Dear Captain Awkward,
I have a recurring problem in my living situation (and relationship) that never seems to get resolved.
It might sound silly but it causes quite a bit of tension in my otherwise happy twosome…
I work two hours away from home which involves a long daily commute and means dragging my tired self home at 7.30pm at the very earliest. Anyone who works this way will understand that there is little time for much else other than dinner, a tv show and a shower before it’s time to get to bed and do the whole thing all over again. Luckily, I love my job.
My partner works 15 minutes from our house alongside his two very best friends. Sometimes, this gets on his last nerve but generally he has no problem spending that much time with them. One guy in particular will sit on after work at our place for the entire evening. He’s still there when I get home late and tired.
The problem is my boyfriend expects me to sit, smile and socialise until this guy decides to go home. They are usually stoned and my boyfriend hasn’t bothered to think about dinner (I find myself buying and making it most weeknights). On nights like this I become enraged but silent and he says I’m selfish not to be more welcoming to his friends. TIMING, dear TIMING!!!
Usually, this friend just talks to my boyfriend as opposed to me anyway but if I try to disappear until he’s gone home, I’m the SheDevil!
I feel that because he gets so much free time with his buddies (sometimes he goes to their houses… I am all for this!!) he could just give me a reprieve from their bro-time in my place. Give my head peace!!
Am I a SheDevil?
Cranky Co-habiting Commuter
If you’re a SheDevil for being annoyed at this dynamic, I’m one too! (Or, at least, one of Kate Beaton’s Straw Feminists).
Right now my teaching schedule has me going from 9 am to 10 pm on some days, and I’m trying to imagine if I had to come home and interact with people after that. Nope. Nopeity nope nope nope nope. Nyet. Non! Ne. Nay. Nein.
Here is a visual aid:
That’s me after one of my Thirteen-Hour-Thursdays*. Do I look like I want to make you dinner or hang out making small talk?
It’s time to
negotiate ask make some things clear:
If you like making dinner every night and it’s a task that soothes you, by all means continue. But if you need this to be different, you get to ask for it to be different:
Script #1: “Partner, can you take care of getting dinner on the table x days/week? It’s not sustainable for me to keep doing that every night after I commute. Cool, thanks.”
For the record, in my house growing up, x = 5 days/week because my dad got home easily two hours earlier than my mom on weeknights. (She cooked on the weekends.) They just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last weekend, so, here’s to 50 years of bad jokes and equitably divided household chores.
Script #2: “Partner, on weeknights, can you go to your friend’s house instead of bringing him back here? We can have him over sometime on a weekend when I have more energy.”
Script #3: “Partner, if you want to have Duder over after work every now and then, fine. I want you to be able to hang with your friends! Here’s what I need for that to work: 1) A little advance notice, like a text in the afternoon letting me know he’s hanging out that night 2) For that to be a night you 100% take care of dinner stuff. 3) To be able to say a quick ‘hi’ and then go to bed or to be alone to decompress – I don’t have the energy to hang out and play hostess.”
You can shift behaviors without negotiating ahead of time or to enforce the boundaries you’ve asked for, i.e., if you know the dude is gonna be there stop off on your way home and grab something for just you to eat and let them totally fend for themselves because you already ate. You can also come home, see Duder sitting on your couch and say “Oh hi Friend, nice to see you. I’m really tired so I can’t hang out. I’m gonna go in the other room and decompress for a bit, have fun” and then do just that. If your boyfriend is pissy about it, let him be pissy. I don’t think the friend will actually be surprised or sad at all if you do that, this is more about your partner and his expectations. Your partner thinks it’s okay for you to have a sucky time as long as you perform in a way that will make him and his friend have a good time.
Here’s a rule I didn’t even know that I had about such things, are you ready:
“If you’re a close enough friend to do drugs on my couch on the regular, you’re a close enough friend to see me in my pajama pants and be told a perfunctory hello before I go in the other room to read books.”
You know what’s not reasonable? It’s not reasonable for your partner to expect you to make dinner every night and also put on your SparkleHostess personality after a 12-hour workday. Like, COME ON. Doesn’t he know that it’s Bra-Off-O’clock?
If your partner pushes back at this, or calls you unwelcoming or mean (or a She-Devil) I’d be like “Yep, I’m a She-Devil, also, I don’t want to see that fucking dude’s face on my couch again which should be easy because we’re broken up now byeeeeeee.”
See also: “Yep, I’m not really welcoming in those circumstances because I don’t actually feel welcoming. I like hanging out with your friends sometimes just fine, but on weeknights I’m pretty useless for socializing. It’s not a mystery as to why. If you want to hang out with people, great! But don’t pressure me into it on weeknights, it won’t be a good time for me!”
Consider: “I need us to find a place closer to my work. Four hours is too long for me to commute every day.”
I hope your partner is cool about this and you continue to be mostly happy together.
*One more week! One more week. The end of the term is soooooooooooooooooooooo close, y’all.