Dinner Invitation To Only One Half of The Social Unit

by admin on February 21, 2012

Dear admin and fellow e-hellions,

I was in an awkward situation and would like to know what the admin and all others think.

First of all, a let me start with a little background. My fiancé and I have been together for about 4 years and living together for about 3 years. He is American, and I am from a different South Asian country (I’ll call “C” for country). I have a friend I’ll call “F” who I have known for a while, but only started getting to know each other better in the last 1 year. F knows very well about my fiancé, and met him a couple of time; she also knows that I am engaged.

Now coming to the story, F invited me and a few other friends to her house for dinner on a Saturday evening. From the conversations and given that her own husband who worked in a different town was not in that evening, I assumed that it is going to be a girl’s evening. So I made arrangements to go to her house on a Saturday evening only to realize that it wasn’t a girls evening, and there were some other men in attendance who were friends with us but not involved with anyone, and the husband of the other married woman was invited (the three of us were the only people in serious relationship amongst those invited). I was totally at a loss as to why my fiancé was not invited. The only reason that I can think of is that she wanted to only invite people from country C, and because fiancé was an American, he did not make the cut. But if that was the case, she should have let me know that.

Now before you tell me that I should not dictate who she can invite to her house, let me tell you that I totally understand that and I don’t expect her to invite my fiancé. Neither do I have any problems going somewhere without him. But if she had told me specifically what her plans for the demographics of the party are, I could have taken the decision and not inadvertently snubbed my own fiancé. I understand that some people need to meet up with people from their own region; and I don’t want to deprive them of that. But given that I am dating a person from a different region, things are different with me and I would appreciate if my fiancé (and eventually husband) is not left out just because he is of a different nationality. If a friend wants to invite only people from C, I would not take any offence if they let me know and make an informed decision as to whether to attend or not. But I cannot get over the fact that F thought she could just not invite my fiancé and act as if he did not even exist, and I’d be fine with that.

Am I wrong in feeling hurt about the situation?

When the occasion is one where it is limited to a specific gender, say a guys afternoon watching a football game or a handful of female friends getting together to have lunch, there is nothing wrong in issuing an invitation to one half of a social unit.   I host an annual “ladies’ luncheon” in December to which the invitation obviously does not extend to my friends’ husbands.  But if the event or occasion is meant to include couples then inviting only one of the pair is a major etiquette faux pas.   If your hostess’ explanation is that her party was for her fellow ex-pats,  or simply people of a similar cultural make up, the she’s really very rude to not invite the partners and spouses of her guests who happen to not be born in the right country or to the “right” parents.   There is also a certain level of presumption your hostess friend has that a non-Asian fiancé would not be interested in the culture of another country and enjoy an evening sharing the food and discussion of his fianceé’s friends.

Do you have a right to be hurt?  I wouldn’t give anyone the pleasure of being able to elicit that kind of emotion from me.  Chalk it up as a learning experience and decide whether you wish to continue associating with her knowing that she will probably continue to snub your fiancé (and eventually your husband) for the sake of hosting culturally pure dinner parties.

{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

ferretrick February 21, 2012 at 9:39 am

You don’t provide a lot of detail about the invitation or what communication led you to the conclusion it was girl’s night. Are you SURE this isn’t simply a miscommunication? While it’s certainly possible that your fiance’s nationality is the reason, I would want to give someone every benefit of the doubt before jumping to that conclusion. If, however, that is the reason, you have every right to feel offended and hurt.

It’s fine to plan girls or guys night, or to exclude 1/2 of a couple when the activity is CLEARLY one the other 1/2 wouldn’t be able to or care to participate in-(i.e. a golf game with 3 very skilled players and someone who’s never played golf in their life; a Pampered Chef party and 1/2 doesn’t cook)-but a dinner party is not such an event. If she truly excluded your husband because of his nationality, that would be grounds for terminating the friendship.

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Lynne February 21, 2012 at 10:10 am

Or maybe she just doesn’t like your fiance.

Or only invited people whom she was already friends with.
(You mention that she knows “about” him more than she really knows him.)

Which I absolutely agree is rude, but it’s not necessarily rude-because-he’s-American.

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CaffeineKatie February 21, 2012 at 10:47 am

While I feel your assumption about her invitation is probably correct, I think I would try to come up with some open-ended comment that would give her the opportunity to explain why some SO were included and yours wasn’t. Maybe something along the line of “Gee, I was surprised to see X’s husband at your party.” Then she has the choice of saying “of course he was invited since he’s from C’ or “and we were surprised YOUR husband didn’t make it, too.” That way, you don’t have to guess, and you can decide if you want to continue being friendly with her.

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ferretrick February 21, 2012 at 11:00 am

Another possibility-did the hostess serve food from Country C? If so, perhaps she thought your husband would not enjoy the food or be able to eat it. It would still be wrongheaded and a faux pas on her part to make that assumption, but at least it would mean her intentions weren’t evil.

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acr February 21, 2012 at 11:05 am

I’m inclined to give a little wiggle room here, if part of the purpose of the evening was for people to speak in the language of C. It’s possible the hostess only wanted to invite people who spoke language C, because if you had only 1 guest who didn’t speak language C, then the language would default to English.

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OP February 21, 2012 at 11:27 am

I am the original OP. Thank you very much for publishing this story. Admin, thank you for the valuable advise.

@ferretrick: she had sent us an e-mail addressed as “hello ladies”, which is what made me think that it is a girl’s evening. But at some point, she added the other husbands and men.

@Lynne: She only met my fiance a few times, and I don’t think it is long enough to make any impression, so I don’t think she dislikes him (and all our common friends who know him are quite fond of him). You have a good point though that she only invited people she was already friends with, though I find that odd too.

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AMC February 21, 2012 at 11:37 am

Maybe it has something to do with your relationship status? If the only other person to attend with a partner is married and you aren’t yet, maybe that’s why the hostess didn’t invite your fiance. Considering how long you’ve been with your partner, I think it was a poor choice for the hostess to exclude him, and I don’t blame you for feeling hurt by that.

I was a bridesmaid in a friend’s wedding a few years ago. My husband and I were dating at the time but not engaged yet. He has always been nice to my friend, but she didn’t like him because he happened to be buddies with her ex. (It was a bad break-up but had happened years before and had nothing to do with my future husband.) Still, she attempted to exclude him and used the fact that we weren’t engaged or married as an excuse not to invite him. All the other bridesmaids were married or engaged (except for one other girl) and their partners were all invited. I was hurt but, seeing as it was her wedding and her decision, I didn’t argue with her. She must have realized how petty she was being because she later changed her mind and told me that my partner was welcome to attend.

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travestine February 21, 2012 at 11:38 am

I was wondering the same as ferretrick: the OP assumed that, because her friend’s husband was out of town, it was a girl’s night. It doesn’t sound like she confirmed with her friend that it was only she who was invited, or that her fiance was specifically excluded.

A bit more clarity is needed here. And, perhaps, fewer assumptions. I would suggest the OP have a candid conversation with her friend.

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NicoleK February 21, 2012 at 11:57 am

Is it possible she just assumed he would come along?

Or maybe she’ll start inviting him when you’re actually married?

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Jenny February 21, 2012 at 12:03 pm

I dunno, I think this LW was looking for an offense here. Maybe she only invited both if they were married. Or she expected you would all speak your native language and didn’t want your fiance to be left out. The point is, unless she is deliberately snubbing your fiance and does so on regular occasion, there is no reason to get so upset.

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Shannon February 21, 2012 at 12:22 pm

I think this is one of those situations where some simple communication in advance could have saved a lot of headaches. “Hey, Friend, is it okay if I bring Fiance, or is this a girls only type of thing?”

I host frequently, and honestly if I haven’t met someone’s significant other I might forget to include them. It’s not a racial thing, EVER, or a deliberate effort to exclude…just an “out of sight, out of mind” thing.

And as someone who lived abroad for a while, occasionally we did have ‘expat only’ gatherings. Not to be jerks, but because we missed speaking in English to one another in a social setting, without having to slow down/translate for others. I would have been completely miserably homesick otherwise. So I’m not offended if I’m not invited to lunch with Spanish-speaking girlfriends here in the US – I can follow the conversation to some degree, but I imagine sometimes they want to talk among themselves in their native language without having to ‘carry’ me.

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Cat Whisperer February 21, 2012 at 12:27 pm

Very strange situation. Wow.

The only thing I can think of: OP obviously didn’t know her friend “F” as well as she thought she did; or her friend “F” assumed that OP knew her well enough for the nature of the event “F” was inviting OP to to be tacitly understood and therefore not explicit.

What can you do? Missteps sometimes happen when you’re dealing with people who you really don’t know very well. That’s part of the process of getting to know people. Sometimes someone you thought you knew and understood turns out to not be the person you thought they were, and you have to take a step back and re-evaluate whether you want to continue to advance the friendship in light of what you’ve just learned.

I also have to say that really weird things sometimes happen when you’re in the process of becoming a couple. Sometimes people are uncertain of where you stand with the person you’re pairing up with, and how to deal with that. It can lead to some awkwardnesses.

But that’s the way life is: it comes with rough edges and unfinished parts, and you just expect sometimes you’re going to encounter things that aren’t smooth and perfect. Keeps things interesting.

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Calli Arcale February 21, 2012 at 12:35 pm

Are you sure it was even a snub? I know some people who are very generous but who, bless their hearts, tend to leave details out of invitations. If they invite me, they are fully expecting my whole family unless otherwise specified. Now, I greatly prefer to be clear in the invitation, and specify “you and your family” or whatever is applicable to the particular guest, but not everybody does. They may not have intended to omit your fiance; they may have thought it assumed that you’d bring him along. And when he didn’t show, they would have figured he had some other appointment and that it would be rude to pry into his absence. That would apply if it were a fairly informal gathering; these people I know tend to be very casual about both invitations and RSVPs, so with them you just have to be flexible. Some people are like that. Up to you if you continue to interact with such people; it depends on what else you get out of the relationship, of course, whether you’d be able to overlook such a thing.

Of course, if it really was an intentional snub, I’d probably decline further invitations. I wouldn’t ask if it was an intentional snub, though. Wait for the second invite; ask directly whether fiance is invited, and then you’ll probably find the answer.

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Riri February 21, 2012 at 3:02 pm

I don’t think it’s rude at all. Obviously, people of similar cultural backgrounds like to gather together. Not meaning to be racist, but when even just one person of another culture is present, it definitely changes the “vibe”. Of course, if they are invited, then the host and all other guests will try to make the “outsider” feel welcome by speaking in a common language, explaining foods to them, etc, if it is a culturally-themed event. Which is okay. As a Mandarin-speaking Chinese, I’ve been to events where everyone is Mandarin except for just one person, and we all do our part in making that one person feel welcome. But when planning events, I’ve definitely heard hosts musing, “I want to be able to speak Mandarin and just have a mando feel, so I want it to be all Chinese.” I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. Just avoiding the inevitable awkwardness that an “outsider” brings. Cultural diversity is wonderful and all, but sometimes, people just want to surround themselves with comforting unity. In my opinion, the hostess was actually quite polite in not mentioning to the OP about her fiancee. Among my circles (although to be fair, my group is probably alot younger), it wouldn’t be uncommon to say to guests “Eh, don’t bring xxx please; we want it to be all yyy”.

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Kaytie February 21, 2012 at 3:28 pm

I agree that if the reason fiance was truly left out was his race, it’s grounds for terminating the friendship. As a Native American, I have never understood why society seems to think that racism is the exclusive jurisdiction of old white men. I’ve listened to some of my own people (acquaintances, not friends or relatives) rip apart people of other races (often someone who is enrolled, yet they feel is “too white” to be included in their tribe and tribal benefits) and it just burns me up.

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Cat February 21, 2012 at 3:29 pm

I am wondering if they wanted to have a chance to speak their native language and felt the fiance would feel excluded since he would not be able to follow the conversation.
I know of a sister from a convent in England who came from Malaysia. After years in England and speaking only English, she was allowed to go home for a visit. She then realized that she had forgotten how to speak Malay and could not talk to her mother.
After that, sisters who came from countries that spoke languages other than English were required to practice speaking their language so they didn’t forget it.

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Surianne February 21, 2012 at 3:45 pm

I’d be careful before making this a racial/country of origin issue. As the other posters suggest, it’s very possible she was just thinking of this as an “invite my close friends” dinner rather than “invite social units”, especially since most people in the group aren’t coupled up.

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sweetonsno February 21, 2012 at 3:59 pm

Is it possible that F intended to invite both you and your fiancé and simply assumed that you would bring him? On the other hand, maybe she did not intend to invite any other SOs, and the other guests simply assumed that they could come. I’ve had something similar happen before, where I invited a friend over and he brought his girlfriend and her daughter, neither of whom I knew very well. Any chance that could have happened here?

If it was indeed a gathering of ex-pats, she absolutely should have told you. While she may have meant well (she thought he’d be uncomfortable as the only American, she expected everyone to speak your native language, etc), that’s a choice for you and him to make.

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Enna February 21, 2012 at 4:22 pm

I agree with Lynne that it might be that she doesn’t know your Fiance OP. Maybe host a couple of get togethers so your firend can meet him? It’s unlikely that she doesn’t like him as she doesn’t know him. Just see how it goes. Although even after meeting your husband enough to know him she doesn’t invite him then maybe have a chat with her? Espcially if she is inviting other people’s spouses who are from the same background.

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ellesee February 21, 2012 at 11:13 pm

Sometimes the host has the assumption that OP will bring fiance anyway.
One time when I went out with my high school friends (we all grew up in the same neighborhood and thus same nationality/background/ethnicity/whatever). I was the only one who happened to have a partner who was from a different background. When they invited me, I went alone and then they asked, “Where is _____?”

Some people just lump couples as 1, annoyingly enough. IMO, it’s best to ask both and not just assume.

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Sarah Jane February 22, 2012 at 6:49 am

Even if the hostess intended the dinner to be “cultural” or all in one language or whatever, it’s STILL rude not to invite the OP’s fiancé. Tell the OP what the theme, etc, is going to be, and let the OP decide if she wants to bring him along based on his comfort level. If the hostess is concerned about everyone else’s comfort level, then opt not to invite the OP rather than simply inviting her WITHOUT her other half.

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Typo Tat February 22, 2012 at 7:12 am

Sounds to me like the hostess only invited her friends, and as she doesn’t really know OP’s fiance, he wasn’t explicitly invited. The whole situation is a bit awkward, so next time just ask right out if she’s inviting just you alone.

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livvy17 February 22, 2012 at 8:54 am

Ugh. For all of you defending the hostess, how would you feel if she were, let’s say, old-money white woman and the fiancee was poor? Or black? What if the woman said in her defense, it’s not class/racism, I just didn’t think he’d be comfortable, what would he talk about? or He’d make the others uncomfortable, trying to entertain him? Does that still sound acceptable to you folks?

If this is a social affair which includes couples, the fiancee should be there. Even if they want to put a tag on the invite, “theme night – only xx language to be spoken,” he can chose whether he wants to practice language x, or stay home.

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twik February 22, 2012 at 9:26 am

I agree with Sarah Jane. If the hostess wanted an “all language C evening”, her solution would be not to invite the OP at all, not just invite her without her fiance.

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Kendra February 22, 2012 at 4:31 pm

The OP said “she had sent us an e-mail addressed as “hello ladies”, which is what made me think that it is a girl’s evening. But at some point, she added the other husbands and men.” So I’m wondering if she was planning a Girls Nite and it got away from her, and she didn’t intend to exclude/snub OP’s intended. We’ve seen it often on this site…someone planning a just a girls type evening but one of the guests insists on bringing her husband/boyfriend/brother, and that male invites his brother/friend/etc and before you know it the girls evening has become a sort of free for all and the ladies who left their significant others at home feel slighted. I also think, sometimes, when we have friends/significant others in our lives who are from different cultures/backgrounds/races, we tend to be a bit more sensitive to percieved snubs. So, it’s possible that there was no snub, but the only way for OP to find out is to straight out ask her friend the hostess “what happened”. There are many possible answers she could get from “I intended to watch a sappy love story and do facials and we couldn’t because all these men showed up” to “I thought you knew that both of you were invited” to “I wanted a cultural night and didn’t think your intended would be comfortable” or anything else. OP before you assume, I think in this case, it would be best to find out for sure there was a snub, and go from there. Hope that helps.

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OP February 23, 2012 at 1:22 am

Thank you everyone for the wonderful comments.

Let me give a little bit more of what happened. It will answer some of the questions raised here. I was chatting with another friend of mine I met that morning (one of the single friends who was invited, and is very close to me). She was surprised to learn that my fiance wasn’t invited because she spoke to one of the men invited a couple of days ago and apparently the hostess had invited him directly (I know him well, and he is not the kind of person to crash a party). When I learnt the fact, I threw some hints at the hostess that my fiance is going to be all alone, and all she said was that she’ll understand if I don’t want to stay too long and did not mention inviting him. I had already committed to going to the party, and I didn’t want to back out based on second hand information the morning of the party. I didn’t quite think it was right for me to ask her if I can bring my fiance, especially based on second hand information.

This was also the first time I actually went to a smaller social event with her. Hence, she knew me only a little better than my fiance. Secondly, though I speak the same language as she does, I used to feel snubbed by her a few years ago, because we were not brought up in the same city, and she seemed to highlight the difference even when we ran into each other. But she has been more civil with me of late, and hence I thought that she might have changed. The past is what made me jump into the non-expat conclusion.

Finally, if she wanted to have only an ex-pat get together so that we could talk in our native language, etc. , I’d have appreciated if she had told that to me directly. Who knows – I might even have joined it (especially if he was out of town or working that evening), because I have nothing against my native country. But I felt that it was too presumptuous that my fiance (and eventually my husband in a few months) does not get invited because I am dating someone who (as the admin put it) is “not born in the right country or to the “right” parents”.

I really wanted to know if it is a good thing to leave half the social unit out of general get togethers. I did get my answer, and I’d like to thank you all for that.
I am not sure that I can ask her directly, but as some of you said, I probably should find out how further interactions go before I decide for sure that it was meant to be a snub.

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Sugaryfun February 23, 2012 at 3:43 am

My significant other would have made me uncomfortable too. But I have only ever been on the other end of that- My husband’s family taking him out for lunch to celebrate his birthday and not inviting me (apparently because I’m “not family”) which I found hurtful. If it’s an all girl or all guy thing fair enough, but otherwise it seems very rude to exclude one partner, especially when when other people’s significant others are invited.

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Patty February 23, 2012 at 11:25 am

It has never happened to me before. Usually when I get an invitation to dinner from someone that knows me well enough to know that I have a boyfriend (or is even acquainted with him), than I take it for granted that he is invited too. I guess I’ll have to make sure from now on. Anyway, quite a rude move from your friend. She should have made herself quite clear at least from the start.

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Enna February 25, 2012 at 6:21 am

@ Sugaryfun – that is bad of your husband’s family. When people marry they join to families together – that’s why some relatives are related by marriage, others by blood heance the term “in-laws”.

I think the OP should see how it goes – maybe invite the lady and if she hasa a husband or bf invite him round too?

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Danno February 26, 2012 at 6:48 pm

I have no problem with one’s desire to occasionally get together with a group of only like minded, like cultured, guests.
I have two sisters, we are all married, and we’ve dealt with this type of situation many times in regards to visits with our father. My sister’s and I agree that in order for daddy and “his girls” to have some meaningful conversations, as well as having the chance to air marital grievances candidly with our father (who actually tends to be an excellent advocate for our husbands) we must understand that the presence of our respective spouses would not allow such relaxed conversation. We’ve come to accept and expect that if we siblings want to get the most out of these infrequent gatherings than we need to limit the invites to just dad and his daughters (not surprisingly our husbands don’t care either way and are quite happy to sit at home.) We already have plenty of opportunities for the entire family to socialize together but time alone with my father is scarce. Of course I’m dealing with family and not just a friend but I enjoy the opportunity to discuss or debate whatever topic arises without necessitating censoring based on the attending in-laws. I love my husband and brothers-in-law but their presence detracts from the full attention of my sisters and father. We are a bawdy bunch after a few drinks and though impervious to each others’ criticisms, our husbands are not. So suppose we’re sparing them from our drivel.

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OP February 27, 2012 at 11:40 am

@Danno – thank you for your input. But you totally missed the point. I told specifically that I don’t mind girl’s nights. But what bothered me was that my fiance was left out when others were invited. I would have appreciated if she told that it was an ex-pats party in which case I’d have taken an informed decision.

@Sugaryfun – your situation seems worse given that it is your in-laws. I hope your husband says something to them.

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gramma dishes March 8, 2012 at 10:25 pm

Sugaryfun ~~ Why does your husband allow his family to take him out for his birthday celebration without you?

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