Question: I recently got married to my longtime girlfriend. We are both in our late 20s, dated for almost a decade, and lived together for a year before tying the knot.

The living together/married life has been great so far, but there is one recurring issue that keeps bothering me: My wife seems to rely on me for any and all social activities outside of her workday. She has friends, but not really any whom she interacts with on a regular basis. I, on the other hand, still socialize with a group of old friends, play on sports teams, and seem to get out and do more with my free time. We do plenty of things together, too, and I try to include her as much as possible, and whenever she is willing.

I guess my issue is that all social activities are planned and initiated by me. And whenever I do something without her, she makes me feel guilty.

I have hinted many times that she should call so-and-so, join a club, or do something on her own, but I always come across like a jerk. I feel like it would be beneficial for her to have some social life that doesn't involve me. Every weekend, I have to figure out what we are going to do. If I don't, we do nothing. That is fine for us the majority of the time, it's just that I am already feeling the pressure as her only avenue to social activity.

Answer: You've "hinted"? You've hitched your life to this person. Talk, don't hint.

The issue isn't that she's leaning on you socially - that's an issue, not the issue. The issue is that you feel guilty and pressured, be it from her pressuring you or from pressure you've put on yourself.

You need to spell out to your wife that you are happy to take on the majority of cruise-directing (or else you wouldn't have married her), but you're not comfortable being her sole social outlet. It's simple, clear, and reasonable.

You also need to say it's important to you to feel free to go out solo on occasion, when she's not interested in going along. Say you've felt guilty every time you've done this.

Then you ask her what she thinks and really listen to the answer.

The distinction between her applying pressure and your pressuring yourself is an important one: Sometimes, people do, indeed, fire up a guilt trip every time their partners try to draw breath without them, and that's insecure and unfair - but sometimes, the guilt comes not from a clingy spouse, but from within, based on a person's own expectations of what couples are Supposed to Do.

Either way, the answer is for each of you to be open and honest in your discussion of what you need, then patient and attentive in listening to the other's needs. Then you see what each of you is willing (and not willing) to do to meet that need.

These conversations tend to work better before you decide to marry someone, ahem, but having them now beats not having them at all.

Chat with Carolyn Hax

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