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  • April 01, 2015, 12:58:03 PM

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Author Topic: How to politely clarify whether two people are a couple or not?  (Read 231 times)

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I do pub trivia every week with a group of friends. We've been doing this for five years, and know each other well. Two weeks ago, one of my friends "Jim" unexpectedly brought along a woman "Janet" who we'd never seen before. He introduced her to the rest of us by saying "Everyone, this is Janet. Janet, this is [runs through our names]." Jim and Janet sat next to each other, but seemed to interact just as friends (no touching, no pet names, or anything that could be construed as couple-y). They also both paid for their own drinks.

Last week, Janet didn't come to trivia. But last night, Jim bought her along again. They sat next to each other again, but quite close together. A few times, Janet rested her arm along the top of Jim's chair (without actually touching Jim). Jim also paid for her drink.

At one stage, when Janet visited the bathrooms, another friend "Ricky" asked Jim, "So, ah, Jim. Is Janet a Special Friend?"

Jim replied rather brusquely "She's my GIRL-friend." The tone of his voice indicated that he considered Ricky's question to be a silly one, and that Ricky should have used his common sense and got the clue that he and Janet were in fact, an item. I should add that after Janet returned, Jim was more demonstrative with her, holding her hand, etc.

In the past, I've also experienced - with a different social group - several instances where two friends (who had previously never shown any romantic interest whatsoever  in each other) suddenly turn up to an event or party holding hands, or with their arms around each other's waists, or displaying other couple-y behaviour. When that has occurred, I've privately assumed "Oh, Bob and Mary must be dating now. Wonder when they started going out?" Nine times out of ten, I've been correct, but once or twice, it transpired that the people in question had simply developed an extremely flirtatious friendship, and still classified themselves as single.

Basically, sometimes it can be confusing as to whether people are in a relationship or not if they don't actually say anything! And sometimes I do need to know the relationship status so I can adjust my own actions accordingly. (For example, in Jim's case, I now know not to offer to set him up with my friend Kathy from work, as I was going to. Or we now know to leave two spare seats together so that Jim and Janet can sit next to each other at trivia, etc).

My questions are:

1) If a friend brings someone new to an event, who could be a potential date, is it rude to ask them whether they're actually dating that person?

2) If two friends show up suddenly displaying couple-y behaviour, should you assume they're a couple and treat them accordingly like a social unit, etc?

3) On the flipside, does etiquette dictate that you should let your friends know in advance if your dating someone. Or is it acceptable to show up to an event holding your new partner's hand, and assume that all your friends will take the hint and understand that you're an item? 


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My first reaction to the subject of the post is "Why is it your business?" And really, I still don't think there's a valid reason for you to need to know and it's prying to try to find out. Let them initiate the communication/announcement. When they become an etiquettely sanctioned social unit (usually living together, engaged, married), they usually tell people, but just barely starting to see each other exclusively? No need for a change for your behavior, no need for you to know. If they aren't getting invited to the same things, it's up to them to say, "Hey, Jane and I are dating, so I'd like to include her in our social events now."


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I agree with Arila.  Remember, they may not know themselves exactly where they stand, especially easy my in the relationship, and they might not even be on the same page.


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I disagree somewhat, with close friends. Obviously, if someone doesn't want to talk about it, you should respect that, but there are times where it's helpful to know. As OP said, one shouldn't set up people in committed relationships with other people. One shouldn't talk a lot about exes of the couple. Yes, sometimes there is often an in-between area where it's not well-defined, which is why asking in private (to whomever is the closest friend) is a good idea. And then obviously, if a vague answer is given, respect that and don't press for more details.


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I don't think it's out of line to ask a friend if the person they brought to a group function is their friend/girlfriend/boyfriend.  On the other hand (if I were not already married), I wouldn't find it out of line for a friend to ask me if the person I brought to some gathering was my date or just a friend.


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I agree with Arila.  Remember, they may not know themselves exactly where they stand, especially easy my in the relationship, and they might not even be on the same page.

I kind of agree with this. especially if they've only been out together a few times, and are still kind of figuring out whether its going to continue or last or whatnot. I think it just makes it more awkward if people start asking what their status is, when one may thing oh, this is my BF of GF, and the other hasn't quite reached that point yet.

as far knowing re: maybe setting them up with a friend, i'd do that privately. this way you can ask, hey, are you and Janet an item, or just friends, because if not, would you be interested in meeting my friend, and they aren't put on the spot in front of everyone.