Etiquette Questions, Answered: Entertaining and Guests
Real Simple's Modern Manners columnist helps you avoid committing an entertaining faux pas.
Q: The only thing that my husband hates more than going to dinner at other people’s houses is entertaining at our home. (He has a stressful work schedule and coaches a kids’ sport team during the week, so on weekends he just wants to hang out with me and our son.) But now and then I do accept a dinner invitation on our behalf, which puts me in a bind when it comes to reciprocation. Taking these couples out to dinner is not an option financially, but my husband is opposed to having dinner guests. How can I extend a courtesy to my friends without damaging my marriage?
A: Your husband must learn to compromise. Unless he has a full-blown social anxiety disorder, he is going to have to socialize occasionally, for the sake of you and your son.
Explain to him that you’re worried about raising an only child isolated from other families. (This is, by the way, a valid concern.) “In order to maintain our friendships, we need to reciprocate,” you might say. “What are the ways you feel most comfortable doing that?” Suggest to him that you host a large, no-frills party—a simple picnic, potluck, or barbecue—which would allow you to cross multiple families off your IOU list all at once.
If your husband still won’t agree, the situation might warrant a more significant intervention, such as a visit to a marriage counselor or a therapist, to work on the basics of give-and-take.
In the meantime, make sure your friends understand that your lack of reciprocation does not represent a lack of interest. After they have you over, send an e-mail thanking them and clarifying your situation as much as you feel comfortable doing so: “It’s been hard for us to entertain recently, and we’re so grateful for your continued friendship.” And consider this: Perhaps as your husband gets to know people better, these gatherings will start to feel more festive than onerous.
- Must We Reciprocate a Dinner Invitation?
- How Do I Get Friends to Respond to My Evite?
- Can We Invite Another Couple to Dinner?
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