You know how you’ll have a friend who you’ve known for many years and then she will get a boyfriend that you don’t like? Or worse yet, it is a spouse that you don’t like. So then you don’t want to spend any time with that friend, because she feels like she has to bring her boyfriend or spouse along to every single thing that you two normally did just together. I think the same thing about people’s children as well.
These are all their “plus one” relationships. They are invited to the party, and they bring someone extra that you don’t know. You haven’t really agreed to them being there, but you have to go on trust. Except it isn’t a party, it is a relationship between friends.
I want to have a relationship with just that person, not the significant other and not their child. To me, it shouldn’t be a package deal. Sometimes I luck out and the s/o or the child is very pleasant. But more often than not the opposite is true. The s/o is self-centered or abusive, and the child is, well, a child. Children can’t help being annoying when they are young. They can’t help being loud and interrupting all the time. That is just part of the nature of young children.
Sometimes you might try to arrange the gatherings when you know that the child is with his other parent. I know a lady who will invite her friend out for seafood – knowing that her husband is allergic to shellfish. This way just the two of them can be together.
Sometimes adding a s/o or a child to the mix signals the end of a relationship. Sometimes it is because people get too busy to spend time with friends. But sometimes it is because they don’t realize that their friends didn’t sign up for the s/o or the child. They’ll try to drag them along, and then nobody is happy.
Having a relationship with someone is like a contract. We agree on how we will be together as friends. We agree that we’ll call or write or visit a certain amount of times with each other to keep the relationship going. We agree that we’ll share each other’s good times and bad. But when you add a significant other or a child, it adds a whole other person to the contract. Everything has to get renegotiated, and rarely do people even talk about this. They seem to think of it as “Love me, love my partner or child” and it isn’t always that way. Just because I like you doesn’t mean I like who you live with.
Sometimes partners are abusive. Sometimes children are unruly. Sometimes the problem isn’t just dealing with the abusive or unruly other person that is suddenly in the mix, it is dealing with your feelings about this new and unpleasant person in your friend’s life.
You love your friend, and you don’t want to see her hurt. You can tell that this guy is bad for her. You can tell she’s totally inept at parenting. Watching her with these people hurts, because you know she is in for a lot of pain.
So some of the problem is about how you feel with this “plus one” added to the party. Some of it is about how it changes or destroys the relationship you had with your friend. Some of it is about how you feel bad for her, living with such difficult people.