• I don’t think that I’m alone when I admit that my wife is usually in charge of our social calendar. Often I don’t know anything about where we’re going or with whom until I’m in the car and have to ask for directions. Between our four children’s friends and their parents, our weekends are usually full.  A few weeks ago my wife invited two families over for dinner. She made a point of asking if I wanted to invite anyone in particular. I didn’t have anyone in mind so I gave her my pat answer, “Anyone you want is fine.” Little did I know that those words would come back to haunt me.

    I pride myself in being able to get along with anyone but I’d found my match

    It turned out to be a disaster.  One of the guests was a friend of my wife’s with whom she had collaborated on various work-related projects.  We had never met her husband or children, but on paper it looked like we would mesh well.  Unfortunately the reality could not have been any further from the truth. Not only did the husband and I have nothing in common, we could not agree on anything.  I pride myself in being able to get along with anyone but I’d found my match. He was abrasive, controlling, and a “know it all” who seemed to have set his goal at offending everyone at the table.   And just to make matters worse, their children and ours were not getting along (Apple…tree??!).   So, the stage was set for a very long night and despite my best efforts the evening was going downhill quickly.

    Luckily my oldest daughter came up with the idea of playing a card game (Laurus) all together.  Normally the adults linger at the table and we encourage the children to branch off to play, but this time my wife and I jumped at the opportunity. It turned out to be a great distraction and it helped salvage the evening.  Playing a group game allowed us to avoid any more lengthy conversations (debates) with our overbearing guest and limited his negativity to smaller spurts.  Which were much easier to overlook.

    When the guests had all left and as my wife and I cleaned up and did our evening recap, we made a pact not to invite people or families over unless both sets of adults had had a chance to meet in a commitment-free environment, such as a park playdate or mutual party.  We realized that we did not want to spend our few down-time family socializing hours in the company of combative or negative people, and figured this would help screen them out.  The moral of our disaster evening story was clear– Whoever you want to hang out with on your own time is your own choice. But if you’re going to bring them to a family function where your family will be a captive audience, and will be forced to hang out with them it’s only right to have a brief prescreening. It’ll save you a lot of headaches!