Talking with someone other than your SO = problem?
July 3, 2011 11:25 AM   Subscribe

Dick move or overreacting? Guy needs to understand his lady.

So my lady and I were on the subway platform, she playing with her smartphone and I striking up a conversation with a fellow Nikon DSLR owner. In the twenty-minute ride, my lady neither looked up from her phone nor participated in the conversation. As we reached our transfer, I gave the woman my business card (for networking purposes). My lady stormed off, uninterested in speaking and hurt that I didn't bother to introduce her. Jealousy wasn't the issue - unless talking with another human being has somehow become worth being jealous about. No innuendos, no personal talk, just small talk between two photography enthusiasts

In the past, she's made it clear that inserting herself into conversations or introducing herself to someone she doesn't know isn't her style. To put it mildly, I'm confused. At what point did talking to someone else while out with your SO become a problem?
posted by chrisinseoul to Human Relations (67 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
I am not psychic, but: She wasn't going to butt into your conversation, as she thought it may give a jealous GF vibe. She wanted you to introduce, just say "And this is my GF, HerName. We're heading to SomePlace today.".
posted by kellyblah at 11:30 AM on July 3, 2011 [51 favorites]


There's not enough information here to even begin to parse this. Maybe she was pissed off at you for something you did earlier. Maybe you were (unintentionally?) flirting with this camera person. Maybe she had to poop or was just in a bad mood. There's no way for us to know. You should probably ask her what's going on.

And just on a personal note, whenever I hear a guy refer to his girlfriend as "my lady," it makes me think the dude is kind of a douche. ...Also, I don't know if your girlfriend follows your doings on metafilter at all, but seeing "happily single" as your status probably wouldn't make her feel very appreciated.
posted by phunniemee at 11:31 AM on July 3, 2011 [49 favorites]


Both. She's overreacting but it is rude not to introduce members of your party when you've met someone new. Afterwards, the introduced party can decide whether or not they want to be involved in the conversation.
posted by Loto at 11:31 AM on July 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


When you stated: fellow Nikon DSLR owner and I already knew your "lady" was angry - I immediately guessed the "fellow Nikon DSLR owner" was a woman. My next guess is the "fellow Nikon DSLR owner" was good looking or younger than her.

At what point did talking to someone else while out with your SO become a problem?

In your "lady's" mind when that someone else was a woman. She is jealous that you have something in common with this person and not her. Is it is a right or wrong? I am just explaining her possible perspective, not if it is right or wrong for her to feel this way. Do you and your "lady" have much in common? In past relationships has she been cheated on? The answer to those questions may help you get to the center of this issue.
posted by BuffaloChickenWing at 11:32 AM on July 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think it's SO-specific, I think talking to someone else when you're out with anyone without introducing the people is kind of rude.

In this situation, I probably would've introduced my SO in a way that let them get back to their phone if it were a conversation they wouldn't be interested in. Something like, "This is my boyfriend, Jim. He's probably relieved that I've found someone to discuss cameras with!"
posted by amarynth at 11:34 AM on July 3, 2011 [25 favorites]


How long and how well do you know your "lady". This could be budding relationship growing pains or the straw that broke the camel's back. It's really hard to tell and kind of suprising that you didn't include much detail.
posted by bonobothegreat at 11:35 AM on July 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have a very firm, "I am not a mind-reader" understanding in my relationships. The girlfriend storming off because I "should have known" what she wanted me to do would be an opportunity to discuss and adjust those expectations. Grrr.

If it were me and my girlfriend appeared to be totally engrossed in her phone, I would not have bothered or interrupted her. If she looked up and seemed to be following the conversation, I would have introduced her and drawn her in.
posted by browse at 11:35 AM on July 3, 2011 [6 favorites]


Try this: Pretend that the situation is reversed, and you are the one who does not like to force yourself into a conversation. You are standing on a subway platform with your girlfriend, and you are playing with your DSLR, when she strikes up a conversation with a stranger about smartphones, as they both have their phones out. Your GF continues talking to this stranger, the train arrives, and you all get on the train. Your GF and the stranger continue to talk. Your GF makes no move to introduce you. She and the stranger talk for twenty minutes, and when your stop arrives she gives the guy her business card. At no point did she attempt to introduce you to this stranger whose company she enjoyed enough to have a long conversation with, and with whom she presumably wants to have more contact since she gave out her business card.

Now tell us how you would feel about that.
posted by palomar at 11:40 AM on July 3, 2011 [29 favorites]


Response by poster: Oh dear. I was hoping a simple question would beget a simple answer. Of course I'm talking to her - but it's always nice to get a second (third, fourth) opinion. Quick and dirty > long and detailed; FWIW, it's a fairly new relationship; we were tired but otherwise normal.

My lady (the term is used generically, phunniemee; the single status was an oversight I'll correct momentarily) is also a fellow Nikon DSLR owner, and was not following the conversation at any point in time.

@palomar: I'd like to think my reaction would've been to show interest in the conversation (which would've called for an introduction).

FWIW I've sent a Facebook message apologizing for the miscommunication, and am trying to draw her into a conversation.
posted by chrisinseoul at 11:43 AM on July 3, 2011


To you, your conversation with the woman on the train may truly have been innocent networking, but to both your girlfriend and to this other woman, it probably seemed like you were flirting with her, especially when you gave her your card so she can follow up with you later.

I have been given a business card by a man on a train (in an Asian country, no less - I see you're in Korea), and even though he didn't make any innuendos nor personal talk with me, it was pretty clear he was hoping I'd call him later. I assumed he was single since he did not introduce any girlfriends to me. Unless your girlfriend states otherwise, assume this is how she took that whole thing also.
posted by wondermouse at 11:46 AM on July 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


At what point did talking to someone else while out with your SO become a problem?

This is at best oblivious and at worst disingenuous. In our heteronormative world, a man striking up a conversation with a female stranger and then giving her his contact information is the archetype of "hitting on someone." Unless he mentions a significant other, in which case it is conceivable that his interest is non-romantic. It's unfortunate, but this is the assumption that a vast majority of people bring to their social interactions.

Regardless of whether you actually intended to hit on this woman, you were following the script. Did this stranger know that the woman sitting next to you was your girlfriend? If not, she may well have thought you were hitting on her, and she may have been flirting back. Your girlfriend felt jealous, and dealt with that jealousy in what was perhaps not the most productive way. Approaching this as some kind of binary between "I am a dick" and "My girlfriend is overreacting" is not the most productive way to deal with the situation either.
posted by enlarged to show texture at 11:47 AM on July 3, 2011 [43 favorites]


I think that you giving the other woman your number was the main problem.

That said, I find pretty much the entire scenario anathema. It bugs me when I go on an outing with a friend and they'd rather play with their smartphone than talk to me. So I can't really put myself in your girlfriend's shoes without assuming a degree of hostility (If I'm playing angry birds on the subway rather than talking to you, things probably aren't good).

If I were in your shoes in this situation - even assuming that my partner typically did other stuff while we hung out together around the city and that didn't imply moodiness or ill-feeling - I would probably have said, when introducing myself, "...and this is my girlfriend [NAME]. She's really really close to getting the last golden egg, as you can see." In other words introducing and acknowledging that she's there, but giving her permission to keep doing what she's doing.
posted by Sara C. at 11:48 AM on July 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


Loto's got it. She isn't taking responsibility for herself in a social setting. You aren't there to do it for her. There are non verbal cues she could have engaged in: like making eye contact with you, or smiling at the other person, because she wanted something - an introduction. Failing to do that, and then getting annoyed at you for not introducing her when you have a viable alternative principle: don't bother people who are engaged in something else, like their phone - isn't reasonable.

But.....in general, depending on where you live, social etiquette encourages people to introduce whoever is in their group to whomever new they meet, so that people are recognized. It is also a status thing - apparently, she wanted to be recognized as your girlfriend in public/in your community, and I'm assuming you want her to be recognized as her girlfriend, since you referred to her as 'my lady'. So you really are both on the same page.

Regardless of if you agree with how she's handling conflict when she feels frustrated - steaming and then storming off is eye roll worthy - keep a general guideline that if you are out together and one of you speaks to another person for over five minutes, whatever the topic - introduce them to the other person.
posted by anitanita at 11:50 AM on July 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


My lady (the term is used generically, phunniemee; the single status was an oversight I'll correct momentarily) is also a fellow Nikon DSLR owner, and was not following the conversation at any point in time.

The most charitable thing to say here is that you were being forgetful and she was a bit immature.

You should have mentioned your GF, especially since she shares the hobby and she's sitting right there. Wouldn't matter if she wasn't into the conversation topic, a short mention seems the polite thing to do.

She should learn how to introduce herself and not rely on others to introduce her.

Ya'll should talk about this and then have hot makeup sex. Bring the Nikon and make it a threesome.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:52 AM on July 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


If your girlfriend is really disengaged, then doing a whole introduction thing might be a little awkward. But a sort of encompassing wave in the girlfriend's direction, while you say something like "[Girlfriend name] has been doing a lot of experimenting with [camera feature] and has some cool shots - have you experimented with [feature]?" is a way of opening up the opportunity for her to participate, but because you're asking a direct question to the new person, it doesn't require your girlfriend's immediate engagement, and it lets the new person know that the woman next to you isn't just some random person.
posted by rtha at 11:55 AM on July 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


An interpretation; You treated your girlfriend like she was non-existent while you met and bonded with another woman right under her nose. Then to add insult to injury, you exchanged numbers so you could get to know her better at a later date. Chances are, if you're really completely oblivious and/or insensitive as to this could be interpreted, it's not the first time something like this has happened.

I may be projecting but I've had similar things happen to me in the past and it's always felt like my partner was trying to show me how little I actually mattered. With hindsight, he was. If this isn't how you want to be perceived, it might help to apologize. I appreciate the fact that it was probably innocent on your behalf but it would not have made her feel good.
posted by Jubey at 11:55 AM on July 3, 2011 [25 favorites]


chrisinseoul -- right, but in my role-reversal thing you have to pretend that you're wired up like your girlfriend. Since she's already told you that she doesn't feel comfortable jumping into conversations like that, it's a little disingenuous to operate under the belief that she should just jump into the conversation if she wants to be included. She's already made clear to you that she has problems doing that.

It's hard to say whether or not she overreacted without having been there to witness the whole thing. But as someone in a relationship I can tell you that it's not good behavior to chat up strangers and give out your phone number in front of your girlfriend without making clear to the stranger that you're not available for dating.
posted by palomar at 11:58 AM on July 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


And just on a personal note, whenever I hear a guy refer to his girlfriend as "my lady," it makes me think the dude is kind of a douche.
It makes me wonder if he likes pina coladas and getting caught in the rain.

Subway etiquette is cultural, and I don't know how it works where you are, but in most places I've lived, it's sort of assumed that a guy striking up conversation with a strange woman on the subway is trying to hit on her. And I would definitely assume that if the guy then gave me his phone number, ostensibly for "networking purposes." That would not say "this guy is a photography enthusiast who wants to network over our shared love of Nikons." That would say "this guy is using our shared love of Nikons as an excuse to give me his number so we can go out on a date. And that woman playing Angry Birds over there is probably his very grumpy sister." YMMV.

But I also think this is probably a matter of you and your girlfriend having different social styles that you have to reconcile. If she's not comfortable getting into conversations with strangers and you are, then you should probably make an effort to include her, so she doesn't feel left out. That's not some sort of transcendent etiquette rule that applies in all circumstances. It's just a way to deal with the fact that you guys operate differently socially.
posted by craichead at 11:58 AM on July 3, 2011 [23 favorites]


Going just by your username... could part of this be a cultural difference?
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:59 AM on July 3, 2011


That would not say "this guy is a photography enthusiast who wants to network over our shared love of Nikons." That would say "this guy is using our shared love of Nikons as an excuse to give me his number so we can go out on a date. And that woman playing Angry Birds over there is probably his very grumpy sister." YMMV.


This, exactly. I would think it totally looked like you were trying to pick up this girl right in front of your girlfriend.

( I also dislike when guys consistently refer to "their lady," it just seems affected. Like a woman calling a man her "gentleman caller" repeatedly).
posted by sweetkid at 12:03 PM on July 3, 2011 [7 favorites]


hurt that I didn't bother to introduce her...

In the past, she's made it clear that inserting herself into conversations or introducing herself to someone she doesn't know isn't her style. To put it mildly, I'm confused....


Confused? She told you what the problem was. She told previously you she was uncomfortable with __, and then hurt that you didn't take that into consideration.
posted by bleep at 12:04 PM on July 3, 2011 [12 favorites]


It's possible that she was jealous because it certainly may have seemed like you were hitting on this chick. But also, it's rude to carry on a long conversation like that and not introduce whoever you're with, significant other or not. It's doubly rude here, as she has made clear that she is uncomfortable introducing herself and inserting herself into conversations -- seriously dude, those are your own words in the question.

On the other hand, if she was playing angry birds on her iPhone and this was just a quick subway ride, one could argue that's rude, too. Let's not make this so binary -- maybe it was both a dick move by you and an overreaction by her.
posted by J. Wilson at 12:05 PM on July 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


You were a party of two. You continued to be a party of two during your travels. However, one party met a third party during the journey. Not introducing the second party to the third party is just plain rude, both excluding and ignoring someone who has now essentially been relegated to the status of third wheel for the duration of the trip.

Yes, it would be nice if your GF popped in with "Hi, I'm Emma!" but the fact that she is not constituted that way does not change that it is your responsibility to do so and your failure.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:06 PM on July 3, 2011 [15 favorites]


Is your girlfriend and/or the girl on the train Korean? If so, yeah, what you did was inappropriate, and it's not hard to imagine why your girlfriend would be upset. Koreans don't introduce themselves to strangers on the train. More than that, when white English teachers introduce themselves to Korean women, and when the women respond favourably, it's often for one simple reason.
posted by smorange at 12:08 PM on July 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's a problem for you because it is a problem for your SO. Readers are guessing whether they would see it a problem personally based on their own personality and what they read between the lines. The truth is that it doesn't matter how anyone else would see it. Your SO has a problem and she is trying to make it your problem (by getting upset). You need to talk to her and understand why she thinks it is a problem (focus on really understanding her position before you defend yourself). Then you need to figure out some balance between what is right and comfortable for you and what makes your SO happy. (Is she the jealous type who can't be pleased no matter what or does she have a reasonable request that now you understand you are happy to oblige or maybe an unreasonable request that is no big deal so you oblige anyway)

Helpful hint - through out the discussion make it clear that your SO is wonderful, beautiful, smart and the person that you want to go home with at the end of the day. Odds are that you unintentionally made her feel insecure so while you are overting talking about the problem you want to monitor how you express yourself to help her feel more secure in the relationship, not less so. (assume that what you say is also true - fake assurances are just more trouble later)
posted by metahawk at 12:11 PM on July 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Instead of trying to get confirmation from Metafilter that you didn't do anything wrong (as if our opinion mattered), why not just accept that what you did bothered her and it'd be a good idea not to repeat this?

Jealousy wasn't the issue - unless talking with another human being has somehow become worth being jealous about. No innuendos, no personal talk, just small talk between two photography enthusiasts

That's extremely naive.
posted by John Cohen at 12:11 PM on July 3, 2011 [18 favorites]


Twenty minutes?

You spent 20 minutes talking to a stranger and didn't think it was a good idea to mention you were traveling with your partner.

The simple courtesy of an introduction would have eliminated this problem. She'd previously told you to she doesn't jump into conversations.
posted by 26.2 at 12:11 PM on July 3, 2011 [19 favorites]


I agree with DarlingBri, and with everyone saying there might be cultural differences at play in this situation.

Also, the only times random guys have talked to me on the underground/public were when I was being hit on, or at least felt like I was being hit on. This is the general experience among my female friends as well.
posted by bibliophibianj at 12:14 PM on July 3, 2011


She was rude and antisocial for playing on her phone the whole time and you were rude for not introducing her.
posted by shivohum at 12:17 PM on July 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


I think it's already been stated but I would argue that not introducing your friend was rude regardless of the gender of either party. I had an otherwise sweet but kinda socially clueless boyfriend who did this kind of thing (not so much talking to strange women on the subway, but rather not so great at introducing me to friends/work colleagues, etc when we ran into them). Deep down I knew that it was more likely that he wasn't up on social niceties and in general didn't have the greatest social skills, but it still made me feel that he was embarrassed to be with me and it rankled at times.
posted by kaybdc at 12:21 PM on July 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


You should have introduced your lady/GF, especially when talking to another woman.

Love is not always a logical thing. Being your lady/GF, she has the right to be petulant, especially when another woman is commanding your attention.

The topic of the conversation is irrelevant.

Hard to say how to mend fences, but the best thing to do is apologize for ignoring her (no matter how much this apology sticks in your craw), and take whatever (mild) abuse she dishes out. Flowers would probably help.

Hopefully that will fix things.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:28 PM on July 3, 2011


She was rude and antisocial for playing on her phone the whole time

Call me old-school, but that was her prerogative. She also may have felt that by attempting to join the conversation she would be humiliating herself.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:29 PM on July 3, 2011 [34 favorites]


Did she start playing with her phone before or after you started your conversation with the other person? Phones can be great for lots of things - one of which is giving someone a way to look busy, like they're totally involved in something else, and don't care one bit that someone they care about is excluding them from the conversation. (Not saying you were intentionally excluding her, just saying this may have been why she was trying to look involved with her phone - it's better than looking as pathetic as you might feel when your guy is chatting up another girl in front of you.)
posted by amy lecteur at 12:33 PM on July 3, 2011 [23 favorites]


I was hoping a simple question would beget a simple answer.

By the way, it is a simple answer. Just not the one you were hoping for. What you did bothered your girlfriend, and, assuming your description of the situation is accurate, it's easy to tell why.
posted by wondermouse at 12:34 PM on July 3, 2011 [15 favorites]


If I were going somewhere with my SO and he struck up and carried on a 20-minute conversation with someone else -- even if the "new friend" were another man -- I would be pretty steamed. That's because it means he's spending 20 minutes ignoring me, who he was theoretically supposed to be hanging out with.

I'd be mad at someone who did this even if it weren't an SO, but was just a friend of mine I was meeting up with. (Unless maybe that friend was making a love connection, then I would be more forgiving.)

And I'd be playing on my phone the whole time, too, to keep from shooting dagger eyes at them.
posted by Andrhia at 12:35 PM on July 3, 2011 [9 favorites]


If I were your girlfriend in that situation, and you had pulled what you just described, I would have been tempted to get off at the next stop--without you--and get back to the business of spending my valuable time with another man who treated me with a little more respect or seemed more interested in making it clear that he appreciated being with me.

Don't send a Facebook message. I'm seconding flowers, or at least stopping by in person to apologize.
posted by anonnymoose at 12:43 PM on July 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


like others said, there are too many variables to know exactly what's going on--you should be talking to your girlfriend and figuring all this out. the various takes people have in this thread are indication enough what the problem was depends on who you are--personally, i wouldn't have given a fig about the other person being a girl or sharing your interest or whatever, nor the card thing, BUT it drives me batshit when my partner never introduces me or acknowledges my existence when we're out and he starts talking to someone else. and i'd never butt in either--that would be weird, like i was trying to shrilly elbow my way into things. i would have been happy to see you get on famously with someone else--but if you're then acting like i didn't exist or wasn't there with you in any capacity it just seems rude. but that's me, and importantly, my partner knows how i feel about it so now it's not an issue. have a similar talk with your partner.
posted by ifjuly at 12:45 PM on July 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


She also may have felt that by attempting to join the conversation she would be humiliating herself.

Ok, but playing on the phone sends a signal that you don't want to be involved in the conversation. It's harder and more awkward to introduce someone when they're buried in their phone.

She didn't have to attempt to join the conversation per se. She could have just sat there and looked innocently around. That would have given her much higher ground.
posted by shivohum at 12:48 PM on July 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


You were expected to introduce her and didn't. She already told you she doesn't like 'inserting herself' into the conversation. She may not have wanted to talk about photography or participate at all but she wanted to be acknowledged. Plus giving your card could mean many things. BTW any reason you didn't introduce her?
posted by bquarters at 12:52 PM on July 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


She didn't have to attempt to join the conversation per se. She could have just sat there and looked innocently around. That would have given her much higher ground.

Nope, totally disagree. Who the hell wants to be sitting there like a schmuck or a chump while being totally ignored? Playing with the phone may have been a face-saving gesture. Besides, she's the GF - she already has the moral high ground.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:56 PM on July 3, 2011 [22 favorites]


This may or may not be true, depending on your girlfriend, but for a lot of the women I know, playng around with a cellphone or other gadget is code for "you are not paying enough attention to me right now". Based on this question, it seems like you may not be great at paying your girlfriend what she considers the appropriate amount attention, and so if you were already ignoring her (in her mind) and then spent 20 minutes talking to another woman(innuendoes or not), I can imagine she would feel pretty hurt.

I am amusing myself now by thinking of DSLR-related innuendos. The best one I've got so far is "I'd like to open up your f/stop."
posted by Rock Steady at 12:56 PM on July 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


If my husband is talking to a female that I don't know, I am unlikely to interject myself for an introduction because it feels like I am aggressively marking my territory. "Hi, I'm X. His wife." Fortunately, he is pretty good about casually referencing my existence ("yes, my wife is fond of saying..." "well, my wife's a lawyer, so you can imagine...." etc.) pretty early on so there are no mixed signals. If I am nearby but otherwise engaged, he usually does rtha's encompassing wave gesture/reference to me, pending a more formal introduction.

Some guys (maybe girls too...haven't noticed), upon meeting a new girl, can seem to c o m p l e t e l y forget the fact that they are with another girl, even when they are standing next to her, as if that kind of focus can only be directed to one girl at a time. I have seen guys slide an ashtray away from their girlfriend's lit cig toward the new girl's lit cig or give the new girl's order to a bartender without noticing that they are totally disregarding not just the wants or comfort but the very existence of the girl they came with.

Acknowledging your gf, by word or gesture, to the new girl means you don't even resemble That Guy.
posted by Jezebella at 1:00 PM on July 3, 2011 [11 favorites]


FWIW I've sent a Facebook message apologizing for the miscommunication, and am trying to draw her into a conversation.

Facebook is just going to make things worse.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:03 PM on July 3, 2011 [11 favorites]


Facebook is just going to make things worse.

Yep. So is text or email. The only conversation you should be having is on the phone or -- better -- in person.
posted by scody at 1:05 PM on July 3, 2011 [13 favorites]


This seems pretty cut and dried. She told you exactly what she was upset about, and honestly I wouldn't be surprised if she is maybe being made more upset by the fact that you're trying to paint it as her being mad at you for talking to someone else.

She's not upset that you were talking to a woman. She's upset that you spent twenty minutes talking to a woman while she was right there and never once acknowledged her existence.

Now, here's the thing.

It's entirely possible that if you were in the same situation and ignored for twenty minutes, you wouldn't mind. But she does. That's what's important here. Any further conversation with her about this - if you'd like it to go constructively - should probably just be something in the way of an apology and saying you understand why she's upset. This isn't one of those fights where one person is right and the other is wrong. Don't call it a miscommunication when talking to her; I know you aren't meaning to, but that kind of trivializes her reaction.

Just call her, leave a voicemail if she doesn't pick up, and say you're sorry, that it was inconsiderate of you to do that, and maybe ask if you can see her again soon and apologize in person. Flowers couldn't hurt.

Ignoring her for twenty minutes is why she was upset. The way you've been handling this since then is why she's still upset now.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 1:10 PM on July 3, 2011 [16 favorites]


Twenty minutes is way too long to engage with a new friend without introducing the person you're with, business networking, camera, or whatever. A couple of minutes probably would have been okay, and a mere couple of minutes would have precluded the business card awkwardness unless you're ninja-like at getting your business card into other people's hands.


At what point did talking to someone else while out with your SO become a problem?


It's an area where a deft touch is required.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 1:10 PM on July 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


So why is that you felt it necessary to not introduce your girlfriend to this woman, after a 20 minute conversation?
posted by MaryDellamorte at 1:14 PM on July 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


At what point did talking to someone else while out with your SO become a problem?

At the point where you ignore your SO for twenty minutes, and appear to be hitting on the "someone else."
posted by grouse at 1:17 PM on July 3, 2011 [10 favorites]


Here is what I would be thinking, after about five minutes of my boyfriend talking to a stranger: "Well, I guess you wish I didn't exist." And then things would go downhill from there. That is not at all a pleasant feeling.

You may be getting frustrated that your girlfriend is upset about some breach of etiquette. A lot of responses are phrasing this in etiquette terms: "You should have..." "The right thing would have been to.." etc. But I think you should pay attention not to the etiquette of the situation but instead to the significance, or the symbolism, behind what you did. What you did signaled that your girlfriend's existence didn't matter. For 20 minutes. It symbolized a complete indifference to her. You didn't mean to send that signal to her, and it's unfortunate you sent an unintentional signal, but that doesn't change what your actions did in fact signal.
posted by meese at 1:22 PM on July 3, 2011 [9 favorites]


handing your business card to a cute girl you hit it off with right in front of her without having sent any "I'm taken" flags up first [eg introducing your girlfriend sitting next to you]...yeaaah, faux pas. But I still say she's making a mountain out of a molehill, unless it is a recurring pattern.
posted by Ys at 1:22 PM on July 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sorry, I should clarify. I wrote "Here is what I would be thinking, after about five minutes of my boyfriend talking to a stranger.." I should have written: "Here is what I would be thinking, after about five minutes of my boyfriend talking to a stranger without introducing me..."
posted by meese at 1:23 PM on July 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


One last thing - maybe you thought your girlfriend was really into her smartphone activity, and you thought it would've been rude to interrupt whatever she was doing. Or maybe you thought she was being rude for having her face buried in her smartphone in the first place and thus didn't want to try bringing her into a conversation you were enjoying without her input. Or maybe you just weren't thinking about it either way.

Chances are, something negative was already going on between you two when this happened, whether you've talked about it or not. The fact that you seem oblivious about the implications of what you did should cause you to examine this more deeply, and try to actually talk to your girlfriend about what she's feeling.
posted by wondermouse at 1:26 PM on July 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


Lots of people have identified what was wrong with this interaction. Here's what my partner does in social situations where we're both present: He's more social and chatty than me, so he'll start with an opener to a stranger, then say "My name's __." And shake hands. He'll then introduce me by saying, "This is __." And I'll shake hands with the person. The only caveat is, I'm never glued to my phone. In your situation, I think it could have gone like this: You notice the passenger next to you has a Nikon DSLR (or something). You say: "Hey, cool camera" or something. She responds, encouraging the conversation. You say, "My name's __." Shake hands. Introduce the gf: "This is __." She would've likely immediately looked up from her phone and engaged in the interaction. If she hadn't, that would've been very rude. That's definitely a signal that she does not want to be involved. I hope she wouldn't have done that.

At any rate, her storming off and being silent is really immature. My suggestion for talking (NOT FB messaging!) to the gf: "I'm really sorry, I screwed up, I should have introduced you. I'm interested in you, not her. But it's not cool to storm off in silence like that." Also, she's made it clear that inserting herself into conversations or introducing herself to someone she doesn't know isn't her style. The advent of mobile devices has added another layer of complexity to social interactions. If she's playing with her phone the entire time she's on the subway with you before you met the other passenger, and you guys aren't talking, I don't think that's a good thing. I understand if you felt like you were interrupting whatever she was doing. If you started talking to the woman and the gf starts playing on her phone, it likely means that she's uncomfortable, trying to occupy herself while feeling like she's being ignored. She was using it as a shield, which is unfortunate, but it would've been easy to disarm her. In this case, however, I think she would have been all right with you interrupting her phone use to introduce her to the other passenger. That way she knows you're not flirting, because it definitely looked that way, intentional or not. Basically, you made the other passenger a priority, not your gf. That's how she sees it, and she wouldn't have minded you interrupting her phone use to show another woman that she's a priority to you.
posted by foxjacket at 1:38 PM on July 3, 2011


Whoever started ignoring the other first was rude. If she picked up her phone before you started the conversation, it makes sense you looked for engagement elsewhere, and if she never signaled interest in joining the discussion, you would justifiably assume she just wanted quiet time. If she picked it up as a face-saving thing after a minute or two of being totally excluded, then you were much more at fault.
posted by salvia at 2:19 PM on July 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dick move. First, the fact that you refer to your girlfriend as "my lady" (over and over and over) shows a total lack of respect for her (or at least douchebaggery). Second, you were hitting on another girl, whether you want to admit it or not. 20 minutes. Exchange of contact info.

To be fair, "your lady" should have whacked you upside the head instead of staring at her phone the whole time and then storming off. Passive aggression is pretty uncool, too. But you're oblivious, man.
posted by timory at 3:25 PM on July 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Your SO has said that she doesn't like interjecting in conversations.

You strike up a conversation with another woman in the presence of your SO.

You do not introduce nor include your SO in conversation with said woman.

You give said woman business card.

You were hitting on that woman without even knowing it and did it in front of your SO to boot.

That other woman would more than likely think you two weren't together and your SO feels mortified. AND you failed to acknowledge her existence at all even though you knew in advance that she feels awkward about interjecting. She probably wanted to crawl under a rock and the alternative was to bury herself in her phone.
posted by mleigh at 3:35 PM on July 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


I keep thinking what my reaction would be if I were the other woman. If I were at a cocktail fundraiser, or on public transit, or chatting at the DMV, and a strange man struck up a conversation with me about a mutual interest. I'm happy to assume it's a non-creepy conversation where there's no hitting on (both that none is intended and I don't interpret anything as being hit on). He gives me his information for networking. All fairly normal.

And then I find out that the woman sitting next to him the whole time, seemingly absorbed in her phone, was his girlfriend. Or wife. Or whatever. And that he never made reference to the woman in his life who was SITTING RIGHT THERE WITH HIM.

I would feel extremely uncomfortable about the entire situation, and suddenly the conversation would have been about, "What creepy, passive-aggressive relationship drama was he trying to involve me in here?" and "What EXACTLY is wrong between the two of them that he's so disrespectful towards her and goes out of his way to make a point of it in front of others?"
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:55 PM on July 3, 2011 [28 favorites]


If ANYONE I was traveling with ignored me for 20 minutes and instead struck up a conversation with a random stranger.... I would conclude the person I was with wished they were not with me.

It is customary once things go beyond 3 minutes or so (think: impersonal chit chat) to introduce the person you are with to the new acquaintance.


You did wrong, son. You did wrong.
posted by jbenben at 4:03 PM on July 3, 2011 [9 favorites]


I don't think it's douchey to refer to your girlfriend as "my lady." It's cute to me.

At what point did talking to someone else while out with your SO become a problem? As others have said, it sounds like it's the way that it happened that was the problem. There might be a way to frame it in the future so that it wouldn't be a problem and both of you would feel valued and at liberty to talk about your hobbies, reach out to people you don't know, use smartphones, etc.

A lot of people have said that they would have been really upset by this, and I'm not sure that I would have been. It might be nice for my friend/significant other to check in with me once or twice during that journey, especially if I'm buried in my phone (and usually am not) and the other person understands I sometimes need to be drawn out of my shell. At the same time, some of the burden really does rest on me in that case to make myself available. In either case, it will help to get in her head and understand what she is thinking about this.
posted by ramenopres at 4:35 PM on July 3, 2011


I might answer differently here if your GF was not into Nikons as well.

I had an ex who was a pro level singer. If he had ran into a singing acquaintance on the metro with me, and they decided to have a long chat about music, fine. I am not musical and can't engage that part of him. I'm not going to deny him a chance to talk to someone who can, as long as I am not ignored entirely for too long. A simple allusion to my presence would be fine and then I could cheerfully play Angry Birds in the corner.

But if it's a mutual interest? Weird. If you and GF and New Girl all like Nikons, why not bring GF into the conversation? It makes you sound socially obtuse at the very least, and at worst does make it look like you were hitting on New Girl. So you're either rude or sneaky in your scenario, if it happened just like you said.

It's fine to have separate interests, not share all the same friends, whatever. I am totally all for personal space being maintained to a certain degree in relationships. What you described has nothing to do with that.
posted by slow graffiti at 4:40 PM on July 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


My ex-husband never introduced me to coworkers or acquaintances, which always made me feel incredibly unimportant. He always said he "forgot" or was waiting for me to introduce myself. Toward the end of our marriage I started doing just that and all it accomplished was making me look desperate to be acknowledged and making him look boorish and awkward. Then all 3 parties were embarrassed.

Next time, tap her arm gently to get her head up from her phone and introduce her. Or, if you choose not to introduce her, don't give your number out to other women in front of her.
posted by ladygypsy at 5:17 PM on July 3, 2011 [8 favorites]


Simple etiquette says that when you're speaking to another person, you introduce the person beside you. Girlfriend, boyfriend, brother, sister, douchey coworker, it doesn't matter, that's just polite.

By failing to introduce her into the conversation or involve her in any way, you made it clear that you think of her as simple arm candy, someone to follow you around in a support role, observing your life in cheer leader mode. Not everyone likes that.
posted by crackingdes at 6:44 PM on July 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can't speak to cultural norms in Korea (and I don't know if in fact Chris is in Seoul), but I will offer a data point that
"Simple etiquette says that when you're speaking to another person, you introduce the person beside you"
is not a universal truth. I have been confounded many times by the fact that here in Japan people don't tend to introduce each other. I don't know if that is what is going on in this case, but the assumption that one must introduce the other members of one's party is, I think, faulty.
posted by segatakai at 8:59 PM on July 3, 2011


I'll contrast with another data point for Japan, fwiw. I live here and the folks I meet always introduce me to their girlfriends or friends or coworkers right away. ymmv.
posted by pinetree at 11:34 PM on July 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


smorange has it - surely you're aware of the baggage surrounding white men and Korean women? Your girlfriend lives in a society that tells her that her boyfriend is untrustworthy and only after her body. She also knows that there are plenty of Korean women who are keen on the idea of free English lessons and a romantic adventure with an exotic foreigner. In the early stages of your relationship, there's a good chance she's wondering if she is just one more conquest about to be discarded.

Then, in front of her, you start talking to a strange woman (as smorange says, this is not something Koreans do), you get onto the train with this woman, sit next to her to continue the conversation, ignore your girlfriend, give her your number and do not indicate that you are taken. Subway woman is probably now wondering if she pulled.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 5:28 AM on July 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


There's not enough information to tell if it was jealousy. Was the girl attractive/your age/your "type"? Would you have struck up this conversation if it were another guy, or a 60-year old woman? I had an ex-boyfriend who pulled this a few times - struck up conversations with strangers, didn't introduce me, talked about (whatever their mutual interest seemed to be), then acted like it was silly and not his problem if I got upset.

Coincidentally, these strangers were always cute girls, and it was always pretty obvious to me that while he wasn't out-and out flirting or trying to get a date, he was trying to be "Mr. Smooth" and make sure he could still get attention from girls. Even if you didn't mean to do this, it's quite possible your girlfriend interpreted it as this.

IF she was jealous or upset: then regardless of whether it's rational or justified, it is a feeling she's feeling and it's way better to talk about it and figure out where things derailed than to just say "you're just jealous whenever I talk to another human being".
posted by nakedmolerats at 12:38 PM on July 4, 2011


If Chris' GF is indeed from Korea, yeah, there was no excuse not to introduce her. My wife is from Japan, and when we were dating and newly-married, chatting up any unknown woman was considered to be flirting. In fact, I lived in a company house at the satellite office of the company I was working for. A woman from head office spent the night at the house, and my wife (this is when we first started dating) thought that we were an item.

"Where is she supposed to stay if not at the company house?" I asked.

"I don't know, but not under the same roof as you."

So, culture may be an issue here.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:40 PM on July 4, 2011


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