Get a room ffs
April 11, 2021 10:05 AM   Subscribe

How do I handle constant, relentless public displays of affection from my son (29) and his girlfriend (30) when I am the only other person present? She just never stops pawing at him, though he does try to get her to chill for my sake. They are visiting me this week at my home. I really don't want to hurt her feelings, but I am not sure how much more I can take.
posted by pH Indicating Socks to Human Relations (26 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Have you said anything? You can straight-up say, "Hey, I'd be more comfortable if you saved your physical displays of affection for when you guys are alone" or any other variety of statement that indicates you're asking politely and they're making you feel uncomfortable.

I feel like for the majority of people, this will work. If either of them balk or are bitchy or something like that, you have a bigger problem but then you'll know *that* vs. just having to feel uncomfortable in your own home.
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:16 AM on April 11 [17 favorites]

Talk to them both and you are just going to have the embarrassing conversation. I would make clear that you don't mind what they do in private but that it is private, but when they are in the room with you that you are uncomfortable when (whatever actions happen!) And if those things could not happen you would appreciate it.

They may think that you have low tolerance for these things compared to other people, but that doesn't really matter, just that they don't do the things. Most likely it will be respected because they won't want to have that conversation again.
posted by AlexiaSky at 10:18 AM on April 11 [6 favorites]

If your more comfortable with talking to your son, you could have the conversation with him, and he can subsequently have it with her before they visit. But I think that talking to them both would be more effective in getting what you want.
posted by AlexiaSky at 10:20 AM on April 11

I think whatever you do is going to make you look like a real bad guy and alienate the girlfriend. So unless you’re OK with that, I’d just assume they are gonna be like this (if it’s a new relationship it’s highly likely to wear off...).

Maybe just say, “well, you two look like you’re busy, so I’m gonna go X” and avoid them when it’s particularly bad?
posted by stoneandstar at 10:22 AM on April 11 [16 favorites]

This is annoying as hell, but, just to put it in perspective, it never lasts, and if she might be a permanent addition to your family you might just clench your teeth and ride it out for a few months. I fear you might be laying a foundation for future friction by bringing it up. Have faith. It's hormones and will run its course.
posted by HotToddy at 10:26 AM on April 11 [8 favorites]

At 29 and 30 I don’t know there is much you could say without seeming micromanagey, and there’s a high risk you would hurt feelings, which you say you want to avoid. If you are absolutely not going to be able to tolerate it, identify the specific behavior you’d like to stop and why? Something specific (e.g., intimate kissing makes me feel I’m intruding upon a private moment) vs a general criticism (“pawing at”) is likely to be more effective.
posted by kapers at 10:29 AM on April 11 [10 favorites]

I feel like a normal human interaction here would involve something like, rolling my eyes, laughing, and sort of half jokingly saying "oh my GOD, guys, please get a freakin' room this is gross ok!?" And they will go "ha ha omg sorry!!!" and hopefully get the hint?
posted by windbox at 10:30 AM on April 11 [38 favorites]

She just never stops pawing at him

So, we're talking about just touching? I'm skeptical bringing this up will go over well. I wouldn't even call touching PDA, unless we're talking butt squeezing or the like. In any case, some degree of public physical touch is very common for many couples, especially young couples. If it bothers you, I'd encourage you to take breaks from being around them (go for a walk, go to bed early and watch TV/read a book alone, etc.) and avoid having them in your house for more than you can take - keep the visits short if you need to.
posted by coffeecat at 10:31 AM on April 11 [9 favorites]

If you do decide to bring this up with them/her, consider starting out with humor. It may be a more effective approach, might help her to empathize, and it could prevent or decrease the extent of her possible resistant/intransigent response being squarely directed at you.

Maybe even give them a brochure for the local Super 8 Motel
posted by armoir from antproof case at 10:32 AM on April 11

Best answer: If you prefer humor, maybe “I want grandkids, but I don’t need to be there for their conception/you don’t have to create one for me RIGHT THIS MINUTE” or something similar.

My MIL would pipe up “...I’ve got whipped cream and strawberries in the fridge if you need it” which made my spouse shrivel up and die in embarrassment, but we were college age at the time.
posted by castlebravo at 10:32 AM on April 11 [63 favorites]

I don't think it has to make you look like a bad guy. Lots of people are uncomfortable with PDAs. Just be super warm and friendly to her and also warmly say hey, this is awkward, but I get really really uncomfortable around PDAs, just a heads up. Maybe roll your eyes at yourself or something and then segue to another topic. (This is all assuming the point is to get her to stop but also to let her feel comfortable around you.)
posted by trig at 10:34 AM on April 11 [5 favorites]

Part of what's uncomfortable and rude about this behavior is that it's exclusionary. So one way to handle this would be to redirect focus onto whatever you're all supposed to be doing together. So your script might be something like...

Glad you two are having such a good time/Glad to see you are both so happy together, but can we focus on the board game/setting the table/watching the game/making breakfast?

That way you're asking them to include you in the activity/conversation, rather than directly telling the that their PDA is wrong/gross.
posted by brookeb at 10:58 AM on April 11 [5 favorites]

She's 100% staking her claim and there is absolutely no way to come off as anything but inappropriately territorial and set the ground for an adversarial relationship if you call her on it. It will wear off.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:03 AM on April 11 [8 favorites]

It's a little hard to give advice on this without knowing the nature of the PDA. If she's putting her arm around him or snuggling up to him on the sofa that's not quite the same thing as sexily stroking his chest or nibbling his ear.
posted by slkinsey at 11:03 AM on April 11 [27 favorites]

I absolutely don't think you just have to put up with this because it's a new relationship or it's hormones what have you. These are adults in their 30s or nearly, not teenagers; they're capable of conforming their behavior with reasonable standards, which to most adults include not being overtly sexual with their partners in front of other people. In fact, your son is apparently aware that he's acting inappropriately, since he's spoken up to her about it.

I would not bring this up with both of them present, though. I would talk to your son in advance and just be frank: you'd rather they not make out or touch each other sexually in front of you because it makes you feel uncomfortable and awkward. It's a completely reasonable request. Your feelings are just as important as your son's girlfriend's, and she's the one acting outside the social contract, not you.
posted by holborne at 11:23 AM on April 11 [33 favorites]

This thread is showing some cultural differences I think. My parents absolutely made it clear that this would be inappropriate no matter how old I am. I think you should just make it clear it’s not ok, who cares if they are annoyed or roll their eyes?
posted by girlmightlive at 11:28 AM on April 11 [9 favorites]

Some of the awkwardness/annoyance is presumably also from the combination of “couple doing PDA” + ONE other person. I know I would feel more uncomfortable in that situation than if I were at a party and a couple was acting especially couple-y. If they were constantly whispering to each other or something, that wouldn’t be great guest behavior in the “couple plus one other person” situation either. Would it make sense to try to explain that, if it’s a factor for you?
posted by needs more cowbell at 11:43 AM on April 11 [4 favorites]

"Can you lot do that elsewhere please?" and make a yuck face like you just drank the sweat from a sumo wrestler's butt crack.
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 11:47 AM on April 11

She's staking her claim

So? This behavior is incredibly rude. It's thoughtless, inconsiderate, and exclusionary. I don't want to see people slurping each other in front of me. Why should you have to? That said, it's your house. Ask them to stop. With humor, without humor, whatever works. But please do not feel the need to slink around your own home while a stranger "stakes her claim" on your son.
posted by Armed Only With Hubris at 3:09 PM on April 11 [18 favorites]

I would absolutely say something but I would make it about me - not that they are doing something wrong but that are doing something that makes me uncomfortable. As my family member/guest, I would expect them to choose not to things that they know bother me.

I would probably say something like, "Look, in my day, couples didn't do that kind of intimate behavior in front of others and it still makes me very uncomfortable. Whatever you do elsewhere is fine but I'm asking you to be considerate and not do it in front of me." [Note this has validity because I wouldn't make out with my guy in front of them either and my kids know that.]

The trick is to say it once. Then when it happens, don't be strict about it. Try not react if they are only 10-20% over the line. But when it is really more than you feel comfortable with, don't make a big deal out of it. Either start a conversation, invite them to join an activity or just leave the room. Your kid knows you well enough to know that you are leaving because you don't like it - you don't need to rub it in or make a big scene.

If that doesn't work, then you need to have a different conversation with just your own kid along the lines of "Help me understand what is going on. You know I don't like it and you are doing it anyway. What am I missing?"

In addition, as a totally separate thing, make a big effort to make the girl feel welcome. If you are a warm and caring person overall, this one request will not ruin the relationship.
posted by metahawk at 3:33 PM on April 11 [7 favorites]

I also wanted to add that this is something you should discuss with your son. Presumably you have a solid relationship? Even if not you could couch it in saccharine niceness, something like "I look forward to see you on xday. Btw sorry to be old fashioned but would you mind not doing the PDA in front of me? It's so awkward!" It seems much easier to tackle from that angle. He can pass the message on so she knows not to do that.
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 3:57 PM on April 11

I’d just joke around with them and say that seeing as you’re there for the baby’s conception, is it ok if you’re in the delivery room too? Or every time they get into it, whip out your phone and play some Marvin Gaye. Start having fun with it, they’ll get the message and you’ll come off as someone with a sense of humour without alienating them.
posted by Jubey at 4:20 PM on April 11

So? This behavior is incredibly rude. It's thoughtless, inconsiderate, and exclusionary. I don't want to see people slurping each other in front of me. Why should you have to?

The point isn’t that it’s polite or that OP should like it, it’s that it will quickly become a power struggle between mother and girlfriend and it’s not uncommon for a son to choose girlfriend. (He’s a bit old, but at the end of the day, they’re fucking.) And if they end up getting married, the PDA will almost definitely stop, whereas the sting/resentment of being told off by your MIL usually will not. And now you’ve got a lifetime of problems instead of a couple weeks/months worth.

I suggest playing the long game. Teasing is OK and might work, but if you can’t pull it off I wouldn’t go that route.
posted by stoneandstar at 4:27 PM on April 11 [17 favorites]

I really think stoneandstar has this one. What this lady is doing does sound awfully rude and immature, but *the very fact that she is behaving in this way* suggests to me that she will be exactly the type of person to not be able to take criticism like a grownup. She'll take it as an attack, and that way lies a potential LIFETIME of headaches for you.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:32 PM on April 11 [6 favorites]

I think a "hey, I am right here you know" would be totally fair if they are just getting caught up in each other. If it's the kind of thing that would be normal in some environments (like a nice date where folks might do more staring into each other's eyes, or a couple walking with their arms around each other), that kind of affectionate-mushy-not-sexual behavior might need a sentence of explanation that it bothers you without trying to conflate it with "seeing the conception". But it sounds like maybe what you are trying to say is "I am not furniture, I am a person and you should consider my feelings" and "my home is not your home".
posted by Lady Li at 3:55 AM on April 12 [1 favorite]

I think the proper response really depends on what you mean by "pawing at." If you mean that they're just super lovey-dovey and cuddly in a cutesy way, then just rolling your eyes and saying, "Guys, it's nice that you're affectionate, but can you cool it a little? Mom's in the room too, you know." But if you mean that they're actually making out in front of you, his parent, that is really creepy and wrong. It's disturbing that she'd initiate it, and it's even worse that he would go along with it even a little. Making out in front of your parents is a hard no.

I don't think castlebravo's suggestion is the right idea here, in either case. If they're just being cutesy-poo, the line kind of sexualizes that and makes things a lot more awkward. If they're actually making out while you're there, it's a serious problem and I don't think snarky jokes are called for. In that situation I think your outrage is probably part of the thrill for her, and the last thing you need to be doing is cracking jokes about them conceiving children while you watch. I'd suggest having a one-on-one with your son about how this is deeply inappropriate. Don't let him make any excuses, just say that if it happens again you'll kick them out and you'll never let her in the house again. Then leave it on him to handle it with his girlfriend.

But again, that's only if they're actually making out in front of you. If they're just too snookums-wookums for your taste, it's fine to say to say enough already in a light, teasing way.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:25 AM on April 13 [1 favorite]

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