Today's topic comes courtesy of a friend, who writes:
Hi AJ,Can I use a fake name? Oh boy, can I! Friend, your new name is Dmitri. Feel free to try on a fake Russian accent.
I'm looking for a polite way to relay to a few friends that I'm not
into the idea of doing something EVERY night. I work full time,
exercise almost every day, and enjoy spending time with my family.
Plus, it gets expensive to drive around all the time, even if we
aren't planning an expensive activity.
I'm nervous that if I approach the topic too directly they'll think I
look at them as clingy/annoying and there will be hurt feelings. Any
PS: could you please use a fake name if you choose to publish this?
Dmitri, you chose the right person to write to for advice. Whereas a lot of my columns are based on me just sitting here and thinking about the politest way to handle a situation I have never been in, this is a topic I have tons of real-life experience with. I am introverted by nature so I have lots of practice turning down invites to social events. It's not that I don't like my friends, it's just that sometimes I need to spend a night at home with a book and recharge.
I don't know whether you identify more strongly with introverts or extroverts, but I have a feeling that even the most outgoing soul is going to occasionally want to lounge around in their jammies in front of the TV after a full day of work and a hard work-out. We all need to rest from time to time, both physically and mentally. It sounds like your friends are leading a less strenuous life than you and you're worried they won't understand.
Well, stop worrying so much, Dmitri (I really like typing your fake name, can you tell?). You've got to take care of you, and you can do so politely. I don't think you really even need to explain yourself. Just start saying "Sorry, I can't come out tonight. How about we do something on Saturday instead?" or some variation thereof. Don't offer excuses! Your friends will counter them, and you'll have to either make more excuses (which makes it clear that you just don't want to hang out but can't bring yourself to say it), or you'll have to let yourself get talked into going out rather than admitting that you're lying.
I also don't recommend making a blanket announcement that you don't want to hang out as often. I think even the most polite wording will lead to some hurt feelings. It's easier to turn things down one by one and be able to decide what you want to do than deal with sulky friends not inviting you to their birthday party because "Dmitri doesn't want to hang out with us anymore."
I can't tell if you have one group of friends that wants to hang out together every night (which I find a bit extreme, but as I said above, introvert. My husband is the only person I see every day), or if you have a big social web that results in different people inviting you out every night. In the first case, it's pretty easy to just limit yourself to only seeing them 1-3 times a week as your schedule allows. In the second case, you may find yourself juggling friends as you try to get a chance to see everyone and make them all feel loved, without hitting the bars or going bowling every night.
My advice to you would be to decide how often you need a "you" night -- for me, I like to have one night a week that I don't go out for anything. You may be fine having one every two weeks, or happy going out every night as long as you come home early once a week. Then look for alternative ways to see everyone -- grab lunch with one friend, weekend afternoon coffee with another, see if any of them want to be workout buddies so you can combine socializing with exercise.
Most of your friends will probably be cool with the new arrangement, as long as they still get to see you on a regular basis. The ones who genuinely "need" to see you every. single. day. are probably the sort of emotionally needy person that you'll want to minimize your time with anyway.
As for the money thing, boy, do I hear you! If you live in a spread-out area, the cost of gas adds up pretty quickly. If you find yourself still going out a lot, do your best to work on some ride-sharing arrangements or make sure that a fair amount of the plans are close to your side of the town. You should never be in a situation where you always have to go see them unless your friend is housebound for medical reasons.
I hope this helps, Dmitri! (just had to type it one more time)
If you have your own sticky social situation, you can write me at Politelyworded@gmail.com and I will see if I can help!