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Hax: Hubby prefers to avoid wife's friends, putting damper on her social life

| Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015, 9:00 p.m.

Dear Carolyn:

My wife has made a couple of new friends, and does things with them a time or two a week. I'm fine with that.

Now, she would like our families to have regular get-togethers. I've spent a little time with all of them, and I'm just not interested in spending significant amounts of time with these people beyond the rare holiday party or similar event. I feel like some people are “her” or “my” friends and some people are “our” friends, and I have told her she's free to spend time with her friends without me.

She accuses me of “keeping her from her friends” somehow by not wanting to do things as families. How much time and effort do I have to put into my wife's friendships?

— Anonymous

Your wife has a point. You are keeping her from her friends in a specific way: She can only ever see them in a girl's-night-type context or flying solo when they gather as families. That's limiting.

Saying no to joining them is your prerogative.

Saying no as if it's not a big deal, though, when she thinks it is, comes across as dismissive. Consider these two phrasings:

• “I don't stop you from seeing them without me, so I don't get what the problem is.”

• “I understand why you want this, and wish I could give it to you, but I just don't enjoy these friends the way you do.”

Which “no” will go down smoothly, and which will burn?

Even better than Option 2 — and to answer your question — follow up with an offer to give it a try anyway. Maybe one gathering a month or so, with an open mind, for her.

That shows you value her and her happiness even as you deny her something meaningful.

Dear Carolyn:

My fiance and I are deciding where to spend our first holidays together. Every holiday before this has been celebrated apart, with our own families. I would rather spend time with my family, but my fiance wants us to spend it together — which to him means spending the morning with one family, and then driving to see the other in the afternoon.

The only problem: Our families are five hours apart! I don't want to do that. What you would advise?

— Choosing

Say this to him, not me.

My advice is to follow his lead in theory, if not in practice: You are going to be married, so it's time for both of you to state your preferences clearly and figure out an arrangement you both can live with.

To give you an idea of how this sounds:

He says it's time to spend holidays together, and wants to start with one family and then drive to see the other.

You say you want to be together, too, but if it means being in the car for five hours on a holiday, separate sounds better. Would he be willing to alternate?

There's one unbreakable ground rule: no secret agendas of getting your way. If either of you is angling to grab more family time at the other's expense, then please consider a longer engagement. Love is swell, but maturity, transparency and mutual support are what keep it together.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, and follow her on Facebook at facebook.com/carolyn.hax.

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