My boyfriend and I have very different energy levels. He doesn’t mind non-stop social activity. He likes to host dinners, socialize with a lot of friends, and he likes having random conversations with strangers. Trying to be engaging and friendly doesn’t come as naturally to me, and it takes a lot of my energy. My best life would be spending a quiet weekend watching Netflix or exercising.
Recently, he asked me to go out to dinner with his best friend and the best friend’s wife the following night. I declined because I had a hectic week. He said I should go and that we come as a package. I couldn't say no otherwise I would offend them.
I went, and the entire evening exhausted me. We didn't get home until 1 am and then I had to be at work the next morning. It’s irritating that he insists I go to events, even if they’re last-minute. For him to push me into that evening was really unfair. I couldn't say no.
We’ve got two issues here: The first is “I couldn’t say no,” and the second is the “package.”
Let’s start with the package:
If you two come as a packaged deal, then that deal’s got to work both ways. What if you said, “Hey, I really don’t care what you’ve got planned for the upcoming Thanksgiving weekend, my ass is sitting on the couch binge-watching that new series on Netflix. We’re starting it Thursday morning and ending late Sunday night. If you’re not at my side munching on popcorn and Milk Duds, I’ll be offended.”
See, Stacie? This is not okay.
When you are in a relationship, it does not mean you give up your autonomy and free will. You still get a say in opting in or out of every single event ever presented to you. There’s never a time where he can “make you” do anything. You’re a person. We abolished slavery here in America in 1865. Could he make it uncomfortable for you if you say no? Sure, and we’ll get to that in a minute.
Now, will there be times you’d rather not, but in the spirit of being a good partner, you’ll go along? Absolutely! There are things we’re dying to do with and for our partner in a relationship, and there are things we’re willing to do, and sometimes taking that trip back home to his parents’ house in Ohio at Christmas lands squarely in the “willing” category. But you don’t go because he “made you” or because you’re a packaged deal, no exceptions. Bullying you into it does not make for a good or equitable relationship—or a fun trip, for that matter. Optimally, these types of concessions happen because you’re a magnanimous human being who’s a giver and you’re going as a gift to him.
Stacie, you need to set the stage for the rest of your relationship. It’s boundary-setting time. Here’s a template of a conversation you might want to customize to fit your personality:
“Love, you’ve been pretty insistent that I join you in doing things that I don’t want to do because you say we’re a package. This ends today. I love you. I want to be with you. And I want to go most places with you. But from here on out, when you ask me to go somewhere or do something, it’s a request, not a demand. And I will take all requests seriously, but I need to be free to decline without pushback. If this doesn’t work for you, I don’t think we should be together.”
Check in with him to see if he needs anything to honor this boundary, as well. You might have to work out how he can give you more information about what he’s asking for, which can feel different than pushback or force.
Another thing you might try is using a scheduling calendar. Pick a calendaring system for all requests. He can send you an invitation to something through the calendar (preferably with plenty of notice), with all the details you need, and you can click the yes, no, or maybe button, and there’s usually a field for comments/questions, too. Google Calendar is how my partner and I ask each other to things, and it works great.
This is kind of a big deal, Stacie. You want to nip this behavior now. He can either lose the attitude or he can lose you, because every time he gets pushy about you going somewhere you don’t want to go, what he’s really saying is, “I care more about what I want than what you need or want.” Which is not okay. Being partnered does not mean you do everything together, and it does not mean your time is owned by anyone but you.
p.s. I’m a little worried about you, Stacie. What else don’t I know about? Please listen to my Happy in Love relationship workshop. Let’s make sure you two are building a nice, strong foundation for a partnership that thrives.