Is there anything harder than making friends with other couples?
When you first get married, you tend to run into two possible scenarios:
- The wives get along, but the husbands don’t.
- The husbands get along, but the wives don’t.
By “not get along” I don’t mean they have a hard time not fighting each other. To date, I’ve never said to my wife, “I’m so glad you and Samantha are good friends, but last time she was over, her husband hit me over the back with a chair. Fortunately, my core is ridiculous and I was able to absorb the blow, but that guy is the worst.”
By “not get along,” I mean that while the wives are catching up enthusiastically, the husbands stare at each other blankly for two awkward hours over dinner. Or vice versa.
But you struggle through, you do the work of finding friends you both love hanging out with. You even get a few that pass the ultimate test, going on vacation together! There are friends and then there are people you can actually stand long enough to spend a week with at the beach.
Things seem perfect, right up to the moment that kids are added to the mix. Now in addition to wives getting along with wives and husbands getting along with husbands, you have to worry if your kids will mix well. Worst of all is when your close friends raise jerks.
“Raise jerks” is a strong phrase that I used mostly because it’s fun and “have different parenting styles than your own” is such a boring collection of words. Right now, though, I promise that some of your friends have kids that you don’t want your kids to be around. Maybe they’re loose with discipline. Maybe their kid swears like a sailor which is surprising for a toddler. Maybe your friends overlook correctable behavior like “biting” with the laziest of all phrases, “That’s just kids being kids.”
Regardless of the reason, you’re suddenly finding it hard to hang out with your friends because their kids are jerks. How do you handle that? Here are a few ideas:
1. Get a babysitter.
Who says you have to always have the kids connect? Don’t lose friends just because you think every time you hang out has to be a full family affair.
2. Make sure you’re not overreacting.
People always say you shouldn’t talk about religion or politics with people you don’t know. Let’s add “parenting styles” to that list. If you want to have the most awkward conversation in the history of mankind, try to force your personal parenting style on your friend. Make sure you’re not overreacting to what might really amount to just a difference in preferences.
3. Talk with your friends.
If you have a real relationship, you can have a real conversation. If you don’t, there’s no amount of kid gloves you can use to broach the topic without a blow-up. But if the issues are bad enough that you’re going to lose the friendship, be honest and be vulnerable.
4. Move across the country.
Is this one extreme? It is, but maybe you hate confrontation as much as me. Maybe when you weigh your options, the only one that makes sense is to sell your house, quit your job and move to California. You can make new friends there. People are very open-minded and there are palm trees and stuff.
I feel like I really brought it on home with that fourth point.
I should turn this topic into a book because I didn’t even have time to address the surprise twist. What if you’re the couple who is raising a jerk? Oh no! The call is coming from inside the house!
Relationships aren’t easy, but they’re worth it. Do the work of building couple friends. Parenting is a tough job and you’ll need other people who are on the journey with you.
Don’t overreact. Be honest. And remember there’s plenty of real estate on the west coast if nothing else works.