Partner's request to bring his mom to my co-worker's bbq...
July 4, 2015 11:46 PM   Subscribe

Wall o’ text follows. All names have been changed.

A retired co-worker, Ali, and I made plans to visit her at her house, 45 mins away. Plan was to go strawberry picking, then a bbq at her house that she and her husband would cook. Eventually decided to include another co-worker, Cora (who Ali is better friends with than me), and spouses. This was a few months in the making. Decided we’d come July 4. On Friday, during final confirmations, Ali said that she’s not going berry picking after all. I thought that was strange, because I thought we’d agreed to do that altogether. Anyway…

Last night my partner, Sam, was talking to his mom, Gail. He mentioned that we were going strawberry picking tomorrow. Gail asked if she could come. This would also mean she’d come to the bbq. Sam asked me, can Gail come tomorrow? I was thinking about Ali - would this be ok with her? In the back of my mind, I thought it was a little odd, for Sam to suggest bringing Gail to the bbq. I also thought, eh, it shouldn’t be an issue. (Conflicted much?) Ali and Sam don’t know each other. I thought it’d be strange for a stranger to the bbq to bring his mom. I shot a quick email to Ali - is it ok if Sam’s mom comes to the bbq tomorrow? She’d like to go strawberry picking too. Ali wrote back this morning - “I’m sorry, but you’ll have to take your mother-in-law strawberry picking some other time.” I was a little surprised by that. I thought it wouldn’t be a big deal, evidently it is. Ok. Shrug. This is what I get for trying to change things at the last minute, right?

I told Sam that Ali said no. He immediately said, then I can’t go. He found it deeply offensive that his mom wasn’t welcome. Then he had another thought - that I shouldn’t go too. I took offense to that. “You can’t dictate what I can do,” I said. He thought about it a bit more - he was hurt by Ali, so he wanted me to show my support in not going today. I really didn’t like that request. I said I would consider it. I never said clearly, ok I’m not going to go. In my mind, Ali was in her right to say no. I was the one who should have said no to Sam’s request, because this was just going to be Ali, Cora and I, and spouses, and my daughter, whom Ali met last year.

I ended up going to Ali’s house after strawberry picking (Ali and her husband were not there as mentioned above; that was the original plan; Cora and her husband went strawberry picking) and Sam was upset about me going to Ali’s. As a result, he felt unsupported by me and felt like he wouldn’t be able to rely on me in the same way for similar things in the future. He talked about how I made a choice, and that I chose Ali over him. I tried to impress upon him that it felt like he was taking something away from me that I was looking forward to.

So, questions:
1. Was it ok to think that Ali should have made room for his mom? On the one hand, hosts should be able to say yes or no to whomever they want; on the other, what’s the big deal with one more person, especially someone’s parent? He found her non-inclusiveness really bizarre and unwelcome host behaviour. Was it?

2. He said that once he’s invited, it’s a shared event and that he could have a say in who could come. My view is, since it’s Ali’s house, she decides who can be there. Who’s right here? (I don’t even know if this is the right question)

3. Was his request of me to not go reasonable? On the one hand, I felt like he was controlling me in terms of what I could do and who I could see. He said that he rarely asks me to do specific things, and this one thing was really, really important to him. It was important to me too, to go, since I had a part in deciding the details with Ali and I had been looking forward to this, and to suddenly pull out? He said, what’s more important, a co-worker whom you don’t even see anymore and whom you don’t know all that well, or your life partner? Yet I also think I’m important too (and the things I want to do). Note that his mom is really important to him and he said he’s particularly sensitive around her feelings etc. (He said she was lonely and wanted to see him and our kid.)

4. Should I just have sucked it up, dealt with the social discomfort of calling Ali and saying, can’t make it after all, yes, we were looking forward to it too, sorry the food you were going to make for us is going to waste, but you offended my partner and he doesn’t want me to come (sorry if I offended you for making that request), maybe we can see each other another time? (and I could have gone with my daughter to see her on my own) i.e. I should have put my partner’s needs ahead of mine, right? Was I selfish? Was Sam selfish?

Details: me, female, mid thirties, Sam is early forties, been together for 5 years, living together 4, common-law. 1 kid, age 3.
posted by foxjacket to Human Relations (73 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
It was pretty rude to ask if you could bring another guest to a small gathering. Especially the day before after months of planning. It wasn't the worst thing (at least you guys didn't show up with her without asking), but it was definitely not something that required a yes. Good for Ali for saying no if she felt uncomfortable adding another person - not everyone feels the more the merrier all the time. It is wildly out of line for your husband to feel he deserves ownership over this event because he is a guest at it (a guest of a guest, at that). And in my relationship it wouldn't fly for my husband to tell me I couldn't go, especially when he's being so unreasonable, but that's something you guys need to work out.
posted by brainmouse at 11:54 PM on July 4, 2015 [118 favorites]

1. Were I the host, I would think it was extremely weird that a friend's partner would try to invite their mom on an outing like this. It's an intimate gathering, not a big event where an extra person would be no big deal. It's like having a friend's partner bring their mom on a double date. Completely weird. I probably would have said OK, but I would have been very put off, and I think most people would say no.

2. Absolutely not. He's wrong.

3. and 4. Considering that trying to invite his mom was inappropriate, he's just lucky you were even willing to ask if she could go along. He should have been willing to make plans with his mom separately, like after the event. Why was he unable to compromise on this? It's a very odd hill to die on.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 12:00 AM on July 5, 2015 [20 favorites]

Yeah, it's bonkers for your partner to think he can just invite his mom along (but maybe not surprising, since she was rude enough to invite herself and she presumably raised him). Ali doesn't even know Sam; why on earth would she want to play host to his mother too? That would be so incredibly awkward. Are Sam and his mother from another culture? I'm assuming you're in the U.S., where it is a.) not really that cool to ask to invite someone else to a small gathering at the very last minute, b.) not cool to invite yourself along, c.) weird to invite a parent, d.) weird to get upset that you can't include your parent at a not-very-important, informal gathering. Is he always that attached to his mother?

Your partner is wrong wrong wrong, and he and his mother are rude.
posted by Yoko Ono's Advice Column at 12:04 AM on July 5, 2015 [63 favorites]

1) I think it was OK to ask, but you asked really last minute and I think it was totally OK for her to tell you no. It would also have been OK for her to tell you no months in advance, too, but I think it was particularly reasonable given your lack of notice.

2) No. He doesn't get to unilaterally decide to invite new people because he's a guest. Imagine the havoc this would cause if it were the case at weddings, or dinners with the mayor, or other important shindigs.

3) No. He was manufacturing drama. He asked for a strange last-minute favor, and he was denied that favor. Your work relationships should not be harmed because he's decided to feel insulted. Perhaps he shouldn't ask for favors in the future if he can't handle being told no.

4) No. Your partner was wrong and sharing the drama with Ali when she was just being a polite and boundary-enforcing hostess would likely have harmed your own reputation at work and your relationships with Ali and Cora.
posted by vegartanipla at 12:04 AM on July 5, 2015 [16 favorites]

Impolite to ask. I would say it's necessarily rude, so long as your operating under ask culture rules, and you're happy to accept the no. It's bizarre that he took such huge offence. Is your husband from a different culture? Or, was his mum overly offended, and he feels he must defend her, because he's overly afraid of hurting her? If not, your husband has a weird sense of entitlement - you can't just invite other people to an event someone else organised.
posted by kjs4 at 12:05 AM on July 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

Why didn't mom want to see him and the kid separately instead of seeing them at a stranger's tiny gathering awkwardly? It sounds way more like poor boundaries on mom's side where she feels like she can go anywhere he goes automatically, and he's getting an earful from her for having to say no, this is not possible, then turning around and taking it out on you without wanting to acknowledge that his mom was wrong. If he would rather have you feel falsely wrong and lose a friendship over that than admit his mom is wrong, you have some serious talking with him and thinking to do.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 12:10 AM on July 5, 2015 [8 favorites]

Oh, I see you're not in the U.S. (I guess I thought July 4 + BBQ = USA, but shouldn't have leapt to that conclusion), but I still find it reeally unusual for Sam to expect to bring his mother and suspect they are from a more "family first" culture than the U.S. or Canada.
posted by Yoko Ono's Advice Column at 12:18 AM on July 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

The problem here is your husband's (kind of rude) request that an invitation be extended to your mother, and then (very rude) refusal to graciously accept your host declining to do so.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:27 AM on July 5, 2015 [12 favorites]

Wow. If you'd behaved as your partner suggested and bailed fromthe party because your MIL wasn't allowed to come, that would be the fastest way to never get an invite again.

As it is,I would be so put out merely over the request,I would probably hesitate inviting you again.
posted by Omnomnom at 12:29 AM on July 5, 2015 [12 favorites]

Does he do this sort of thing often? IMO its super-weird to invite your mum to an event like this, even if you were a primary guest, rather than a guest of a guest.

Ordinarily, I would say you should support your partner but not when their request was so off in the first place.

1. Just because you're a host doesn't mean you have to welcome anyone who invites themselves and agree to all your guests requests. There are a number of reasons she could have said no, given the last minute notice, they may have already shopped and catered for a specific number of people or they could just be uncomfortable inviting another stranger into their home/garden, especially when its someone's mum! If you don't ask, you don't get - so I don't think its wrong to ask, especially if Ali is the sort of problem that is OK with saying No (some people aren't, and would have said yes she could come even though it totally wasn't OK with them).

2. Guests and guests of guests don't just get to invite whoever they like, at a larger event it - especially BBQs it might be OK for a guest to say - oh I'm doing something with some friends before, is it OK if they come along? but they should expect that the host could say no.

3. If his mother is lonely and wants to see her son and grand-daughter then they have every other day of the year, why did it have to be when you already had plans? You made these plans months ago - and you did a lot of the planning, its unreasonable for him to expect you not to go. You could totally flip that around on him - who is more important to him, you or his mother? I think the answer is clearly, his mother is more important to him than you.

4. Were you selfish? Strictly speaking, probably - you put yourself first but that's OK. Selfish has such a negative connotation but its OK to put your needs first sometimes. Its not wrong to want to do something fun, for yourself. It only hurt your partner because he was being unreasonable and is overly attached to his mother. Selfish is only bad when its a constant - if you constantly put your needs first then you're a selfish person and that's bad.
Sam was selfish in demanding you put his needs above your own.
posted by missmagenta at 12:36 AM on July 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

Strawberry picking isn't as formal as a debutante ball. I don't see why there's so much drama involved in all this.
I don't think you were out of line to ask that Sam's mom be included--maybe a bit odd, but so what? How much could she eat?
posted by Ideefixe at 1:04 AM on July 5, 2015 [18 favorites]

I can imagine if I was holding a couple's BBQ, then one couple asked to bring their parent, that I would be very uncomfortable by that. I mean, she doesn't know your partner's mom. To me, there's an expectation of almost double or triple date with a small BBQ like what you described (co-workers and spouses) but then to invite a parent is almost like a chaperone at the dance. (No offense to parents or anything, and I get along extremely well with my parents, but again... having parents in a group can certainly change a dynamic!)

I would feel like I would have to cater to the mother in terms of conversation and topics more-so than I would to my friends/co workers. Plus I assume topics along the lines of your field of work might come up, and I'd feel I was excluding the parent by going into those topics unless they had the same career.

I think it was okay-ish to ask if you could bring another person to an event in general, however seeing that this was along the lines of a couples thing, I think it's odd to have a tag-along. Let alone that it was such short notice for something that had been on the books for months.

Then, there's the whole drama of your partner wanting to "take a stand" because his mom couldn't tag along to something that you'd planned months in advance that she invited herself to. That whole thing is odd. I mean, what does your partner want to come out of this? You cross your arms and say "Well I'm not going either! Hmph!" That's not going to do anything. They didn't insult your mother. They just said, "Sorry we had plans that included only these people."

You need to talk to your partner about this for sure. I also think partner should have immediately said "Sorry mom, this has been planned for months! Let's get together [day] and we can all [thing] together." There are some boundry things at play here that need to be discussed.
posted by Crystalinne at 1:19 AM on July 5, 2015 [5 favorites]

I wonder if Ali didn't go berry picking becuase she had to prepare the house or the food for the BBQ.
posted by k8t at 1:19 AM on July 5, 2015 [28 favorites]

Just to add to the consensus: Sam was wrong to try to drag his mother along. As others say, he's already the guest of a guest, and Ali doesn't even know HIM --- he's invited simply as your spouse, not on his own merits. And heck NO, no guest (not even a 'primary' guest, like you were) ever gets any say over who the host does or does not invite.
posted by easily confused at 1:28 AM on July 5, 2015 [8 favorites]

1] Absolutely not. Ali's party, Ali's house, Ali's rules. She doesn't need a justification to not have someone else round. She's OK to decide how many people she wants to have round, and who those people should be. She's already taken the extra step of inviting partners, rather than expecting people to come alone. The fact that she's throwing a party doesn't mean extended family of other people who weren't invited by name should be allowed in. Otherwise, things would quickly spiral out of control as someone's cousin twice removed wants to being the old-woman-who-lives-down-the-street's cat. That's an extreme example, obviously, but situations like this one are the reason guests don't get to invite, but instead get to organise their own parties.

2] You are. Husband does NOT at any point get a say over who enters someone else's house. Being invited is not the same as running the event.

3] Him making you choose and offering up spurious reasons as to why you should choose him is kind of Not OK to me. It looks like he's trying to separate you from your friends and social life, and not asking for much doesn't make a given request reasonable. A request is reasonable or not based on its own merits, not on when you last asked for something was.

If his mom is lonely and wants to see people, then husband could do some (or probably all) of the legwork himself and organise a trip for you all to get together. You and he going to the zoo and then adding her in afterwards would be a little odd, but for him to co-opt something that someone else is organising is really inappropriate. He's apparently OK with not seeing his mother until she's lonely and then guilt tripping you about it, instead of looking at himself to see what part he's played in his mother's loneliness. If he or mom want so badly to go strawberry picking and then to a BBQ, then husband can arrange that, surely? $10 says he doesn't actually do anything to make plans for you and kid and he and mom to all meet up.

4] I think you were right to go. "My husband is upset that he can't bring his mom" is a very weak sauce excuse to not see a friend, and it's important to maintain relationships with people. There are different levels of reasons for not going - someone in hospital trumps pretty much everything else for example - but manufactured upset over rudeness is pretty low down the pile. It seems like your husband is making himself out to be the aggrieved party here, but from my POV, he isn't. If anyone has a right to be upset, it's Ali, in that someone she's presumably never met is trying to turn up to an event that they weren't invited to.

I think there are times when you should put your partner's needs ahead of your own, but I also think that those times are pretty rare and exceptional. Your husband is an adult, and it's time to learn that sometimes, you don't get invited to the cool parties. Sometimes, your mom doesn't get invited to the parties that you're invited to. And sometimes, your partner is going to do things without you that involve other people. This idea that society has that your partner puts you on a pedestal and it's just the two of you against the world and everyone else is less important is so weird to me. Being in a relationship with someone doesn't, to my mind, give you power of veto over their friendships with other people.
posted by Solomon at 1:39 AM on July 5, 2015 [6 favorites]

One thing you don't mention is whether or not Sam and/or his mother have been socially inappropriate in the past and if you have vented or complained about it to Ali. I could totally see someone saying No to a request like that if they had heard a lot of stories about Sam's pushy mother or something.
posted by gt2 at 1:46 AM on July 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

1. No... I mean, asking was harmless if maybe a tad impolite, but expecting Ali to be fine with his mother tagging along was not okay. If I was Ali, I would have been really weirded out if a work friend's spouse requested an invitation for his mother. Ali saying no is not the least bit strange to me, rather I find Sam's behavior to be bizarre to the extreme.

2. Sam is absolutely wrong. Where on earth did Sam get this idea?! If he wants to have certain people included, he needs to throw his own event. If he is invited to an event someone else is hosting and he's not happy with the guest list, he can and should politely decline. He is not entitled to make a fuss and throw demands at the host, and it would be quite rude and graceless of him to do so.

3. Again, Sam is being completely unreasonable. Expecting his mother to be invited was unreasonable. Taking offense was unreasonable. Asking you not to go was unreasonable. Being upset at you for going is unreasonable. He doesn't get to play the "I'm your partner, I come first" card in a petty situation like this, it's crazy. Does he often force ultimatums on you, making you prove your devotion to him? Because this question raises a big red flag for me. What real harm is he facing by not going strawberry picking or to a BBQ? And if he's feeling guilty about neglecting to spend enough time with his lonely mother, that's also on him.

4. No at all, you were not selfish, and don't allow him to cause you to second guess your perfectly valid social boundaries. There are times to show solidarity with your partner, and to put their needs first. But bringing one's mother along to a stranger's event is a want (and a far out ridiculous one at that), NOT a need. He can decide that being unable to change the terms of his invitation offends him, but that doesn't mean he's right or that you have to behave in accordance if you don't agree. He sounds like someone who is very easily offended and expects everyone else to cater to him. It's the mindset of a toddler. Don't coddle him.

I had a friend who could sometimes be a little oblivious about social boundaries, but she always meant well and when she did something weird we looked past it. But then she started dating and eventually married a man with extremely poor social boundaries. He was intolerable. She became more and more like him in terms of her social behaviors, until she was also intolerable. Her circle of friends has dwindled to very few. I don't know if Sam regularly thinks and behaves intolerably, but don't let that happen to you too.
posted by keep it under cover at 2:36 AM on July 5, 2015 [28 favorites]

I don't think it was wrong to ask, as mentioned above, this is berry picking and a bbq, not a formal event. But I'm from the South and bringing your mama is INSISTED UPON if she's in town or otherwise not engaged. Sam's hissy fit is wrong and expecting you not to go is very wrong.
posted by pearlybob at 3:37 AM on July 5, 2015 [4 favorites]

I don't think it was wrong to ask. I also think the situation is a little different from a normal social occasion as it was planned for 4th July. Any "normal" weekend, fine, Sam's mom should be ok with not having plans. However maybe she was feeling lonely and left out of the 4th celebrations with family and she and Sam didn't realise they would need to book with you months in advance in order to spend the 4th as a family. However, Sam definitely went too far in saying you shouldn't have gone either.

It would have been nice if Ali had said why she didn't want Sam's mom to go as I would generally think holiday gatherings should be as inclusive of family members of guests as possible. It can be very depressing to be left alone on holidays. Strawberry picking and a barbecue doesn't have an obvious reason for excluding people such as costs.
posted by hazyjane at 4:02 AM on July 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

It actually kind of seems more like he wasn't playing on your team, by choosing his mom and his mom's probs and feelings over yours. You come first, not mom.

That said, honestly, if someone wanted to bring their mom to an event I'd probably say Yes secretly thinking WTF (if I were in your friend's shoes), both because it's kind of rude to put me in a position where I'm expected to be rude to a stranger--like if I say No, I'm unfriendly-if-not-rude to Mom and to my actual guest. So I would feel like I didn't really have a choice and was put in a position where I could be a jerk or have an uninvited guest at my party.

Same goes for him pressuring you to ask--it takes responsibility for his mom's happiness and places it on you.

He said that once he’s invited, it’s a shared event and that he could have a say in who could come.

Huh? No. Maybe he meant 'shared' in the sense of your unified social interaction as Team Foxjacket? But in that case still no, it was your original invite, your plan, your friend.

If he was genuinely wounded or insulted by someone I'd say you owe him your loyalty, that if you went to a picnic and someone called him a jerkoff you wouldn't associate with that person again. But this is not that, this is him putting two other people (you and your friend) in an awkward situation and then making you feel bad about it.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:19 AM on July 5, 2015 [12 favorites]

Also, it seems this could have been just put out there as 'my friend doesn't have space/resources/food/etc for additional guests', like it's not that it's a personal thing even if it really is 'I'm already inviting strangers in the form of people's partners and I'm not looking to add additional strangers to my small, intimate party and I'm an introvert and I can't believe you're asking this of me' (sorry, started projecting.)

There was really no need for this to become so fraught.

He talked about how I made a choice, and that I chose Ali over him.

Does he pop out with this sort of thing often? Hopefully this is just a thing where his buttons all got mushed at once and not a pattern. Again, he chose his mom over you and continues to as long as he stays mad about it. He might just need to take some deep breaths and figure out where the buttons are--but they're his buttons to find and sort out and articulate.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:32 AM on July 5, 2015 [8 favorites]

In addition to what most folks are saying above, I'm going to back the truck up to this:

Gail asked if she could come.

This gives me some perspective on where your partner's expectations are coming from. To me, it is oddly uncomfortable for a parent to ask their adult offspring if they can tag along on activities the adult offspring has planned with an SO and the SO's work colleagues. Like, creepy, actually, and very out-of-touch if the parent expects anything other than a really awkward, ""

This is a really weird hill for Sam to die on. But I think that the mother's question in the first place indicates some kind of issue with boundaries or expectations. Look around at the bigger context of this Sam-mother relationship and see where things fit and where the priorities really are.
posted by mibo at 4:44 AM on July 5, 2015 [41 favorites]

If this was unusual behavior for your husband, I wonder if he knows his mom to be socially awkward/inappropriate and knows you to be polite and reasonable, and so when he was flailing in the aftermath of Gail trying to invite herself along, you (and social norms) became the target of his discomfort. Like, unconsciously he knew his mom wouldn't be reasonable while you would try to be open and kind, so he made a bunch of nonsensical arguments (e.g., I should have a say about the guest list if I'm invited) trying to recruit you to help him meet his mom's expectation.

If this didn't feel unusual in terms of his behavior, the I agree with those above who say his social expectations and behavior are out of sync with most people's.
posted by Meg_Murry at 5:09 AM on July 5, 2015 [4 favorites]

I don't think there was anything rude about you asking if Sam's mum could come and I don't think there is anything rude about Ali saying no. I can only guess at Ali's reasons but maybe she didn't want it to turn into a family gathering dynamic, or she had already bought the food, or felt she had already invited enough people, or thought that if Sam brought his mum then she'd have to invite [annoying person], or something. But it's her house and her say. I find it a bit odd that Sam got so offended about this, especially as Ali doesn't even know his mum so it's clearly not a reflection on her personality. In fact I think it was a bit odd that he wanted to bring his mum in the first place!
posted by intensitymultiply at 5:14 AM on July 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all your responses. To answer a few questions, in terms of culture, Sam and I are Chinese, Canadian-born. His mom is Chinese. Ali and her husband are white. He did think there might be cultural issues at play. As I said, his mom is very important to him and he felt that by saying no, Ali was making Gail feel unwelcome and an imposition. I said it's not Ali's job to take care of Gail's feelings, who is a stranger to her (and whom I've never talked to Ali about, so Gail doesn't carry some kind of reputation). Again, Sam thinks this is really bad host behaviour. This was not a 4th of July bbq (we live in Toronto), just something in which Cora and I would see Ali (she retired last year), and spouses were invited. I really should have said no to Sam when he asked if Gail could come, because I did think it was weird for him to ask...

I think part of the misunderstanding/miscommunication is that I may have misrepresented things by saying we're going berry picking, then going to Ali's house for a bbq, and Cora will be there too. Maybe I wasn't clear enough in saying this is just an intimate thing, not a big bbq party. So Gail was asking to come to berry picking (nothing wrong with that), and since this out of the way, she's not just going to go home after that, she might as well follow us to the bbq. I agree that bringing in a friend's partner's parent changes the dynamic for Ali.

Where I get tripped up is that Sam felt hurt. He had a specific request for support and I frankly, put myself first. He's not ok with that. I don't know where to go from here - any advice?

mibo, you're right. Gail was asking if she could join in our plans. If it was just me, Sam and kid, no problem. But it also involved going to a stranger's house afterward, and I don't feel Sam fully appreciated that. Sam didn't feel ok saying no, cuz it's his mom. I said, do we always have to say yes to her? "If it's berry picking, yes." So he didn't say, "If it's someone's bbq, yes." You know?
posted by foxjacket at 5:47 AM on July 5, 2015

Sam and his mother are in desperate need of an etiquette book. I'm not being sarcastic. They clearly has no idea what is good and bad behavior, or what it means to be a guest. I'm even having a hard time with people thinking it was a "harmless request" when you asked Ali whether you could bring another person, especially someone she doesn't know. In fact, I'm sorry Sam put you and Ali n that very awkward situation. Very bad form on the part of Sam and his mother.
posted by Dolley at 5:58 AM on July 5, 2015 [18 favorites]

I, frankly, put myself first.

No, you didn't. You put normal social expectations and your host's right to select their guests first, which is the correct call.
posted by winna at 6:01 AM on July 5, 2015 [83 favorites]

It was not a "request for support", it was a demand to put his mother's feelings over that of yours and your friends. The issue was absolutely not you choosing your friend over him, the issue was him choosing his mother over you and then acting like his choice is your fault. I personally would be hurt and offended by that.
posted by brainmouse at 6:03 AM on July 5, 2015 [30 favorites]

One way I've seen first-gen folks with immigrant Asian parents successfully handle situations like these (where Anglo culture etiquette norms around inviting conflict with certain Asian cultural norms) is to be extra super careful about not mentioning any events to the Asian parent to which you know they are not invited. Whoever mentioned to Gail that you guys were going to go berry picking should NOT do that next time. Now you know what Gail and Sam's expectations are, and that you will have to pay the price if you don't cater to Gail's wants. Minimizing Gail's (and Sam's) wants by not broadcasting events like these might be a culturally-appropriate way around this type of dilemma in the future.
posted by hush at 6:07 AM on July 5, 2015 [45 favorites]

Sam felt hurt. He had a specific request for support and I frankly, put myself first. He's not ok with that.

Sucks to be him, if that's truly how he understands what happened.

You did nothing wrong. He needs to get over himself.
posted by flabdablet at 6:24 AM on July 5, 2015 [10 favorites]

I guess this could be a cultural thing, but Ali is absolutely not in the wrong here. Sam and Gail were wrong to ask.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:25 AM on July 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

I dunno. I'm Australian and married to a Tibetan and would consider myself pretty social...

I think asking if your mother in law could come is fine, and Ali is weird.

It's not a friend of a friend, it's the family of her YOUR family. Why is your kid ok but not your mother in law? Was she born in China? I gotta say, in an Australian context, it would utterly reek of passive racism.

I don't buy it. And also, your husband is an arse for framing it the way he did. But yeah, I don't like the scent of Ali's refusal, even if she's totally allowed to say no.
posted by taff at 6:55 AM on July 5, 2015 [4 favorites]

In my social circles, it would have been non-problematic to ask if the mother-in-law is visiting from out of town. But if she's local, it would be really strange. (And it's weird that Sam isn't willing to understand that if you had bailed on the party because he was upset that they said no, his mother wasn't invited, that that would be putting you in a problematic social situation---even if you had felt insulted the same way as he did about the party, it would've been bad for you to not go!)
posted by leahwrenn at 6:55 AM on July 5, 2015 [7 favorites]

I'm in Toronto and I would find including my parents in anything work related, even coworker-social, weird. I don't think it was terrible to ask but it was outside the norm.

I think your boyfriend is being really odd about this and his response is frankly bizarre. Does he take his mother to his work events?
posted by warriorqueen at 7:06 AM on July 5, 2015 [26 favorites]

I think that having friends from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds means accepting they frame things differently. My daughter has a school friend from another background that can't go on play dates or to parties without her mum going too. Ever. Because we love her friendship and are reasonably culturally sensitive(well, we try!), we accept that.

I would kinda expect a Chinese mum to be pretty damn important in a family unit. My husband's culture has very much the same maternal focus and everyone I socialise with would know and respect that about our family.

Cultural sensitivity doesn't get turned on or off for convenience. Even if she was inwardly rolling her eyes, Ali's respectful role was to accept her Chinese friends Chinese mother in law. That you are so apologetic makes me think you've been made to feel bad about your cultural differences. Sod Ali.

And your husband really did put you in a shit position. He over reacted, but he was kinda right. You've basically been made to choose between your two cultures by a "friend". I understand his point of view, and I also feel terrible for you. Ali is also ungracious and probably culturally insensitive at best, closet racist at worst.
posted by taff at 7:12 AM on July 5, 2015

To me this sounds like basically cultural differences.

I am Indian, though I've lived in the US for the past 7 years (and also as a child for 2 years), so I've spent quite a bit of time analyzing these sorts of etiquette differences. I think both Chinese and Indian cultures have similarities and are different from American/Canadian mainstream culture (or at least that in the Northeast) in the following ways:
1) As guests, you really can invite people along. There is just less expectation around boundaries being preserved, and as a host, hospitality is the most important value. It would frustrate me no end when living in India that a simple dinner at a restaurant always had the potential to turn into a huge dinner with 5 more people suddenly invited, but it did mean you met people a lot more often - there was very little chance of being socially isolated.
2) People were less likely to draw boundaries around different groups of friends. My mother knew most of my friends and I knew most of hers quite well. In the US, it seems to me that people do a lot of socializing in couples or groups of couples. Generations also tend to mingle less often, unless at a specific family gathering. Mixing couples and single friends and different generations happened a lot more often in India.
3) There is a certain amount of deference paid to elderly people or just older people. You would put yourself to all kinds of trouble before putting yourself in the position of having to say no to a request from a friend on behalf of his mother (or mother-in-law). That obviously has its drawbacks but it does make for a tighter knit community.

Chinese culture is obviously different from Indian culture (and neither is monolithic) but I suspect some of the three issues above are at play here. Honestly both your partner's behavior and Ali's behavior make sense within their cultural contexts. Since Sam now lives in Canada, it could be argued that it is he who needs to adjust to the different cultural context he now lives in. It is what I've learnt to do, and intellectually I can understand Ali's actions (it's her party, she gets to decide who's invited, it's last-minute, this was meant to be just two couples etc. etc.), however I will say that if I had made such a request and received the response: “I’m sorry, but you’ll have to take your mother-in-law strawberry picking some other time,” I would probably have outwardly brushed it off and moved on, but there's a part of me that would have been hurt and considered that response to be rude. So I can understand where your partner is coming from, even if his actions seem crazy in this cultural context.
posted by peacheater at 7:40 AM on July 5, 2015 [41 favorites]

Where I get tripped up is that Sam felt hurt. He had a specific request for support and I frankly, put myself first. He's not ok with that. I don't know where to go from here - any advice?

Things can't change at the last minute and he's wrong to expect people to be okay with that. Your friend prepared a small party and it was a social obligation for you to go that, barring illness, you really shouldn't have cancelled on. So I get why you went. He needs to understand that his mother isn't invited everywhere he's invited. That's just not how things work. You do not have to support his unreasonable requests.

mibo, you're right. Gail was asking if she could join in our plans. If it was just me, Sam and kid, no problem. But it also involved going to a stranger's house afterward, and I don't feel Sam fully appreciated that. Sam didn't feel ok saying no, cuz it's his mom. I said, do we always have to say yes to her? "If it's berry picking, yes." So he didn't say, "If it's someone's bbq, yes." You know?

Just curious...did he spend the day with his mother anyway?
posted by inturnaround at 8:09 AM on July 5, 2015 [4 favorites]

Gail: "I'm lonely. I want to see Sam and kid."
Sam:"I'm sorry mom. Foxcatcher has a work related party we have to go to. We will hang out with you on Sunday though, okay?"

This is perhaps how Sam should have handled this.
posted by k8t at 8:15 AM on July 5, 2015 [18 favorites]

This is wedding invite level drama in this situation over a goddamned berry picking.

I don't care if Sam and his mother are Chinese, they're not in China and it's a different culture in Canada and springing "Hey, can I bring my mother?" at the last minute on a guest is pretty dang impolite, especially if Guess Culture is a factor, which I'm betting it is. If I were Ali I'd be privately offended that you thought it was okay to spring this sort of surprise on me and drastically change the social dynamic of the event, plus possibly screw up other issues like how many seats in the car to drive to the field and how much food to bring. Either Ali is forced to say yes and feel uncomfortable and make everyone else who doesn't know MIL feel uncomfortable, or she says no and ends up being the villain, which happened here. It's not cool to ask and make her feel like that.

Sam needs to get the hell over himself. This is not OMG BETRAYAL YOU DON'T SUPPORT ME AS A PARTNER. He can't demand that you not go because he sprung an uncomfortable situation on everyone and then got rebuffed.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:22 AM on July 5, 2015 [48 favorites]

No, sorry, if people invite their coworkers places they do not have an obligation nor is it racist of them to not follow their coworker's boyfriend 's parent's culture or else be racist.

I live in Scarborough, I have hugely diverse friends, yes as a friend group we might well be totally sensitive to someone south-east Asian or any other group bringing people along to a friend-based BBQ. But the work culture norm is not that and it's Sam's job to explain that lovingly to his mother. It would totally not be okay to show up with everyone's family to a work social event. It is okay for that to be the norm, because work events have an obligation to invite work peers and not to turn it into a family thing. I have worked in an NGO that served the Chinese community and had Chinese staff and it still was never the norm to bring your parents to work-related social events.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:23 AM on July 5, 2015 [43 favorites]

Oh, and one more thought that I had in the shower: Sam was trying to force Ali into saying this was okay. She was not allowed to say no when he asked and when she did, he went nuclear. That's not fair.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:31 AM on July 5, 2015 [28 favorites]

OMG, it's not passively racist to say an adult can't bring his precious mommy along to a work-related couples event, and don't listen to anyone who tries to tell you it is.
posted by Yoko Ono's Advice Column at 8:37 AM on July 5, 2015 [67 favorites]

.Why is your kid ok but not your mother in law? Was she born in China? I gotta say, in an Australian context, it would utterly reek of passive racism.

I'm Australian and I think this interpretation sounds insane.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 8:38 AM on July 5, 2015 [39 favorites]

It's not at all racist. OP said Ali has met the child. And also, child is a child that comes with the parents.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:41 AM on July 5, 2015 [7 favorites]

Mod note: Hey folks, people have different perspectives on this one but AskMe's not a debate space. Please keep it to answers for the OP, not discussion among commenters. Thanks.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:45 AM on July 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

I usually try to be sympathetic to the non-Mefite partner in questions like this, being sensitive to the idea that we are only hearing one party's perspective, but I'm really having a hard time here seeing any scenario where Sam has a leg to stand on. I don't doubt that his feelings were legitimately hurt, but I don't think you have any reason to feel guilty over that since it is all of his own doing.

I'm in the category where I think even asking the question in the first place is a bit rude (that was your only etiquette misstep in my view). Even if the host graciously says "Yes" you are still imposing on her by adding guests to her party at the last minute, forcing her to possibly buy more food and potentially changing the social dynamics of her get-together. Or you are putting her in the unenviable position of being the bad guy who says "No" to your request. Worse, as jenfullmoon notes above, this was not so much a request on Sam's part as it was a demand, since "Yes" or "No" were not equally acceptable answers.

The idea that being an invited guest to a party allows you to have a say over who is on the guest list is just crazy bizarre to me. Unless this is a strange cultural difference between Canada and the US that I'm not aware of, I just don't understand how your partner ever got the idea that this is a reasonable expectation, particularly when you been invited to an event solely as somebody else's +1. Seeing that Sam was born and raised in North America, I find it a bit of a stretch to believe this was a culture clash. I think he's just making up non-existent "rules" to add weight to his very tenuous viewpoint.

Ali is also ungracious and probably culturally insensitive at best, closet racist at worst.

This is a hell of an assumption, with seemingly no basis in evidence.
posted by The Gooch at 8:48 AM on July 5, 2015 [17 favorites]

Where I get tripped up is that Sam felt hurt. He had a specific request for support and I frankly, put myself first. He's not ok with that. I don't know where to go from here - any advice?

Wow, Sam is a really self-absorbed personality. You were following social norms - is he like this all the time? If so, I would be rethinking more than this bbq with him.
posted by Toddles at 9:18 AM on July 5, 2015 [7 favorites]

Partly it is cultural differences, but it is also about boundaries between (adult) child and mother. No matter how you are brought up, there should be an understanding of how things work - bringing your mother to an intimate work party? Woah, no. Acting all hurt & pouty when mother can't come? Hell, no.

I come from the perspective of growing up in a family where boundaries were routinely ignored and frequent Massive Multi-Year-Spanning Drama over 'onion in salad - yes or no?' - and I can vividly imagine a situation like this occurring.
posted by kariebookish at 9:27 AM on July 5, 2015 [5 favorites]

So my family is Chinese-Canadian, with my parents being the first generation to immigrate. This is still just as WTF to me, even with the cultural background. Family is very important, but my parents wouldn't dream of imposing on strangers like that...that to me feels very distinctly un-Chinese. Chinese culture is extremely Guess, not Ask, and my parents wouldn't dream of asking for an invitation.
posted by keep it under cover at 10:37 AM on July 5, 2015 [18 favorites]

Did Gail realize she was "imposing on strangers" though-- or did Sam give the impression the berry picking was a family only event? That would be important to know.
posted by hush at 11:00 AM on July 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

If it's taken your host months to plan an event, I wouldn't be comfortable asking for any change in plans, no matter how low key the event sounds on paper
posted by peppermind at 11:17 AM on July 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks again everyone. hush - yes you are correct. That's what I mean when I may have misrepresented things. In my mind this was a co-worker turning into friends thing (we're coworkers but Ali retired last year and we're moving to being sorta friends?); a visit to Ali's neck of the woods that she and I discussed. I thought, should we invite Cora (since they're really good friends)? And then, should we invite spouses? But I kept saying to Sam to the lead-up, we're going berry picking tomorrow. Then to Ali's house for a bbq. So it may have seemed to him that this wasn't an intimate gathering but rather a more informal bash that she was throwing. Again, Sam said to Gail, "we're going berry picking tomorrow." Gail said, "Can I come?" Again, no problem with coming to berry picking. Except that a bbq at an old co-worker's house followed that she and I discussed for months. I'm kicking myself for not speaking up more. I'm really bad at that...

inturnaround: "Just curious...did he spend the day with his mother anyway?"
No! This is what I find strange too! If he was so concerned about his mom feeling lonely, why didn't he just skip off the berry picking and bbq and go hang with her? He could've brought kid too. He ended up just going to the office (business owner; he works tons).

Generally I just feel pretty terrible, like I'm a bad partner. I'm used to taking the blame and things not getting better.

Also, his mom is really important to him. Obviously there's something going on with him and his mom - his dad died a couple of years ago and I think Sam is just more concerned about her in general to the point where he's got blinders on or something...
posted by foxjacket at 11:47 AM on July 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

You've been planning this for months, and your partner thinks it was wrong of you to still go when a last-minute request to bring his mom couldn't be accommodated? That's nuts. He's completely in the wrong here. I don't think it was hugely rude to ask, and it certainly wasn't rude for Ali to say no. Because adults should be able to ask honest questions and get honest answers. But your partner is being an utter muffinhead in this case when he insists that you should have supported him by staying home. He is completely wrong to insist that he has some say in the invite list as an invitee. You handled the situation as well as you could have, and he and his mom need to step back.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:54 AM on July 5, 2015

So it sounds like parts of this were a misunderstanding, but once Sam had a full understanding of the situation, there was little need for him to remain angry with you and demand you ditch your plans in solidarity with his mother (who he didn't even see, which makes it seem like he enjoys dramatics and tantrums more than he actually wanted to spend time with Gail). It sounds like this is a pattern, and I see the tag "controlling" above. Are you concerned he's manipulating these situations so he can have his feelings "hurt" and use that to make you feel guilty and therefore control you? If so, I think you have grounds for this concern. I hate that you feel you always take the blame and things never get better. Do you have friends or a therapist to discuss this with?
posted by Yoko Ono's Advice Column at 11:56 AM on July 5, 2015 [22 favorites]

Obviously there's something going on with him and his mom - his dad died a couple of years ago and I think Sam is just more concerned about her in general to the point where he's got blinders on or something...

I was just typing up a response that included asking whether his mom was single.

So I've been on both sides of this question, and when young kids are involved, and single grandmas or grandpas, the request doesn't seem weird to me at all, especially if the grandparent is coming from out of town. My assumption, had I been Ali, would be that Gail would help out with your kiddo more than anything, especially if this was a gathering of otherwise all adults (which could be boring for the kid). Which isn't to say that she was wrong to say no--it's her house, her rules. But I do think it's weird that she phrased her response to imply that you shouldn't have invited your mother-in-law to the strawberry picking which she wasn't attending at all. But that depends how you phrased the request too, like did you offer to bring extra dishes/drinks so that an additional guest wouldn't have been such a burden. Dunno.

It isn't right for your partner to ask you not to go, or for him to act butthurt about it and sulk in the office or whatever, but things can be weird with partnerless moms, and it can be difficult to feel out boundaries with grandparents generally.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:08 PM on July 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

But you did put your partner (and his mother) first-- you made the awkward overture of asking to include an uninvited guest in longstanding plans last-minute-- yet your partner is letting you feel like you are the selfish one?
posted by kapers at 12:33 PM on July 5, 2015 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Yoko Ono's Advice Column: yes, planning to call my therapist tomorrow and talk to friends. I used the controlling tag re: it felt like he was controlling who I could see and do.

Gail lives in the same city as us.
posted by foxjacket at 1:42 PM on July 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

Cultural sensitivity doesn't get turned on or off for convenience. Even if she was inwardly rolling her eyes, Ali's respectful role was to accept her Chinese friends Chinese mother in law.

Oh horse hockey. Cultural sensitivity goes both ways - Sam shouldn't have asked and he for damn sure should have respected Ali's decision. When Sam throws a party he can do whatever he wants. As can Ali. Passive racism my ass.

Generally I just feel pretty terrible, like I'm a bad partner. I'm used to taking the blame and things not getting better.

And here's the part where it gets interesting. Sam is an abusive partner.
posted by bowmaniac at 2:13 PM on July 5, 2015 [14 favorites]

Response by poster: And here's the part where it gets interesting. Sam is an abusive partner.
Yikes! More miscommunication on my part. This: "I'm used to taking the blame and things not getting better." doesn't refer to Sam or our relationship. I'm thinking more to my childhood where I would willingly take the blame for stuff in order to appease my crazy mom and I'm just carrying that pattern into adulthood and my relationship. So I don't want this to turn into a discussion about whether or not Sam is abusive (like the racist/not racist discussion). Can you tell I need therapy?!
posted by foxjacket at 2:22 PM on July 5, 2015

I don't know if Sam is always like this. But in THIS example, that you have given us, he comes off like a petulant dick.

Everyone has explained why it wasn't appropriate for him (you, really) to ask to include her in the first place. But that's just a social faux pas. The part where he's a dick is this:

he felt unsupported by me and felt like he wouldn’t be able to rely on me in the same way for similar things in the future. He talked about how I made a choice, and that I chose Ali over him.

Correct, he should not expect you to make weird requests of your friends to accommodate his mom in the future. And as for choosing Ali over him, you've correctly noted that he manufactured that bizarre dichotomy, not you. The fact that he is somehow casting you in the wrong over stuff that he did wrong, and particularly in the context of you having a social life outside of his family, is the part that is worrying your readers here. I hope he's not always like this, but this sort of thing can be emotional abuse and that's why hackles are going up.
posted by fingersandtoes at 3:04 PM on July 5, 2015 [15 favorites]

My partner and I are flat white Aussies, and he would still probably do something like this. He has very little sense of boundaries (Geek Social Fallacies are like his family's mottos) and while his mother has more she very much wants to be more enmeshed with her kids when she visits them.

And I have, in the past, gone along with things that I've known are rude as hell, because he has the whole male-in-culture "always right/she'll be fine/get over it" thing (alongside not getting the blame for things because he is not responsible for emotional labour) and I have the female-in-culture (+ anxiety+PTSD) "always my fault/I did it wrong/worrying about nothing" thing.

This transition period, where you begin to say "No, I'm right, this is rude, stop and do it my way" is hard. Hard for you because you're acting against a lot of cultural things (only gender in my case, but I assume race in yours too, maybe ethnicity), and you're also acting differently. Which can be hard for your partner. The thing is - you are right in this situation. It's rude and awkward to have someone's parent at previously-no-parents event, moreso when it's work-ish, even if she's free childcare. Which is why its even more difficult - when you fuck up it's much easier, as blame-myself people, to back down. Right now you're not just fighting him, but a whole lot of habit too.

It's easier on the other side though. The transition sucks, it really does, and your partner needs to be on board really, but things are easier in my relationship (and our lives in general) now I'm willing to say "nah, that's not okay, we're not just turning up unannounced/bringing someone else to a party/volunteer someone's house for a party/whatever" - offer alternatives helps, but laying out "this is rude, it places an unfortunate expectation on someone and we don't know all the details of why they may not want to do that". There's some Ask vs Guess culture in our situation too, but I'm finding things a lot less stressful now that I'm policing those boundaries more with my partner. Because the thing is, I'm gonna get the blame from the rest of society anyway so I may as well make myself comfortable.
posted by geek anachronism at 3:11 PM on July 5, 2015 [14 favorites]

; a visit to Ali's neck of the woods that she and I discussed. I thought, should we invite Cora (since they're really good friends)? And then, should we invite spouses?

I think this is kind of important. It sounds like from Ali's point of view you were just beginning to be friends. She and you were going to do a low key friend thing together, Then you kept suggesting adding guests to the point where it ended up a six person party - a completely different thing - and then you even asked to
add a super last minute,super awkward guest - your mother in law!

Sure, Ali said yes at first, but is she the kind who is comfortable saying no? I ask because I found it a bit odd that she decided to opt out of the berry picking that she herself planned.
Plus, her response that you'll have to take your MIL berry picking some other time smacks of something, be it mild annoyance or hurt feelings. Maybe because you were adding strangers into something that was originally a you and her thing.

(Obviously, I may be off base. Treat this as a suggestion only.)

So yeah, this won't help with your partner, but maybe add background why what he wanted was inappropriate and problematic.
posted by Omnomnom at 3:16 PM on July 5, 2015 [15 favorites]

Can you tell I need therapy?!

We all need therapy. I wish it were like getting our teeth cleaned, where everyone is expected to check in every six months or so and evaluate whether we need more intensive attention.

I do think the most important takeaway is that you didn't do anything wrong and you and your partner should pull out a bottle of wine and unravel why you two seem so far apart in your view of this circumstance and all of the cultural and personal expectations bottled up (his feelings of obligation to his mom, your feelings of obligation to your friend and maybe resentment of his piling on of obligations to you, your (possibly! possibly!) resentment of his prioritizing of his relationship with his mother over his prioritizing of his relationship with his family and in some way, your career--even though she's retired; it's a network. )
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:09 PM on July 5, 2015 [4 favorites]

Okay, it's breaking my heart a little that all your responses are so self-blaming and "I must be crazy." No. There were two people who were totally out of line here from start to finish, and their names weren't Foxjacket or Ali.

I agree with Omnomnom's reading above that you may have already been on thin ice with Ali-- my (totally conjectured, of course) reading was that, at your suggestion, the event kept turning into a bigger event than she actually wanted but she didn't speak up until your final suggestion was just too much. I see her bowing out of the strawberry picking as a clear sign of this; she felt she had to stay home and get her house party-ready which takes a long damn time for some of us, plus get the food ready, so she couldn't even join in on the initial plans. What started as a simple two-person outing became a party at her home, with more members of your family there than her own. Therefore, I do not see it as rude that she would put her foot down when you made what may have felt to her like yet another suggestion that changed the tenor of the gathering.

I say all this not to shame you for asking, but to show that you already went above and beyond for Sam and Gail. You may have even put strain on your transitioning friendship with Ali, all in the name of appeasing your partner and his mom and their odd demands. Sam's demand, then, that you bow out on the gathering you may have inadvertently pressured Ali to have in the first place would have torched your friendship for sure and was totally unreasonable.

Yes, it was controlling of him. You chose the exact right word. Ali wasn't wrong to not want an uninvited guest, you weren't wrong to ask, but Sam and Gail have a LOT of nerve trying to control the situation to the extent that it could damage your outside friendships.
posted by kapers at 5:05 PM on July 5, 2015 [21 favorites]

He ended up just going to the office (business owner; he works tons).

Is there a chance Sam manufactured his outrage in order just to get out of the barbecue altogether?
posted by jaguar at 6:40 PM on July 5, 2015 [5 favorites]

Sure, in some Asian cultures inviting someone to an event is giving them carte blanche to include their family & friends... But that isn't the scenario here.
It's great that you're talking to a therapist to unwind all the layers in here - because it sounds like you're in a position where you really have to tiptoe around Sam, which makes for a stressful home :(.
This story actually helps me understand why my Indian mother in law might be so secretive as she is with everyone in her social circle - friends, family, pretty much all of her non-white connections only ever know about 25% of what she's up to. And my husband does the same with her... Which means any of his aunts/uncles/cousins only know about 7% of what's going on in our lives. It always feels odd to me, but if it saves us from this kind of drama maybe it's for the best!
posted by dotparker at 6:52 PM on July 5, 2015 [4 favorites]

Another part to consider is that Ali only wanted it to be the two of you, is an introvert and doesn't like group social events. Even with good friends like Cora.

I frequently only really want my specific friend at some events and not their spouse and offspring, and I'm a ridiculously extroverted person. My husband would feel the same as Ali potentially does but would suck it up so as not to offend.

I still maintain Ali was insensitive. And maybe you were a wee bit oblivious to the pains of her introversion. /end of my thoughts, promise.
posted by taff at 8:28 PM on July 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

Good on Ali for saying no to this ridiculous request - as your typical over-polite Canadian I would have had trouble saying no in her position to "be polite" even though it would make things incredibly awkward for the other guests and pretty much ruin the whole event. From that perspective it seems a bit rude of you to ask (particularly after it seems like you also asked to invite other people to her event earlier), but not a huge deal. Boycotting the event after the unreasonable request was denied would have been much more rude and childish, and probably would have damaged your relationship with Ali irrecoverably, so it's very good that you still went!

Re: your partner, it really sounds like a combination of poor boundaries with his mom, lacking social skills/understanding of Canadian culture (despite being born here - did he grow up in a community that was mostly recent immigrants, perhaps?) and misunderstanding the intimacy level of the event (bringing your mom to a huge BBQ party would still be insanely weird but not unforgivably rude as it would have been in this situation).

It doesn't sound like he's a bad guy, just a bit clueless about the norms here, and maybe a bit lacking in boundaries with his mom. Maybe showing him this thread would help, plus a more thorough explanation of what the event involved exactly, of that's still not clear.
posted by randomnity at 3:38 AM on July 6, 2015

I think the cultural differences thing is a blast shield and in this situation kind of burying the lede. Inviting his mom isn't the problem here, it's just weird(by western norms) and could fall in that category, but it's not really a problem. The shitty/weird thing here is how he reacted to you afterwards.

He talked about how I made a choice, and that I chose Ali over him.


Where I get tripped up is that Sam felt hurt. He had a specific request for support and I frankly, put myself first. He's not ok with that. I don't know where to go from here - any advice


No! This is what I find strange too! If he was so concerned about his mom feeling lonely, why didn't he just skip off the berry picking and bbq and go hang with her? He could've brought kid too. He ended up just going to the office (business owner; he works tons).

The specific phrasing of the first quote is something that more than one manipulative manbaby has pulled on me, or on one of my friends they were dating. One of my best friends who basically lost the plot during a long and turbulent breakup pulled it on me in a fucked up manipulative way. It's been used on me in relationships.

It's basically always bullshit when it's used like this. The phrase itself isn't bad news and alone it might not be bad, although any use of it always makes my ears perk up... it's the application of it.

As was said, nowhere here have you put yourself first. He asked for something, you asked your friend, your friend said no and you relayed that no. Then by not cancelling the entire thing because he didn't get what he wanted you're "putting your friend first?". Nah, that's a complete redirect.

He threw a tantrum and you didn't respond the way he wanted. Now he's mad. This entire thing is about control and the fact that he didn't even go hang out with his mom proves that. He's really acting like a toddler here.

I, unlike others and because of the way he reacted think that not only is this not about his mom... but that he knows exactly what he's doing here and that everything that happened after you got the no response from Ali is a power play.

I've known guys who would get this het up over something like this. It's always a manipulation and control thing. That flow chart of "make unreasonable last minute request>flip out and try and exert control on their partner/whoever is next to them>flip out more when they cant" is just so classic to me. And seriously, him demanding you not go to your friends event because he couldn't go with his mom is seriously out of line.

I think the focus here needs to be on his seriously out of line behavior, not anything that you've done or anything to do with his friend. And for the record, you've done absolutely nothing wrong here. If anything, even asking your friend this close to the event to relay his ridiculous request would be the one wrong thing you've done. But that could also be filed under you trying to be an accommodating partner. Something he tried to paint you as not, despite the fact that he wasn't supplying any of that on his side of the court.

This entire scenario reeks of the stuff that some of my close friends worst controlling partners would pull every few weeks. If this isn't an isolated incident, i think you need to seriously reflect on all the previous times situations like this have happened. And even if it is, this is like red lights pop out of the ceiling sirens start going off red-alert crazy warning lights as far as a sign of someone with a fucked up attitude towards their partner and a penchant for controlling, manipulative behavior goes.
posted by emptythought at 3:45 AM on July 6, 2015 [25 favorites]

I don't think it was wrong to ask, as mentioned above, this is berry picking and a bbq, not a formal event. But I'm from the South and bringing your mama is INSISTED UPON if she's in town or otherwise not engaged.
Anyone, no matter from where, who has good manners would call the host (Ali) and decline the invitation by saying, "I'm so sorry I won't be able to come - Sam's mother is in town that day." Ali can then insist on mama coming along or say, "I'm sorry you can't make it. We'll miss you." This is what polite people do, North, South, East, and West.
posted by Dolley at 6:19 AM on July 6, 2015 [4 favorites]

Sam's mother wasn't "in town that day". She lives in the same city.

OP and Sam had plans with Ali and coworker of OP/Ali. Sam knew about these plans. Sam tried to insert his mother for some reason, threw a tantrum when Ali (reasonably) said no, got mad at OP because of not spending time with mom or something, then blew off mom to work.

Sam is being manipulative and abusive and is the one in the wrong. Not OP and certainly not Ali.
posted by bowmaniac at 6:42 AM on July 6, 2015 [10 favorites]

I don't know if I'd say that Sam was being manipulative or not but I do know that he was out line. There clearly seems to be cultural differences at play, however, the onus was one hilm to make that clear. Part of being cultural sensitive is understanding that people do things differently. It doesn't even matter why just it is so and that at times you should just accept it. I don't think Sam and his mom got that memo, although his mom may not have been even aware that she would have been imposing.

Someone mentioned that AlI was being cultural insensitive nt not accepting her Chinese friends mom as a guest. Not true, we have no idea why Ali said no ( although we can guess). She may not have had room or money, or what her husband said no "too many people"? Plus, the onus is on the person of the different culture to learn about the host culture. For examples eastern cultures are far more family centric and inclusive than western cultures, if I was to go to China I should be accepting and tolerant of said culture rules and should not try to enforce my American sensibilities and norms on the people there. The same applies here. Even more, Ali may not have even been aware of the cultural issue, it's quite common that people of the majority culture/race/etc are often unaware of the cultural needs and norms of the minority. It's not to say they're unconcerned just that they don't know and may not even know that they don't know. So Ali may not have framed it in her mind in that manner and it's too much to put on her that she automatically should be aware of these issues that she may have never been confronted with.

Lastly, you're relationship with your husband. Someone, mentioned earlier that should identify what aspects of your culture you want to propagate and I think that's true. The hard part of being in the minority is that we ocassionally feel an obligation to go with our group on certain issues we may not align with ot else we feel like traitors or bad chinese,indians, blacks, Mexicans etc. Whenever I or my friends do something that breaks our cultural norms, I always say , "there is more than one way to be black". The same is true here and I don't think you should feel bad for being conflicted, it comes with the territory. I think therapy would help you find exactly where you stand with the cultural difference and help you find the voice to more clearly share tlwith others in your own unique way.
posted by CosmicSeeker42 at 7:24 AM on July 6, 2015 [5 favorites]

"I'm kicking myself for not speaking up more. I'm really bad at that... If he was so concerned about his mom feeling lonely, why didn't he just skip off the berry picking and bbq and go hang with her? He could've brought kid too. He ended up just going to the office (business owner; he works tons)."

Sam is actually the person in your relationship who should have "spoken up more" and used his words to come to a mutual agreement with you about your Saturday plans. By his actions, you now know he preferred to spend Saturday working at his office, but at the same time, he also wanted someone else besides him to socialize with his lonely, widowed mom, namely you and your child. The healthy way for him to express this would have been for him to come right out and ask you for that, especially since he had "a few months" notice about when the date of Ali's berry picking & BBQ event was scheduled.

A healthy partner who truly supports your life, friendships, and career would have said something more like: "Foxcatcher, I feel like I really need to go in to work on Saturday, but I'm also worried because my mom is pretty lonely, and I feel responsible and like I should be spending more time with her-- can you please please help me with this by spending some time with her and our child while I go in to work??" Then you two could have planned it out in a calm, fair, non-dramatic way. Instead, the twisted, bass-ackward, blaming-you way he chose to communicate his wants left you feeling "conflicted," and "selfish," and "like he was taking something away from me that I was looking forward to."

This is what folks here are talking about when they use the terms "manipulative" and "toddler-like" and "controlling" and "abusive" to describe Sam's actions here. Truly healthy relationships make you feel good more often than not, and they make all of the other relationships in your life healthier, too.
posted by hush at 2:11 PM on July 6, 2015 [10 favorites]

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