"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
December 11, 2014
Saying No to Girls' Night Out
by Cyndie Swindlehurst


My husband travels every week and is only home on the weekends. Even though his work schedule is well known to our friends, they insist on asking us to get together on nights he is home.

I always say no, but people hate that. I get so frustrated, because every time I try to spare our friends' feelings and attend a dinner or a girls' night out, I end up mad that I chose some dumb party instead time with our family.

Is there a way out of this problem?


The way out of this problem is to say, "No, thank you. I can't," when people ask you to go out on the weekends. You might even add, "Weekends usually don't work for me."

That's it. No excuses, no explanations, no awkward moments. Just a regretful, "I can't," from you and a regretful, "Oh, well," from your friend. In fact, your friend might already know that you can't come, but wants to extend the invitation anyway so you won't feel left out. It could be her way of saying, "You're part of our group," even though she knows you can't accept.

What I'm wondering is what you mean when you say people hate it when you say no. Do they beg? Cry? Bristle? Stomp off? What happens?

One, do you mean people express regret when you decline? Do they say, "Oh, too bad," or "Oh, Jack will be disappointed," or "You should come -- you deserve a break." Never fear. These phrases are not recriminations. They are not an attempt to make you feel bad. They are merely attempts to convey your friends' affectionate disappointment at your refusal. In fact, many people would be flattered by them.

So don't take these protestations too much to heart. I'm sure your friends are sincere -- they would probably love it if you changed your mind -- but I doubt they will actually be hurt or insulted if you stick to your decision and decline the invitation.

Two, do you mean that people tease you about your family-only weekends? You may not like it, but being teased for enjoying your family's company is not an insult. It's a fun thing about you. You can embrace it with a genial, "Yep -- that's me. Family Lady."

Or you can discourage it by looking blank every time they joke about it, as if it takes you a minute to remember what they're talking about, and then changing the subject.

Three, perhaps you mean that you're starting to feel like you're no longer part of your core social group. Unfortunately, this is to be expected. If you do not attend events, you will not hear the inside jokes or the scuttlebutt.

If you do not spend time with the group, you will not be part of the group. It has nothing to do with how much people like you, or how they feel when you don't come to events, and everything to do with how much time you actually spend with them.

If any of these suggestions has described the ways your friends "hate it" when you decline invitations, I think your problem is largely internal. I think you are ascribing negative feelings to your friends that they don't actually have.

However, if your friends become visibly frustrated when you don't accept their invitations, or tell you in all seriousness that they are irritated by your refusals, then you do have a problem. Here are three ideas for what your problem could be, and how to resolve it.

First, perhaps your friends are unreasonable. If so, you should consider finding new friends. Difficult people are unavoidable at work, church, school, airports and other obligatory places. But life is too short to spend your leisure hours with people who are taxing, vexing and demanding.

Second, if an otherwise reasonable friend snaps at you for saying "No, thank you," you should consider what else might be going on in her life. Perhaps she is experiencing a serious personal problem. You should express concern and ask her what is going on.

"Tara," you could say, "I'm sorry about Saturday night, but what's the matter? You don't seem like yourself. Is something else going on?" Forgive her instantly for snapping at you and see if you can help, instead.

Third -- and don't take this personally -- but perhaps you are not being a good friend. Friendship is a two-way relationship, and you may not be holding up your end of the stick. If this is a close friend who always accepts your invitations, comes to your parties, and is willing to participate in activities you organize, you have a social duty to reciprocate.

It is unfair to expect her to interact with you strictly on your terms. If you refuse all of her invitations, you are sending a clear message that she is not important to you, that you are not, in fact, close friends.

Now, the flip side is that a friend should understand, for example, that you cannot get together on the weekends. But you also owe it to a friend to make exceptions now and then for events that are important to her. If she has helped make your events a success, you should help make her events a success.

Finally, and this is off topic, but I strongly dislike the term "Girls' Night Out." It sounds like something that involves miniskirts, too much mascara and yelling, "Woooooooo." Perhaps I'm being silly, but I more enjoy dining out or attending a movie with my friends if we call it simply "going to dinner."

Do you have a quandary, conundrum, or sticky situation in your life? Click this button to drop Cyndie a line, and she’ll be happy to answer your question in a future column. Any topic is welcome!

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About Cyndie Swindlehurst

Cynthia Munk Swindlehurst spent her childhood in New Hampshire and her adolescence in San Diego. She served a mission in Manaus Brazil. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in English and from Duke University with a law degree.

She practiced law until her first child was born. She enjoys reading, tap dancing, and discussing current events. She and her husband live in Greensboro, North Carolina with their two sons.

Cyndie serves as the Sunbeams teacher in her ward.

Visit Cyndie at Dear Cyndie
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