I recently attended a co-worker's wedding along with about 10 other people from our office. I arrived to find that my common-law spouse was the only spouse not invited. I have been with him for a few years and this office mate has socialized with both of us. One of my colleagues even brought a guy she picked up at a resort in Cancun three weeks ago. I felt hurt and insulted. Either my relationship was deemed less worthy than a resort fling or my invitation was only extended out of a sense of obligation. This colleague is now acting as if we will continue the friendship that we had before the wedding. I wish to respond gracefully, but I don't want to be a doormat. After being embarrassed in front of my colleagues, I have no desire to spend time with this person in any social capacity. What do I do?
I'm not a huge fan of the spousal un-vitation in the first place.
There are a few exceptions. Me, I enjoy an evening of masculine society (a.k.a. “a night out with the boys”) as much as, if not more than, the next guy. Cards and cigars, kibitzing and cracking wise, bluffing and busting chops – that's my idea of fun on stilts.
Likewise I celebrate the nights when my wife goes out with her female friends to sip chardonnay, play Scrabble and exchange untold terabytes of information with one another.
And, of course, I understand when it’s an office “team building” exercise or you work for a company that feels they really can’t afford to shell out for spouses to come to, say, their Christmas party.
But for most other occasions, I think spouse-accompaniment should be automatic.
Otherwise it can be kind of creepy.
Spouse: “Oh, hey, there's an office thing Thursday. We're all going at Wingnut McBrews for their Half-Price Pitcher, Free-Wing Karaoke Krackup.”
You: “Oh, cool, sounds like fun. I'll phone a sitter.”
Spouse: “Uh, yeah, about that: Actually, spouses are not invited.”
Then on the night of the no-spouse shindig he/she pours herself out of a cab and into the house at some ungodly hour and reveals the next morning “things got a little crazy” and the office hottie/horndog “was really coming on to me.”
Totally unfair! If my spouse goes out, I want to be there as a kind of matrimonial bouncer – hairy-eyeballing the cheeseballs, dousing the hopes, crushing the dreams, and (ideally) stepping on the toes of all would-be suitors.
Listen to me now, believe me later, people: Unless there’s some compelling reason afoot, spouses should explicitly be invited to all social events.
But in your case, to roll into a wedding and discover your colleague has invited everyone else's romantic partners – including casual Cancun hookups – but not your common-law cutie-pie? That is a real head-scratcher.
Even I, the pomo boho Holmesian mofo of advice, am having a hard time parsing that one out. The only thing I can think is this: You say that you, your spouse, and your co-worker have “socialized” in the past. Could some friction have developed between your hubby and your colleague that you don't know about?
In any case, I would talk to your co-worker. Say something like: “Listen, I couldn't help but notice everyone's spouses and girlfriends and boyfriends were invited to your wedding, but not my man-toy. Am I missing something here?”
It doesn't need to be confrontational or emotional. To tell the truth, if I were in your shoes, my overriding “emotion” would be a dispassionate, almost forensic, curiosity.
You say you were “embarrassed” in front of your colleagues and don't want to be looked upon as a “doormat.” But what would you have done differently? Your spouse was specifically not invited, so you didn't bring him. Should you have brought him anyway? Nix: too strong a message. Stayed home out of spite? Nix: ditto.
If anyone should be embarrassed, it should be your colleague. Inviting you and not your spouse was a weird thing to do. It's on his or her permanent record, not yours. To use further verbiage from your question, yes, behave “gracefully.” Don't sink to his level.
If it does turn out there's friction between your co-worker and common-law cuddle-bunny, try to bring the two of them together to sort it out.
Otherwise, well, the good news is these two worlds – work and home – don’t need to collide all that often.
But in the future, when they do, you should make it clear that you come with a “plus one.” If they want you to RSVP with a thumbs up, they have to put your S.O. on the guest list too.
David Eddie is the author of Chump Change and Housebroken: Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Dad. Damage Control, the book, was released in March.
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