#769: Thanks for inviting me to your work meetings, new boyfriend!

Dear Captain,

I recently started dating a guy I really like. He’s a techie and most of his friends are friends from work. They do a lot of social stuff together. He’s been great about introducing me to them and inviting me to things like happy hours, which is important to me after having dated two guys who pretty much refused to introduce me to anyone else they knew for Reasons They Could Certainly Justify.

So, that’s great, right? Except hanging out with them is quickly becoming excruciating. I am not a shy person and am a pretty good conversationalist – hell, my JOB is making people feel comfortable and welcome and I spend a lot of time having dinners with people in my industry where I’m pretty much there to hear them talk about work and convincingly feign being fascinated.

What will happen is that he’ll extend an invitation, I’ll accept, and then I’ll spend anywhere from 1 to 5 hours staring at my plate or glass of wine while they talk about work. Constantly. Nonstop. If it’s not the highly technical details of whatever program they’re working on now, it’s dissecting everyone else they work with. I’ve tried gently steering the conversation towards not-work topics and contributing where I can (limited, because 1. I don’t know the people they’re referencing and 2. I don’t work in the tech field) and I’ve not been successful.

After the last outing, I asked him if hanging out with his friends = all work talk all the time? And he seems vaguely apologetic but also like yeah, this is how it is and will always be.

So. He’s spent time with my friends, most of whom are not people I work with, and we’re all able to have lively conversations about things we’re all interested in – not rehashing all the inside jokes from the last tech convention that only those who attended would get.

Applying the Sheelzebub Principle, if I have to put up with this for a few more months, much less 5 years, I will lose my mind. But I do like this guy and I want to give this a chance (I have been known to hit the eject button on new relationships very quickly in the past).

Thoughts? It’s important to me to be on good terms with his friends, even if I’m not interested in making them my friends, and he does a lot – a LOT – of socializing with them. I’m hesitant to bring this up with him because it will make me feel like that Whiny Girlfriend Who Doesn’t Understand Coding and wants everyone to dumb things down for her sake, which is not the case, and I also get that he does not control their behavior (although he certainly isn’t helping things when we’re in this situation, because he’ll sit there and do the All Work All The Time Channel too).

I get that some of these people probably are used to not having others understand what they’re talking about, and there is a fair amount of on-the-spectrum-y, social awkwardness going on here, but I come from a family of peeps with autism and actually worked in the engineering field for a while, so I consider myself pretty good at empathizing and interacting with people who might, for certain reasons, be a little wrapped up in explaining to you how the widget works, even if you’ve no interest.

– It’s Ok to Talk To Me Even if I’m Not a Programmer

Dear It’s Okay:

I have walked in your shoes, I have made others walk in your shoes, and I have a few strategies for you.

First, decide here and now for yourself that work-friend happy hour does not equal a “date.” You can be the biggest fan of a band and still not want to sit and watch their rehearsals for hours on end. Dial your attendance at these things back to say, once/month or whatever frequency that you can actually enjoy/stand. When you do go, join them later, for the last hour, say hello to people and catch up with them, and then take your boyfriend off to dinner/home/an actual one-on-one date.

Scripts: “Thanks for inviting me! I’m so glad you have introduced me to your friends. Howabout, I give you a couple of hours to get the work talk out of your systems and then come join you later.” Then go work out, or read a book, see your friends, or do whatever you were doing with your fine self before you met the guy for a few hours and drop in when it’s good for you.

I like your friends and I definitely want to get to know them, but I’m not enjoying all the work talk at happy hour. What do you think/suggest?” Your boyfriend is your host here. What if it were up to him to do a better job of integrating you into the conversation, or to do a better job of figuring out something that would be more fun for you? If he doesn’t really notice or care that you aren’t having fun, or can’t understand why it wouldn’t be fun for you, then  I make Marge Simpson noises in his general direction and enjoin you to keep in mind that you are not the one making it awkward right now.

It sounds like you tried to have a gentle conversation about this and he told you that this is how things would always be. So, what if you took him at his word and stopped trying to make it different? “Thanks for the invite! I’m going to hang with my friends that night, but let’s plan a date for (day).” Can’t be bored shitless if you don’t go, and I think it’s a good idea not to make something you do not enjoy a routine, default way that you spend your time together.

When you go, divide and conquer.

Learn to love the side conversation. Next time you go to on of these things, find the friendliest colleague, sit next to them, ask them lots of non-work questions, engage them about something else entirely while the work conversation sails on. Lo, if this person will engage with you, perhaps you have found a new friend or friendly acquaintance. If this person keeps turning back to work or can’t get off the topic of work, pick a different person next time (and check in with first side conversation person – “How have you been, did you read/see that thing you were looking forward to? Good to see you!” – sometimes it takes a couple of tries).

Bring one of your friends with you. You can both try to engage people and see if a side conversation can develop, and if it doesn’t, you can buy your friend a drink and catch up with all of their news and thank them profusely.

Invite the most promising of his friends to another thing entirely. “I can’t go to work happy hour this week, but why don’t you bring (favorite friend) to (the group movie outing/board game night/Halloween Party) next weekend?

Over time there will hopefully be someone you like and connect with. I hope it gets better! Keep in mind that your past boyfriends not introducing you to friends doesn’t mean that now you need to let your eyes glaze over without protest. You’re not the Whiny Girlfriend Who Doesn’t Understand Coding, you’re the girlfriend with reasonable expectations that your precious free time won’t be spent watching other people play inside baseball for hours.

Edit From Goat Lady: Well that escalated quickly. Comments now closed since Cap and I both have 3D world work to do and this became mystifyingly contentious.

187 comments
  1. *makes a face*

    *minor tutting noises*

    This varies from company to company, but discussing inside details on a project is usually forbidden by company policy (in my experience) because other businesses, news entities, etc. could overhear and management usually doesn’t want that. So not only are they being inconsiderate, they may well be breaking major company policy. (Ditto discussing others in the group while they’re not there; that can make HR very nervous if the outing group is big enough.)

    Which I mention not to derail, but that YOU ARE NOT THE ONLY ONE expecting these gentlepeople to talk about other things in their off-campus time. It’s perfectly reasonable to ask people (even engineers!) to leave certain aspects of work at work.

    If you do end up bailing, I don’t think it’s “too early”; I feel like boyfriend is being pretty insensitive by not including you, and I mean, I wouldn’t maybe leave a marriage over it but a casual “just started dating” relationship? No harm if you decide it’s not for you. 🙂

    • Seconding all of this from anamardoll–from an HR perspective, both aspects can potentially be a minefield and are generally best avoided when having public chat (the inside details bit as HR end up dealing with the personnel issues that arise from a confidentiality break).

      The Captain’s scripts here are great, LW. I would wonder maybe if some of these folks might worry, from a Geek Social Fallacy perspective, that they won’t know what to do or might not get along as well if they don’t talk about things they definitely know are a shared interest. It’s not your job to drag them into better social lives, LW, but trying a couple of the scripts might help some of Boyfriend’s colleagues open up a little in general.

    • craniest said:

      definitely not too early (I say this as a formerly married to engineer person, more than 20 years ago, and yes they’ve always been kinda like that in general). Their “yep that’s how it is and it always will be” line is meant to elicit a “well, okay, I’ll shut up and deal” response. There is no other expected reply, and even the “nope I’m out of here” response is calculated in, but not necessarily expected. The one they can’t deal with is the third option of “Okay I’ll go do $THING_WITH_OTHER_PEOPLE till later and then catch up with you when we can have one on one time.” If it’s not a binary yes/no response, it pretty much hits the DOES NOT COMPUTE button. At best you will subtly retrain him that time with you and time with work guys is not equivalent. Or if you skew the other way, the best case is that it will screw with their worldview like a picture of the universe with a tiny “you are here” arrow.

      • Feminist Engineer said:

        craniest: As a real, live, actual Engineer, I can tell you that you are mistaken. We do not have problems with non-binary responses. We have problems with vague, passive-aggressive, won’t you just read my mind and psychically understand what I’m not willing to say out loud because I’m too afraid to use my words, types of non-communication. The “yep that’s how it is and it always will be” is not necessarily meant to elicit silence, it is meant to communicate a clear, firm boundary. As in, this particular part of my life is not going to change, so let’s figure out a different way to meet your needs, and if that’s not possible and this is a dealbreaker, better to be up front and accept it and move on.

        Sorry things didn’t work out with your ex but please don’t generalize about a group of people when you don’t live inside our brains. Most Engineers, and the people ‘on the spectrum’ whose thought processes work similar to Engineers, are perfectly comfortable with shades of grey. What we can’t deal with, or don’t know how to, is unspoken assumptions (which are usually based on unspecified, variable social expectations). Perhaps you confused our need for blunt, direct communication with a need for binary responses.

        LW, my guess is that your friend won’t be upset if you don’t want to hang with his buddies, or if you want to show up later, or only once in a while. But he may be upset if you express dissatisfaction without also presenting other options/saying what you do want. Hearing “there’s a problem, I don’t know what I want or need, all I know is this isn’t working out, now fix it! would be extremely stressful. Hearing “there’s a problem, this is what I think would work for me, how is that for you?” would be excellent. Be straightforward, be blunt, be honest, even if saying “part of this works for me, the other part doesn’t”. Also, as I mentioned above, typically when an Engineer/Programmer type says “this is how it is” regarding an aspect of their life that impacts a relationship, it’s not meant to be controlling or domineering, it is meant to help you manage your expectations. When we figure out a routine that works for us, it is possible to add to it, but extremely stressful to change it. That is not a reflection on you or your needs, it’s simply a matter of compatibility, whether you can make your routines/desires sync or not.

        YMMV, and yes I’m generalizing about Engineers in my post as well, and yes obviously craniest touched a nerve. But I wanted to give feedback as a very stereotypical nerd (albeit a female one) since much of the feedback here has only been from people who’ve dated nerds.

        • LW said:

          Assuming that I am vague, passive-aggressive, and demanding that he read my mind is incredibly not helpful. And I’m not neurotypical, but thanks for assuming that I am and assigning me all sorts of untrue characteristics.

          • I didn’t read Feminist Engineer’s comment as making those assumptions about you – I think they were entirely a (probably over-the-top, but fairly understandable nonetheless) response to craniest’s sweeping generalisations.

          • Yeah, I’m pretty sure Feminist Engineer was disagreeing with craniest’s advice to be passive-aggressive, not saying that you have been!

          • aineotter said:

            I don’t think that FE was assuming that you are vague, passive-aggressive, etc, but rather responding to craniest’s description of engineers as folk who are unable to deal with alternate/non binary suggestions. I don’t see that being directed at you, unless you are actually expecting him to read your mind, which I didn’t get from the letter at all?

            Anyway, I’m partnered to one very logic/math brained, probably not neurotypical person, and I do find that it is enormously helpful to state not just my unhappiness with something, but to also offer concrete suggestions as to what would help, and then discuss those together. If I expect her to figure out what I want, pr what would make something better, even in situations where I thought it must be obvious, I am likely to be disappointed. As in, if I am sad and on the verge of tears about something, and I want someone to cuddle me and tell me it’s going to be OK, I need to ask for that, and then she is happy to oblige and awesome! I’ve had previous partners who would have done it automatically, so I wasn’t used to asking. With my Math Girl, things are much smoother when I’m pretty blunt and clear about what I’m needing/wanting. Also this has helped me to learn to figure these things out myself when I’m unhappy with something; as in, what action on her part or change in circumstance would help me out in this situation? Before we have a discussion or argument about it. And that is good for my own sense of clarity and insight, too. This may not apply to your situation at all, I just saw some of the things I’ve learned in this relationship reflected in what Feminist Engineer was saying.

          • Feminist Engineer said:

            LW, I’m sorry. The first part of my comment was specifically in response to craniest and not about you or your letter. The second part, addressed to you, was supposed to be about the communication style typical Engineers need in order to understand a situation and was not a judgment on you personally.

        • neverjaunty said:

          “and yes I’m generalizing about Engineers in my post as well”

          Yes, you are, and it’s not a good look just because they’re positive generalizations. Plenty of engineers are passive-aggressive. Plenty of engineers are not comfortable with shades of grey. Plenty of engineers expect others to read their minds, or to guess what they’re thinking. Plenty of engineers are capable of being selfish and blunty, and saying “this is how it is” to mean “if you don’t like it, tough beans” as opposed to “how can we find some other approach that works for you”.

          The issue here isn’t that LW’s boyfriend is a techie or an engineer; that’s a complete red herring. All kinds of professions do the Can’t Shut Up About Work thing. All kinds of dudes, not just technically proficient dudes, treat their girlfriends like ornaments. The issue is that he’s perfectly content to allow LW to sit there staring at her plate for groudon HOURS at a time rather than make an effort to talk about something she could engage in, or even to say “hey guys, LW is going to die of boredom if we argue about emacs vs. vi for one more minute, did anybody watch the debate last night?”

          • As an engineer here, +1 to neverjaunty.

          • Kelly L. said:

            This. It’s not really about engineering per se.

            Several years ago, I got involved in a book club. The organizer was a good friend of mine with whom I’d been in another book club before–the previous one had had a good run, finally petering out after about 2 years. This new book club, though, was made up of her, me, and 3 or 4 of her co-workers from her job. They weren’t engineers; they worked in a call center. But same issue. I would go to “book club,” and every time, it was nothing but work rants the whole time.

            I totally get being frustrated about work and needing to blow off steam about it! But this wasn’t just at the beginning of the meeting. It was the whole meeting, and I didn’t know any of the people they were ranting about, so didn’t have any context for it. The book might get a one-sentence mention. If the organizer or I said, “something something book,” the others would go “Yeah, I liked it,” and then go right back to shop talk. Once, I went to the restroom and accidentally missed the entire book discussion while I was in there. We got to have a lot of nice food and wine along the way, I guess?

            And this was all women. I’ve had it happen other times with a layer of sexism added in, I just don’t remember the details as vividly because it was longer ago.

          • Msconduct said:

            Not to mention that plenty of engineers do not fit the spectrum stereotype. Perhaps the situation is different in other areas of tech, but in corporate IT, which my IT consultancy contracts to, we have found those to be a tiny minority.

          • Wow! I didn’t realise “engineering degree” = “autism spectrum”! Glad I didn’t switch degrees all those years ago, otherwise complete strangers on the internet would be diagnosing me with developmental disorders and telling me that I communicate only in a very limited number of entirely linear ways!

            C’mon people, this is bullshit and you know it. Not all people on the spectrum are the same, and not everyone who works in tech is on the spectrum. No-one likes being treated like a cliché.

        • Except, for reasons having damn-all to do with engineers, craniest is not wrong about “that’s the way it is” responses. They are, in fact, a way of attempting to define reality in such a way that it can’t be argued with.

          “I’m comfortable with how this is going and I’m not willing to change it” is stating a boundary. “This is just how this situation works, don’t ask me any more questions about it” is attempting to impose a worldview.

          And there’s nothing particularly passive-aggressive about turning down an offer to spend multiple hours listening to people talk about their work in favour of going off and doing something else. That is also stating a boundary: I’m not going to sit here and be bored rigid, if you want me to sit here things are going to change, if you don’t want things to change, accept that I won’t be sitting here.

          As for a need for blunt, direct communication: sure. But very few people get old enough to date without having had it communicated to them that if a person is your guest at a thing you are expected to attend to their well-being and amusement. I had this explained to me at my fourth birthday party, bluntly and memorably. I’m sure it was repeated a few times after, but I’m considerably older now and that ship has sailed: I don’t get to need it explained to me again as if I had made a simple, understandable error in understanding something really complicated.

          Again, stating a preference for directness is fine, it’s laudable. But there is a big difference between “If the restraurant I picked sounds unappealing to you I need you to say so in words” and “but you never _said_ you minded me using power tools in our bedroom at 3am.” (Example deliberately ludicrous).

          The first is the entirely reasonable personality trait you are discussing. The second is a form of gaslighting.

          I don’t know which side of the line LW’s New Shiny falls on. But there IS a line.

  2. H.Regalis said:

    I go with my boyfriend and his engineering coworkers to a weekly pub quiz and it is a totally reasonable expectation to expect people, even nerdy, socially awkward techie people, to talk about shit other than work. You’re not being Straw Girlfriend because you don’t want to spend four hours listening to work minutae you’re not involved in. If you try what the Captain suggests and it doesn’t work, or your boyfriend seriously doesn’t understand how you couldn’t possibly find the current conversations to be OMG TOTALLY FASCINATING, that is not a problem with *you*.

    • My husband’s last job was in tech and this is veeery much the norm in tech culture re: Dear Lord Do These People Just Not Exist If They Are Not Working. The culture of offices like that is hard to break into, but the captain’s strategies are solid ones I’ve tested. Definitely see if you can recruit your boyfriend into this plan; it makes things much easier. It shouldn’t be ridiculous for him to try and help you out a little. Good Luck!

    • notemily said:

      Pub quizzes are a good idea, because they can spark all sorts of interesting conversations based on the quiz questions.

  3. I’ve been in this situation except the guys also all went to a boarding school for high school together. So the insular in-jokes went way further back. Dividing them up helped a lot– having a group of your friends mixed with his friends to play board games or watch a sports game or movie or something can shake up their established dynamic.

    But also remember the Geek Social Fallacies: you don’t have to be friends w/yr SOs friends. Or even like them. It’s ok if you don’t bond with them or hang out with them.

  4. monologue said:

    I have a tendency to talk about work w work people when we are the majority in a group situation. I always keep in mind to wrap it up quickly and to ensure anyone else at the table can at least follow by giving quick explanations of who people are or analogies of what the situation is like that would be understandable from people of all fields. This is a totally reasonable thing to expect from this group.
    When I’m in the LWs position, I sometimes try to remind people I’m there by asking clarifying or related questions that I’m actually interested in. This is easier depending on the topic and your own knowledge but can sometimes work.

    • STH said:

      Yep, including the LW in the conversation is the only polite thing to do here. It is really incredibly freaking rude to exclude her in this way, and I think it’s a big red flag about the boyfriend AND his friends. She says she wants them to like her, but why go out of your way for people that are this rude?

  5. Ugh my reply got eaten. Pls forgive me if I double post.

    A friend from college introduced me to his friend group who: 1) almost entirely were computer guys using similar programs for similar jobs & 2) went to a boarding high school & in many cases college together. There were in-jokes & references galore, going back to puberty. They didn’t mean to shut others out, it was just easy to fall into old conversational habits.

    Getting them into mixed groups (them & my friends, them & the friends of their SOs, etc) helped shake up their established dynamic a lot.

    But remember the Geek Social Fallacies: you don’t have to be friends w/yr SOs friends, or even like them. You can bow out. “Thanks for the invite but you talk shop so much I just feel like an intruder. Go have fun, I’ll do X instead. Why don’t you and I do Y later as a date?”

    • lizinthelibrary said:

      This is me and husband. His friends have all been together since high school (though not boarding school) and he’s an engineer as are most of them. What helps: honestly growing up. High school in jokes matter less when we are all in our early 30s discussing how to get a baby to sleep through the night. Also adding in other SOs helps a lot too and creating shared memories together. All of that takes time and may not apply to your situation. In the meantime, side conversations. One of husband’s friends and I have a shared passion for organic gardening and vermiculture. We even built new worm bins together! Another loves to knit and so do I! And with little things like that, in time, you build your own relationships and shift the group culture.

      However there are times husband does not want to go to library gathering and I do not want to go to engineer gathering. Sometimes we go as a favor for the partner we love, sometimes we bail for a night out at home. It sounds like the LW has a boyfriend who is good at going out with her friends and I’m betting that a lot of this can be salvaged IF (and it’s a big IF), he gets that a night out with all tech speak isn’t fun for her and is happy with her bailing or explicitly recognizes it as a favor.

  6. Annalee said:

    Oh, LW, I so feel you. When I was in college, my now-spouse and friends talked about World of Warcraft nonstop. I didn’t play WoW and had no interest in doing so, so the result was they were regularly excluding me from conversation without even noticing.

    This was especially hard because, like you, I felt like the whiny girlfriend. Telling my significant other and their predominantly-male friends to quit going on and on about their video game made me feel like I was conforming to stereotypes that I had internalized a bunch of misogynistic distaste for.

    Here are a couple things that helped me shift out of the “I feel like the whiny girlfriend” mindset:

    The first thing that worked for me was explicitly calling out that dynamic to my significant other. Rather than saying “I’m not enjoying all the WoW talk,” I said “the non-stop talk about WoW excludes me completely from the conversation.” Framing it that way made it about their behavior (constantly obsessing on one topic in front of people that had no access to it).

    The other thing that helped was that much like your boyfriend’s coworkers going on about the people they work with, my significant other’s friends were also constantly gossiping about their guild-mates in the game. I’d already learned from other contexts that this kind of protracted gossiping in front of uninvolved parties is really cliquey and exclusive, but it took an active frame-shift for me to realize that what they were doing was, in fact, just good ol’ fashioned gossip, and was no more geeky or interesting for being related to WoW. Once I was able to see past the masculinity-sparkles they were putting on their bad behavior, it was easier for me to name it for what it was (exclusive, cliquey gossiping) and recognize that I was not being the whiny girlfriend by asking my significant other to be a better host.

    • Yes, and seeing how SO/ friends respond to that request is very telling. Part of the reason I cut ties w/a friend was bc of his refusal to stop dominating conversations with stories of fun things he’d done with other ppl (RP event several of us had wanted to attend but hadn’t been able to). He painted us as unreasonable jealous killjoys instead of ppl wanting to participate in group conversation. Dick move. In retrospect it was a power play.

    • Myrin said:

      This was me in my last or second-to-last year of school, only with my best friend, not an SO. The Twilight movie had just come out and the books became this really popular thing and when it came to my group of friends, everyone but me had read them. And it was all they ever talked about, I seriously couldn’t roll my eyes hard enough. Attempts at changing the conversation were met with resolute steering-back-to-twilight action all the time and in the end, I just zoned out completely and enjoyed our stays at the café we went to during our free period by really savouring the drinks and trying new stuff to eat all the time.

      Granted, these people were more my best friend’s friends than my own so I kind of weirdly tagged along but it was still pretty disrespectful. I mean, they probably were like “We’re six and five of us want to talk about Twilight all the time so why should we talk about things that would potentially interest the sixth person, too, but aren’t Twilight?” but man, get a grip.

    • e271828 said:

      I think that being really explicit and saying very plainly that the all-work-all-the-time conversations are excluding you and making you feel unwelcome is important. If the other party does not understand the problem and start making efforts (sincere ones) to improve things, well, you’ll know where you stand in the hierarchy of his relationships.

      Ideally he is sad that he is driving off Awesome Girlfriend, though! And starts talking about general subjects with the work guys!

      Are there any non-work acquaintances in his life? Do his coworkers have roommates, friends of their own, SOs, or whatever? (Has everyone else bailed on this tight group already?) Other people could help leaven the conversation.

    • hrovitnir said:

      Oo, I like this. Since bf seems to have completely missed that that’s kind of the point of “can you talk about something other than work”? I couldn’t think of another way to communicate it; addressing the issue of “you’re excluding me and not attempting to even alleviate that” seems worth a crack.

  7. I worked at a mid sized company when I first moved here, and so, the only friends I had also worked at that company. Then I moved jobs, but still, my only local friends worked at that company. For a long time a lot of our conversations revolved around work, because that was pretty much the only thing we had in common. Could that be the case with your guy? Especially if the only thing these guys actually have in common is work, they don’t really have much to talk about.

    I actually think that in an ideal world one should not hang out with co workers outside of work that much. Here are reasons:
    1. It entrenches you further into that company’s culture. Making it harder to recognize when things are going sour, or to take a new opportunity.
    2. It means your co workers know more about you than co workers should. Depending on the company, or what company buys your company, saying the wrong thing to the wrong person or having one funny story get around can be very damaging.
    3. You already spend 40+ hours a week with these people. You have given your job enough time!

    So in addition to the Captain’s great suggestions, it might also be cool to encourage your guy friend to find some local non work activity to engage in where he could make friends or reconnect with non work interests. Whether it is an exercise based activity, or gaming, or a class, or something in his life that isn’t coding. Even if he brings his work friends along, it would give them something else to talk about. (D&D and Board games can be a big hit with the nerdy crowd, and that’s something you can all do together. Paintball, uhhh rock climbing, sword fighting. Even playing video games together. LITERALLY ANYTHING BUT WORK and NETFLIX)

    I am firmly of the belief that people should have something to do besides their job. No matter how intense and stressful their job is. Giving your brain a break from the same tasks all the time can actually improve it’s performance on those tasks! And it can also broaden your skill set and make you better at your job.

    TL,DR: Hobbies are a thing, your guy and his work friends should get some.

    • Annalee said:

      I can’t say if this is the situation for LW’s boyfriend, but this all-encompassing “your work is your life and you have no other friends” situation is the dark side of the “cool happyfun workplace” in tech. They lure you in with “fun” workplaces, toys and games in the office, a fridge full of beer, and paid lunch and dinner, but it’s all engineered around developing this kind of dynamic. When employees spend all their time with their coworkers, talking through technical problems on their own time, the company wins.

      A lot is written about how this dynamic contributes to discrimination and homogeneity of the tech industry, but even for young, single, white, cis men: it’s a trap.

      • VioletEMT said:

        Agree completely. I work in tech and our company has this strategy. The only way I’ve been able to maintain my work/life balance is to have a life and hobbies and an SO and friends outside of work. With the one work friend I hang with on a regular basis outside of work, we have a rule: If it’s just the two of us, work talk is okay. If either or both of our SOs are present, we do our best not to talk about work, at least not in detail (“goofy thing coworker did” or “5-minute rant about stupid company policy”) is okay, but fortunately, we all have enough non-work stuff in common that we’re able to engage in conversation about those things.

        BUT. The above is a consciously cultivated and trained behavior. I used to be much worse about excluding my SO. He called me out on it, and I make an effort to do better now. By the same token, each of us understands that there are times when we’re playing the role of “the SO at the company event,” and we can suck it up and deal on those rare occasions.

      • neverjaunty said:

        This is so true. And it’s designed to shut out any “excuse” for having non-work time. You can eat here, exercise here, watch movies here, so why on earth would you ever, ever want to leave this place? Especially when you’re leaving all your friends here?

      • cavyherd said:

        shinobi42 said: Here are reasons: 1. It entrenches you further into that company’s culture. Making it harder to recognize when things are going sour, or to take a new opportunity.

        Back in the olden days (like in the ’50s), companies like IBM would transfer whole divisions, basically with this as the ultimate goal. You didn’t know anybody (but coworkers) in the new location, and coworking families all bonded over the shared I‘ve Been Moved experience.

        As Annalee says, They lure you in with “fun” workplaces, toys and games in the office, a fridge full of beer, and paid lunch and dinner, but it’s all engineered around developing this kind of dynamic. When employees spend all their time with their coworkers, talking through technical problems on their own time, the company wins.

        This is the modern form of this tactic.

        • wondering said:

          For the record, I’ve Been Moved has not updated to the modern version of this tactic, although they no longer transfer whole divisions. Instead they have a co-locating preference policy for teams so there is pressure to move yourself at your own cost if you want to keep current.

          Meanwhile, everyone bonds over Fear of “Resource Allocation”( where your new allocation is introduced with a pink slip, if you know what I mean).

  8. Jill said:

    I dated a guy that pulled this crap on me. It would have been a bit more bearable if he’d’ve at least rubbed my knee or back or squeezed my hand or winked at me – some kind of non-verbal message that he got it that I wasn’t enjoying myself but appreciated me putting up with it anyway. Instead, after six hours of being ignored by the group we head home and he says, “Yea, my friends are pretty snobby, aren’t they?”

    That s.o.b. KNEW I was being excluded and did nothing! And it sounds like LW’s bf is the same way – he knows LW is being left out and is bored but expects her to just grin and bear it.

    LW, this is a big red flag. It’s not enough to have an SO introduce you to his circle. If someone really cares about you and wants you to be a long term part of their life, they also want their circle to EMBRACE you – to want to get to know you, draw you in, find similarities, common interests, etc. It sounds like LW’s bf doesn’t really care if this happens.

    LW, I think Captain’s ideas are great. And if they don’t work, you are Not being unreasonable moving on from this uncaring guy and his rude friends.

    • JenniferP said:

      Great point – LW, you are not invisible! All these dudes can see and hear you and presumably do the slightest bit of work to engage you…if they wanted to. Why don’t they want to? Sexism? Obsessed with work? Who knows? But they are making a choice.

      • Feminist Engineer said:

        Perhaps these dudes *did* try their best to engage the LW, but don’t have the social skills to do it in a way that the LW considers actual “social engagement”. I also question the idea that they are “obsessed with work” or only talk about work. Most of the programmers I’m friends with are primarily involved with hobbies that also involve programming so it may seem like social gatherings are all about work to someone who doesn’t get the difference between, for example, writing code for a client and writing code for a holiday light display sequencer.

        I’m taking a lot of the criticism against this guy personally. Absent any additional information, it would probably be more accurate to reframe this as a compatibility issue rather than an ‘insensitive jerk’ issue. Does the LW want this guy to make more time for her, or does she want him and his friends to change their essential natures in order to conform to her social expectations? It’s perfectly reasonable for her to decide she’s not happy with him or his friends, dating an Engineer isn’t for everybody. But this is the first time I’ve read the comments here and felt personally attacked. We do not have enough information to call this guy uncaring and call his friends rude. All we know is the LW isn’t happy and has certain expectations that haven’t been met. We don’t yet know if the guy is willing or even *able* to meet those expectations. Yet plenty of commenters are happy to assume satisfying the LW’s needs is possible for the guy but he is unwilling to do it. Most Engineers, in general, don’t INTEND to be insensitive jerks, that’s just how our words and actions are interpreted by people who don’t understand us. Maybe the label is accurate in the context of certain cultural expectations, maybe not.

        • What we know from the letter is that the LW (who tells us that she has experience interacting with people of varying social skills and people on the autism spectrum, so this doesn’t seem to be an issue of her narrow, ableist view of social interaction, like you suggested) told the boyfriend that there was a problem, and he told her that he wasn’t interested in even attempting to find a solution. If he isn’t an insensitive jerk, at best he’s oblivious and guilty of Geek Social Fallacies 2 (“real friends accept me exactly as I am and I don’t need to change any of my behavior for them”) and maybe 5 (“friends do everything together”). Regardless of intent, if someone tells us there’s a problem, each one of us is responsible for the way we handle that–to suggest that he’s incapable of even addressing the problem is patronizing to him and puts all of the work of the relationship on the LW’s shoulders, which is supremely unfair. Maybe he isn’t a jerk, but it isn’t the LW’s job to teach him how to be a gracious host, especially if he’s not even willing to acknowledge his responsibility in the problem.

        • msethyl said:

          I do not think “don’t ignore me like I’m invisible” is asking them to “change their essential natures” so much as it’s asking them to be baseline polite.

          I’m sorry you’re feeling hurt and attacked, but some of the assumptions and sweeping generalizations you’re making are likewise problematic.

          • Mary said:

            But at the same time – you can side-eye the boyfriend, if he’s spontaneously inviting the LW out to a meet-up with his mates and then ignoring her, but I think the LW is effectively asking for more than “baseline politeness” if she’s regularly going out with these people? If I regularly go out with my mates to spend several hours talking about work stuff, and then one of my friends brought her partner along, yes, of course I’d try to be polite and make small talk and stuff. But essentially I’m going out to talk to my mates about work stuff, so if I didn’t click with her and find things in common? I’d carry on talking to my mates about work stuff.

            Being baseline polite would mean making a little bit of small talk and trying to put someone at their ease, but I can’t imagine the LW is going to feel so much better if she gets twenty minutes of small talk and four hours of work talk instead of five hours of work talk?

          • Feminist Engineer said:

            msethyl, your (and the LW’s) definition of “baseline polite” may be different from mine (and from the LW’s boyfriend and his friends). That is one of my points. Expecting your typical Engineer to be aware of and understand an unspoken social rule of behavior will inevitably lead to bad feelings all around. Hell, expecting us to conform to certain social rules even when we’re aware of them can also be a problem. Last I checked, being a loud, opinionated woman is not considered nice or polite even among other loud, opinionated Engineers, but that’s me every day. That’s why I recommend reframing this as a possible incompatibility issue rather than assuming the guy is behaving badly. The LW has a genuine concern about her needs not being met and CA’s response is great. Things just really blew up in the comments section, for me anyway.

          • Ethyl said:

            Please stop generalizing about The Way Engineers Are. It’s not helpful and it’s insulting.

          • msethyl said:

            Whyyyy did WordPress randomly log me out????

        • blairbending said:

          The LW specifically said that the boyfriend’s friends spend the whole time talking about work projects and people from work.

        • Temporary Null said:

          I can understand why you feel personally attacked. There are a lot of stereotypes around engineers being socially obtuse which are used to justify not promoting them, or not involving them in strategic decisions. Also, many of my engineering friends (I’m an engineer, so I have lots of friends who are engineers) have excellent social skills, so it’s difficult to see others extrapolate off of their experiences to come to universal conclusions that you know aren’t true.

          “Most Engineers, in general, don’t INTEND to be insensitive jerks, that’s just how our words and actions are interpreted by people who don’t understand us.”

          This is the problem. Even if someone doesn’t intend to be a jerk, their behavior is still problematic. Sure, LW could express these concerns more directly, and maybe if she listed her complaints “the right way” then her boyfriend would listen to her an accommodate her preferences. When I see that scenario played out over years, I can see it getting frustrating. I think that’s the emotion you’re seeing in these attacks. Women, who dated engineers, who had to constantly adjust their communication styles to overcome their partner’s preference for inattention and lack of curiosity. You see people freaking out at a guy who is just clueless, and they see years of resentment over constantly having to spell things out, to people who don’t inquire.

          I’m an engineer, and there are so many social niceties that I just don’t get. I’ve had the nickname emotionless robot girlfriend. And, I know other people are different from me. I know if I don’t feel like hugs, that I should give them connection in another way, because they need to know I care. I might not be able to figure out when I’ve screwed up, but I can ask questions when they don’t seem happy. I can ask them whether they like something I do, and whether they’d like it better if I did it some other way, because I love them, and I want them to be happy.

          Sure my partners have had to understand many things about me, but it’s a two way street. My obliviousness makes it more important that I pay attention and actively communicate with my partner. Nothing in the way that LW’s boyfriend behaves makes it sound like he’s curious about how she feels, and since he’s not perceptive enough to pick it up on his own, that’s a pretty exhausting situation to be in.

        • Annalee said:

          FE, I’m sorry you’re having a rough time, but respectfully, I think you’re bringing baggage to this conversation that’s causing you to read into the discussion things that aren’t being said. You’re doing a lot of generalizing about engineers while simultaneously insisting that it’s unfair to generalize about engineers–something the rest of us are, by and large, not doing. We are recognizing the LW as the authority on her particular situation.

          Several of the other folks responding (including me) are also engineers/software developers, and your generalizations about what it’s like to be an engineer and how engineers socialize don’t mesh with my experience at all. You’re identifying very strongly with the boyfriend and ascribing personality traits and communication styles onto him (and, by extension, onto the LW) based purely on his job, rather than on what the LW has told us about her situation. Engineer is not a neurological condition or a personality type. It’s a profession. The LW didn’t say anything about her boyfriend being on the spectrum or having general difficulties with social skills.

          Your comment comes across, to me, like the “but what if he’s Autistic!?” derailing that often comes up when people dare to suggest that men take into account other people’s needs and feelings rather than taking for granted that women will perform the emotional labor of absorbing social discomfort. Women–including the LW, who’s already said upthread that she herself is not neurotypical–are rarely if ever afforded this kind of leeway. We’re expected to tale other people’s needs into account, instead of insisting that everyone else “understand us.” This dynamic is so ingrained that even other women will jump on the “what if he’s Autistic” train. But the train still only seems to come by the station when dudes are behaving badly.

          • Myrin said:

            What a great comment, Annalee, I’m jedi-applauding you here! (And if you are the same Annalee who used to have another avatar – a picture of yourself (?) facing the camera – I’d like to say that I always really enjoy your comments both here and on other columns like AAM and I always look forward to seeing what you have to say!)

          • Annalee said:

            Thanks, Myrin! Yes, I’m the same Annalee–I’m just using a second avatar for some things now. Sorry–should be including a link or something to clarify.

          • msethyl said:

            Thank you for this comment, it’s so great!

          • Thank you Annalee.

            As an engineer, I applaud you

          • Yes, all of this. It’s not at all unreasonable to assume the LW is accurately relating the situation, and some of FE’s alternative scenarios are getting heavily into Occam’s Big Paisley Tie territory.

            Also, I am married to an engineer. I’m friends with a couple more. All of them are different people with different personalities, and none of them bear any resemblance to this Mythical Universal Engineer that FE keeps putting forward.

            FE, I’m sorry some of these comments are distressing to you. But, if it’s not about you, don’t make it about you. This is not about you. It’s about the LW’s boyfriend. There have been a couple of comment threads here at CA that I had to disengage from — most recently because I started feeling defensive on behalf of a friend whose situation bore only the most superficial of resemblances to the one under discussion. So I quit reading and waited for the next letter.

          • msethyl said:

            @OtherBecky — UGH YES Occam’s Big Paisley Tie was the post I was trying to think of in my head, thank you so much for reminding me!!! Bookmarked!

        • If you are not LW’s boyfriend, why do you think you are taking criticism of him personally?

          • Feminist Engineer said:

            Probably because many people in the comments section seem to be expecting him to change to conform to her needs/ social expectations/”polite society”, instead of suggesting that maybe they’re just not compatible.

            Maybe because many commenters are saying he’s “behaving badly”, where all I see is a person living their life in a way that works for them. It’s not like changing how we interact with other people is a simple act. Sure, if he doesn’t make an effort to accommodate her needs in some other way, he’s not worth dating. It’s up to the LW to walk away though. Why do people expect him to change for her or else he’s a ‘bad guy’? If the genders/roles were reversed, would people expect her to change for him?

            Of course I’m going to take commenter’s judgments about him personally, as the LW’s description of him and his friends could easily apply to me. I have lost friends because I’m unwilling, or unable, to change certain behavior. My loss. That’s life. Certain people will always see me as rude or impolite, that’s their judgment according to their social standards. That’s ok too. I’m not making excuses for the guy, and definitely not playing the ‘what if he’s Autistic’ game that people seem to have gotten from my posts. It’s possible for two people to be incompatible without one of those people being bad, or wrong, and nothing in the LW’s post says to me that there are red flags with this guy.

          • neverjaunty said:

            By this standard, we should never criticize any Darth that people write to CA about. Hey, maybe dude is leaving broken glass on the floor and gaslighting you because he’s living his life in a way that works for him, instead of changing to conform to LW’s needs or “polite society”! Why do people have to be all up in what a bad guy and a Darth Boyfriend he is, instead of just saying “gee, LW, guess you’re not compatible” and leaving our opinions of the dude out of it?

          • msethyl said:

            You know, not for nothing, but lots of assholes claim they are just how they are and there’s no changing them.

        • hummingbear said:

          “Engineer” is a job title, not some sort of mutant race that cannot be expected to learn our human ways. I live in the Bay Area so I know plenty of engineers, many of whom are considerate partners and friends who have made an EFFORT to develop social and communication skills, and know how to converse about topics other than work. This idea that just because someone is gifted at writing code they are fundamentally incapable of being kind and polite is what I find insulting.

          • Jane said:

            Yusss.

            I am raising my eyebrows at a lot of the comments here. I went to two different Engineer Schools. I technically have an Engineering Degree. What my engineering friends have in common with each other in terms of social skills, social preferences, and cultural understanding is exactly nothing.

            Engineering means you probably took calculus, not that you’re a Vulcan lemming from Mars.

        • >> I’m taking a lot of the criticism against this guy personally.

          The letter isn’t about you, though. And I don’t think “maybe they’re really trying!” is helpful to the LW. She’s describing a situation and working through how she wants to respond to it. The intent of the other parties doesn’t really factor.

        • aebhel said:

          The thing is, Engineer is not a character type. Nerd maybe is, to a degree, or geek–God knows I’ve been guilty of going on and on and ON about whatever I’m interested in without checking in to see if other people are engaged, and it’s much worse when I’m around people who share my geeky interests–but it still doesn’t excuse being inconsiderate to one’s S.O. My spouse is not into geeky things, certainly not to the degree I am, but the distinction here is that when he tells me he feels left out, *I make an effort to include him*, either by bringing the conversation around to interests we do share or, if he’s interested in the current topic, by detouring into an explanation that will allow him to participate in the conversation. The problem is not whether they’re talking specifically about work-coding or fun-coding; the problem is the failure to engage–and we have no reason to suspect that they are making any effort to engage LW, unless we assume that ze is deliberately misrepresenting the situation (which I’m not going to do). Which I don’t necessarily fault the dude’s friends for, but I do fault him. It doesn’t make him evil, but it does mean that he’s failing in a particular way. Not *intending* to be an insensitive jerk doesn’t actually function as a get-out-of-jail-free card for insensitive behavior.

      • neverjaunty said:

        Yeah, I mean, I am just as guilty as anyone else of the ‘unable to talk about anything but work with co-workers’ thing, but 1) all of us are aware we do it, and make an effort to catch ourselves to talk TO the SO’s present about Literally Anything Else and 2) for crying out loud, we sure feel obliged towards our OWN partners to say “Okay, guys, Spouse is going to strangle me if we say one more darn thing about this topic, how about that sports team?”

    • Good point, Jill. How LW’s boyfriend handles the boring outings and discussion about it can completely change the context of this situation. Is the group a little socially awkward, and boyfriend’s not sure how to handle things but appreciates you being a good sport? Or, does he seem to have a “deal with it” attitude and makes little to no effort to help you feel more comfortable and less bored? The first scenario is awkward but workable. The second is a bigger issue. I hope it all works out for you, LW! 🙂

    • kristinwitha_k said:

      Yes!

      LW, I was your boyfriend in this, but in a gender reversed scenario. A few years back, my best female friends and I all worked at the same company, and would often find ourselves rehashing work drama at happy hour. But when any of our male partners joined us, we made a concerted effort to drop the work talk and include *everyone* in the conversation. Did we fail sometimes, and inadvertently end up in a work conversation? Of course. But we also then caught ourselves and changed the subject. If your boyfriend won’t do this for you after you point out to him how excluded from the conversation you are, then he is not a keeper.

  9. I definitely understand this. My husband and his friends plays Magic The Gathering on the competition level, and sometimes the conversation gets stuck there. Usually, somebody will notice this and try to change/broaden the subject. Sometimes I change/broaden the subject, and sometimes I make a joke about all the Magic talk. We laugh and talk about other things as well. I like the idea of finding the colleague who seems most likely to break free of work talk, and I also like the idea of bringing a friend.

    Do any of the coworkers have SOs or close friends they would like to bring to happy hour? I’ve made some great friends with other girlfriends and wives who are in the same Magical Boat. We can chat to the side or create more subjects to talk about as a group. More than likely, they have experienced the same situation you have.

    I also agree with The Captain saying you can limit the number of times you go, especially if it does not start getting more fun for you. Like, when I know husband and his friends are getting together to just play cards, I may not join, but if it is a social gathering that would be fun for everybody, I’ll totally come along. You don’t have to go to every outing, and you don’t need an excuse to not go. Good luck with this. 🙂

    • Snickerdoodle said:

      I second engaging with significant others of guys in the group. I had a job with a similar amount of socialization with coworkers, and when my husband came along to happy hours he really enjoyed having someone (typically a wife or girlfriend since I’m am engineer) who he could talk to when the rest of us got too involved in Work Talk.

      I think it’s also reasonable to expect the group to not be engaging in work discussions the entire time, but it would be up to your boyfriend to make that happen. You might have a better chance of that when the group is doing something other than drinking at happy hour, since that is already ingrained as work talk time.

      • Jenesis said:

        Color me skeptical on this…Magic Wives/WoW Widows/etc. sounds great, but only if everyone is making an effort to be inclusive in the first place. If I had a dudefriend/SO whose idea of a fun get-together was “You, Ladyperson, go sit in the corner with Other Ladyperson (who you may or may not actually like) and entertain yourselves with Lady Talk while us dudepeople get to have Dude Talk and ignore you”, that would be a huge red flag. The fact that the other dudes aren’t already bringing their ladyfriends/SOs along to the group indicates to me that either they don’t have any, or the ladyfolk have decided on their own that they won’t have a good time there.

        Also “bitching about how my dudefriend/SO neglects me (while said dude is in earshot)” does not seem like the greatest initial foundation for a friendship.

        • Anna said:

          My boyfriend has X hobby. Shortly before he met me, a good female friend of his started to date a man with the same hobby. Boyfriend suggested a few times that the four of us should meet up. He and his friend’s boyfriend could talk X hobby while his friend and I could talk lipstick. The topic was suggested as a joke, the hanging out was an actual plan. While I like his friend just fine, I suggested to my boyfriend he should just invite her boyfriend and they could talk X hobby together. Eventually they did and a great time was had by both. I was happy my boyfriend had a fun evening and perfectly content not to be there.

        • jaynn said:

          Yeah I’ve kind of been there. DH and I have had a similar problem as most of our friends work together, though it’s easier on him for various reasons. Thing is while a couple others SOs regularly attended I felt more comfortable with the men–I’m a bit of a sf/gamer geek and while the women don’t work together they were both in health care, meaning their shop talk was just as exclusive. Add in some social issues and it tended to be an awkward situation.

  10. Flora said:

    Good answer as ever, Cap’n. Maybe it’s just years of singlehood having washed the last traces of the Kool-Aid from my system, but I’m baffled as to why LW keeps going to these gatherings instead of noping on out, saying, call me when you’re ready to talk about something that’s not work. That and the fact that she’s internalized the “Whiny Girlfriend Who Doesn’t Understand Coding” label (would that be the female counterpart of the 100% reasonable “Dude Who Admires Your Makeup But Doesn’t Want To Talk About It”?) gets my dander up.

    Also, craniest, your answer is genius.

    • LW said:

      This sounds incredibly victim-blame-y and not at all helpful, IMHO.

      • Mary said:

        Except that I don’t think “I don’t enjoy hanging out with my boyfriend’s friends” is in any way comparable to being a victim? I agree that Flora sounds kind of impatient with the LW, but “victim-blamey” is a bit strong.

        I do see where Flora is coming from, though: the LW’s problem does seem a bit “I keep being invited to this thing which is Not Fun, I keep accepting, and it continues to be Not Fun.” It isn’t clear to me whether the LW keeps accepting because this is the only way she gets to see New Guy, or whether it’s in addition to one-on-one time and she accepts because she’s invested in the idea that she hangs out with his friends and meets his people.

        I think if it’s the former, then it definitely sounds like a gendered “and Guy’s life continues as before whilst Girl contorts herself into Guy’s Life shapes in order to be in a relationship”, which is something I did a lot as a teenager and it is boring and annoying. But the only way to stop that is to refuse to play. If it’s the latter, I think the Captain’s suggestions are great for LW to do her best to figure out if there is a way she can make Guy’s friendship group work for her, but that sounds like it’s being driven by her desire to have that kind of relationship.

        If what she wants is a partner who she can socialise with and who will introduce her to a new circle of exciting fun people with fun non-work conversation, this may not be the partner for her. But I don’t think either Guy or his friends are doing anything wrong.

    • Sometimes you need someone outside the situation to say “you don’t have to do this”. I see this all the time with people whose partners want to spend a lot of time with family who are actively awful to their family member’s partner, and they just keep going to these things and being miserable. I always say “DON’T GO!!” I mean, literally you don’t have to go to this stuff but sometimes even people who know better get caught in that weird loop where they’re being included and it feels weird to refuse. Even when what you’re being included in is distasteful.

      • alexcansmile said:

        YES! Even when you LIKE the people you can still choose not to go sometimes. My husbands’ family is wonderful, but sometimes they’re just too much for me. It took me a few years before I realized that I could choose to stay home or do other things instead of go to the fifteenth family thing in six weeks.

        LW – give yourself permission to pass on things that make you miserable!

      • koffee82 said:

        What an insightful comment. That loop is so real! Anyway, yeah, it’s completely not helpful to say “why don’t you just opt out?”

        Also, I feel like in any group situation, it’s pretty obvious when someone is being excluded. They KNOW what’s happening. They know and have decided repeatedly as a group (and dude separately to you) that they won’t do anything about it. It’s a very un-empathetic thing to do, and that earns dude a big red flag. As someone else pointed out above, it’s a power play. He’s basically inviting you so you can play the part of “the excluded one” in their special little club. To be a special little club, there needs to be someone or someones who are excluded from the special little club. Otherwise it’s not a special little club, is it? It’s clique-y and extremely distasteful. Don’t go, LW!

        • Mary said:

          I don’t think I agree with that. The LW says she’s been out with people in the past who never introduced her to their friends, and she didn’t like that. Quite possibly she’s said that to New Boyfriend. So he’s like, OK, I’m meeting my friends, do you want to come? She keeps accepting. If he assumes she’s enjoying it and keeps inviting her, and she keeps accepting, even though he’s like, “yup, this is what we do, we talk about work” – seems a bit harsh to call it a powerplay?

          If the boyfriend was actively putting pressure on her to hang out with his mates and then excluding her, that’d be one thing. But if she wants to do things with his group, but also wants them to conform to what her idea of what a group of friends should be like … I feel kind of sorry for the dude here!

          • neverjaunty said:

            You feel sorry for the dude because his girlfriend actually expects them to include her in conversation at social events?

            Really?

            Even after she’s told the guy ‘hey, your friends and you ignored me for hours on end’ and his response is ‘yep, that’s how it is’?

          • Mary said:

            Well, yeah! Not because people expect him to not ignore his girlfriend, but for being being accused of “powerplay” and that he’s inviting her deliberately so he can feel clever and special and clique-y. I don’t see any evidence for that, and it seems weird to say the LW deserves to be considered in good faith but the boyfriend doesn’t.

            She also didn’t say “hey, you and your friends ignored me for hours at a time”. By her own account, she said, “do you guys talk about work all. The. Time.?” And he said, “yeah”. She’s not brought it up more explicitly because she’s worrying about sounding like Whiny Girlfriend. I do get the sexist crap that makes LW feel like she has to be the Chill Girl and not complain, but equally, if she hasn’t actually said this stuff out loud, then it’s a leap to assume the boyfriend is monumentally selfish or deliberately lording it over her or deliberately ignoring her needs. He could easily be dropping casual invitations, “oh hey, I’ll be at the bar tonight the gang, come along if you want to!” – and just assumes that if she wasn’t into it, she wouldn’t come. She’s not told him there’s a problem or that she’s bored witless. Assigning ulterior motives to him seems pretty unfair.

          • neverjaunty said:

            You said you feel sorry for the dude because LW “wants to do things with his group, but also wants them to conform to what her idea of what a group of friends should be like”, which is, frankly, framing this as an issue of LW barging in and ruining everybody’s good time with her totally subjective views. That’s very different than simply saying that yo, we have nothing here suggesting the boyfriend is malicious.

            LW did say this stuff out loud. And the boyfriend was ‘vaguely apologetic’. So no, it really doesn’t seem to be a case of her failing to speak up, and yes, he does appear to grasp the basic concept that it’s a little unpleasant for the LW to sit there for hours at a time while HER BOYFRIEND and his buddies 1) talk about things that she can’t speak to and 2) rebuff all of her attempts to change the subject.

          • In a situation like this I tend to save my sympathy for the person who is being excluded rather than lavishing it on the dude who is ignoring his gf in favour of talking yet again about Kevin Who Doesn’t Comment Their Code and Robin Who Eats Other People’s Sandwiches Even When They’ve Put Their Name On It.

            Do people comment their code anymore? I stopped dating software developers like 5 years ago.

          • aebhel said:

            I agree with Mary. I totally understand the pressure the LW feels to be the Chill Girl, but I think this could just as easily be monumental cluelessness on his part. It really depends on how he responds if she tells him flat out that she feels bored and excluded.

          • koffee82 said:

            The scenario is that there’s a group of people repeatedly hanging out. One of them is always excluded from the conversation. The one who’s being excluded is the female SO of one of the male person’s who’s definitely on the INSIDE. Group dynamics, gender dynamics are all at play here, for sure, which is why I used the word power play. But lets put that word aside for now. My point is that it’s usually obvious to everyone in a group setting when someone is being excluded. If someone is sitting there not engaging/being engaged in an ongoing conversation, it’s going to be obvious pretty quickly. And we know bf knows she’s feeling excluded. Lets not parse words here. She’s told him in so many words. She also didn’t say she wanted them to conform to her idea of what a group should be like. She’s asking for basic social courtesy here. I think their profession is irrelevant.

            OK he’s not putting pressure on her to come. She’s going of her own volition. I’m not arguing that she’s being forced. She likes this guy and wants to get to know/get close to his friends. Perfectly reasonable thing to want to do. She keeps going possibly due to some internalized stuff, which she admits to.

            OK but lets talk about what he’s doing for a second. He is just OK with her sitting there not engaging/being actively excluded? Why invite her then if he’s not going to engage her or bring her closer to his friends? Is she arm candy? What is the purpose of her being there in his eyes? Why can’t we look at his behavior too? Why is that off limits? Please help me understand how it makes sense to invite someone that you supposedly care about/are interested in and then just ignore them for the duration of the outing? If he’s sitting there in conversation the whole time and she’s not, then he’s ignoring her is he not? I just can’t wrap my head around that. I would feel extremely uncomfortable if I invited anyone to an outing with my friends and they just sat there while we talked because they couldn’t participate in the topic. I just can’t imagine doing this to anyone I liked. It would be extremely hard for me not to notice and not want to do something about it.

          • kat said:

            it is possible to talk about work without excluding people though? you add a little context here, an explanation there, it is really the bare minimum of polite behaviour? honestly, i think letting someone sit silently while you talk around them is just plain unkind. if i try to engage with them and get nothing, i’ll leave them alone, but might check in later.

            lw, you are not being unreasonable! if it happened just occassionally, that would be one thing, but every time? really? even AFTER you bring it up with the bf? avoid the group. the group sucks. the people in the group may be better one on one, as i am assuming the bf is.

          • Mary said:

            neverjaunty, my intention there was to say, “here are two possible interpretation of the situation as described: if it’s the former, I agree that Boyfriend may in the wrong; if it’s the latter, I think it is unfair to blame Boyfriend.” I see that the tenses I chose made it look like I was assuming that A was counterfactual and B was what was actually happening, which wasn’t intentional. What I meant was that at most he sounds like he’s being inconsiderate if it’s A, but I can’t er that he’s doing anything wrong if it’s B,

            I don’t know what you mean by “she said this out loud”? My reading was that all she’s done is ask whether they always talk about work. “Vaguely apologetic” to me could easily mean, “haha, I know, aren’t we sad?” I don’t get the idea that she’s ever said that she’s unhappy or bored when she’s out with them, or explicitly said that his behaviour is wrong. But hey, I do not know the situation so I may be reading it wrong,

      • VioletEMT said:

        Yup! SO and I had the following conversation the other weekend.
        Me: I’m going to Coworker’s going-away party. You’re welcome to come, but you’re not obligated to.
        SO: Do I know this person?
        Me: No.
        SO: Will I know anyone there?
        Me: No.
        SO: Will there be anyone there who’s not a coworker?
        Me: Probably not.
        SO: I’ll stay here and watch . Call me if you wind up needing a ride home. Have fun.

        And it was totally fine.

    • Annalee said:

      Yeah so that label is actually really easy to internalize, given that society at large pushes that message on us constantly.

      When I was in LW’s shoes, I definitely internalized the “Whiny girlfriend who doesn’t like gaming” label–even though I spent several hours a week gaming, and just didn’t happen to play that particular game.

      The fact that women are made to feel like we are whining when we express our needs is not a problem with women. It’s a problem with shitty misogynistic culture that tells us all that men’s needs are real and legitimate (and men’s interests are interesting and important) and women’s needs and interests are frivolous garbage we should not impose on others.

      • Commander Banana said:

        Right? Like I’m not sure how the takeaway from this letter was the the LW is at fault and is the one we should be directing our ire at.

          • Commander Banana said:

            If Doin It Rong is Rong, I don’t wanna be Rite.

  11. sara said:

    Something I think that might give you some perspective here is that this work/friend group has existed before you and this dynamic of lots-of-work-talk-at-happy-hour exists independently of you and is not directed AT you. These very well may not be your favorite events, but I think the solution is probably to stop going rather than expecting all group dynamics to be changed on your behalf. Similarly, my book club is very in-joke-y and we are SO gender stereotypical, and I’m sure my husband would be utterly miserable coming to one of our meetings. But you know what, that’s okay…we are allowed to have friends groups and friend-focused events that don’t 100% overlap! He doesn’t have to love and attend every social thing I do, and vice versa. Similarly, the happy hour-type event that happened at my old job was super job-talk-y focused to the point that I don’t recall anyone ever bringing a spouse or significant other. And that too was fine – people wanted time to decompress and chat about job-related stuff after work, and I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with that. The fact that you seem to be the only non-work SO here (or otherwise I imagine you could start up conversations with the other SOs present at the events?) suggests to me that most of the people in the group do see it as an “extension of work” event and not a “let’s hang out and socialize about non-work things” event.

    I would just be honest with your boyfriend here. “I’ve been really happy to meet your friends, but these happy hour things are clearly very work-focused and it’s hard for me to feel included in that. I don’t want you to stop going! It’s just not my thing. You go and enjoy, and I’ll (do whatever else.) But why don’t we invite Bob and his girlfriend out for brunch next weekend?” I think targetting coupled-up friends of your boyfriend will help, because you’ll have a built in SO to try and redirect conversations and to balance out the dynaimc from 50-work-people and you being the one non-work-person.

    • Yeah, but you don’t INVITE YOUR HUSBAND TO EVERY BOOK CLUB, right? Like, I understand the perspective you’re trying to give LW, but these situations are not analogous.

      • LW said:

        Yup.

        I’m the LW, and I’ve honestly never encountered this situation before, because I am usually really, really good at hacking groups of people. Because of my job. Which is doing exactly that.

        In reply to Sara, yes, I’m aware that this dynamic predates me and will be there long after I’m gone.

        I have friend events similar to your book group and no, I don’t invite him to them, because I know he wouldn’t enjoy himself. Every event I’ve invited him to in my friend group has been 1. an event that is relevant to his interests that I know he will like 2. has involved people I know he has interests in common with 3. has involved me introducing him in a way to bring that out so that there’s a jumping-off point for him to grab onto and 4. has involved lively conversation where everyone in the group is included (one of these get togethers actually included 2 people from his friend group, including 1 work friend, and went fine).

        I don’t want friend groups that 100% overlap. I prefer to keep things more separate than he does, actually, and am pretty zealous about guarding my “my-friends” only time. I always have been; that advice is not needed, trust me. And I am okay with turning down invitations to thinks I know I will hate (sports events, clubs, camping).

        The last time this happened was a winery trip that involved a 2-hour long car ride to and from, plus 3 hours at the winery, which was JUST work talk. The entire time. I do not think it is unreasonable for me to expect that somewhere within a 7 hour outing things other than work in-jokes might be discussed at some point. And I am totally okay with skipping work happy hours most or all of the time, but this was definitely not a work happy hour (and I was trapped at a winery 2 hours from my home with no car. So.).

        • vin packer said:

          Right, and it also sounds like these may be his only/main friends? So it’s not just one part of his social life you’d be opting out on, but the vast majority, if not all of it, right? So, the usual advice about this kind of situation doesn’t apply here–instead, it only underscores the seeming impossibility of the problem

        • VioletEMT said:

          Not going to work happy hour makes the most sense. It’s hard to expect that one to change, and I feel you – it’s why, when I go to SO’s work happy hours, it’s just for the last 45 minutes or so, to say hi and make nice with the coworkers, and then we go get dinner.

          But the winery thing sounds absolutely uncalled for.

        • I think you are totally fine, LW. This is a weird situation and it sounds like this guy just doesn’t have much of a social life, certainly not an enjoyable one (by my standards). I understand the desire to be able to do couple things in a social group that aren’t always you taking him to your stuff, but it’s possible you’re just going to have to accept that while you’re with him, all social group activities are going to be yours, with people who can actually converse with diverse people. It’s pretty clear that not only is he not going to change, he doesn’t see anything wrong with what he’s currently doing.

          I think it would be normal, on a seven hour trip to a winery, to expect to talk about current events, tv shows and/or movies, other wine you’ve had, other wine country you’ve been to, personal experiences with wine, etc. Blaming you for attending an outing that any reasonable person would not expect to be 7 hours of work gossip as though you’re the weird one doesn’t seem reasonable to me.

          In case it wasn’t clear: you are not the weird one here. 🙂

          • LW said:

            Yup. I completely expect to be around work talk during a work happy hour. I am fine with that. I do not think that is in any way problematic. I think a 7 hour day trip could be reasonably construed as being a little bit different than a work happy hour.

        • neverjaunty said:

          Not just work, but work in-jokes. For seven hours. And when you brought this to his attention, he just said yup, that’s how it is?

          Eject button.

        • Jenesis said:

          Hello LW. I am sorry that this thread has been unhelpful, with unwarranted personal attacks. Definitely not what I generally expect from CA.

          The way I understand the situation is: You want to meet SO’s friends because you think that connection is important. SO brings you along to events with his established friend group, but all they do is talk about super technical work stuff. You have communicated your dissatisfaction to SO. At this point, as far as I’m concerned, the ball is in his court. Either he can work out a solution that makes You and His Friends Time possible or he can straightforwardly tell you that he doesn’t know how to achieve such at this time. The Captain has already given you some pretty good suggestions (side conversations, smaller outings with a subset of the Work Stories Group) that he can apply his knowledge of his friends to. It’s entirely possible that some of them literally don’t have a life outside of work (and while I do not work in a tech field, I am an attorney as well as friends with a bunch of techies, so I recognize this does happen), and as such aren’t worth it for you to try to build this connection with, but others might be willing to put the work into getting to know you when they don’t have the familiarity of Work Stories Group to fall back on.

          The vibe I’m getting from his friends is that they’re invested in continuing status quo, and they don’t actually care to get to know their buddy’s new SO or integrate you into their lives (the opposite of where you stand, basically). If that’s the case, then I sadly don’t think that your ideal of a lively mixed-group conversation once in a while is going to be feasible.

          How close is your SO to these friends? Does he talk to them about anything other than work when you’re not around? “Socializes a lot” and/or “Is the primary friend group” =!= “important people to my overall life trajectory who I want to be standing by me when I make all my big decisions.” Is it possible the friend group regards your SO’s non-work-related life as unimportant to their lives, and therefore it’s not actually a big deal if you never get to know each other?

          As a final note, when I’m in these kinds of situations, I am willing to give myself permission to be impolite. “This conversation is boring me.” “I haven’t the faintest clue what you are talking about. So, how about that #SUBJECTCHANGE?” “Chosen Individual, what do you think about #SUBJECTCHANGE to shared interest between myself and individual that I do not know or care if anyone else at the gathering can hold a conversation on?”

          • Myrin said:

            This is a very kind and insightful comment!

        • sara said:

          Ok, yeah, given the winery update, that is super rude on the part of boyfriend/group. I’m now really curious, though…where are all the other signifiacnt others here? Were you the only other SO coming on this trip, and if so, why? Were SOs who were there also ignoring you, or have they all started refusing to come to anything related to this group? Is your boyfriend the only partnered up person in his entire friends group (which probably creates a weird dynamic, I’m guessing, if that is the case)? I wonder if it is possible to host/organize an event that is explicitly SO-friendly (if there are others) and see if this changes the dynamic.

          I mean, it is also 100% fine to say – look, we’re not compatible, I’m not ok with the way I was treated, and I’m out of there. Obviously it is always fine to decide that! Just…if you want to continue giving this a shot, I think you may have to do a little more of the front end work here either in more actively declining events and/or trying to take the lead on designing events that seem like they might work better (maybe, a dinner party with 2 work friends + 2 of your friends?). The process you go through in inviting your boyfriend to events is, like, kind of high level social skills (which you do say you are really talented at). I do my best to make sure my husband feels included in social events with my friends (and do try not to invite him to obvious bad fits), but I am 100% sure I do not always succeed in keeping the conversation lively and making sure I introduce him perfectly, or in perfectly predicting whether events will be a good fit. Sometimes we do stuff where things just do not click, and I trust him to tell me that and not accept invitations to future events with that configuration of problematic things. This seems to work fine for us. Now, it is totally fine to decide that you only want to date someone who has similarly high-level social skills to you, and who is both willing and able to put in the level of effort you do to making sure you fit in with his friends group. But conversely, expecting this guy to suddenly develop said social skills + effort-having is probably not realistic. Not saying that in the sense of “THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT” – just, this is the situation, and knowing you can’t control others, you kinda have to decide where your own boundaries and dealbreakers are here.

        • Light37 said:

          Hoboy. Yeah, I think it’s time to have a serious talk with him, because if EVERY group event devolves into work jokes, that’s a bigger problem than just the happy hours. This is unreasonable and untenable, and if he’s not willing to help make this work, then it might be time for the NopeRocket to take off.

        • Catherine said:

          Is the problem maybe then not the work talk happy hour, but your boyfriend?

          I only ask because I see you doing a lot of mental math work when you bring your boyfriend somewhere:

          “I have friend events similar to your book group and no, I don’t invite him to them, because I know he wouldn’t enjoy himself. Every event I’ve invited him to in my friend group has been 1. an event that is relevant to his interests that I know he will like 2. has involved people I know he has interests in common with 3. has involved me introducing him in a way to bring that out so that there’s a jumping-off point for him to grab onto and 4. has involved lively conversation where everyone in the group is included (one of these get togethers actually included 2 people from his friend group, including 1 work friend, and went fine).”

          If you’re consciously going through this whole thought process when you invite him out, is he doing this for you? Perhaps the problem isn’t that you aren’t included at these happy hours but that your boyfriend isn’t including you? Does he do anything like what you do for him?

          I went through this myself with my boyfriend when I realized I wasn’t having a good time at his family events because he basically just separated from me at the door and didn’t do anything to make sure I was having a good time, unlike what I did for him at my family events. Talking to him what I expected and how he could make sure I had a better time worked for us.

        • Yikes! That sounds horrific

          Maybe it would help if you only saw his friends when Team You outnumbers Work Group?

          • aebhel said:

            I think that might be the only way to resolve it. It doesn’t sound like Work Group is interested in changing at this point.

        • Majikkani_Hand said:

          I think you have every reason to want to meet his friends, and it makes a lot of sense! I suspect that the reading a lot of people are having is that you’re inviting yourself to every Friends thing SO has and then wanting to change what they talk about…which WOULD be pretty WTF (and I see where, from just the letter, that reading is possible, if not the only one possible), but also doesn’t sound like what you’re doing. If I’m reading you right you just want to be invited only to things you’d actually enjoy? And maybe to ensure that occasionally there are some of those things that involve his friendgroup? You should definitely be able to expect the former, and the latter may or may not be possible depending on his friends (because 7 hours of solidly, only talking about work makes me wonder if they do have other topics they’d ever want to talk about). That’s totally reasonable.

          What bothers me is if your SO isn’t breaking away from the conversation to try to include you. I understand if he can’t change what his friends talk about, but he could talk to you! He could talk about something other than 7 hours (7 friggin’ hours?!) of work in-jokes while you slowly melt into your chair! That, to me, is a red flag. If he understands that you’re uncomfortable, but is unwilling to split attention to change that, that is a potential crusher. Even with all my delicious ASD and the serious obsessions that come with it, I can’t sit next to somebody I care about and watch them be bored for hours while I natter on about snakes or parrot care or how goldfish bowls should be illegal without trying to get them involved somehow, even if it means *shudder* talking about sports or something! I hope you can renegotiate that boundary so you don’t have to feel like that anymore.

          I think my strategy, going forward, would be to create an explicit classification of events with him: “work-talk” events, where you just don’t go, or rarely go to the shorter ones (because urrrgh), “mitigated work-talk” events, where it’s probably going to be work talk, but he really wants you to go, so he promises to try to mitigate that by trying to include you and hold side conversations or start a new topic with his friends (depending on possibility) when he notices you staring into your glass like the mysterious old questgiver guy at the start of an RPG, and “friendly” events, where work-talk does not happen or barely happens (like when it’s just one or two friends or a mixed group or for some other reason work talk is not expected.)

          Good luck!

      • sara said:

        I totally agree it is not 100% analagous. But I also feel like it is WAY easier (and happier-making all around) to focus on what you can personally control (i.e. don’t go to these awful events that you hate!) rather than focusing on things that may be very difficult to change (i.e. the entire workplace culture at boyfriend’s office).

        Now if boyfriend throws a fit at the LW not coming to happy hour and tries to insist that she attend even though she is miserable, that is a completely different story! But if he’s amenable to “let’s hang out with coupled up friends from work with their SO in a small-group, non-work related social setting?” What is so wrong about that? It seems like a win-win situation to me…

      • When She Was Good said:

        And if -did- invite your husband, it would be impolite to treat him as invisible. A person shouldn’t invite someone to something and then pretend they aren’t there. Just don’t invite them if you don’t want to make space for them.

    • Feminist Engineer said:

      Thank you sara, for being the only commenter I’ve seen here so far who isn’t blaming the boyfriend for having a social life that the LW doesn’t enjoy.

      • neverjaunty said:

        Wow.

        • kat said:

          seriously, wow.

          • msethyl said:

            Seriously, what is going on today?

      • MellifluousDissent said:

        FE, I don’t think anyone is “blaming the boyfriend for having a social life that the LW doesn’t enjoy.”

        To the extent that the b/f is being “blamed” at all, it’s for inviting LW to join him on ostensibly social outings and then engaging in conversations he knows she’s guaranteed to be unable to participate in, and doing nothing to make her feel included.

        If you’re having too hard of a time with this because of the “engineering” angle, consider how you’d feel about the letter if LW’s b/f and his friends were talking about their fantasy football league, or the vintage sports car they’re restoring together, or the film they all made together without LW, or their interpretive dance class that they know LW doesn’t attend – it’s just not kind to intentionally exclude people from conversation for the entire duration of a social outing after inviting them to join the group. It really has nothing at all to do with the conversational subject, it’s about how LW is being treated by her b/f.

        (And I say this as someone who willingly sits through at least 1 social event per month where I’m the excluded party, because of my H’s particular interest in an activity that he shares with a big chunk of his friend group – the difference in my situation is my H acknowledges when I’m dying of boredom and does what he can do to bring me into the conversation, works to reconfigure certain events so I’ll at least have side-conversation partners, lets me off the hook from stuff that he knows won’t be fun for me, and tries to at least give me nonverbal comfort/attention when he knows I’m likely feeling left out but there’s no immediate way to change the conversation. I’d never ask my H to change his friend group or his social life, but I do expect that if he’s asking me to attend something with him, he’s going to make a good-faith effort to keep me at least somewhat included in the flow of things in some way.)

    • karnemelk said:

      This comment makes several good points, and I would also add that work colleagues getting together for drinks very very often (in my experience, anyway) tend to talk about work. It’s not just engineers or tech people, but people in ALL fields. I think the LW should stop assuming that his friends are doing this because they are “on-the-spectrum-y”, but rather assume that they are just normal people decompressing from work.

      • bad at screen names said:

        I agree. It’s very seldom that you are all together in a context where you talk freely. (or more freely)

    • Elsajeni said:

      Okay, but if your husband said “I would like to meet some of your friends,” would you consider the two options to be:
      1. Invite him to book club, where you and your friends carry on your usual book-club activities as if he weren’t there, or
      2. Nothing?
      I sympathize with the idea that shop-talk happy hour might be a beloved tradition for these dudes that they shouldn’t have to abandon, and I agree with your ultimate advice that the LW suggest some alternate smaller-group plans and try to include other non-work people in them (assuming she decides she wants to keep trying). But I also think the fact that the LW’s boyfriend didn’t come up with some variation on that idea, even when she explicitly asked him if it was possible to hang out with his friends without them talking shop the whole time, is a big red flag related to who will be doing the emotional labor and the thinking about other people’s feelings in this relationship.

  12. Oh man, I feel you. At the same time, I have to laugh. When I met my husband, he was working on his PhD in theology. And when all the theology friends got together, all they talked was high level theology. I know my bible stories, but 90% of it went straight over my head. Now, it doesn’t sound like this is an option for you, because you didn’t mention any other significant others at these “dates,” but I was lucky enough to have many non-theologically inclined spouses to chat with on those nights. Here’s where the laughing part comes in: some of that theology talk must have caught my attention, because 4 years later I’ve start my Masters of Divinity studies. So be careful! You never know where you might end up!

  13. Consolaré said:

    He may be inviting her because she has complained about her ex/told him she wants to be part of his social life and this is all he has. His friends are under no obligation to entertain her. By the same token, she can change her mind and opt out of attending. It might be a good idea to meet some of his family before getting too involved.

    • neverjaunty said:

      This comment does a marvelous job of packing a lot of victim-blaming and missing the point into just a few sentences. Well done, I guess?

      – Nothing in LW’s letter suggests that her boyfriend is only inviting LW because she “complained about her ex” (bonus ew points for sliding the nagging-whining-girlfriend meme in there, btw).

      – It’s actually normal and common for people to want to meet and socialize with their SO’s friends on occasion. You know, as a couple.

      – Including somebody at a social gathering in conversation, rather than ignoring them or talking around them, is not ‘entertaining’ them. It’s basic good manners.

      – His family has nothing to do with this, and ‘if you don’t dump him meet his family’ is a non sequitur. LW has all the information about the boyfriend needed here: his social circle consists of co-workers, and he sees no problem with making LW sit there for hours excluded from conversation.

      • LW said:

        Yeahhh, I have…feelings….about Consolare’s comment. Thanks for sticking up for me!

        I haven’t complained about my ex. However, someone not wanting to/having reasons for not introducing me to their friends at some point is, for me, a personal red flag. YMMV. My position on that is not going to change; I am not interested in being argued with on that point.

        I usually try to introduce significant others to my friends once it looks like things might be getting serious-ish, and I always do it in a low-pressure, social setting around a shared activity that is not something like sitting down to dinner, but attending a street festival or a beer tasting or something, because my friends are an important part of my life and anyone I date is going to interact with them at some point.

        I don’t expect to be entertained. I expect to be treated with the same civility I extend to him and to his friends.

        I have no idea why you brought his family into this, which is 100% irrelevant. They don’t live in the same city, they are somewhat estranged from him, and I have no interest in meeting them at the present time. Meeting people he sees maybe 2 times a year is not as important as meeting people he sees 5(ish) times a week, IMHO.

        • thebewilderness said:

          I agree with you that not being introduced to friends is a big red flag. I think that your friend spending seven hours talking with friends while they ignored you and then telling you that is how it always is, is also a big red flag.
          It is the bf’s inability to grasp that this is extremely rude of him, as your friend, as well as his work friends, that concerns me. I would hit the eject button on a friend who treated me this way.

        • You are displaying such a fantastic and realistic set of expectations around this tricky situation, LW, and I’m sorry that people are being jerkish to you about it. Anyone would think you were scrambled eggs or towels. 😉 Anyway, I think you are doing great, and I hope that if nothing else the comments have helped validate that you’re not the one behaving poorly here. It sounds like you’ve got this.

        • Yeah, your expectations here are totally reasonable, LW. “Please don’t exclude me entirely from all conversation” =/= “Entertain me!”

          My inclination, were I in your shoes, would be to keep an Ostentatiously Thick Paperback in my ginormous purse. I’d try once to change the subject, then make a second attempt along the lines of, “Any chance we could talk about movies/books/TV, or some other subject that I can actually participate in?” After that, I’d pull out the book with the announcement, “If you guys decide you want to include me in the conversation, just tap me on the shoulder and let me know,” and then start reading.

          Obviously, you’re the only possible judge of whether that could be pulled off in a humorous way or whether it’s likely to throw gasoline on the fire.

      • I think the “hurry up and meet his family” comes in because the problem with the SO may be deeper than mere discourtesy at a work-related event. I agree that the LW should learn about his family and see how they roll before getting too involved. Under the circumstances I think it’s a really good idea.

        • Never mind. Just read LW’s reply. Sorry.

    • Kelly L. said:

      Wait, where are the LW-blaming responses coming from today? WTF.

      • LW said:

        Seriously. NOT what I was expecting from this group and definitely not helpful.

        • msethyl said:

          Very weird comments today I think. Why is everyone acting like “do not act like I’m literally invisible” some kind of extraordinarily high bar to clear instead of basic politeness?

          • Mary said:

            I think it must just be one of those letters you can read in very different ways, because I’m boggling at the comments calling the boyfriend clique-y or saying that it’s a powerplay. It just sounds like basic incompatibility to me.

          • neverjaunty said:

            Probably because the boyfriend is a techie and talking to his techie friends about techie-work things.Lots of Geek Social Fallacies/Exclusion Is Bad/Protect the Herd knee-jerking going on, probably with a big stinky scoop of internalized sexism about those controlling ladies trying to insert themselves into the man’s social life and be the center of attention.

          • Kelly L. said:

            I’m kind of wondering if the letter got linked in a forum with a very different vibe, actually, and if the members there are spilling over here.

        • hrovitnir said:

          Man, I’m sorry, there is some epic not-assuming-good-faith going on here.

          This has made me think about how my friends and I almost exclusively talk about biology (we’re final year biomed undergrads, most enrolled for postgrad), however I definitely make an effort to include anyone who is not interested via (a) not *just* talking about biology and (b) trying to limit the level of detail. Because it can be excruciating feeling left out, no matter what the intent.

          • LW said:

            Yup. And I find it kind of baffling, because, trust, I have next-level skills at making people who are usually uncomfortable in social settings/on the periphery feel included and paid attention to. Because that has been my life and it is also my job. What I am talking about is not asking someone to change their culture/friend group/social life, I am asking for a way to let someone know that treating me like a mannequin is actually not okay and that if that’s the way it is and always will be, I will have to peace out now.

          • Mary said:

            I think one of the things about the letter is that the only question is “thoughts?” It’s not actually clear what you are asking for: is it “how do I politely decline my boyfriend’s invitation to be bored out of my skull?” Is it, “how do I tell my boyfriend he needs to pay me a little more attention when we go out with friends?” Is it, “it’s not just me, right? This would be frustrating for anyone else too?” Is it, “is there something else I can try before I break up?” All of those are very legitimate questions to ask! But since none of those are actually directly asked in the letter, I think some people are reading it as, “please could you confirm that these people are really rude, and that me and my friends’ way of being friends is objectively better?”

            I think that’s where the negative reactions are coming from. There isn’t an explicit question in the letter, so people are reading their own question into it.

          • hrovitnir said:

            I can certainly understand reading your own experiences into this, and I think we’re getting some splashback where people already feel defensive and are extra triggered to misread (or uncharitably read) the situation based on some of the other comments.

            I personally read it as “who has practical suggestions as to how I could communicate my discomfort/get a genuine compromise rather than just putting up with being ignored when we see your friends”. So initially I wasn’t going to say anything because basically I had no idea where to go from “I’ve told him and he’s shrugged it off”.

            I really liked the reframing to “the result of the current situation is I am completely excluded when we socialise with your friends. Is there any way some of the time we could do something that makes an effort to be inclusive?” He’s welcome to his own friend time but I think it’s eminently reasonable to actually actively be interacted with when in a group.

        • Anothermous said:

          Yeah there are some seriously weird responses here today. 😦

          LW: my husband is an engineer, and while I’ve never really faced exactly what you’re going through, there are a couple of things I can recommend.

          With regards to the hanging out with his friends thing: what I do is gauge how many people (and who they particularly are) before I accept an invitation. I’m happy to attend happy-hour type things that are groups of 4-5 people (including myself) but when he’s like “Oh my whole team is going out for drinks this afternoon, want to meet us there?” I decline. When it’s that many people from the workplace, I know it’s going to be shop talk all the time regardless of anyone’s intentions to include me so I opt out. When it’s only a few people I can connect better with individuals and get them talking about other things (the woman who loves gardening! The couple with the adorable puppy! The guy whose cousin plays for the Colombian national soccer team!) so that I have better participation in the conversation. Maybe that’s something you could try, if it’s an option?

          And frankly, if it doesn’t work? It doesn’t work. If new boyfriend is incapable of finding ways to include you in his life–including conversation with his friends, then that’s an indicator of how much he values your presence in his life (not enough, imo). Good luck! I hope you can figure out something that works for you.

          • gmg said:

            Maybe you can speak to this, Anothermous, from your husband’s experience, or maybe others can. I got a sense from some of the critical comments above that we’re almost supposed to treat Engineers (capital E on purpose) as a unique and delicate tribe (for lack of a better word, and I hope I give no one any offense) whose entire identity is wrapped up in their profession and moreover whose profession exempts them from needing to even try to meet any social expectations one might have of a fellow human in general. I’m an editor by trade, and I love words, and I’m always fielding resume proofreading requests from friends and sometimes I geek out about grammar with them. But Editor is not the alpha and the omega of Me. So I guess I struggle to understand this POV.

            I have at least one dear friend who is an engineer, and I will admit that sometimes it is hard to get her to speak Non-Engineer to me. But many other times it’s not, and more importantly I love her at all of those times because we have a long-established bond. If LW’s boyfriend refuses to EVER meet her halfway, there’s no chance to establish that kind of bond. And this to me doesn’t reflect his singular way of looking at the world through the prism of his profession — it reflects a simple unwillingness to make her a priority. I do agree with other commenters, though, that this just may be an issue of incompatibility. Some people just want to date people who are more like them; others are intrigued by opposites attracting. LW’s BF is, I think, very likely one of the former, and that’s OK.

          • MellifluousDissent said:

            Can’t nest properly, but interesting question, gmg, and I can’t speak for engineers (since I’m not one), but I’m a recovering attorney, and there’s definitely a strain of attorneys who are Attorneys. I’ve often wondered if it has to do with how much time is spent first becoming an attorney, and then being an attorney – like, you spend hours and hours a week studying all through college so you can get into law school, then you study like mad in law school so you can get good grades and a “good” attorney job, then once you have the “good” attorney job you’re pretty much guaranteed to be working 50-60-70 hours/week, so you end up only having time to socialize with other attorneys (because of proximity and shared experiences), and then you’re seven years out of law school and you only know other attorneys and you are now not just an attorney, but an Attorney, you know? And then you’re in this insulated, self-reinforcing group of Attorneys who “get it” and who normalize the way the field (or at least, a certain portion thereof) operates, and then it can be hard to step back from it all and realize that you’re being pretty non-awesome to your non-Attorney friends/family/loved ones, and using being an Attorney as an excuse for things you maybe otherwise wouldn’t want to be doing to people you care about. So, that was my experience with a professional “tribe,” for lack of a better word, and I’m likewise curious to know if some of the same factors are at play in other industries.

          • Anothermous said:

            gmg–I personally am of the opinion that the capital-E Engineers ideas are over-generalizing crap. Engineers are people, not a monolith. I come from a whole family of sciency academics (both parents have a BS in Math, dad is a physicist, mom has a phD in education, brother is a computer programmer/software engineer & working on a master’s in data science, I myself have an MS in Zoology, etc. and now I’m married to an engineer. 😉 ). There are certain patterns of thinking that are more common among sciency types, and I think certain personality types that are drawn to fields like engineering, sure. There are also certain patterns of thinking that are taught specifically in the sciences & engineering, so that you know the standardized way to approach problems and communicate within the field.

            But some of the ideas I’ve seen tossed around in this thread–that Engineers Are Just This Way and that LW is somehow interloping on his social life?? That does not truck with me. If he’s inviting her to these outings then he has an obligation to be welcoming and inclusive to her, after all, she’s his guest. Not doing so is fucking rude, and engineers aren’t exempt from not being rude because they’re engineers. Honestly, my instinct is telling me that the boyfriend has probably never really bothered to develop a social circle outside of work colleagues, and thus probably Doesn’t Get It. But that’s still HIS problem, not the LW’s.

            Another aspect that’s sort of grating on me is the idea that engineers are ALL ENGINEERING ALL THE TIME and, well, sure there are people (in all professions) whose lives are totally consumed by their work (for good or ill) but that is also not my experience of either my family, my husband, or his colleagues and coworkers. Like I mentioned above: among my spouse’s engineering coworkers we find people who are avid gardeners, who are outdoorsy hiking/camping types, who love to cook, who play musical instruments, who love football, etc. on and on. These folks have PLENTY to talk about besides their work, and certainly don’t make me feel excluded when I spend time with them (they are also NOT all men–side note, one of the green flags for me when I was first dating my now-spouse was the fact that he had many female friends, and has many female friends within his [heavily male dominated] profession). My husband is a guitarist, a dancer, and a fabulous cook in addition to being an engineer. My dad loves jazz music and working out, my mom has read every mystery novel in existence I swear, and my brother jogs, tries every restaurant he can, and has a very large and varied social circle that always has some kind of thing going on.

            tl;dr: LW’s boyfriend’s habit of inviting her but not including her is clueless and/or rude, with neither of those things being because he’s an engineer, and both of those things being his responsibility to fix. I think the Captain’s advice for the LW is excellent, and I do think that if the boyfriend continues to be unresponsive to LW pointing out that she’s being excluded, then that may be indicative of a larger incompatibility.

  14. neverjaunty said:

    LW, one thing that jumped out at me is your statement that you want to give dude a chance because you’re been “very quick to press the eject button”. There’s nothing at all wrong with being quick to nope out of a relationship early on! It sounds like you have a good sense of whether you want to throw good money after bad, and whether a relationship is showing signs that it’s not going to be a good situation for you. That’s very healthy!

    We have this strong cultural narrative through books and movies about how relationships are supposed to start off with a ‘meet cute’ and go through a bunch of obstacles and misunderstandings before turning out to be True Love, because of course in a story you need plot and narrative flow. “They met and it was pretty cool and nothing terrible happened, the end” is not much of a rom-com. But it’s much better for real life.

    Also, if you are female-identified, you’re on the receiving end of an extra helping of nonsense about how it’s your job to manage the relationship, fix all the problems, be the Chill Girl, and not be soooo picky, especially about Things Men Do*, why can’t you just give him a chaaaaaance instead of confidently saying “hey, this isn’t working, but best of luck in your future endeavors”?

    So if you want to hit the eject button, I don’t think you should second-guess yourself by wondering it you were “too quick” by some nebulous standard. If you’re not feeling it, that’s exactly what the eject button is for.

    *There’s an especially vile flavor of this in geek/tech culture, where you’re just supposed to understaaaand that he might be on the autism spectrum and exclusion is bad (except when he and his friends do it to you) and anyway he’s entitled to no pants o’clock because he’s not one of those bro type guys.

    • LW said:

      Yup, true facts. This letter is not the Mean Neurotypical Picking On The Poor Spectrum Folks Happy Hour. I have a lot of experience working with/living with/being related to/being friends with/loving and supporting people with autism, including my beloved mom.

      Socializing with people on the spectrum might bring its own set of challenges but I am asking everyone reading this letter to accept that I am approaching this from a place of good faith and from a place with FAR more first-hand knowledge of and experience with interacting with people with autism than most people I know have.

  15. Gwen said:

    LW, my contribution here as a software engineer is that if you’re feeling bad for not getting it/not understanding coding – consider how it would work if you understood all the jokes/references? Because it sounds like you still like might be like “Ha! Sick emacs* burn, but what if we talked about literally anything else for a little while?”

    My work has been all-consuming for a while (in a bad way), and my husband is a totally different kind of SW engineer who gets most of what I have to say with little explanation, but if I came home and forgot to mention work for a couple weeks, I think he’d throw a party. And if I hang out with a couple of colleague/friends, it can be really hard to keep our workplace intricacies from completely dominating the conversation. It’s pretty rewarding though when I do switch focuses though, because no matter how much I love/hate my job, I get better at it and feel better when I think about other things.

    So, for concrete suggestions, I think the Captain gave great advice. Also: at a former workplace where lots of the people did after-hours hangouts, “sitting around and eating/drinking” hangouts tended to be work-focused, but “doing something” hangouts tended to be focused on the thing, with work asides. Some of them were in a pool league, and a couple were Fancy Wine People, who… liked to switch it up and talk about that for a couple hours. I never fit in with this group, because I don’t like either activity (+ other things).

    But, if you’re interested, maybe if an activity were to be organized (like “Hey Boyfriend, I was thinking of joining an Ultimate Frisbee/Splatoon tournament. Do you think any of your coworkers would be interested in a practice game or 2?”) it could help the potential to build new pathways of conversation with maybe a limited subset of the group. Then you’d also have people at the Happy Hour Meeting that you could chat with about a thing you’ve done together, which help the breakout-conversations approach. (Heads Up: You might then get pulled into the “OMG, wait till you hear what Lucinda [colleague, non-participant] said when I told her all about the Ultimate Frisbee game where Sam [participant] tripped over a dog!” – but it’s still a *change* from the current conversation)

    * Emacs is a text editor, and there are completely ridiculous holy wars over which text editor/Interactive Development Environments are better. For people with partisanship, it still gets old fast.

  16. Zee said:

    “I have been known to hit the eject button on new relationships very quickly in the past.”

    So have any number of my friends who are now currently in happy, healthy, successful long-term romantic relationships. I gave up dating a long time ago but I hit the eject button on new friend relationships very quickly and as a result my friends are all people who make me feel loved, valued, appreciated, and respected. Society pushes a narrative where people who end relationships (of any sort, but especially romantic ones and ESPECIALLY if you happen to be a woman in a romantic relationship with a man – I’m not sure if this is the case here but it’s worth noting in case it is) without having done *everything* and *anything* including making one’s self sick and miserable just to prove that one is no “quitter”, but sometimes things just don’t work out and I’ve never seen the point of unnecessary suffering.

    We’re not born with a finite amount of love and affection which we have to carefully hoard and sparingly give out lest we run out too soon. Certainly you can follow the excellent advice you’ve been given already if you want to, but don’t feel like you have to stay with someone for X amount of time or N number of tries before you’re “justified” or “allowed” to say, “Nah, this just isn’t working out.”

    • neverjaunty said:

      THIS. And it’s not as though you only get a certain number of times that you’re allowed to bail on a relationship early on.

  17. Fishmongers' Daughters said:

    Yeah, this is something I’m super-sensitive to. I’m the person that usually tries to make sure everyone in the conversation feels included. When I’m introducing my partner to mutual friends, I specifically draw him into the conversation when it starts to get clique-y. And in general, I’m usually paying attention to group dynamics and if I notice someone keeps being talked over, I open the space for them to join the conversation because they might be feeling anxious and awkward about it. And increasingly, I have no time at all for people who don’t do the same – or at least something similar – for me.

    So here’s a general rule I’ve developed that I’ll call the 5-minute rule: When meeting a new person, they need to ask me a question about myself, and then either a follow-up question to that, or another general question, within the first five minutes of the conversation, for me to consider them worth more of my emotional investment than the civility I’d offer to anyone else.

    Obviously this has some big exceptions – I’d give longer for a large group, for example. But for the most part, I think this is helpful. If these people show no interest in you, what reason do you have to trust the rate of return you’d get on your investment of time in them? Because there’s no Cool Girlfriend Award that you get for being someone’s arm candy. I think your boyfriend has some responsibility here to make sure you’re included or to understand when you don’t go. So maybe give him that chance by easing back from these gatherings and seeing how he reacts. If it bugs him, you have a chance to explain why it bugs YOU. If it bugs him and he doesn’t accept your very reasonable request that he include you more, be wary.

    People don’t have to be hyper-socially-aware to keep you included. A *nod* toward acknowledging that there is this person in the group who is consistently uninvolved in the conversation, would be really useful to you. Absent that nod, from either your boyfriend or his friends, you really don’t have a lot to work with. I don’t think I’d stay in that group for long, personally.

  18. A friend of mine and her boyfriend are both software engineers, and the all-shoptalk-all-the-time work culture lead them to co-record a song that’s just her whispering ‘Talk about something…other than programming/ talk about something OTHER THAN PROGRAMMING’ louder and louder over a beat. She slips it into the playlist for parties to great effect. More drastic solutions *are* available.

    • embonpoint said:

      LOL!

    • Muddie Mae said:

      ohmigawd I need this for a few different people, slightly modified for each one.

  19. MsBorgia said:

    I am a lady who has a non-technical job in Silicon Valley, so I’ve 100% been in your position. I dated a guy who worked at Famous Software Company and all his friends were his coworkers. They were awesome people and I liked them a lot, but EVERY G-D conversation was about programming or work politics. Now, I *am* interested in that stuff to an extent, but it got boring and exclusionary fast.

    Some things that helped me:
    1) As Captain says, limit your exposure if you can.

    2) Do any of the coworkers have partners or friends who are similarly non-technical and could be invited? I ended up bonding with many of the wives and girlfriends of these guys because we were all in the same boat, and we kept each other entertained.

    3) I’ve found that most geeks are actually really happy to talk to non-technical people about non-technical things, but they do get swept up in Their World easily. Can you get any of these guys on their own and strike up a conversation? For example, I’d go to dinner parties with exBF and one of his friends drove the same car as me, so I would seek him out and initiate a conversation about how much we both hate wiring issues (German cars, I’ll tell ya).

    If you’re actually interested in the technical conversation, geeks also love explaining their work, so you can say “That project sounds really interesting and I’m actually trying to learn more about X. Can you explain why you’d use Y Language instead of Z Language?” (or something)

    4) Structured meetups are better for mingling – we would have semi regular game nights, and while some conversation revolved around work, a lot was also around the game… which I *definitely* had something to contribute to!

    Hope this helps. If these guys aren’t willing to talk to you one-on-one, or ignore you when you try to participate, well, they’re just jerks then 🙂

    • Manders said:

      These are all great ideas. I sometimes run into this problem with my partner (not a tech guy, but an academic in a very insular field with lots of friends in the same field) and I’ve used all these techniques to great effect.

      It might also help to think of these happy hours as de facto work events, even though they’re not happening on company property, and it’s ok to not attend all your partner’s work events. If you want to hang out with some or all of your partner’s friends without the work talk, you can mix them into a different social setting at a time when they haven’t just arrived straight from work, without their own partners, and aren’t surrounded only by the people they work with + you.

  20. Rose Fox said:

    I’m a person whose work and social and hobby circles overlap a WHOLE LOT–I work in SF/F book publishing, basically, and almost all my friends are authors or in publishing and we all read books in the genre. This led to some awkward dinners with my partner J and my mother where I didn’t want to talk about work, so I’d try to talk about books that J and I had been reading or friends that we’d been hanging out with… but those were all the same conversation. And my mother would pointedly interject “I’m sorry, who’s that?” or “Can you explain the context?” or “I’m afraid I don’t get the joke” a lot, and no one had much fun.

    The solution was for all of us to totally avoid discussing things we had in common, and to only talk about our own individual things. I’d talk about something I’d been knitting, which J and my mother don’t do. J would talk about role-playing games or delicious food he’d eaten recently. My mother would talk about the book she was writing or her latest catering gig. Each of us taking a turn in the “let me explain/narrate this thing that’s important to me that you don’t know about” seat was much more comfortable than each of us taking a turn in the “I’m going to watch the two [or more] of you talk about something that means nothing to me” seat.

    Of course this advice is only useful to your boyfriend if he actually cares enough to take it, LW. At the moment it sounds like he doesn’t, which is disheartening.

    The members of the close-knit group have the responsibility to open up that group and make the newcomer welcome. It can be done pretty easily if they’re motivated to do it, e.g. by the realization that you are a human being with feelings. If they don’t realize that, or they don’t find it motivating, then the Captain’s advice to spend your time elsewhere is entirely correct, because to hell with those jerks.

    • Jenesis said:

      I love your narrator seat solution, and it sounds like a great reason for me to continue cultivating my personal hobbies that none of my friends do!

  21. Amber Rose said:

    My husband has a degree in politics. His/our friend that we see most often has a master’s in economics and is working as a lobbyist. The two of them talk about politics all the time. I’m a science person who really couldn’t care less about the political stuff they love.

    Both of them will go off on some discussion I can’t follow fairly often, BUT (a nice big butt) both of them also make attempts to include me where possible, or to change the subject every so often so I can jump in. It’s a compromise. I sit quietly and amuse myself while they can chat about mutual obsessions with the understanding that after say, 20 minutes, or whatever, talk will shift to something I can contribute to.

    I have also gently reminded my husband that if I hear one more word about the election polls when we’re alone, I’m gonna leave him on the side of the highway. 😉

  22. bad at screen names said:

    Do you think that the last couple of guys you were involved with not wanting to introduce you to friends is making you more likely to keep attending these functions instead of opting out?

  23. Julie said:

    Next time, bring a good book. If, after a reasonable attempt to engage with them, you still can’t then open the book and start reading. I’m guessing that the reaction you get will tell you everything you need to know about the future of this relationship.

  24. SassQueen said:

    I’m a physician, with a lot of physician friends. Some of those friends have physician spouses (we tend to inbreed like that) and some of them do not.

    My husband is an architect, and my friend’s husband is a geologist. Whenever the convo gets too technical, one will pipe up with “I color for a living” or “I play with rocks for a living”, and that is the signal to stop Talking About That One Really Gross-But-Awesome Thing that happened that one time.

    Two things:
    1) Come up with some kind of signal that tells your boyfriend to Cool It with the techie talk and let him bear the burden of redirecting
    2) Do any of these work friends have sig others that are non-techie? Do they ever come to these things? Maybe you can join forces and turn the tide of conversation (it’s a sort of a subheading of Captain’s divide and conquer advice).

    • glomarization said:

      I’m a lawyer; my partner is not. This kind of thing comes up for us, too, and his comment is along the lines of, “I think I saw that on ‘Matlock’ once.”

    • MellifluousDissent said:

      Agree with both of these suggestions. Also, coming from the “left out spouse” side of the equation, I’ve started bringing my Kindle to functions where I suspect I may end up excluded from the conversation for long periods of time – busting out a book while everyone else is talking ::insert topic-they-share-that-I-don’t here:: is a bit ballsy, but if the group in question has a sense of humor about their tendency to fall down the specific-interest-rabbit-hole and unintentionally exclude others, it can be a very useful/funny signal – and it’s also a great way to jump-start a new conversation, by way of “Oh hey, are you reading? What are you reading that’s more interesting than specific-interest-rabbit-hole?”

        • MellifluousDissent said:

          Hahaha. Luckily, I’ve known this group long enough now that I can actually say that in response if the mood strikes! (They really are good eggs, just, ummmm, let’s go with “focused.”)

  25. Amtelope said:

    The Captain’s suggestions may work, but personally I would take him at his word: this is how hanging out with him and his friends is going to be for the foreseeable future. Thoughts: 1) Is having some interaction with his friends important enough to you for you to keep hanging out with them, even though you know that will be boring and frustrating? Just, accept that this sucks, but that you’re doing it for reasons that are important to you? That sometimes helps. 2) Could you let go of your need to socialize with his friends except in super-tiny doses: “I’m glad I met your friends, and it’s great that you enjoy spending time with them, but I can’t take the one-topic conversation, so I’m going to pass on hanging out with them.” 3) Whichever of those you do, accept that your boyfriend inviting you to do stuff with his friends does not mean “We’re going to have fun together, and my friends will also be there;” it means “My friends and I will talk about work, and you can be there if you want.” He’s told you this both with his words and his actions. 4) If you skipped all the boyfriend-and-friends time, would there be enough boyfriend-and-you time? Because I think that’s either going to be time when he’s hanging with his friends and you’re not there, or time when he’s hanging with his friends and you’re bored — it’s not going to be quality time with him, and if it’s taking up all the space in your lives that you’d like to be filled with quality time with him, that’s its own problem.

  26. cavyherd said:

    I have a friend who occasionally comes to town. When he’s here, we generally go to dinner with a batch of mutual friends, with whom he is closer than I. Two of this crowd in particular will consistently, through the coarse of the evening, come to dominate the conversation, until all of the rest of us are basically sitting around, eyes glazing, waiting for a break in their discussion/argument so we can, I dunno, go home, or something. And they are absolutely resistant to requests for conversational redirect.

    I finally, somewhat accidentally, discovered a hack that breaks this dynamic so all of us get to participate in the conversation: I just sit between them. (Harder if they’re sitting across the table from each other, but the principle applies.) There’s something about interrupting their sight-line that thwarts their dynamic. It’s fascinating to watch the beta trying repeatedly to hook the alpha (past me), and his frustration at the alpha simply not engaging with him.

  27. Light37 said:

    I worked with a close friend for several years, and we spent most Friday nights hanging out in a group that included his spouse who did not work with us. We came up with a rule- we’re allowed five minutes of “Crazy thing happened at work today” before we all moved to a subject everyone could discuss. Otherwise, somebody’s job was going to take over the evening, which is no fun for the rest of us.

  28. In my view, it 100% does not matter what kind of work the boyfriend and his colleagues do. They could be programmers, or academics, or stay-at-home parents, or anything. When they are out together and there’s someone in the group who is not one of the co-workers, then they need to take that person into consideration and make their conversation at least somewhat universally appreciable.

    Example: I’m a lawyer; my partner is not. When I’m out with my lawyer pals, we grouse about our clients or complain about tort reform or try to figure out how to solve a problem one of us has come across in a case. We indulge in legalese. But when my partner or someone else’s non-lawyer friend or spouse arrives, it’s up to us to welcome that person into the conversation. We cut back on the legalese (or we double down and make fun of it and say things like “the party of the first part would like to order an IPA, please”). We turn to funnier stories about clients (like placing bets on how many cousins we’ll end up identifying in this one case of a guy who died without a will). Or we, you know, quit talking about lawyering and talk about The Walking Dead or what we did on our summer vacations or whether the house merlot might not go better with dinner than that IPA.

    I do think that it is a two-way street. That is, my partner should speak up (to me or to the group) if the conversation drifts back into too much legalese, or we start talking about things really granular to practicing law, such as the advantages or disadvantages of trying a case before a particular judge. But partner shouldn’t have to speak up more than once during that gathering! Or if it does get too problematic, then partner and I need to chat and re-evaluate whether he wants to attend my lawyer-fests, or what kind of balance we can strike. Bottom line, though, if a group of programmers, or academics, or stay-at-home parents, or lawyers are out socializing outside of the workplace, they need to welcome everyone to the conversation.

    • Mary said:

      I think that depends on how often you do it? If one of your lawyer friends started bringing a partner to every lawyer friends meet up, and despite a few attempts to make small talk, you never found much in common with them, wouldn’t you pretty quickly revert back to general lawyer talk and have the conversations you enjoy with your friends and assume that your lawyer-friend-with-partner was going to work things out with partner?

      • glomarization said:

        I think there’s a difference between engaging in small talk, and shifting a conversation from lawyers’ shop talk to a more universal-ish topic of general interest. If a non-lawyer partner can’t engage in a group’s conversation about last week’s Philadelphia Eagles game, or where they went during the weekend the Pope was here, or which city farmer’s market they like, then maybe hanging out with their partner’s social circle isn’t a good idea, no matter what profession the social circle shares.

        I like to think that my lawyering social circle is polite enough that if someone’s partner came along and didn’t have much to say, we wouldn’t just let them sit at the table and stare at their water glass for a couple of hours while we engage in shop talk and ignore them. (“Dear lord, we must be boring the pants of off you, talking about the Attorney General having her law license suspended. Who cares! So, has anyone been to the new Fillmore music venue yet?”) But if they can’t or won’t participate in a non-shop talk conversation? I don’t see what the group is supposed to do.

        • Mary said:

          >> maybe hanging out with their partner’s social circle isn’t a good idea, no matter what profession the social circle shares

          Yeah, that is very much my response to the question! It sounds very frustrating and annoying for the LW, and I think the boyfriend is pretty clueless for not realising that his friend group is probably not a very fun place for his new girlfriend, but I am confused by the general idea that there is something wrong with the group for not having alternative topics of conversation to hand.

      • neverjaunty said:

        Speaking as another lawyer here, what you just did is called ‘begging the question’.

        LW didn’t say anything about showing up to every single happy hour,. She did not describe having the work friends try to make small talk that she didn’t reciprocate. She DID say that the topics of conversation are always things to do with their work that she isn’t familiar with (like in-jokes) and about people she didn’t know, and added that she has herself tried to take the initiative in steering the conversation to more general topics.

        So, to answer your question: No, Glomarization’s very good answer doesn’t depend on ‘how often you do it’.

        • Mary said:

          She doesn’t say anything about frequency, just that boyfriend invites, she accepts. So yeah, it could be once in every ten meet-ups, every other time, or every time. Either interpretation is possible.

          I just find the idea that this group should significantly change their dynamic to accommodate someone’s partner coming along to their meet-ups odd. They meet up and talk about work. It’s what they do, and what they’ve always done. Maybe they actually don’t have anything else in common they want to talk about. Maybe they are poorly socialised. Maybe they are unhealthily obsessed with work. There’s nothing actually wrong with any of those things. Sure, that makes them very incompatible with the LW, and it sounds frustrating and boring for her. But they aren’t doing anything malicious or abusive by continuing to interact the way they’ve always interacted. So no, I don’t agree with Glomerization that a group of work mates “needs” to change the way they interact just because one of their number has invited another person.

          People up above have compared it to a book group, or a band rehearsal. If someone came along to a choir practice and then complained that we spent the whole time singing, the answer would be, well, yeah, that’s what we do. We aren’t going to stop doing that because one of the tenors invited his boyfriend and the boyfriend doesn’t sing. So maybe the boyfriend is being clueless by presenting something as an opportunity of social interaction when it *is* actually a work meeting, albeit one with booze. It sounds like the LW has plenty of evidence that this is in fact what her boyfriend does when he socialises and this is how his mates interact, and I don’t get the insistence that the friends are in the wrong. Why can’t they just be incompatible?

          • Kelly L. said:

            OK, so if you were invited to join someone’s book group, and when you got there, everybody was playing guitars instead, and ignored any overtures about the book? And you don’t play the guitar? Wouldn’t you think they were a little rude, especially if they did this repeatedly? She’s being invited to a social outing and they’re talking work. She’s not horning in on their actual work meetings and trying to ask how they felt about the latest episode of Gotham.

            I don’t think anyone is saying malicious/abusive–but rude, yes.

          • neverjaunty said:

            When LW is coming to the meet-ups at her boyfriend’s invite, she is part of the group. Having a new person in the group already changed the dynamic because the group itself has changed. It is rude for a group of people to deliberately ignore one person, to deliberately engage in conversation that excludes that person’s participation, and to rebuff attempts by that person to join in the conversation.

            Let’s ignore for the minute that ‘socializing with friends’ or ‘visiting wine country’ are a less specifically-directed activities than choir practice. If your tenor deliberately brought his boyfriend along without telling the boyfriend “by the way, this is going to be choir practice, all we do is sing” ahead of time, and the boyfriend ended up sitting and staring at the wall for hours while everybody else sang, I doubt you’d have any problem realizing the tenor was being a bit of an ass toward his boyfriend.

          • LW said:

            We’re going to have to agree to disagree. I don’t expect people to not talk about work at a work happy hour. I don’t expect work friends to not talk about work when they hang out. I do think it is reasonable to think that at some point during a 7-hour outing, a topic that is not 100% work-related insider baseball – and not the type of general work rant that most people can glom onto – might be mentioned.

            I do think it is realistic to expect someone’s partner to make a skootch of effort to make sure they’re included, even if it’s just by introducing people with a tidbit of information one can use as a jumping off point for conversation, if they have invited someone onto an aforementioned 7-hour outing with no escape route.

          • It could be that there’s a fundamental misunderstanding about the nature of the gatherings. Maybe the co-workers see them as continuations of work, while LW and/or LW’s boyfriend see them as more social than work-related. But LW has been invited to attend. If the gatherings are open to group members’ partners, then the group should make their conversations open to the partners who attend. (And I do still contend that it doesn’t matter what kind of work they do together.) If they want to have gatherings where all they talk about is work-related topics, then I hope the group doesn’t take it personally when LW or other invitees decide that they have better things to do with their time — and people who are more polite than them to hang around with.

          • Mary said:

            LW, I think it is completely reasonable to expect those things, and I did not mean to imply that you are unreasonable for expecting them! I just don’t think it is also unreasonable for the other people to think that this is a work meeting with work people where we talk about work stuff, and, huh, OK, Geoffrey seems to have invited his partner who does not talk about work stuff, but I guess that’s the Geoffrey and his girlfriend’s decision, fair enough, but I am here to talk at work stuff with my work people and that is what I will do.

            I just think that it is possible that what you have here is a clash of both-reasonable-but-different-and -incompatible expectations, rather than a group of rude people who don’t know how to human. You obviously know the situation much better than I do, though!

      • Amtelope said:

        Yeah, I do wonder if part of what’s going on here is that the boyfriend’s friends think of this as “hang out and talk about work time,” and are not really on board with turning it into “conversation of general interest time.” I have friends for which “let’s go to a winery” would carry the unspoken understanding that it meant “let’s go to a winery and spend several hours talking about the books we’re writing.” I hope that if someone else joined us, we’d be more polite than these guys and find other topics of conversation, but having someone else join us on a regular basis and expect us to change the conversation to topics that would include them would really not be welcome.

        It’s possible that LW could draw some of her boyfriend’s friends out one-on-one, or try inviting them to events on her own turf including people they don’t work with, where hopefully she can get them onto a setting other than “talking about work.” And, absolutely, these guys are being rude, and her boyfriend is being inconsiderate by inviting her to things and then talking about work the whole time rather than paying any attention to her. But I’m not sure these guys actually want to have “conversation of general interest time” or to get to know their work friend’s girlfriend, and I’m not sure LW is ever going to enjoy these guys’ company.

        • neverjaunty said:

          Hence the eject button. Life is too short to date people who don’t fucking notice or care if you’re being ignored and excluded by the social group for seven freaking hours.

          • msethyl said:

            SEVEN HOURS oh my god I cannot EVEN.

  29. Dear LW:

    The Captain’s answer makes good sense to me.

    Here are some other thought.

    – This is a get off my foot situation in that it doesn’t matter why BF and friends are rude, it matters that LW has pleasant times

    – Try avoiding the miserable happy hours for a whil, and don’t twist yourself in knots around his schedule.

    – Try having a date night during the week and a date night on the weekend. Set both in stone.

    – Throw a party. At your house.

    – I am a software engineer. I am a dinosaur (except I know lots of SEs older than I). I don’t act like your bf and his friends. My male engineer friends don’t act like your bf and his friends.

    – He may be incompatible with you. Certainly anyone who’s out with work friends 5 nights a week isn’t compatible with everybody.

  30. stayce said:

    LW, as someone who lives in the Bay Area, I feel you. Also, in my experience if you ever collect three or more people who are really into the same thing (whether that’s being a theatre geek/engineer/hey-look-we-all-like-the-same-sex-stuff-and-don’t-have-a-ton-of-boundaries) it can really turn into an evening of shop talk, and in this area techies are often encouraged to spend all their waking hours either working or ‘kicking back’ with their team members. There have been a ton of good suggestions here, and as both a highly literal person and as someone dating a highly literal tech guy, I would like to encourage you to try the Captain’s suggestion of explicitly asking your bf for help managing this problem and seeing what happens. You can tell him that you feel left out, and even if the people are nice, sitting quietly while people talk about programming snafus isn’t fun for you on the regular. It might also be good for you to suggest one or two things you would like to see happen, like dedicated date nights or inviting more non-programmers on outings. This dude may or may not be your dude, but I bet his answers to your request will show you 1) whether he is willing to compromise and work with you so you get what you want and 2) whether this is the kind of relationship and social circle you want. You don’t have to merge with the Tech Hive Mind if you don’t want to.

  31. jd said:

    This is not an engineer thing, honestly. At my last workplace we were all close friends and when we went out to socialize, talking about work (that thing we all had in common and was a huge part of our lives) was natural and hard to avoid, though we tried not to torture our SOs too much. I’ve had a similar dynamic in many workplaces, none of which have been engineering related, many of which have involved professions stereotyped for social skills (which is to try to sidestep that entire generalization, not to feed into the idea that engineers inherently lack social skills). Even when we really made an effort not to be TOO much about the work stuff and the in-jokes, it’s hard to go against the natural grain of the conversation, especially when that stress release valve was actually really important to us and part of why we were socializing.

    Let the work socialization be what it is. It’s working for the people it’s meant to work for. But that doesn’t mean you need to keep doing something that isn’t working for you! I think you and this guy need more, different options for socializing as opposed to changing these work-buddy outings into something they weren’t meant to be. Would guy be willing to do a smaller get-together, maybe have a couple of his closest friends come over for a small dinner party with some of your friends over as well? One trick to containing “work talk” is to make sure the event isn’t dominated by the people who work together (assuming there’s even remotely a commitment from the people involved to talk about things *other* than work, which… remains to be seen! Outside of those work social events, maybe there is). This definitely requires this guy to be more flexible and understanding than just throwing his hands up and saying “that’s how it is!” though. If he can’t do that, well…

  32. kat said:

    can i just mention that if i tell an so something is a problem and they respond with “this is how it is” that is a big no for me? just in general?

    • Muffin said:

      YUP. +10000000000. I recommend taking this at face value, too — when someone says “This is how it is,” they mean “I’m not going to change this, so if you stay, you’re agreeing to put up with it.”

      LW, I also want to second (third? fourth?) the people who said that being willing to Nope out of a relationship early is a superpower, not a weakness! I would’ve saved myself so much angst in the past if I’d had that power. If the relationship is this much work this early, I think Noping is a good plan. You want your partner to be someone who runs toward you when there’s a problem and figures out how to mesh their life with yours, not someone who expects you to remold yourself and your needs into their life like… well, forgive the analogy, but like you were engineered to fit.

      Ordinarily I wouldn’t post such a unilateral comment, but what with all the negativity here, I figure it bears saying: LW, *you have a right to be listened to and your needs matter.* Your partner should figure out how to be a better host and partner, regardless of career path.

  33. Gingerspice said:

    I’m a philosopher, and my boyfriend does logic-y stuff. (I do not, I’m on the more literary side of things.) When he and other logic-y people are around, they tend to jump into convos about logic naturally. There were times when I got deeply frustrated about this, and ended up talking to my boyfriend about it.

    There is so much that depends here. I do think there is an important difference between him inviting you to times when he *wants* to talk shop with friends, and times when it’s a generalized social activity. Maybe he sometimes invites you to those social gatherings thinking, ‘I miss LW, and wish she were here!’ but isn’t really realizing that you’re not having a good time? There could be lots of debate about whether or not he *should* sense that, but let’s just assume he doesn’t, and that his response that amounts to ‘yup this is how it will always be’ means something like ‘we all just get really into talking about work (or need to blow of steam or or etc.) so it’s kind of inevitable’ instead of ‘hush up and accept it.’

    In other words, the Captain’s advice was fantastic, and I’d only add to that that you should maybe just be direct with your boyfriend. My partner and I had to have a few conversations about this before he realized that I felt alienated. Now, he will let me know if I should expect it, and I can decline in advance. Or, they’ll have a certain amount of shoptalk time while I’m there, (like 15 min) and then they move on. His friends were pretty great about accepting this. (Especially when I ‘joked’ at a conference: okay you guys either need to teach me logic so that I can join in, or we talk about something else.’ They apologized and we moved on (even though I would have been totes down to learn about logic).)

    (And at parties where there are a bunch of people, I sometimes leave them to it and go talk to other people who can engage with me about literature/politics/whatever.)

    My partner was awesome about it, and we figured out how to account for me and my needs. If you talk to your boyfriend directly and he isn’t up for helping to troubleshoot the problem, and acting like that’s a thing he cares about doing, that will tell you a lot about whether or not you should bail on this relationship.

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