Singles interacting with couples

How to explain ERE, arranging family matters
thrifty++
Posts: 1132
Joined: Sat May 23, 2015 3:46 pm

Singles interacting with couples

Post by thrifty++ »

Whats the expected etiquette for singles interacting with couples in terms of inviting your friend's partner?

Sometimes you want to hang out with your friend and not with their partner. Often I find, as a single person, hanging out with a couple can be quite awkward and not really that fun. Unless I am good friends with both people in the couple and hang out with them separately, then it is like three friends hanging out. I only know one couple like this.

Whats the protocols. I have always figured that if was something like drinks, lunch or something quite casual it would not be expected that you invite the partner. But, something like a dinner you would. What do you think?

ertyu
Posts: 1682
Joined: Sun Nov 13, 2016 2:31 am

Re: Singles interacting with couples

Post by ertyu »

Sounds right to me, yeah.

UK-with-kids
Posts: 226
Joined: Tue Oct 09, 2018 4:55 am
Location: Oxbridge, UK

Re: Singles interacting with couples

Post by UK-with-kids »

Depends on your culture and exact circumstances. E.g. if I (as a heterosexual male) asked a married woman to come out for drinks with me without her husband that could cause issues, even in a liberal western culture. But if I already knew her quite well, and maybe our friendship even pre-dated her marriage, that would probably be fine. Or if there was a shared interest and maybe she wasn't just meeting me, but a group of people with that interest, it would be fine? Really depends also what their personal values are - some couples are quite strict on avoiding temptation for example. Massive minefield really. I guess many affairs start quite innocently? Or in a way that could be claimed to be entirely innocent?

Hristo Botev
Posts: 1278
Joined: Tue Jul 17, 2018 3:42 am

Re: Singles interacting with couples

Post by Hristo Botev »

UK-with-kids wrote:
Thu Jan 21, 2021 8:04 am
Really depends also what their personal values are - some couples are quite strict on avoiding temptation for example.
As a (self-appointed) representative of the more socially conservative crowd, I want to chime in to say that DW and I avoid (and have avoided our entire marriage, without ever really even discussing it) one-on-one, male/female socializing with others,* and it has NOTHING to do with avoiding temptation. Rather, it's just a reflection of the way that we view marriage and the sexes.

Also, FWIW, as a middle-aged (religious) married man with kids, I honestly can't really imagine having any enduring non-familial relationships with a man who was roughly my same age who wasn't either married, widowed, or a priest/monk (i.e., to use my Catholic language, someone who'd not yet chosen a vocation), unless that relationship was very singularly focused (e.g., more of a friendly acquaintance I only ever saw/interacted with at a neighborhood poker game, or at the gym, or at book club, etc.) That probably wasn't the case for most of my 30s; but at this point, I can't imagine what we'd even talk about (again, outside of a singularly focused "friendship" around some hobby/activity). I've got a few friends from high school/college who divorced some time ago and/or are committed bachelors, but those relationships have mostly become stagnate at this point, apart from occasional check-ins and the like. Just not a lot of shared values, concerns, interests, etc. any more.

I'm sure this is an extreme minority position on this forum; but I also remember lots of folks** poking fun at former(!) VP Pence's rule about not being alone with a woman not his wife, as if either his wife didn't trust him or he didn't trust himself to avoid temptation; and as someone who knows quite a few evangelicals, I suspect that has very little or nothing to do with Pence's "rule".

*I'm not counting work/professional interactions, which I don't view as social--e.g., I've almost always had female bosses, and while I wouldn't go to lunch with a female colleague (or a male colleague, honestly) just for the hell of it, I certainly would (and do) if there's a work-related purpose for the lunch meeting.

**ETA: To be clear, I'm not talking about "folks" on this forum, necessarily.
Last edited by Hristo Botev on Thu Jan 21, 2021 9:09 am, edited 1 time in total.

IlliniDave
Posts: 3226
Joined: Wed Apr 02, 2014 7:46 pm

Re: Singles interacting with couples

Post by IlliniDave »

Basically along the lines of what UK said, although I'm maybe more sensitive to appearances: like with ethics, there's something to be said for avoiding even the potential appearance of impropriety when mixing genders, as unfair as that can feel. Of course, any three individuals can interact in any way they want that is mutually areeable. Again potentially unfairly, a guy asking a guy to go fishing without including the guy's spouse typically wouldn't seem inappropriate. I always hedge by inviting both when they are married, and just don't initiate one-on-one social activity with married women, and tend towards avoidance in the extremely rare instances where a married woman might initiate one-on-one social interaction with me.

7Wannabe5
Posts: 7080
Joined: Fri Oct 18, 2013 9:03 am

Re: Singles interacting with couples

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

Some couples are just more clingy regardless of possibility of straying. For instance, my 3 sisters and I try to schedule sister-time without men or kids a couple times, and there have been male partners who weren't even down with that. My second sister's first husband, because he was ridiculously infatuated with her, and my first husband because "Who's going to make our dinner?" :x My third sister's husband is a very social, good-humored guy, and they've been married a long time, so it's become something of a standing joke for him to inquire about the other men he's going to be stuck hanging out with while "the sisters' do their thing. He's also a great cook, so it worked for me to dump my ex and kids with him.

Hristo Botev
Posts: 1278
Joined: Tue Jul 17, 2018 3:42 am

Re: Singles interacting with couples

Post by Hristo Botev »

7Wannabe5 wrote:
Thu Jan 21, 2021 9:18 am
Some couples are just more clingy regardless of possibility of straying.
No doubt. Outside of clingyness, however, it can also really be just a question of the way a couple looks at marriage and the sexes. DW and I both are active socially, on our own, with both of us averaging at least one night a week spending time with friends, with the other at home to cook dinner and get the kids to bed and ready for the next day. It's just those friends are of the same sex, and they are all married.

jacob
Site Admin
Posts: 13172
Joined: Fri Jun 28, 2013 8:38 pm
Location: USA, Zone 5b, Koppen Dfa, Elev. 620ft, Walkscore 73
Contact:

Re: Singles interacting with couples

Post by jacob »

Dunno if there's a universal protocol, but it's a good thing to be aware of. As far as I'm concerned, DW can hang out with whomever she wants. I do recall her once being asked if I (me) was okay with that to which my reply was "of course I am because then I don't have to go to XYZ which I'd rather not anyway". E.g. I find movie theaters and [loud] restaurants utterly boring, so I'm net-negative company if I'm hauled along just for the sake of propriety.

Same expectations and reasons vice versa. I see the "have to do everything as a couple" to be a net-negative limit.

TL;DR - It varies by the person/couple so best ask.

Crusader
Posts: 174
Joined: Wed Aug 19, 2020 11:16 pm
Location: Toronto, Canada

Re: Singles interacting with couples

Post by Crusader »

jacob wrote:
Thu Jan 21, 2021 9:43 am
TL;DR - It varies by the person/couple so best ask.
Except that sometimes, they are not introspective enough or brave enough to tell you their real boundaries, which annoys me to no end. I lost a friend over this, but it's a long story.

Anyway, I am right there with you with not enforcing rules to your spouse (hell, I don't even understand what the point of "marriage" is, unless for practical/tax reasons), and I think that I would be the same, but how far does that go? What if your DW started developing romantic feelings for a male friend? What if she developed sexual but no romantic feelings? Where would be your boundary? (In my case, I think I would think of these things on a case by case basis as/if they come along, but I always have thought experiments like this). What about no romantic feelings but she spends a LOT of time with one person?

Maybe the broader question is, which goes way beyond the scope of this topic, what are the expectations in a marriage/relationship?

Hristo Botev
Posts: 1278
Joined: Tue Jul 17, 2018 3:42 am

Re: Singles interacting with couples

Post by Hristo Botev »

Crusader wrote:
Thu Jan 21, 2021 10:01 am
what are the expectations in a marriage/relationship?
If ever there was a question that varied on the person/couple. As wonderful and informative as this forum is, I think there's a limit to what answers ERE can provide.

Frita
Posts: 670
Joined: Thu Mar 15, 2018 8:43 pm

Re: Singles interacting with couples

Post by Frita »

This probably is more of something to discuss than a set rule. Personally, I don’t see why a hang out is dependent upon having matching genders. But we also let our teen have/attend mixed gender sleepovers (no longer a thing as he’s older).

Crusader
Posts: 174
Joined: Wed Aug 19, 2020 11:16 pm
Location: Toronto, Canada

Re: Singles interacting with couples

Post by Crusader »

Hristo Botev wrote:
Thu Jan 21, 2021 10:06 am
As wonderful and informative as this forum is, I think there's a limit to what answers ERE can provide.
Well, if things to be discussed on this forum are only to relate to ERE, then this entire topic (and probably half of the other topics) are inappropriate. I never got that impression.

Hristo Botev
Posts: 1278
Joined: Tue Jul 17, 2018 3:42 am

Re: Singles interacting with couples

Post by Hristo Botev »

I wasn't talking about propriety; I mean, EVERYTHING relates to ERE. That said, if you're looking for answers as to the expectations of marriages and other romantic relationships, I'd recommend starting by looking around you, at the marriages/couples you know IRL, both those that "work" and those that don't, and distill ideas as to expectations, etc. from those models.

Peanut
Posts: 549
Joined: Sat Feb 14, 2015 2:18 pm

Re: Singles interacting with couples

Post by Peanut »

Very much a case-by-case basis. In general wives have more leeway to have male friends than their husbands to have female friends. It's not fair but men and women are different. DH used to have a female friend until she confessed she wanted him as more than a friend. This was early on in our relationship way before marriage. I have a good male friend who was first my colleague. I have known him a little longer than his wife. After he married I still saw him on my own and also with her or DH or the kids. I have always been careful not to behave in any way with him that I wouldn't want his wife to know about. I think this is a good general rule applicable to both sexes. So for example I don't flirt with him even in texting and when we went to the beach I wore a coverup over my bikini. It's implicitly understood that his wife is always welcome to hang out with us and early on I invited her to a show just the two of us. It's important to me that she feel I'm a safe friend for him to have because I think every woman probably prefers to be the only female friend to her husband. But at the same time it tends to be good for the members of a couple to each really have their own friends, not just their spouse's friends, even if they are sometimes opposite-sex friends. For people who are naturally very flirty I suppose they would need to find spouses who are just very secure people to maintain marital harmony.

--Btw the real problem with Pence's rule was always that if unequally applied it can quickly lead to sex discrimination. Does he have work meetings, lunches, elevator rides alone with male staffers but not female? If so he is granting them more opportunities to advance professionally.

Hristo Botev
Posts: 1278
Joined: Tue Jul 17, 2018 3:42 am

Re: Singles interacting with couples

Post by Hristo Botev »

Peanut wrote:
Thu Jan 21, 2021 12:22 pm
--Btw the real problem with Pence's rule was always that if unequally applied it can quickly lead to sex discrimination. Does he have work meetings, lunches, elevator rides alone with male staffers but not female? If so he is granting them more opportunities to advance professionally.
Totally agree (and to be clear, I'm not advocating for the Pence Rule; I'm merely saying that I suspect it's a little deeper than just avoiding temptation).

FWIW, in my profession one tends to see a lot of "awkwardness" around male/female work dynamics. I suspect that's in part due to the fact that it was a male-dominated profession for a long time, and now the profession is leaning toward female majority, if not female dominated, yet the good 'ole boys/dinosaurs/boomers who began their careers when it was still male dominated just WON'T RETIRE, so you end up with old guys with one view of the world who've got young women working directly for them with a very different way of looking at the world (not a day goes by that there's not at least one story in our daily legal organ concerning an inappropriate male/female workplace interaction). Anyway, for me the line I drew (for several reasons) was simply to keep work life and social life totally separate, which was fairly easy to do as I was a second career attorney, so I was older by almost a decade than most of my peers when I was a newbie lawyer (and I also was already married, with a kid on the way). This admittedly isn't best practice in terms of "client development"--e.g., when I began my career my boss said the idea of work/life balance was stupid (and he meant it), if you want to be really happy with work and life, don't make any distinction between work life and social life--i.e., your clients are also your "friends," which of course means as a prereq you're screening "friends" for their potential to be lucrative clients. I understand what he was getting at, and there may be some truth in it, but that's not for me--I'm one who likes to clock in and clock out.

Regarding the Pence rule, specifically, I recall that DW and I had a lively discussion about this back in 2016/2017, when it was in the news. My position was the same as yours, coming from the point-of-view of someone who works in a profession with a ~50/50 split of female to male, and also one in which it's quite common to wine and dine both clients and prospective hires. DW, however, works in a profession that is almost entirely female (and also one where wining and dining isn't really a thing); and the idea of going on a 1-on-1 lunch with an opposite sex work colleague is completely foreign to her, and she thought (and still thinks) it's not really appropriate.

Anyway, the way I manage the minefield has been (and continues to be) just avoiding 1 on 1 lunches and the like altogether, regardless of sex, whenever possible. Sometimes that's not possible, and that's fine. But it usually is. I do this in part because of the minefield issue, but also just because of my personality I do better in groups of 3 or 4 than 1 on 1, at least in those sorts of settings. Also, I think the move to more open office floorplans in the legal profession has been helpful. The dinosaurs fought to keep their private, closed offices (I kinda did as well, as I used to change out of my bike commuting clothes to my work clothes in my office); but I suspect that the transparency helps, with most things out in the open now at the office.

UK-with-kids
Posts: 226
Joined: Tue Oct 09, 2018 4:55 am
Location: Oxbridge, UK

Re: Singles interacting with couples

Post by UK-with-kids »

These Pence style social customs, and their even stricter equivalents in certain societies, they surely came about precisely because they have EVERYTHING to do with avoiding temptation. Humans being animals after all, as much as we like to think we're more evolved than that.

Anyway, as far as ERE is concerned, I'd say that avoiding extra marital male/female contact is potentially very limiting. Maybe not so much if you're very high earning and you're going to solve all your problems with a big financial stash, but that's more traditional FIRE approach. Inasmuch as you value social capital for example, restricting friendships to other married couples similar to yourselves will likely really narrow your outlook. Anyone who is particularly extrovert and sociable will probably find that stifling.

To expand on what I mean, I'm thinking about all the interesting extra curricular activities you can get into particularly once you've retired from the need to devote most of your hours to a day job. You would have to make sure you only hung out with a member of the same sex or that there was a chaperone - what if the third person had to cancel at the last minute? My SO has a massive social circle comprising people of all ages and all sexualities (this thread has assumed everyone is heterosexual up until now). And this opens up so many interesting opportunities and ways of doing things outside of the money economy. I'm more introverted, but I'm not going to turn down the chance to work on, I dunno, a permaculture project for example, just because the main person doing it happens to be female and my SO might get jealous (she wouldn't) or people might talk.

7Wannabe5
Posts: 7080
Joined: Fri Oct 18, 2013 9:03 am

Re: Singles interacting with couples

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

Unfortunately, it has been my experience that these sort of problems do not get any easier even if you are practicing polyamory. In fact, it is more difficult because you have to individualize boundaries. For instance, if your partner's other partner is okay with sharing sex but not romantic involvement. This is even a problem for couples who aren't polyamorous but still have to maintain some sort of working relationship with an ex. For instance, I remember having to explain to a male friend why his current GF wasn't okay with him going Christmas present shopping with his ex-wife. There are at least 6 different flavors of intimacy that a partner might wish to hold as exclusive.

thrifty++
Posts: 1132
Joined: Sat May 23, 2015 3:46 pm

Re: Singles interacting with couples

Post by thrifty++ »

Im speaking from a gay male perspective so that most likely has its own cultural twist. I am having this issue both with straight and gay friends however.

Most often lately it is a gay male who keeps inviting his partner to anything when we meet. Im just talking for drinks or lunch or to the beach. It bugs me and it might result in me no longer spending any time with this friend because the dynamic is boring. It also makes me wonder if his partner is suspicious.

I also have it with a straight male friend who seems to give me the impression I should be inviting his fionse when we meet for a drink or lunch. Again the dynamic doesnt work out well.

I spend time with one couple where I am friends with both the male and female and hang out with each of them together or separately and everything works out as a trifector we are all friends in any event.

I think the dynamic where I am less likely to experience awkardness is when I meet up with a female friend. I think its because I dont have to consider any perceptions of something untoward. And most of the time the straight males are either fun when hanging out or happy to leave us to do our own thing, Its meeting up with gay male or straight male friends that seems to give rise to some akwardness and tension and the impression that the gay male or straight female is somewhat "precious" about things.

I seem to have a few friends in partnerships where the partner dynamic does not seem to work out so well. Frustrating.

ertyu
Posts: 1682
Joined: Sun Nov 13, 2016 2:31 am

Re: Singles interacting with couples

Post by ertyu »

"Hey, I was wondering if you'd like to catch up over lunch on Tuesday? Great. Hey, this might be a bit awkward to bring up, but can it just be the two of us this Tuesday?"

Depending on how you feel about things, you might include a "no homo" disclaimer, ridiculous as these are. something like, "This isn't romantic in any way, and I think your Partner is a great guy/gal, I just miss spending time/doing things just the two of us together."

It is quite possible some friends would be uncomfortable because their partner is an asshole and they don't want to antagonize their partner. many people are controlling or insecure or egocentric and would create issues if their partner wants to socialize without them. this sucks for you, but it's mostly a problem for the couple and in general, not your business unless it gets bad and you're close enough of a friend to say something about it.

Peanut
Posts: 549
Joined: Sat Feb 14, 2015 2:18 pm

Re: Singles interacting with couples

Post by Peanut »

Wow, what a strange litany of accusations about his friends’s partners or people’s partners in general. It’s more likely in these cases that the partner just likes socializing and doesn’t like to be left out of socializing. Yes there may be some jealousy fears at work too. But I do not think you can request their non-attendance, however politely the request is made, because you are still asking to exclude them. There is really no good solution here. You can only stop spending time with the couple if you don’t like spending time with them together.

But I think it is worth thinking more about why the dynamic is ‘boring’ in the trio situation, especially if you find it to be a regular reaction that you have. I like spending time with couples on my own because it is a different experience to one-on-one or two couples together but I do find it more challenging to make successful.

Post Reply