“He asked me out again. I don’t really want to go. But maybe I should. What do you think?”
It’s a common conversation among women.
We continue to have a system in which he is more commonly the inviter, causing plenty of problems for him, and she is more often the invitee, causing another set of problems for her.
She deals with the invitation that never comes, or comes too late, and with finding creative and kind ways to decline the invite she is positive she does not want. Perhaps the trickiest one, though, is the chance to spend time with someone she’s pretty sure she’s not going to want to see more often, but …
This problem, of course, isn’t confined to dating. We’ve all had nice enough acquaintances who’ve tried to include us more, but we just didn’t see that much in common. We’ve been invited to be on teams or join groups that sort of sounded like fun, but weren’t really. It’s usually flattering to be invited, and for reasons of upbringing, personality or societal expectations, most of us find it hard to say no.
Too many people spend too much of their limited free time doing things they aren’t all that interested in, with people they don’t particularly enjoy. I think it’s time we give ourselves far greater permission to treat our time as the resource it is, and learn to say “I don’t want to join you” in a way that is both kind and firm.
Yes, doing this requires a certain amount of courage.
A few days ago I found myself on the listening end of the conversation I started this post with, and was surprised at the vehemence of my answer. Maybe it was because she had just been telling me how hard she was trying to save money, and how poorly it was going. Something clicked.
“What makes you think your free time is any less precious than your spending money? It’s more precious. Hell yes, you say no if you don’t feel like going!”
Then I started to think about the words we use to describe both of these concepts. We have money. We spend money. We have time. We spend time.
Do we spend anything else? I don’t think so. Even our language acknowledges that time is a resource as precious as our wealth.
A few years ago, two former co-workers I hadn’t seen in years came to my home town and invited me out for the day. They seemed surprised and miffed when I declined. The reaction bothered me, and I remembered writing a post then about saying no to things you don’t want to do. I just found it and it’s called No, I actually don’t want to spend time with you.
I reread it and I stand by it. It’s never necessary to be rude. It is fair to be tired, over-committed, in need of some down time or just plain not interested. It is okay to try something, including an activity or a relationship of any sort, and decide this isn’t a thing you want to keep doing.
We go to great lengths to keep a thief from from spending our money. I think we’d be well-served if we were as vigilant about not letting others take over how we spend our free time.
(For more thoughts on how to use one’s precious time wisely, or poorly, see Live like you are going die?)