When I was single, it was easy to decide whether or not to go to a social gathering. I would often be a “maybe” or “last-minute,” but I always gave myself permission to not attend. Others may have seen this as flaky, stand-offish, anti-social, but it kept me in balance.
My (now) wife and I used to be part of a group of friends who had a standing appointment to hangout on Sunday nights. At the time we were just friends, and she would often wonder why I didn’t show up. I had various excuses, some better than others. Sometimes, I would make things up for not going, other excuses were more legitimate (e.g. I hid behind studying for the CPA exam forEVER). She would wonder why I opted not to attend a beach bonfire, but then would see me “check-in” at Barnes & Noble (something she claims was a regular occurrence), and think, “that’s what was more important than hanging out with us?!”
You see, depending on my mood and whether or not the occasion benefited me, its importance, if I would be put on the spot, or depending on how many people I did/didn’t know — I had a choice.
I still do have a choice, of course, but having a spouse is a variable I didn’t used to have to plan for. I could be selfish without many consequences for others. Thankfully, my wife, God bless her, understands my introvertedness and gives me a free pass at times. But we’ve had many arguments, too, because of my aversion to social gatherings.
We’ve come to a mutual understanding of sorts, which works more often than not: if she wants me to attend something with her, she has to let me know how important it is to her, how much it would mean for her to have me there, and whether or not it could negatively affect her career (or conversely, positively affect). This seems to strike a good balance most of the time. We sometimes run into problems when we haven’t communicated these things to one another, but we’re still learning, as I suspect we always will be. One thing remains: we cannot expect one another to attend every single function that comes along.