Trivial Pursuit: Coworker Edition
June 3, 2010 7:10 PM   Subscribe

I recently got a new job. I have a very inquisitive girlfriend, who often wants to know very specific things about my new coworkers, whom she has not yet met. For instance, she asked me today if I ate lunch with anyone (a question I also found odd, but whatever) and then specifically asked me, by name, who two other co-workers ate lunch with today. I told her that I thought that was a weird question. A fight ensued.

I don't know why I think this is weird, but it makes me feel very uncomfortable to be quizzed like this, particularly about other people. Maybe I just like more of a separation of my "worlds", so to speak. It doesn't help that, at one point when I first started the job a month or so ago, she believed (based on nothing at all) that my new female coworkers were hitting on me, and would often ask things like "why don't you just date them, then" when I would tell her about some funny thing someone said.

Would you feel uncomfortable with questions like this? Feel free to tell me if I'm totally crazy - I wouldn't be terribly surprised.
posted by downing street memo to Human Relations (50 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Your girlfriend is not the first to do this.

This is what jealous girls do.
posted by rancidchickn at 7:13 PM on June 3, 2010 [13 favorites]

It sounds like you feel uncomfortable because you think she has reasons for asking that go beyond inquisitiveness - i.e. she is jealous and doesn't trust you.
posted by mai at 7:14 PM on June 3, 2010

Eh this is a classic case of a VERY insecure girlfriend, you aint crazy. Shes just way to paranoid to be in a relationship at the moment.
posted by wheelieman at 7:15 PM on June 3, 2010

On the one hand, I can totally envision the mental process it would take to ask those questions - a sort of narrative-building method of learning about the world, and wanting to be able to construct a mental picture of the social space. On the other hand, unless I had at least met the people involved, I can't imagine asking those questions - and even if I had, I would be aware that it was a little weird to be that invested in knowing those things.

Of course, the fact that there's a pattern of jealousy explains much, I think. It sounds like her narratives tend to be colored by that, hence the defensiveness. And yeah, jealousy would make me uncomfortable, and I don't think you're crazy at all.
posted by restless_nomad at 7:16 PM on June 3, 2010

"why don't you just date them, then"
She has a point. I'd certainly think that was a better idea, based on the info above. Unless you've given her cause for jealousy, why deal with this crap?
posted by jenkinsEar at 7:16 PM on June 3, 2010 [16 favorites]

She is acting quite jealous and immature. It's quite normal for this to be an uncomfortable situation. There's a line between inquisitive and jealousy. When she's making comments like "Well, why don't you just date them then?", that's jealousy.

Communicate openly, explain that this is a problem. If she won't work on the problem, then you decide whether it's worth the trouble to continue with her.
posted by Saydur at 7:16 PM on June 3, 2010

This could mean all sorts of things. She could be jealous, controlling, anxious, blah blah blah. Or maybe she's just curious.

I would ask in a nonconfrontational way why she wants to know all this stuff so badly.

But, she is kinda acting weird!

Maybe she just wants in on your new job? Maybe she feels a bit left out or out of the loop or whatever? Did she know all your previous coworkers well? Maybe she wants to be back on that level.
posted by tweedle at 7:17 PM on June 3, 2010

You're not crazy. I might ask lots of questions when my husband starts doing new things, for which I have no frame of reference, but that's just because I like knowing what's going on in his life and he doesn't volunteer a lot of info. But I can't imagine asking him about the habits of his co-workers, unless, say, he usually ate lunch with A and B, but was no longer eating with them.

Based on "why don't you just date them" comment, it sounds like your girlfriend is feeling insecure and jealous. If this is in character for your girlfriend, well, that says something about her, but if her being this inquisitive is unusual, she might be off-kilter based on how this new job is changing your relationship.
posted by itesser at 7:21 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Would you feel uncomfortable with questions like this?

Heck yes. It would be tempting to illuminate the ridulousness of her jealous by detailing a fictitious lunch hour that involved lots of sexual eating.

Your new work 'world' and probably her exclusion from it threatens her conceptualization of your relationship. There's not much you can do about it except either accept her emotional (ir)rationality (and stay) or reject it (and leave her).

I see her questions as an attempt to know/fathom this new, separate world you've established outside of your relationship with her. When she understands it (that is, understands the people you're working with, understands the dynamics of your office's personal relationships, etc.) she may feel more comfortable with your presence there without her. Unfortunately (based on your desire to have separate worlds) you may have to introduce her to a bunch of these coworkers before she becomes more comfortable with the idea of you interacting with them all by your lonesome. This could easily be the case for any number of me-space alternate worlds you'd like to frequent outside of your relationship—she may never be comfortable with you occupying your own space.

In which case, DTJA.

Also, because you didn't say it once in your question and because it's the most obvious thing: she's jealous. Jealous, jealous, jealousy. ugh.
posted by carsonb at 7:26 PM on June 3, 2010

Yes. I would feel uncomfortable with this, too.

It's slightly odd for a person to care very about persons they have never met before. People you have actually met, but may not care enough about to want to discuss with anyone (just yet).

So, it might strike you as your GF digusing her prying into your business as "interest". Because otherwise it just doesn't jive.

So, you wonder why she might be prying - and a host of reasons (none of which are very flattering to her) cross your mind.

And you don't want to think about these things (right now, especially, you have your job to think about, afterall).
posted by marimeko at 7:26 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Ask her to meet you and your coworkers for lunch (after you get to know them a bit better). It might help. I do agree that she's saying these things from insecurity. It is a goofy question, you are correct. When I do something like this it's usually because I have done it myself (for ex: dated my coworkers; crushed on them). She may have done that in the past and knows how easy that sort of thing can happen.
posted by Kloryne at 7:27 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

My wife is similar to your girlfriend, though without the jealousy. She loves to talk about the details of her workday, and would be happy to do so for hours on end (I wish I were kidding).

She expects me to share this interest and talk about my work in the same way. Typically, within five minutes of walking in the door, I get asked about what I did at work, did I have any meetings, what did I do for lunch, did anything funny happen, did any coworkers notice my new shirt/glasses/haircut and so forth.

I usually give a short, terse reply to remind her that I don't like talking about work -- which I've told her about five million times. I've just frigging LEFT work -- telling stories about it would just extend the work day, from my point of view. Sometimes I'll just tell her that I'd rather not discuss it.

Anyway, I'm going on and on about me, but it's just to say that I feel for your predicament and agree with your sentiment about wanting to keep your worlds apart. You're not crazy. Your girlfriend is a little jealous. Just tell stories about how ugly and annoying the women in your office are, she'll eat it up, and you'll be fine. (I'm sort of kidding.)
posted by Philemon at 7:29 PM on June 3, 2010 [4 favorites]

I don't disagree that you may be dealing with a somewhat insecure girlfriend -- why do you suppose she's insecure, by the way. Is it all her, or have there been times when she's reasonably felt like she's been missing information, or is she by some circumstance verly dependent on you...?)

Women relate to each other by telling stories, asking questions, and talking about feelings (this is a glib generalization), whereas men relate to each other by solving problems and discussing facts. Sometimes men (including me) feel overwhelmed by the attempts at rapport-building. Maybe you could try to redirect the conversation by asking her similar questions about her day. "Did anything interesting happen today? Who did you have lunch with?"

So (A) figure out if there is a circumstance that is making her feel jealous/insecure and (B) give her a chance to relate to you in womanly, rapport-building way.
posted by jander03 at 7:32 PM on June 3, 2010 [6 favorites]

This is not a case of just being interested in your job or just being inquisitive. Statements like "why don't you just date them, then" in reference to something his coworker said is not a healthy response. She is exhibiting classic jealous behavior. Honestly, I wouldn't put up with bullshit like this but I don't know how much work you're willing to put into the relationship. There are plenty of girls out there that wouldn't act like that. The problem is with her and not with you so she has to be willing to put forth the effort to change her ways, therapy would probably help with this.

The thing about this behavior, there is no way you can frame what you say to satisfy her. She'll just keep asking until she finds something to twist around to justify her questions. Which in turn will just make you defensive and resentful and nothing good can come from any of that.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 7:32 PM on June 3, 2010 [4 favorites]

I agree that from the way you describe her, your girlfriend sounds jealous. But I also note that you don't tell us how you respond to her questions. I have, in the past, asked boyfriends about their work, because I was brought up to believe that this is a good thing to do, to show interest in your loved one's work and activities. But I got responses like "oh, you wouldn't understand", which got right up my nose. I have a fucking doctorate, try me!

All I'm saying is, do ask yourself how you may or may not be coming across to her. Is there even the remotest possibility that the way you're answering her questions (or not, as the case may be) is exacerbating her reactions?
posted by LN at 7:33 PM on June 3, 2010 [5 favorites]

It doesn't help that, at one point when I first started the job a month or so ago, she believed (based on nothing at all) that my new female coworkers were hitting on me, and would often ask things like "why don't you just date them, then" when I would tell her about some funny thing someone said.

Well, that's kind of weird. But I don't think asking about the names of your colleagues and if you ate lunch with anyone is that weird. I do this with my significant other sometimes. It's just so I can picture what his day is like, and also so when he talks about his colleagues later, he can just refer to them by name instead of having to describe them every time. I'm definitely not doing it because I'm jealous (I would never have said anything like "why don't you just date them." I trust partners a lot). I just really like knowing people's names. I think it's fun to picture them and his day. I guess that makes me odd, but I do not think it makes me malicious.
posted by bluefly at 7:35 PM on June 3, 2010 [4 favorites]

It's one thing to be interested in what's going on in your life; this seems to go well beyond that. I had a similar problem in a recent relationship (i.e., I couldn't go out to lunch with my coworkers without a guilt trip or fight), and it was just one of many symptoms of a possessive, unhealthy relationship. The only thing that made my my boyfriend come around was my leaving him, but perhaps your relationship is at a better point than mine was and you can work it out without going to that extreme (I'm guessing, from what you've written, that this isn't normal behavior for her).

Either way, you're definitely not crazy. This level of control would—and did—make me uncomfortable.
posted by divisjm at 7:36 PM on June 3, 2010

Response by poster: To clarify, I have zero problem talking about the actual work I do, and in fact enjoy that (my job is cool). It's talking about the personalities that gets under my skin.
posted by downing street memo at 7:37 PM on June 3, 2010

As a girl, I can somewhat sympathize with her.
You have this whole new aspect of life that she doesn't have access to and she is both curious and a little insecure... without having knowledge about that world, how is she going to figure out where she stands in relation to it?

However, I think most women are self-aware about this sort of stuff and make themselves not get all crazy "YOU'RE CHEATING ON ME, YOU'RE TOTALLY CHEATING, I JUST KNOW IT!!!"

She needs to deal with her shit, own the insecurity, and if need be have an actual conversation about it with you-- not automatically jump to conclusions or pretend that you're the one who's behaving irrationally.

Thing is though, YOU can't make her see this. That's something she's going to have to come to on her own. You've got to decide if you handle this sort of jealous scrutiny at home or if you're willing to go to some length to satisfy her invasive curiosity, like bring her to work sometime, take her to after-office functions, etc.

Good luck buddy.
posted by elleyebeebeewhy at 7:38 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

In my situation, when my girlfriend asks "what's their name?", it's really a mask for "is it a girl?". So when she asks their name, I make her ask me if it's a girl/guy prior to learning their name...usually she doesn't really care about their name if it's a guy and the conversation ends, and if it's a girl...there is a lot more questions to come.
posted by Sonic_Molson at 7:42 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

To clarify, I have zero problem talking about the actual work I do, and in fact enjoy that (my job is cool). It's talking about the personalities that gets under my skin.

It could be that she's having trouble differentiating between the work you do and where you do it (also who with). So you say you love your work—already established as a separate world she currently has no part in—and she misinterprets that to mean you love where you work or who you're working with. This could perhaps be corrected if you started expressing (honestly) disinterest or disgust with aspects of your work environment while maintaining a positive attitude towards 'the actual work'.

But hey, if you like where you work and who you work with in addition to the actual work, she may not be capable of handling it any way other than pointed, inquisitive jealousy.
posted by carsonb at 7:45 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Without knowing more, it's hard to say what it might mean, but I agree that insecurity seems the most likely possibility. If she's not comfortable with herself, then she's doubting herself and is afraid you'll see the version of her she sees, and that'll make you leave her. So "why don't you just date them" is a way to get you to reaffirm that you still want her, which she'll use to relieve some of her self doubt.

Another possibility is that she doesn't feel she's getting the attention from you she wants in the relationship, and this is a passive aggressive way to let you know that.

Sounds like a drag whatever the reason, but it's time to have ye olde talk. It's not unreasonable for you to ask not to be grilled quite as much, and to ask her to have enough trust in the relationship that she doesn't have to do things like this on an ongoing basis.

Also note the timing. Irrational, emotional grilling in two spurts spaced a month apart... a month apart...

Just saying, it's a possibility. *runs*
posted by Askr at 7:46 PM on June 3, 2010

I agree with LN. We're only hearing your side of the story. If there's a chance you're excessively irritated by her questions, she could just be getting defensive rather than jealous by saying "why don't you just date them, then." But if as you say you were only recounting an innocent story about something funny someone said then yeah, that's weirdly insecure.

Sometimes when I'm tired, wound up or in any number of not completely together moods, I'll mindlessly ask my boyfriend about the minutiae of his day. It's just one of my ticks, and I don't really care about the answer that much. He finds it weird, but knows it's just nervous chatter and doesn't mind too much. I usually stop when it becomes evident that I'm doing it again.
posted by waterandrock at 7:47 PM on June 3, 2010

Brother, my girlfriend is the EXACT same way. I think she has even said, "Why don't you just date her, then?" and acts very annoyed and threatened when I praise pretty much any female.

Here's the good news: As I she continues to ask about my workdays and my coworkers, the less threatened she feels about them, without having to meet them. So if it's not too much of a pride-swallower, I would entertain her questions because I find they help in the long run.

Here's the maybe-good news, maybe-bad-news. I have confronted my girlfriend, several times, about her jealousy. She owns up to it. She realizes she's not reasonable. She says she hates being that way, and she's trying to stop. And I can see/tell she's trying. She will look annoyed but not say anything, and it's because she's biting the tongue she knows is being unfair.

If your girlfriend is willing to do the same (own her jealousy and work on it), the relationship stands a chance. If not...
posted by mreleganza at 7:49 PM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

It would have been perfectly normal in my books, had it not been for her earlier comment. That gives it a jealousy vibe, as already noted by many.

However, being quizzed about other people or asking about your lunch or your day - which makes you uncomfortable - does sound weird to me. As long as there is some context to these "other people", it is a perfectly normal thing for friends or Significant Others to talk about.

In general, it is best to simply bring such things in the open and have a chat about them with your BF/GF. It is often momentarily a bit painful, or embarrassing, but is better for the long-term health of the relationship.
posted by vidur at 7:51 PM on June 3, 2010

I can see my (non-jealous) self asking who you ate lunch with. Because if you started a new job I want to make sure people like you and know you're great. So knowing you're eating lunch with others shows me you're socially adjusting to the new place.

But let's say you've answered the lunch question for a few days with "Nobody" or "I ate alone in my cube." Then I might want to know if the other people in your office (your boss, Mary and your cubemate, Tom, for example) are having lunch with groups and excluding you, or if they're just a bunch of loners.

But "why don't you just date them, then?" is pure jealousy & insecurity. I can't explain that way.
posted by ladygypsy at 7:55 PM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

1. I ask my SO similar questions. Not "Who did X eat lunch with?" but, "Did X talk to your boss about that thing we talked about last week?" or "How's the situation between Y and Z?" or "So, did V apologize for that thing he did?" And now that I write them out, it seems sort of stalkery and jealous, but really I'm just trying to see more of his life. These details make me feel happier about the time we spend apart, and I like hearing the story of his days.

Your girlfriend takes this a few steps further, though.

2. To echo everyone upstream, she sounds really insecure. Is this something that's happened throughout your relationship, or has something changed in her life to affect this? Is she out of work herself? Is there something else going on? If this is a new behavior, you can still address the situation; if this is a reiteration of an ongoing thing, you either have to fix her or gtfo.

3. It may help (or may totally backfire) if you offer up more details of your day. If she doesn't see you as hiding something (even though you're not!) she may not badger you so much.
posted by punchtothehead at 7:57 PM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

Despite the fact that the consensus above seems to be jealousy, I'll just add that there could be more to it than that. Maybe just curiosity, but in a way that I totally don't understand either.
Sometimes I'll be telling a story about "so one of guys at work was talking at lunch about how his parents give his kids the most inappropiate christmas presents blahblah" and he'll start with "who was that? Was that Dave? Oh, Charles - is he the one that fixes cars?" and I get really uncomfortable. I think it's about these people being my friends, with complex personalities of their own, and I don't like the feeling that Charles="the one who fixes cars". I guess I'm nervous that sometime we might be out with a couple of my coworkers, and he'd refer to others that are absent as "the one who fixes cars" and "the one who you think is kind of creepy".
Writing it down, I'm sure my husband has more tact than that, but for whatever reason I really dislike the feeling that anything I say about my coworkers is contributing to the encyclopedia of his "who they are" in ways that I can't control. Especially since there's no telling what story he latches on to as the defining characteristic... maybe "the guy who fixes cars" actually just gave me advice on whether my battery was really dead because he just replaced his, and he did it himself just the once and hasn't fixed a car before or since.
The solution for me was just to wait it out that first couple of months, take my husband to Walter's retirement party (No, honey, Walter's not the guy married to the boss, that's William), make sure he meets everybody, go to a couple of happy hours together, and let it be his problem what he thinks of the coworkers. It does irritate me, and I do occasionally go with the "is he the one that what?? Look, that doesn't matter, I'm talking about the restaurant/movie/grandparents" kind of blowoff, but I see that as kind of my problem, not that he's being possessive or jealous.

I'm not saying your girl is or isn't acting jealous, I'm just saying that this kind of situation might turn up even if she were 100% totally not jealous or possessive. I don't think it's a problem to be solved other than to let her meet the coworkers and find out who they are for herself.
posted by aimedwander at 8:00 PM on June 3, 2010

If we're going to generalize about them crazy women, then let's generalize about men. Do you say "they" a lot instead of naming the person by name, or saying "he" or "she"? Guys do this and it can drive a woman crazy, because why wouldn't you just say "him" or "her" unless you're trying to hide something.

Mr. M. used to do this years ago, he still isn't sure why he did it, but it was early in the relationship and we weren't living together and it was the one thing that made me insecure. I liked and respected the fact that he had female friends, but instead of saying 'I went to lunch with Linda' he would say something like "The person I went to lunch with said..." and "they thought.." and I didn't want to ASK who he went to lunch with but I could not for the life of me figure out why he wouldn't just say it.

That said, "Why don't you just date them, then" is a response more fitting a 15 year old girl. She may feel threatened because her job isn't as important/prestigious/interesting/etc than these other women. It's still an immature response and I'm not sure that being matter-of-fact and saying, "So, yeah, today I went to lunch with Bob, and Christine from accounting, and boy does she have a horrible sense of humor," will help.

The other odd thing that popped into my mind is that she or a friend was watching you, deliberately or inadvertently, and she feels like you're withholding information. Because to quiz you on who had lunch with who - I'm with Mr. M. for ages now and I gotta tell you that I could care less who he goes to Chipotle with.
posted by micawber at 8:06 PM on June 3, 2010

I'm a girl and I would feel really weirded out if my boyfriend asked me those questions, so it's not just a girl/guy dissonance thing. I mean ... the hell?
posted by Xany at 8:23 PM on June 3, 2010

Response by poster: Do you say "they" a lot instead of naming the person by name, or saying "he" or "she"? Guys do this and it can drive a woman crazy, because why wouldn't you just say "him" or "her" unless you're trying to hide something.

If I'm talking about someone, it's usually in relation to something I'm working with them on, so I typically do this by function, i.e. "the IT guy" or "my boss". No attempt to hide anything; plus, she knows that many (most) of my immediate co-workers are female. I haven't made a secret of that.
posted by downing street memo at 8:32 PM on June 3, 2010

would often ask things like "why don't you just date them, then" when I would tell her about some funny thing someone said.

Are you absolutely sure you haven't been talking about a particular female coworker's incredible wit and cleverness a little more enthusiastically and/or frequently than you ought? Maybe what you think of as sharing a funny story is coming off sounding like a bit of a crush to your girlfriend.

As for wanting to know details about the people you work with, this doesn't seem particularly weird or obnoxious to me. I don't ask for details about every single person my husband mentions but I do get interested when he seems to be having more personal interactions (or more professionally interesting ones) with a particular person. Not out of rampant jealousy or anything, I'm just interested in what his day is like, who his friends are, who's getting on his nerves, etc.

He doesn't mind telling me, and in fact he asks the same sort of questions about my workday. A little rundown of the day is just part of our nightly routine.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 8:38 PM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

I don't think it's jealousy or so weird. I think she's just looking for you to talk to her. Fill her in on what's going on. Tell her details - you've got nothing to hide. Learn this lesson now, it will make all your future relationships better.
posted by Edward L at 8:44 PM on June 3, 2010

I am curious how your evening went from "I told her that I thought that was a weird question" to "a fight ensued."

A fight is not a summer storm. It does not just break out. It takes the active participation of two angry people, who are usually quick to move from the initial disagreement to larger issues, for a fight to ensue. I'm not saying you were in the wrong, or that you were wrong to feel uncomfortable with her questions. But if you intend on staying with this person, you've got figure out why, when your girlfriend did something that made you uncomfortable, "a fight ensued."

You're uncomfortable with her questions, but she's apparently uncomfortable with you having female coworkers. So what could the two of you have said to make the other person more comfortable? If, as most of the commenters and I suspect, there's nothing constructive you could have said because she's just too insecure and jealous, then dump her. Or if you just don't care enough about her to say something that would have made her more comfortable (i.e., less insecure, less jealous), instead of letting her bait you into a fight, then dump her. But if you do care for this person, figure out what's making her unhappy and, to the extent you can keep your own dignity and self-worth intact, figure out how to make her less unhappy ("Are you asking about my coworkers because you think I'd cheat on you? I would never do that. You're beautiful and I love you."). Ideally, you should be able to tell her how she could make you happier, too. ("Please stop accusing me of wanting to cheat on you. It makes me feel like a creep, and I'm not a creep.").

Here ends the advice from somebody who celebrated his 9th anniversary yesterday and has been thinking a lot recently about what makes relationships work and what makes them fall apart.
posted by hhc5 at 8:51 PM on June 3, 2010 [3 favorites]

I'll give you one woman's perspective. Or, you can think of it as one person's perspective. You pick.

When I've started new jobs in the past, I've been really curious about all the new people I've met. I've noticed my new environment. Beyond learning the actual tasks of the job, I've wondered about the way my new job works; you know, what makes up the "vibe", the mood, the ephemera that fills up the spaces in between those clearly defined tasks. You and I clearly differ because I don't tend to mind if my partner asks me about those things. In fact, I enjoy it when he asks me about things like that because it makes me feel that he cares how I spend the majority of my day. And it is the majority, because though we spend more of the 24 hours in a day in the same apartment than we do apart, more often than not 7 hours of that time are spent unconscious, in the dark, snoring.

I would hazard the radical guess that your girlfriend enjoys that wonderful, soothing thing that happens between people who find one another interesting - resonance. She wants to know that you find speaking with her about what you do with most of your time interesting. She wants to know who you hang around with during the day, not because she's some unstable, over-emotional, interrogating shrew, but because Tina and Rita and Bob and Drew see more of you than she does. It might also be as simple as she wonders who you are and what you do when you're at work. Put another way, she likes you, she's curious about you, and the only way for her to have any of her questions about who you are and what you do in a context separate and different from your relationship is to ask you about it.

When you aren't forthcoming with answers, it might come across to her that you have something you'd care to hide. True, that could be a sign that she's insecure. It could be a sign that you have a trust issue in your relationship. It could also be a sign that you don't take her need to connect with you terribly seriously, you'd like her to just stop bugging you already, and that you'd rather just not talk to her about how you spend the majority of your day. If that's the case, then the two of you have different ideas of what establishes intimacy outside of sexual intercourse within the context of a relationship. That, I'm afraid, is a separate issue. However, if it's really just the case that you can't be bothered to discuss your less than scintillating workplace with her when you get home, you might try saying something to her along these lines:

"You know, to me, it's just a job. It's just the place I go to make money. The truth is, I don't know anybody really well yet, and at the moment I'm just trying to figure out how things work. When and if something interesting happens, you'll be the first to know, I promise. And, in case it worries you, I don't found any of my co-workers terribly attractive. Yet. But I promise you'll be first in line for that news, too."

If she hears that kind of joke in the silly spirit in which you mean it then you might be on the road to easing her anxiety that you will become besotted with Tina in Accounting; you know, Tina? The one you've spoken about more than a few times since you started your new job? If she takes it poorly, then perhaps she's too insecure for you to date. She might be an insecure person. Not some sort of worn out stereotype of a jealous, haranguing harpy but, rather, a person whom you're dating who happens to be really insecure.

Or, you could try going on and on and on and on about your day until her eyes glaze over and she smiles and changes the subject. If you decide to stay together for the long haul, this will naturally happen for both of you occasionally and is the surest sign you have achieved true relationship nirvana. Good luck.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 8:53 PM on June 3, 2010 [14 favorites]

Life is too short to put up with this kind of bullshit. DTMFA.
posted by Scoo at 10:17 PM on June 3, 2010

There's a difference between "I want to know who you're spending time with at work and what their names are so I have a sense of what your day is like and that you have people to hang out with at work because I care about you" and "I want to know who you're spending time with at work and what their names and genders are because I'm really insecure, suspicious and jealous. Tell me everything my paranoid brain is wondering about or else you're HIDING THINGS AND CHEATING."

Exhibit 1 should not make you feel weird. Exhibit 2 should make you feel exhausted from the weight of having to carry around someone else's insecurity baggage. "Why don't you just date them then" is not a good communication technique. She needs to learn to ask for what she needs like an adult, or you need a new girlfriend.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:24 PM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

To echo TryTheTilapia's point above, the fact she may be exhibiting signs of insecurity and jealousy does not mean that she is comfortable doing so. For some people a none real situation (you happily cavorting with your female co-workers) can whirl up in their head from a tiny dust devil to a full blown hurricane. She probably thinks the little questions will put her mind at ease but in reality, the fact that she is voicing those thoughts is sort of giving weight to them, hence the ensuing panic and "why don't you date them already?" Of course there's no reason you are obliged to deal with this, as has been stated upthread, you've done nothing wrong and the problem is 100% in her head.

I used to suffer from exactly the same anxiety as her and wouldn't blame anyone for having dumped me over it, its annoying as hell. But I would say that it probably feels out of her control and something she is actually pretty ashamed of. It took me a long time to learn that some irrational thought patterns are best left unexpressed, and when you do so they tend to fade into the background after a while. If you wanted to pursue this with her I would recommend trying to gently get the subject out in the open and discuss what exactly is making her feel so worried.
posted by Captain Najork at 11:32 PM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

No one has to be right or wrong here. Assigning blame over such a trivial matter will not help you connect and get your needs met.

If you need more privacy or if you simply find it unpleasant to talk about how people eat lunch, say "I don't really remember, let's talk about something else". If she insists, then tell her you find it stressful to be asked about really detailed stuff like that, or that it makes you feel like she doesn't trust you, and you would rather just bypass it altogether, and if she has trouble trusting you, you would like to talk directly about that and work on it. Use whatever words will be meaningful for you--the important part is that you ask for what you need instead of focusing on what she is doing wrong.

I am not surprised that calling her behavior weird instigated a fight. It makes people defensive if you imply that they are weird. It comes very close to being a criticism of her personality, from a loved one, in response to something that was not intended to hurt. Ouch.

Insecurities happen to all of us, we are all weird and neurotic about some stuff. Try to forgive her.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 12:28 AM on June 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

Not convinced that her need to know these things is a female thing - I'm female and I wouldn't dream of asking about co-workers' lunch habits. Wouldn't even occur to me...all I want to know is anything that has put you in a happy/foul mood, anything funny that happened, anything that will impact our relationship, anything about that job that makes you happy or unhappy in the long-run, anything with significant financial implications. Not the colour of your cube mates shirt or contents of their lunch box.

If her behaviour and level of information required is very different from the previous job she'll hopefully calm down soon. If not she's got a lot of insecuirty and jealousy she needs to overcome and up to you to work out if you're prepared to hang in there until she does.
posted by koahiatamadl at 1:09 AM on June 4, 2010

Minus the jealousy part my Husband and I do this all the time. We are both interested in what makes other people tick, so a large part of our dinner conversation is office gossip about people one of us has never met!
I don't understand feeling reclusive about it.
However, it sounds like your girlfriend is motivated by jealousy.
posted by Omnomnom at 1:27 AM on June 4, 2010

Have you tried asking her the same kind of things? It might help to mirror her behaviour.
posted by Omnomnom at 1:42 AM on June 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

The irony about being insecure/jealous in a relationship is that the insecurity itself is nearly always a bigger threat to the relationship than any potential outside factors. It's safe to say that your girlfriend has not yet learned this, otherwise she'd be working on it.

If this relationship ends without her learning this, she will repeat this with a future partner, and it will likely drive him away - and the more failed relationships under your belt, the more insecure you get, and the more likely you are to act desperately and sabotage yourself. It'd be a kindness to help her realize what her insecurity is doing, so she can be a better partner in the future, either with you or wherever her final destination may be.

(If/when you do have that conversation, be gentle: it's easy to feel insecure about your own insecurity.)
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:34 AM on June 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

What's wrong with having a jealous girlfriend, seriously? Jealousy is normal folks.
posted by Joe Chip at 4:43 AM on June 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you conclude that this is jealousy and you want to work to alleviate it, invite her to drop by and then go out to lunch with her. Give her a minute tour of your work area. She'll get a look at your workplace turning it from a unknown factor into (what I assume is) a typical office environment, plus she'll probably feel more comfortable putting in an appearance so she doesn't think you are misrepresenting your relationship status among co-workers.
posted by mikepop at 5:54 AM on June 4, 2010

"Look, I know that I talk quite a bit about women at work, but that's just because most of the people I work with are women. I appreciate that it could seem suspicious or make you uncomfortable, but you are my girlfriend and that is not under threat. I love you!

These people are colleagues and that is all. You're welcome to come and meet them at lunch some day if you want."

If that kind of thing, perhaps phrased a bit more lovingly, doesn't work, then I'm afraid you may need to move on.
posted by knapah at 7:09 AM on June 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

What's wrong with having a jealous girlfriend, seriously? Jealousy is normal folks.

No it isn't. It's a sign of low self-esteem. Her behavior would actually *lead* me into straying- looking for someone not insecure.
posted by L'OM at 7:14 AM on June 4, 2010

Since breaking up has been covered ad nauseum above here is another idea. Maybe your girlfriend is totally crazy. Maybe not. Presumably you like her, which is why you are dating. Why not just placate her and tell her about the people you work with? That seems like the easiest way to deal with this problem.

Maybe she's being unreasonable. Honestly, in a relationship your partner will sometimes do or say things that are unreasonable. In some cases it's worth putting your foot down. As far as I can tell, this isn't one of those cases. I really can't imagine saying, "I had lunch with Sally," is the worse thing ever. This seems like a particularly stupid thing to fight over.
posted by chunking express at 8:11 AM on June 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

Based on what you wrote above the fold, I'd have said you were crazy, and needed to get a grip before you let your girlfriend being actually interested in your life break the two of you up.

Based on what you added below the fold, though, I tend to think your girlfriend might be the crazy one -- specifically with the jealousy.

That said, the fact that she's interested in the people you work with rather than the work you do is not, in and of itself, all that indicative of anything. Most people are more interested in people than they are in jobs, that's why we get paid to work but go to parties for free. If she's not in the same industry as you, there's a really good chance the details of your actual work are pretty boring to her -- but she's still interested in you and your life, so she wants to know about the people you work with.

Or, you know, she's crazy jealous and is trying to make sure you're not banging the sexy project manager in the cube.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:09 AM on June 5, 2010

From your previous question on dating a coworker, whether she is or isn't the girl in question, both you and she are aware of the romantic potential between coworkers. This may have something to do with her insecurity.
posted by DeltaForce at 11:04 AM on June 5, 2010

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