (their spouse) does.

          • CarpeFelis said:

            Give the group a brief, warm greeting, and then clear out so they can have their fun. Hopefully nobody would be offended by that.

          • TootsNYC said:

            And that is all that Night Squirrel was asking for!!!!

          • unlurking said:

            I suppose that if anyone who is reading this thread knows who you are irl and gets invited to a hangout with you irl then they’ll know that it is important *to you* that you be said hello to, because they saw it here in the captainawkward dot com thread.

            But the “spouse” in the LW’s situation is not writing in so cannot hear your suggestion, and the “spouse” in this hypothetical is also not writing in so cannot hear your suggestion. So how would anybody within the hypothetical situation learn about the apparently-building resentment that the extroverts in this hypothetical are feeling but never expressing? I think this is really a question of using words. If you’d like somebody to say “hi”, then you need to explain *TO THEM* that it’s important to you. Not just feel upset that people don’t guess this, when there are many other reasons they might not say hi, including letting y’all do your in-group thing that they’re not really part of but are very happy and supportive for y’all to do.

            I understand that it is hurtful to you, I do. I get that it is different communication styles. But obviously the spouses don’t realize what your innermost resentments are. What is polite and logical to them sounds different (opposite even) than what is polite and logical to you, and the only way to bridge that gap is not to hope they’ll somehow change (because they’ll realize “how rude” they are being, lol) – but to communicate with them.

    • Nanani said:

      Sounds like a bit of Geek Social Fallacy might be at play here? Not everybody’s friends/partners need to be friends with everybody else.

      Yes, you can (work on) not being insulted.
      You can stop inviting SOs who aren’t part of your shop talk so the rest of you can go nuts on said talk.
      You can discuss with YOUR SO about them bailing on these gatherings, at your house or not, if they aren’t really part of the group.
      Pool resources for a babysitter, or relocate to a kid friendly venue where you can do your thing while collectively watchign all the kids.

      Basically, try anything other than asking people to save their time and mental energy. for a thing they don’t want to go to. that’s not about them. just to keep your spouse entertained?

    • Hosta said:

      You can’t really demand that strangers expend limited resources on you, though.

      And how come it’s falling to your SO to watch the kids? Shouldn’t the people who brought the kids watch the kids? If this is a persistent problem, maybe stop inviting the children so your SO can have fun, too? And if that’s simply not an option (how come?) then maybe you two need to switch off on kid duty. If he’s an extrovert, he’s not getting his social cookies by running after children, while you are, and it seems awfully unfair to dump that on him.

      • “You can’t really demand that strangers expend limited resources on you, though.” But I think that right there is what’s bothering Night Squirrel in the first place: They AREN’T strangers. Night Squirrel says they have all known each other for 5-10 years. They’ve met before and presumably had mostly positive interactions (or else Night Squirrel presumably wouldn’t want to see them anyway). I more get the impression that Night Squirrel just wants to see their friends, at least just for a literal five minutes, and is very frustrated that said friends apparently don’t feel the same way. If I thought that someone was my friend but they wouldn’t even bother to say hi when I was visiting at their house, it would definitely start to feel hurtful and like maybe we aren’t friends after all. If they were actually strangers, it might be easier to never see them. But they’re friends, and that’s why it hurts.

        • Turtle Candle said:

          Oh, that’s interesting. I had not interpreted these SOs as being Night Squirrel’s friends at all, but the spouses of friends and more like acquaintances. (I have several friends and coworkers who have partners who I’m on nodding acquaintance with and have been for many years, but they’re not actually my friends, and my partner has friends who I’m on nodding acquaintance with but who also aren’t my friends.)

          Actually, it makes me wonder if Night Squirrel is thinking of them as friends and they’re thinking of themselves as, well, nodding acquaintances? Possibly?

          • This was my thought as well–I think Night Squirrel thinks the connection is considerably more…uh, *more*, than it actually is, and so they’re getting upset and offended over something that the people in question don’t think is a big deal.

          • Z said:

            Totally possible! But if someone wrote in and said “hey, so I’ve been providing free childcare so I can see my friend (who I love) and not once has their SO acknowledged or thanked me for this” we’d all agree that would be kind of rude, right? Introversion isn’t an excuse for not showing kindness towards someone–I don’t think these SO’s should expend all their social energy for these gatherings but given the length of time (5-10 years! of free childcare!) I don’t think popping in and waving and saying “I’ll be in my room, but nice to see you” is too much to ask. It’s fine if they don’r want to, but it’s also pretty clearly rude.

            Of course, they could stop providing childcare. And that might mean that the extroverts don’t actually have the time/ability to see each other, which sucks and drains their energy. Or that the introverted partners have to show up and watch the kids, which drains their energy. Providing childcare makes the event more inclusive and benefits everyone, but I think part of that is giving the minimal social nicety of acknowledging someone exists.

          • Yeah, I agree, it’s quite possible that there’s a mismatch in how each party is interpreting the level of friendship they are at. But I do think that’s why it feels so frustrating: Night Squirrel thought they were friends, and they’re acting like they’re not. Which, if they DO see themselves as friends, or even just as “say hello at the grocery store” acquaintances, it would be nice if they demonstrated that by at least poking their head out to say hi when Night Squirrel is literally at their house. But yeah, there’s a possibility that they just don’t feel quite as much friends as Night Squirrel does, in which case, the “friendship” needs to just be gently let go. And that can hurt. But it may be for the best.

          • Turtle Candle said:

            Well, when I say “nodding acquaintance” I mean literally that–if I pass them on the street I’ll nod and smile but not even break stride. So yeah, in that case, I wouldn’t feel the need to put out the effort to duck my head in. (And… okay, part of this is that as others have said, IME it’s rarely possible to actually just duck your head in for a two-minute hello. The two-minute hello turns into a five-minute how-are-you and then you feel obliged to ask them how they are and then it’s ten minutes and then you’ve been there for ten minutes and they say “why not join us?” and maybe feel offended by “oh no, I’d rather shut myself in my room all night, thanks,” and on and on. It’s been my experience that if I don’t want to spend at minimum half and hour and more likely an hour and a half, not making an appearance is the way to go. I do not want a foot in that door. But… mileage varies.)

          • Turtle Candle said:

            @Z — I mean, no? Not really? Okay, if these people are at A’s house and A’s spouse B is literally sitting there stone-faced refusing to acknowledge them, then yeah, that’s rude. But if my partner was invited to a party somewhere and the invite includes “Feel free to bring the kids!” and I don’t know the people well and don’t want to go, or it’s my partner’s turn to host and I decide I’m not up for it and vacate the premises, then… no, I’m not going to feel like I’m being rude by not appearing just to say “thank you for watching the kids.” I’m not part of the social group or the event. If they don’t want to watch the kids, that’s fine; babysitters can be sorted out. But why would I need to show up just to express gratitude when I’m not even involved in the event?

            I mean, maybe this is different because I’m a woman and my partner is a man, but I actually recoil pretty hard at the idea that I have to show up to perform gratitude for something I didn’t even ask for and am not attending.

        • It doesn’t sound like these are Night Squirrel’s friends, though. It sounds like these are spouses of Night Squirrel’s work friends.

          I am always delighted to see my coworkers’ spouses or partners, but I wouldn’t call them my “friends” and I wouldn’t be offended if they didn’t show up for work-friend gatherings.

    • Jack V said:

      I think “showing up occasionally” is generally good advice for quiet partners: it gets you quite a lot of friends who are generally good for you, with comparatively little effort, and for most people a small amount of socialising is helpful, and it usually helps your partners.

      But if people don’t want to, people don’t want to. Can you find any *other* friends to invite to break up shop talk?

      • unlurking said:

        Or break up the shop talk onesself.

        I mean, if the option is “let them enjoy their very-fun-for-them shoptalk — which is super-fun for them and I get that! so they shoudl continue doing that fun thing! — while I help watch alllll the kids” then… uh… I would not want to go either? and also I would presume that since it is all shop-talk all the time, that it’s not really *for* me anyway, it is for my spouse, and that is totally great and I am all for that! Like y’all do your thing, and that’s awesome – and it doesn’t really have anything to do with me.

        Like it sounds like it’s not a gender thing in this particular instance, but I can see an example of girls’ night plus one husband who watches everybody’s kids- why not just let it be girls’ night*, which it basically already is? where * = insert whatever-it-really-is rather than “girls’ night”. Like hire a babysitter for example rather than making the husband do it, if that is part of the friction.

        tldr yes stopping in for 10minutes is theoretically nice, hopefully some could do that, but feeling resentful if they don’t seems misplaced, and they’ve probably deduced that people who love shop-talk would rather do it in peace rather than with extraneous people tagging along.

        • CarpeFelis said:

          I tried that once and later got a lengthy lecture from my husband on how rude it was for me to expect the majority to change the subject just for me… can’t win.

      • Goat Lady said:

        I’m the introvert in my marriage and I have friends, thanks. I do not need to make more. “Show up occasionally and hang out with a bunch of people discussing their work which you do not do” always sounds like good advice to more extroverted people but honestly I’d rather sandpaper my eyeballs for an hour.

        • cartesiandaemon said:

          I’m really sorry. I usually try to react to a post not solely by listing the bits I disagree with, but that means I end up amplifying what the original poster said, and is more hurtful than what they said originally 😦 I shouldn’t have said that, sorry.

    • SarahTheEntwife said:

      Why is it important that you be friends with everyone’s spouse? Sure, it sucks if you actively don’t get along with them, but why can’t you just go on being friends with someone as an individual like you did before they got married rather than treating them as a social unit that shouldn’t be split up? I get that this is the way society often functions, but it’s often really not healthy on a number of levels.

    • Z said:

      Wow a lot of the comments to this highlight what frustrate me about conversations about introversion and extroversion. Namely, that it always comes down to accommodating the introverts needs, understanding what their mental process is, and handling that. And that’s great! But there’s always a baseline assumption that everyone “gets” extroverts and no one needs to make any efforts to get their needs, to sometimes do things their way, to understand them, etc.

      I agree that no one is owed social capital, that it’s fine for the introverts to duck out of these event, and so on. But no one has mentioned that maybe, just maybe, showing up and waving and saying hi is something nice to do for an extrovert, that it can help us meet our needs. That constantly extending social branches and having them turned down drains our energy. That extroverts are not instantly giving want we want from the world as it is (I promise that is not the case) and making room for people’s different energy needs goes both ways.

      I get, understand, and work around people’s needs for down time and to avoid people. I get that folks don’t need more friends and don’t expect to make friends with everyone. I’m fine with people leaving parties early, never coming, or cancelling plans last minute because they need the night off. But if, as in this case, I’ve genuinely known you in some capacity, especially if that capacity often involves handling the labor of taking care of your kids (either because you don’t want to come or your SO wants/needs time away from kids and I’m being mindful of that), it’s pretty cruddy to not even extend a thank you or acknowledgement and it’s you getting to conserve a lot of energy (social, friend, child-rearing) at the expense of someone elses.

      • Turtle Candle said:

        But no one has mentioned that maybe, just maybe, showing up and waving and saying hi is something nice to do for an extrovert, that it can help us meet our needs.

        I’ve actually seen several lengthy comments about this, including mine, where I spell out a number of compromises and negotiations that my partner and I came up with, and also a long thread on the benefits of being able to make small talk and socialize briefly for introverts and extroverts alike.

        But I mean, I think part of this: “it’s pretty cruddy to not even extend a thank you or acknowledgement and it’s you getting to conserve a lot of energy (social, friend, child-rearing) at the expense of someone elses.” — if I have asked you to do these things, then yes, I owe you a thank-you. But if you and my partner are doing a thing and you’re fulfilling his social needs and maybe watching the kid, I’m not clear on why it’s me who owes you a thank you, and not him. I am not a part of him. We are separate social beings. I just… don’t understand this, and would appreciate an explanation for why I owe you a thanks for a benefit to him?

        (To be clear, I do not have children, and I have actually often taken over childwatching duty to avoid social events. But I don’t understand why, if I am not your friend and we are not doing things together, it is my thanks that are owed.)

        • Z said:

          I think it may get into the weeds because it depends on what seems to be different assumptions you and I are making about Night Squirrel’s arrangement and since we don’t know what it is discussing the hypotheticals seems a bit silly. But I will clarify, since I don’t think we’re as far apart as it seems. I was mainly basing my answer off the following information:

          1) These events are often at the houses of the SO, but the SO never makes an appearance
          2) These events have been happening for multiple years
          3) Kids are included
          4) These events happen regularly
          5) The hosts seem to rotate

          Given the way #3 in particular was mentioned, I assumed that kids were being included not because it made the hosts lives easier but because it benefitted all partners involve–namely that if it didn’t exist the other partner would be taking care of them at home. I see that as a benefit for everyone because one SO gets their social needs met and the other gets time away from the kids entirely alone, something that I imagine would be extra nice if that SO is an introvert.

          Hence me seeing this as an arrangement that benefits both the extroverted spouse and the introverted spouse, in particular because it seems to be long lasting and regularly, something that often gives the introverted SO a free afternoon. It’s not something that happens once a year (and I would agree doesn’t benefit the introverted SO), it’s a regular occurrence.

          I don’t think the introverted SO needs to make an effort to go to events outside their house, but I think given the information we have, I think once a year popping your head in to an event being hosted at your house to say hi before heading upstairs or leaving would be warranted acknowledgement.

          And since this doesn’t seem to have been clear, I absolutely think the primary person to offer thanks is the partner the event was for! But given the way it was describe I just can’t logically see how it doesn’t ever benefit the introverted SO.

          I will say that my read on this may be more gendered than it actually is, but gender can definitely add a dynamic here of “man assuming that he never has to even minimally acknowledge the effort of childcare” with a side of “because women love looking after kids”.

          (I think we may just have different views on thanks as a social nicety or even what is meant by thanks. I don’t mean it here as a literal saying thank you, but rather making an effort to acknowledge the other person. For example, I often go over to a close friends house for dinner. Her husband, who I’m friendly with, works late and usually doesn’t get home until I’m nearly on my way out the door. A lot of times all he says to me is a quick hello and than thanks me for coming over. He doesn’t do this because he owes me thanks–he didn’t get the pleasure of my company–it’s simply a way to show that it’s nice to see me and that I did something that made his partner happy. Obviously partners are separate social entities, but I’m slightly baffled by the idea that you can never show social grace to someone who does something nice just for your partner because it didn’t directly affect you.)

    • storenet said:

      probably irrelevant: i also think it sort of sucks that kids aren’t given the option of being introverted. i was taken to many a social gathering i didn’t want to be at, and expected to socialize with children i didn’t know or just wander around being extremely bored and tired, unable to leave until my mother did. if y’all are going to hang out and talk shop, just… hang out with just y’all? i don’t get the conflict, i guess, it just seems created to me.

    • vortexae said:

      But I also can’t *not* be insulted when showing up for 30 minutes of one of many fairly frequent meetings, when we have all known each other for 5-10 years, when some of these are close to or at your house, do not warrant the expenditure of your social energy ever.

      This sounds similar to a conversation me and my husband had a little while ago. We’re both fairly introverted, and can “people out” easily and need recharge time. But what began to happen was, he would go to his gaming/game-design group, then come home and not even want to talk to me, he’d be so peopled out. Then he and I would go to derby practice (he coaches, I skate), and then go home… and spend the rest of the day in separate rooms. Then he’d go on a date with his girlfriend (we’re poly), and then come home and not talk to me at all. And of course he goes to work every day and has to people himself out in the office.

      It took me a while to figure out how to address this, because I didn’t want to make unfair demands on an introvert’s limited “peopling” reserves, but I knew I was deeply unhappy that he was hardly even acting like my friend, let alone my husband.

      What I finally said was, “I understand you have a limited tolerance for socialization. I’m not asking you to do *more* than you’re comfortable with. I’m asking you to bump me up the priority list so that you don’t constantly use up your socialization reserves on everyone else *but* me. I miss you!”

      And this made perfect sense to him and he made a concerted effort to “give me a turn” more regularly. I was, admittedly, hurt that he couldn’t see it for himself, that I had to bring it up before he noticed it, but once I did bring it to his attention, he took it seriously.

      I think how us introverts spend our socialization reserves can become habitual, just like how we use our time during a day–certain things never quite get done because they never bubble to the top of the priority list, and it takes a deliberate and conscious effort to say “Today I’ll do Neglected Thing *first* even if it means that a *different* thing falls out of the bucket today.” Same with how we spend our peopleing reserves, I think. In my husband’s case, too, he felt the pull of social or professional obligation from all the other not-me directions, whereas I was “safe” to neglect because I was his wife, not his boss, not the league he’d committed to coaching; I wasn’t the person he’d committed to designing a game by X release date with; I’d understand, I was an introvert too and could empathize… I had to gently suggest that maybe some week he specifically have a date with me first, or choose to skip a gaming night, in order to have some people-energy to spend on spouse time. Because while a limited energy reserve means sacrifices have to be made, it wasn’t fair that I was the first item on the chopping block all the time. When I put it like that, he understood, and, over time, we worked it out.

      So it sounds like you’re asking not for these SOs to suddenly not be introverts, but rather that they, once in a while, spend a bit of their socialization reserves on visiting with you. That’s totally reasonable. You miss them! But you might have to tell them so directly.

  19. McStabbity said:

    I’m the introvert at our house, and Spouse McStabbity is less so. We manage this in a flack-free way.

    Introversion does not need an excuse. I see a touch of veiled disapproval in this letter, enough that I think it’s worth thinking about why it’s been so hard to come up with a neutral, boring script like “Oh, he’s at home today” or “He couldn’t make it.” LW, I suspect your husband is doing a lot of emotional labor here, but it’s hard to see because it’s centered around his self-preservation as an introvert. He can probably sense that you’re resentful and is stubbornly withstanding that.

    I’d add one thing to those scripts: “– but he says hi.” Because, honestly, mostly people don’t care much if the guy shows up. They’re being polite; they want to keep him as a node on their social network; at most they want to know that there isn’t any kind of a social problem that they have to deal with. (And there isn’t, unless you think that introversion is a social problem.) Passing along a greeting goes a ways toward making it clear that his staying home is not a snub.

    If I’m skipping a party that my spouse is at, it’s not rare that I’ll send a text: “Say hi for me!” I’ll get a text back that’s something like, “Everybody says hi!” It’s an easy way to be there in spirit without having to be there in the flesh. When I do eventually show up at an event, everybody’s glad to see me and it feels like a special occasion instead of something I’ve been dragged to. Because those relationships have been preserved, and because there is no ugly undercurrent of Where Have You Been You Shameful Creature, I’m able to put on a sociable facade, charm everybody for an evening, and then not do it again for several months.

    • TootsNYC said:

      ” I see a touch of veiled disapproval in this letter, enough that I think it’s worth thinking about why it’s been so hard to come up with a neutral, boring script”

      Yes, I wondered that as well. I was a bit surprised that our OP hadn’t already said, “Oh, he’s at home, he’s not into block parties” and stuff.
      It might be worth some thinking time to see if it is a reflection of some disapproval or other damaging component.

    • neverjaunty said:

      “Passing along a greeting” means that LW’s husband should be offering a greeting for her to pass along, no? Which he doesn’t appear to be doing.

      There’s nothing weird or anti-introvert about couples generally being social units, or wondering why half of a couple *never* appears (or when he does, apparently makes the other person miserable until they leave… not cool).

      • Turtle Candle said:

        I mean, yeah, if it’s just that LW wants partner to say “Say hello for me,” then sure. But I’m not sure what else is supposed to happen, if he doesn’t want to be treated as an obligatory half of a social unit. (And yeah, the making people miserable until they leave isn’t cool, but making them miserable until they go–nagging or sulking–isn’t, either.)

      • McStabbity said:

        Where I come from, this is a totally acceptable white lie, if it even rises to the level of white lie. I usually do say, “Say hi for me!” but Spouse McStabbity is granted full powers of saying hi to whomever he thinks I’d want him to say hi to on my behalf. He knows me and he’s a reasonable person. It’s not like I’m writing elaborate scented letters of greeting for him to pass out — it’s just a wave and a howdy.

        On the odd occasion when I’m going out and he’s not, roles flip. I might say, “I’ll say hi for you,” and he’ll say, “Cool,” and that’s just not a big deal.

        • Kelly L. said:

          Yes–I had one ex whose family was very formal about the Passing Along of Hi, and it was foreign to me. I finally just gave him the same carte blanche: “Just assume I would say hi to whoever, even if I forgot or didn’t know you’d be seeing them.”

    • Maria said:

      LW, I suspect your husband is doing a lot of emotional labor here,
      No? No he’s not. Emotional labor is usually in the context of doing some shoring up of support for or expending mental energy for the comfort of OTHER people. He’s not doing that. Fair enough, if he can’t or doesn’t want to, but self-preservation is not emotional labor.

      • McStabbity said:

        If someone’s coming at a person with a mouthful of judgment about some core personality trait of theirs, that’s an aggressive act. If the attacked party smooths the situation over — heck, if they just restrain themselves from retaliating — that’s absolutely emotional labor and it’s usually nearly invisible to the aggressor.

        Consider a different situation: you’re at a party. There’s a mansplainer. Maybe he’s your host’s brother-in-law. He corners you and does his obliviously overbearing thing about work you’ve done your whole adult life. Now, let’s say you are not conflict-avoidant; you know you could smash him into a paste; you even know how you could smash him into a paste. Ohhhh, does smashing look good. Your heart rate rises, your skin flushes, but– you don’t. You wrestle it down in the name of politeness and kindness and the greater good. That’s hard work, made even harder by the fact that, by god, you’re going to do it without giving up an inch of ground to this guy, because that too is in the greater good. You will preserve your dignity, but you’ll do it wisely and peaceably. Somehow. Threading that needle is tough.

        That’s a variety of emotional labor that’s centered on self-preservation. It’s the management of emotional expression in the service of a social role — and that’s what emotional labor is.

        • CarpeFelis said:

          Thank you for this, McStabbity. You said what I wanted to say but much better than I would have.

        • meadowphoenix said:

          That’s a variety of emotional labor that’s centered on self-preservation. It’s the management of emotional expression in the service of a social role — and that’s what emotional labor is.

          I’d need for you to explain what social role this is for OP’s husband, because I’m not seeing it. This isn’t a third party you’re humoring, so tbh, I’m not sure why you thought your different situation would apply here (or how it differs from my explanation of emotional labor, since you would be acting for the comfort of either your host or other guests (presumably that is what you mean by greater good, correct me if I’m wrong), nor would I call not engaging in conflict with a third party you know you could happily engage with full-thrust self-preservation). This is conflict within the relationship itself, and he is in no way acting for his wife’s comfort nor any social role I can think of here. If you know someone is annoyed, suggesting that letting the conflict in the relationship continue, while seeing that it isn’t decreasing, is service of a social role is incomprehensible to me at best.

          • meadowphoenix said:

            I’m on a difference computer by I’m Maria

          • McStabbity said:

            The emotional labor you get is not necessarily the emotional labor you want or demand.

            In the case of the mansplainer, the emotional labor he wants is for you to crumple in awe of his wonderfulness. The emotional labor he gets is that you don’t light into him and verbally slaughter him. That would be inapt to your role as a good guest. Slaughtering people is uncivilized.

            More subtly, the emotional labor he also gets is that you maintain your boundaries. Maintaining boundaries is work. (How many times have we all humored some asshole because doing otherwise is too much work?) He’s acting very badly, but by minimizing the amount of damage his lousy behavior is doing, you are doing him a favor by minimizing his moral burden. It’s not the favor he would find most delicious, but it’s the favor he gets.

            Plainly spoken, the LW would like her husband to spend untold hours of his time in situations he finds extremely unpleasant in order to manage her relationships for her. She would like him to feel obligated to do this gracefully and without complaint, apparently without her having to negotiate it as a favor. She’s managing the conflict by stepping into a victim role, and she keeps that role going by resentfully skipping parties and awkwardly lying to people rather than ever coming up with any of the obvious strategies that untold people in this thread have come up with. I wrote, “veiled disapproval”, but what I meant was more like, “This behavior is hinky.”

            The emotional labor she most wants is husband knuckles under and does not make her uncomfortable about it. The emotional labor she seems to be getting is husband restrains himself from going nuclear in response to insupportable demands. The role he is performing is “good husband”. Restraint is a form of emotional labor, and an incredibly difficult one. Restraining other people from rolling right over you is also a form of emotional labor, and an incredibly difficult one to do politely.

            If LW’s husband were here, I’d have some different suggestions for him around how to move the situation from “obligation” to “favor”. It seems to me that a big problem here is LW’s sense of entitlement around dragging her husband to events he’ll hate, which is somewhat separable from the matter of whether he actually goes. She’s tried to squash that germ of entitlement, she knows she should squash it, but she hasn’t quite managed to squash it yet. (Almost, but not quite.) At the same time, LW is not a bad person and she does basically want her husband to be happy. LW wants two seemingly conflicting things: she wants her relationships managed, and she wants not to steamroller her introvert husband. The husband is taking care of priority #2.

    • carabiner said:

      yes! that “but he says hi” is a great addendum. I used to date someone who had chronic, debilitating migraines, and would almost never come to social events because of them. Saying “he’s sick” over & over started to sound like an excuse, even if it was true, and people started getting annoyed (whether they were in the right to be as such is neither here or there, because they were annoyed regardless) so I just reverted to, “Partner isn’t coming tonight, but he says hi and sorry to have missed it! anyway how’s life?”

      in my current relationship both my partner and I are extroverted and have wide-ranging social groups, many of which overlap but some which blessedly do not. partner also has two particular friend groups that I don’t care to be around barring very specific circumstances (one group I just don’t like their energy, and another is great but all shop talk). we agreed long ago that for these groups either we will show up together and I’ll say hellos, give hugs, and then have a drink and leave, or he’ll give the “carabiner isn’t coming, but says hi” line depending on my energy and tolerance level. while I’m sure some of these people think I don’t like them, in some cases… it’s true? of course I’d never want partner to come out and say “well, carabiner doesn’t like you lot, so she’s staying home” but also, my social time is limited and I’d prefer to use it wisely.

      I think for LW, something to consider is maybe having a conversation with your partner and seeing if there are any people or energies in the social groups he likes more than others, and prioritizing the minimum contact around those. while not wanting to seem rude is very important for many people (including myself!), if you’re already asking him to put himself out there, might as well be in the most enjoyable version of it.

  20. Turtle Candle said:

    I’m in a slightly weird position, because I am a non-shy introvert, and my husband is a shy extrovert. (It happens more often than you might think! Basically, I have zero problem meeting people or making small talk, but my social needs are very small and my alone-time needs are very large. My husband is super shy of meeting people or making small talk, but he’d happily spend allllllllll his free time with people.)

    Leaving/arriving separately (taking separate cars, or–since we only have one car–I have carte blanche to Lyft home early if the location is not in easy walking distance) has made a huge difference. We can both show up, I can make happy noises for twenty minutes, have a taste of the potluck, make the rounds, and then vanish into the ether. The ice is broken for him, I’m not just a weird invisible phantom spouse, but then I get to go home and sit in a bubble bath for an hour all alone while he fills up his social tank. (Admittedly, this works better for things that are freeform–I can’t just bail out easily if we’re going to see a movie or play an RPG–but we’ve gotten pretty good at sussing out those details.)

    Another thing that has worked is, um… bribery? Which sounds terrible. 😀 But when my partner really wants me to hang out with people with him, he’ll deliberately choose an activity that I find delightful. Karaoke or a Star Wars marathon or a trip to the zoo/aquarium or a World of Darkness RPG one-shot are good bets for me. Your partner’s are probably something else. (And I have some Not That things, like depressing movies or concerts–I don’t like them at the best of times, so they’re not what I’m going to choose to spend my energy on, even if I like all the people going to that concert. Any kind of food-related event where there’s going to be a lot of negotiation is also a No for me despite that I love food–but an exciting restaurant with a bunch of people who are equally excited to go is a good one.) I’m much more likely to be willing to outlay the social energy that I have if the event is something I find appealing in and of itself.

    And reducing social friction helps a lot, too. I find almost nothing as exhausting as spending two hours looping on What Movie Should We Watch? or What Restaurant Should We Go To?; I will be ready to go home before the movie (whatever it is) even hits the DVD player, if that’s what’s happening. So I’m a lot more likely to attend an event where the invite says, “We’re watching Arrival and ordering Thai. If you don’t like Thai, feel free to bring your own food!” If you can figure out what creates friction for your partner and minimize that–or let them skip that part (at one point my partner was actually like “I’ll text you when we figure out the plan” and I came only then!), that may help.

    I hope this is useful! Mixed introvert/extrovert marriages can work beautifully; it just takes some planning and effort and understanding.

    • mf said:

      Bribery is a great idea. If LW does want to spend more couple-y time with friends and neighbors, maybe she (he?) can plan a get-together around an activity that her introverted partner enjoys.

      I also have put in a plug for small dinner parties (3 or 4 couples). It’s a small enough group that it won’t overwhelm an introvert but also provides socializing for the extrovert. Plus if you host it yourself,you’re in your own home, which it great for an introvert! (I find I feel so much more comfortable when I’m socializing on my home turf. I enjoy it a lot more.)

    • Rana said:

      I find almost nothing as exhausting as spending two hours looping on What Movie Should We Watch? or What Restaurant Should We Go To?

      OMG, yes. Pick something, anything. I’ve never been able to tell whether these conversations are pleasurable for the people engaged in them, or just a manifestation of group indecisiveness, but whatever it is, they make me irritable and tired and needing to sit down.

      • In my experience, such conversations are usually a symptom of desiring all the guests to be happy. There is usually at least one people pleaser at work who is refusing to speak up about their preference and is just enthusiastically going along with any and all suggestions. They’re trying to make sure everyone has a good time, but for me they’re just making things more confusing because I no longer know what it is they actually WANT to do. (A lot of times what they wanted only comes out later, after we’ve already made a selection and it wasn’t what they wanted.)

        Anyway, all that to say, no I don’t think I know anyone who actually enjoys these conversations. I’ve taken to being the decision maker and just picking something already when it becomes clear that we’re starting to circle. It seems to make everyone relieved whenever I do.

        • Turtle Candle said:

          This is my experience too. I do know some people who are geeky hyper-optimizers who I think do sort of enjoy those conversations–as if they were a logic puzzle that could be perfectly and enjoyably solved (like those grid puzzles that are like “Anna is not sitting next to the person with the blue scarf” and whatever), but the vast majority of the time I think it’s a desire to please everyone without ever revealing a preference of your own. One people pleaser makes it hard enough; two or more make it borderline impossible.

    • carabiner said:

      just wanted to say this is exactly the dynamic my partner and I have. I can be thrown into any social pond and find a way to swim, but then the next night I need to put my phone in airplane mode and work on projects in the bedroom. he struggles to meet new people & is very anxious about making a good impression, but gives over about 75% of his time to social activities and never seems to need downtime. it works out kind of perfectly, because I can carry him over the initial bridge of social situations and he provides me with plenty of social interaction opportunities when I want them!

      • Sarabeth said:

        Us too! I grew up in the kind of Southern family that actually sent kids to charm school; I can talk to pretty much anyone, but am happiest with lots of time alone. My husband is a Brit in the US. Combined with some underlying anxiety, he finds meeting new people very stressful, but he needs regular social interaction to stay happy. It’s been challenging to navigate at times. When we’ve moved to new places together, sometimes it feels like I end up with the responsibility of making friends for both of us, and passing them on to him. But we work through it, and both do favors for the other. I organize social events even when I’m a bit burned out, and he drops by my work socials for a few minutes even though it’s not actually how he wants to spend the evening.

  21. Dana said:

    “Once a month or so, could your husband wander over and say a 10-minute hello to the hosts as a favor to you?”

    Ahahaha. No.

    An extrovert here, married for 20+ years to an introvert who is getting more introverted with every passing year, and has now probably achieved HERMITHOOD.

    Ahem.

    No, he could not do that. Ever.

    I quit lying within two years of our marriage. “Oh, you know HUSBAND. He hates crowds and parties. So, [redirect to topic of interest at hand].

    We are quite happy this way. At least we seem to be. And thank goodness, no one in our social circle has dropped us because he won’t come to anything except funerals, family holidays, and kids’ special events like State Jazz Contest or Graduation Ceremony.

    My husband loves his family. He works hard every day at a very demanding job. Other than that, he does not socialize. At all. ever.

    I am cool with this and have a wide circle of friends, and I travel without him routinely. He is so happy to stay home, unless the trip is a camping/outdoor extravanganza with his brother and that brother’s family (luckily I love them and camping, so it’s all good.)

    Letter writer, this can work, but you have my permission as some random woman on the internet, to break free of societal expectations about What Couples Do.

    *cheers*

    • LW 999 said:

      Thank you. This was perfect.

      • Dana said:

        So glad that my experience was helpful. Best of luck to you.

    • AW said:

      I think the advice that he occasionally show up wasn’t about societal expectations but about not requiring the LW to always be the one telling people why he’s not there. If spouse occasionally tells people directly that he isn’t up for parties then they’re more likely to believe it and stop asking LW.

      In fact, I’d argue that it doesn’t need to be a regular monthly thing. Do it 2-3 times so folks get the deal and that should take care of it.

      • Dana said:

        Yes, I agree the LW was asking for ways to make her feel less uncomfortable when people ask her about it — but in my life, there is no way the husband is going to show up a few times. For us that just isn’t a solution.

        The LW seemed to think she had to continually make excuses, when what I and what some of the other commenters were saying is, just tell the truth. If people don’t “get it,” that’s not the LW’s fault.

    • M Smith said:

      Yes. I’m another extrovert with an introvert partner, and expecting my partner to come to most parties with me that they aren’t interested in attending, even for ten minutes at the start, would just be unpleasant all round. I’d end up having to provide them with social support, they’d be unhappy at the party, and we’d leave early.

      I can and do ask my partner to attend events where I need support (some family events, mainly). Sometimes we take separate vehicles, so partner can leave early and I can stay late. Sometimes we go together, and leave together when one of us runs out of social energy.

      I tell people, happily, that my partner isn’t as fond of parties as me. It works pretty well.

  22. Erin said:

    My partner and I are both introverts, who have different levels of energy for socialising at different time. We pretty much hand socal events just as the Capt described and it works very well for us. We have a sympathetic group of friends and they have gotten use to our comings and goings over the years.

  23. Megan M. said:

    I’m an Extremely Shy/Anxious Introvert. My husband is an Extrovert, but enjoys staying home most of the time. If something comes up that involves meeting people, or someone throws out an invitation and my husband can’t go because work and the host says something like, “Tell Megan to bring the kids!” then my husband will flat-out tell people that I’m too shy for that. He also does me the favor of telling people that he knows already who are about to meet me for the first time that I am super shy and don’t talk much and to not take it personally, which I really appreciate. Sometimes people still think I must not like them because I barely speak in their presence, but it is what it is.

    LW, I think most people will be fine if you tell them your husband gets stressed at parties/events and prefers to stay home (but you sure love being there.)

  24. vin said:

    I’m an introvert with depression, anxiety, and Asperger’s as contributing factors, and I tend to end up in mixed relationships (and friendships – I like getting adopted by extroverts who will take me to parties and then do all the talking/socializing while I hold their hand and interject occasionally <3). I'm super open about not being very social, and I back that up with "I really like spending time with you guys when I'm up to socializing, and I really appreciate the invitations and knowing that you're thinking of me, I just need a lot of downtime." That way my lovely social butterflies don't need to explain very often because it's already common knowledge. But when they do need to explain, "She usually needs a lot of time by herself, but she sends her love." works well.

    So yeah, in my experience, once you set the expectation of husband not being up for the social scene – as opposed to making short-term excuses about being sick or having a project – people will generally be fine with that and then when you see them, they'll say something more along the lines of "Give our love to husband!" or "I hope husband is enjoying his downtime tonight!" Also, I know if I'm genuinely worried that someone is avoiding me, finding out that they're avoiding socializing rather than me specifically is reassuring. 🙂 Also also, once a certain number of people know, if anyone asks "Where's husband?" you'll probably have a bunch of people responding with "Oh nah, he never comes to this stuff, it's all good." and you can just be like "Yup." and move on.

    • RunForChocolate said:

      I’m gregarious and people-loving in general, and have been known to be – ahem – talkative, and having somebody who I like and who likes me back there to hold my hand and occasionally interject sounds about perfect to me. : )

      My SO describes himself more on the introverted side of the spectrum, but says that while it can take some crowbar-type action to get him out of the house, he knows he’ll usually enjoy a social gathering once he’s there and has warmed up. So when we’re at a social event (at my instigation) he’s quiet at first, but he’s by my side and so I get to enjoy his presence and his warm hand on my back and bask in his quiet admiration of me. Eventually he joins the conversation I’m in and he always has interesting, cool things to say. It’s a win-win in my book. ❤ to all the mixed couples who make it work in whatever way suits them best.

  25. I just wonder if a significant proportion of the those making the LW uncomfortable with this question are, in fact, people who have badgered or guilt-tripped their own SO into attending. They see LW as letting the side down and undermining their own position by demonstrating non-attendance of spouses as an option.

  26. Twitchy said:

    I think this is a case where LW can drop some of their burden of emotional labor without SO adding to theirs. Just stop lying. Accept that people will react however they react. SO doesn’t actually need to show up.

    I think it’s okay to ask your partner to sacrifice their comfort for you sometimes, if it’s really necessary. But keeping it down to things that are really necessary reduces resentment on both sides and keeps you from burning through their stock of goodwill.

  27. GinnyQ said:

    I, too, am in a mixed relationship. I am what I like to call an “introverted extrovert,” which means that I get my energy from other people, but I’m not the classic center of attention, life of the party extrovert. (I actually thought I was an introvert for a long time because of this.) My husband is so introverted that he’s told me if we weren’t married he’d probably buy groceries online and never leave the house except to go to work. I come from a large family (oldest of six) where we spend all our time together most of the time, and he comes from a blended family where everyone does their own thing.

    It took us a while to finally get to a happy medium (we’ve been together for eight years, married for four), but this is our general routine:
    -I have lots of friends I like to hang out with. I do this regularly.
    -He would rather stay home and play video games, watch movies, read, etc. He does this regularly.
    -Sometimes we go out and do things together, like date nights.
    -On the occasion that we are both invited to a party, he is generally up for it if: a) he has sufficient heads up (spontaneous “let’s go hang with people tonight” is a no-no, he needs time to prepare), and b) he knows and is comfortable with people. I only discovered a) recently (as in, during the last month!); relationships = always learning.
    -When he decides not to go and I go without him, I am honest, like the Cap suggested. “He wasn’t feeling up to it tonight,” “You know how he is, he needs his introvert alone time,” etc. Most of our friends understand this and do not mind. I do recommend what another commenter said — “He says hi!” makes the host feel like it’s not them, it’s him, and they are less likely to be offended. I, like LW, used to make up excuses because I both didn’t get why he didn’t want to hang out and was a little embarrassed. But eventually, after many talks, I realized that it’s just a part of his personality, and it’s not something he does on purpose to ruin my evening or whatever.
    -Around my family, he often takes breaks to go read or take a nap. Again, this used to upset me (Don’t you like my family?) and embarrass me; my mom is always like, “Where’s Mr. GinnyQ? Is he okay?” But again, after a while, I learned to just tell the truth: “He just needs a break. You know we can be pretty overwhelming.” There is usually agreement about this, and everything is fine.
    -I know that I have a few, for lack of a better term, trump (ugh) cards. If there’s something that is very important to me that I wish he would attend with me, I tell him. As long as he gets sufficient heads up, he is fine with this. Bribes help, as does using these moments wisely (e.g. making sure there are people there I know he likes and we’re doing something he won’t despise). Even if he doesn’t get sufficient heads up, I know him well enough by this point to know that he’ll enjoy [these special occasions that I choose wisely] once he gets there, over the “hump” of not wanting to go.

    Sometimes I still get annoyed. It can be disheartening and frustrating going to parties alone, especially when all your friends are paired up but your best friend isn’t there to enjoy your inside jokes or gossipy mutters or whatever. But as long as we compromise (I go alone to things when I don’t want to, he comes with me when he doesn’t want to), we make it work.

    • GinnyQ said:

      Oh, and Cap:

      “SMALL TALK IS AWESOME IT GREASES THE WHEELS OF THE SOCIAL CONTRACT AND ANYONE CAN DO IT FOR A FEW MINUTES, YOU WON’T DIE OF A BRIEF EXCHANGE ABOUT LAWN CARE OR THE WEATHER INSTEAD OF YOUR INNERMOST THOUGHTS.(See also: IT’S OKAY TO BE A LITTLE BIT BORED/BORING AS LONG AS YOU ARE KIND).”

      THANK YOU! I always get annoyed by those memes that say, “I’m an introvert. I like having deep conversations and hate small talk.” What? I’m an extrovert and I hate small talk! No one likes small talk! It’s usually awkward and almost always boring! But it’s a necessary thing when dealing with people and meeting new ones. Your “it greases the wheels of the social contract” is something I need to remember for the future 🙂

      • Turtle Candle said:

        And I’m an introvert and I reaaaaaaally don’t want to have deep conversations most of the time, even with people I love! Sometimes I just wanna say “Did you see Wonder Woman? What did you think? How is your dog? Hot enough for ya?” And my partner the extrovert thrives on Deep Meaningful Talk. The idea that introverts are especially into Deep Meaningful Talk baffles me, really.

      • sophylou said:

        Same here! I’m kind of an introverty extrovert and I HATE small talk. I recognize it as necessary, and sometimes I do appreciate it (like right now when I’m in kind of a challenging place emotionally with stuff I don’t really wanna talk about and it can serve as a kind of bridge to people over that, or a tiny shallow burst of connection). But I generally prefer deep conversations. Have never understood the whole “extroverts love small talk” concept.

      • hummingbear said:

        Plus I do not want Random Neighbor I Just Met, and who I’ll later learn is an abusive blabbermouthed jerk, to have access to my deepest hopes and secrets.

        That meme is the emotional equivalent of a hot porn fantasy – the doorbell rings, you open your heart/pants, and you and a total stranger immediately just happen to connect perfectly with no negotiation needed! It sounds lovely in theory, but there’s a reason people don’t do that in the real world.

        • Turtle Candle said:

          Ha! In point of fact, I’ve found that people who try to shortcut past small talk and getting-to-know-you niceties directly to Deep Meaningful Conversations are often (not always, but often) also attempting to shortcut into my pants….

        • Goat Lady said:

          I keep a stock of amusing personal anecdotes to tell that are “shallow” if you know what I mean. Maybe one step more personal than “how’s the weather” but nothing with any great emotional relevance. They’re very handy for people who think small talk isn’t ~deep~ and ~meaningful~ enough.

    • slfisher said:

      My partner does that stuff (avoiding, being in corners, reading or on a computer) with his *own * family. 🙂 in fact one of the things he appreciates is that my being social with them takes the pressure off of him.

  28. MAC said:

    I’m an extrovert who also needs a lot of downtime in between to recharge. Growing up as the oldest in a large family, that was sometimes hard to come by. At some point when I was a kid we got one of those newsletters from the insurance company with health-related articles. One of them was about how everybody needs different amounts of what they called 1-space (alone time/recharging), 2-space (1-on-1 with close friends, family/relationship building) and 3-space (anything from 3 to infinity number of people/socializing). It became the family shorthand for when I would disappear into my room with a book – “Oh, MAC needs her 1-space!” It also worked well at large, extended-family gatherings, my mom would just tell my aunt “She needs a little more 1-space than some kids” and nobody would give me a hard time about being “anti-social” when I was actually VERY social … up to a point. I like it because it’s a judgment-free explanation – it’s just how I was made, like being tall or having blue eyes.

    • This is genius. I’d love to see this usage come into more common parlance.

  29. M Dubz said:

    “IT’S OKAY TO BE A LITTLE BIT BORED/BORING AS LONG AS YOU ARE KIND”

    This is very good advice, and helpful to me as I continue to navigate a career that necessitates quite a bit of small talk, that often makes me feel like a small animal in headlights.

    • Turtle Candle said:

      A very wise person once told me that if you ask someone a question and listen attentively to the answer they will think that you are a conversational genius, even if the question you asked was “How was your drive/flight?” or similar. You can be totally uninteresting and still be perceived as charismatic so long as you put a medium amount of effort into listening. It was a life-changer, that piece of advice.

  30. Matthew said:

    My partner (we’re gay men) has a prolonged history of highly self-destructive behavior, and we’ve always known most people in common. Hence there are a lot of people I continue to associate with (not my monkey, not my circus) who haven’t encountered him in some time, and they nearly always ask me how he is. It took me YEARS to finally train myself to tell the truth – “you know, you should ask him, I’m sure he’d enjoy that.” And even now, it’s awkward as hell to stick with it. I guess it’s not exactly the same situation as LW, but these kinds of posts really help me a lot with my own stuff. Thanks.

  31. Emma said:

    I’m an introvert, with even more seriously introverted friends. We all tend to run our energy levels to the max to cope with work and social pressures, but friends accept “X can’t come out tonight, they are shattered”.

  32. Pear said:

    Mm, I’m not 100% sure I’m ok with using mixed marriage as a light joke about introversion/extroversion, being that there’s still race and religion-based oppression from which we’ve not been liberated. Does that make sense? It’s not like I’m throat-clutchingly offended, but also… I tend to avoid my partner’s social engagements due to a combination of shyness, introversion, and racial micro-(or just plain old)aggressions, because in my personal situation that’s one of the more unpleasant parts of having a mixed race relationship.

    (But also I’m completely cool if other people in actual mixed marriages aren’t offended! It just gives me a little pause, and no-one needs to painstakingly explain to me why they don’t find it offensive: I get your point of view too.)

    Anyway, I used to force myself to go but I was just miserable, and I was concerned about dampening my partner’s spirits, too, so now I just stay home and do a lot of knitting. And on the rare occasion I host something, I don’t view people’s absences as a rejection of my whole person (unless they messed me around in a really, truly spectacular way or something). Not sure how I’d cope otherwise.

    My partner doesn’t feel the need to take care of his host’s feelings about my absence; from the get-go, he puts on a very light, carefree tone of voice–it’s no big deal! They’re just staying at home. And that’s that. As far as I know he hasn’t got any pushback, but even if there was, they’d be the ones making it weird… disapproving of people until they come to their party is not really a good look!

    Because of a variety of personal factors, I feel 0 guilt about staying home from parties forever. But, depending on your social circle, I really like CA’s suggestion of an occasional hello–a nice compromise.

    • abba cddc efgefg said:

      Totally with you on the ‘mixed’ thing – that definitely gave me a double take.

  33. The LW mentioned that the complete truth includes how miserable the husband is at parties, and that he makes the misery contagious. That’s probably the part of the truth that doesn’t need sharing. Unless it’s a very specific kind of friendship, saying “Hi! My husband’s not coming because your party will make him miserable and that will make me miserable” isn’t super likely to go over well.

    I am guessing that some of the cover-ups have been fairly obvious and there has been an air of worry? That worry would explain some of the negative reactions.

    “My husband doesn’t like parties; he’s a total introvert” is a neutral fact; if you can deliver the statement with a cheerful matter-of-fact tone, people may well take their cue from the delivery. If you’re not worried about it, they may realize there’s no sinister thing that’s being covered up.

  34. a said:

    I’m also in a introvert/sorta extrovert marriage. We’ve been together for 12 years. My husband is more extroverted, and also really sensitive to, like, ALL sensory input. Sound, touch, visual things.

    There are places that make him physically ill, like department stores. My family likes to spend time together at malls and shopping. They used to ask why my husband wasn’t there, or waiting outside, or why he went on an outing of his own somewhere else. I told them ‘oh, he’s really sensitive, this kind of thing makes him really not feel well, we still love each other and are comfortable with the other person doing what works for them”. Eventually they stopped asking, they know why he’s not there.

    I’m an introvert. I imagine when he’s out socializing with work colleagues, and even MY high school friends who I introduced him to and now they sometimes hang out without me, someone might ask about me sometimes and I have no doubt he uses his extrovert powers to change the subject quickly to whatever else is going on like “oh, wife is at home having introvert time, well we really better hit the road if we’re going to make it to the campsite on time, by the way did you bring paper towels or should we go buy some?”.

    It’s not weird or wrong to be in a marriage like this, and NO ONE, not your neighbors, colleagues, or even immediately family are owed excuses as to why your spouse isn’t there. And think about the alternative: what if there WAS a sinister reason why your spouse isn’t there? If that’s what they assume aren’t they kinda trying to schadenfreude from your situation? In that case they deserve even fewer explanations/excuses/politeness.

  35. LW 999 said:

    LW here. Thank for all the advice and different perspectives.
    It took a long time for me to stop being annoyed with my husband and just go on my own. I would nag and fight and sulk. I would negotiate and cajole. And I would always have a terrible time wherever we went because I was acutely aware (maybe because he would stage whisper “I want to leave” every five minutes) that he was miserable.

    I thought I had to come up with something concrete for why he wasn’t attending as to spare the hosts feelings. If a neighborhood group of six couples has an “outing” at least once a month, ranging from concerts to an impromptu backyard hang, a consistently missing spouse is pretty obvious. As someone mentioned above, as a host is can seem like my husband would rather wash his poodle then spend time with the group. I am constantly asked “Why doesn’t your man like to hang?” As CA and you all have clearly stated, I can just be truthful and their reaction is their reaction. Not on me! So freeing!!

    I do feel that there will be quite a few people on my life that will simply not understand. I can live with that.

    • Turtle Candle said:

      It sounds like you’re moving in a healthy direction, I think!

      One thing that took me and my partner a long time to realize was that when we’d have a discussion about me (I’m the introvert) going to a thing, that discussion was in itself depleting my energy tank. Talking about whether I was going to go to the party for an hour meant that even if I gave in and went to the party, I showed up at the party with my gas tank on empty, and while I’d like to think that I avoided stage whispering that I wanted to go home every five minutes… I know that I started nudging him to go home in part because I showed up pre-exhausted. (Or shutting myself in the bathroom for a suspiciously long time just because I didn’t have to talk to anyone in there.) It made a big, big difference to him to realize that the discussion in and of itself was tiring me out even before I arrived.

    • Hi LW,

      I left some comments about stuff your spouse could/honestly should do to help below, but since you mentioned that in the past you’ve tried to cajole your spouse into going during the time leading up to the event…

      Is it clear when you’re RSVPing that you’re saying yes on behalf of just you? If in the past you’ve cajoled him into coming after a vague RSVP, it’s possible that the hosts in question think that you have RSVP’d for 2, and are understandably surprised/possibly annoyed when only one shows up with no explanation. Like, I am generally not a person who asks where a friend’s +1 is if the friend shows up alone having just RSVP’d for themselves, but if I got a note that said “Ned and I will be there” and all I get is Catelyn, I will ask what’s up out of concern for Ned (“omigod is he still in the dungeon after all?”) and in case the answer is “Ned will be here in half an hour, can we wait to start the tourney until then?”

      That isn’t to say that the question isn’t annoying ANYWAY, LW, but that there may be stuff you can do to avoid being asked in the first place–such as being very clear before the event that you are a headcount of 1.

    • neverjaunty said:

      One dynamic you may want to keep an eye out for, LW, is a disruption between you and your husband when you start the new, highly-recommended Hanging Out And Feeling Free plan.

      Sometimes, this makes for a happier couple! Sometimes – and I have seen this dynamic particularly in couples with a *very* homebody dude and a more social lady – Dude resents the fallout from Lady no longer doing emotional labor for him. Friendships stop being ‘their friends’ and become ‘her friends’ when she stops pretending he has any interest in hanging with them (and he makes no effort to see those people one on one). Dude is annoyed that Lady stops giving up outings he won’t go to, and instead goes out and has fun (rather than socializing but being anxious about his absence). Lady stops “nagging” him and begging him to go places, which you would think would be a relief, except that now she’s not, well, begging for his company and in fact seems to do okay without it.

      Even well-meaning dudes can fall into these patterns when a relationship dynamic is disrupted. Hopefully none of this will happen, but I have seen it happen way too often, and if you see signs of it strongly suggest reading him out before it festers.

      • Curiosity–do you see this happen in couples where the friends still invite the dude to stuff, or does this only happen when the friends give up and invite just the lady?

        This sounds totally awful 😦

        • neverjaunty said:

          Interesting question. It seems like they stop inviting the dude (unless it’s something like a wedding) since, if somebody hates big parties why would you keep inviting them to big parties?

      • I think that what you’re observing (and I’ve observed – and experienced – this dynamic too), has a few facets.

        One is that it’s usually a heterosexual couple in which the woman has always been the only partner to think about social interactions. (In general, she’s done all emotional labor in all areas.)

        In the past, not only did the man get to skip “boring” events (dollars to donuts he denigrated the events, and by implication, the woman), but it was up to her to make nice about it.

        I think the resentment and nastiness that appear once she’s started to socialize happily are not new in the relationship. (They’re new to outside observers.) She has likely always been subject to resentment when she’s avoided washing his emotional laundry. (The resentment had simply been less public.)

      • Buni said:

        Oh god, this happened to my best friend and it was AWFUL. She’s a massively social person, he was really, really not. They were always invited out as a couple as 90% of their friends were mutual; she would attend 100% and he would do about 50%. At the beginning he would encourage her to go, to say hi from him to all *their* friends, but as time went on he just became more and more resentful. She was “leaving him behind”, she was “monopolising *his* friends”, she could “only have fun without him”.

        The marriage lasted 6 months and exploded spectacularly. Whether or not people are introvert / extrovert is not the problem, it’s how they agree to live together. ‘I hate going out, you have fun without me’ is absolutely fine; ‘I hate going out so you must always stay in with me too’ is most definitely not.

        • Tell your best friend congratulations for losing an abusive jerk!

    • M Smith said:

      There are people who don’t understand my spouse’s non-attendance at parties, too. Actually, I’m sort of one of them! But my spouse is wonderful, so I’m OK with not understanding everything they do.

      If someone doesn’t understand, that’s OK. I generally express sympathy – I find it a bit confusing too. This seems to stop them from trying to make me explain it, which is handy.

  36. I am the introvert in a couple like this, and one of the steps I take when receiving joint invitations is trying to RSVP to the ones I am not going to because “don’t feel like it” myself. That tends to keep spouse from having to epxlain my absence–I already explained it!

    Since most invites I get are fb/group text/group email chains, this is pretty simple-usually it goes something like “Ah! This sounds like a lot of fun but I can’t make it, I think spouse is free though so I’ll make him recount all of your exploits :D” or similar. Because I’m actually talking to the people, they don’t assume that I don’t like them–there’s something about the radio silence from one person that I think has a strong effect.

    I don’t know how your spouse feels about emails/whatever (I know they can cause a lot of anxiety), and how okay this would be within your relationship, but you might consider asking your spouse to take a more active role in RSVPing to stuff, and that could also alleviate a chunk of these comments.

    • Twitchy said:

      This is smart. It seems more natural for Spouse to take responsibility for handling the logistics of not showing up than to show up when he’s made it clear he doesn’t want to.

  37. AW said:

    LW, if these are pre-planned events that you’re getting invited to and not spontaneous gathering, can’t your husband just decline ahead of time? It doesn’t take care of other guests who might ask but at least he’d be telling the host why he isn’t there. (Is it not the hosts who are wondering if he’s avoiding them? I was thinking it was the host asking that question but maybe I’m wrong.)

    • Yep, so much this! While it’s totally fine to be an introvert, presumably spouse would be managing partner invitations himself if he were unmarried and has some sort of script already for maintaining relationships while not going to parties. Relationship maintenance is emotional labor! And if he’s doing this (not replying, not showing up) with invitations from people he wants to maintain a relationship with, getting married doesn’t suddenly make the emotional labor of declining invitations in a way that maintains the relationship LW’s responsibility. (Of course, work stuff/LW’s family is different, but it sounds like some of this is happening with neighbors/mutual friends that husband needs to have good relationships with in his own right).

      • Ugh, *managing party invitations himself, die in a fire, phone.

      • Yeah, I think that’s a great point. He handled this stuff himself before you were married. He can handle it now too. I definitely like the suggestion that he can RSVP for himself to take some of the pressure off LW.

        • Turtle Candle said:

          This is a good idea, but only if he’s sort of… given the freedom to say “nope nope nope” as soon as the invite comes in. I know I’ve had (many, actually) situations where I was like, “If you want to go, let them know; I’m going to say I’m not going” and the other person, who wanted me to go, was like, “oh but why not see if you feel more like it on the day of?” Which can turn into a really unpleasant catch-22, because then the day of it was kind of like… well, you didn’t say no earlier, so it’d be mean to back out now.

          It’s totally fine to ask the introvert to RSVP their own ‘no,’ but it has to be something they’re allowed to do without backlash or sulking.

  38. tessiselated said:

    Sometimes I’ve found that if people feel a little bit guilty about what they’re doing (ie if it involves a large amount of alcohol or other substances) they can take my non-attendance to be a judgement of them. It’s not, they can do what they want – I just don’t want to be there while they do it. Which means that partner and I stopped getting invites to events that I would have gone to.

    Also – not having to leave together frees us up so much. If one of us if having a bad time they can bail and the one who is having a great time can continue having that great time.

  39. Crane89 said:

    I’m an introvert, I live with my parents (common in my country’s culture) and when we go to parties I’m often being dragged to. At first, Family would get mad at me for not being in a “people” mood most of the night, but then I learned I can leave. Like, summon an Uber after 15-20 minutes and go. Away. Forever. Family didn’t take it well at first, but: It works for me (I watch Netflix with my cats while they’re partying) and for them (people don’t badger Family so much if they saw me in the first place, and any further question is answered with “Son is tired” or other variation that’s similar to Captain’s script+subject change).
    In other words: your husband has full permission to leave early, be it closer to your house or not. He may drop you by and leave and you take an Uber later, or he takes an Uber home and you drive back later (if you’re not under the influence OF COURSE), whatever works better for you. It’s not outrageously rude in the very extrovert minded Latin American country I live, I can’t be that bad for you in the US (I’m assuming you live in the US).
    Also, if your husband is like me, he may take small gatherings, so what about you hosting a dinner party for a much smaller crowd (another couple? a different couple every two or three weeks?). Your social circle may get to know your husband’s introversion better, (from your letter it seems they don’t know him at all), and they’ll hopefully take the cues better when you go “Hubby had stuff to do”+subject change.
    TL;DR husband may leave early + small gatherings + people learning about introversion
    INTROVERTS, UNITE! BUT SEPARATELY
    #letsscheduleamarchjusttocancelitlater

  40. Argablarg said:

    Hmm, my husband uses all these scripts on his relatives when we visit and I bow out of events midway through due to social overload (or miss a visit due to social overload), but my relatives still give him a ton of guilt– “Where is she? Doesn’t she liiiiiikkkeeee us????” He’s explained the whole introvert concept to them, but they do not understand. What next?

    • JenniferP said:

      Ride it out – they won’t change, so, give yourself permission to care less about it.

    • Depending on how much your husband likes his relatives, he could also take the “make the question extremely unpleasant to ask” approach…

      “She’s been quarantined for contact with someone who has Ebola.”
      “I always tell you that she’s tired, but the truth is that she’s actually an alien who needs to return to a gelatonous state every 72 hours and she spent the last 72 hours with you.”
      https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/e6/c5/5e/e6c55ea09ba860571ba1635ceb850e55.jpg. (I know there is a problem with period jokes in media but I always found the 30rock approach to be intentionally pointing out how absurd this stuff is, but apologies in advance if others have a different take–no intentions here to imply that periods are, in fact, scary and debilitating).

    • Also, maybe… If this is stressing you out (not clear from comment), ask your husband to keep this pressure from his relatives to himself. You should get to have introvert time without feeling bad about it, and by passing his relatives’ guilt trips on to you, he may be spreading that guilt around. It sounds like you want to manage this problem at least a little, since you asked, and if you ACTUALLY want to help manage how your husband’s relatives make him feel when they complain that you’re around, yay! You’re more supportive than I would be in a similar situation.

      But Husband’s relatives are being unreasonable, so I don’t think you would be out of line if you asked him not to pass the guilt buck to you by recounting these conversations because you don’t want to deal with it.

    • I’m going to make an assumption here that you don’t precisely need them to understand so much as you need them to stop whining. I recommend the traditional broken record there. Why isn’t Argablarg here? Because she couldn’t make it it. But whyyyyyy? Because she couldn’t make it. Doesn’t she liiiiiiiiike us? Talking about why Argablarg isn’t here is really boring, let’s end this visit for now and try again tomorrow.

      As a bit of a cranky introvert, I’m convinced the concept that some people really really like peace and quiet is simply not that complicated. If people don’t understand it, it’s because they don’t want to. You shouldn’t feel any guilt about setting firm boundaries with people who choose not to understand and think that their choice not to respect your boundaries means you have to put up with their bad behaviour.

      • Argablarg said:

        Thanks for all the advice, everyone! I think the problem is mostly that my husband *really* wishes I could hang out with them as much as he wanted, and so them continually asking about me is just twisting the knife. But, what can you do.

        • Tim Tam Girl said:

          ‘What can you do?’ Well, your husband can choose not to passive-aggressively use his relatives’ words as a way to pressure you and/or communicate his (already well-known) feelings about your operating system. He can 100% choose to do his own emotional labor and manage his own feelings, instead of off-loading them onto you.

          If you haven’t yet, it may be worth explaining to him in very clear terms that when he passes these comments on to you, he is only making you feel bad and that he is not doing anything to make it more likely that you’ll come more often/stay longer; in fact, by making it clear that his relatives have an issue with your introversion, he is actually making it *more uncomfortable for you and therefore making it an even more challenging an unwanted experience.

          (That may or may not be true, but if he thinks that he’s actively working against the outcome he wants, it may make him think twice about sharing their comments.)

    • Charmed Omega said:

      One nice think your SO could do is schedule a ‘siblings outing’ or similar: something that is presented as family-only and you’re reasonably ‘not invited to’. Even if not all the family members are included it breaks up the dynamic where everyone does everything together.

      • McStabbity said:

        This! Breaking events out by gender usually goes over pretty well too, especially with people who are on the socially conservative side. The lack of adaptability on the part of people who are getting all, “Whyyyyyyyyyyyyy doesn’t she doooooooo what we waaaaaaaant…” does strike me as something that’s likely rooted in a kind of social conservatism.

        • CarpeFelis said:

          Sounds like my husband’s family. They’re conservative in every possible way (religious, political, anti-feminist… picture Trump supporters) and I just can’t figure out how he came from them. At all. I don’t get them and they don’t get me (a female engineer who voted for Hillary and doesn’t go to church). I really don’t enjoy being around them. Even if I wasn’t introverted, I’d want every possible excuse to avoid faaaaaaaaaaamily events. I absolutely dread the holidays every year.

  41. K Dubs said:

    I second Cap’n’s advice here. One of my good couple friends is like this – she is an extrovert, he is an introvert. I think that’s honestly why their marriage works so well, actually. Anyway, often, we will invite her husband out to do things with us, but he usually declines, and that’s fine with him – he doesn’t resent her going out with friends whatsoever. But then sometimes they’ll invite me over just to hang out and watch stupid YouTube videos, and I know that’s Husband’s way of socializing in a way that feels comfortable for him. I never take it personally, I just understand that different people have different levels of tolerance for socializing, and that’s a-ok. I suspect that if I didn’t know this about him, I might feel a little weird, like I personally bothered him or something. So my suggestion is to just be honest and if people have problems, tell ’em to go scratch. 🙂

  42. nothealthyiknow said:

    I’m an introvert and my partner is an extrovert, but because our main friendship groups were just my friends before we met, I’ve started getting jealous when he goes to all the events and I don’t. I feel like they’re becoming more his friends than mine. But… I can’t tell him not to go to parties just because I’m not up for it. Before when I passed on parties, I felt fine, now I feel like I’m conspicuously not there, because he is, and like I should be there, and … ugh.

    • I really understand this feeling. It doesn’t happen to me as such, because Mr Theorem is as introverted as I am or possibly more, so we don’t go out much and when we do we usually want to leave at the same time. But when we’re having friends over, I generally need to go lie down before they leave (chronic pain + introvert + people = tires very quickly). Our friends know this and accept that it doesn’t mean the party is over, they’re welcome to stay and usually they do.

      But sometimes I lie in the bedroom and I hear them all laughing and I feel really left out, even though it’s all by my choice. And I don’t really have a solution for it.

    • BarlowGirl said:

      Would it help if you tried initating a couple smaller things regularly, like maybe having a couple friends over for pizza and a movie, or going out for coffee one on one with one friend? Things where you can still get friend time, but not on such a large scale?

  43. 1. I greatly appreciate the thoughtful conversation that’s happened here as we comment and react. That’s part of why I love this space.
    2. I would caution against any scripts that use language like, “dragged to,” or other coercive language even if it’s delivered in a joking manner. It can imply that the extroverted partner is being passive-aggressive toward the introverted partner even if that’s not at all true.

  44. Hey LW, I have this exact same scenario in my life except that I’m an introvert too, so don’t go out as much as it sounds like you do. Flip side is, it’s mainly REALLY IMPORTANT events I go to so people REALLY notice I’m solo (Spouse has even missed a couple of my very close friends weddings simply because he didn’t want to go).

    I’ve always just done what the Captain says, to be honest, and it’s not really an issue. I mean, sometimes I feel really self conscious when everyone’s coupled up and I have nobody to talk to for a while because I’m kind of awkward, but that’s not my husband’s problem to fix and doesn’t mean he should be attending events he doesn’t want to go to.

    Usually a variant of either “I’m afraid he couldn’t make it” + no explanation (for people I don’t see often) or “You know how [husband] is – he doesn’t really do big social things” (for people I do, who’ve heard it all before) works just fine. It really doesn’t have to be A Thing.

  45. Clare said:

    I agree that it’s best to stop making excuses. Making an excuse is the standard thing to do, but when people realise that the excuses are lies, they’ll start to fear that the lies conceal some deep, dark, ‘your husband hates us’ truth. If you present ‘my husband isn’t here because he doesn’t like parties’ as mundane fact hopefully it will reduce the mystery and anxiety for your acquaintances and they’ll get used to it?

    • Exactly. I tend to add in a jokey way, “it’s not just you, he avoids socialising with everyone!”

      • haha, so true. this is what i do with a friend of mine that i’m not even dating, but we do often do things together and have a ton of mutual friends who ask about him.

    • Marna Nightingale said:

      I was thinking that but not sure how to express it: if you just say “eh, he’s a flaming introvert,” people will mostly nod understandingly and maybe see if he’d like to come over for coffee alone.

      If you keep making up easy social lies, eventually they probably WILL add up in people’s heads to “he hates us” or “she actually keeps him locked in the attic” or, heaven forfend, they’ll assume that if he’s sick THAT often something terrible must be going on and the neighbors will pursue him with casseroles and a YouCaring fundraiser.

      Because it’s really really hard to tell a long string of social lies to the same people and NOT have them eventually give the impression that you’re hiding something that’s actually bad.

    • Marna Nightingale said:

      My next door neighbour’s partner hates crowds/parties. He is just never ever going to come to one of our loud, crowded Thanksgivings, and yet I see him quite a lot on the street/in their yard and we get along wonderfully.

  46. I was kind of surprised to see snark about this. Yes, the husband can go without it crushing him, but it seems they’ve already arrived at the perfect solution: she likes parties, he hates them, so she goes and he doesn’t. The only emotional labor here is being created around “what will people think??” If she just tells it straight – husband is not much of a party person – and lets people think what they want, there’s no issue.

    I too am an introvert married to an extrovert. I’ve tried but it’s not really politely possible to attend a party for 10 minutes. I’m pretty good at the pop-in but it still takes about 45 minutes. Forty-five sucky minutes, for me.
    Of course I make the effort for important things: I show up & put my social face on for the full duration of work events (his & mine); family & close friend stuff. But the neighborhood block party? I just don’t see what good comes out of me forcing myself to go to that.

    • B said:

      Yeah as an introvert and general busy person I don’t decline most social gatherings because I am afraid or anxious but because I just don’t really enjoy them, have better things to do, and don’t really care about what other people think if I don’t show up – I’m not really sure why it’s even their business?

  47. people ask me this all the time about a person i’m not even dating. we just tend to do a lot of things together and we have lots of mutual friends. it’s not them judging him or me or our “relationship”, it’s usually just them making conversation over something we have in common. sure, it’s a little different when you bring social couple expectations into it, but i think not that much.

    so, ++ to you don’t have to make excuses for him: “he wasn’t feeling social” or “he had other things he wanted to do” or “you know he’s not that into big gatherings”.

    *sometimes*, it’s also them assuming that i do some coordination of his social life, “is coming too?” in which case, i say ” you should ask him”. (although sometimes i do know his plans, i don’t want to be put in this role.)

  48. +1 to small talk greasing the wheels of the social contract! I also used to think I hated small talk until I realized what it was actually for.

    Plus, as a Not White + Not Straight + Not Male Person, I can often tell that a particular person and I are not going to get along purely from what they classify as appropriate small talk (notable examples: “What race are you?” “Oh, so was any of your family in the internment camps?” “Let me show you this racist meme!”)

    • CarpeFelis said:

      WOW. Anyone who’d say those things is truly obnoxious.

    • clorinda said:

      That must save you a lot of time, when they identify themselves so quickly.

  49. Digs said:

    I’m a big fan of “oh, you know, he’s an indoor cat.” It usually makes people smile and forget that they were being annoying.

    • CarpeFelis said:

      I love that! Being as I’m totally cat-obsessed, I’m sure my husband would get a kick out of saying that about me.

    • That is so cute. It’s a shame (on many levels) that my husband hates cats, otherwise I’d totally steal it.

    • Turtle Candle said:

      I LOVE this.

  50. By going to the social events by yourself sometimes without prevaricating or apologizing, and even sometimes organizing low-key things that your husband doesn’t go to, you might actually be modelling something that might be helpful for others. Maybe in another family, they can’t both go to the restaurant because they don’t have a babysitter – you going by yourself and talking about it helps them see that one of them going is a valid choice, either the one who hasn’t gotten out lately or the one who loves Korean food. Or if another couple is Pat who loves superhero movies and Chris who hates them, send out individual invitations when you’re going to Wonder Woman and then Pat can go without Chris. Having people in the crowd who don’t always socialize as a pair also makes things more welcoming for those of us who don’t come in a cake-topper set, whether single, poly, or dating someone who isn’t part of that crowd.

  51. LW 999 said:

    LW here. All good advice. Of course, like any issue, it is nuanced. I can easily handle the big party problem, but when it comes down to another couple inviting us over for a glass of wine and it is just me showing up all the time, it gets weird. It just does. I think the natural fallout will be that the invites will stop or I will be only invited to “ladies night” events. It is what it is.

    I think the truth of the matter is that the extrovert or the person in the relationship attending the events has the extra burden of fielding the inevitable questions. It is obvious that some feel ok with that role and some are uncomfortable or evolving in that role.

    Another commenter posted this-

    “I just wonder if a significant proportion of the those making the LW uncomfortable with this question are, in fact, people who have badgered or guilt-tripped their own SO into attending. They see LW as letting the side down and undermining their own position by demonstrating non-attendance of spouses as an option.”

    That made me smile. I have had many a SO ask me how my husband was able to “get out of” attending an event with a envious tone.

  52. Charmed Omega said:

    I’m also in one of these couples, I just want to point out that lying to the host is making things 1000% worse: it sounds like there’s a terrible secret reason that your spouse doesn’t want to come to their party that you _have_ to lie about. And it’s because he _totally hates them forever and thinks they’re the worst_. If you make it clear that he hates everyone (/s) then the host won’t feel like it’s personal.

    I go with silly hyperbolic “oh, he’s a grouchy misanthrope, he can’t handle people”

  53. Ella said:

    I’m in a relationship with an introvert, but am fairly extroverted. I actually really enjoy having friends who’ve never met my partner, and find it quite amusing that they are the invisible party – this is compounded by my partner living in a different city from me! The only people who really seem to mind are my parents, who I think would like to see them more, but its not a problem. I thought in the beginning that my partner not having a ton of friends and not going out a lot was a red flag thing, and of course for some it would be, but actually, it turned out that was just their style. The only think I ever get sad about is my deep love of throwing massive birthday parties, but so far we’ve navigated this by them coming along for a bit then going home/ to bed, and its worked really well. Also, I’ve found it very levelling to be with an introvert partner: I’ve got chronic illness and sometimes can’t go out: its rather nice having a partner who genuinely enjoys being quiet together.

  54. Bekah said:

    Except for the 24 years of marriage. this letter could be from a very dear friend of mine. She is quite extroverted and her husband is the most introverted person I have ever met (and I am an introvert myself). Most of the time I’ll ask her how husband is doing, but I never expect him to come to things, and if he happens to come and decides to interact I’m actually a bit flattered.

  55. adios pantalones said:

    Eh, introvert speaking here, and it’s one thing to let your spouse have their own friends and not bother about yours, but I think there are certain kinds of social obligations, such as work events, weddings and funerals, extended family stuff and neighbor block parties where barring extraordinary circumstances spouses should at least make a good faith effort to come for a brief period.

    I don’t think my neighbors are super fun, but greasing the wheels of those social interactions at block parties is worth it because you can get a lot of benefits from knowing your neighbors: they’ll water your plants when you go away; they’ll let your houseguests park in their driveway; they know what your pet looks like in case she escapes again. Ditto extended family — I don’t love talking to partner’s conservative Great-Aunt Linda at parties (and parties make me tired anyway) but she’s old and lonely and it means a lot to partner that I do it. And when she dies it will look like a pretty major snub if I don’t come to the funeral, even though funerals aren’t most people’s definition of a good time (and certainly not mine). There are certain workplace events that may be poorly organized or have bad food and involve a lot of shop talk, but the employees get points if spouses come, so we try for each other.

    I would be very upset if my spouse didn’t take on at least some of the work of maintaining these relationships that are not fun but can be very beneficial and mean a lot, and I think some folks are being pretty hard on LW.

    • Dana said:

      I totally understand your ground rule that the spouse should do at least some of the work in maintaining these relationships.

      But here I am, 20 years into a marriage I’m committed to, with its ups and downs, and my spouse WON’T do the work. Either I step in, or there is no relationship with these neighbors, distant family members, etc. etc.

      So it’s a very personal decision. I can’t control my spouse or his behavior. I can accept his hermit personality, or not.

      I think it’s great that you’ve found a way to do some of this work. But my spouse won’t. I can accept that, or not. I’ve chosen to accept that and quit nagging him. Because it’s pointless. He’s allowed friends — that I thought he really cared about and had 15-year or more friendships with — to drop out of his life entirely once those friends quite participating in the shared activity that had been the location of their interaction. Do I understand this? No. But it’s not up to me.

      I was much happier in my marriage once I accepted that he had a totally different way of managing these friendships than I would in his shoes. I wouldn’t want to have lost these people, or quit interacting with them entirely. But he’s accepted with apparently no worries that they are now gone from our lives. His choice. He won’t call, text or email. He won’t stay in touch or go where they are. And he seems very content with that. I don’t get it, but I accept it. And some of them have done the same — made no attempt at all to keep in touch with him, either. So there’s that. And thank goodness they haven’t gone through me and expected me to mediate their relationship with my husband. Because I really would not have gotten involved in that. These are his friends, from activities he participated in and for which I was totally a spectator.

      • adios pantalones said:

        I’m sorry. That sounds really difficult.

        What I wish your husband (and frankly some of these commenters) understood is something that took me a long time to understand myself. I would say, “well, if that party’s fun for you, won’t it be just as fun if you go by yourself?” In fact it’s NOT as fun to go by yourself and sometimes it’s not fun to go at all — it’s work. I didn’t realize this until I was partnered with someone even more introverted than myself for a short time.

        Does your husband acknowledge that some of this socializing is work and a favor you are doing for him? Does he return the favor by doing extra chores at home, doing nice things for you, taking some other burden off you in some way? Because he should. If my partner goes to an important event without me, I do a chore (and vice versa). If I just sit there playing video games or watching TV or reading or working on my hobbies instead, it’s disrespectful to my partner and the work they put in to keep us connected to other humans.

      • adios pantalones said:

        Does your husband acknowledge what you are doing as work and step up to take other burdens off you accordingly? When he stays home from an event that is important or difficult, does he do some necessary or helpful task for your household, like grocery shopping or changing out lightbulbs or budget-spreadsheeting, or does he usually just indulge in something fun for himself?

        It took being briefly partnered with someone even more introverted than myself for me to understand that some of this is work and should be honored and respected as work. If he doesn’t acknowledge that, well, he really, really should, and that’s not fair.

  56. Emma said:

    My partner is not introverted but is extremely busy, so I often go to things alone. What can work is him showing up for ten minutes not at the beginning of an activity, but at the end – e.g. if there’s a dinner out, he’ll show up for a drink after. This could also translate for the LW into her husband showing up to drive her home, and saying a quick hello to the host – e.g., “I’m sorry I couldn’t make it tonight, but I did want to come in and wish you a happy birthday quickly!” Showing up for 10 minutes at the end of the event means that he’s still been seen, but there’s no pressure for him to stay.

  57. mc__n said:

    So here is something I’ve been thinking a lot about: It would be nice if people stopped expecting other couples to be a certain way/perform what is considered “normal” behaviours, like doing everything together and going to all events together.

    And LW, I understand how “everybody else” makes it difficult.

    So in the last four years I have:
    -Been the only single person in my group of friends
    -Been solo-poly, meaning that I’m polyamorous but had no “primary”/”main”/”nesting” partner who would be my default companion for events but I would occasionally bring a person I was dating
    -Started a monogamous relationship where I’m very extroverted and my partner is very introverted and I often go to social events alone (I only mention the fact that it’s monogamous because it means that a lot of people expect my partner to show up to ALL THE THINGS with me)

    In all of these situations, it’s been made very clear to me that a lot of people/society in general values “the couple” as a unit. It’s not “sad” if you don’t do everything with your spouse (with the caveat that that is what you want and works for you), and it’s not worthy of pity if someone shows up to an event alone.

    So I’m not sure if this is what’s happening here. I completely understand wanting to get to know a friends’ spouse and that it’s important to spend time with them. I also understand that if an invitation has been specifically extended to the introverted spouse that there’s a different dynamic if the spouse never shows up after repeated invitations. But if the default isn’t “spouses go to things together always”, then it allows more breathing room for reasons why someone isn’t attending an event that aren’t “because I don’t like these specific people”.

    Anyway, I would put out a general plea that we try to make society a little less judgmental and have less rigid expectations of other people’s choices.

    • unlurking said:

      Agreed. A couple is not a unit. It’s two autonomous people.

  58. Convallaria majalis said:

    I know exactly how this feels. I love my spouse so very deeply and do not care that he is an introvert, after all it is one aspect of him and I would change nothing in him and his personality. I truly hope we will be as lucky as you are and get to be together as long as you have been.

    I do not know what I am: I seem to need a lot of alone time to be truly happy, but I also need socialization more than he does. Luckily his family knows him and appreciates his need for solitude and so does most of our close friends. I believe our culture here in the North is much more easy to introverts; being an introvert is mostly understood and appreciated (although things vary from place to place).

    In my family we talk about social quotas and how there are different ones and how every people fill a different amount of that quota with their presence. My introverted love seems to be just fine and happy to socialize when it comes to his favourite interests or our beloved family pets; last year he truly surprised me and filled in for me representing a pet rescue organization, answering the questions of hundreds of people.

    I completely agree with The Captain: being an introvert is absolutely fine. It is nothing to be ashamed of and it (probably) does not mean that your husband does not like your neighbours. If I can guess I am pretty sure he is grateful that you shoulder the lion’s share of the socializing with your neighbours while he does not have to. Indeed, it is a win-win situation.

    I wonder if your husband is like my love and likes mostly to spend time with just one person at a time. Does he have any especially close friends in the neighbourhood? Does anyone share his interests – for example my love does like to go fishing with a friend? If you could find some people he could befriend it would also show the neighbourhood that he does like people, he is just very particular about how he spends his time – and with how many people.

    My love also shies from big groups of people and prefers only one or two guests at a time. We sometimes invite people over for a dinner and board games – but not so that it would fill his social quota in a bad way or at a bad time. I must confess I was initially not that great at understanding his needs, but I hope I am getting better. Could you invite neighbours over, just one or two at a time, for a short period of time or to do something spcial (like board games, watch a movie…).

    I must confess I am not that big of a fan of general gatherings myself, either. I like to have something to do: playing board games or role playing games, planning a game, cooking… There are only a few people I am at ease with just sitting and talking. I do consider myself able to small talk and at times I truly enjoy it, but with some people it fills up my social quota pretty fast. Whether or not it is stressful or not is determined by many variables: Do they speak so that I can easily understand what they are saying? (for example, some people speak really fast so that following their train of thoughts takes concentration) Are they friendly when they talk? Do they judge? Do they talk of interesting things? etc.

    Your husband is who he is and you clearly love him just as he is and would not change him for the world. Have you talked about socializing more deeply? I mean, is there something he finds especially cumbersome? Are there any events he believes he could enjoy?

    Best of luck to you!

  59. Britta said:

    LW – I wonder why can’t he be the one to respond to the invites? Surely this problem could be helped somewhat if he was responsible, every time, for saying ‘oh no I’m sorry I can’t make it but my lovely wife can so she’ll be there with bells on – hope all is well’ or whatever? That way you can stop being his social secretary and he can take responsibility for handling any blowback?

  60. Raptor said:

    I’m in that same position. I have a couple friends who get it, but one that’s really starting to get offended that he hasn’t seen my husband in a while. (But does he call my hubs? No. He just whines to me.)

    It’s nice to have at least one friend you can go to and say, “Aww, B would have loved this sushi bar. But just too many people,” and have the friend agree, “Oh yes, too many people for B”

  61. Melz0r said:

    Very much in the same position here with my partner of 5 years. I’ve found that when I level with people (“He really likes you, but he’s just wired so that if he doesn’t get to spend a lot of time by himself reading every day he freaks out. He doesn’t want to offend you, he’s like this with literally everybody”) they’re actually really grateful because it helps them understand what he’s doing – works much better than trying to make excuses. Also I find if I treat it like it’s normal people tend to follow my lead?? And it’s a lot less work, because yeah, it shouldn’t be that you’re under extra social train to protect him.

  62. thathat said:

    Honestly, this sounds like a friend of mine’s husband. We’ve known each other for about ten years now and they were married when I met her, but I’ve seen her husband maybe…*maybe* a dozen times. Even though I’d go over to her house fairly often too.

    She let us know up front that he just wasn’t much of a social person. He has a small group of friends he hangs with, and she has her small group. He’s nice enough, but just not really interested in socializing with us.

    And for our group at least that’s never been an issue. It works just fine. Shoot, there’s some friends where I wish their SO’s would be slightly less involved in group activities.

    But the whole idea that if someone doesn’t want to hang out with a group that they must Dislike Those People is so frustrating. Double-exhausting for introverts, who are usually already worried about what people think.

    *jedi hugs*

  63. kelly said:

    Just tell them the truth. My husband doesn’t like to go out, but I wouldn’t miss this for the world! Turn it into a little joke if you need to. It’s honestly not that unusual. Don’t feel bad or awkward about it. You’ll probably be surprised at how accepting they will be.

  64. DJ said:

    Ironic that this topic is the first post I’ve ever read from Captain Awkward as that was the issue with my partner. He didn’t want to come to any of my social things and I’d be left fielding questions. I agree not much one can do to stop the questions. But my heart would sink when friends would have ‘the talk” with me about why he didn’t come with me. I’d advise that he isn’t social and doesn’t come to things but I was more than happy to come on my own. Sometimes I’d get dropped by the occassional friend but figured what sort of friend were they when their critters was that I had to come with a partner rather than want to see me for myself (and just wanted to clarify the situation). One friend I had to say “I can’t make him come along”. I guess if they continue to hassle you or continue to have “the talk” then turn it back on them and say “you’ve raised this issue a few times, does it bother you that he doesn’t come along” and explain that it’s now become hassling since you’ve already clarified the situation with them. Of course last resort. Otherwise “he’s not social and doesn’t come to things but I’m more than happy to come on my own”

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