Ray asked the following:
Hi, my boyfriend and I have been dating for a little more than 4 years. We live together. For the past few months, I’ve been pretty unhappy with our social life. I’m sick of partying, going to gay bars and getting shit-faced almost every weekend. I want to transition out of this life to something more mature, or in the words of others, boring. Perhaps most of my friends are single. I just want to hang out with more couples and do something more than just clubbing. A perfect weekend is cooking with friends, having dinner and having a few drinks. That is all I want. However, I have this trepidation. Am I committing social suicide? How do I make sure that I go through this transition successfully? My partner seems to be onboard, after talking to him about this, but he is way more social than I am. I’m afraid he will not be happy. What should I do?
First, let me say that you’ve already started off on the right foot by talking to your partner about your concerns. Open and honest communication is one of the most important contributors to relationship success,1 and you appear to be ahead of the game in this regard. Another thing you have going your way is that your partner actually agrees that it’s time for a change, which means that you have a good shot at making the kind of transition you’re talking about. The big question here is how to do this without socially isolating yourselves, and that can be tricky.
Let’s start by talking about drinking. You are definitely not the first person who has wanted to dial back alcohol consumption after entering a serious relationship. In fact, as young adults progress from being single to being married, their alcohol use typically declines.2 Of course, everyone does it for different reasons, and people cut back by different amounts, but some reduction in drinking is normal for couples. The important thing is to find a level of drinking that is mutually agreeable, healthy, and still allows you both to be social.
Does this mean that you need to dump all of your current friends and completely abandon the club scene? No, and I don’t recommend doing that because I think it would be too drastic of a change and might lead to feelings of loneliness or make you feel disconnected from your community. Start by inviting your current friends to events that aren’t centered around drinking or that involve drinking in smaller quantities. For example, try inviting your friends to see a movie, to visit a museum, to go shopping, to do something outdoorsy (e.g., biking, skiing, etc.), or to grab a coffee. This will allow you to be social without alcohol being the focus of everyone’s attention. If your friends won’t go anywhere without booze, try inviting them to a wine or beer tasting, where drinking still occurs, but the emphasis isn’t necessarily on getting drunk. Another possibility is to invite your friends over for dinner and/or a drink before they head out to the bars on Saturday night. That way you can still see them and be social, but you can drink less and you don’t necessarily have to go out with them afterwards. On occasions when you do go out to bars or clubs, remember that you do not necessarily have to get wasted just because you’re there. I know that is easier said than done because bars surround you with a lot of social and psychological cues that encourage excessive alcohol consumption (not to mention peer pressure to take tequila shots). However, keep in mind that you are ultimately the one responsible for what you put in your body and you’re allowed to say no. People who are truly your friends will respect that.
The other thing you might try is expanding your social network to include more couples. It can be difficult to meet other couples at the bar because, as we’ve already established, people in relationships drink less and spend less time in bars than singles. Thus, you may need to go to new places to find other couples, such as connecting with an organization (e.g., a local chapter of the Human Rights Campaign), joining a sporting league, or attending a community event. Alternatively, you could see if there is a couple’s group near you on meetup.com or another social networking website.
The keys here are not to rush the transition and not to abandon your current friends entirely—think of this as expanding your current social circle, not replacing it. As you do this, keep talking to your partner to ensure that you’re both comfortable and happy with the direction things are going and be willing to make adjustments as necessary. Good luck!
1Meeks, B. S., Hendrick, S. S., & Hendrick, C. (1998). Communication, love and relationship satisfaction. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 15, 755-773.
2Curran, P. J., Muthén, B. O., & Harford, T. C. (1998). The influence of changes in marital status on developmental trajectories of alcohol use in young adults. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 59, 647-658.
Dr. Justin Lehmiller – Science of Relationships articles | Website/CV
Dr. Lehmiller’s research program focuses on how secrecy and stigmatization impact relationship quality and physical and psychological health. He also conducts research on commitment, sexuality, and safer-sex practices.
image source: menshealth.com