Ask Minda Honey: Partner’s work life off limits

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Hi Minda,

My partner works as a waiter at two different restaurants. He works late most nights and is very social with his coworkers. He goes out with them a few nights a week to drink and have fun after work. He tells me that he wants to keep his professional and personal lives separate, so he doesn’t want me to join him in hanging out with his work friends or stopping in at the bar he works at to hang out. I feel excluded from a huge part of his life, but I also understand him wanting his own relationships and friendships that don’t involve me. I’m having a hard time with my feelings though.

Any advice?

Thank you,
— Barred-From-Life

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Hello Barred-From-Life!

It’s always hard to be in a situation where you feel like you want to spend more time with your partner than they want to spend with you. I’ve hung out with coworkers of guys I’ve dated before, and it’s usually a boring, AF time. Hard Pass. I’m actually less surprised by the fact he doesn’t want you out partying with his coworkers than I am that he doesn’t even want you popping by the bar he works at for a drink. Like, the primo perk of dating a bartender is getting hooked up with free drinks. And usually there’s downtime at a bar, so it could be fun to have your partner come in and flirt with you a bit. But whatevs… You are not in a relationship with me.

I totally get where you’re coming from. You’d prefer your partner spend those late nights with you, but if he’s out with coworkers having a great time, why not add you to the mix? You’re just as much of a fan of a great time as anyone else! If I were in your situation, having the feelings you’re having, I, too, would feel some kind of way about my partner isolating me from his social life. You might be thinking: Does he think his friends will hate me? Do I embarrass him? Is he the same person with them as he is with me? Does he have a work crush he doesn’t want me around? Is our relationship not that important to him? Am I bad drunk, so he doesn’t want me at his bar? Does he think I’m a jealousy monster and won’t be able to handle seeing him flirt for tips? My mind would run rampant with questions and concerns! And I’d spend the whole night in a negative funk and would be feeling real salty by the time he came home. Not a good look.

So, I tried to imagine some valid reasons he’s keeping the division between his friends and you. Maybe he doesn’t think they’ll be your kind of crowd, and he’s embarrassed you’ll see him differently if you see who he’s socializing with. Maybe, as you said, he’s starved for a life outside of you. Maybe he had a negative experience with a previous partner who has made him cautious about mixing his professional and personal lives, or it could be the opposite where this has always been his longstanding policy. Maybe it’s the kind of thing where nobody else is inviting their partners, so he doesn’t want to be the only one with his plus-one tagging along. All perfectly reasonable reasons. We’re connected on Facebook, so I did a little creeping on your profile. (Don’t worry potential question-askers, this isn’t my usual MO, but I knew this asker wouldn’t mind.) It seems like you all have been dating for nearly a year, if not longer, so I don’t think it’s a case of him just not being ready to make introductions yet.

But here’s the thing… None of that changes how you feel about the situation. Unless he can give you a reason that’s so compelling that your feelings about this go away, he’s either going to have to make an effort to include you at least a little bit, or try to compromise in another way. Like, that could mean he goes out less during the week and spends more time with you or he introduces you to the other people in his life that matter to him, so you feel less isolated. But something has got to change, or these feelings are going to fester within you. Try talking to him about all of this again, and let me know how it goes.

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