Dear Captain Awkward,
I think my partner has a big Geek Social Fallacy problem.
We live together in a small house in an expensive area where lots of people live with parents or roommates. So, ever since before we met, he’s hosted huge blowout theme parties for his entire geeky friendgroup. He always encourages them to bring new people and expand his social circle. Partner enjoys being The Cool Fun Host.
Partner was a late bloomer socially, had terrible ostracizing experiences and some related depression issues, so now he’s trying to make up for lost time. He wants to be as inclusive and welcoming as possible. Which sounds great in theory! He’s big-hearted and just wants everyone to be his friend.
When I first moved in with Partner, I enjoyed these parties — organizing them, coming up with themes. But the more comfortable I became thinking of it as “our house” instead of “partner’s house”, the more protective I’m becoming of my living space. The more I dread the thought of prepping the house for a destructive messy horde of nerds and cleaning up after them and yielding my space for a night. I’m finding I’m enjoying hosting smaller, more controlled gatherings.
On top of this, our good friend recently pointed out a Missing Stair in this friendgroup. Missing Stair has made a few people uncomfortable, and, who knows, may be driving away others. But we just know a couple of anecdotes, and while Partner admits Missing Stair is a jerk, he doesn’t know where he should draw the line. Because inclusivity. And Missing Stair hasn’t done anything egregious and maybe a few people just don’t like him. Partner isn’t comfortable disinviting _anyone_, much less this specific Missing Stair, because he knows how it feels to be uninvited and it’s evil and horrible.
So how wrong and awful does Missing Stair have to be for Partner to disinvite him? And how do we balance how much control over the parties I get to have? Obviously I think Missing Stair should be uninvited right now. But these are still mostly Partner’s parties, even though I help host and I live here too. I hate feeling like I’m trampling all over Partner’s fun and trying control everything now that we live together.
Normally Partner and I are great at communicating, but he has a terrible blind spot here.
Spoiler: You are not being unreasonable.
“Missing Stair” gotta go, y’all. It sucks to be excluded because of stuff you can’t necessarily control when you are a child, but being sidelined from social events for bad behavior as an adult is a reasonable and predictable consequence of behaving badly. These folks always think they’re being disinvited unfairly because they Once Loved Dragons Too Much, but the appeal to everyone’s ostracized geeky teenaged self is disingenuous when it’s about creepy present-day chosen behaviors. “So how wrong and awful does Missing Stair have to be for Partner to disinvite him?” is a scary question. I mean, how wrong and awful DOES someone have to be? What will he have to do? Harass someone? Assault someone? Speaking of fallacies, are these really the terms your partner wants to play on when you’re talking about inviting someone into your home?
To be clear, someone who is a jerk to you and to your other guests does not deserve an explanation before being left off once and future guest lists. However, if it’s important that Partner give Missing Stair one more chance/the benefit of the doubt, then he could talk to him directly about it, like, “Missing Stair, at our last couple parties you were doing x, y, and z (specific behaviors) that made me uncomfortable. I want to be able to keep inviting you to events, but for that to happen I need your word that you will stop doing (those specific things).” If Missing Stair apologizes and promises to be cool, then maybe he gets another chance. If Missing Stair derails that conversation by demanding to know exactly who was which exact brand of uncomfortable, Partner can say, “Well, that’s unfortunate to hear” and then stop inviting him. Partner should keep the talk to things that make him uncomfortable (even if the behaviors named are based on hearsay) and not invoke “the group” or “unnamed others.”
If Partner knowingly keeps inviting Missing Stair without addressing the bad behavior, and Missing Stair keeps doing his jerky thing, then Partner is knowingly subjecting his other guests to that behavior, and he hopefully won’t be surprised when some very cool people drift away from his scene because those parties have stopped being fun for them.
And let’s back alllllllllllll the way up for a second. “I don’t like Missing Stair and I‘d like him to not be invited to parties where I live because his behavior makes me uncomfortable FULL STOP” is not about your Partner’s revulsion at the thought of anyone being excluded, it is about your own comfort in your living space. Are you really not “allowed” to request this because of Partner’s desire to be Lord Bountiful?
The rest is gonna be a series of conversations, Letter Writer.
Conversation 1: “I am getting overwhelmed by the size and frequency of the gatherings at our house lately. I know they mean a lot to you, and I enjoy them too, but I’d like your thoughts on what we could do to involve smaller groups on a rotating basis and outsource or involve the group more in some of the party prep and cleanup when things are at our house.”I think you can approach this in terms of a talk about best-case scenarios and laying out a positive vision for how & when you want to open up your home, together. “We both like hosting, but we have different styles. Can we do it in my style more often, and your style more rarely (but make it more awesome when we do)?” You could have smaller events with friends once a month and do some more social stuff out of the house, and then do a bigger thing once or twice a year. Some of the great nerds I hang with recruit Party Supervisor/XOs who wrangle the potluck contributions, pass the hat for $ for cleanup & groceries, and delegate tasks to the cleaning crew so that the actual hosts don’t have to do that much besides “have neat house with big space.” Don’t drill too far into these specific suggestions right now, just put the general thing out there and see what happens. The goal is to a) make your needs known and offer up a few suggestions that might meet your needs better and b) put the ball in his court for following through on making this work for you.
Your partner will say some stuff, and if that stuff is about his feelings and doesn’t eventually incorporate some version of “I hear you, why don’t we try (solutions) for a bit and see if that’s more fun and manageable” then it’s time to cut the conversation short and try again another time. “Partner, why don’t you think about it for a bit and we can check in before the next time you want to plan an event. I definitely want to support you and to see our friends, but after the last few events I’ve felt overwhelmed and I’d appreciate it if you can think of some ways to make hosting more sustainable for us.”
Scripts for Conversation 2-infinity, when a plan is coming together:
- “Can we keep the guest list to 10-15 people for this one, and make it clear that’s what we’re doing?”
- “Are there some people in the group who would be willing to take on some planning & cleanup duties on a rotating basis?”
- “For parties of more than x people, could the group pitch in a few $ to hold it offsite?
- “Can we treat ourselves by hiring a service for cleanup?”
- “I would prefer that Missing Stair not be invited, and that if you still want to see him sometimes that you find a way to do that outside of our house.”
- “Last time our guests really made a mess. What do you think we could do to remind people to be more respectful and careful of our space?”
- “I want this to be fun and sustainable. What can we do to make it easier on ourselves?”
I hope y’all can work something out that lets you enjoy your home together. Keep this strategy in your back pocket, too, if things don’t immediately get better: For the next big party or two, you’re totally allowed to go visit distant friends & family and not help at all with prep OR cleanup OR jerk-wrangling. “My house full of loud people” = OH LOOK, VACATION TIME. I think if you did that all the time it would speak to some incompatibility between you and your partner, so I don’t recommend it every time unless you really, really need to bail, but it might be good for him to be reminded of how much work everything actually is and for you to give him some space to initiate some changes.
176 thoughts on “#784: The Geek Social Fallacy Host – Missing Stair Guest Relationship”
I think that part of what makes the Missing Stair situation uncomfortable might be the fact that the culture of these parties doesn’t seem to be that you have to be specifically invited to be welcome (“He always encourages them to bring new people and expand his social circle”), which means it’s not a question of not inviting MS but of specifically disinvite him. It’s still a completely resonable thing for the LW to ask for, but I think it increases the difficulty level of both their conversation with partner and partners conversation with MS a bit.
Great point. I think making them invite only with a closed guest-list will be a culture change for the LW’s partner and the friend group, and may involve some kind of announcement on the invite. “As parties have gotten bigger, we’re tightening up the guest list for now – consider this event invite-only, and if you want to bring someone else, run that by my first.“
I totally agree with this. It seems like making it invite-only will really take a load off Partner when the time comes for the next party, which Missing Stair will hopefully not be at.
I don’t really understand how some people’s experience of bullying can lead them in the direction of protecting people who are treating others badly and making them uncomfortable. When I was a child I was frequently bullied and mistreated and generally no one stood up for me, and I was usually unsuccessful in standing up for myself. When I had a similar experience with a person in a club as an adult, who deliberately intimidated me in small ways repeatedly, one of the most painful aspects of the experience was that for such a long time he was included and ‘worked with’ and invited to everything and given senior roles in things and I (and the others in my situation, as I wasn’t the only junior member who he targeted) had to keep feeling intimidated because it would be ‘mean’ or something to kick him out.
The boyfriend isn’t being kind by including this ‘missing stair’ who makes others uncomfortable (I really wish there was more info on what you this entailed, but I personally heard it as a euphemism for behaviour that makes others feel unsafe or unwelcome), he’s abandoning the friends who are suffering at this guy’s expense.
It’s quite a “logick” trick, isn’t it.
Don’t be a bystander, folks. In the bully-bullied-bystander trio, the bystander is very powerful, and often the bully is reliant on the bystander’s cooperation to facilitate their bullying.
Yep. “All that it takes for evil to prosper is for good men to do nothing” &C.
Much of my deepest, white hot anger and hurt is not reserved for the bullies that marked me for life, but for the people who stood by and watched, or even encouraged the bullying. Those faces are burned into my memory. Being tormented and tortured is bad enough, but knowing that nobody cares enough to stop it is devastating.
Yeah. You never, ever, *ever* forget what it’s like to need help and have everyone around you keep walking.
I’m a teacher, and it’s probably one of those too-close-to-the-problem things, but one of the newer approaches to bullying that seems to be working better than absolutely anything else is invoking the power of a bystander. It’s great because it’s effective and also empowers the kids who otherwise aren’t sure what to do.
Intriguing. Could you sum up? I’d love to hear about this, if you’ve got a minute.
There are specific scripts that certain programs hand out, and of course if you pay them lots of money they will cure your school of bullying forever. But basically, the scripts can be summarized with, the bystander should say, hey, Thing You’re Doing (name the action to the one doing the bullying) isn’t okay. Stop doing it. Come on, Kid Being Bullied, let’s get out of here. And if necessary, both should report the incident rather than one or the other, so that there are two accounts.
It’s not a perfect system, but it’s about as effective as anything I’ve seen. There’s something about knowing that, even if the bully turns on the other kid, you now have two people that will advocate for each other, that seems to be a good deterrent. As well, I always address it with kids like, “Have you ever been the one seeing something that wasn’t okay, and didn’t quite know how to handle it, so, didn’t? (Yes, of course) Have you ever been the victim in a situation like that and seen people walk the other way, or pretend they don’t see you, or even laugh? Did it matter in that moment that those people probably just didn’t know what to do? Of course not. These people you see being victimized don’t care that you don’t know how to speak up. All they see is you not saying anything. So quit telling yourself that makes it okay.”
Exactly. And if the bystander points out that they can see exactly what the bully is doing and that it’s not ok, sometimes the bully will disinvite themselves, saving the host the trouble (in a huff, acting persecuted, but they’re away from the person who they were making uncomfortable and that’s what counts.) It happened once at my grandma’s, when she invited a heap of her friends round (including one guy who had a history of bullying behaviour towards her other friends but she didn’t dare disinvite him). All I did was state that I thought he was being unreasonable towards another of grandma’s friends and out he stormed in a huff because I wasn’t just meekly ignoring his nasty behaviour. Everyone else had a lovely evening which they wouldn’t have had if he’d been there behaving badly all night, and they said so. It felt awkward and rude to have done that not being the host, but not as bad as it would have felt to just let poor grandma’s friends be steamrolled every time they opened their mouths.
And I think it’s strange to think that someone “can’t” change their behaviour if it’s making other people uncomfortable. It can take time and reminders, but I know I’ve made a conscious effort to change how I react in some situations because I’ve been called out on crappy things I’ve said or done. No one is perfect, but if you say “When you do this it makes me uncomfortable.” and they say “Why are you being so sensitive?” that’s a pretty big red flag.
My mantra when receiving criticism or feedback is “People don’t give you feedback unless they think you are capable of change.” I always try to hear it as a good sign – they want you in their life, they appreciate your good qualities, they just hope that you can maybe stop being a jerk every so often.
> “People don’t give you feedback unless they think you are capable of change.”
Nice! I’m going to remember that, because feedback is usually uncomfortable, and good news is always welcome.
Agreed! I really like that.
“People don’t give you feedback unless they believe you are capable of change” – yes but caveat: some people are just abusive.
Yes! Absolutely important and I should have included that in my comment. The “I just want you to be the best you can” message is often used by jerks who want you to know you’re just not good enough.
A teacher I really respect basically said the same thing. He will only correct people 3-5 times on any one thing before he stops because why waste his time giving them feedback they clearly don’t care about at all? Especially when he could be helping other students who do want to learn and improve.
I know exactly what you mean. I’m autistic and I’d have to learn to adapt if I wanted to be able to pass as neurotypical and, over the years, it made me realize that most people don’t know how to be self-aware or how to change themselves on that kind of level.
Ooooh, I like that! I sometimes get really anxious when given negative feedback (even when I know it’s totally warranted and good), and that’s something I’ll try to keep in mind! I think it’ll help me retain my reason.
A missing stair is a problem person or thing in your life/social circle that you work around instead of repairing. There’s a link in the letter that explains more!
Agreed. I’ve noticed this and it seems like some kind of “good instinct gone wrong,” with some really problematic consequences. In the linked “creepy dude” article (which I’ve practically got memorized now, having sent it to so many friends), the captain makes this great point about stepping in close and humanizing the creeper, while the accused is de-humanized. That IS a huge part of rape culture, but it’s maybe also the same thing that makes people defend bullies even when they were bullied themselves – the minute people start talking about confronting someone/enacting natural consequences for a person’s actions, the natural thing is to make DAMN sure you’re being reasonable. We’d rather err on the side of benefit of the doubt, and there’s virtually ALWAYS room for doubt, even if “doubt” = “but maybe he didn’t meeeaaann it!”
I don’t think that changes the necessary actions here (see comment on the creepy dude thread: You need to get off my foot. ), but it makes me a bit more sympathetic to LW and Partner’s situation(s). Enforcing those kinds of boundaries is HARD, or CA wouldn’t be doing this blog. We’re talking Advanced Socialization and Self-Attunement and Celebration skillz, which Partner is still working on. I’d just emphasize the captain’s advice to maybe give Partner some time to think this over if he’s resistant/apprehensive/defensive at first (of course, provided he doesn’t take that apprehension out on LW). Here’s wishing you maximum fun and comfort in your new(ish) space, LW. 🙂
We’d rather err on the side of benefit of the doubt, and there’s virtually ALWAYS room for doubt, even if “doubt” = “but maybe he didn’t meeeaaann it!”
I think it’s also important to get over the idea that right- or wrongness depends entirely (or even mostly) on a person’s intentions. Intent is relevant when considering how you respond to a problem situation, but it has no bearing whatsoever on whether a behavior itself is acceptable or not.
If I hurt you by accident you’re just as hurt as if I did it on purpose, after all. It just means maybe you take precautions around heavy objects (or whatever) next time instead of charge me with assault. And if I hurt you by accident a lot, then you shouldn’t keep hanging out around me and dangerous objects all the time just because it feels more “fair.”
Lawyer here: even Reasonable Doubt (the standard in the US for criminal convictions) doesn’t mean “removes ALL possible doubt” There’s always room for “Maybe it was aliens.”
Just food for thought!
And that ‘benefit of the doubt’ is almost never extended to the person being bullied, or to anyone who has less privilege.
We’d rather err on the side of benefit of the doubt, and there’s virtually ALWAYS room for doubt, even if “doubt” = “but maybe he didn’t meeeaaann it!”
It also doesn’t help that so many of us were told that well, they just secretly like you. Or they must be sad people with low self esteem and you should feel sorry for them (research says nope, actually). And you should just ignore them, they’re just doing it to get attention.
And when the only type of consequences you’ve seen for (often entirely unspecified) bad behavior is complete, vicious ostracizing you don’t have a model for setting healthy boundaries or for having an actual conversation involving telling someone their behavior is unacceptable.
Also, your adult social life isn’t a court of law, where fairness and ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ apply.
“I don’t really understand how some people’s experience of bullying can lead them in the direction of protecting people who are treating others badly and making them uncomfortable.”
This times 1000. Yes, “I was bullied” =/= “protect bullies”. But most adults don’t seem able to boil the Missing Stair situation into this bottom line, that it is bullying.
LW, try pointing this out in so many words to your partner.
I think it’s some master’s tools/master’s house stuff, not a straight “I was bullied so I should protect bullies.” Like, to some degree they get that maybe this person’s behavior* doesn’t deserve protection, right? But even once you fully grasp that there’s no protection warranted here, I can sort of understand the instinctive revulsion for the idea of singling out and excluding this person.
Doesn’t mean it’s right, of course. But I think the issue isn’t “I want to protect this person,” it’s “I don’t want to do the things I’d have to do to effectively STOP protecting this person.”
*You know, to whatever degree they recognize that the behavior is even happening/is as serious as it is/etc.
Right, it’s a failure to understand that ostracism is a tool that can be used for good as well as bad.
And also, a lot of grown-ass adults haven’t internalized that they are allowed to stand up to bullies. We’re not ten years old and dependent on the whims of a teacher or other adult to get permission to say “Bob, you need to stop groping people or you are no longer welcome in my home.”
And also also, there’s that subset of dude who deep down doesn’t really see anything wrong with certain Missing Stairs.
I think there is also an underlying fear that if you allow ostracism in your social circle, that it will be arbitrarily be used against you lije when you were a kid. I’ve always thought that the “excluding people is evil” GSF came in part from a desire to create a reality in which exclusion just never happens, so that you never have to fear it.
I’ve seen this stated explicitly in science fiction circles, with the argument that harassers shouldn’t be banned from conventions because being a science fiction nerd was the “community of last resort” and the banned would have no place to go.
I actually moved cities and cut ties with a community that I was very close to, because they refused to excommunicate a member who was being creepy, rude and rape-culturey to me and all the other queers in the group. They had some “feelings meetings”, one of which he didn’t show up to, and in the others he showed up drunk and insulted me straight to my face. Everyone made excuses for him and told me my expectations were too high. He eventually escalated to physically assaulting me and when I asked that he be excluded from activist events because I was actually afraid of him being violent, and terrified to see him in person, they responded by asking me for another feelings meeting – with him present! Since he partcipated in every event in my small city, I ended up completely shut out of the scene and ended up having to move to get over my fear of running into him anytime I left the house. This SUCKS, so hard, and while I doubt that LWs missing stair is as bad as the Winnipeg communist scene’s missing stair, you still gotta get him outta there.
Wow, that is completely sucktacular. I am so sorry that happened to you.
This might be a way to reach the LW’s SO, I think. “SO, I know you want to be inclusive and correct a lot of the wrongs you encountered when you were a child. But right now, including Missing Stair is not a neutral choice. You are choosing to be a bystander when he is a jerk to our guests, instead of standing up to him when he bullies them. I know it’s way more difficult to choose the comfort of several guests who would otherwise just leave when the alternative is confronting someone who’s always around, but when you’re hosting a space, you’ve making an implicit commitment to make sure it’s safe and welcoming for more than just one person.”
This is an excellent script, and a great way to reframe!
I mean, it did take me a fair amount of time and social skills levels to figure out what part of my childhood/teenage social ostracization was because other people were being jerks to me and what part was because I was doing things that made them uncomfortable. (And most problems were both to some degree—more understanding people might have taken me aside and told me what specific behaviors weren’t working instead of closing me out.)
And on top of that, a lot of what it took to level up my social skills was increased exposure to group situations where I felt comfortable and unconditionally accepted. There was a book (lost in the mists of my memory) where one character was described as “She always assumed that everyone would like her. Which actually did make her well-liked—consider the alternative.” When someone is convinced by past experience that others are not going to like them, and feels desperate to prove they’re likeable, a lot of shitty behavior arises.
I’m not defending Geek Social Fallacies, but they arise naturally as part of the social skills leveling-up process. The next step after Geek Social Fallacy: Include Everyone is exactly what the Captain suggests: get to the point where you can 1) trust your own read of the social situation (“oh, I feel uncomfortable around that guy, but it’s probably just because I’m awkward” is real), 2) identify the specific problem, and 3) set boundaries with the person whose behavior is a problem.
I like to use the “assumed everyone will like her” thing in my real life– not so much assuming that everyone will like me as assuming the best of the world and finding that often the world will rise to meet my expectations. Which in turn was one of the things that let me start looking critically at my own behavior when it came time to start leveling up my social skills; I was used to things generally turning out okay no matter how awful they were in the middle, and that absolutely certainty that things generally worked out in the end made it much less threatening to start looking at how I was contributing to things being particularly awful in the middle.
My theory is that ex social “pariahs” and late bloomers can occasionally lag behind on developing healthy boundaries for themselves; when they feel that they have been treated wrongly and excluded they might over correct by “never letting any one else go through that” *cue heroic fist pumping and waiving flag in the background*. Or at least, that’s how this situation sounds like, there could also be a bit of scarcity mentality in place, like “if I start rejecting people and asking for stuff in return they might go away!!”. Don’t know, I’ve been dealt my fair share of awkward in this life, but my response to bullying and picking was either feigning ignorance or acting standoffish and stingy to get people off my back, so I managed to at least learn the basics of the Art Of NO. As for people who might have gone through social isolation differently, or who developed different defense mechanism, I can’t say.
The reason it goes that route is that nobody ever sees themself as the villain in their life story, even when they are. They are always the hero. So, when Missing Stair is excluded, it never seems to Stair as “because that thing you did creeped Pat and Terry out, and when it was pointed out to you, you tried to pretend you didn’t do it” — it is always, “Because these so-called friends are JUST LIKE the so-called friends I had in grade school/high school/college, and took me up just for the sport of making me like them and then dumping me for NO REASON!” (Spoiler: it probably *is* the same as what happened in grade school/high school/college, not in that Friendgroup is mean but in that Old Friendgroups learned of their Missing Stair problem and fixed it.)
Since Stair now believed that Friendgroup is just out to get him like everyone else always did, he will have a vastly easier time persuading Friendgroup (or at least LW’s partner) that Partner, LW and this Friendgroup are all bad, bad, evil meanies who just get their jollies hurting people. Missing Stairs are often *excellent* at gaslighting and social manipulation.
Everything in this comment, alas, I learned the hard way through having a violently abusive partner. When she nearly murdered me and we broke up, she managed to take virtually our whole Friendgroup with her by convincing many of them that I was a big meanie for having called the cops on her after she beat and smothered me, dislocated my eye socket, etc.
I’m so sorry to read that happened to you. That’s awful.
Jedi hugs, if it helps. You are kind to share the story to help others.
“I don’t really understand how some people’s experience of bullying can lead them in the direction of protecting people who are treating others badly and making them uncomfortable.”
I think it’s more that good (geeky) people are inclined to empathise with people who have a sad story about their childhood or teenage years, and some people who behave badly like to blame their bad behaviour on their awful childhood/adolescence. Sometimes the misbehaving people play up My Daddy Never Read Me Bedtime Stories as a calculated move to play on people’s sympathy. Sometimes they just haven’t reached the point where they figure out that My Daddy Never Read Me Bedtime Stories may be the origin of why they behave badly, but *continuing* to behave badly is a conscious choice that they, as an adult, are making.
The logic of “protect the missing stair kid! I was bullied once” is mystifying to me.
I once stood up for someone against a big ole group of people (all the popular kids vs. one non-neurotypical girl? Yeah, cool, Thanks high school) which subsequently lost me all of my friends (and my first boyfriend) and meant that i was ignored for years in a small country town (“we thought you were cooler than that. you’re a disappointment” thanks, assholes)…. yeah, i still take a hardline.
if someone is proving to be a problem, there’s definitely call for a solution.
If you raise your concerns and he gives you any variation of “But I am the one who legally owns this house, so my opinion matters more and you should be accommodating” then, if you currently have shared finances, I advise you to open a bank account in your name only and put a small amount of money in each month so that you have a just-in-case cushion.
Beware people who invite you to move in and encourage you to think of it as “our space” when everything is going well, but quickly recast it as “my house” whenever there’s a disagreement about the living space and they need a trump card.
That may not be an issue here (I hope not!) but if you have the conversation and it goes that way, be careful. If you ever break up you may find yourself rapidly without a place to stay. I have seen it happen to too many friends.
“Beware people who invite you to move in and encourage you to think of it as “our space” when everything is going well, but quickly recast it as “my house” whenever there’s a disagreement about the living space and they need a trump card.” – We shall hereby name people who do this “Exes” for they are impossible to live with for any length of time.
Ah haha hahaha. As I was reading Mir’s comment I was thinking “my ex” and then the Cap’n as usual nailed it.
See also “family”. Ugh, living with my sister and sharing rent for an apartment and her pulling that crap…*shakes head and grimaces*
Pretty much any time somebody describes something as “ours” but switches to “mine” when they want to exercise power over you, it’s time to tell them “I’ll leave you to it, then” and separate yourself from the issue (and, unless it’s a one time thing and they get over it quickly, then).
I think such a bank account is a good thing to have regardless.
When I lived with others and things went sour, I always moved out and left them with the place. Now that I own the place, I cannot do that. I had a terrible house guest recently who initially we thought might become a permanent housemate, but eventually made me feel very unsafe. In the interest of morals I gave them a month to get out (the first two weeks of which, they pretended like they would not have to leave, so I set a deadline). I ended up crashing with friends for the last week of it.
So, I think what I’m trying to say is, it is good to have a backup plan, and being a home owner but also trying to stick up for yourself, have needs, and set boundaries isn’t necessarily easier than being able to just leave.
It would suck if LW and their housemate were incompatible due to issues around throwing large, open parties. That wouldn’t make housemate a bad person for having this specific need. It was known about before LW moved in. LW didn’t know it would be an issue, and its reasonable that they’ve discovered that its an issue and want to look for a resolution (and they should ask for a solution, and I do hope they find a solution that meets both of their needs). But, if housemate and LW can’t find a resolution, then they shouldn’t live together long term. And, well, if housemate owns the place, you can’t very well expect him to be the one to move out.
To clarify: I think platonic housemate situations are often quite different from partners living together in the context of a romantic relationship, because it adds an extra layer of complexity – moving out is one thing, but add a breakup to it and it becomes more fraught. Not to mention that in a housemate situation it is usually very clearly one person’s house, and that person is renting to others. In a romantic relationship, there is often the understanding that the home has transitioned from belonging to one person to belonging to the couple.
And yes, if they ever did break up, LW would likely move out. But someone who is reasonable* does what you did – gives the person notice and time to find another safe arrangement, even if it’s just crashing on a friend’s couch. What I’m saying is that I personally have seen a link between people who are quick to assert property rights to win arguments (despite asserting joint ownership at other, more peaceful times) and people who are willing to dump someone out on the street with all their stuff at 2AM when things go sour.
Obviously some people move in with partners and there is no assumption that the home has become joint property. One person owns the home and that’s clear. And if that’s clearly laid out and works for everyone, that’s fine – the problem is people who say it’s a home that belongs to both of them…except when they want a trump card. Those people are often the same ones who resist adding a partner to a deed because “we don’t need paperwork! We both know it’s our house!” but if the relationship ends the tune changes. It’s the deceit that’s the problem.
*None of this applies in the context of abuse. As far as I am concerned, abusers are entitled to zero notice and can be kicked out at any time, with police intervention if desired.
I agree that adding romantic context makes it more complex. I couldn’t date that person for the same reasons that I couldn’t live with them, and there was a breakup shortly before the “and I can’t even live with you” decision (and the breakup had included “these things need to change if you’re to keep living here”, and from my perspective, those things didn’t change, even if from their perspective those things had changed).
> In a romantic relationship, there is often the understanding that the home has transitioned from belonging to one person to belonging to the couple.
Hm. This may be a cultural difference. When I start romantically dating someone (especially in a poly situation), I don’t expect them to own half my house, even if they move in. That’s marriage or paperwork for me. And, before owning my home, I dated someone who owned their home. And they very much also didn’t think that I would own part of their home just because we were dating. I didn’t deal with repairs, I didn’t deal with trying to rent it when we moved across the country, and I didn’t deal with trying to sell it later. I helped when asked, because we were dating. But, often they didn’t even tell me what they’d decided to do with their house before initiating doing it.
> people who are willing to dump someone out on the street with all their stuff at 2AM when things go sour.
hm. That is very illegal where I live. We might be spoiled here with a lot of renter’s rights, but I’m grateful for it. Renter’s should have basic rights, and one of those is notice. By sleeping continually in a place long enough, you become a renter even if there is no contract signed and no rent paid.
> Those people are often the same ones who resist adding a partner to a deed because “we don’t need paperwork! We both know it’s our house!” but if the relationship ends the tune changes.
oh. Yeah. Again, in my social community, dating doesn’t imply ownership of the house changing, even if it is both people’s home (home implies renters rights to me, but not property owner rights). Marriage or paperwork is when it becomes both people’s house in addition to both people’s home. So saying “its your house! Except legally!” would be super weird. It is your house, or it isn’t.
But, culturally we’re moving in around here before getting married, sometimes by a few months, sometimes by a few years. So the breakup but living together but not getting a divorce thing is not terribly unusual.
People who want to marry but not give both parties half ownership are … well, my extended family has one of those and it gives us a red flag (nothing to be done about it though; not our circus, not our monkeys). And, I’ve seen married couples who both want to keep their incomes and ownership of stuff separate, and it works great ’cause they talk about it and both want that and tell other people that, and I can’t explain why but the red flags don’t go up for me there.
> *None of this applies in the context of abuse. As far as I am concerned, abusers are entitled to zero notice and can be kicked out at any time, with police intervention if desired.
Emotional abuse is incredibly hard to pinpoint or even explain, so around here I think one still has to give notice of a sufficient amount. Which is why I crashed elsewhere. So, yes, have backup plans of where you can go for a month whenever you let someone into your house for 30 continual days around here, even if you own the place.
Physical abuse is something the law seems to recognize, but I think you STILL have to give sufficient notice to get someone evicted, and having the cops come by your house too much because you’re being abused can get YOU kicked out for allowing abuse in your home. So, unfortunately around here, I’d recommend still having that nest egg to use to live elsewhere for a month, even if you own the house. Which is awful. The law is sort of a blunt hammer though, and not very good at enforcing morality.
I think relationships and living arrangements can be set up in a myriad of ways and you’re right that they look very different depending on where you live and who you’re with. In my immediate social circle, much like yours, property and relationships are not assumed to be intertwined necessarily, but in many more traditional areas, that assumption is alive and well.
Whatever the norms, I think the truth is that people can be in relationships (romantic or not, sexual or not) and share property, or they can have separate property. Both can work. The thing that’s important is that everyone is honest about the situation and can plan accordingly.
The core danger I was trying to raise a flag about is a partner who’s unclear or dishonest about the situation. As I discovered in a previous professional context, it’s unfortunately fairly common for romantic partners who own property to move in their new beloved and say “all of this belongs to both of us!” and encourage their partner to act accordingly (not divert any of their earnings to personal savings, help with repairs and home improvement, center the relationship in all their plans for the future, etc), but meanwhile this person reserves all actual legal rights and in the case of a breakup does an abrupt about face and says “What? I owned it all along, you’re entitled to nothing.” I have worked with people who spent 5, 10, 20, or even 50 years living in a home they thought was half theirs, only to find out upon a breakup that they had no legal rights.
All of this obviously depends on where you live, and the laws and cultural assumptions. Where I’m from (Canada) common law couples (who cohabit for at least 1 year, but not married) have many of the same rights and obligations (child custody rules, potential for property division and spousal support upon breakup, etc.) as married couples. Where I live now, common law partnership doesn’t even really exist as a relevant legal category. And yes, the law is a terrible device for ensuring decency. Being aware of the particular rules that might apply to your situation is good way to empower yourself when making life changing decisions about property and living arrangements.
As for the renter’s rights thing: you’re right that renters have rights in some places (where I’m from it’s illegal to evict someone in the winter) but it’s enforcement of those rights, especially in informal situations, that becomes tricky. And in many other places they have few rights at all.
As for the abuse situation – defining abuse can definitely be tricky in some situations, and navigating a separation with an abusive person is difficult in a hundred ways, for sure, but since my comment on that nature was an aside, I don’t think I’m going to expand on it here. All I was trying to say is that people who are hurting or intimidating others have a different and much smaller set of rights, in my mind, than people who are not.
“I don’t expect them to own half my house, even if they move in. That’s marriage or paperwork for me. And, before owning my home, I dated someone who owned their home. And they very much also didn’t think that I would own part of their home just because we were dating.”
It’s not just about ownership of the property (though, with long-term cohabitation that involves splitting bills & mortgage payments, there are certainly legal arguments to be made.) It’s about responsibility and personal investment in the home. I’ve seen the dynamic that Mir describes play out like this (many, many times):
Homeowner has steady Partner and invites Partner to move in. They don’t sign any paperwork (no lease or cohabitation agreement) or really even talk about ownership/veto power, etc., but Partner is paying some portion of the bills. Over time, Partner becomes financially and personally invested in the home with Homeowner through redecorating projects, garden projects, co-hosting events, new furniture purchases, wrangling assorted repair/service vendors, sharing chores, and just in general living together and managing the home and household together. They both talk about it as “our” house and “our” home, even though, Homeowner is the only one listed on the deed. They hit some kind of snag about how to live in the house–a disagreement similar to what the LW described or maybe something like “should this extra room be an office or guest room?” or whatever. Instead of working with Partner to come to an agreement or compromise, Homeowner says, “This is MY house, and we’re doing it MY way.”
Oh.My.God. I know this is a derail, but my partner and I dropped a friend once who started out as “nice guy on our sports team” who turned out to be a. racist and b. homophobic. But the first red flag was visiting the apt he and his girlfriend lived in and everything was his and nothing was hers or ours.
So, yes, what Mir said.
I have been made homeless twice by shitty roommates with this exact mentality, it’s the Worst.
Along these same lines, this might be a great time for LW to look into the legal ramifications of living with partner, and maybe drawing up a legal contract about rights and responsibilities (if feasible).
Last year I lived with my partner in his house, and he was financially supporting me. After I moved out of partner’s house, we realized that if we had broken up I could possibly had sued him for alimony simply because I was dependent on him financially in the context of a romantic relationship. We had a backup plan for moving me out if our relationship soured, and a clear understanding of who owned what. Still, I wouldn’t live with him without consulting a legal professional. I’d prefer not to get hit with surprises as I walk out the door.
My Dad does this to my Mum and has done for 20+ years. They’re still together. Money is still a point of control. It’s pretty horrifying.
tl;dr DON’T WALK RUN
Am I the only one that had a little bit of shoulders to ears “I want to choose my partners friends” from this letter writer? I guess the only thing I would add is -I don’t want to is the only reason you need not to hang out with someone. Absolutely. But that applies to you. It isn’t the only reason you need to make your partner not hang out with them.
As for the party suggestions, absolutely see if you can get a person in to do the preparation/cleaning up after. I never realized how common this was until I started going to bigger/advertised niche interest parties. It seems to help a lot.
Not really, because the only friend the LW complains about is the one who has made people uncomfortable and behaves like a jerk.
I think you get to keep your jerk friends, but I don’t think you get to inflict them on your partner.
which, incidentally, it doesn’t even sound like the Missing Stair is a particular friend of the LW’s partner — just that the partner is really, really invested in not excluding ANYONE, even if he doesn’t like them very much.
Which is a problem. You end up with people in the house that neither host likes, which is never a good thing.
There’s a huge difference between “I don’t want you to bring X to our house because I don’t like his interests and the way he laughs” and “I don’t want you to bring X to our house because X is a jerk and is making people uncomfortable.”
LW’s situation sounds like it is firmly in the second category. As LW says, even Partner acknowledges X is a jerk.
I guess this may be an incompatible definition of space. Because I basically think that you don’t have the right to say “you can never bring them to our space.” The LW has the right to decide who they spend time with. But this seems to be going beyond that. Can and should LW find something else (like out of the apartment else) do when he’s around? Yes. But saying “you can’t invite them even when I am not around” is controlling to me.
To be fair, I have concerns that LW and partner may have different enough views on what home should be that it may be a bigger issue.
You absolutely and without exception have the right to exclude anyone you want from your space.
Yes. If it’s both if their home, that means no one is allowed in the home unless they both agree to that person being there.
THIS. It’s my *home*, where I *live* and have a reasonable expectation of feeling safe. I have absolutely every right I could possibly need to exclude people from my home, as does my husband. If we had a roommate, they would have that right too.
I will admit that it is entirely possible to sneakily control who your partner is friends with by deciding you don’t want Missing Stair in your home, and then deciding that you don’t want them invited to any offsite parties you and partner host, and then deciding that you absolutely must have partner’s attention when they were planning to meet Missing Stair away from your home, but given the total lack of signs that LW is doing that I don’t think it’s worth worrying about at this time. LW just said that they didn’t want Missing Stair in their home, not that partner was never allowed to hang out with someone who they admit is a bit of a jerk anyway.
I’d gone out of town for about a week, and while I was gone, my roommate (who had essentially moved out 4 months previously but was still listed on the lease and paying half of the rent and bills for the remainder of the year we were renting together), offered her room to her ex-bf when he came to town to look after their son because Reasons. I don’t know what I would have said had she asked me if that was OK before he stayed there, but as it was, she told me after, and about how he was big ol’ creepy jerk about her one boundary for his stay. I told her that he was not allowed to stay there ever again. He wasn’t even doing anything to me or my things but had no respect for her or her stated boundaries, and I absolutely did not want someone like that in the space in which I was the primary resident.
Exactly. Personal space is really important to me, and if I didn’t have final veto power over who came into that space, I’d feel very unsafe.
Yes. I think it’s controlling to say “You can never see Missing Stair again,” but even that is acceptable in some circumstances.* It is a reasonable boundary to say “Missing Stair makes me uncomfortable. He is not to be in our home.” One of those statements is about controlling the relationship between Partner and Missing Stair. The other is about keeping the space safe for the LW.
*I would expect a partner to cut ties with someone who hurt me in a very deep, intense way. I expected my parents to cut ties with the parents of my stalker, because that friendship led to my stalker getting more information about me, leading to more stalking. Once I explained, my parents gladly cut the ties. This wasn’t controlling or mean–this was my parents prioritizing my safety and happiness over a casual friendship. I’m sure it would have been much more fraught if it involved, say, my parents’ best friends. Giving the boot to acquaintances because a parent/child/partner asks you to is can be completely reasonable.
My understanding is that these are joint parties, that they host together and are both there for and clean up for. In which case I think either has every right to veto guests who make them uncomfortable.
But one solution is to make it more like what you’re describing – partner hosts his larger parties by himself, and does it when LW is away for a few days.
Though obviously the LW has no obligation to agree to such a plan if they DON’T want to be away, or if they do want to be part of the party.
But the issue here has nothing to do with this Missing Stair person being at the house when LW is not around; the question is whether or not it’s okay to have them at parties that the LW hosts.
And again, it sounds like like Missing Stair’s behaviour makes people feel unsafe and uncomfortable. If this were all about personality conflicts and people who didn’t get along very well, I’d agree with you completely. But this is not about someone who’s just abrasive or have a bad sense of humour: as soon as someone starts making people feel unsafe, having them over stops being a matter of personal taste and starts being an issue of respect for people’s need to feel secure in their own home.
If someone makes me feel unsafe, I do not want them in my space. Because if they came to a party in my house, they’d be using my bathroom and able to rifle through my bathroom things and maybe drop their coat on my bed and maybe spit into my favourite breakfast bowl and maybe sneak into the room with my underwear drawer and open that and … UGH.
Even if they don’t actually do that – even if they wouldn’t do that – the very fact that I am afraid of it would mean that I don’t want them in my space, whether I’m there or not.
For me, one of the biggest indicators of a successful relationship is paying attention to your partner’s fears and taking them into account. My partner and I have different thresholds in many ways, and what matters isn’t that my style is restricted: what matters is that we both feel completely safe in our home. When the answer to ‘are you comfortable with x’ is ‘no’ then _we don’t do it_. Whatever x is. Even if I think there’s absolutely no way that x could possibly go wrong I do not do it in my partner’s space because my convenience does not trump their discomfort. Ever. And that’s a voluntary decision… why *would* I want to do otherwise?
“When the answer to ‘are you comfortable with x’ is ‘no’ then _we don’t do it_. Whatever x is. Even if I think there’s absolutely no way that x could possibly go wrong I do not do it in my partner’s space because my convenience does not trump their discomfort. Ever. And that’s a voluntary decision… why *would* I want to do otherwise?”
This is excellent and applicable to so much.
I basically think that you don’t have the right to say “you can never bring them to our space.”
Every single person on the planet has the absolute, unassailable right to feel safe and comfortable in their own home. Everybody. Nobody has the right to say “You can never ever see that person again, I forbid it”, that’s not on, but that’s where it ends. Living spaces are sacrosanct, personal space should be inviolable, not somewhere you end up trapped in the company of someone who scares you, intimidates you, or is just a vomitwaffle.
I don’t understand how an unwanted guest could possibly have more rights to be comfortable in LW’s home than LW does.
It happens when you are supposed to be “The Host” when you really just want them to Go The Fuck Away, and they don’t, and don’t, and stay a few more hours…. We are trained to be polite, meanwhile the Missing Stair guest is just there to Have A Good Time. And may or may not realize that they still behaving like a total Dick, because they think they are soooo funny. Partner really needs to show them the door…
“I will bring whoever I want into our shared space, regardless of how they behave or how you feel about that” is controlling.
“Because I basically think that you don’t have the right to say “you can never bring them to our space.” ” Say what? If it’s “our” space, fuck yeah you do. The Man is not the boss.
And to reiterate: No one even likes this clown. He’s become a barnacle on the group and Partner is feeling guilty for considering leaving them out. I get that. It happens. Lots of people know they should cut someone loose but after a certain amount of history, it feels “mean.” That’s the only obstacle here.
I’m not sure there IS a big difference. It can be X’s horrible laugh and interests that make them a jerk.
Also I strongly believe that a guest list has to be ok with both hosts. If X is someone LW doesn’t want around, then X shouldn’t be invited.
Yeah, I’m with you. I don’t want to hang out with Mr. Eerie Cackles whose favorite hobbies include picketing abortion clinics and telling women to smile, and I don’t want to invite him to my parties.
And sometimes someone can be doing absolutely nothing technically “wrong” and you still don’t want them at your parties, and that’s okay, too. It is always better to be able to own that someone is triggering crackers-eating feelings for you and that you’d rather minimize your exposure.
Past roommates and I have had a successful “If you invite so-and-so over, I need at least 48 hours notice so I can be in my room with the door closed/wearing headphones/elsewhere” pact that worked pretty well.
Sorry, I’m not sure I understood your comment properly. Are you saying you got a sense that the LW wants to choose hir partner’s friends? Because I didn’t get that from the letter at all — just that LW doesn’t want Missing Stair in hir living space. And the Captain covered that with “I would prefer that Missing Stair not be invited, and that if you still want to see him sometimes that you find a way to do that outside of our house.”
Yes I did see that, and to me that is still choosing friends and control-y in a way that I find creepy and would ride my nopetopus away from. I am usually 100÷ on board with the advice here, but this letter gives me hives.
I’m not sure I understand. If the home is going to be a safe place for everyone who lives there, it only makes sense. LW shouldn’t have to deal with someone zhe finds toxic in hir own home. It’s not like it’s so hard for Partner to go have coffee full of bees with Missing Stair at the apiary around the corner, should Partner so desire.
For example: my own partner and I each have a particular food that absolutely disgusts us, down to its smell (if we’re standing next to someone eating it/smelling it cooking), to the point of vomiting at times. For me, it’s bananas. For Partner, it’s parsley. I love parsley and Partner loves bananas, but ours is a parsley-and-banana free home. If I go out to eat without Partner I eat things with parsley in them and brush my teeth when I get home. If Partner happens to be gone for a week on business I might make garlic bread with parsley on it. But I’d never bring parsley into the home while Partner is there or ask him to leave so I could have parsley-fest.
Is the LW supposed to leave parties in their own home where literally everyone they know is invited so as not to appear controlling, but “Hey can you talk to your bro about his creepy behavior if you want to keep inviting him to our parties” is too controlling? Saddle up your nopetepus and enjoy your friends who creep out the other party guests, I guess?
I read this a little wrong at first and thought you were advocating creep-only parties.
Quis odiet ipsos odibiles?
Except that it’s not controlling or creepy to prefer that Missing Stairs or other people who make you feel unsafe do not enter your living space, even when you are not there.
I completely agree with this. For me, if it’s a place I live, I don’t care if I’m there or not, I STILL don’t want Creepface in my living space. My things are there. I don’t trust Creepface and I especially don’t trust Creepface around my things.
I’ve got a friend my husband doesn’t like. She came to a couple parties at our house, drank too much, behaved badly, and made a lot of people uncomfortable. We are still friends. I see her at events that are not at my house. I do not invite her to my parties, because when I am the host I want people to be comfortable.
And it’s not a “you’re not invited” kind of thing. She just never hears that we’re having a gathering. But – this works better because she is not mutual friends with our other friends. She is just my friend and that makes it a lot easier to restrict the information. Although it occurs to me that if Missing Stair is making people unhappy, they are probably not really close friends with him/her either.
I think there’s an assessment of hills and dying-worthiness due here.
We have no evidence that the Missing Stair is one of Partner’s close friends. In fact, the Partner describes him as “kind of a jerk.” As far as we know, he’s just some dude who shows up regularly at their house for the free booze. I feel like the LW would maybe have mentioned if they had to deal with the guy on a regular basis or if Partner had a super-special connection with him.
Now, if the Missing Stair was Partner’s *best* friend, or his brother, or his grandfather, or, hell, even if the Missing Stair was the Partner’s badly-behaved dog who humped everybody’s leg? There would probably need to be some negotiation happening here if the LW demanded that person (canine) no longer be allowed in the house ever.
But that’s not the case. No one is advocating that the LW be given carte blanche to veto all members of Partner’s friend group. This is an acquaintance who is unpleasant and jerkish and possibly unsafe to the people around him, and all Partner is losing by disinviting him is his self-image of universal magnamity. If he’s not willing to make that level of compromise for the LW, he’s definitely incompatible, but also probably a shit partner. When you treat a minor benefit to yourself as more important than the safety and comfort of your partner, that reflects very poorly on you.
If someone was saying that about a lot of people, or for reasons that are trivial (“I don’t like how he laughs.), then I’d give a big ol’ side-eye to that as well. But this is one person, for specific reasons, that even Partner agrees is a jerk. And LW didn’t even say “Never have over at all,” just “Not invited to parties, because he makes other guests uncomfortable.”
Except the Missing Stair is not aa friend of the partner. The partner thinks Missing Stair is “kind of a jerk”
Okay, well, firstly, saying “I don’t want someone in my house” isn’t choosing someone’s friends. It’s choosing who’s in your house. LW’s partner is still totally welcome to see that friend elsewhere.
Secondly, while expecting you can choose someone’s friends is controlling, expecting your partner to exercise good judgement is, I think, reasonable. You can question why your partner is willing to be friends with someone who is behaves inappropriately or upsets people. You can’t say “you cannot see this person” but you can say “the fact that you’re willing to be friends with someone who acts like this makes me reconsider my view of you.” Without knowing what Missing Stair is actually doing, I don’t know if that side of things is relevant here but what I’m saying is while you can’t choose who your partner is friends with, you can choose not to be in a relationship with someone who exercises poor judgement or excuses unacceptable behaviour.
So, seriously, if two people are sharing a home, and A says “Hey, you know that work friend of yours Bob? He is a convicted rapist and at every party I’ve seen him at he gropes people and all of our friends have asked if we can please not invite him – I don’t want Bob to come to our parties”–
–that would make you saddle up the nopetopus? You would see that as A being totes unreasonable and controlling and trying to separate B from his buddy?
Bob would be lucky if I wasn’t calling the cops on him… ;p
I don’t get this at all. She’s talking about one person that NO ONE LIKES. That has been an ass to their friends. She is in the RIGHT to want this clown out of her home. She’s not talking about being friends. She’s talking about “this is for the group.” She owes Jerk nothing. Partner doesn’t even particularly like Jerk! Who is being hurt if they cut the cord?
I think a reasonable, nonabusive partner is fully within their rights to say, “Partner, this person you are friends with is creepy/mean/unsafe/a junkie/whatever, and I don’t like what it might say about you that you’re friends with them.” For reasonable couples, this will hopefully rarely happen, and will lead to a conversation about said person, why partner A is uncomfortable about them, and why partner B is friends with them. For reasonable, nonabusive couples this might lead to a “not when I’m around/don’t want to hear about it” kind of compromise. But if you’re invested in spending your life with someone, I don’t think it’s controlling to expect them not to be enablers of awful people. Recently there was some worry (which turned out to be unfounded, thank goodness) that one of my partner’s friends was abusing his girlfriend. You’re damn right I told my partner that I don’t want them to be friends with abusers. Luckily my partner agreed, and if they hadn’t I wouldn’t have tried to force them or anything, but we would have had a long conversation about why.
This sounds like an issue of compatibility. As in, you want complete freedom to allow anyone in your life and in your spaces (including communal) at your discretion alone. Which would be a huge deal-breaker for me. As someone who has been routinely victimized by people my partner/friend/family trusted my need is to feel safe above all else. In all of intimate my relationships, our need for safety is much more important that our need for complete freedom.
Case in point: my partner introduced me to a person who he worked with and as soon as I saw this person every hair on body stood on end and I had the overwhelming need to RUN THE EFF AWAY NOW! To this day, I have no idea why I felt like this. But I told my partner that under no circumstances would this person ever be allowed in my presence or in my space. Period. In fact, I didn’t want Partner to give this guy ANY information about me, including “benign” info like “Tiger and I went to a museum yesterday.” HUGE boundaries went up. After a long talk partner decided he cared more about my (totally irrational) need for safety and kept this person (who hadn’t even behaved poorly) at Work Acquaintance status. And in 4 years this guy is the only time I have reacted like this with a friend/potential friend of my partner’s like that.
I realize I come from a much more extreme point of view, but I had the opposite reaction you, in that if my partner put up a fight about allowing someone in OUR house that made my skin crawl, that wouldn’t just make my shoulders hunch up to my ears – that would be The End.
I’m kind of reassured that I’m not the only one who has reactions like this.
I once saw an entire mortgage brokerage office horripilate simultaneously when the soon-to-be former landlord of a client walked in. Objectively he looked like Droopy Dawg if Droopy Dawg were human, six feet tall, and a retired strongman, and none of us had ever met him or heard a bad thing about him. Subjectively every last one of us just wanted him to drop off the paperwork and take his killer-elephant vibe OUT THE DOOR. After that I wasn’t surprised that three members of that family were working seven lousy jobs in order to cover payments on a house to which nobody else had a key.
oh guh why are there people like that?
there was one professor back when i was in college who a friend dropped his class because she couldn’t be in a room with him because he completely and deeply terrified her, and although he didn’t terrify me, i did find him astoundingly creepy *instantly* upon meeting him. some years later, he came into the place i worked, and after he left my coworker turned to me and said “oh my god, that guy was scary as hell”.
to this day I don’t really know what any of us were reacting to in him — he was COMPLETELY appropriate and professional when he came into my workplace, I don’t think he’d said more than a few professorial words to my friend when she dropped the class a week in, etc. — but whatever it was, ugh.
My husband had a coworker in a superior position to him, back in the day. By all accounts, Coworker was very good at his job, and actually not a bad guy. But between a very bad case of Resting Serial Killer Face and impressive stiffness, dude had an amazing ability to make EVERYONE around him uncomfortable.
And thing is, people have a right not to be around folks who make them uncomfortable. Even when it is something like Unfortunate Coworker. It’s not like you want to be around someone who might be a serial killer just to decide they’re NOT.
You have a right not to be friends with/date/be social with anyone for whatever reason. At work, or at school, you don’t have a right not to be “around” people who make you uncomfortable by virtue of their faces or other physical attributes separate from their actions.
I don’t think we need more “weirdos I have known” anecdotes here. This is the kind of comment that feeds the geek social fallacy that people are only excluded for unfair reasons.
My ex-BIL, this was my initial reaction to bumping into him in a doorway before I even knew who he was. Turned out he was, in fact, an even more loathsome human being than my first impressions warned.
Good on you, and your partner, for trusting your guts about the acquaintance.
At a former job, I bumped into a new coworker in a doorway and before I could form a conscious thought of why I felt this, the word rapist blared in my head. It was so intense, clear, sudden, and creepy and unlike any reaction I’d had before. Later I found out that he had worked at the same company as the man who raped my friend. He never, as far as I could tell, did anything unprofessional at work but that creepy vibe and wariness stuck with me till I left. And I have no regrets about writing him off based on that gut reaction.
Same thing happened with me and one of my partner’s coworkers. Dude totally creeped me out immediately, and partner (who used to be oblivious to certain red flags but has gotten way better) admitted later that said coworker was a kind of weird guy. I was like “I don’t want anything to do with him. Ever.” Partner respected that.
Within two years of my meeting this dude, multiple complaints of a sexual-harrassment nature have been made–nothing overt, but more grooming/manipulative type things like trying to only work with the female students (who aren’t even doing research that aligns with his), encouraging only the conventionally pretty students to come to his office hours (including students who aren’t even in his classes) and saying creepy things/just generally making female students uncomfortable around him. Stuff that’s riiiiight on the borderline, but isn’t an obviously fire-able offense. Thankfully, they’re not renewing dude’s contract, and he’s not being left alone with anyone, especially not students, in the meantime. And the students who’ve complained have been told to please file reports with campus police to help create a paper trail.
Partner said their boss (who sometimes uses partner as an unofficial sounding board) was concerned he was making too big a deal out of it. I told partner that he needed to tell his boss that for every complaint they got, there were probably several more students who didn’t feel safe coming forward, so really they were underreacting; who knows how many students this guy has chased out of their department’s majors, or even out of the university. I’m glad to say that if nothing else, it’s caused their department to treat these kinds of things much more seriously.
Some people…you just know.
I didn’t get that at all. LW never said anything about what Partner does one-on-one or outside the house with Missing Stair. She just doesn’t want Missing Stair in her home, which sounds perfectly reasonable to me.
Some many years ago, I had a co-worker who was abusive (throwing things, screaming, calling names, physical intimidation), not just toward me but in general. I also at that time had a long term partner with whom I cohabitated. I got Partner a job at my work, and Partner, as it turned out, hit it off with the abusive co-worker about whom she had been hearing horror stories for a long while. Partner decided that he was actually a great guy and I just needed to get to know him better– as if three years of working together wasn’t enough time to form an accurate opinion of a person’s character– and that it would be awesome if we all had dinner together at my and Partner’s home so that I could see what he was like from her perspective.
Was I within my rights to adamantly decline to host someone who was regularly abusive toward me for a dinner party, regardless of whether Partner’s perceptions of this person were right or wrong? Was this a reasonable boundary, or was this a case of me choosing my partner’s friends for her?
You were within your rights.
Yeah, coworker could have been in fact a lovely person out of work, but the fact that he felt he could act like a total mad ape at his coworkers is quite telling.
I am selfishly eager to hear that either Partner realized they were being a bozo and apologized, or that you ditched Partner.
Partner has been an ex-partner for a very long time, thankfully!
Spouse would never expect me to host even someone I liked against my will, let alone someone whose behavior and indeed very presence I found toxic.
The person in question has been an ex partner for a very long time, thankfully. They were the gaslightiest!
Glad that is an ex.
Nesting is weird; this was supposed to be @Kb above.
“Was I within my rights to adamantly decline to host someone who was regularly abusive toward me for a dinner party” I think you had a duty to! ;p
The letter doesn’t say anything like that–it says “this Missing Stair is bothering people, and my partner feels disinviting them, DESPITE ACCOUNTS OF BAD BEHAVIOUR, would be ‘unfriendly’, so how bad does their bothering have to get before I’m justified in insisting”. That’s not “choosing my partner’s friends”, that’s “not wanting to be around douchewaffles my partner isn’t even close with”.
I think the long term solution to the party issue is for the two of you to move, or if not that, your name goes on the papers too.
Hear me out!
The current place is Partner’s. It’s still not completely yours.
When it’s totally the home of both of you, then the unconscious bias if “I’ve always done this” from Partner (and friends!) will fade.
In the shorter term, you can organize the party you want. Here’s a script.
You: Partner, I’d like to do a dinner party for eight. I definitely want Kim, Chris, and Terry. Who else would you like?
If Partner responds with
Partner: Great! Terry and Chris have partners so that’s 5 plus us. How about Jean for the eighth person?
– then you’re good!
But maybe partner responds with:
Partner: Dinner party? Isn’t that awfully formal and exclusionary?
If so you can say something like Yes! We can all dress up! So, who else would you like?
Or something like, Not necessarily, and even if it were, I would like to do it. I think it will be fun. Who else would you like to invite?
You see I think a plan, e.g. “Let’s do a dinner party!” side steps the the issue of big parties that drive you nuts, and gives both of you a chance to try something new.
As for the Missing Stair, I nth what other people have said: MS’s SADFEELS about being left out as a kid, and Partner’s anxiety about leaving people out do not trump your comfort at home
Still, it seems totally disrespectful to me to invite someone into your home and have absolutely no consideration for their needs. Someone waving around their lease to their housemates as if this was reason enough to be inconsiderate of other people’s needs just makes me think that kind of person should just live alone.
Agreed, but people are often unconscious of their biases. Plus, the joy of creating a new OUR home is totally worth it
True, but that idea can also be implemented in unhealthy ways or taken to an extreme. If someone’s getting hurt, you have to figure out how you’re going to protect the people getting hurt in the meantime, until the person acting badly changes their behaviour.
Unfortunately the idea that ‘people can change’ can easily turn into ‘and their victims must be “patient” with continued mistreatment or “give them another chance” because they’re “trying”‘.
Again, your first duty is to whoever’s being hurt or mistreated by the ‘jerk’.
Is this a response to the series of comments about people giving you feedback?
Yeah, I hit reply but for some reason it didn’t work but landed as a new comment.
I think there are certain events where “how bad does somebody have to be before they are disinvited/kicked out/told they can’t come” is reasonable. Conventions, and most ticketed events for instance–that awesome queer friendly Halloween party put on by the university, concerts, SCA events etc. In those cases I think that, yeah, usually there needs to be a threshold that is more than “I don’t like him” “she makes me feel uncomfortable” “his voice is too loud” etc. (What that is is a topic for a different letter and has been covered pretty well too).
But the idea of having to have a threshold of bad behaviour to not invite people to my own house makes me want to run screaming in the night, arms flailing wildly. It seems like the LW and Partner’s house is starting to be considered like one of those bigger events listed above, where everyone’s welcome all the time. This can be a lot of fun in the short term but over time i have never not see the dynamic either end naturally or become toxic if it goes on too long. The fact that your guests aren’t helping to clean up also kind of points in the direction that perhaps people are taking this hospitality for granted, or at least not considering what goes into it? I have been guilty of this too, especially when invited to big parties where I barely know the people hosting.
From the letter, we don’t really know what it is that Missing Stair does; the letter didn’t mention creepy, and I was picturing (probably from my own recent experience) somebody who is loud, tells bad jokes he doesn’t realize hurts people’s feelings, and interrupts others/talks over them. There are a lot of other possibilities for annoying behaviour that make people uncomfortable, that don’t rise to the level of being “banned” from anything. The problem I see is that your parties have become events from which people have to be specifically banned, like they would at a big convention etc. You can’t just…not invite him, which is what I would do with Loud Interrupty Guy or Insensitive Joke Person etc etc. So, I really think the idea of smaller parties, and perhaps one big party every (time period you think you can handle). This might help get people into the habit of not just bringing people along, but asking you “hey can I bring this person” etc.
I am just really uncomfortable with the idea that there needs to be a case built to not have somebody invited to your house, because everyone’s line is going to be different for where “jerk”, “uncomfortable” etc is, but nobody can argue with “yep, don’t like the guy, if you want to hang out with him, awesome, but please not here!”
I agree. I think if LW thinks Missing Stair is a jerk and the partner thinks Missing Stair is a jerk and they are the hosts, not inviting Missing Stair absolutely OK. The problem in this case is that the partner does not want to exclude anyone, even people the partner thinks are jerks, which means LW and the other guests are stuck dealing with the Missing Stair.
@twomoogles Yes! The LW didn’t say anything about behaviour that “makes people feel unsafe,” and the comments got sidetracked in that direction. Being clear about what’s going on and what LW is uncomfortable with in this situation is hopefully going to help address what to do with any future jerk party-guests, too. You’ve got an excellent analysis and suggestions.
Yes, I was a bit confused by all the talk of MS being unsafe and was wondering if I’d missed something big in the letter. It might be just a word use thing…for me, unsafe and uncomfortable are *very* different but I could see other people reading them the same. Which is I think another reason why it shouldn’t be necessary for LW to build a case to not have somebody they don’t like around!
The speculation re: annoying vs. unsafe isn’t helping anything. Someone’s social circle isn’t a court of law. It buys into the Partner’s logic that there must be a ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ offense in order for the LW’s wishes to matter.
I think the specifics of Missing Stair’s behaviors matter to the LW & the Partner in addressing them, but they don’t actually matter to us at all.
Exactly! Rules for who is allowed in your personal space can be whatever you want! I have the right to deny entry for anything from having that current beard+crew cut combo, to behaving in a way that creeps me out or unsettles me, and everything in between. Any partner who would rather ignore my comfort, and bring that person into our space anyway, would be single pretty bloody quickly. Fortunately my wife would never pull that crap.
The fact that your guests aren’t helping to clean up also kind of points in the direction that perhaps people are taking this hospitality for granted, or at least not considering what goes into it?
I’m not sure of that. I’ve assumed, even at the “Sure! Everyone is invited” parties (which, admittedly never had more than 50 or so, over several hours), that I’d do the cleanup. Which I’d do during as well as after.
But that’s probably one of those cultural things.
“come one, come all, bring your friends” type parties can start taking on that sort of reverse-onus (where you need rules to exclude instead of to include). In my experience, if you keep expanding the group and allowing anyone to come, there’s always going to be a first case, just like any other need to set boundaries. If they don’t work it out for this guy, and keep going as they are, there will be a later occasion (same guy or different guy) that pushes still further. And I agree that the guests seem to be taking the hospitality for granted — I’ve never been part of a group where some didn’t help clean up, for example.
My current extended-circle dealt with some creepy and problematic situations by amending the “bring others” part of invites with a note that the original invitee was responsible for anyone else they brought, and those people would be expected to leave when they did. It was in reaction to a couple of situations, and it has largely pulled people back from taking hospitality for granted and the transitive invites running wild, without having to go as far as an exclusive guest list and wondering if so-and-so was told.
I think it’s worth considering just what makes Missing Stair a Missing Stair. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, it’s because Missing Stair has some definitely egregious habits, whether or not they rise to actual sexual harassment or shouty meanness, that make it totally appropriate to disinvite them. Sometimes it’s vaguer feelings and I think it’s worth checking those out.
The only reason I’m making this comment is that I have seen several times, in my own friend groups, people get designated “Missing Stair” when they were really Not White, or Not Cis, Not Middle Class, a Sex Worker Who Talks About Work, etc and behavior that was actually perfectly ordinary persistently got read through the “this is creepy and wrong” lens. I wish I could give really good examples, but most of them were very specific and somewhat identifiable, and I’m fairly sure that some of my social circle reads here. I noticed, actually, that several men of color were disinvited from things over time, and I also noticed that behavior which read as “creepy” from them was given a pass when it was done by white dudes. (I’m not really in this friendship circle anymore, for obvious reasons.)
I don’t want this to come across as “you only don’t like Creepy Backrubber Missing Stair because he’s working class and you went to Harvard and you Just Don’t Get It” – not at all. I only think that it’s always worth running a little mental structural inequality check when you can’t quite put your finger on why you don’t like Missing Stair.
In my own life, I’ve always found it a really tricky balance to strike – to try to be simultaneously aware of how structural racism, transmisogyny, etc, contour my perceptions of others and to try to respect my own gut feelings and needs.
Very tangential to your point, but what popped into my head at the term “Creepy Backrubber Missing Stair” was GW doing that to Angela Merkel.
And on a similar note: sometimes it’s structural racism/ableism/etc, and sometimes they’re a creep, and sometimes it’s BOTH. I’m thinking of a very specific dude in a group of friends-I-no-longer-see-for-obvious-reasons: he was part of a religious minority, and was disabled, and he liked to find a lady he wanted to corner and physically corner her into not being able to back away from him gracefully by backing her into a closed space with his wheelchair (?!!!), and then, when the lady in question would manage to extricate herself from the situation, would complain that it was because he was ugly/disabled/etc and that women were ‘so unfriendly’ and the guys (and some ladies) in the group would fall all over reassuring him that seriously, he was a great guy, and he’d just keep right on doing it. (When he did this to me, he had to be in his mid-40s, and I was 20… And when I mentioned how uncomfortable I was around him to a few other women, I got the ‘oh, that’s how J is’ and ‘yeah, just don’t get caught by him’ answers, which: NOT OK.)
So I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s worth examining where your perceptions of creepiness come from, but sometimes, even with all the excuses and cultural context in the world, people are just genuinely creepy.
My reminder for the social justice world: if you’re genuinely serious about social justice, then you have to allow the most socially disadvantaged people are just as capable of being complete arseholes as the most privileged of the privileged. Denying people the option of being perceived as adult arseholes isn’t “justice” – it’s “infantilisation”, and at that point you’re falling into the trap where the opposite of an error is the opposite error.
Sometimes it’s racism, classism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, religious prejudice, or whatever. Sometimes, they’re just being an arsehole because they can.
Agreed – we saw this at my high school, 15 years ago. There was a serious creep who had a significant physical disability. But he sexually harrassed everyone he could (verbally mostly, but physically when he got the chance), was obnoxious and rude and got away with it because the school forgave him everything. He arrived in our second high school year, having already been kicked out of three other local high schools for the same thing, yet ours gave him a pass, telling those of us who complained that “he couldn’t help himself”.
Needless to say, absolutely no female within two years academically of him was safe, and every single one of us was angry with the system that kept giving him a pass to be an absolute asshole because of his disability.
It’s always worth checking out our feelings of like/dislike/discomfort for a mental structural inequality check.
But there’s a lot of shaming of people who are uncomfortable but can’t put their finger on a reason with “Oh, you’re just being silly!” or “But he’s autistic!” or what Ros describes below, where somebody will use their possible-outsider status as a shield for their bad behavior.
I was the person who had a place downtown and loved holding parties, more the merrier! But a few Missing Stairs started popping up in my group and I wanted nothing to do with them. My method was, on the facebook page just to add a note of “It’s probably fine if you bring other people, but let me know for space/food reasons” and then if someone said “Hey can I bring Stair?” if I thought they were safe I could explain they made me uncomfortable and no thanks, and if not just “Sorry space is looking tight now! Maybe next time!”
As for cleaning, starting a bit of tidying as things are winding down and asking broadly for a little help (hey can someone grab this garbage bag and collect some of the empty plastic cups/collect the empties/bring stuff to the kitchen)?
Asking people to check in with you before they invite extra people also gives you the chance to say ‘the numbers are getting too high’ when the numbers really are getting too high, too.
That sounds like really good advice. It sounds like Partner likes the spontaneity of letting people bring friends, and this lets him keep that, while still giving the hosts some control.
I also like this very much, and as a frequent party host, it’s actually what I do. It’s great for both the reasons mentioned: numbers actually getting too high, and being able to veto specific people without publicly disinviting them.
It does remind me of another question, though. What do I do when I OK a new person I’ve never met, and then decide I don’t really want them again? I really, honestly don’t mind when people bring brand new people to my parties, as long as they’ve checked with me first, because in my experience it’s often one of the best ways to meet new friends; my parties tend to have about 8 to 15 people so I get plenty of opportunity to talk to and get to know the new person, and I know they’re already vetted by someone I know and like. But of course, I don’t ALWAYS like the new guests. It’s not always that they’re actually bad, as his been discussed at length above, but just that they’re someone I don’t really want to invite to my own parties in my own house again. But since I OK’d them once, before I knew them, often their friends assume that means they have a free pass for that person from then on… So far I’ve been playing the numbers game (oh, only so many people fit in my house, and I want to keep space open for the people I’ve already invited), but it can get awkward when I let other people bring new people anyway (which I still would like to continue doing)! I guess this isn’t so much a question after all; I know my solution, and I just have to deal with a bit of inevitable awkwardness.
Basically, this is hard stuff, even when it’s just my own house with no roommate or partner to worry about. So I can see why the LW’s partner is reluctant to disinvite. But I also understand how very much I do NOT want certain people in my house sometimes, and that is far more important than the awkwardness of disinviting them.
Yeah, I think – probably the people you ARE willing to have in your house are mostly people who will get that you don’t necessarily want everybody in the world in your house? You will probably have a few, “oh – you didn’t like Susie? But she’s great! Are you sure?” moments, but anyone who seems to think that Susie has an automatic right to be invited to your house unless you can present the case for the prosecution is probably due an uninvited themselves.
My partner and I have huge differences in how we like gatherings. I’m Party Host, he’s Quiet Small Group Guy. How we handle this is that we give each other total explicit permission to vanish from any event the other holds, and whichever one of us organizes is responsible entirely for the maintenance/cleanup of the event. He is terrified of crowds, so with my big blowouts, he hides happily in his room and plays video games while I do all the work for the event that *only* I wanted. When he has his math folks over and I’m bored stiff, I go out for a bike ride and if they order pizza or something, Partner cleans up and handles all that. It’s the LW’s space, but it’s Partner’s space too, and LW’s claims that they don’t want to “yield their space for a night” seems like they’re claiming the house as theirs and theirs alone and Partner is now restricted to what the LW wants.
I think LW should set up something like this dodging scheme. It would prevent LW from feeling responsible for events they don’t like and don’t want to deal with, and Partner can continue having big epic parties. I don’t think Partner should be forced to tone down the gatherings — that will smack of “my significant other is the reason I can’t have fun anymore” problems. I think dodging the parties is the best way for LW to handle that. Honestly, how long can they be? Worst case LW crashes with friends for a night.
As for Missing Stair, like others have said, what exactly is Missing Stair doing? There *is* a line between “ugh well some folks like him and others are unhappy with him” and “oh gosh get him the fuck out.” Everyone defines that line differently. Partner and LW need to decide where *their* line is between annoyance and asshole, and decide whether they are okay continuing to include him in any fashion. No one can really define how “wrong and awful” someone has to be to be disinvited; that’s honestly a conversation between LW, Partner, and probably close friends that they don’t want abandoning the party scene they’ve made. Like for me, my threshold tends to be kind of intuitive — if the person actively pisses me off, or insults my friends, that’s about where I draw the line at “you are not okay in my house.” On the other hand, my partner really is okay with people up until “they’re racist” or something, so long as they’re nice to *him*. It’s really a personal thing and how much you want to be the guardian for your social group.
You’re so right – a lot hinges on exactly what Missing Stair is doing. I think your solution is great for when partner has Partner’s Friends Night, for instance, and LW doesn’t particularly like a couple of those friends.
But if Missing Stair is a stalky type, or the type to go through someone’s stuff when they are not there, or the kind who tries to harass all of your friends into connecting with them on social media so that they can then hound them for favors, then I would not be acceding my space to that person for one hot minute.
I’m tempted to take LW at their word that MS is, in fact, a Missing Stair, and that members of the group have devised strategies to avoid dealing with him. Is it possible that LW and Partner and all their assorted acquaintances are, unbeknownst to us, racists? Absolutely. But on a site like CA I would like to assume good faith in the absence of any clues to the contrary, and LW gives us none here.
The Captain totally addresses this, but I found that really focusing on the Behavior rather than The Person was huge for me. When I was still reacting to my feelings of being ostracized I picked up every (metaphorical) stray dog I came across. Even the ones the bite, growl, and destroy my house because I felt so baaaaaaaaaaaad for them. In the meantime I was miserable and they were getting validation for their crappy behavior by getting my continued attention/support. This was not good for anyone. Even victims are accountable for their actions.
It was a total game-changer when I took a cue from the CA blog itself, and redefined “inclusive” from: “everyone who has ever been victimized!” to: “anyone who abides by my Rules of Acceptable Behavior” and then defined those rules for myself. Then when you take action based on these rules (calling out behavior that breaks said rules, excluding people who refuse to abide, etc) the culture of these parties shift from “everyone is included!” to “everyone who abides by our culture of respect, kindness, and consideration are invited!” [or whatever your specific behavioral rules might be].
Best of luck LW! You deserve to have a safe and healthy home. I hope your partner will agree and take the awkward and difficult steps of setting and sticking to expectations of the behavior of anyone he permits in your home.
Yeah, my replies aren’t posting right as replies. For some reason sometimes they’re randomly appearing at the bottom of the page.
Is a “you planned this party, you get to clean it up” policy at all workable for you and partner? Sometimes it isn’t, because of your relationship dynamic or mismatched cleaning expectations or whatever else, but it’s something to consider if that would help make big parties more palatable for you. Just something to consider as you and partner negotiate what kinds of parties you’ll have when.
Also, has Partner considered that by inviting a Missing Stair who is a jerk to other party members, he’s essentially allowing a bully to run roughshod over his other friends? Because that’s not being inclusive. It’s not inclusive to let people treat your friends badly. (This is assuming that’s what’s happening with Missing Stair, of course.)
“It’s not inclusive to let people treat your friends badly.”
Indeed it is not. It’s not being a good host, either. Sadly, when a group grows, competing interests often show up, and you have to decide who you’re being a good host for. If you don’t decide, then you’re defaulting to the worst and excluding the others from how good your party used to be before the asshole started showing up.
There’s not any evidence of this in your letter, LW, so feel free to ignore it if it doesn’t ring true, but here’s something else to think about:
These parties sound exactly like the sort of thing I would do, if I was stable and had a big enough space, and I can see it going like this:
More people come! Success! New geek friends!
More people! I guess I’m really making a difference! This is great!
…More people. Shit. This is a lot of people.
…More people? *whimper….*
What I’m getting at is, there’s a small possibility (only you know how big from the cues you get) that Partner is feeling a little overwhelmed by the size of the parties, too. “Invite everybody and have unlimited friend-of-a-friend invites” is a strategy that can snowball pretty badly, and it might be that he’d be welcome to a break from the hugeness–he’s just invested in the idea of Always Being Inclusive Because Reasons.
Or he could really love it, and you still get to ask for what you want–the scripts work! I just thought I’d throw that in there in case it resonated with you.
Hey, LW, I sympathise with you. It’s really difficult to feel like you’re the one spoiling the fun (even if it’s not fun for you, and in fact others) or trying to suppress your partner’s generosity, and your partner is clearly intending this from a good place.
The way I see it, though: an open door policy isn’t neutral, and refusing to disinvite somebody who makes others uncomfortable *isn’t* inclusive. If Missing Stair is making people this uncomfortable, keeping him on the (implicit or explicit) invite list while he continues to ‘not know where to draw the line’ is exclusive of those people who really don’t want to or can’t be around them. It’s like constructive dismissal cases! This is a constructive exclusion of people bothered by his behaviour. Sometimes I find that flipping things like this in my own mind is helpful in being able to assert my own preferences and boundaries.
I also get that it’s difficult when you start living with a partner, having been independent adults with your own separate spaces, and now adjusting to operating more as a partnership with regards to living and hosting space. I do hope that you are able to find a good way to negotiate these things between the two of you, with time and effort! In the interim, have some extra validation that you’re not being unreasonable.
(First time commenter after a long time reading this blog! I feel very strongly about having input to guest lists in my living space!)
Heh, actually what your example reminds me of is how a tightly moderate comments section can be more inclusive that one that allows any manner of viciously hateful racist/sexist/homophobic/etc. commentary in. More people can use the space when it’s not littered with landmines (or missing stairs.)
Yes! I actively steer away from unmoderated parts of the internet, because I just don’t find it worth my time or emotional energy to try to ignore/avoid the things that are awful.
I agree with you. Since the LW mentioned that the party-goers are nerds, it might be a good idea to send over links to the Geek Social Fallacies to the partner if they haven’t already read them or have a one-on-one when things are calm to bring them up and discuss together if these big parties might hold more fallacies than a Missing Stair. The more you know about potential social fallacies in your space, the easier to be on the lookout and nip things in the bud.
This is your home too. You’re not a guest. You’re his partner, and being his partner means you also get a vote on what is going on in your home.
Secondly, if this guest is making other people uncomfortable and even keeping other people away, there is a problem. What is it they are doing? Are they touching people? Argumentative? Hitting on people that have asked to be left alone? Intruding on conversations? Just staring at people? Nobody should have to suffer through an adult that is making other people uncomfortable.
I can identify with the poster’s partner in wanting to socialize. I was incredibly shy as a child and teenager. I feel sometimes now I like to see people and attend events especially now that we’ve found like minded people. I finally have friends who get me , but I also have to remember that my husband wants to be alone too. We love our friends, but we need to remember that sometimes we just want to be alone. That’s important, and it’s important that OP partner does this too.
It seems to me like the fundamental problem here is the gradual drift from “Partner organizing his parties in his living space” into “Me and Partner organizing our parties in our living space.” That’s an inevitable consequence of you moving in together, but that doesn’t mean it’s one you anticipated and it doesn’t mean there’s an easy solution. It sounds to me like you need to renegotiate your expectations for these parties, and reach a solution you can both live with.
In other words, you’re not being unreasonable. Quite possibly, Partner’s not being unreasonable. What’s happening is that you’ve moved into new territory, and you need to figure out the boundaries.
For example, if parties are now both of yours, then you and Partner need to be capable of coming to an agreement on disinviting Missing Stairs. He doesn’t get to say “I say no, so no.” (Also you don’t get to say “I say yes, so yes.”) The murkier the circumstances around Missing Stair are, the more difficult it’s going to be for you to persuade him that Missing Stair needs disinviting, and that actually makes sense – Partner may have a blind spot; you’ll have to make a case; each of you needs to address the others’ concerns, and neither of you gets to shut the other side down unilaterally.
On the other hand, if they’re still his party, and you don’t really want to be involved in the planning (or imposed upon), then Missing Stair isn’t really your problem to solve. It’s Partner’s call to make.
And at a larger scope, if the parties are both of yours, you need to be able to make decisions about them together. Particularly, you need to know that your needs and preferences have equal weight. On the other hand, if these parties are still mostly Partner’s Thing, then it’s great that he’s got an activity he loves, but it should also be clear that his activity shouldn’t impose on you any more than you agree to.
I bolded this earlier, but this is really the crux of the issue: your concerns need to be addressed. Partner’s concerns need to be addressed. Clearly demand your concerns, and be open and willing to address his.
I was similar to your partner wrt to being a late social bloomer. As a result, my house became the party house for a few years during uni. That ended when I realised that I didn’t like a lot of these people. Maybe you could talk to your partner about quality vs quantity. It’s great to know that 100 people see your place as fun to be at, but do you talk to these people? Do you like them? Is there any reciprocation? Are you only appreciated for your hospitality?
I know them feels, LW. Like, I particularly know the feeling of coming home from work and my partner has his friends over and I’m all ‘arrgh why are there people in my house I just want to have a bath and a glass of wine’.
In the early days of my partner and I living together, it used to be the same deal. The friends would come over, make a mess, eat our food and then it’d take ages for the cleanup. Also, one of them, a former housemate, was a mean jerk to me when we lived together, so I was uncomfortable around him. So I talked to my partner and said, ‘Hey, if you have friends over can you a) give me lots of warning so I can mentally prepare myself for interacting with your friends when I get home or arrange to stay at my mum’s, and b) clean up the house asap when you’re done?’ The script I used to talk about the mean former housemate was pretty similar to the one that the Captain gave. I had pretty good results with both of these.
LW, have you thought about phrasing it to your partner that him choosing to include the Missing Stairs means that he’s choosing to exclude anyone who cannot handle MS’s behavior?
Which still doesn’t mean that MS gets a perma-autoban from every gathering you host (in-house or not), but it *does* mean that one of you – preferably your partner since he’s the one who wants to include him – have to have a talk with him about his behavior and how it’s not cool and needs to stop, pronto.
Being inclusive of everyone doesn’t mean that you have to tolerate every behavior without speaking up. MS will be able to make a choice when he’s spoken to about this: either he cleans up his act and remains welcome to future gatherings, or he chooses not to, and thus chooses his own exclusion for these events. But that’s HIS choice.
LW, here’s my perspective as someone who’s been a party guest at big parties full of missing stairs.
I used to go to some huge, hundreds-of-people parties thrown by a couple of friends of mine in Distant City. It was worth the long bus ride to be there and be surrounded by awesome folks. They sent out invitations on mailing lists and it was generally a free-for-all.
Over time, it became clear that some of the folks were not so awesome. The more I got to know the community, the more I saw the problems. Some were ordinary disagreements between folks who just needed to steer clear of each other. Some went beyond that. The hosts really tried very very hard to not ostracize anyone… including people who were longtime serial douchebags… including people who had sexually assaulted or generally creeped on other people in the community. The unstated policy was “if one of you has a restraining order against the other, it’s up to you to negotiate who comes to the party at which times so you don’t run into each other here and cause a fuss”.
At one point circumstances forced that policy out into the open, at which point there was general outcry. The host literally said–I’m copying and pasting–that “we expected people involved in a restraining order situation to behave like responsible adults”; as you can imagine, that did not go over well. Lots of people stopped going to the parties, including me. The trip to Distant City just wasn’t worth it if I was going to be around people who had been terrible to other people. I felt especially vulnerable as someone who came from outside the community and didn’t know all the “psst, avoid this guy” type of gossip. As I saw it, the hosts had chosen to make their space safe for rapists and creeps, and that meant it wasn’t safe for me. In fact, it had never been safe for me. I just hadn’t realized how unsafe it was because there was all this backchannel stuff going on that I wasn’t privy to.
I think you and your partner would do well to sit down and consider whether you want something like this to be the ultimate fate of those big fun broad-invite parties, or whether you want to start narrowing the list now. Because if you don’t decide between the jerks and the people they harass, that is by default a decision in favor of the jerks. The people they harass will find better things to do with their time.
The phrase “involved in a restraining order situation” is some major bullshittery all on its own.
Wow. I think that host missed the newsflash that a restraining order generally includes speaking to each other, not just physical proximity. Even if it doesn’t, and I’m lacking in knowledge, I remember very well from elementary school just how well “negotiate with your bully so you don’t take the same route home and he can avoid beating you up” worked. If a restraining order has been put in place, it is usually a fair bet that at least one party has not been “behaving like a responsible adult”. Geez…
“Partner should keep the talk to things that make him uncomfortable.”
But it doesn’t sound like Partner is uncomfortable. He wants to keep inviting Missing Stair.
To clarify, Partner should keep the talk focused on actions and also assume ownership of the discomfort for purposes of this talk. “You are making others uncomfortable, not me though” is an immediate route to a detail of “Who!”
Yeah, that’s good if the person having the conversation with Missing Stair feels affected by MS’s actions, or at least understands how others are affected. But telling Partner to tell MS how MS is making them uncomfortable might not work if Partner doesn’t actually have a problem with them. Like, maybe they should have a problem with MS, but their feelings are what they are, and LW can’t really change them into better, more appropriate feelings.
I look at it like this: let’s say Missing Stair’s behavior is on the order of uninvited shoulder rubs to female partygoers. Moderately creepy, but not literally criminal. It doesn’t affect Partner directly, because MS doesn’t step up behind Partner and rub their shoulders. But the behavior *does* affect Partner, because Partner wants to be a good host and make sure that female guests aren’t being creeped on by others.
“You give shoulder rubs to women uninvited, and that makes me uncomfortable. You need to stop doing that at these parties.”
“So how wrong and awful does Missing Stair have to be for Partner to disinvite him?”
LW, this is probably the question you have to ask your partner. How bad does it have to get before he’s going to take action? What is the limit on this one? Who does Missing Stair have to piss off to get barred? Who has to say “sorry, but if Missing Stair is going to be there, I’m not attending” before action will be taken?
At present, your partner is busy taking refuge in wishy-washyness in order to avoid having to make a hard decision and potentially piss off one person. At present, it’s just anecdotes. But those anecdotes point to a larger problem (the plural of anecdote may not be “data”, but it can be “evidence”). In addition, you’re saying you don’t like this guy and he behaves poorly toward you. Let’s face it, it’s your home too, so you should be allowed a veto on who gets to visit and who doesn’t.
(One other thing: you say you’re living in a small house. Is part of the issue that the parties are starting to grow beyond what the house can comfortably handle? In that case, make the space concerns part of the discussion – “we can’t keep throwing parties for fifty people into this space, it’s barely big enough for ten!”)
LW I definitely think that the frequency of the gatherings might be taking a toll, as well as your forced participation–and cleanup dread.
Scaling back on the number of parties and graciously opting out are good options. And, as a person who attends these kind of parties, I am often willing to help clean up or bring food or other items. Some party expectation restructuring might really alleviate your stress, and if the friends ARE cool they’ll jump on part of this.
Since you’re going to get pushback for any changes, you and Partner need to be a TEAM. “WE have decided to have fewer parties. WE are having smaller events.” Partner may, with the best of intentions, say, “LW is stressed out” which will become passed around the friend’s group as “LW is RUINING EVERYTHING why is Partner even WITH LW HATE LW. LW is the Yoko Ono of our D&D group.”
Since I’m reading these events as open-invite, I think the converstion with Stair, as an option, could be, “Stair, we’ve all been friends for a while, but your habit of >behaviorbehavior< and if I see it in my home I will warn you once and ask you to leave."
I feel ambiguous about Stair because I don't know if Stair is merely unpleasant and obnoxious or if Stair is verging on scary and hateful and how Stair's behavior affects others. how hard you wanna come down on Stair is up to you.
But–going by other Stairs I know–if Stair is ranting about how awful women or Jews or black people are I think you have to confront Partner with Dark Truth: he's okay with Stair torturing people at his parties as long as the person/people Stair tortures doesn't make a fuss or resist Stair in any way. In fact, Partner and Partygoers kind of demand it. And that's super fucked up. Most nerds remember standing in a circle while some untouchable popular kid mocked and humiliated them and everyone watched and did nothing. If that's what's happening, then Partner and Partygoers are no different than the bullies that tortured them.
That's heavy–and it's going to hurt–so maybe gently pull Partner's attention to that.
My model of responsible hosting goes in concentric circles sort of like:
This is my party. It is happening because I think it will be fun. If there is someone who will spoil my fun if they are at the party, then they do not get to be at the party.
This is my partner. My partner’s happiness is foundational to my happiness. If there is someone who will spoil my partner’s happiness if they are at the party, I take the report seriously; if I have no particular attachment to that person, then they do not get to come to the party. (If I have some attachment to the person, then we’d have a somewhat longer decision tree, but at the end of that tree, my partner is still more important in most cases. If it’s my partner’s space as well as my own, my partner gets a veto. If I can’t trust my partner with a veto on who gets to come into our shared space, we have a much more difficult conversation as well.)
This is my very close friend. My very close friend’s happiness is significant to my happiness. If there is someone who will spoil my very close friend’s happiness if they are at the party, I take the report seriously; if I have no particular attachment to that person, they probably don’t get to come to the party.
This is my reasonably good buddy. It’s pretty cool when my reasonably good buddy is happy. I’m willing to do a couple things to make sure that happens; if I hear that somebody I’m not super keen on doesn’t get along with my reasonably good buddy, I’m okay with picking my reasonably good buddy over that jerk.
Somebody I barely know has a beef with somebody else I barely know, and the more I hear about it the less I want to know. I’m not sure who to prioritize. At this point I should think about a code of conduct, to help me make decisions about what sort of behavior to prioritize.
Yes, it’s evil and horrible when you specifically are uninvited.
It is also evil and horrible when you specifically tell your good friend “hey, so there’s this person who is making me SUPER UNCOMFORTABLE to the point I would call them a Missing Stair. I don’t want to be around them, and I know they always come to your parties, is there anything you can do?” and you get the answer “well, because I want to be inclusive, I’m not going to uninvite them, even though by not-uninviting them, I am making you (my good friend) uncomfortable *even after you have told me that this person makes you uncomfortable as hell*.”
That’s not inclusive. That’s being exclusive of someone that you’d characterize as a good friend. Even though a lot of “hey you’re going to have to choose between this person and me” bids are manipulative, sometimes you do have to choose between two people; being a private citizen even if you do have pretty big parties means that you are allowed to choose your good friend.
How about, “Missing Stair, at the last couple of parties, you did X,Y, and Z, which is inappropriate. That kind of behavior is not welcome in this house.”
I just tend to see a lot of weaselling about “comfort” when people are, in fact, calling out behavior that is _wrong_. “I’m uncomfortable” is just a half-step away from “it’s not you, it’s me.”
No. It’s them.
I no longer feel sorry for the weird people who aren’t included. When we were in high school, people were mean and would ostracize nice people. I would feel sorry for those people and think, ‘Worry not!I I will be your friend!’
But when I did that as an adult, I discovered that ostracized adults were usually ostracized for a reason. I do not have to be the one person sucking it up to be that person’s friend.
LW – it is OK for you not to want to be around the jerks and the weird people!
Yes. Most adults are reasonable people, and almost everyone grows out of the adolescent “you don’t dress like us or like what we like so you can’t hang out with us, LOSER” mentality.
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