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.