Verbal Language
July 12, 2014 4:51 PM   Subscribe

What would you say and how would you say it?

I have never been good at setting boundaries and as a result have had people invade my space and try to walk over me many times. However I do have a temper and that has helped to keep them away.

However now that I am married, I find myself in situations where women will try to make invites to my husband via me and I am not sure what verbal language to use to set those boundaries. e.g. a woman recently invited "us" over in for dinner, she lives alone and is not a friend, just someone we met at a gathering. It was clear that the "invite" was more directed towards my husband. I felt invisible and could not find the correct words to use. (first off is it okay for a woman to do that right in front of the wife??)

(disclaimer if you go that route-there are no trust issues, I trust my SO completely) The issue here is the anger I feel in these situations because I feel invisible and unable to cope verbally with these, what should be simple, situations. I have the same issue at work, unable to verbally hold people at bay. I have been told I am too nice.

So the question is-ladies how do you handle these situations verbally? Examples would be great. The situation is-a woman is trying to cozy up to your guy, you need to set boundaries with her and let her know she is overstepping. In most cases these are not friends, mere aquaintances.
posted by jellyjam to Human Relations (28 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure how you knew the invite was directed more at your husband... are you sure you're not reading into things there?

But for me, I don't really consider those my boundaries to set. I set boundaries with my husband, and I expect him to set boundaries and respond appropriately to other people. If he doesn't, we talk about it. I would be massively upset if my husband tried to "set boundaries" with a guy he thought was getting too close to me, instead of talking about his concerns with me and trusting me to handle them, so I treat him with the same respect. The exception there, I suppose, is if I needed actual physical support from him because I was being in some way physically invaded or attacked and was unable to walk away, as I am small and he is much stronger.
posted by brainmouse at 4:56 PM on July 12, 2014 [13 favorites]

a woman recently invited "us" over in for dinner

(first off is it okay for a woman to do that right in front of the wife??)

This person invited you and your husband over for dinner. Of course it is okay for her to do that in front of you. You are invited. Honestly, some people just like to host dinners and some single people find that guests are a great excuse to do the sort of meal that is less sensible to do for one (like a roast chicken or pot roast -- delicious, but then you are eating leftovers all week).

If you are feeling ignored or invisible in this situation contact the woman and ask if you can bring dessert or a side dish. Connect with her as a person. She invited you over because she wants to be friends with you both. So be friendly.
posted by kate blank at 4:57 PM on July 12, 2014 [50 favorites]

Your husband should be doing this because it is hard for someone in your position.

It really depends how snarky you want to be, honestly. I could come up with a range of responses. The thing is though that they might not be wanting to cozy up to your husband so much as they're just clicking better with him at that moment or whatever so I wouldn't want to seem too defensive, you know?
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:57 PM on July 12, 2014

It sounds like you have issues with other women, and some insecurity about your husband. Inviting both of you isn't really "directed at" your husband. It would be a very weird way to try to get your husband to have dinner with her, if she were trying to do something inappropriate.
posted by xingcat at 5:01 PM on July 12, 2014 [13 favorites]

The situation is-a woman is trying to cozy up to your guy

...except that's really not what's happening when someone asks you and your husband out socially. If she was trying to cozy up to your guy, she'd find a reason to be alone with him (which is quite easy to make happen, as meeting with someone of the opposite sex independent of their spouse for a meal, drink, coffee, etc., isn't a scandal like it used to be).

I'm not sure your issue is that you don't know how to properly communicate, so much as you might be struggling understanding social interactions and cues.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 5:08 PM on July 12, 2014 [29 favorites]

If it were me, I'd just say something like, thanks for the invite, our schedule is really crazy these days, but I appreciate your thinking of us. It's "no" with more padding. That said, I, too, think it would be worthwhile examining why you perceive this is happening so frequently; seems strange to worry about so much if you're not worried about your husband.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:09 PM on July 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

"It was clear that the "invite" was more directed towards my husband"

I'm not clear why you assume this.

Here are some things single women are told all the time:

-Make new friends
-Couple friends can be good for introducing you to single men they know
-If you're friendly with a guy but not attracted to him and you want to make that clear, invite him to do things with you together with his wife, or reach out to her yourself
-Just because you live alone, don't let it stop you from having dinner parties. Ask people over!

Like the young rope-rider said above, I can think of various levels of snarky replies, but unless there's a lot of info missing here, I'd suggest reconsidering the notion that all these women are that into your husband and just saying "Sorry, we can't make it that night."
posted by DestinationUnknown at 5:49 PM on July 12, 2014 [20 favorites]

I think you need to recruit your husband's help. It might just be that he's the more outgoing/conversational of the pair of you, so people gravitate toward him without meaning to. He can keep you looped into conversations so you don't feel invisible, because otherwise it sounds like that turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy with you being too angry to participate. There's no need for you to be in charge of "managing" a given friend or acquaintance just because they're a woman and, if someone really is being flirtatious, it's much easier for your husband to shut that down directly.
posted by teremala at 6:05 PM on July 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Well... Specifically for verbiage, I think the standard is to use words like "we'll check our calendar!" Or "we haven't talked about it yet, but that might be interesting!" Or "we love doing things as a couple- maybe we can invite one of our guy friends too, to even out the numbers?" Basically just fall back on the "we" language and let her know that decisions are made jointly.

That said, the situation you described sounds like it isn't particularly threatening?
posted by samthemander at 6:14 PM on July 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Thanks all (question was specific to verbal language when intent is clear :).
posted by jellyjam at 6:15 PM on July 12, 2014

I think, if there is a situation where you perceive a woman to be unambiguously hitting on your husband - so not inviting you both over for dinner, because that is nothing like hitting on someone - a "back off" message would probably be most effective coming from your husband, not you.
posted by Asparagus at 6:20 PM on July 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

So the question is-ladies how do you handle these situations verbally? Examples would be great. The situation is-a woman is trying to cozy up to your guy, you need to set boundaries with her and let her know she is overstepping. In most cases these are not friends, mere aquaintances.

Assuming for the sake of argument that this is really what's going on, then your husband needs to be the one to set the boundaries. My personal sense is that women who are going to hit on men in front of their wives are showing that they don't respect other women enough to care when one of these other women steps in to say "back off."

That said, I do find it odd that you are presenting this A) as a scenario that occurs regularly in your life, and B) that you assume is a regular occurrence for most women. What you're describing actually strikes me as very unusual (unless you're married to a celebrity, I guess). I don't mean this disrespectfully, but is there any way you might be misreading at least some of these incidents?
posted by scody at 6:57 PM on July 12, 2014 [18 favorites]

jellyjam: you're ignoring much of the advice on here because you apparently don't want to hear it. But I'll add to the chorus: it *really* comes off as though you are being paranoid and misinterpreting what is going on. You two as a couple are being invited, and women are not going around you or sneaking up on him when you're not there. Chill out and stop looking for offense where none was likely intended.
posted by mysterious_stranger at 7:12 PM on July 12, 2014 [23 favorites]

It sounds like this woman was being friendly, and wanted to get to know you better so that the two of you might become friends with her. Lots of people out there enjoy meeting people and making new friends. This seems to me to be normal behavior. I don't know why you're assuming anything sinister.

Even if she did like chatting with your husband, shares some interests, and is interested in having a friendship with him more than you, what's the problem? I have plenty of female friends, and my GF has plenty of male friends. This is normal in the 21st century. In fact, it seems a bit strange to me when people I know don't seem to have friends of the opposite sex.

Unless you have good reason to believe that this woman is trying to seduce your husband, you're seriously overreacting.

Regardless of what you said regarding trust issues, I can't imagine someone without trust issues overreacting to the degree that you seem to be overreacting here.

Since you trust your husband completely, you can trust him to chat with other women freely and lay down the law should they ask him to do anything sexy. It is up to him to answer these situations verbally, not you. You are not his mother.
posted by Leatherstocking at 7:13 PM on July 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

OP, one way to make yourself more visible (assuming you don't want to burn bridges) is to assert yourself as the hostess (in good faith) in order to make your role in this new dynamic non-secondary (though not *primary* in the sense that you are "deciding" who Husband can be friends with).

1. "Thank you for the invitation! Unless you already have a dinner party planned, I'd love to host you over at our place. I've been meaning to get a small group of people together and this would be a good opportunity. How does that sound to you?"

2. "Thanks so much! I've actually been meaning to get together with another girlfriend of mine for lunch. Would you like to join us? [Husband won't be able to make it, but] This will give us time to chat some more."

3. "Dinner at your place is so generous of you. If you give me your number, I'll talk it over with Husband and get back to you to make plans."

Maybe you could have the unofficial role of "social planner" between you and your husband so that this is sort of a fun role that you both could default to that would give you practice verbalizing yourself into agency while not making it about trust...

There's no problem with Husband-and-women being better friends than Wife-and-women, so I'm not encouraging socially controlling behavior (for those who may think that).

I'm encouraging you to see yourself in a more central role in these dynamics. Dress for the part you want.
posted by RaRa-SpaceRobot at 8:36 PM on July 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

In most cases these are not friends, mere acquaintances.

The way people go from acquaintances to friends is through things like inviting people over for dinner.

I'm a single woman who has several male-centric hobbies, and I sometimes invite the people I've met through these hobbies over for dinner. Typically, I know the man in the couple better, because we share a weekly meetup, and I may have met the woman once or twice. I do my best to make her feel welcome, talk with her as much as with her boyfriend/husband, and acknowledge their relationship as a couple.

I have no romantic interest in any of these men.

It feels as though single women are inherently untrustworthy from your perspective. You might think about why that is, and if you're being fair to them.
posted by Georgina at 9:43 PM on July 12, 2014 [23 favorites]

I'm pretty sure your read on this one is way off, it really doesn't make any sense to try to make moves on a man through his wife. If being a mistress was really her goal, why on earth would she tip her hand to you like that? I can't think of any circumstances under which "invite a couple to dinner" means "trying to initiate a sexual relationship", except maybe at some sort of fetish event? If that were the case, I assume you'd have mentioned that part.

It really sounds like she likes you guys and wants to be friends with the two of you. If you aren't interested, just politely decline, but I don't think there's anything you need to say to her because she is behaving totally appropriately under the circumstances.
posted by zug at 10:02 PM on July 12, 2014 [5 favorites]

How was it clear that the invite was aimed only at your husband? As a single woman, if I wanted to start something more than friendly with a married man, I definitely would not be asking him anything in front of his wife, let alone suggesting that the two of them come to my place for dinner.

Now, if I met a nice couple that I wanted to be friends with, I might ask them to dinner. Do you think it's possible that that's what's happening here, and not that some hussy's trying to steal your man?
posted by palomar at 10:33 PM on July 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

"That sounds great, give me your number and I'll text you!"
posted by SakuraK at 11:18 PM on July 12, 2014

Can you clarify what exactly you are concerned about here? What happens if you go as a couple to dinner with this single woman? Are you worried she is going to talk only to your husband and ignore you? That she is going to lure him into a one-on-one meeting later?

If the former is the case, hopefully your husband would be tactful enough to shut this down and make sure you are included in the conversation. If it's the latter, well, you say you trust him, so why would you be worried about it? You say you feel invisible, but this woman was speaking to you, not your husband, so that is confusing me a bit. I would understand that if she had asked your husband, but not if she asked you directly.

I'm with most of the people who have answered already, if she's inviting both of you, that doesn't really come off as inappropriate from how you've described it. If you can clarify the situation, and what your specific concerns are, you might get more helpful answers.
posted by ananci at 1:21 AM on July 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

Get a little code going between you and your husband - tell him that you're going to give him a little nudge with your elbow if you feel that you're being ignored, and that's the signal that he should pay a little more attention to you, just to make it clear to the interloper that you guys are a team. So, someone gives him an invitation and you feel excluded, then you give him the signal, and he knows that it would make you happy to say something like "oh you'll have to arrange that with jellyjam, she does our planning"

It is really tough to get into a conversational exchange that you're being excluded from, so getting a little support from your husband would be a big help. Once that you know he is there for you when you feel left out, it will be easier to feel more confident to speak up for yourself in the future. Also, secret codes are fun!
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:41 AM on July 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Single people hit it off with non-single people all the time. Going out of the way to include the SO is pretty much the universal symbol for "I am not trying to hit on your partner."

If your husband knows this is a concern for you he should be on alert for this scenario and you should be able to trust that he will shut down inappropriate advances.
posted by Room 641-A at 9:11 AM on July 13, 2014 [4 favorites]

I don't want to invalidate your reading of a situation, but it's really hard to imagine that you're repeatedly running into single women who are making moves on your husband by inviting both of you to hang out. It is possible that the woman in this situation has more in common with your husband which is leading to you feeling shut out, but frankly, there's nothing wrong with that, and if that is the case, the appropriate way to establish a friendly connection is to become friends with both of you. It's really, really hard to imagine a realistic scenario in which this is the opening gambit to start an affair with your husband.

Of course, if you don't want to hang out with this person, then just don't make plans. And if someone truly is making the moves on your husband, then it should be up to him to shut it down, which it sounds like isn't a problem since you trust him. There's not really a way of doing it yourself which won't come across as possessive or jealous.

With that being said, there certainly are other situations where putting boundaries in place is a good skill to work on, but the specific situation you're talking about doesn't seem to be one of them.
posted by litera scripta manet at 11:22 AM on July 13, 2014 [5 favorites]

I think this woman wants to be friends with your husband and you and is inviting you both to dinner so she can hang out with a new friend and make it very clear to you that everything is above board and not sexual. Inviting the spouse signals her intention not to be a threat to you. Though it is possible that her actual friendship is with your husband which is totally fine too. Just because you are both women does not a friendship make.

I (happily married W) have recently met a new couple. The husband is totally my people. The wife is fine, very nice etc but with the husband the friendship connection was instant. I have tried several activities with just the wife and I and they are fine. She is fine. But it's not a blast. Now we hang out in groups when possible which I schedule with the wife. I get to laugh with my friend (the husband) and the wife doesn't feel left out. It's a hard balance but possible.

It is very possible that this single woman is or wants to be friends with your husband but knows you guys are a package deal and is happy to work with that.
posted by saradarlin at 11:27 AM on July 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

I believe I've felt that feeling of "invisibility" -- sometimes I feel like acquaintances, when making smalltalk, speak to my male friend / partner by default, even when I am the connecting person. For example, we went to a dinner party held by my friend and his aunt, but the aunt talked mostly to him.

If I feel my companion isn't making an effort to include me in the conversation, I get annoyed. It's 30% of a fist shake at the patriarchy for establishing the norm of men doing the talking and 70% "HEY HEY HEY I would like some help in being drawn out and into these small talky conversations because I feel like I am playing the silent passive accessory woman role and I'd like to not do that."

The 70% was resolved by, well, asking for the help. Would that work for you too? Explain to your husband this feeling so that he cues you to say "That sounds fascinating -- we'll check our calendar and let you know!"
posted by batter_my_heart at 11:51 AM on July 13, 2014

I have a lot of male friends but I am very clear about not creating a situation for the wife to think that I have a romantic interest. We do group things and we do things in public. And we never mind if a wife tags along and we include the wife often.

So, I think you are misreading the situation you described but I am more concerned that you think you are being "too nice" based on what your co workers tell you. It seems you need to practice a nice sweet, "oh, no, thank you though" response if that is something you worry about.

As to the times when there REALLY is a woman cozying up to your husband, it is fair in my mind to say to your husband, that "she" seems to have an interest in him that you find annoying. No need to be angry, let him deal with it.
posted by OhSusannah at 10:44 PM on July 13, 2014

Going to dissent from the crowd here and say that your reading of the situations doesn't seem abnormal (though I reckon at least some of these are probably innocent). Since you trust your SO, you've got nothing to worry about and thus there's nothing to raise your hackles over. Relax! If they're really trying to get to your husband (or to you, by doing so blatantly through you), shrug off their silly attempts and simply establish that you and your SO are a tight unit with 'we' language as suggested above. No need to overly 'set boundaries' here; be casual, friendly and secure when talking about the you-and-husband-unit and that's boundary enough, and more potent than anything more assertive, IMO.
posted by SailRos at 4:29 AM on July 14, 2014

If you trust your partner "completely", then the issue is not what to say to these women -- the issue is your anger.

Why are you so angry? What makes you feel invisible? Do you feel invisible in other aspects of the relationship? Why is your husband invisible in the way you pose your question? How is he responding to these scenarios?

I don't think you need a script for dealing with these situations. You need to have a chat with your husband.. and possibly a therapist.
posted by Gray Skies at 9:01 AM on July 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

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