My husband is a different person when we have friends over. He is more lively, more forthcoming, more affectionate. Is this for show? Should I be grateful he is like this on occasion or resentful that he’s not like this all the time? I don’t get it.
I totally get it! I even have a name for it. I call this the Third Party Effect. I’ll break it down for you. No matter what kind of marriage you have, whether it be that of a fairy tale (I know, very problematic but you get my point) or Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, people tend to get into relationship ruts. Days, weeks, months or even years can go by when you do the same things, say the same things, go to the same places and generally get good and sick of everything your partner does, says and looks like.
There are people who say this never happens to them. I call these people liars. Anyway, this ennui can be interrupted by many things, one of which is the entrance of a third party. You perk up. You engage. The dust comes off your conversational skills. Everyone is on their best behavior. The third party can blow the ennui to smithereens.
In fact, when friends come over for dinner, you can learn all sorts of things about your spouse. For example:
Third Party: So great to see you guys! What’s been going on, Joe?
Joe: Not much, really. Though I did just win a Pulitzer…..
TP: A Pulitzer? That’s amazing!!! Congratulations!
You: You did?
Joe: Yeah, no biggie. What I’m really happy about is the Nobel. That was kinda cool.
TP: Nobel! Wow, fantastic. Glad things are going so well.
You: You won a Nobel?
Joe: Yeah, six months ago. Just before the Grammy.
After many years, it’s easy for relationships to get as stale as months-old multigrain. However, all is not lost. Have no fear! Memories are made when we do something outside of the norm, so, one way to break out of the rut is to break out of the routine. That could be packing up dinner and taking it to the park, it could be going to one of the free concerts in Evanston, it could be driving all the way up Milwaukee and see if you end up in Milwaukee. The possibilities are endless. And if nothing else works, just invite friends over and wait for the Third Party Effect to work its magic. For all you know, your spouse just won the lottery.
In my friend group of six women, one has a serious girlfriend. We’re planning a girls weekend, and my friend is assuming her girlfriend will be invited. We aren’t inviting anyone else’s partners, all of whom are coincidentally male. Should we invite my friend’s girlfriend?
In or out?
Dear In or out?
I’m gonna go with all or nothing here. If you invite one partner, then you open the door to all the other partners and that would decidedly be a much different group dynamic. Explain to your girlfriend that while you love her partner, this get together is just for the six of you. There are lots of people who believe that once they pair up, everyone wants to be with their partners as much as they do.
When I was a single woman, I personally found this confounding and infuriating. As in asking a girlfriend: “Wanna go to a movie?,” only to hear “We’d love to!” I was never asking the couple, just my friend. And this happened more than once. Sometimes people change a lot when they find a partner. Sometimes not. It can be thorny to negotiate these new landscapes but gentle honesty is usually the way to go. Have fun!
My three year old has always been a champion sleeper, until now. Suddenly, she doesn’t want to go to bed when it’s time, and she’s very vocal about it. I’ve tried everything I can think of: reasoning, cajoling, bribing and pleading. I know this fortitude may serve her well later in life but right now, it’s driving us all insane! Any ideas?
Isn’t parenting fun? Just when you have everything all figured out, a tooth comes in, strep throat attacks, visitors arrive, or the barometric pressure changes. The whys and wherefores of what works to keep your progeny happy and healthy elude even the cleverest among us. And what works for one child could do absolutely nothing for another.
Fortunately for you, Gabby has an idea! Truth be told, it was given to me by a wonderful preschool teacher at Reba Early Learning Center back when I had two kids in a double stroller held together with duct tape and one in a backpack. But that won’t stop me from taking credit for it.
Take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle vertically. Label the left side, “things Suzie gets to decide” and on the right, “things parents get to decide.” Obviously, this is all about giving your kid some agency. Sit down with Suzie and fill out the two lists, so that for instance, the left hand column might say: what she gets to wear, what toys she gets to play with, what she eats for snack…etc. Load that column with as many things as you can. Then on the right, you stick to just a few important things like: what medicine she takes, when she wears a seat belt, when she goes to bed, when she sees the doctor. See how “when to go to bed” was buried in there? You’re way ahead of me. Then put the list up right by her bed. When sleep time rolls around every night, read the list together, tuck her in and then cross all your fingers and toes. I hope that does the trick…or at least suffices until the next big change in barometric pressure.
Dear Gabby appears in the RoundTable every Monday. Yes, Gabby is an advice columnist – but not just any advice columnist. Because that would be boring! Gabby combines wisdom with wit. And a pinch of snark. She is not a trained therapist by any means, but has seen and loved many in her day. Her aim is to make you think while she makes you laugh. Gabby welcomes all questions and queries and is only too happy to hear your opinion, no matter how much it may diverge from hers. Write to Gabby at email@example.com.