my chronically networking husband hands out business cards on date night

A reader writes:

My husband is a successful freelancer and is always “on” his game –never knowing when a client opportunity will present itself, he likes to be ready. As a result of this success, he is a chronic networker and the frequency of networking is now invading our personal life.

We go out for an evening to unwind, have a glass of wine, and get away from the kids… and he makes a point to bring his business cards. Weekend walk in the countryside where I encourage him to just leave the phones at home (who is going to call in the middle of nowhere?) – he brings his business cards. Buy a couch on Craigslist, and the seller asks “what do you do” to make mundane chitchat, and out come the business cards. We’ve been to weddings before, here we go again, and thus begins the work talk with table-mates.

I perceive this as an invasion. As an aside, I work both short contracts and freelance too and I do know the importance of taking opportunities when you cross paths, but I also believe there is time and place to connect with people at another time (such as when you are on a date and reconnecting with the person in front of you). It’s causing a rift.

May I ask, is there sacred space anymore where it’s not appropriate to be hustling and talking potential work? Or has everything become a huge blur in our uncertain times? Do men and women view this differently?

There are some lines of work where this behavior is pretty normal — part of the package even — because some fields rely on heavy schmoozing and networking. And especially because your husband works for himself and thus “only eats what he kills,” he probably feels particular pressure to be always on the hunt.

But I totally understand why this bothers you — it would bother me too. Most people want to feel like they have time with their significant other that’s sacred — where their partner isn’t thinking about business, or switching focus from them to a potential business contact.

I don’t think it’s so much a man/woman thing — I think it’s more of a thing you see with people who draw energy from their work and who suck at drawing boundaries on that. In fact, I understand his side of it, a little. Not the networking part — good God, no, not the networking part — but in many ways, my work and my life feel integrated into each other, and I often work at odd hours or when an idea strikes. That can mean being propped up in bed typing away on a laptop or not wanting to watch a movie after dinner because my brain is still in work mode and wants to return to it. I know that’s been frustrating at times for my husband.

In any case … how directly have you talked to your husband about how much this bothers you? And have you been approaching it incident by incident (“could we leave our phones off while we take a walk?”) or have you talked to him about the bigger pattern and how it makes you feel? If you haven’t done the latter, I think that’s where your best hope of resolution lies. Sit down with him — at a time when he’s not focused on work — and tell him that you feel most connected to him when the two of you are able to fully focus on each other or a social experience you’re having together, and that it’s tough on you when you rarely get those opportunities. Tell him that you’re not asking him to cut it out altogether and that you understand some of this is part of the package with his line of work, but that you’re asking him to brainstorm with you about how you two might be able to carve out work-free time for each other.

What do others think?

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 184 comments… read them below }

  1. 42*

    The first thought that came to mind: Did he every have a scare in his freelancing career where there may have been a prolonged period of little or no work? Or where he panicked because he was running out of money with no foreseeable income? I’m picturing something like people who were grew up during the Depression that still pinch and hoard even when they have plenty because they can’t bear the thought of being in the situation ever again.

    1. 42*

      My second thought was, was he like this before you married him? If he was, then that’s part of the package, and why he is “successful”. If not, then it’s time to ask what’s changed for him.

    2. Green*

      Worth also discussing financial goals as a couple and where money fits in to your priorities and life goals. If you guys are always talking about the beachfront home you wish you could have, he may feel additional pressure to make the money (traditional gender roles, blech) that allows you to achieve those dreams.

  2. Ad Astra*

    It’s possible that the husband feels more pressured to drum up business because he feels primarily responsible for supporting his family. I’ve seen this internal pressure even in more, err, enlightened men, and in families with a somewhat even split in income. So that could account for why the OP and her husband see things differently, even though they both do freelance work.

    Allison’s advice about bringing this up as an ongoing issue, not just individual occurrences, is key, imo.

    1. sunny-dee*

      It could also be that he feels additional pressure to be the provider because they’re both freelancers and there’s no stable or longterm job to depend on.

      1. Ad Astra*

        Heh, I mean enlightened in the sense that they understand that traditional gender roles aren’t the only way to run a household, and that women can contribute as much or more than a man when it comes to household finances. I couldn’t think of a better word.

  3. AndersonDarling*

    I’ve been on the other end of this where an individual will be on a date or at a family event and bust out a sales pitch and try to sell me on their business. I just happen to be sitting on the next bar stool, or standing in a line. Honestly, I feel embarrassed for the Seller and their families. It make me think that they would rather be working than spending time with their family.
    OP, I hope you can have an honest discussion about how neglected this makes you feel. It would drive me crazy!

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Yeah, I really hate to be pitched to when it’s a social event.

      Maybe you can ask him to do something like “I’m on a date with my wife, but if you want to discuss XX sometime, feel free to call me at the office; here’s my card.”

      1. the_scientist*

        This is seriously the worst. I HATE being “sold” something. I hate it at all times, but I especially hate it in a social setting when I’m minding my own business. I guess it’s one thing if you are having a conversation and mention that you are looking for a graphic designer or something to work with you on a project….and the person you’re talking to happens to be a designer and can then give you a card. But unsolicited pitching is…..ugh. It strikes me as overly aggressive and invasive and would make me far less likely to buy whatever that person is selling.

        One time, my boyfriend’s stepmom asked him for my email address to invite me to “a fun girl’s night of shopping!” and he replied with “is this one of those MLM parties where you’re trapped in someone’s house and feel obligated to buy something?”. She never sent me the invite :)

        1. Allison*

          I’m with you, I pretty much hate being put in a position where I’m being pressured to buy something, especially when someone starts acting like you’re either being rude by saying no, or negging you by making it seem like you’re somehow stupid, arrogant, or making a poor life decision by declining their product or service. Or, if they know you’re shopping for that service, they act slighted at the idea that you’re gonna hire a total stranger over someone you already (supposedly) trust.

        2. Not the Droid You are Looking for*

          Ugh…I hate, hate, hate going to those house parties. For awhile it seemed like *every one* was selling something. And now people can add you into their pitch groups on Facebook.

          I’ve tried to explain to people that if you send me an email with a link to a catalog I can browse and order on my own time, I am *way* more likely to buy something from you.

          1. Jessa*

            I don’t mind it if I’m told in advance and I say no to anything I don’t like (one friend sold those really great candles and they were the only company that had an amber that I loved – I am hugely OCD about what things smell like.) But you’d better A: tell me and not trick me into it, and B: honestly don’t expect me to buy anything if I don’t like the product.

            But yes, I agree with you on link I can browse. Most good companies count that toward the person selling the thing anyway. I’d rather sit in front of my computer and do that any day.

        3. Mike C.*

          I’m really with you here.

          It’s insulting as all hell. Don’t steal my focus and attention away from what I’d rather be doing just because you want me to give you some money.

              1. Kelly L.*

                It’s all that markup to pay all those levels of the “of course it’s not a” pyramid.

        4. Dynamic Beige*

          OK, this topic has really set me off. I was on a packaged holiday tour in China — clear on the other side of the world. We were separated into three buses. I was fortunate that my bus had awesome people on it. While standing in line, I was talking with one of them about my frustrations with doctors and trying to reclaim my health, I had been going in circles getting no help at all. Pretty much everyone was older than I was, so there was a lot of talk about health. A while later, a woman from one of the other buses came up to me and said she had heard what I had said and that if I was interested, she had something for me that had helped her a lot. So she handed me a business card for enhanced water or some other MLM scheme and then also mentioned that it was a good way to make additional money. I said I would consider it and promptly lost the card. I’m on freakin’ vacation. In China. I do not want to hear about how to get roped into some MLM scam when I’m home, let alone 12 time zones away from home.

      2. Sadsack*

        Yeah, maybe the husband doesn’t realize that just because people ask what he does for a living doesn’t mean that he should give them a sales pitch, they are just making conversation. There are times when it is appropriate and other times not.

    2. Dan*

      I live in Metro DC and do plenty of social events. The “here’s my card” people drive me nuts. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE PEOPLE. Pitch me after you’ve ascertained that I have a need for your product. I don’t even carry my own business cards because I don’t do outside sales, and my industry is small enough that I *know* where I’m going to be making work related contacts.

      The one guy who really sticks out is a real estate agent. We were shooting the breeze, and after awhile I asked him why he hadn’t pushed his card on me. He said, “I know your type, and that’s not an effective marketing tactic for you guys.” He’s right, and I ended up asking him for a card. When I’m in the market to buy in a couple of years, he’ll certainly be on the short list.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        That kind of stuff is why I hate DC sometimes. Since I’m not a lobbyist or associated with Congress, there’s not much to gain from talking to me (except my delightful personality!). And it’s really obvious when people realize that I’m of no value and slink off. Such a fake, obnoxious city sometimes.

        1. Dan*

          I’ve had people point blank ask me why I don’t have a card on me. Like you’re really going to call me if I had one?

          1) I’m of no use to you.
          And this is what I actually tell them:
          2) People want to figure out how close to the center of power you are in this city. Since my office is in Virginia, I’m automatically going to lose.

          On the remote chance I’m of use to you, we’re going to have a great conversation anyway. But I’m going to be of use to you for technical reasons, not financial ones.

      2. MaryMary*

        This is what I was wondering. It’s one thing if OP’s husband hands out a card after an opportunity comes up naturally in conversation. For example, if he is a realtor and makes a pitch after someone talks about looking for a new home. It’s another thing to pass out cards like candy, or make every conversation into a work one.

      3. the_scientist*

        OH GOD REAL ESTATE AGENTS. I live in an extremely high COL area with an utterly insane real estate market. There are a LOT of young agents here who deal exclusively (or almost exclusively) in condos (we just hit an all-time high for # of unoccupied units in the city!) and they are hustling hard. I mean, I get it…..basically anyone can get their licence to sell real estate so there has to be a ton of competition. Plus “looking the part” is, I think, a big part of success in that business (at least here) and those expensive suits and watches don’t buy themselves!

        Anyway, the day I moved out of my rental condo I was waiting in the lobby for my boyfriend and there was a (young, nicely dressed, attractive) guy clearly waiting to show a unit. He started chatting me up and then forced his card on me, which I promptly lost in the ensuing move. We won’t be in the market to buy for another couple of years anyway, so keeping this guy’s card around was not exactly high on my priority list.

        1. ali*

          are you in Denver, by chance? that sounds like what people are going through in that housing market.

          my husband is a real estate agent, but he’s not pushy about it. in fact, he’s really laid back about it. he’ll generally only give you a card if you ask. which is what more people need to do!

          1. Ann Furthermore*

            I am in Denver, and I can attest that the market here is absolutely insane, and it has been for at least the last 3 years, which is when we bought our house. We had a very specific set of requirements, since my mother-in-law was going to be moving in with us. We wanted a house with 2 separate living spaces, so we wouldn’t all want to strangle each other after the first month. We looked at over 50 houses, looking for one with a nice finished walk-out basement. Finally found one after being outbid twice on other houses, and we ended up offering the asking price on the house we bought.

            We looked at new construction, and they were adamant that they did not finish basements — not even if we agreed to pay a little more for them to do it. So we were standing there, basically waving our checkbook around, and told them we’d sign and do a down payment that day if they’d finish the basement. Nope. No dice. So obviously the builder was not having any trouble moving those places. I was shocked.

            Just a few weeks ago, a mom at my daughter’s daycare told me that they’d lost out on an offer they’d made on a house to someone who said they’d waive the inspection, waive the appraisal, and pay all cash. Cash! How the hell are you supposed to compete with that? Who has $300K (or more) just lying around? It’s crazy.

            1. Cath in Canada*

              Ugh, when we were buying a few years ago we were outbid several times, by outrageous amounts. One time we were outbid by someone who offered >$100,000 over the asking price without having even seen the house! (In Vancouver, which has a crazy market that’s got even crazier since we bought our place. You can’t get a detached house for less than about $800k anywhere in the city any more).

            2. the_scientist*

              Yup, this seems to be a thing here, too. I’ve seen people literally sprint up streets to open houses, like get off the streetcar and take off, full-tilt towards the open house. I’ve had countless co-workers plan to go to an open house on a weekend, only for it to be cancelled 2-3 days in advance because someone made a bully offer. Another coworker was outbid on a house when people showed up with the entire 20% of a significantly higher offer in cash. If you dare to put conditions on an offer, it’s usually thrown out right away, because the seller is able to pick the best of multiple offers (like my coworker who put a home inspection as a condition on an offer, and was roundly rejected). It’s all just ridiculous.

              1. Dynamic Beige*

                Ah, Toronto, then? I’ve read some things about TO real estate that practically made me hyperventilate. I don’t understand how anyone can live there. For a while, I watched Love it or List it and was stunned by people thinking it’s No Big Deal to pay $850K to be close to a school and the subway station and they’re not even 30.

                1. the_scientist*

                  You are correct! Yeah, I don’t know what we’re going to do- I work in the downtown core and BF works in a downtown area that isn’t close the subway line, i.e. it’s a pain to get to via transit. It’s not like the suburbs are all that much more affordable now (plus we’d need two cars and get by with one right now) so if we bought in the suburbs we’d have a commute of >1 hour each way, which would make us both miserable. I love Toronto for a lot of reasons, but I’m worried we’ll have to relocate entirely to have the lifestyle we’re looking for (i.e. being able to own something that’s not an 800 sq foot condo while still having a reasonable commute). I just can’t see this real estate market being sustainable indefinitely, surely the bubble will have to burst eventually. Unfortunately if/when it does burst a lot of people are going to be utterly screwed.

            3. Connie-Lynne*

              I’m in San Francisco and was looking on realtor dot com yesterday (mostly for dreaming purposes). There was a house on there listed at 1.2 million bucks, and no actual pictures of the exterior or interior of the place.

              There were, however, eight separate computer generated “visualizations” of what you could make the place look like. I took a look at the actual front of the place using Google Street View and was all “Oh my god.”

              Let’s just say, it does not look like a 1.2 million dollar home.

              1. INTP*

                Google street view has saved me on at least one occasion. I wondered why a place was so cheap so I looked it up, and in the Google view there was a giant airplane maybe 50 feet above the building. It turns out apartments in the landing path of an international airport are cheap!

              2. Revanche*

                We do this too (also in SF)! And it’s amazing to see how many homes are north of 1-2M that look nothing like being worth that much money. Part of me wants to just give up and say nope, not buying here, and another part hates giving up. And that’s before I even see it from Google street view.

            4. Clever Name*

              Yep. It’s truly insane here. We moved last year and we decided to buy our new house before selling the old one (parents loaned us the down payment for about a month) so we could make an offer that didn’t have any contingencies. Our new (to us) house has jumped something like $40k in value since we bought less than a year ago.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Nobody forces a card on me–I hand it back with a polite, “I really don’t have much need for this service/product and don’t know anyone who does, but thank you anyway.” If they get mad, that’s on them. Keep your sales out mah face then!

      4. Stranger than fiction*

        Well…I see where youre comes Ming from but there’s a difference between a sales pitch and simply prospecting/marketing yourself. Sales/business is a numbers game and just because you’re not in the market someone you know could be and that’s what these folks often depend on.

    3. Pill Helmet*

      Yup. OP, one thing you may want to say to your husband is that if he’s doing this while you are on date night or at some leisurely activity, chances are that the other people within your vicinity are looking to disconnect from work / connect with a person, even if your husband isn’t, and that’s really not going to help him.

    4. INTP*

      Yeah, and honestly, if I was looking for a product/service and I found out that’s what someone did, *I* would initiate a conversation about it and ask for their website or something. If they came on really strong with a sales pitch before I had a chance to ask myself, I would just say I wasn’t looking for it to shut down the conversation before it got awkward and obnoxious. So they’d totally lose a customer in me, and I have to wonder how many sales these people ever actually make due to their shot-in-the-dark networking.

      At the same time, I can kind of understand because I’m honestly more comfortable talking business and playing a role like sales than I am with unstructured chitchat with new strangers. Maybe it’s something they fall into out of social anxiety. (I do make an effort not to do this, and I’m in an industry now where it would be utterly pointless. When I was a recruiter I would wind up networking in social situations but I always let the other person take the lead. Half the people I met would tell me they were looking for a job, haha.)

    5. Mimi*

      It can also smell of desperation, which makes it ineffective as well. If someone tried to sell me something at a wedding reception, I would think, “DESPERATE!” And inappropriate.

  4. Graciosa*

    This strikes me as much more of a marital issue than a work one – but from a work perspective, I will say that I don’t think crossing boundaries helps business as much as the boundary-crossers think it does.

    Miss Manners once had an interesting letter about someone leaving business cards at the registry book at a funeral, and then following people around soliciting business. This is the kind of behavior that convinces you *never* to do business with someone.

    Restaurants don’t have the same taboo – which is why I think it’s more of a marital issue – but I can understand not wanting to feel that *nothing* will ever be more important than a chance for another client.

    1. kara*

      I dunno. I don’t think it’s nearly as much a marital issue as it is a manners issue.

      I own my own business and get the pressure to constantly be building a client base. I totally get it. But there are still situations where it is simply inappropriate to haul out the business cards and start pitching. The Craigslist seller? Sure. At a wedding – no, it’s inappropriate and rude.

      And quite frankly if someone tried to pitch me their business on a date night (say going out with another couple) or at a wedding or while I’m on vacation? Not only would I find it rude, I’d make it a point to NOT use their business, because that kind of behavior says to me that this person doesn’t understand work/social boundaries and it’s liable to cause issues in the business relationship in the future.

      Maybe the OP could share some of the comments here in the thread that have said the same with her husband as a way of letting him see that his actions could be detrimental to his business.

    2. Katie the Fed*


      When I got married last year, a facebook aquaintance I hadn’t talked to in years messaged me “Hi Katie! I see you got married – congratulations! How was the big day?” and proceeded to make like 2-3 more sentences of small talk before “So now that you’re married, you’ll probably need financial advising services – I’d like to offer you my services!”

      I found it so offputting and obnoxious. If you wanted to offer your services, just tell me “Hey if you never need a financial advisor, I happen to be one!” but don’t try to chat me up about my wedding and stuff JUST to tell me something. It was rude as hell and he’s no longer a FB friend.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        err, just to sell me something. I just really hate being pitched. And in social situations it’s harder to escape.

        1. Anony-moose*

          This happened to me with an old friend who wanted to photograph a gala I was organizing. Lots of “hey how’s it going?” messages. Then when I told him I’d already booked a photographer 3 months ago but would keep him in mind for future events he went MIA. Dude, we’ve been friends since we were 3. I can tell when you’re trying to use me.

          1. Katie the Fed*

            Ha! I had another photographer friend who was trying to build his portfolio strongly hint that he wanted to do my wedding. I just didn’t like his work very much – THAT’s an awkward thing to tell someone. And I really don’t like mixing business and friends unless I really know and trust the people.

            1. Anony-moose*

              “I really don’t like mixing business and friends unless I really know and trust the people.”

              Yes yes yes. I have a whole rant about kickstarter that no one wants to hear but I’m not going to hire you and I’m not going to give you money unless I seek out your business/services. Let me know what you are doing but don’t bug!

              My go-to photographer who I’ve recommended for weddings, galas, you name it is 20 years old and brilliant. And I’ve used him since he was 17. And he is always delighted when I refer him. Which is why I keep referring him!

      2. Oryx*

        I’m a runner with family members who do a lot of those MLM type companies. Without fail, anytime I post about running on FB, one of them reaches out to me to sell me something. Um, no.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          HA! I try to sneak over here during the day and end up with lots of typos because I try to be quick :)

      3. ScottySmalls*

        I kinda networked like this. I have a FB friend who’s a PA and a sister who wants to be. So I got in contact and asked how she was and later mentioned my sister and asked if I could put them in contact. Is that weird and obnoxious?I don’t network at all really.

        1. Green*

          I think that’s OK as long as you have some relationship with the PA, checked with your sister first to be sure she was interested in and don’t expect anything more than an informational interview.

          The worst is when a friend asks me to connect with their relative/intern/friend/whatever, I take the time to do it, and the person they were asking on behalf of blows me off. So don’t do stuff like this FOR your sister unless you’re sure she wants it, because otherwise you’re burning your own contacts.

          1. The Strand*

            Yes, so true. So disappointing when you reach out to someone, ask them to speak to your younger sibling, kid, or mentee, and then they don’t follow up for whatever reason.

            I am more vehement about not referring anyone unless I absolutely know they will follow up, or the person is a close friend who I can be very direct with (“This student had a question for you but is kinda flaky.”).

      4. Stranger than fiction*

        Well yes, that sounds quite forced and like this friend was not very good at marketing herself

      5. Ad Astra*

        Ooh that’s bad. I unfriend anyone who invites me to groups/events trying to sell me something.

        One of my Facebook friends sells Stella and Dot jewelry and does a great job of marketing it on Facebook. She’ll post about what’s on sale, point out items that might be especially good if you’re a fan of her alma mater (a big local state school that most sports fans have heard of), show different ways to wear the same item, things like that. But she never, ever sends me unsolicited messages about her “trunk shows” because that would be a bad sales tactic.

      6. Anonymosity*

        Agreed x 2. I have a relative who rarely talks to me but when his wife started selling Arbonne, he messaged me “How you doing? Can I send you something?” I was like “Sure,” just glad to hear from him. Nope, it was a commercial link for the product line. I was crushed. So I’m not of any use to you beyond that? Thanks a heap, dude.

      7. Dynamic Beige*

        A couple of years ago, I reconnected with someone I had gone to college with on a job. Being in the same industry, we have lots of people we know in common. We were just talking about this and that, getting caught up when she mentioned that her husband had gotten out of the biz and was a financial planner. I had known that, because I had received a mass e-mail from him along those lines. You know the kind “Hi everyone! Just wanted to let you know that I am no longer doing X, but am now a Certified Financial Planner at ABC Capital$. If you ever need some financial planning, call me!” I had ignored that e-mail because it was so gross. I mentioned to her that I had seen the change in his career and was curious about what motivated it (because I was, he was very good at what he did and it was surprising he gave it up) so we talked about that. Within two days after the job her DH sends me another e-mail with the “Wife was telling me about the _____ you were discussing. I can help you with a financial plan!” Ugh. That guy borrowed money from me back when we worked together and never repaid it. Not a huge sum but it’s the principle, you know? I sent back a polite — and true — “Thanks but I already have a financial planner that I’m working with. Have a great day!” kind of thing. There is no way in hell I’m going to let a former colleague or relation of a former colleague know anything about my finances.

      8. afiendishthingy*

        A guy I went to high school with went to Facebook. Apparently he is a car salesman. I unfriended him the day he posted on a mutual friend’s wall something like “Happy birthday! And remember if you’re ever looking for a reliable ride at a great price!” Nope. Not ok.

      9. Windchime*

        I reconnected with an old friend at a class reunion. I was happy to see her and she seemed happy to see me. We exchanged addresses and phone numbers (this was before email was common for everyone), and I was so happy to get a letter from her a few weeks later. Until I opened it up and it contained information about the weight-loss thing she was selling. “Hey, good to see you! I noticed that you are fat and thought maybe I could sell you this product!” It really hurt my feelings and made me mad at the same time.

    3. Anony-moose*

      Oh man. Not nearly as bad as a funeral but…

      We had a close friend who was starting her own business let’s say, painting decorative teapots. We had paid her to paint a few decorative teapots when she was still in school for it, for a reduced fee. We were really happy to support her while she painted teapots at home after work.

      Then we got a Christmas card. A personal card, not a business one, with her business card in it, letting us know she was excited she could now start charging double her rates and she hoped she would see us soon.

      Now, I’m ALL about freelancers charging enough. I literally write a blog about how to get started as a freelance writer and always advocate for charging a good wage. But the holiday card business pitch rubbed this freelancer the wrong way.

      (PS – I do think that business holiday cards/emails/whatever are important. I send them every year. But don’t try to solicit your friends through personal cards).

      1. Chronic Snacker*

        Oh, the holiday card, tsk tsk. You just reminded me of when I used to work for a huge non-profit, there was a nationwide roll out of a holiday card with a message underneath the normal ‘We wish your family a happy and healthy holiday season’ of…

        Giving to the annual fundraising campaign. Something to the tune of ‘During this time of giving, please remember [organization’s name] . For more information [website].’

        So. Tacky.

        1. Green*

          I think it’s less tacky from non-profits (as a frequent donor, I get these from dozens of orgs each holidays), but the ones I work with tend to do a end-of-year update and thanks that includes a “To donate or for more information [website].”

    4. LBK*

      This is exactly the approach I would take – are these social connections actually drumming up business? I have to imagine they aren’t that effective, so maybe that could be included in the conversation. “I feel really uncomfortable when you get into business conversations while we’re trying to spend time together, especially since they don’t even seem to go anywhere other than distracting you from me.”

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I would probably amend the last part of that to “distracting you from our alone time,” or something similar. If they have kids, it’s probably even more rare to have time for just the two of them–she might bring that up as well.

    5. Liane*

      I was thinking about that same Miss Manners letter, and it ‘s been years & years since I read it. Like way before I had The Teens. So people don’t forget someone who does this.

    6. Guava*

      I completely agree. It reeeeaaaaalllly pissed me off to hear that one of the groomsmen at my wedding was networking the hell out of the bridal party during our reception dinner. Several of the other bridesmaids and groomsmen complained afterward that they felt pressured and uncomfortable (many of us worked in graphic design, including the main offender.) He did get one job out of it, which blew up in his face after he burned a bridge and caused a permanent rift with our friends – and us. Those boundaries exist for a reason.

  5. AndersonDarling*

    I’m wondering if this is rooted in the husbands work culture. Do all the salespeople come in and talk about how many pitches they gave over the weekend? Is there a competition to hand out the most business cards?

  6. Lanya*

    I side with the OP on this one. If I were her, I would want some “sacred space” – such as on date nights – where the business talk has to be left at home. Marriage is all about compromise. Perhaps the husband would be willing to just leave his card on the table at the end of a nice dinner instead of chatting up the servers.

    I just spent an evening out with my husband and his friend. The friend not only talked up our bartender about his financial planning business, but also spent a good 30 minutes trying to sell us on his services. It was very schmoozy, and I didn’t feel like we were having a nice night out…I felt like we were being stalked for business. I get it, because he has to make his own living, but it was a bit much.

  7. Allison*

    I’m dating someone who, like your husband, is “always on” – he often thinks about work when he’s with me, and sometimes accepts work-related calls or answers work-related e-mails when he’s at my place. I more or less tolerate it because it’s part of his lifestyle, and since we’re not married I have the option of walking away if his lifestyle isn’t compatible with the type of relationship I want.

    But I’ve also had boyfriends who did not understand the importance of date nights, and my main regret was not speaking up earlier about my need to have an evening, once or twice a week, set aside for us to do something just the two of us – no friends tagging along, no socializing with strangers and getting their contact info for later, just connecting as a couple.

    I do understand your need for date night to be sacred, so to speak. Date nights are for connecting as a couple, and it’s imperative that all couples have this time together, whether they’ve been dating for 2 months or married for 20 years. And a big part of date night is not involving other people, except obviously waiters and cab drivers and such, and that means NOT networking, and generally not seeking the company of other people during the date. You are totally within reason to tell him that while you appreciate his work ethic, date nights are a time to focus on each other and it’s important that you both be 100% “off work” during the date. A couple hours of not networking won’t plunge you into bankruptcy.

    1. Dan*

      You make some good points. Your larger point is really “when you’re in a relationship, your job is to make the other person feel like they’re the most important person in your life.” Be it family, friends, work, or whatever.

      And not only is a couple of hours not networking not going to plunge you into bankruptcy, one can argue that “networking” in the wrong way at the wrong time can actually cost you business. Even when I’m at social events where it’s appropriate to be pitched, figure out if I have a need for your service before you shove a card down my throat.

      1. Allison*

        “Your larger point is really ‘when you’re in a relationship, your job is to make the other person feel like they’re the most important person in your life.'”


        I don’t know if it’s a generational or age thing, but it seems like people these days, especially young people, like to take their relationships for granted. They date in the beginning, but the second things become official, the dating trickles off and they fall into the habit of just accompanying each other to social events and only being alone together, y’know, after those events. And there seems to be a tendency for married couples to really take each other for granted, since they’re already married, but they need to remember that marriage isn’t the end goal; the work doesn’t stop when you say “I do.”

        1. AFT123*

          I totally agree, and I know I’m guilty of it too. My husband and I tend to take advantage or take for granted the chill, flexible terms of our relationship, but after awhile, it feels like the relationship has zero priority and we have to reset.

        2. LBK*

          I’m pretty sure this has always been the case for relationships since the dawn of time. We just hear about it more now because a) social media provides a more public outlet for relationship issues, and b) it’s more socially acceptable to talk about problems in your relationship instead of just pretending everything is fine.

          I’d venture that the higher divorce/breakup rate nowadays is much more about people not feeling obligated to stay in bad relationship than it is about relationship being more transitory.

          1. Kelly L.*

            I agree. People used to just stay and seethe at each other for the rest of their lives, or move apart but never officially divorce.

            With many of the legal and social factors that used to prevent divorce gone, people can leave if their relationship is terrible. And while I do think that people exist who throw away their marriages on a whim and probably should have tried harder, I think overall it’s a good thing that it’s more possible now to leave–especially if a relationship is abusive, but also if it’s just plain miserable even after a lot of work and effort.

            1. Ad Astra*

              Exactly. That “50 percent divorce rate” stat people throw around is no longer true — the number is much lower now. But when it was 50 percent, most of the people getting divorced were Baby Boomers, who finally felt empowered to get out of unhappy (and sometimes abusive) marriages. People use that stat to suggest that young people don’t take marriage seriously these days, but that’s just not the case.

              But yes, people of all ages tend to take their relationships for granted. I think it’s a challenge for almost everyone.

              1. Judy*

                I’m pretty sure it never was a 50% divorce rate, as in 50% people who get married will get divorced. I think it was a number of years that there were so many divorces that it equaled 50% of the number of people who got married. So if 100 people got married that year, 50 people got divorced, not the same people. It had to do with loosening of divorce laws and decreasing numbers of marriages.

        3. Connie-Lynne*

          Oh, this is so not a “young people” thing.

          I think it’s why a lot of my friends ended up divorced in their 30s after 10 years of marriage.

      2. Chinook*

        “Your larger point is really “when you’re in a relationship, your job is to make the other person feel like they’re the most important person in your life.” Be it family, friends, work, or whatever.

        And not only is a couple of hours not networking not going to plunge you into bankruptcy, one can argue that “networking” in the wrong way at the wrong time can actually cost you business. ”

        I agree so much. DH’s job definitely impedes on our social life (taking a work call while opening Christmas presents – check, missed my grandmother’s funeral to host a provincial dinner – check, taken phone calls while out for dinner – check, caused us to move our wedding date up a month and then elope – check and check) but I also know that is part of his job (both of them) and he always makes a point of turning off his work phone when absolutely necessary. He goes as far now as locking up his work phone in the glove box when we go to a movie (unless he is on call) and will make a point of leaving his phone at work when he goes on sick leave for surgery. Will this hurt his career – possibly (it definitely helped when he answered every call). But he also knows that my patience and goodwill will only go so far and that he needs to work equally hard on our relationship.

    2. Allison*

      Addendum: I wonder how well OP’s husband’s networking actually works. Has he ever gotten business from this date night networking? I often hear people defend pushy/spammy sales tactics with “but they work,” but if it hasn’t actually gotten him any business, it’s definitely fine to put the kibosh on it.

      1. nk*

        I wouldn’t even go down the path of “does it work?”, because if he’s doing it, he must believe that either it does work or it will work. And if OP tells him he should stop because it doesn’t work, he might want to try to prove that it does. Ultimately the best points are the ones you made above – that couples need sacred space/connection time, and that a few hours off isn’t going to detriment his livelihood.

    3. AFT123*

      My husband and I grapple with this a lot. Our solution – I told him that in order for me to feel like a priority, I needed him to commit 2 hours a week, pre-scheduled (as in, I’m not being shuffled around for other priorities), with zero technology or business stuff, and no nudie time, as I wanted this to be about actually talking to each other. We settled on Thursday nights from 8pm – 10pm. If other things came up, I asked that he not ask me to move this and that he schedule around our pre-determined time. He really struggled with it for awhile and then something clicked for him, and he “got” it. It’s happily been our date-night for years now, and a nice time to unplug, turn off the phones and tv, and just chill together.

    4. Stranger than fiction*

      Even though I’m saying above there’s a right way and wrong way to prospect for business, I totally agree he needs to shut that down during dates with Op. I wonder how he’d feel if she whipped her phone out when he was mid-sentence and started typing like mad for several minutes

  8. Amber Rose*

    Time to set some boundaries I think. Specific times, places and or circumstances where business cards may not appear.

    Husband and I set aside Monday nights as Us Time. No computers or TV or anything unless we’ve agreed on a movie. No work talk either unless it’s something like “the most hilarious thing happened to coworker today.”

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Oooh I like that! Might have to institute it in my house. His work email has started to bug me.

      1. Dan*

        My company won’t let us have work email on our phones, and webmail requires two-factor authentication, so there is NO expectation of checking (let alone responding) outside of normal business hours. The work life balance here is friggin awesome… and we just made the top 100 list of DC employers.

        1. stellanor*

          I use an app for exchange email on my phone that comes with ‘quiet hours’ settings, and I went aggressive and set them for 8am to 5pm. I just don’t check it when I don’t get a push notification unless I know there’s something I need to keep an eye on after hours that day, which works really well for me. Especially since me needing to keep an eye on something after hours happens 3-4x a year and that’s it.

  9. Mena*

    You husband doesn’t seem to realize that he is likely annoying a lot of people he comes in contact with by inappropriately bringing his quest for new business into every social interaction. READ: he isn’t just annoying YOU!

    Having spent 3 years as a freelancer, I can attest there is a time and a place. His blindness to social and business boundaries is likely HINDERING him in identifying possible opportunities – he is turning people off with his inappropriate timing (see Lanya’s note above).

    OP, I hope you share readers’ comments with your husband. His constant sales mode is sure to be counter productive

    1. Chickaletta*

      +1. I’ve been freelancing for a couple years now and go to networking events all the time. There’s an art to it by being able to read your audience and knowing when the other person is open to hearing your pitch. I get pitched to all the time in those events and I have learned what to do and not do from being either annoyed or impressed by other people. And that’s a place where everyone is there for the sole purpose of networking! I can’t imagine going out with my friends and family and using that time to pitch to strangers. He’s likely wasting his time, damaging his reputation, and losing out on jobs.

  10. Anony-moose*

    I’m a networker. I’m a fundraiser full-time and I have a side-freelance business and a blog. So I LOVE networking. Love it. Live and breathe it. I could be your husband.

    But a) my partner would kill me. He’s been really clear about how hard it is when ALLEGEDLY I abandon him at parties to talk shop for hours. We’ve set some ground rules about what events I attend solo, what “goodbye” means, and how much I can network vs. socialize with him and our peers.

    And b) I hate when people are always pitching to me so I’m cognizant of how I could come across to others. I tend to have truly engaging conversations with people about the organization I work with, or my writing career, but they are few and far between. More often than not it’s a “What do you do? Oh, I’m an xyz” and then you move on.

    I like the idea of setting some “Sacred” time where you don’t talk shop and he doesn’t network. Wise idea.

    1. Dan*

      “He’s been really clear about how hard it is when ALLEGEDLY I abandon him at parties to talk shop for hours.”

      Given what else you wrote, I find it believable that you’re talking shop for extended periods of time. But you capitalize “allegedly” as if it’s an unfounded accusation. If you’re setting rules of sorts, then I think you should consider that your partner actually has a point.

      1. Adam*

        When I was college nearly all my good male friends were computer programmers and all of their girlfriends and eventual wives were very much not, leaning towards more social oriented fields like public policy and real estate. “Talking-shop” at parties was definitely a point of contention that ranged from humorous to argument starting. Since I straddled the line between the two, not being a tech wizard of any variety but able to speak the language enough to get by, it was very interesting to watch how the two segments could segregate themselves for good stretches. I was the psychology major, so of course my M.O. was to take a step back and evaluate just how crazy everyone was.

        1. AFT123*

          Ugh, I loathe the social tendency to segregate the males and females at gatherings. “All the WAGs (wives and girlfriends) will be there, you can hang with them”. Makes me stabby.

          1. Adam*

            Funny thing, all my friends married each other, so our parties were just regular get-togethers where most people already knew each other outside of a relationship context. So it generally wasn’t a guy goes to a party and brings his SO along. And these were all generally very liberal/progressive leaning people. The guys naturally just wanted to chat about data systems and algorithms and the women would talk about…I forget exactly. :P

          2. Cath in Canada*

            Ugh, yes. My husband has a male friend who will always manage to engineer the seating arrangements to make sure that the guys are at one end of the table and the women are at the other, so we can have separate conversations. He’ll also bail on the group if he finds out that none of the other guys are coming.

            It would bother me a lot more if he was more interesting to talk to – he’s really into conspiracy theories and drives everyone in the group nuts at times. The guys can have him and his wacky notions about the moon landing!

            1. Shortie*

              Ugh indeed. My husband has a friend like this, and it drives me crazy. He’s not a conspiracy theorist, but he definitely puts a lot of planning into segregating the sexes. It baffles me why he can’t just let it happen naturally if it’s gonna happen. He pushes us to go get our nails done (wth?) or go in the other room and play board games while the men play poker, etc. I always feel like he thinks the wives in our friend group aren’t feminine enough or something, and he’s trying to make us more so. Maybe I’m the one who’s weird, I don’t know…it doesn’t seem to bother others in our friend group.

              1. Chinook*

                “pushes us to go get our nails done (wth?) or go in the other room and play board games while the men play poker, etc. ”

                I knew a guy that suggested that once. The women just looked at the guy who suggested it and asked him why he thought this was a good idea (while the other guys let him twist in the wind and enjoyed the show). Thankfully it never happened again (which is why I understand the difference between Colts and fine Cubans and what can beat a royal flush).

              2. Anony-username in progress...*

                Nope, you’re not alone. I made it clear to my partner very early in our relationship that I had no intention of entertaining his friends’ wives and girlfriends. This was especially relevant when he had several friends with revolving doors of “serious” girlfriends (seriously, how many times can you get engaged before it loses all meaning?). I hung out with who I wanted, and the WAGs were on their own to…you know, talk to people until they met someone they had something in common with. Now, 10 years later, several of his male buddies are among my dearest friends, and the only lasting female friend from that time is a woman that joined me in adamantly refusing to be friendly at first. Her ex was one of the revolving door types, so I made an official rule not to get attached to his lady of the week, and she just doesn’t like girlie types and pegged me for one. Their relationship went up in flames, ours survived. I’m like a cat-WAGs have to draw me out slowly, usually with treats.

          3. Ad Astra*

            My mother-in-law likes to do this. At Christmas, all her sons got Chipotle gift cards, but all the wives and girlfriends got Panera gift cards. I like Panera, but I like Chipotle too, ya know? I think there were a few other “boys only” and “girls only” gifts, too. They were the kind of impersonal gifts (like candles or shower gel sets) she likes to give to add volume to your gift load once she’s bought all the big gifts you really want, and they were always divided by gender.

              1. Jessa*

                Yeh, it’s funny and I’m trying to figure out why? Sandwiches and soup are for women? Bizarre. Personally I don’t love Chipotle and I do love the brekky souffles that Panera make. Heck every time I visit my sister I bring her a Panera card cause if I give her cash she’ll spend it on bills and I know she loves to get something on her drive to work.

          4. the_scientist*

            In my mixed-gender group of friends, segregation of the sexes has never really been a thing. We all get together, we hang out, and we talk about mutually interesting topics. I recently went to a BBQ hosted by friends of my boyfriend and it was suuuuuper gender-segregated and frankly sort of strange. I think that was probably the guest list though- it was basically all of the male host’s friends from work and their wives and girlfriends, so the guys huddled in a corner talking shop and the women talked about their decorating and gardening projects. It was just a bit of a shock to both BF and I because we’ve never really experienced such a stark divide before!

            1. Chinook*

              “recently went to a BBQ hosted by friends of my boyfriend and it was suuuuuper gender-segregated and frankly sort of strange. ”

              BBQs always seem to be where the segregation seemed to come up with my poker playing friends. They had no problem with us a females any other time but the minute we tried to cook our own steaks, we would get 5 different offers from the men to do it for us. Maybe there is something about an open flame that brings out their inner caveman?

          5. JMegan*

            I once went to a party where all the men were outside talking Army Stuff, and all the women were inside talking Wedding Stuff.

            I don’t imagine that situation actually went on all night, but to someone who wasn’t interested in either topic, it certainly *felt* like it did!

            1. Dynamic Beige*

              If Hell exists, I have a feeling mine will be something like this. Only there will not just be talk about weddings, but babies and small children. I’ve never been married and I have no children, that leaves me lacking about 98% of topics that typically take place amongst the standard WAGs.

          6. blackcat*

            As a woman in a male dominated field, this drives me batty. When I hang out with my male friends (generally fellow students in my current program) in a big group, the “WAG” crowd tends to try to pull me over. I’ve even had a friends’ girlfriend say, “Why don’t you come over here so you can stop talking about science?” To which I said flatly, “We’re all talking about my research.” It’s not like I don’t like these women… it’s that I’m annoyed that the default assumption is that I’ll hang out with them because I’m another woman.

            I do totally get the scientist/non scientist divide that tends to happen at a lot of social gatherings I end up at, but it’s so hard to navigate as a female scientist because the same divide also tends to be male/female.

        2. TotesMaGoats*

          My husband is your textbook computer nerd. doesn’t like to talk to strangers or people he knows actually. Fairly introverted but not shy. A couple beers and he won’t shut up. I’m the opposite. Nothing better than a bunch of people to talk to for me. Even better if I have a microphone and the spotlight. In work social situations, I end up carrying the coversations. It’s exhausting. His work does a big end of year bash. Rents out the club level of the local NFL stadium. Fairly swank. And it’s an IT related firm. So, a bunch of introverts who don’t like that scale of social interaction. It’s fascinating to watch, from a social science perspective. It’s painful to be there for me. I want to talk to people. Meet his coworkers and bosses.

        3. The Strand*

          Strangely, my husband was just telling me the other day about a coworker who expressed jealousy over the movies we go see together, that he wished his wife would gladly go see “Jurassic World” or the new “Terminator” movie. We share supposedly “masculine” interests, such as technology, science fiction and action movies. Meanwhile my husband likes “traditional male geek” things and gadgets, but also cooks, watches old “women’s pictures” and collects antiques; he and another male friend took a crafting class with me (though they were interested in doing very different projects with their new skills).

          My husband and I both consider the same man a “best friend”, but when he started dating and getting married to a really nice woman, she gradually became my close friend too. I still share more interests with her husband but more of my time is now spent with her or talking to her, I think because we are similar in our role in our families. I agree with Shortie that sometimes, this will just be a natural evolution of a party or gathering – people interested in certain activities or discussions will find one another.

          Sex segregators (male or female) are uncomfortable with one gender, and if you dig, you’d find very silly, cut and dry opinions about “what Gender X is like”. Generally think these people are limited in their own development and interests, and to be pitied.

      2. Anony-moose*

        Oh, no, i abandon. Allegedly was totally tongue in cheek.

        The only point of contention we had – which is why I now go to many events solo – is that often times I’m working. When I’m at a fundraising event my job is to work the room and introduce people to each other. It’s also to be the one that ducks out to greet late guests, help with AV, etc. He quickly realized that I couldn’t engage with him, so we decided he’d only come to events that were really important to me. In that case the alleged abandonment was somewhat justified.

        But you have reminded me that tone does not convey over the internet – and thank you for that!

        1. Creag an Tuire*

          It also wasn’t clear from your original post that you were talking about official “fundraising events” — I’d agree that hubby needs to step back and let you do your job at those. The OP’s husband evidently abandons his wife to pitch at -unrelated- social events, which is a different issue.

      3. ReanaZ*

        Dude, pretty sure that was a joke. The joke is “I’m pretending it’s an unfounded accusation, but it’s totally true, ha, ha oops” and the humor is in the over exaggeration. Chill out on the rudeness.

  11. Erin*

    There must be a compromise you can both be happy with – you put up with the networking at weddings or in group settings but date night should be sacred.

    When you do have The Big Talk on this, make sure you pick the right time when he can be attentive and really hear you. Not when he’s working, absorbed in a video game, or otherwise distracted with something. I really believe the timing of the talk could make a huge difference.

  12. Laurel Gray*

    OP, does your husband get business/good leads from these networking interruptions during your outings? I ask this as I try to understand his motivation to keep doing it. I would think if nothing ever materialized from people he met while you two were out on dates that he would eventually stop (or be more inclined to do so when you talk to him about it). I have a friend who does eyelash extensions and is a walking advertisement. Strangers approach her with a compliment/inquiry and when they learn she does them professionally, they are always more than happy to take her card and they almost always follow up/book an appointment. I have been out with her and she has been approached, she says she has been approached on date night by women also out on date night with their significant other.

    Or maybe beauty procedures is a whole different ball game?

      1. Ad Astra*

        Yep. I’m willing to bet he sees it as a numbers game, so the fact that he hasn’t gained many clients this way won’t deter him. To him, they’re all connections that could eventually pan out.

    1. lap_giraffe*

      Great question! I work in sales within the restaurant/hospitality world, so going out literally is my business and it’s definitely hard to turn it off. I have to find places where I don’t “know” anyone to go on dates or just to take an evening truly off. But it’s very beneficial to my business to be able to do some light networking and information sharing even during my “off” time.

      It might be wise to think about the situations where it has been beneficial and successful for him, and the occasions when it’s not, as a good way of setting standards. I feel like it’s too rigid to say “date night is for us!” when work is a part of life and a part of you two and what enables you to have this date night night in the first place, but by focusing on where the success is and is not occurring, you’re not only tackling the problem but can do so from a positive, constructive perspective rather than a “i want date night!” which can come across as petty.

      1. Judy*

        As an old married lady, I’d not call asking for a spouse’s undivided attention for an hour or two a week as petty. That’s about 1% of the time in a week. Your spouse is the person you have chosen to spend your life with.

        No one ever said on their deathbed “If only I had spent more time at the office.”

  13. ThursdaysGeek*

    Ah, it’s good to see that Alison is branching out and doing general relationship advice now, not just work advice. :)

    Because, didn’t you do dating advice, or wanted to do something like that, long ago, before starting this work blog? And we all think you’re good at it.

      1. Dasha*

        Please do dating advice- I’m not sure how you could incorporate it but I would so read. :)

        1. Ad Astra*

          I would also just accept general life advice, as mine is usually a mess in one way or another.

      2. Dana*

        I didn’t know! This work blog is fascinating but I would definitely stalk a dating advice blog as well…

  14. Chinook*

    I laughed when I read this because I was watching a police procedural (Motive) where the suspect is brought in about the disappearance about her boyfriend and her response to “what do you do” is to hand the two officers a business card and start her pitch for web design in the middle of her interrogation. It looked so natural that you know that this character is just like OP’s DH who probably does it without thinking.

    If it makes you feel better, OP, the other people probably just nod, take the card and ditch it later and think nothing of it (or maybe that’s just a Canadian thing?)

  15. Mike C.*

    This is the sort of situation I imagine when I read blog posts about the absolute answer to everything is NETWORKING NETWORKING NETWORKING.

    1. Laurel Gray*

      Ugh, this. So much this.

      It is AMAZING how the advice to network is thrown around and more often than not with ZERO direction. Want to leave your job? Network! Husband complaining that your chicken is too bland? Network! Car overheating on the freeway? NETWORK, DAMMIT, NETWORK!

      1. Anony-moose*


        Our marketing manager actually did an all-staff seminar on networking. It was fantastic! She talked about reading body cues so you could gracefully begin and end a conversation, and a bunch of other fantastically useful stuff. I wish that more “networking” advice were actual advice and not JUST GO HAND OUT BUSINESS CARDS. That dog gets a business card! so does that mail box! so does that toddler!

          1. Anony-moose*

            It was really well done. I was a little skeptical at first but at the end of the session everyone in the room had taken away some really good advice.

            Makes me think there’s a market for that kind of seminar! I COULD PITCH IT RIGHT NOW? Let me tell you about this great seminar I’m offering, MsM. :)

        1. Not Today Satan*

          I’m imagining Oprah’s famous “You get a car!” episode but “you get a card! you get a card! everybody gets a card!”

          1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

            That made me laugh aloud. I’ve met those people. They also try to connect with you on LinkedIn as soon as you meet them, even if your conversation wasn’t any more than “Oh, I went to high school with the bride. You know the groom?”

        2. Elizabeth West*

          I would LOVE to have attended that. I stink at networking–I either overdo it or most often, I miss the chance and then later say, “Oh damn, I could have mentioned X!”

      2. Mike C.*

        “You’ll never survive unless you’re out there giving 110% to SELLING YOUR PERSONAL BRAND”.

          1. Hlyssande*

            I think about it as 110% being more than a person can safely give, because at that point they’re burning the candle at both ends and risking their health. You can do it for short periods of time but there are consequences, you know?

            But yes, the ‘give 110% all the time!!!! forever!!!’ thing is ridiculous and stupid and nobody should ever do it.

      3. Adam*

        This is what networking advice sounded like to me when I was fresh out of college. I was almost convinced that I was going to work minimum wage for the rest of my life because I HATE networking. Fortunately I eventually learned it’s not essential though it certainly can help, and every “serious” job I’ve had did not have any networking involved unless you count former references.

      4. Ann Furthermore*

        Well here’s a chicken tip for you…my husband really dislikes chicken, but he hoovered what I made the other night — boneless chicken thighs wrapped in bacon. Everything is better if you wrap it in bacon. So see — networking is a good thing. HA HA HA.

    2. Ad Astra*

      Yes, this speaks to me. Networking can be great and mutually beneficial, but there’s something really gross about a situation where all your “social” interactions are actually ploys to improve your career. You’ve got to be able to turn that off and relate to people as humans, not customers or references.

    3. INTP*

      Yes! And here’s the thing – if people are interested in your services, they will ask you about it when you tell them what you do. When I was a recruiter, I did a lot of networking at any random place where I met people, but I wasn’t shoving it in their faces. People would just say “I’m looking for a job, do you have any availability?” and I had to come up with ways to create boundaries that would keep some separation for me! (I was usually open to networking with people who fit with jobs I had open but I would also meet other people whose resumes were all over the place and I wasn’t going to come out and say “Yeah, I can’t do anything with you.”) I know that other things are harder to sell people on than new jobs, but if I was looking for, say, a lawn service company, and someone told me he ran a lawn service company, I would ask follow up questions. Not stand there silently hoping to be handed a business card. And if he came on really strong with the sales pitch, even if I was looking for that product or service, I would pretend I wasn’t to avoid being relentlessly pitched at for the evening.

    4. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      Yes! It also reminds me of one of my Facebook friends who kept inviting me to networking events in Atlanta. Not networking for any particular industry, or even for alumni of some school – just networking, full stop. I’m trying to picture the utility of me (a teacher) swapping business cards with other random people while eating mini-quiche and drinking seltzer.

      Oh, also, I do not live in Atlanta. I live thousands of miles from Atlanta. I don’t think I’ve ever been to Atlanta.

      1. OfficePrincess*

        Oh but doesn’t your cousin’s sister-in-law’s cat sitter live in Atlanta? I’m sure she’d love to hear all about what they have to offer.

  16. Adam*

    I think this is one of those things where you have to meet in the middle somewhere. If he is in a field where networking is paramount and he’s also responsible for drumming up his own business it may be part of the package, sort of like if her husband was a firefighter and he had to work strange hours and lots of holidays. It may be essential to his both his work and his personal well-being.

    I think one thing that would help would be to schedule times for you and your husband (and maybe for family time as well) that are designated to be truly no business times. So no networking and business cards for him and no cell phones for either of you (short of a child emergency or something on that level). Also this will depend on your guys’ personal idea of fun but you might also look into activities where the potential to network is greatly reduced like hiking or cycling.

    1. Shannon*


      Having something like one “no business/cell phones” date night every week surely won’t cost him any business, but will help the relationship a lot.

    2. Dynamic Beige*

      Yes, like all things relationship, this is something you’re going to have to negotiate — but you may have trouble getting him to see that this A Problem. In his mind, he’s just being prepared. In your mind, he’s annoying people, ignoring/disrespecting you and never taking down time which will lead to burn out.

      I don’t know what your husband does and if he is mixed up in some MLM like Amway [shudders] then I don’t think there’s anything you can do about it. Many people think that it is a numbers game and just by randomly throwing cards around means they’ll hook one eventually. That may work for real estate agents, but sometimes you’re networking with the wrong people. This is part of the reason I don’t go to networking events at my Chamber of Commerce — everyone was dog groomers, gift basket makers, tanning salon owners. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I have zero use for those services (OK, maybe a gift basket) but they have even less use — or ability to afford — mine. I just found it all weird and awkward since I knew no one and everyone I did meet would be all “Hi, my name is Jane and I am the recruitment director for Really Expensive Private School” [looks at me expectantly] “Hi Jane, that sounds really interesting but I have to admit, I don’t have any children.” [pained look on Jane’s face] “Oh, well it was nice meeting you!” [hasty retreat]

      But if he is in a creative field like a website developer, he may be swayed by listening to some other people express an opinion on it. I’ve been going through podcasts recently and I’ll put the links to two which are applicable in another post.

      But seriously, you are not asking for anything outrageous here. Not having a TV in the bedroom, no cellphones by the bed, date night that’s uninterrupted by a sales pitch, that’s all pretty reasonable IMO. Otherwise technology will run you over.

  17. MsM*

    I’m really curious, LW: what kind of freelancing does your husband do? Because unless restaurants are a big part of his clientele, I’m baffled what major opportunities he thinks he’s missing out on if he agrees that date night is date night, period. (And even if he is, I can’t imagine he’ll get a chance to talk to the staff with decision-making power during dinner rush.)

    Also, he does realize that the cards aren’t his only chance to circulate information, right? He can always just get the other person’s contact information if there’s a genuine connection or they mention knowing someone else who might be interested, move on to other topics, and follow up with his details to explore things further in a more appropriate setting.

    1. Stranger than fiction*

      Oh yeah, now that you mention it why can’t he just beef up his social media isn’t that how most people are marketing these days? Of course that still requires he shut his phone down during dinner

  18. Parfait*

    A facebook friend messaged me after my cat died, “Sorry abt ur kitty. Can U like my business page?”

    I was so enraged. People need to turn the networking off sometimes.

    1. Merry and Bright*

      Ugh. That was so clumsy and contrived. I would have been pretty annoyed too :)

    2. I'm a Little Teapot*

      Wow. I hope you unfriended them.

      Sending people messages asking them to like your business page is obnoxious to begin with. Shoehorning onto the end of a “sympathy” note is….I’m having trouble finding words.

    3. Amy Farrah Fowler*

      Ew! That’s so gross. Some people just have no understanding of the appropriate time/place to do this. If I’m at a conference or convention, I expect it, but I defriend people on facebook that push those sorts of things on me unsolicited.

    4. Ad Astra*

      That is unbelievable.

      There are two kinds of business pages I’m willing to like on Facebook:
      1. Pages of businesses I actually like, AND whose Facebook posts are useful or interesting in some way
      2. Pages of businesses that belong to friends who are close enough to call or text me and ask for the like

    5. afiendishthingy*

      Omg NO. That beats my “happy birthday/buy a car from me” fb post. Did you reply? I would have given them hell.

  19. Shannon*

    I’m an event planner for a non-profit and we have maybe about 4 people who attend almost every one of our events *solely* to network (two men and two women, so it’s definitely not a men vs. women thing!) While these are business events where a little networking is expected, the events actually serve another purpose, so the people who are only interested in networking and handing out business cards to everyone definitely stand out. People are mostly there to participate in and enjoy the event itself, and many are retired anyway. Seeing people actively avoiding these chronic networkers is really cringeworthy.

    In my opinion, the people who successfully network at our events get business because they focus on building relationships with people, and don’t treat people as just another business lead. They are great at conversation and “knowing their audience” and they let the business talk come naturally. As others have said, I hope OP’s hubby considers that constant networking and card-pushing can come off as obnoxious! (Depending on the event and industry, of course.)

    1. Stranger than fiction*

      Yep where I work one of the first steps of selling they teach the reps is Build Rapport , without that you’re sunk

  20. Megs*

    I’m in a somewhat similar position with my husband, who is a partner at a large law firm and also does political work. I’m a lawyer too and understand that he absolutely must be available for calls and emails 100% of the time. That said, it got really frustrating when he’d be pulling out his phone all the damn time, only for me to realize he was replying to someone on Facebook instead of a client! Two things really helped – first, when he gets buried in his phone, I’d ask if it was work. He got good at sheepishly putting the phone down if not, and now usually lets me know what’s up. Second, he recently got an apple watch, which filters alerts so he only gets a buzz for important messages, and he can quickly check his wrist to see if he needs to respond instead of pulling out the phone and potentially getting sucked into the Facehole. It’s a luxury for sure but for some types of professionals I really see the benefit.

  21. Cari*

    Oh gosh, if I were in your shoes OP, the urge to passive-aggressively air complaints about his behaviour, on the business cards he hands out, would be hard to resist.

  22. Case of the Mondays*

    I think it is fine to have business cards and hand them out when the situation actually calls for it, not to everyone. For example, I’m a lawyer. I’ve been waiting for a table at a restaurant and ended up making small talk with some people also waiting at the bar. One of them wants to know what I do. I say what I do and he says “oh, I’ve actually been looking for a good lawyer.” Now is a good time to give a card.

    What I wouldn’t do. See someone in the restaurant on crutches. Overhear him say he got hit by a car. Run over and give him my card. That’s a big no.

  23. TotesMaGoats*

    I can totally understand on several fronts and I think Allison gives good advice.

    1. Being able to truly disconnect is good for everyone’s mental health and for relationship health. When I first got a blackberry for work, I thought I was hot stuff. Then I realized that I was addicted to it. And not in a “look how special I am” way but in a “if I don’t respond my boss will get mad” kind of way. I was neurotically checking it out of a misplaced sense of fear. My boss made me leave it at home on vacation and that helped. At my new job, I don’t have a work cell phone and I don’t check email once I am home. I need to be better about not checking FB but it’s helped things a lot.

    2. There’s networking, which we all should do, and then there’s terrorizing people with your business card. I can’t see how terrorizing people will get you business. We all know those people who are “on” even in casual settings. And it gets old.

    I hope you have a deep heart to heart with your husband on this subject. Good luck.

    1. Dynamic Beige*

      I had a friend and colleague who had an older phone that you couldn’t text with, or at least easily so she *hated* getting text sent to her phone. She also had a plan where each text was a charge, which she also didn’t like. Then she got an iPhone and it completely dominated her. I suggested that I drive us both to an event (job) so she could read her e-mails and she readily agreed, which turned out to be a good thing because she was able to get caught up for the event. I was sitting with her at dinner, just the two of us, and she was on her phone. I started referring to it as her Precious.

  24. Althea*

    It’s so interesting that Alison mentioned the man/woman thing. The first thing I thought of when reading this was a Broad Experience episode (podcast) about how women vs. men tend to network and drum up business. It was exactly along these lines. Men tend to see bringing other men (buddies, acquaintances) into their work as a good thing, whereas women tend to see it as crossing boundaries and invasion. E.g. if a guy goes golfing with buddies, and it turns out two of them have some overlapping business interest, they have no issue with forming some kind of partnership/deal/work relationship on the spot. OTOH a woman in the same situation may feel like she is favoring the golf partner when she should be broadening her horizons instead and seeing if other options would be more beneficial rather than going with the prior relationship. I could see it as being more of a field-based divide, but it felt true to me.

  25. Artemesia*

    I really find it offensive when people whip out the business cards at other people’s social events. A person who is flashing business cards at a wedding reception or a night out with friends is widely regarded as, as Hax puts it, a ‘glassbowl’. It is one thing if someone ASKS for a card; but to offer one marks you out as a user. I have several rather high power business acquaintances who make it a habit of refusing to be helpful to people who are obviously on the make and networking such that they turn social conversations into ‘what can you do for me.’

    A guy who does this at every opportunity comes across as as obnoxious as the multi level market scammer who has no friends, only marks.

  26. TheLazyB*

    Anyone else misread the title as the husband gate crashing speed dating nights to hand out business cards? Just me?!

    1. Dynamic Beige*

      I’m sure at least one person out there has a speed dating story that involved getting a business card handed to them right off the jump.

  27. AnnieNonymous*

    The OP’s focus on business cards is interesting. Her husband undoubtedly brings his wallet wherever he goes, and he should naturally have some business cards in there. I actually feel like this particular habit is a norm and not indicative of anything; everyone I know takes business cards with them everywhere, because they always bring their wallets with them. I agree with the general point of her letter, but I’d caution her against getting hung up on the detail of the business cards. That’s the one point where she’s maybe the one who’s not in tune with business norms.

    That aside, it’s time for the OP to remind her husband why he got into freelancing to begin with. If you’re not going to take advantage of your flexible schedule and time with your family, it’s time to go back to working for someone else and leaving your work at the office.

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