They don't want to be in Supper Club anymore, but won't say it
June 25, 2015 3:36 PM   Subscribe

My husband and I have been part of a 4-couple Supper Club that we've really valued. (Let's call the 8 members Couple A, Couple B, and Couple C, and us.) From late 2008 on, we'd meet every 6-8 weeks or so at each of the couple's homes on a rotating basis, and would all bring a dish to share according to a dinner theme selected by the hosts. It was very fun, the food was outstanding, and getting the 8 of us together was something we used to look forward to until...

...something about the enjoyability of the group dynamic must have changed from Couple C's perspective.** Since September, we have only met twice, thanks in part to Couple C not responding for ages, and the rest of us delaying having a group conversation about it (which we finally did in March, to no avail).

Long story short, it now seems clear to us that by their actions, Couple C is no longer really interested in being a part of Supper Club, and are quite obviously perpetually unavailable for Supper Club, and yet they are very consistently available for various other events to which we and Couple B have invited them. Like the comedy show we and Couple C went to last weekend. Like how Couple B are close neighbors of Couple C and report that Couple C started a Soup Group for their entire neighborhood and Couple B often get texts and emails from Couple C about the Soup Group. Bottom line: they will make time for events that are important to them (just like all of us do, I think). The things they won't make time for, such as our Supper Club? Not important to them, but nor will they quit the group so that we all can go ahead and invite a new couple to join us, and therein lies the problem (as my husband and I see it anyway.)

Couple A are the founders and leaders of this group, and are the ones who invited us and Couple B. Couple B invited Couple C in 2010 when 2 of our old members moved away. Couple A listens to Couple C's words instead of their actions, and therefore thinks Couple C are still interested-- so about every few weeks will ask all us if X date will work or will mention future theme ideas or attempts to plan. From our perspective, it's getting very awkward, and I feel bad for Couple A who are trying so hard and deserve a straight answer from Couple C at this point. Lately, I've also started to feel a bit irritated with Couple C for being so flaky and uncommunicative about this, and for not simply quitting the group if it's no longer working for them -- but to each their own preferred communication style, I suppose.

By their words to Couple A, Couple C still to this day expresses interest in being in Supper Club, but when it comes time to schedule the next meeting their actions suddenly don't match up with their words: since September 2014 they straight up do not respond to the vast majority of emails or texts about planning the next meeting (though they do admit to receiving them), and when folks have asked them in-person if they're free on X date they say they forget their calendar/phone, or say they'll check and let us all know later but don't follow through. (Again, their total lack of interest here seems clear to us!)

The point-blank question "Hey, Couple C, we can't tell: are you in or are you out?" was asked in-person at our last meeting in March. They gave a very murky response about how "busy" they are, to which my husband and I concluded "Ok, that clears things up, they are definitely not interested." However, Couple A heard the same things from Couple C that we did but came to the opposite conclusion that "They're just busy but are still interested." The fact is, our Group has not met since March and currently, Couple C is not responding to Couple A's repeated requests this week to put some future meeting dates on the calendar.

**[What I think is really going on is that Ms. C has been feeling alienated from the group, is in a negative headspace right now, and feels conflicted. Ms. C tried to share some dramas with me and in the past has expressed/vented to me that Ms. B (who is a really terrific person I happen to adore) is "a follower" who took another woman's side in a friendship dispute Ms. C had with this other mutual friend of theirs who is no longer speaking to Ms. C; she's also shared her feelings that Mr. A (who I also really respect and adore) is "a know-it-all atheist who mocks her religion," and Ms. A "talks too much" (which I happen to love about her!) Gossiping over petty stuff like this made me think less of Ms. C-- and because who only knows that Ms. C has been saying about me and my husband behind our backs (oh well). She has been very negative to be around lately and I get that she's going through some personal stuff around turning 50 soon and that her very wealthy family-of-origin has recently cut off some financial support from her. I've taken steps back from engaging in 1:1 close friendship with Ms. C, and have been able to change the topic or disagree when she's starting to gossip, but the truth is I have enjoyed being around her in the specific context of Supper Club setting, where she acts a lot more positively and does not impugn the people for whom I really care.]

Other possibly relevant details: everyone is in their 40s and has 2 children, ranging from ages 5-14 (ours are the youngest). Currently, Ms. C is the only one of us who does not have to go to a job to work for pay. Most of the rest of us are various Type A professionals who work for pay at least 50 hours/week and sometimes overnight. (In other words, we are all plenty "busy.")

tl;dr: To my husband and me, it seems abundantly clear that Couple C is trying to bow out of Supper Group by doing a slow fade/being perpetually busy thing, probably without wanting to risk hurting people's feelings.

How do we (the people who want to continue having Supper Club) move forward with planning as a group, without Couple C's response and participation, when Couple A won't give up on their efforts at reaching them? Scripts? Strategies? Thoughts? Thank you, hive mind!
posted by hush to Human Relations (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I know that Couple A thinks you're still planning around Couple C's schedule, but have you brought up the idea that if Couple C can't make a supper club date, Couples A, B, and D should go ahead with one and keep trying to find a good date that will work for all four couples next time? It seems as though a three couple supper could work well (my BF and I have been doing a similar thing with just one couple for a few years and really appreciated their suggestion that we do so).

That way, you're not pushing Couple A to cross Couple C off the list permanently, which they seem loathe to do, but you're also not letting Couple C's reluctance to participate or respond stop the rest of you from something you enjoy.
posted by janey47 at 3:45 PM on June 25, 2015 [46 favorites]

I don't get it. Why do they have to "quit" the group before you invite a new couple? Is there some hard limit on this only working with 8 people. Why can't you just set a date over e-mails like you have been doing, and if they don't RSVP, go ahead with 6 people? Or invite 10 and plan for no-shows? This is dinner, not a 4 on 4 basketball game.
posted by thewumpusisdead at 3:45 PM on June 25, 2015 [40 favorites]


Couple A: "we're looking for dates for the next meeting - does [DATE] work for all of you?"
Couple B: "Yes"
Couple D: "Yes"
Couple H: "Yes"
Couple C: *silence*
Couple A: "okay, it looks like [DATE] works the best for all of us."

To be honest, this entire question seems a little bit off. In general, social groups (and especially not informal social groups) are not run by unanimous consent, they are run by consensus. Consensus can occur with some dissent and/or lack of input. Frankly, I'm amazed you can even get 7 of 8 couples to agree with a date and/or talk about anything coherently, which is an accomplishment in and of itself.

Couple A can ask for Couple C's input as long as Couple A wants. Either Couple C will respond or Couple C won't. Either way, Couple C isn't preventing consensus from occurring. If Couple A is looking for unanimous consent, then you should gently suggest to Couple A that's impossible in any sufficiently large social group - and a group of eight couples constitutes a sufficiently large social group.
posted by saeculorum at 3:55 PM on June 25, 2015 [5 favorites]

Best answer: My wife and I have largely opted out of a rotating group dinner arrangement because we moved to a much smaller apartment and are not that cool on hosting formal dinner parties 8 feet away from the cat's litter box (especially since our cat likes to do post poop meowling).

So maybe they feel awkward about not being able to reciprocate?
posted by srboisvert at 3:56 PM on June 25, 2015 [9 favorites]

If I were you, I would ask couples A & B if you can find 2 or 3 dates in the next few weeks that work for all six of you. Contact couple C to ask if any of them work, but give a deadline: "If we don't hear from you by DATE, we'll presume that you can't make it. We'll miss you, but it's been too long and the rest of us want to get together."

In the invitation, and when you arrange possible dates amongst the rest of you, do not speculate about the reasons they might not want or be able to come. Keep it focused on wanting to be together and hoping that you can find a time that works, but that if couple C can't make it or doesn't respond, the rest of you will go ahead.

If they don't come, and you continue to think you'll enjoy their company, contact them afterwards and tell them that it went well but that you missed them. Repeat a couple more times, with proposals of a few possible dates and a deadline. If their actions continue to speak louder than words, you can then find someone else to join you—maybe even a single or two, since I'm sure that you have single or divorced friends who'd love to participate in something like this.
posted by brianogilvie at 3:58 PM on June 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

Let them do what they want. Add a new couple. I'm sorry it feels like you're being socially crapped on because Couple C doesn't want to be in your supper club anymore but really? This is okay. It's okay for them to do other things, and it's okay for the rest of you to include new people in your supper club without a big meeting. "Say, would you guys want to invite Steve and Janet to next month's club dinner?" is really all is required, if you honestly feel you need to ask permission.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 4:02 PM on June 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Couple C sounds pretty busy. Maybe you could use that to your advantage, and let them use their busyness as an excuse to drop out of the supper club. If they start going through the same song and dance next time you want to set up a supper, you might cut to the chase by saying something like "We wanted to set up another supper, but we're worried that you two might be too busy, because you have such an active social life. We all like you so much, so we don't want to leave you out, but we're just worried you don't actually have time...."

I mean, it depends on how you say it. You could make that sound really genuine, or really passive-aggressive. And it also depends on how willing they are to let you give them a way out, or if they'll feel the need to maintain the pretense of wanting to come until their dying breaths. If the latter is the case, then I suggest just doing what others are suggesting and pick a date that works for everyone else, and let couple C come or stay away as it suits them.
posted by sam_harms at 4:04 PM on June 25, 2015

Response by poster: "Is there some hard limit on this only working with 8 people?"

Couple A founded the group, are the leaders, and we defer to their established rules. A group of 8 with each couple doing one of the 4 courses is how we've been doing this since 2008, plus we don't live in mansions so none of us can fit more than 8 people max around the dinner tables in our homes.

"it's okay for the rest of you to include new people in your supper club without a big meeting."

Err, actually, no. We definitely will need to meet and discuss in order to agree on which (if any) new couple to invite, just like we did in 2010 when we agreed to Couple B's suggestion to invite Couple C.
posted by hush at 4:14 PM on June 25, 2015

Best answer: Looks like it's time to find couples E, F, and G and see if they want to start a supper club with you.
posted by mister pointy at 4:29 PM on June 25, 2015 [12 favorites]

Best answer: "Couple A founded the group, are the leaders, and we defer to their established rules. "

Be patient, the current situation is not sustainable. You'll get there when Couple A is ready.
posted by notned at 4:55 PM on June 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I get that six is a weirder number to cook for than eight, since you get leftovers when you double a standard serves-four recipe. But next time Couple C pulls their wishy-washy bullshit when you're trying to find a date, tell the group you really miss these dinners, it's been since March, you want to see everyone and catch up, and suggest going ahead with a three-course plan. A single event, not all events going forward. Then it doesn't matter that Couple C is being so passively unhelpful.
I know you want to abide by Couple A's rules, but you've been taking part for seven years. Surely that gives you some ownership over the process.
posted by gingerest at 4:56 PM on June 25, 2015 [9 favorites]

It could be that couple C is waiting for someone else to take the initiative:

"Hey, guys, Mr. H and I really would like to get together; C's, would you mind if the A's and B's and us got together without you just this time?"

(thinking: "oh thank god this is the perfect opportunity") "Actually, we've been feeling guilty about holding you guys up, maybe we should drop out altogether."

It's a weird sort of passive-aggressive dance, but sometimes some people sort of want someone else to bring up the "hey, you're not really contributing any more" point so they don't have to introduce the topic themselves.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:16 PM on June 25, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: It definitely seems a bit odd for Couple A to be the leaders still, given that 1. it's been 7 years, 2. everyone plays an equal role as far as I can tell and 3. they're unwilling to make decisions that seem necessary to keep the group going. Typically after such a long time, with such a strictly-social kind of thing, leadership tends to spread out or be more informal.

If it were me, I would just email the whole group and say something like, "let's try to find a time to do this, it's been so long, here are some times." And then if/when Couple C doesn't respond or waffles, say "hey, sounds like July 20 works, Couple C, let us know if you can join then." That way you're not dumping them from the group but you're not also holding yourselves hostage to them either.

Sounds like that might shake things up in the group - I can't tell from what you write here if Couple A's control over the group is because they are controlling or because everyone else has been happy to cede control. If it's the latter, they'll probably be relieved. If it's the former, they may be pissed or annoyed, but in that case, do you really want to be in a social group with people who are so into controlling everyone? Anyway, since everyone is adults, it's probably the latter.
posted by lunasol at 5:19 PM on June 25, 2015 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Suggestions:

(a) Set Couple A down and say, "Look, one way or another Couple C hasn't been able to do Supper Club since 2014. Meanwhile, the rest of us want to still do it. Can we hold Supper Club without waiting for C to respond?" Either way, someone needs to point out to A that C is clearly showing passive-aggressive slow fade behavior and that while C may not want to hurt A's feelings, they literally haven't been since 2014 and are ignoring your messages. It's time to take the hint and move on from them in Supper Club, even if you socialize elsewhere/otherwise.

(b) Maybe suggest that Couple C take a "leave of absence" from the group or be "on hiatus" for "awhile." "We're just gonna hold Supper Club without you, and let us know when you want back in, mmkay?" (Then they never ever call and you're cool.) Even if you don't find a replacement Couple E, Couples A, B, and D can still dine en masse rather than waiting around on people who aren't going to call.

(c) If Couple A won't let Couple C go, why don't you start Salad Tribe or Dessert Duos with Couples A and B and D only, and then invite your own Couple E? Then you can still get together and eat with them AND invite new people, without waiting on C, who are clearly far more occupied with another food group. Plus then YOU are the leaders rather than Couple A.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:55 PM on June 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Agree that you have a Couple A problem, not a Couple C problem.
posted by Miko at 8:38 PM on June 25, 2015 [9 favorites]

Best answer: If Couple A just can't deal, can you level with Couple C? ("It seems like you guys are too busy for this given all the other cool social stuff you have going on, but Couple A is formal like that, and they don't want to meet without you. Could you formally resign? I'm sure they'll understand given how busy you are!") Somehow, I think this could be done in a way that would leave Ms. C feeling like you're on her side and trust her enough to enlist her as an ally in solving the problem.

Another option might be to catalyze a C-less dinner via a special guest. "Since C hasn't replied about this date when the rest of us are free, could I invite my sister and her husband? They've been planning to come visit from neighboring town some time that month. And they'd really like to meet you after how much I talk about you!" Then, the As could feel like it's less about them "kicking out" the Cs and more about doing you a favor to welcome your one-time special guest. I feel like once you guys have one dinner without the Cs, it'll get a lot easier. You could even talk about "how great it is ... it's been too long ... it's been hard to schedule with the Cs, they're so busy ... I don't want to wait another 11 months ..." and try to work your way toward a plan to verify Cs utter lack of interest and to add someone new.
posted by salvia at 10:10 PM on June 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Not gonna sugarcoat this...this sounds really juvenile. The idea of a club and rules and bleagh...have the 6 of you meet...keep the other couple in the loop a little while longer, then move on. If the Alpha couple can't deal with that, then withdraw from the club. Make it an informal get together with people you want to dine with on occasion. If you want to drive change, then do it. It's not like you having a dinner implodes the club necessarily.
posted by inturnaround at 10:27 PM on June 25, 2015 [13 favorites]

This sounds like high school.

"What date is good? We need to know by X day so C can order special ingredients." If they don't, invite someone else and stop pandering to their passive aggressiveness.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:44 PM on June 25, 2015 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Couple B and Couple D should decide on a firm date between themselves and inform Couple A of it. Couple A can then spend as much time as they want dealing with the Guess nature of Couple C, without involving B or D. C can either play games or respond as they see fit, while B and D will know that on the [fourth Tuesday] of [month], you'll all be sitting down to have a good time.

Maybe suggest to A that as Couple C is being rather lax about attending, it's time to include another couple in the group and do they have anyone in mind?
posted by Solomon at 1:07 AM on June 26, 2015

I suggest recruiting a Couple E. They have the same host week as Couple C. They decide between themselves who hosts on a given turn.
posted by SemiSalt at 6:55 AM on June 26, 2015

Best answer: Next time you plan, and Couple C doesn't respond, reply with a "Hey Jay and Pat, we know you're awfully busy. I hope you won't mind if we meet without you this time." and see how it goes. Another option is to talk to couples A & B and see if a regular date could be established - 2nd Tuesdays of every other month, for example.
posted by theora55 at 10:13 AM on June 26, 2015

Best answer: This get-together would normally happen every 6-8 weeks -- pretty often, that is. So it's not a big loss for the absent couple or the others if some can't make it to every meeting.

When couple C fails to respond within 3-4 days, someone should call or email and say, "We know you're busy and can't always make it to Supper Club. We're going to meet on this date, and we'd love it if you could be there. But if not, we'll see you at the next one.

I was in a very similar group, and changes gradually came about as different situations arose over time. We found that it was a lot more enjoyable if we met every 6-8 weeks. If the intervals got a lot longer, it felt less easy and casual. Eventually, we ended up meeting even if just 4 people would be there. You and your friends can consider what you want to consider "big enough" group for dinner. We made "anti-rules" as we went along: it's okay to buy your dish instead of preparing it yourself, for example. If the hosts don't feel like coordinating or assigning menu items, it doesn't really matter what people bring; so what if we end up with 4 salads or 3 deserts and a bag of chips.

Now that your club is up and running, couple C doesn't own it or have a special role even though they originated it. If you asked them point blank if it's okay to carry on without them, I can't imagine they'd say no or feel offended. If for some crazy reason they object to the rest of you getting together without them, disband the Supper Club and start a new club with a different name and declare that all are equal.

Don't try to figure out why couple C goes to some events and not others. They may not even have a reason that they're aware of. Start from, "Hey, so glad you guys got us all together for regular dinners. We want to keep it going."
posted by wryly at 1:37 PM on June 27, 2015

Response by poster: We were patient and waited for Couple A to see the writing on the wall. The A's finally told us they figured out that by their actions, The C's are not interested anymore, and the rest of us are proceeding without inviting them. Hurrah!
posted by hush at 6:33 AM on September 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

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