How often do you go to a gathering with your significant other and by the time you leave one or both of you are mad? Have you ever gone to a party where the only person you knew was your partner, so you either spent the night following them around or just sitting by yourself? Although many people may not think about it, navigating social events is a big part of building and maintaining a relationship. While couples may enjoy their time together and get along great, sometimes adding outside factors such as the presence other people, can cause major issues. Even the most considerate of partners can forget that they are one part of a couple when they get around old friends or when they are working the room for work. While this can certainly cause friction in a relationship, it doesn’t have to have lingering effects.
Here are a few tips on how to prepare for and recover from your next outing with your partner.
If you have been to enough gatherings with the same groups of people, you know there tends to be a dynamic. Take this example of casual house party among friends. It normally starts with a lot of socializing and drinking while people are arriving and catching up. After about an hour or two, different people start playing DJ, and there are usually a few people in the middle of the floor dancing and/or singing while others look on or continue their conversations. One friend will normally start a story that is brought up to embarrassing another person, which isn’t so embarrassing because most of the guests have heard it a few times. As the night goes on the couples or new people slowly leave and the singles or the oldies tend to stay behind to continue the party. This is the basic pattern of every house party with a few changes here and there. Knowing this pattern can help any of the regular guests communicate with their significant others about what is to be expected at this party and to see if there are any concerns that the significant other may have.
Take some time before the gathering to discuss the dynamics of the gathering with your significant other. Who is hosting? Will there be tons of unshared acquaintances? How does the event normally go? Are there people to avoid? Who are the people that will be easier to talk to for a newbie? Any time before the party is the perfect time to come up with a plan that includes the amount of time you guys will spent at the party, if there will need to be check- ins and what, if any, signals will be used to communicate feelings of comfort or distress. Discussing a few critical things before your next outing can save you a whole lot of problems later.
As the party is going on, stay aware of your surroundings and the other person. Don’t disappear and leave your significant other stranded, and if you must leave the room for a while, at least let the other person know you are stepping away. There are ways to check in regularly depending on the size of the party. If it is a larger party, make it a point to engage directly with your significant other at least once every 30 minutes or so. You may adjust this time frame depending on both of your personalities, but you should be deciding this before arriving at the party. If the newbie is an introvert, you may need to spend less time away. If they tend to be the life of the party, you may be able to stay apart the whole time. Do what is best for both of you, but make sure that you are at least checking in.
If it is a small party, you should be able to have eye contact with signals: small smile= everything is going well; wide eyes= come check on me; fingers shaped like a gun to my head= save me now! It doesn’t matter what signals you guys decide to use, but be playful in whatever you choose. Yes, the signals are in place to ensure each other’s comfort at the party, but more importantly, they are another way to increase intimate communication in your relationship. Consider the signals your secret language. Nothing brings people together and encourages a special bond like a secret!
But perhaps, the most important tip for during the party is to enjoy yourself. Don’t get so caught up in what your partner is doing that you forget to enjoy the company you are in. If you see something you don’t like, address it when you leave unless there is blatant, public disrespect. If you feel that something is happening that you completely disagree with, you should always have the right to say something to your significant other at that time in private. Use your communication tools to be clear and concise and make a point that you would like to address further once you get home. Ultimately, your goal is make it through the party without sacrificing your relationship. There is no need to begin to plot revenge or completely ignore your spouse.
Spend your time on the car ride to discuss the best and worst parts of the party. Identify and discuss any problems you had at the party, with your partner’s behavior, or the night in general. This does not mean attack your partner or his friends but identify where you could have used some back up or what you think you should have done better. Discuss what could have gone better between the two of you, and what you think you excelled at. Make sure you talk about how well the signals worked, if you would like more time with your partner, etc. and make a plan for the next time.
This may sound formal for a friend’s birthday party, but you would be surprised by the number of couples that have lasting relationship issues because of what happened during their last social engagement when a simple, post- activity conversation could have cleared the air. This does not have to be a sit-down at the kitchen table meeting. Some of this could just make good banter for the car ride there and back. Once you have done it a couple times, it will just become a part of your outings and will keep you connected as a couple, no matter how many people are around you.
Now you are prepared to navigate the next event whether it is a wedding, game night, or office Christmas Party. Use these tools to prepare you for the outing with others and to recover once it’s all over. Planning, execution and debriefing are all you need to make sure the next event always goes smoother than the last.