As the holiday season approaches, so does the time for holiday parties, dinners, and get-togethers. The question always arises – is it a good idea to have social events that include spouses? Will the spouses be comfortable? Will it be difficult for the Forum members? What’s the precedent?
Most Forums face this conundrum at some point. Let’s look at the pros and cons, followed by a few examples.
- The Forum members become an important part of your life. It’s nice to meet each other’s family and friends in order to have a better understanding of each other.
- The spouses enjoy meeting the people who have become an important part of your life.
- The spouses typically feel more comfortable attending chapter and international events because they know more people.
- It’s fun! Forum meetings are so structured that it’s nice to kick back and relax together with families.
- Some Forum members are apprehensive that they might “slip” and say something to a spouse that is confidential.
- Some spouses might be uncomfortable meeting the Forum, since they may assume that the Forum knows confidential things about their relationship.
- A nosy or snoopy spouse might attempt to pry information out of a Form member.
- Some Forum members worry that they won’t remember what is confidential and what isn’t.
Here are a few examples on both sides of this issue. Several years ago, I worked with a Forum that NEVER socialized outside the Forum meeting – with or without spouses. They were a very strong Forum of 11 members, together for 12 years. Nobody had missed a meeting in almost three years and they all attended their retreat diligently every year. They made a conscious decision not to mix Forum with person life, and they all agreed to keep it that way. Their Forum meeting was a safe haven – like stepping onto an island where they felt they could be completely open and authentic.
In another example, a female Forum member was unhappy in her marriage, embarrassed about her husband’s drinking problem and she absolutely refused to engage in social activities that included spouses. The Forum respected and supported her feelings, so they didn’t hold planned events with spouses. However, individual members were free to gather informally in smaller groups with their spouses.
On the flip side, many Forums plan a holiday dinner with spouses. It’s an annual event, formally planned. It may include a gift exchange, dancing, and an after-hours party. One Forum has regular dinners with their spouses throughout the year and a picnic with the kids in the summer. In another Forum, the spouses join the Forum members at the end of their annual Forum retreat for a few extra days of vacation. This Forum says the spouses are much more supportive of exotic retreat locations because they are able to participate in the experience!
Note that if your Forum decides to include spouses in social events, it’s wise to remind everyone in advance to be extremely alert and cautious about what they say. Discuss confidentiality in detail in advance and review the current status on what is confidential. Let each Forum member express any special concerns they may have. A heightened awareness can help prevent an inadvertent confidentiality breach.
The vast majority of Forums do have periodic social activities that include spouses. But as with all aspect of Forum, every group must find their own way. Discuss it as a group and decide what is best for everyone. In case of disagreement, refer back to the Forum mission statement and determine how to best fulfill the purpose of the Forum.