Should spouses go to reunions?

It’s class reunion time and the age old question rears its head: Do you take your spouse or significant other to the party?

“I think as your spouse they should go with you,” said Darlene Thorpe, Monroe. “Unless of course they absolutely don’t want to.”

She and her husband, Brian, went to rival schools and met many of each other’s classmates.

“So our reunions have been fun to go to, for us,” Thorpe said. “My husband is 54 and graduated from Monroe High School in 1971, and I am 56 and graduated from Tolt High School in Carnation in 1969.”

Lori Kirkeby, who lives south of Stanwood, said she’ll skip her reunion. She attended her 20-year class reunion at a Moose Hall and had an OK time, then went to dinner the following night, and took her spouse, who was bored.

“My 30th is this year and I have no intention of going, although I haven’t even heard if they are having one or if I’m even invited,” Kirkeby, 48, said. “However, we went to his 20th and we both had a blast.”

She graduated from high school in Marysville in 1977 and her husband attended school in Minnesota.

Helping at every class reunion, Margaret Lund of Everett said she is amazed how many classmates are still in the area.

“I graduated from Snohomish High School in 1963 and my husband graduated from Cascade High School in 1963, the first graduating class from Cascade,” Lund said. “My husband, Rob, and I are both turning 62 this year.”

Her class had a 10-year reunion, then one every five years, and one when everyone turned 60.

“Rob always has a great time at my reunions,” Lund said. “Rob’s classmates were harder for me to get to know.”

At his 2003 reunion, she went back to the hotel early rather than sit alone during the festivities.

“It wasn’t all that fun for me. They were all there to see one another, and I didn’t want to interfere with that.”

She had a much better time two years ago, at the 60th party, after she got to know some of his classmates, Lund said.

Lund and I agreed, there should be no loud dance music at reunions. You are there to visit, not scream over Queen’s “We Will Rock You.”

To avoid the drama of a bored partner, Laura Fletcher, 56, of Marysville went alone to a reunion in California.

“I’m glad I did, because I wanted to leave and was able to,” Fletcher said. “That was many years ago, and the only one I have attended. Other women I know have also gone alone, so as not to bore their partner or husband.”

She said folks are more free to move about and speak to more people if they go solo.

There is a winning reason why Heidi Johnsen always attends reunions. Wed right out of high school, she always gets the “longest married” award.

Johnsen, 44, who graduated from Lake Stevens High School, had a Friday evening gathering at the 10- and 20-year mark for grads only.

“No spouses or kids,” Johnsen said. “That was a great opportunity to see long lost friends without feeling the guilt that my spouse would be too bored.”

A Saturday night event followed for couples. Sunday was a family picnic. Her husband, Kerry, 51, graduated from Mountlake Terrace High School.

For his class, the Johnsens held a reunion campout at their home in Snohomish.

“Everyone let their hair down,” Heidi Johnsen said. “Many commented that it was better than previous reunions because they didn’t feel like they were going back to the high school clique scene.”

Lsa Mandt of Bothell went to Auburn High School and husband Scott Mandt went to Inglemoor High School. They will go to both reunions.

“We are looking forward to our reunions, because we both had a lot of fun in high school,” Mandt, 26, said. “The reunion isn’t for three years, but I will be taking my spouse.”

He’ll take his wife to a different reunion, said Hugh Fleet from Marysville. He is taking Madelaine, whom he married on Oct. 31, 1966, to a ship’s reunion from his Navy days.

“We have never been to a high school reunion,” Fleet said. “I can tell you, we don’t feel like anything was missed.”

Diane Ramberg said she may have an exceptional Snohomish class.

“We have always included spouses at our reunions,” Ramberg, 68, said. “They have become our friends and have commented that they have enjoyed our reunions more than theirs.”

But does a psychologist say we should take partners to reunions? Linda Young, Ph.D., with counseling and psychological services at Seattle University, said she has never seen research on my topic, but offered her thoughts based on her work with relationships.

“They should take their partner or spouse with them,” Young said. “If someone doesn’t want to bring a spouse, let’s look at what this might mean about the relationship.”

* Are you embarrassed or ashamed of what your partner looks like, sounds like, how they behave in public, or anything else you believe your high school friends might judge you for?”

* Are you secretly hoping to see an old flame? There’s nothing wrong with briefly saying “hello” to someone you had a real or fantasized romance with if a boundary is in place. Having your partner present is a wonderful way to help secure that boundary (along with not exchanging e-mail addresses, phone numbers or doing anything else to resurrect the relationship with the old flame). Old, strong feelings are stored in a kind of suspended animation and fed by distorted, over-idealized views of unrequited or adolescent love that is ripe material for instigating an affair if we don’t watch out.

* If you and your partner have a strong and secure relationship, he or she will vicariously enjoy your exuberance and have some fun meeting the people you have told stories about as well as some new ones.

“All in all, there are lots of good reasons to invite your partner,” Young said, “And questionable reasons for wanting not to.”

Skip the problem and don’t attend the reunion, said Jenny Cline of Everett. She was getting married around the time of her 10-year reunion and was already in touch with old friends from school.

Cline, 30, was part of the first Kamiak High School graduating class.

“Our class spent our sophomore year at Mariner before Kamiak opened,” Cline said. “It was hard to transfer to a new school as school spirit was nonexistent and just took time to establish. I think that was a lot of the reason that we didn’t find a real connection with our class at the new school, thus the lack of real interest to celebrate 10 years later.”

Take the spouse or partner, leave them at home, or skip the whole reunion scene. We only have to make the decision every 10 years.

Columnist Kristi O’Harran: 425-339-3451 or

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