Dear Carolyn: My husband and I have friends coming to visit us next month, and we were planning to take them out for two really nice dinners while they were here. My husband thought it was going to eat our discretionary spending budget for that one month, but one of the restaurants is far more expensive than he thought and it's actually going to take two months' discretionary spending.
He still wants to do it because they're celebrating one of those once-in-a-lifetime milestones. For me, we're already under a lot of marital and budgetary stress from me being chronically ill and too sick to work, and the thought of basically not being able to spend money to go out to eat or do fun things together is killing me. I feel like we need to be able to do those sorts of things together to sustain our marriage. What to do?
Host: Skip the way-more-expensive restaurant and find one that brings the cost down to the one-month-budget threshold.
Better, well below it.
You have serious things going on. Fragile health and unemployment and money scarcity and all the marital stresses they either cause or compound are legitimate and urgent priorities for you.
Yay, your friends are achieving a happy milestone. A round of genuine applause for them. You can celebrate them by setting a table for four in your own home and preparing them something special.
And if that’s not physically possible, or if your joy levels need the boost from a night out with friends, then just choose a different restaurant and don’t give it another thought.
Seriously. These things can take on Big Meaning when you’re too close to them, and it can feel like Restaurant A is the bearer of all symbols of all things, but the bigger meaning is just time with friends. And you can do that at Restaurant B. Or, again, by feeding them at home. You don’t need to suffer extra to show you care.
You don’t need to suffer at all to show people who care about you that you care about them.
If your husband is fixated on Restaurant A, though, and no sensible alternatives gain traction, then it actually might make more sense to drop it and be broke than to keep litigating it with him. Marital and budgetary stress both are difficult, and one always makes the other feel worse, but if this is a one-off, then there’s an argument for pampering the marriage, even at an extra month’s expense.
Re: Dinner: I would be absolutely horrified if I found out my friends' generosity was causing marital strife. Seriously, good friends can have just as good a time sitting around eating hot dogs as they can at the finest restaurant in town.
Dear Carolyn: Spouse is sold. How do we explain the change of dinner plans to our friends?
— Host again
Host again: You: “Change of plan, we’re going to ____.”
They, possibly, but I hope not: “What happened to _____?”
You: “We couldn’t make it work,” or, “It’s out of our reach.”
I don’t have kind thoughts toward people who would respond poorly to these.