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How should I act around my girlfriend's coworker?
December 14, 2013 6:13 AM   Subscribe

How should I handle social situations with my girlfriend's creepy coworker?

A couple weeks ago I finally met my girlfriend's coworkers at a group gathering at a local bar. Everyone was a little bit tipsy, but this one guy was incredibly intoxicated, black-out drunk, and exhibited some behavior that really bothered me, including at one point acting in a somewhat creepy manner toward my girlfriend and making vaguely aggressive comments toward me. (Not threatening, exactly, but muttering things like, "I don't like you" under his breath.) Normally I don't care if people do or say embarrassing things while drunk, but this really bothered me, mostly because of the weird aggression. Although supposedly this was a one-time occurrence and he has reportedly expressed embarrassment to those present at this event over the way he behaved, I would prefer to never see this person again for the rest of my life.

Now I've been invited to another gathering, this time at another coworker's apartment, and I know he will be there. Should I attend and give him a chance to explain himself, or am I right to dismiss this guy is an absolute creep and just avoid him altogether? I would otherwise like to go, but I'm afraid he'll either get drunk and go into creep mode again, or it will be so awkward that it will ruin the night. If I don't go, my girlfriend will be upset and will know it's because of this guy. She seems convinced this was a freak occurrence and won't happen again. She is normally a good judge of character, but I'm skeptical. If I do go, what's the best way to handle this?

Note: this person is in his mid-30s and married.
posted by deathpanels to Society & Culture (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Trust your girlfriend's judgement and go. Be civil but feel free to avoid interaction him as much as possible. If he starts to get drunk again or makes you uncomfortable, leave immediately.
posted by Specklet at 6:19 AM on December 14, 2013 [11 favorites]


Although supposedly this was a one-time occurrence and he has reportedly expressed embarrassment to those present at this event over the way he behaved, I would prefer to never see this person again for the rest of my life.

As you know by now, that's unrealistic. He's your girlfriend's co-worker and will be present at some social gatherings.

You don't and shouldn't do anything other than be cordial to him. There's no need to hang around him, but nothing good will come of you being a jerk or demanding something from him. This is not your ground or situation to be concerned about, it's your girlfriend's. Do not do anything that could reflect badly on her to her co-workers. There's already one ass in the situation, no need for there to be two.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:23 AM on December 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


Should I attend and give him a chance to explain himself, or am I right to dismiss this guy is an absolute creep and just avoid him altogether?

Well, neither of these, I think. You should attend and assume that he's a person you probably don't care to be pals with, but who may have behaved erratically on a particular night for any number of reasons that it isn't really fair for you to expect him to explain, since he's a stranger to you. You already know what his explanation would be based on what he's said to others: he's embarrassed, he's sorry, and as far as everyone who actually knows him knows, this is not the way he normally behaves. There may not be much more of an explanation than that, and that may not render him an absolute creep.

I find it kind of odd that one of the things you would consider would be staying home and having your girlfriend go by herself, if you really believe the guy is creepy and will be there. I can't imagine a scenario under which it would make sense for you to send her off for the evening without you because you think one of her co-workers behaves creepily toward her (and, to a lesser extent, you). I think it's really her decision whether his behavior means he is to be avoided to such a degree that she'd skip the party, and if she isn't concerned about it and would like you to go with her, I'd think the way to be a good partner is to go with her, right?
posted by Linda_Holmes at 6:41 AM on December 14, 2013 [35 favorites]


I agree with Linda_Holmes. You should be supportive of your other half and go. It's not like you'll be with a group of creepers in some seedy motel/bar, it's at a different co-worker's house. If it turns out this dude is really terrible maybe you and your gf can work something out where you guys leave early (discuss beforehand and figure out some kind of signal). I guess you feel your girlfriend is capable of handling herself (because she is an adult) but were it my friend/gf/bf/etc I would want to be there, just in case and so I can keep an eye on said creeper. Also, I'd be curious to find out if it was truly a one off occurrence or not, the smug satisfaction of being able to say, "I told you so" about the dude would be the second (behind keeping an eye) motivator for attending.
posted by driedmango at 7:09 AM on December 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


TL;DR
Put on your Big Boy Pants and go.
This is about supporting your girlfriend.
She has to work with these people, and it's up to you to be the supportive boyfriend.
This includes stepping between her and Drunk Douchebag should he be inappropriate toward her. This type of activity has a way of catching up with people, especially after management sees that this type behavior is consistent with a sexual harassment lawsuit.
posted by John Kennedy Toole Box at 7:21 AM on December 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


Expecting him to explain himself to you is an unrealistic expectation, so let that go. He's already apologized/explained to his co-workers, the people he sees every day. If they are going to his party, then they have let it go sufficiently to do so - follow their example.

Maybe agree on a hand signal or code word with your girlfriend that means "Meet me in the kitchen in a minute because this is getting weird and can we go soon?" If nothing else, that may remove some of the anticipated stress.
posted by rtha at 7:36 AM on December 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


Go, but be sure your girlfriend knows exactly what went on and that you want to leave immediately should things even start to get weird like that again.

I doubt Dude will apologize to you or even try to engage you in any way. If he does, acknowledge him and move on. "Yeah, it was intense. I'm getting another beer. See ya."

You can accept an apology from someone and still want nothing to do with him. Just don't be dramatic and weird. If you start to feel uncomfortable, leave.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:40 AM on December 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Really, this doesn't have much to do with you and you sitting at home to avoid him at all costs doesn't make a lot of sense. There will be other people there to talk to.

It sounds like this is triggering something for you. Maybe think about why it's bothering you so much. Not to dismiss your feelings but for you to avoid going to any of her future company events because of this one guy is a bit out of proportion, I think. So maybe it triggers feelings from your past of being around similar people?
posted by dawkins_7 at 7:42 AM on December 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


I would go just so I could put myself between this jerk and your girlfriend.
posted by spaltavian at 8:24 AM on December 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


Talk to your girlfriend a bit...How did she view her co-workers actions?
Did she feel you needed to be as protective as you wanted to be?
How does she want you to handle a second occurrence?
posted by calgirl at 8:31 AM on December 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is such an odd question that I second the poster above who suggested that you take a moment to think about what this guy is triggering for you. Is he frightening you on some level? Reminding you of someone else?

In any case, it sounds like maybe encountering a guy like this is something new for you. Unfortunately there are a lot of them out there -- people who behave really disgracefully when they're drunk. You're right, it's terribly unpleasant to be around. But you can't let it scare you into abandoning your girlfriend, or confuse you into thinking that apologies will be forthcoming. Just go to the thing, avoid the guy, and have a signal in place with your gf that means "time out, can we talk in the kitchen for a sec?" in case things do get weird. And ask her ahead of time how she wants you to handle it if he starts misbehaving towards you guys again.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:11 AM on December 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


If I were your girlfriend and you refused to go to a social occasion because this guy was totally unacceptable for you to be around, I would be a bit upset. For one, I would feel abandoned - you're not willing to put up with this guy, but you expect me to put up with him every day. For another, I might feel defensive - I know how to deal with this guy every day, and even if he's not my favorite, he's not Satan incarnate (I can't let him be Satan incarnate, because I have to work with him), and the more bad things you say about him, the more I'd be inclined to soften the fact that I have to see him every day no matter what, by insisting that he's not that bad, really. And then you'd get defensive because you've declared that he IS that bad, really. And then we'd be arguing over this guy, who is honestly an unimportant douche.

Let the douche be unimportant.
posted by aimedwander at 9:17 AM on December 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


Go and give the guy a second chance. Your girlfriend knows the guy and interacts with him all the time. She's okay with him and you should trust her judgement.

You're judging the guy based only on a single episode of his worst behavior. Have you never been a jerk to someone? You've never had fit of bad behavior fueled by alcohol or a bad day?
posted by 26.2 at 11:38 AM on December 14, 2013


I think that you are a bit upset with your girlfriend for refusing to aknowledge what seems obvious to you: that the guy is a creep with possessive feelings towards her.
If she agreed with you but asked you to come anyway to support her, you wouldn't feel this annoyed, right? You'd feel on the same team. Right now everyone including your gf is invalidating your experience - that's what it feels like. Nobody's on your team and your gf specifically is siding with everyone else.

It's understandable but not useful to think of it that way. I agree with the posters who say to give your gf's version of things one more chance: go to the work do, but clarify beforehand under which circumstances you would like both her and you to leave.

If he's different this time, you may still dislike him and suspect him of thinking disrespectfully of you and your relationship, but that's ok. The important part is that he doesn't get to act disrespectfully. These are work mates, not friends.

If your gf repeatedly ignores obvious creepiness and tries to downtalk it to you, that would be a serious problem but so far that's not the case, right?
posted by Omnomnom at 1:22 PM on December 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


You realise that women have to deal with this crap quite a lot, right? And that if we took the attitude that you have then we would never go anywhere or do anything? We wouldn't be able to work because of that guy, we wouldn't be able to go to parties because of that guy, we wouldn't be able to catch a bus because of that guy, we wouldn't be able to walk down the street because of that guy. I understand that it's confronting to suddenly experience this and be in the middle of it, but here's how you respond: you go to the party with your GF because she needs to be there, because it's important to her, and because she should have your support.
posted by heyjude at 1:49 PM on December 14, 2013 [10 favorites]


Eh, he sounds like a garden-variety Bad Drunk. I myself used to be one, so I know the type.

He acted boorishly and creepily, and is remorseful. I expect that he'll either avoid you, or offer a sheepish apology. Either way, just be neutral and nonchalant toward him, and allow everyone to move on from that annoying incident.

If he acts out again, then you've got a potential problem on your hands, but for now, no need to trip balls. You don't have to like the guy, or smooth things over; just be cool and let it roll off your back for now.
posted by nacho fries at 3:25 PM on December 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would at least give him another chance. We all do things we regret and it sounds like this was an aberration.

If you feel the need to ask this guy about his behavior then by all means do so, but trying to avoid this guy seems be unlikely for the duration of your relationship and it seems possible that trying to do so could turn into an issue between you and your lady.
posted by Fister Roboto at 3:44 PM on December 14, 2013


If this guy is acting creepy towards your girlfriend, wouldn't that be an added incentive to actually be there and keep an eye on her? You're concerned about his behaviour, so what...you just leave her to deal with it? I'm not saying she can't deal with it but aren't you supposed to care about her?
posted by Jubey at 4:04 PM on December 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


this one guy was incredibly intoxicated, black-out drunk, and exhibited some behavior that really bothered me, including at one point acting in a somewhat creepy manner toward my girlfriend and making vaguely aggressive comments toward me. (Not threatening, exactly, but muttering things like, "I don't like you" under his breath.) Normally I don't care if people do or say embarrassing things while drunk, but this really bothered me, mostly because of the weird aggression.

Should I attend and give him a chance to explain himself, or am I right to dismiss this guy is an absolute creep and just avoid him altogether?

He was blacked out when he was being creepy/angry/weird at that party, so he can't explain himself now; he doesn't remember what happened, so he can't really know what to explain or who to explain things to. Setting up an explanation as necessary criteria for you to justify "excusing" or "forgiving" him, and therefore being willing to attend the same parties as him, is just setting up this conflict to escalate. Please don't do that, for everyone's sake.

By the same token, just like it's a bad plan (for both logistical and emotional reasons) for you to twist yourself into knots trying to make his previous behavior OK by pulling an explanation out of him for it, so is twisting yourself into knots trying to publicly condemn or punish him for it by declaring him an absolute creep and refusing to be in the same room with him. I'm sorry, there is no carrot you can hold out or stick you can wield against him to reassure yourself that he will never behave like this in front of you again.

He was out of his right mind last time you were around him, and I get why that was disturbing for you. For what it's worth, I would have found it disturbing, too. There's no telling why it happened -- could have been a bad medical reaction, could have been bad coping skills, could have been that he's just straight up an alcoholic. But does it really matter? Regardless, it's not your business, so I would try not to make a lot of judgements.

As much as possible, disengage emotionally from this guy/the situation.

I would otherwise like to go, but I'm afraid he'll either get drunk and go into creep mode again, or it will be so awkward that it will ruin the night.

This is such an odd question that I second the poster above who suggested that you take a moment to think about what this guy is triggering for you. Is he frightening you on some level? Reminding you of someone else?

Being around someone not in his right mind, like when someone is blacked out, puts me on alert. The feeling is stressful, uncomfortable, and can easily ruin my night (at best). I don't care if that person is not in his right mind because he's super drunk or super high or just unstable, it doesn't really matter. OP, maybe you're like me, and this is just something that really bothers you. That's OK. It's a natural and sensible fear.

For your girlfriend's sake, I think you should try to relax, remind yourself that this guy and his behavior isn't your responsibility (or even your business), and go to the party. Avoid the guy as much as politeness allows, even/especially if he starts acting erratic again, and just try to enjoy yourself. Like I said before, disengage emotionally. This guy's behavior isn't about you, it doesn't involve you, you don't have to do anything about it. If things get out of hand, you can (and should) leave.

But if you don't think you can do that, if past experience makes you think that just being in the same space as this guy is going to send you into stress mode to the extent that you're liable to flip out at him or act like a short-tempered asshole around your girlfriend's co-workers/friends, then maybe you should talk it out with your girlfriend, and ask if she'd be OK with you staying home. She can just tell everyone you're sick or something, it doesn't have to be some kind of judgment or confrontation or "him or me" thing. If you think you can keep it together, then go. But if you think you're likely to freak out, then don't.

By the way, I think it might be worth it to talk this out with your girlfriend, regardless of whether you decide to go to the party or not. From how you describe her assurances that the guy isn't always an angry drunk and your worry that she'll know you're avoiding the party to avoid him, it sounds to me like she has the impression that you're just bellyaching and/or using him as an excuse not to go. Personally, I don't think that's the case, and that this is genuinely eating you up a bit (hence all your analysis of if/how you can attend this party, including posting this AskMe). If you and she are miscommunicating like that, it would probably be better for your relationship if you tried to be more open with her about your anxieties. For example, when you say this guy could ruin your night, what specifically are you scared of happening? Don't let her try to minimize and rationalize your fears away, either -- even if they don't sound realistic to her, they're realistic to you, and that's enough reason to treat them with respect. I know it might be a kind of embarrassing or intimate conversation, but this is your girlfriend, she's exactly the person to have conversations like that with.
posted by rue72 at 5:56 PM on December 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Should I attend and give him a chance to explain himself, or am I right to dismiss this guy is an absolute creep and just avoid him altogether?

The latter sounds like a plan. If he's a creep again, just walk away. There will be other people at the gathering to talk to.

There's no need to turn this guy into a nemesis. He's just some dude who was weird at you one time. Be civil to him, then don't give him another thought.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:35 PM on December 15, 2013


Hmm, sounds like my former housemate who would get blackout drunk and then loudly mutter to himself in his room about how we all sucked and he wasn't allowed to play loud music and fucking fuck FUCK. If this dude is anything like that, I sympathize, because it is a seriously creepy thing to be around. Best thing to do is be polite and avoid him. If you try and confront him he'll just hold some weird drunkard's grudge against you and get more creepy to you and your girlfriend.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:35 PM on December 15, 2013


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