I emailed my girlfriend’s boss to complain that he encroached on our relationship

A reader writes:

My girlfriend recently went on a business trip with her boss. After meeting with their clients for dinner, the two of them headed back to the hotel and had some drinks in the lobby.

I’m completely fine with my girlfriend having one or two drinks with her boss for an hour in the hotel lobby. Not a big deal. Perfectly fine.

The problem was they spent 3+ hours drinking together and she didn’t get back to her hotel room to call me until 11:30 p.m. When she called me, she was totally drunk.

Now I believe her boss crossed the line from “business” into “personal.” He encroached on our personal relationship.

I would never show up at his work and encroach on his business, and if I did I would expect he would address it with me. Likewise, I would hope that he would never encroach on our personal life, and if he does then I have the right to address him professionally, as it now involves me.

Needless to say, I sent him a professional email outlining my concerns. He was lucky I didn’t involve HR as I think it was extremely inappropriate. Do you agree that I was justified in doing so?

Also, what are appropriate boundaries for drinking alone with the boss on a business trip? Is what I outlined above fair? (Number of drinks, time of night, etc.) I would say nothing past 10:00 p.m. as well.

This isn’t going to be the answer I think you thought it would be.

You emailed your girlfriend’s boss to complain that that he encroached on your personal relationship by socializing with her on a business trip and because she didn’t call you until later that night?


Your actions and your stance here are frighteningly controlling and wrong.

You had no standing to contact her boss. None.

Your girlfriend is in charge of managing her relationship with her boss and her relationship with you.

I am no fan of getting drunk with coworkers, let alone with bosses, but it’s up to her to decide how she manages her relationships with colleagues. If you have a concern about how those choices impact you or your relationship, you take that up with her. If you’re concerned about how much she drank or with who or for how long or what time she called you, those are issues between the two of you, and that’s where any discussion belongs.

Emailing her boss is far over the line, incredibly undermining to your girlfriend, and just wildly inappropriate.

Your girlfriend is not property that you own. You do not get to complain to other people who she chooses to spend time with, and you definitely don’t get to interfere in her business relationships.

As for her boss being “lucky that you didn’t involve HR” … again, no. You don’t work at this company. You have no standing to involve HR, and there’s nothing to involve HR over anyway. In fact, your girlfriend is the one who’s lucky that you didn’t involve HR, since that would just further add to the professional humiliation you’ve inflicted on her.

And to be clear, what you did was humiliating. You took it upon yourself to try to intervene in her work relationships without her permission, and you’ve almost certainly introduced an incredible awkwardness and tension into her relationship with her boss. You also may have caused her boss to be seriously concerned about her welfare at home, because this kind of control and interference is a pretty well-known flag for abuse.

You owe her a massive apology, but more importantly you owe her (and future partners, because this is a break-up level offense) some serious soul-searching about boundaries and control.

The scariest part of this letter is that you don’t realize that it’s scary at all. Please rethink this.

{ 985 comments… read them below }

    1. Annonymouse*

      All I can think is “wow. 50 shades of grey, much?”

      Your behaviour is in no way appropriate. You never have reason to contact someone else’s work.

      You also need to take a look at yourself and ask “why do I need to control someone so much?”

      Relationships are a two way street of give and take. Both people giving and both people taking. It sounds like you expect her to do all the give (reassurance, communication, obedience) without giving the same things back.

      1. Allisonthe5th*

        I hope not! If she’s still hanging around, I think she needs to reread Alison’s response about 50 times until it sinks it..

  1. Tracy*

    Holy crap, this is scary. Thank you for being the voice of reason here. He has no idea that this is abusive behavior.

    1. M-C*

      Oh come on, I think he had a very good idea of how much control he wanted over her. Let’s not excuse this as him being a poor ignorant slob. I just hope the boss is a good person, and refers the girlfriend for some serious counseling in getting herself out of this horrible relationship instead of trying to drink her problems away..

      1. zora.dee*

        Abusers never acknowledge that their actions are abuse. They think their behavior is justified for whatever reason is in their head. That’s what Tracy is getting at.

        1. Tracy*

          Thank you. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine my comment would be interpreted that way.

        2. Anon for this*

          This email could have almost been written by my abusive ex, to my boss.

          He had an excuse for everything, nothing was ever his fault, he was in his mind a protector and knight in shining armour, and I was endlessly somewhere between naughty child who needed managing and a weak spineless person who couldn’t think for herself, and thus he needed to protect and manage my daily affairs.

          Some Friday nights I used to have one or two many (drinks) at work to just not have to face the fact that going home I’d have to deal with his insanity. It never went well of course, but… I walked as quick as I could safely.

          I see a letter like this as an attempt to alienate and put a wedge between the girlfriend and the boss, possibly make her role unstable. If the OP can destabilise her relationship with the boss, he can destabilise her access to income, and gain further control over her life. A lot of the time this isn’t that coldly intentional – it’s not that cynically planned – but over time this is the reward for their behaviour so it becomes a learnt way to get what they (abusers) want.

          I was so lucky I had a caring and supportive boss who put up with less cruddy things than this (but other awful things, and this wasn’t far away by the time I walked).

          1. Campa*

            Couldn’t agree more, @Anon for this.
            This is a giant red flag and I surely hope she walked away of this abusive and controlling relationship.
            I would not be able to forgive this type of behavior. 1st because it is abusive and humiliating, and 2nd because my job and professional success are not to be messed with.
            Of course, once he alienates her and destabilizes her access to income he is in control.

      2. Tracy*

        Whoa, I’m not excusing him at all. I said it’s scary he thinks it’s normal. That’s what frightens me, as Alison said, that he thinks it’s not abusive when it clearly is. Why don’t you think for a minute before getting an angry knee-jerk reaction about what I meant?

        1. Allyson*

          FWIW, I knew exactly what you meant. And it is scary that this guy seems to think his behavior is justified.

      1. Blurgle*

        No, actually, he probably doesn’t. Abusers honestly don’t see themselves as abusive.

        1. cee gee*

          ehhhhh…based on my own experience, sometimes they know, sometimes they have no idea, and sometimes they pretend they don’t know when deep down they do.

          i was in a relationship that was actually physically abusive — a type of abuse that you’d think can’t be denied the way psychological or emotional abuse could be.

          when i finally told my therapist, i was given this package for him to read so that he could learn about abuse cycles and how to get out of them, and resources to help. he laughed, threw it into the fireplace, and said what he was doing wasn’t abuse. yeaaahhhhhh.

          admittedly though, a year or so after i left him, he called me up sobbing that he remembered that moment as the one moment he could have “kept” me (yeah. no.), but ruined it instead. so he knew. he was either in total denial himself, or, was only pretending to deny it (insinuating that it was necessary, or deserved) as part of his psychological long game.

          i hope the OP runs far away, as fast as she can.

          even if there is no abuse, and he “just” has trouble controlling his jealousy (repeatedly using “encroach” to deflect), that’s still the danger zone. people who are intensely jealous to the point of sabotage and humiliation should be avoided for pretty obvious reasons.

      2. Phasma Felis*

        If he knew, he wouldn’t be writing to someone on the internet (another woman, even!) expecting validation.

  2. NotAnotherManager!*

    What. The. Actual. Fuck.

    You are in a relationship with your girlfriend, not her boss. If you have an issue with something, you take it up with your girlfriend, not her boss. Your girlfriend is an adult with free agency who is responsible for her own choices and her boss telling her to stop drinking, leave the bar, and go call you would have been way more of an overstep than what actually happened.

    Honestly, I would dump you in a heartbeat.

    1. Van Wilder*

      Right? Even if it was somehow appropriate to contact the boss when he “crossed a line”, how would one think that this is the boss’s fault? She’s a grown woman who can decide how much to drink and at what time.

      Unrelated side note… 11:30? Not that late.

      1. Creola*

        If she called at 2:30 am in the morning and you heard a male voice in the background, that would make more sense for concern. I still wouldn’t go the boss without getting her side of the story first (like if she said he took advantage of her or something). Jesus Christ, this is scary.

        1. LizM*

          Even then, it’s not his place to go to her boss. If the boss did take advantage, the offense is against her, not her boyfriend. I would want my husband to help give me the strength to go to HR or take the other appropriate steps.

          1. Sparrowknight*

            I agree with everyone that contacting her boss was way out of line. On the other hand, things clearly aren’t going to work out between them. It sounds like they want different things out of a relationship. If he isn’t comfortable with his partner going out without him after 10pm then he needs to discuss it with her and find out if that’s a boundry she’s okay with. If not then it’s probably time to let go. All I’m saying is that it is not exactly correct to dictate what acceptable decorum in a relationship is, it’s different for everyone and as long as boundaries are set in a healthy way it is not an unreasonable expectation as long as he is willing to follow the same guideline and/or compromise regarding some other issue she cares about.

        2. JessaB*

          OP is entirely not justified in what was done, but OMG what if boss was abusive or taking advantage, then the boss just got notified that there’s a problem and someone knows about it. Even if OP had a right (which OP so totally in no way does, ever for any reason. EVER,) this could put the girlfriend in danger at work if the boss was a bad person.

          1. AF*

            That’s the girlfriend’s issue to take care of and initiate action against the boss. If this is what’s happening, and she wants to involve her boyfriend in helping her deal with it, providing support when she needs advice, etc., that is for HER to decide. Not the boyfriend. The OP took this incredibly inappropriate action without her consent, and presumably without even her prior knowledge. And none of the ways in which the boyfriend should provide support or help should ever involve contacting the boss or HR on behalf of the girlfriend. That demeans her and takes away her power in the situation.

          2. cee gee*


            or the boss is a totally normal person, and the boss just got alerted that his employee is dating a complete psycho and now is in the really shitty position of having to have a talk with his employee about it, maybe, instead?

    2. Journalist Wife*

      What I keep wondering is whether OP has already accosted the girlfriend and out of fear she said, “Well, I was ready to leave earlier but my boss just kept talking and ordering drinks so I felt I had to stay…” because it sounded better than, “Sorry, but I found that it was nice to go have a drink (or few) with a man who is not abusive and controlling to me, and I lost track of time because it was such a breath of fresh air to not be afraid of the person I was with.”

      As someone who has been in similar situations in my youth, I can totally see it escalating from OP aggressively demanding a satisfying response from girlfriend, and girlfriend trying to de-escalate in the moment by casually projecting the scenario by a hair, because it was easier than owning that she was having fun without him.

      1. Pam Poovey*

        I can completely see this happening too, based on some past experiences with this type of relationship myself.

      2. Accusing the Accuser*

        Yup, this was me. Making excuses for where I was and who I was with because I wasn’t “allowed” to spend my time unaccounted and unapproved by my ex. My friend died while my ex was on a business trip and he was “too busy” (at 9pm, on a trip alone) to talk to me. A guy friend of mine came over to console me (which I told my ex about). My ex called every half-an-hour, demanding updates and to know why my friend was still there. My excuses were more and more ludicrous, but really I was sad and didn’t want to be alone. We finished a bottle of wine, watched a couple of funny movies, and he patted my back while I cried for an hour. Nothing untoward whatsoever.

        Meanwhile, my ex was having an affair with a married woman. I wonder if the reason the OP is so concerned is because he has been guilty of bad behavior himself.

  3. Cambridge Comma*

    I’m sure that most commenters will say the same thing, but perhaps it will help the OP to realise that it is a widespread view: Your mail is horrifying. Most people won’t agree with the way that you behaved either in a business sense or in a personal one.
    If your girlfriend breaks up with you, the average person will think that she was right to do so.

    1. Snarkus Aurelius*

      Twenty years ago, I was so stupid. I caught my ex reading my private journal. His reason? If I was cheating, that’s where the evidence would be. (I’d never cheated. It was a dream journal.)

      I wish I’d run. I eventually did but not till a few months later. This woman should run.

      1. ToxicNudibranch*

        Right? This is a house of evil bees if ever there was one.

        OP, please take what Alison and the commentors are saying to heart. This was a gross overstep and boundary violation, and the way you are processing this is not appropriate. No one wants to hear their actions are abusive, but you need to hear it, and you need to hear it loud and clear: This? This thing you did to your girlfriend? It’s abuse. You abused her.

        If your GF were writing in, we would tell her to run; run now, run far, and run fast. But she isn’t the one writing in, you are, so my advice is this:

        1) No more abuse. No berating, no contacting anyone on GF’s behalf like she’s a toddler, no assumption of ownership. Give the woman space. Don’t try to justify or argue your point. Just leave her be.
        2) Break things off with your GF (if she hasn’t already left – she must be terrified). Not because you think what she did was inappropriate or overly intimate, but because a relationship with no trust and no respect is bad for everyone.
        3) Seek out therapy to unpack whatever is leading you to think these misguided, controlling, and humiliating ways actions are appropriate ways to interact with the world, let alone a person you ostensibly care about.
        4) Do not date anyone until you have completed the previous steps.

          1. pope suburban*

            Captain Awkward is a goldmine of phrases like that, and excellent advice. I feel like a lot of people who read AAM would like Captain Awkward, if they don’t already read her. I do know there’s a lot of overlap in the audiences, though, and both sites have a delightful commentariat.

            1. Momo*

              Is this the same Pope that used to comment on STFU Couples? If so, *muppet arms* HIIIIIIIIII, from MOMO!!!!

            1. Marie*

              Same Marie that always shows up for the DV threads on this site, y’all!

              It’s always fun to run into that phrase popping up elsewhere. I didn’t realize it was going to stick, but I’m glad it resonated!

              1. ArtsNerd*

                Thank you so much for sharing your experience. Sometimes just reading someone else’s words can put your own life and choices into sharp perspective, and your words are incredible.

      2. BTownGirl*

        Agreed. Many. many years ago I had a boyfriend who became abusive. One of the first signs I should have run in the other direction was when he went out of town for work and I mentioned that I was going to a (female, not that it should matter at all in a healthy relationship) friend’s housewarming party. He was angry and said that he didn’t want me going to parties without him, where there might be guys. I was floored, so of course he tried to backtrack, but I knew he wouldn’t be pleased if I went. The scenario in this letter also isn’t normal and means absolutely nothing positive . OP needs to find a professional to talk to.

        1. E.R*

          Yeah, I had a boyfriend in my 20’s who blew up because he saw a photo of me talking to a guy. All my friends assured me that it was fine because I was just talking, but surprisingly, none of them suggested that my boyfriend’s behaviour was wrong. Like of course he’s upset, but don’t worry because it only LOOKS like you did something wrong, but you didn’t. I broke up with him a few weeks later (and of course he took it terribly and did awful things) and to this day I tell the men I date very explicitly, “I have nothing to hide and have no problem telling you what I’m up to (which might include dating other people, etc) and you can make decisions about whether to stay or go, but you never, never tell me what to do” . I am a person, not a prop in someone else’s life.

          1. BTownGirl*

            I really want to put your last sentence on a t-shirt! Here’s hoping these rotten apples found their way to a qualified therapist at some point. I was in my 20’s too and just didn’t have enough relationship experience (neither did my friends) to see how bad this type of behavior is. Good for you for taking control of your dating life and I’m sure you have nothing but wonderful things ahead of you!! :)

          2. eplawyer*

            I wouldn’t even give this speech. Either they are fine with you living your life and making your own decisions or they aren’t. If they have to be told not to tell you what to do, they aren’t worth it. They should already now.

        2. many bells down*

          My ex insisted I call him every day at a specific time, and never to be out of sight of my co-workers, when we all went on a work retreat. He framed it as “concern for my safety”, and all my co-workers were women, so I guess he wanted me “chaperoned” at all times.

          1. BTownGirl*

            Uggggghhhh that is so creepy! As Alison mentioned, the fact that they see nothing wrong with it makes it even more stomach-churning. I am so glad to hear he is your ex!!

          2. afiendishthingy*

            It sounded to me like the letter writer may have had a similar “call every day at specific time” requirement – “she didn’t get back to her hotel room to call me until 11:30 p.m”. Shudder.

      3. Qmatilda*

        Generally it’s hard to see the watershed point until you are out of the relationship. Mine read my personal email – and didn’t see anything wrong with it and in fact criticized the content of the email he’d broken into.

        Maybe this OP’s girlfriend will one day be able to see that moment as watershed. Even better if she realizes it now.

        1. JMegan*

          Mine went through my agenda one day while I was at work, and quizzed me about things I had done *before we met.* Like, who was that guy you saw on June 23rd last year? What did you do with him? Have you seen him since?

          That was one of my watershed moments, and it took me another six months after the fact to dump the guy. Not that I didn’t try, just that he wouldn’t go away…lots of crying and manipulation on his part, and me agreeing to give him another chance. It was awful.

        2. Oryx*

          “Generally it’s hard to see the watershed point until you are out of the relationship. ”


        3. Saturn9*

          My ex also read my email, with my permission, because he had convinced me I was having an emotional affair with a mutual friend (I was not) and there’s this awful book with instructions for “rebuilding trust after cheating” that involves both partners having total access to each other’s lives at all times. His dad was crazy-controlling and emotionally-manipulative/abusive of his mom, so he didn’t have any idea any of this was wrong until I eventually left him.

          What the OP is doing to his GF sounds like it may be based on a similar premise.

        4. Cactus*

          Agreed. Mine was February 22nd-23rd, 2009. We had an argument on the 22nd, and I wrote him an e-mail that evening detailing reasons why certain things upset me, ways in which they connected to things in my past, with my family, etc. We had been together for 3 years then, and he still seemed frustrated/annoyed/angry whenever I would get sad about anything, so I thought understanding my psychology might help us reach a greater understanding.
          The following evening when we talked on the phone, I asked him about the e-mail and he said “I skimmed it. It didn’t seem important.” And when I think back on it now, that’s when a big part of my mind totally fell out of love. We didn’t break up for nearly a year and a half afterwards. But mentally I was reprioritizing: yes, I would go to an out-of-town conference with spotty cell and Internet access that summer; yes, I would spend more Saturdays volunteering; no, I wouldn’t go to every family get-together of his; no, I wouldn’t check with him before making plans with my friends. And things got worse and worse. There were good days scattered in, of course, but I couldn’t feel that happiness, that love, that desire anymore. I couldn’t care.

          1. cee gee*

            ….wow. i really relate to this.

            the whole “he gets upset or irritated every time i’m upset” thing is, i have learned, a thing that emotionally unavailable (E.A.) men do because they expect us to be the caretakers of their feelings, and feel unimaginably burdened when it seems to them that it’s their turn. no matter how temporarily. no matter if it’s a ten-minute frustration you just need to cry out and get over, or something major and long-lasting.

            this has been a sticking point in my current relationship. he tries, really really tries, to be The Perfect Guy…on the surface. he has absolutely no tools to actually put that persona to the test, however, when shit gets real. that’s how his dad was to his mom — dismissive, emotionally unavailable — and that persisting facade of The Perfect Family is how they all acted their entire lives together (isn’t it amazing how many ways there are to screw up your kids without outright abuse or neglect? just astounding). he’s in therapy and has improved, but it always comes back somehow.
            between his battles, his intrusive / boundary crossing family, and my needs not getting met because i persistently put myself with E.A. men, i’ve found myself reprioritizing as well. like i always do.

      4. Preux*

        You weren’t stupid. You wanted to trust your partner and give him the benefit of the doubt, that’s natural enough. The fact that he took advantage of that is on him, not you.

        1. Clytemnestra Stein.*

          +100000 for saying this. So many times victims of abuse degrade and beat themselves up for, basically, doing things that are the foundations of trust in a strong relationship. They feel humiliated for exhibiting behavior that shows they are great, caring people.

      5. Jen*

        I had an ex- many many years ago who not only read the journal I kept, but also hacked my emails and sent off a blistering email to a friend of mine — from my account — to chew out my friend for an email he’d sent me that ex- thought was overly friendly or something. It tainted my relationship with my friend (who I guess thought I’d given access to my ex? Hard no), my ex- didn’t think he’d done a single thing wrong, and in fact went on to hack my emails at a later date, too. Didn’t do anything with them that time that I know of.

        It also stopped me from keeping a journal for most of the rest of our relationship, because I was afraid he’d read it and I just didn’t want to deal with the fall-out. I was 15/16 when this happened, I finally got rid of him when I was 18. Older Jen learned a lot from that experience and gets very twitchy with controlling boyfriends/girlfriends. The people at work who thought Twilight was the epitome of romance made me terrified.

        1. Raichu*

          I’m so sorry that not only did you have to put up with that but it messed up one of your friendships. :(

          On a related note, people who can’t handle their partners having friends of the opposite sex tick me off. I am already friends with a lot of guys. If start dating someone and he can’t handle the fact that I have platonic relationships with men (and they are all platonic – I am extremely monogamous and have no interest in cheating) that’s a dealbreaker right off the bat.

          1. Annonymouse*

            It depends on the friend.
            I have tonnes of male friends and coworkers (small business in a niche industry) that I hang out with but one who I really really click with.

            Because I know humans can’t help but get attracted to people like them, I don’t spend time with this particular friend alone outside of work.

            By the same token I don’t mind my husband spending time alone with female coworkers and friends because I really trust him and his judgement.

            Even the female friend who texted him (accidentally saw it as I was handing him his phone – you know how texts show up on screen) that “if Anonymouse hadn’t gotten there first, I would have batted my green eyes at you and made you come running.”

            Grrrrr at her but I trust him because I have no reason not to.

    2. A Bug!*

      Unfortunately, the OP’s views are widespread as well. Both genders. When someone does cheat on their spouse, often it’s not the cheater who bears the social blame; it’s the person they cheated with. (It’s simpler that way – it makes the relationship easier to salvage if the blame can be placed on the third party.)

      Since OP seems to consider his wife’s actions to be on the spectrum of cheating, I’m sad to say that this isn’t shocking to hear, but I really hope OP re-evaluates his position.

      OP, if you’re reading this, I would like to say that I also think your views are a bit horrifying, but – I want to be very clear about this – that doesn’t mean you are horrifying or a bad person. But now that it’s been brought to your attention that your thought process here is deeply flawed and disrespectful of your wife, it’s on you to work toward an understanding of why that is and to work toward a meaningful change.

      If the comments here haven’t caused you to reconsider your position on this, then yeah, I would start seriously wondering if your wife is in an abusive marriage. Don’t brush this off.

      1. Christopher Tracy*

        She’s not even his wife – it’s his girlfriend. They haven’t gotten that far yet.

        1. A Bug!*

          Wow, good job, brain! Seconding Mona Lisa’s sentiment – if OP’s not willing to adjust his attitude it’s hopefully a little less of a hassle for his girlfriend to extricate herself.

    3. Christopher Tracy*

      I would totally be done with him if I was the girlfriend. This was so beyond the pale of what’s acceptable – I’m flabbergasted, and yes, fearful for the girlfriend.

      1. L Dub*

        Seriously, this times a million. I’m mortified for the girlfriend, and I hope she heads for the hills.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I’d be utterly furious if I were the girlfriend, and he would be out on his ass immediately. But there’s cause for concern if we’re taking the letter at face value–I’m guessing this isn’t the only time he’s tried to interfere in her personal business. I mean, this is so egregious that it can’t possibly be the first time.


        1. SusanIvanova*

          I’m sure it’s not the first time for him, but it might be for her. For me, it would be first and last!

        2. eplawyer*

          It most defintely is not the first time. Notice he expected her to phone him “early” while on a business trip. That meant “you better check in with me so I know what you are doing.” And of course, it would be implied that she better be in her room alone at the early hour rather than doing anything else but talking to him, him, him.

          This is such controlling behavior, and the smug self-righteousness in the “how dare her boss speak to her when she is supposed to be talkng to me, me, me, me” just shows that he is an abuser. He sees absolutely nothing wrong with his actions, other people made him do it. Also the snide comments about how he was okay with certain things. It is not his place to okay her actions. If he doesn’t like them, he can break up with her. But she does not need his approval and/or permisssion to do diddly.

          1. catsAreCool*

            This letter was scary. The LW sounded like he thought he owned his girlfriend and “loaned” her to her boss for doing work.

    4. designbot*

      There IS no “business sense” as far as OP goes. His relationship with his girlfriend is personal, his relationship with her place of business is non-existent.

    5. Bob*

      I kept waiting for OP to change his tone from “this is what I did” to “now what can I do to fix this MAJOR screw-up, if that’s even possible” but sadly it never happened. In my experience, people who are this level of wrong will never see the light. Maybe had he ended his email with even a little bit of doubt as to whether he was in the right but he didn’t. He sounds completely convinced he was in the right here.

    6. Koko*

      It might help OP to consider that workplace norms aren’t affected by a person’s relationship status. Does OP think that the boss would have been “encroaching” on anything if his girlfriend was a single woman?

      If you answer “no” then it suggests that you believe that after a certain hour you “own” her and therefore the boss/coworkers shouldn’t have access to her, which is deeply troubling.

      If you answer “yes” then I would just tell you that you’re just out of step with professional norms. Every year my company has a week-long retreat and half the company is at the hotel bar until 2 am every night, some in large groups but others sitting at tables in twosomes and threesomes. There is no rule that says drinking/socializing with coworkers or bosses has to end at a particular hour, and that shouldn’t change just because someone is in a relationship. Whether in a relationship or not, the relationship should be kept professional. Many people prefer not to drink in professional settings to make it easier to maintain professionalism, but drinking itself, at any hour, isn’t inherently unprofessional.

      1. snuck*

        Know what? The boss wasn’t even encroaching on a married, de facto or 30yr relationship. (Not that it should matter! OP would you like your sister to email your boss and explain that you really need to attend your three year old niece’s birthday party and you need to have three days off work starting tomorrow? No. Over the boundary yes?)

        If the GF has an overbearing boss and doesn’t like it she might choose to change jobs, but it sounds to me like the OP was waiting upstairs in a hotel room (why was he even there? WHY WAS HE THERE? in a separate room no less, was he stalking her, following her to check up on her, thought he was going to have a romantic tryst on a working trip?) and got pissed when she fell into the work expectations rather than his own ones.

        The reality is that when there is company travel (as has been discussed MANY times before here) then you shouldn’t have boyfriends tagging along, and if you do they should be invisible and not get in the way of whatever is going on with work stuff. And having drinks in the lobby is (rightly or wrongly) bonding at this workplace. Who knows – maybe she was getting drunk with her boss and explaining just what an ass her boyfriend was and how she didn’t want to deal with the controlling nature anymore?

        Oh! Maybe the girlfriend is having a torrid affair (this is a joke OP… trust me, I’m being utterly sarcastic here in annoyance at how far YOU stepped over the mark), and you’ve messed up her dirty weekend with the boss – the separate hotel rooms were just so they could muck up two rooms instead of one. (seriously. Joke. Dark, black humour joke. Maybe the boss is less ass like and not going to jeopardise her future employment, housing, ability to feed and care for herself. Yes. Writing a letter to her boss threatens her employment, which threatens her housing security, future access to medical care etc and financial security. YOU did that, not her, not her drinking with the boss. Sure, she might have problems at work (who knows! We don’t!) but they would be massively amplified beyond reasonable management by your interference. Don’t talk work with her, and don’t encroach on her freedoms again, never ever EVER interfere with her work relationships. Ever.

        1. YaH*

          Where did you see that he was in the hotel? He was at home, waiting for her to call him for bed check and she had the audacity to not prioritize him.

    7. Isabel C.*

      I was just coming here to post “OP’s girlfriend, if you’re reading this, DTMFA!” because…yeah. NOOOOOOOO.

  4. Katie F*

    Your girlfriend is a grown woman. It’s not her boss’s job to police her drinking, it’s HER job. And if your immediate concern here is “Man not adequately policing behavior of My Woman,” the issues are much, much larger than her simply getting drunk with her boss at a hotel.

    This is manipulative, borderline abusive, and your girlfriend needs to seriously rethink staying in a relationship with you if you believe what you did was at all appropriate.

    1. Katie F*

      If I received a call/email like this from the S/O of an employee, I’d be sitting down with the woman in question to let her know I support her no matter what, she should know that the actions of her significant other were unacceptable and out of line, and if she needs anything, let me know.

      I hope the LW’s girlfriend gets out of this relationship fast, because it’s going nowhere good.

      1. N*

        That’s exactly what I was thinking. I would be seriously concerned for her safety.
        And the fact that he wrote in looking for support just baffles me. But at least it was a professional email, right?

        1. Katie F*

          Yeah. If I were in HR I might discreetly schedule a “hey, how are you doing, we are a little concerned, what can we do” meeting. Maybe leave some pamphlets where she can see them, no pressure.

          It’s not even that he was freaked out over her calling in late. I do the same thing, in a way – I have serious anxiety problems so my husband calling two hours late when he’s away on a trip would have me super nervous. I’d definitely vne be annoyed that “I was drinking” was the reason for the delay. But we’d talk about it when he got back, I wouldn’t super care as long as he acknowledged that I was worried.

          It’s the “well, OBVIOUSLY she’s a child who can’t control herself so I had to speak with her BOSS about it, like anyone wuld do” attitude that freaks me out here. It’s not that he didn’t like that she called late – it’s that he A. flipped his lid over her calling late, B. assumed her BOSS forced her to drink/call late, C. emailed her boss, and D. assumed “I’ll just talk to her boss man-to-man, because as men we’re in charge of her” was a totally normal point of view.

          1. AnonAnalyst*

            This. To be clear, my partner getting pissed at me for drinking with a colleague on a work trip totally wouldn’t fly in my relationship, but I do know that this is a thing that bugs other people so I would be more understanding if the OP wrote in about how angry he was with the girlfriend for what happened. I could also understand the calling late thing because that is a thing that would probably irritate me, too – but only because I would have been worried that something happened to my partner if I had been expecting to hear from him sooner.

            Blaming the person she was with though? Weird. Seriously, the girlfriend is a grown-up and can make her own decisions. If you don’t like what happened, take it up with her. It’s super weird to go to the boss, and I would be really uncomfortable if I got this email from an employee’s partner. Just no.

            I absolutely would break up with someone who did this, immediately. Too many red flags, and unless there was some logical way to explain them away (like the flu with a 104 degree fever or something else suggesting that something was really off that day), not something I need to explore further to see if the red flags are pointing to real issues. Hell, even if my partner of 10 years did this, I would be hugely concerned, but more because it would be so out of character. I would wonder if he had developed a serious health issue or something.

            Sorry OP. This is clearly not what you want to hear, but it seems to be what you need to hear.

        2. HR Dave*

          Totally agree. My first thought was that this couldn’t be a real email – someone must be yanking AAM’s chain, right? Because it’s THAT ridiculous.

          1. HRish Dude*

            Except we’ve seen similar questions before – the one who didn’t want his wife to go to the office party and the one where the husband quit for his wife both come to mind.

            1. AnonInSC*

              I worked with a guy once who I could totally see doing this to his wife. Of course, he and his wife were both married to other people when they met. They kept really close tabs on each other…….

              1. AnonAnalyst*


                Also, that sounds incredibly exhausting. I can barely manage my own life – I can only imagine how tired/disorganized I would be if I had to try to track the detailed day-to-day about my partner, too.

        3. Archive Enthusiast*

          I, for one, seriously want to see said “professional email”. Wish Alison had written back and asked for a copy just so there would be specific examples of the seriously skewed thinking to point back to.

      2. Ellen Fremedon*

        Also reviewing security procedures for the whole workplace, just in case OP is the sort to show up at his ex’s job armed.

        1. Amber*

          That seems really excessive, there is nothing in this letter to assume the OP would go to those lengths.

          1. OlympiasEpiriot*

            We never really know for sure. I prefer to have scenarios planned for and to never have to use them than the opposite. All responsible businesses these days have (or, I suppose, >should< have) Emergency Action Plans that cover fire/extreme weather/active shooter/earthquake-where-geologically-appropriate and take people through drills.

          2. Turtle Candle*

            But reviewing security policies is relatively harmless, and indeed should be done on a regular basis anyway. It’s not like anyone is advocating putting up a barbed wire fence; simply going over your policies to make sure that everything is up to date and the relevant people know what to do is straightforward and hurts nothing even if nothing bad does happen–and since it can be so difficult to predict when something bad will happen (it’s not like abusers send ‘I am thinking of shooting up your office, FYI’ cards to their partners’ workplaces), I don’t see how there’d be any problem in doing it.

            1. pope suburban*

              This, exactly. I reviewed our security policies, such as they are, after we let an employee go who has a history of anger problems and stalking behavior. Which turned out not to be overkill, as he showed back up (with his equally-violent girlfriend in tow, despite the fact that she has never had anything to do with our company) to try to get his job back. The boss handled it, and everyone else kept well out of the line of fire. It didn’t get violent, luckily, but it was good that we had reviewed what to do and were able to implement the plans.

              1. birchwoods*

                Uh yeah. This is an old thread but I just wanted to point out that ANYONE can get disgruntled and scary really fast. I worked in a preschool where one of the teachers was eventually let go for coming in late and not managing the classroom well (and I think also for being abusive to the children, although I never saw any formal reason she was let go, but everyone saw the abuse). She was told to leave in the middle of the day, left, then came back and sat in her car in the parking lot for HOURS. It was scary as hell and I happened to be the last person to leave every evening. The head administrator told me to lock the doors when everyone else left and not let this teacher in. If she was still there when I was supposed to go home, I could call the police. Luckily nothing happened but it was terrifying. Don’t underestimate people who have shown a pattern of unpredictable, controlling, abusive, or entitled behaviour.

          3. Nunya*

            Just had a shooting in a local high school. A guy who broke up with his girlfriend and then was pissed off that she was moving on with her life. He shot two other people as well.
            Maybe we need to start hammering harder on the whole women-as-property mindset, because this isn’t going away any time soon.

            1. TootsNYC*

              It’s at the core of a lot of mass shootings, this amazing need for control over other human beings.

          4. Preux*

            I would prioritize safety of everyone at the workplace, including OP’s girlfriend (hopefully soon to be ex) over his potential hurt feelings that some people thought he might escalate to violence.

          5. Tuxedo Cat*

            Although the letter writer would clearly be the inspiration for such a thing, it isn’t a bad practice in general. You never know who is angry enough to do such a thing, as sad as it is. I know my building is open to anyone who walks in, which has been the case for pretty much everywhere I worked.

          6. Serafina*

            I disagree. This LW has already shown a MASSIVE problem with boundaries and controlling behavior with his domestic partner – that’s a ripe situation for domestic violence to erupt AND explode into workplace violence. A few precautionary discussions at the very least are warranted by the boss and the girlfriend. Worst case scenario if they do review security is that such precautions aren’t necessary, maybe a little time gets wasted, a few feathers get ruffled.

            Worst case scenario if they don’t bother…shows up regularly in the headlines. It’s no contest.

      3. AthenaC*

        My former employer actually did just that. I had a very angry ex-bf show up at my work to talk to my boss and tell her what kind of a person I “really” am. So naturally my boss and the office manager check in with me to make sure that I’m okay and that I had the employee assistance number handy. I very much appreciated their concern. I also appreciated that the courthouse was a short few blocks away so that getting the restraining order was that much more convenient.

        1. Brandy in TN*

          I had the pleasure of seeing this happen while getting my windows tinted. Ex GF of former employee there showed up to talk to them about how he had cheated on her, etc…. I pretended to read my magazine while they listened politely and I thanked God for my calm, boring life.

        2. Jerry Blank*

          I answer the phones at my company and took several calls from an employee’s ex-boyfriend who was also trying to tell our manager what kind of person she “really” was. Aside from bringing it to her attention so she could take whatever steps she felt necessary, I started hanging up on him every. single. time. He gave up pretty quickly.

          As much as I dislike being on the “front line” for everyone’s complaints, this time it felt really good. Are you the keymaster? Cuz I’m the friggin gatekeeper, yo.

        3. Accusing the Accuser*

          After I escaped my abusive marriage, my ex wrote a letter to my parents telling them I was cheating (I wasn’t), having a mental breakdown, and they needed to convince me to go back to him. I work for my parents, so it was VERY uncomfortable to say the least. He also called my therapist and my best friend, demanding they “talk sense” into me. He demanded to come to my therapy sessions and to have private sessions with my therapist to talk about what “really” happened.

          Needless to say, I made the right decision.

      4. designbot*

        yeah, I would be giving her numbers of hotlines for domestic abuse, and possibly instructing HR and the front desk that we may have a situation and to not let this gut in the building or forward his calls.

      5. Bwmn*

        I agree completely – also in the very off chance that this is a situation where the letter paints a controlling and negative version of the relationship, but the relationship isn’t that way or is part of how both parties choose to be in a relationship – such a move will read to a boss (and HR) as very controlling and possibly abusive.

      6. Anon for this*

        THIS is exactly what my supportive boss did with me as I was trying to extricate myself from a controlling person. Let me be clear, my controlling person wasn’t hitting me, he was just scolding me for hours and hours over inconsquential things (how to chop onions!) and so on. Eroding my self esteem several chips at a time. Very, VERY quickly I was down a rabbit hole of being tightly controlled and I had no idea how I got there, quickly I was doing things to avoid dealing with his controlling ways… and thus found myself removed from others.

        My boss noticed that there was a change, that I was suddenly miserable, that I wasn’t concentrating where I should be, that I’d changed the way I came into and left work etc… and talked to me, and we talked through a few things including what I needed to be safe, how I was going to handle my stress while at work, and when I decided to break things off with the guy I was able to approach my boss and tell him and we worked out a safety plan for me.

        (And this abuser stalked me on and off for … well he still is… nine years later. I’m pretty sure it was him that set me up with a daddy issues instagram account the other day. UGH.)

        1. Purple Dragon*

          WT-S-F ! I’m so sorry. Please stay safe. I know how it is to be stalked for many years, luckily my stalker was comparatively incompetent. I’m so sorry you’re still dealing with it.

          Good for your boss for being so good about it.

        2. Raichu*

          EW ew ew ew ew ew ew ew.

          Does he really have nothing better to do with his life? That is sad and scary and extremely creepy.

          Your boss sounds awesome though! (not sure if still your boss, but I hope if not you have someone equally awesome now.)

    2. NotAnotherManager!*


      What. The. Actual. Fuck.

      You are in a relationship with your girlfriend, not her boss. If you have an issue with something, you take it up with your girlfriend, not her boss. Your girlfriend is an adult with free agency who is responsible for her own choices and her boss telling her to stop drinking, leave the bar, and go call you would have been way more of an overstep than what actually happened.

      Honestly, I would dump you in a heartbeat.

      1. AMG*

        I really hope she reads AAM as well. I am guessing we won’t get an update from OP but I’d sure love to hear from his gf to know that she’s okay and dumped him.

    3. The IT Manager*

      Yes! The vibe I see from the letter is that the LW is the boss of the personal relationship so as the boss of the personal relationship, he’s on the same level of the work boss. No, no, no.

      And all of this assumes the girlfriend has zero agency in anything. Her boss kept her out drinking 3 hours and got her drunk. The boss is to blame because she didn’t make the decisions herself.

      The LW seems creepily controlling, and I hope his girlfriend sees the light and runs far away from him. Relationships should be partnerships. Relationships need trust. Women should be assumed to be and allowed to be (I hate that I wrote it that way) in control of their own lives and capable of making their own decisions.

      1. anonderella*

        Your first sentence – terrifyingly accurately sums up my feelings for this. I sincerely hope that this is an oblivious OP, and not a purposefully menacing one.

        1. Sketchee*

          This reminds me of … “Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.” Greys Law

      2. Beaks*

        You took the words right out of my mouth! As her boss, I would question how her lack of agency in her personal life is affecting her relationships at work too.

        1. Rowan*

          Oh, hey, whoa. Anyone can end up in an abusive relationship. I’m no “doormat” in my personal life or at work (just got a major award from my company two nights ago for a challenging project I helmed, in fact), and I was in one for two years in my thirties. Abusers are skilled at sucking in their victims.

          1. Whats In A Name?*

            Whoa indeed. No victim blaming. Several reasons for that is a horrid assumption.

            And maybe most importantly this isn’t about HER, it’s about his behavior.

          2. some1*

            It’s absolutely the wrong attitude, but that doesn’t make it uncommon, unfortunately. And I think it’s worth noting the fact that he could have really damaged his GF’s professional reputation here because too many people think like this.

          3. Beaks*

            Apologies for lack of clarity, don’t mean to imply that being in an abusive relationship is a sign of weakness. I would be concerned that the abuser was trying to control her work relationships in other ways than simply that listed above. Maybe he’s telling her not to network with other single men or trying to limit her availability for OT. In my industry, these are hugely important to career development (not specifically single men, but with all people). If she’s a great employee, I’d want to ensure nothing stands in her way of reaching her career goals.

            Congrats on the award btw! That’s a great achievement!

            1. Blue Anne*

              I understand what you mean, Beaks. It just wasn’t the best phrasing. Controlling partners can definitely have a huge impact on a person’s professional life. My husband used to do things like wake me up for long arguments at 2 AM the night before accounting certification exams. He didn’t like that I had taken on such a demanding career.

              1. Beaks*

                Yeah, now that it’s been pointed out, I absolutely see the likely interpretation. Will choose my words better in the future.

                I hope you still passed your exam!

                1. Collingswood*

                  Just wanted to note that this is why I love this blog. Commenters have calm, respectful conversations and are willing to rethink what or how they said something when people point out potential issues. So much better than most sites!

        2. Bex*

          Well, that’s just bullshit. A person can be incredibly competent and a rockstar at work, and still be in an abusive relationship. Especially an emotionally abusive/overly controlling one. Often, it happens very very gradually and is coupled with love and affection making it VERY hard to see when you’re in the relationship.

          1. Beaks*

            Poor wording, I clarified my stance above. That being said, having concern that something could be the case, doesn’t mean you absolutely believe it’s the only possibility. I can be concerned about something while still believing it’s a slim possibility.

            1. Bex*

              Thanks for the clarification! I’m probably a bit touchy because I had a relationship that started off wonderful and supportive and ended up awful and abusive, as he spiraled into alcoholism and depression. The worse the relationship got, the *better* I appeared at work and in my social life, since I’m a perfectionist and became completely obsessed with keeping up appearances.

              When we broke up, and I came to terms with the fact that he was, in fact, horribly abusive, it was sooo hard listening to people marvel that “I can’t believe you were in an abusive relationship! You seemed so strong and competent.” It was an emotional gut punch every time.

              1. Beaks*

                In fairness, I chose the absolute worst sequence of words. I’m glad you’re no longer in that relationship though. Also, I know you didn’t mean it as a tip, but the ‘how not to respond’ is helpful too. It was a gut punch to you but probably really eye opening for your friends who probably assumed that abusive relationships are “obvious” or easy to spot.

        3. INTP*

          This is common thinking, and unfortunately it works to the great disservice of abuse victims. They have to carefully hide the situation and not ask for help just to keep the jobs that are key to getting away from the abuser via financial independence. (Even people who think of themselves as willing to help will often then judge the victim as weak or stupid if the victim doesn’t seek help in the exact way and according to the exact timeline that they think is right.) It also makes the abusers’ attempts to take away that financial independence via causing problems at work highly effective.

          1. Blue Anne*

            Beaks has actually clarified – bad phrasing. They’re not judging the victim as weak, but are concerned about the abuser causing problems at work, as you mentioned.

        4. SusanIvanova*

          My dad was this boyfriend. Based on observing that relationship, I don’t think the GF knew the BF would react like this to her going out and having drinks, since she did go out and have drinks. The ones who know they have BFs like that are always second-guessing any requests to socialize with co-workers.

      3. Sadsack*

        I’d be interested in seeing the manager’s response, if he even provided one. I feel bad for OP’s girlfriend, assuming he still has one.

        1. AnonAnalyst*

          I’m also curious about this. Although, I can see the manager addressing it with the girlfriend and not actually responding to the OP directly, perhaps out of concern of making the situation more dangerous for her.

      4. Kate*

        I got the same vibe. Not only did OP think it was appropriate to contact gf’s boss about her behavior, but OP also thinks the boss would speak to him directly were he interfering in their work. No. More likely, Boss would approach gf about her personal life interfering with their work and put it on her to fix it (unless, of course, anyone’s safety was at risk, and security measures needed to be taken). This letter was really frightening to me. I would run the other way.

    1. Jadelyn*

      I vote both. Work on your issues on your own time, without inflicting that process on someone else.

      1. Preux*

        Agreed. It would be better for your personal growth as well, OP. It’s difficult to make changes like this if you’re still in a relationship that used to operate under your old norms.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          This is a very good point. It’s why when addicts get out of prison/rehab, one of the conditions for release is that you not hang around former addict buddies.

  5. Brandy in TN*

    OMG. This is sooooo wrong. How dare she not call you at her set time?? Control issues much? You sound like the type to show up at her work. Dangerous. Like AAM said, this is a break up level offense.

    1. Blue Anne*

      Yeah, this is actually… I have been the woman not calling to check in at the right time. I was out for drinks, I was supposed to call my husband at 10:30 at his request, but my phone died. I was having a good time and the bar was easy walking distance from home. So I didn’t sweat it. We’re adults. Walked home at around midnight.

      My husband was SO angry. So angry. Not concerned about why I might not have called, not worried about me, but angry that I did not follow the rule he had set and angry that he did not know exactly where I was and when to expect me. I had to sit there until three in the morning listening to him yell about what an irresponsible, disrespectful person I was.

      It was an abusive marriage. OP, please think about your relationship dynamics here.

      1. Jinx*

        This. I really, really hope OP just made a horrifyingly bad judgment call and will take the comments to heart… but this sounds really bad.

        For some additional perspective, I am a female and have been married five years. I have spent time alone with my male boss, and I have spent time with my boss in a group where alcohol was involved. I have also stayed out late without my husband. My husband has NEVER gotten angry about any of this, and I’ve never gotten angry at him for similar situations. We worry about each other when it gets unusually late and we forget to check in (which happens), but it’s always a “just wanted to know you’re alright” and never “I can’t believe you didn’t check in for your curfew call”.

        1. many bells down*

          Also female, and married ermmm … 11 years now. A few years ago I was in another state, without my husband, to visit some family and attend a friend’s wedding. The night before the wedding I had several drinks in the hotel bar and met and talked for a couple hours with the bride’s very drunk male cousin. When I finally got back to my room and texted my husband to tell him what I’d been up to his response was “LOL. Have fun! Say hi to your dad for me.”

      2. anon for this*

        +1 to all of this. This letter is something my ex-husband would have done. It’s all about control.

        1. Dan*

          Yeah, my ex wife would have done that too. I used to think that some of her “quirks” were cute, but, uh, I learned my lesson.

          1. Raichu*

            I’m glad you mentioned this too – it’s not only guys who can be controlling and abusive.

      3. Anonish*

        Yeah, this letter is giving me flashbacks of lying in the fetal position on my bed getting screamed at because I had gotten home from babysitting a friend’s kid slightly later than I had planned. Apparently this was disrespectful to my former spouse because my time belonged to him. It took me four more years to get out of that relationship.

        1. Dan*

          I went to a support group for awhile, and many of the members were married 20+ years with kids, and trying to figure if/when/how to get out.

          Before I attended meetings with the group, I used to be beside myself because I was married for *three and a half years* before I got out. After attending the group, I realized 3.5 years + no kids was nothing compared to 20 years with kids. I told myself I got out easy.

          1. Katie F*

            I am married to someone who works daily with women who have escaped abusive relationships. The vast majority of them have been with their abuser for longer than 7 years, and nearly all of them have children. It takes a long time to break the psychological hold and it takes so many tries, on average, to get out for good.

          2. Anonish*

            Yeah, I got out pretty easy – 8 years, no kids, and I’m now engaged to an amazing guy who respects me and tells me he loves me every day.

          3. anotherMSW*

            On average a person in an abusive relationship tries to leave 7 times before leaving for good (stats may have changed slightly), and the most dangerous time for a victim/survivor is when they try to leave. I am glad that you got away, it takes a lot to do that, and I hope others criticizing the OP’s GF or others even in their head keep that in mind in the future.

        2. Blue Anne*

          God, I have so much sympathy, Anonish.

          Mine thought my time belonged to him even after we split up – I had been organizing his 30th birthday party and he saw absolutely no reason why I should not continue to do so. It was that particular episode of yelling at me for hours, which included “What duties do you even think you have to your husband”, that made me realize it had been abusive. (None, man, you’re not my husband any more.)

          It blows my mind how many people apparently think like that. Like you can really own someone else.

          1. Anonish*

            That sounds so familiar. I have a really clear memory of the last time I went over to the house to pick up some things and walking out onto the back porch to get away from him because I was getting yelled at. He followed me outside screaming something to the effect of “This is always the problem with you, you’re never willing to talk about this!”, to which my response was “Luckily you never have to talk about this again BECAUSE WE ARE DIVORCED!”

            It took me a long time to be able to use the word “abuse” since he never laid a hand on me, but at the time it also seemed totally normal to be yelled at and called an idiot every day. I’m in a much better place now and I hope you are too!

          2. Jadelyn*


            I…just have no words. What a sad view of relationships, where the key factor seems to be “duty” rather than love, affection, support, caring, etc.

            I’m so glad you got out of that.

            1. Blue Anne*

              Yep. Duties to my husband. He was (is, I guess) a very vocal “feminist” too. Activist on the issue. Lots of lip service to equal partnerships and other things that his actual behavior totally contradicted.

              1. Gaia*

                I actually believe that this isn’t as uncommon as some believe. Abusive men who claim feminist values because they want to attract strong, feminist women and break them. I’ve known a few women who were in abusive relationships with “feminist” men.

                Of course, these men are not feminists. They are abusers. Abusers do not believe in equality with anyone, let a lone women.

                1. Blue Anne*

                  Yes, I agree, it’s disturbingly common. It’s a perfect situation for them, really – how many people are going to believe me when I say that my vocal, passionate, intelligent feminist activist husband is actually an abuser? Surely not! He’s one of the good guys! No one wants to believe that.

                  It also gives them even more tools. I think I’ve mentioned this particular one here before – my husband pre-empted any defense I might have made by saying “You know me, I’m not one of those chauvinistic assholes who would gaslight you, all of this is really true” the moment I started to stick up for myself. Gaslighting was exactly what he was doing. But by knowing the term and bringing it up before I did he made it very hard for me to say anything.

                  And, as a vocal feminist myself, I didn’t want to believe that I had slipped into an abusive situation. I wanted to think I was too strong and independant for that. Never blamed the victim until I was the victim!

                  It’s a perfect tactic for abusive men on so many levels. Pretty depressing.

                2. Temp Anon*

                  Blue Anne – I remember reading a book about sociopaths / psychopaths (written by a psychiatrist who had interviewed hundreds of them in prison and out), and he concluded that sending them to group or individual therapy was a bad idea, because it just gave them more tools to use against their victims, including being able to use the correct terminology and “psycho-babble” if / when their partners tried to get them into couples’ counseling. So, basically, they learned enough therapy language to make their partners look like the crazy one and to have the counselor side with them. Plus they learned the language they needed to talk their *partners* into believing all the issues resided with them (the partners).

                  I have also seen my boyfriend (of 13 years) do this with me. He has ADHD, ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder), is a sex addict, and a narcissist. The few times I’ve tried to talk to him about those issues, he’ll act like he’s trying earnestly to understand the ways he has hurt me and my side of things, but then will come back days or weeks later and use *my exact same words* against me. (i.e., I ‘ll tell him that x- and y-behaviors of his resemble emotional abuse. Two weeks later he will have bought a book on emotional abuse and start screaming at me about how I match each chapter perfectly. Stuff like that.)

                  (I have an escape plan, but I’m about 1.5 years away from being able to pull the trigger. In the meantime, I’ve gotten enough counseling myself that his *literal* insanity doesn’t rip me up inside anymore).

                3. Blue Anne*

                  Temp Anon –

                  Oh god, I’m so sorry you’re in that situation. I’m really glad the end is in sight for you.

                  And… so much of that sounds familiar. Any problem I raised with my husband, he would be yelling back at me a few weeks later. It would be laughably childish if it weren’t so disturbing and hurtful. *I* make you feel bad about how you look? Nuh-uh, YOU make ME feel bad!

                  He actually did get much worse after he got therapy. It gave him the opportunity to deal with a trauma in his past, and I’m glad, but it also gave him the opportunity to legitimize his complaints – “my therapist says I need the people around me to be more supportive” and so on. Even some of our friends said to me around that time that he had turned into a real jerk. I think I read the exact same research you did around that time… it’s one of the reasons we ended the relationship without ever going to marriage counselling.

                4. Anna*

                  I worked in a women’s shelter and saw that with a local church member whose wife (who was Russian with a 12 year old daughter and married this guy for citizenship [no judgment, it just made it very difficult for her to escape]) left because he was abusive. His church swore up and down that he couldn’t be because he was a “good Christian man, believed in God, etc.” The members of the church actually convinced her to return to him because that would be the good Christian thing to do. It was heartbreaking and I think about her often.

                5. Gaia*

                  Temp Anon, I just want to wish you well and say that I’m glad you have a plan and I hope you stay physically and psychologically safe while you work it out.

          3. many bells down*

            Hah my ex did that the first couple of years after I left him as well. He’d call me up with some problem that I’d always handled before (or to give me a long-winded excuse why he couldn’t pay child support this month), and I’d be like “Yeah, that stopped being my problem when I stopped being your wife.”

              1. many bells down*

                He had a new girlfriend too! If he needed a woman to handle his shit, he HAD one! I was just so done with him at that point that it was easier to say what I meant. It’s been 15 years and I still have trouble sometimes. Fortunately he doesn’t call much anymore, and our child is 19 now. So the last time he called me I hung up on him and blocked the number. Bliss.

                1. some1*

                  I think for guys like that it’s an excuse to insert himself back into your life. When you leave an abuser, you have taken their choice to be in a relationship with you out of their hands so they want to punish you. It doesn’t matter if they have a new partner or if they actually don’t want to be with you anymore.

                2. many bells down*

                  It’s very true. It’s about control for him. Like the last time he called me, it was because he was “concerned” about our daughter’s final grades. Now, for backstory, my daughter has a chronic illness that was pretty bad these last two years, so her grades were very poor. Also, I don’t know my ex’s address, so he had to actively solicit this info from the school, they didn’t “just happen” to send him a report card.

                  So if he was so “concerned”, he might have brought this up anytime in the last two years and not the final report card of her senior year, because … what are you going to do about it NOW? Oh, nothing, that’s right, you just wanted to make sure I knew you think I’m a bad parent.

      4. LQ*

        (This is pretty unrelated but I feel like I have to put a good calling to check in story here where I think a check in call is good and used well. Mostly because this whole thing is really stressing me out, I can absolutely see my ex having done something like this, I was just too afraid to not follow the rules.)
        My mom will check in with me with a text when she goes out hiking or skiing in backwoods areas (and I with her) so someone knows when/where we are and when to expect a return (and a bit to go WOOO! exercised!). My mom texted me saying where she was going and how long she’d be out. She didn’t message back she was done. I started to get worried. Called, called, called, called the local park office (her car was still there), called her husband. He didn’t know either, he went out and followed the trail she’d taken. Found her phone on the trail and eventually her, fine, but searching for her phone on the trail. They sent me selfies saying they were ok.

        I was super relieved.

        1. Cafe au Lait*

          It’s pretty situational. My husband and I check-in with each often. He’ll usually text me when he’s leaving to drive home. Once, when he was visiting friends an hour away, he said “I plan to leave around 10, and be home at 11.”

          Our friends are lovely, so I really knew that “around 10” meant more like 11 o’clock. At 12:20, when he wasn’t home and I hadn’t heard from him, I got pretty worried. Gave him a call, and as I thought, he and his best friend had completely lost track of time.

          He left shortly after (and sent me a text!), and I stayed up until he got home.

          1. LQ*

            Absolutely situational.

            But I’d say with a check in the appropriate response (the one you had, the one I had) is worry. I’m worried something is wrong, something happened, there was an accident. Whatever. Then relief if nothing is wrong. Anger and emailing the boss is NEVER ever the appropriate response. Even if they’d agreed to a check in.

            (I’m just having a personal freak out about this message so trying to calm with good things. Your story about your husband reminds me of my current beau who drives a lot in scary weather. Sometimes he’ll arrive with dead phone and charge just enough to say “safe” in a text and then fall asleep. “Safe” is all I care about.)

        2. Athena C*

          This is very true. I usually talk to my mother every day. Something happened, and it had been a couple of days, and she had not replied to my texts or my calls.

          I maybe called the police to do a wellness check, and mother called me, laughing, because she knew I had done it out of concern, not out of rules.

        3. JessaB*

          Yeh but that’s entirely different. You have a specified contact time because of legit safety concerns (person on a trail can fall and get hurt, etc.) And you did the right thing and called help when you did not get called back, because that was the IDEA. You were the backup (and you’re not supposed to go out on trails, etc. without having one, that’s like safety 101.)

          It’s why in my family when we travel we call to say we arrived and stuff. Not because of control but because “car ran off road maybe and they never arrived?” kind of things.

      5. Isabel C.*


        And yeah. I understand being a little angry if that’s an agreed-on term in the relationship (I wouldn’t put up with it from a jealousy/control perspective, but I’d give some slack to “I watch a lot of crime shows–please call and tell me you’re okay.”) but wow, that reaction? FUCK NO.

        1. Blue Anne*

          Yeah, I would have understood if it was because he was worried about me. But he wasn’t concerned, he was angry. It sucked. I still remember the look he gave me as I walked in the door. Felt like a punch to the gut, I knew I was in for it.

      6. AnotherAnon*

        huh. it just occurred to me that my mother would be angry too… worried about me and scared, still, but it would come out in a “how dare you worry me so” kind of way. I never considered there might be anything wrong with that way of keeping people in line – I mean, when you’re actually scared for someone’s safety it seems better than nothing, but at the same time it’s not quite *right* even with the best of intentions, is it?

      7. Chroma Green*

        Wow. If DH hasn’t checked in from a night out with friends and it’ getting really late, I’d be legitimately concerned – more because I just need to know if he’s all right and hasn’t gotten into trouble. I’d send a text if I can’t reach him through phone. I would be upset because he made me worry, not because he missed the “curfew”.

    2. Lily*

      was it even a set time? I read it more as “well, I’ll call you in the evening” or something else.

    1. Anonymoosetracks*

      This. There is nothing else to say and no coming back from this. This guy is a straight-up abuser.

  6. Muriel Heslop*

    I hope this letter writer is really young and doesn’t understand professional boundaries. His bigger issue may soon be that his girlfriend broke up with him because he didn’t respect her right to make her own decisions. I’d break up with someone over this, but if she really loves you OP, and you flagellate yourself with grief and regret for such outrageous overreach and embarrassment, maybe you can save this.

    You are not her boss, or her dad. If you want to work out some parameters for your relationship, you work them out with her not her employer. If you are having difficulty figuring out why this is so horrifying to people, please find someone you trust to help you understand. This is a critical life skill that I hope you want to acquire. Good luck!

    1. designbot*

      Advising OP to self-flagellate over this unfortunately is right out of the domestic abuser handbook as well. They are often very good at this and that’s what keeps their partners around and convinces them that it’s all their own fault. I’m sure you probably didn’t realize, but it does her a great disservice to encourage that behavior.

      OP, if you are truly sorry, don’t make a big dramatic display of it, just change. Go to therapy, figure it out, and stop this behavior.

      1. Barefoot Librarian*

        This a million times.

        My abusive ex-husband was a master of verbally admonishing himself in front of me when things had finally gone to far and he sensed I was thinking of walking. He did it to convince me that he’d realized the error of his ways and would just diiiieeeee if I left, and it pathetically worked for years. A change in action is the only thing that matters. You can say “sorry, I was wrong” all day long and it means nothing without action.

      2. Koko*

        Yes, that’s what makes abusers successful. If they were just monsters 100% of the time nobody would stay with them. People stay because they are only a monster sometimes, and at other times they will shower their victim with affection and gifts and talk about how they “don’t deserve you.” It not only helps keep the victim ensnared, but it also plays neatly into the “my bad behavior is your fault” narrative because they’re demonstrating that they’re perfectly capable of treating you well, so when they don’t it’s because you provoked them.

  7. Chelsea*

    Thank you for really forcing the letter writer to examine their own control issues. There are some serious red flags throughout this letter, and I’m so glad you didn’t treat them lightly.

    She needs to break up with this guy immediately.

    1. Geneva*

      I agree 100%….the real problem is OP’s control issues and I hope his girlfriend runs as fast and as far away from him as possible because THIS WILL NOT END WELL. I know this from experience. For example, when I was younger I worked at a coffee shop. My boyfriend at the time would accuse any man I interacted with of being inappropriate. He’d even hang out in the bookstore next door during my shifts to keep an eye on me. This is not normal behavior!

  8. themmases*

    This whole letter sounds like the OP thinks of himself and the boss as peers with control over separate areas of her life. That is just really, really not how it works. They are not equals with some kind of tit for tat going on about involvement in business vs. personal life. And FTR, this OP did exactly what he said he would never do: he went and encroached on the boss’ work.

    There is no way for the boss to “address it with” the OP, nor for the OP to send him a “professional” email because the OP has no professional relationship with the boss… Indeed, they have no relationship at all except as an innocent person and the scary person bothering them.

    1. Camellia*

      “…this OP did exactly what he said he would never do…”

      Good grief, I didn’t even catch this. I hope the OP sees this and realizes what he did.

    2. GOG11*

      “This whole letter sounds like the OP thinks of himself and the boss as peers with control over separate areas of her life. That is just really, really not how it works.”

      This. So much.

    3. Purest Green*

      This part bothers me so much:
      Also, what are appropriate boundaries for drinking alone with the boss on a business trip? Is what I outlined above fair? (Number of drinks, time of night, etc.) I would say nothing past 10:00 p.m. as well.

      Dude, you aren’t her father. You don’t get to determine how many drinks you think are appropriate for her and what her bedtime is.

      1. JayemGriffin*

        Honestly, if she’s old enough to be drinking at a work event, her father wouldn’t get to determine that either. _She_ gets to determine that, because she is a grown-ass adult who can presumably manage her own alcohol consumption and rest.

      2. Chris*

        Agree. I’d add that the father of a grown woman doesn’t get to decide how much she drinks or her bed time either. That is her choice alone.

      3. Sadsack*

        Holy crap, yeah, who does OP think he is making such demands? I am glad his girlfriend did what she wanted and I hope she kicked him to the curb after he contacted her boss.

        OP, did you get your girlfriend to cry and apologize for her actions? I hope not. F you.

        1. Yup*

          Sadly, this type of guy typically does. Because it’s all about *him* and how it makes *him* feel and how *he* was wrooooonged!!!! I remember being yelled at by the same variety of asshole for chatting too long and too enthusiastically with a guy at a bar – how could I do that, I was out with *him* (<–abusive asshole), it was disrespectful, I was an awful person and should apologize a million times over and promise never to do it again…

          And all I could think was: apologize for WHAT?! I'm not responsible for your ego, and I actually enjoyed chatting with someone who wasn't a negative, controlling, fun-sucking douche for once. He lived in his own alternate reality for sure.

          Tangentially, my heart breaks to read so many commenters so readily relate to this same relationship dynamic. It's awful.

          1. Geneva*

            Yes! THIS. It’s called gas lighting. Abusive assholes will try to convince you that YOU’RE the abusive asshole…especially if you try to call them out on their asshole-ness. It’s effs with your sense of reality

      4. Turtle Candle*

        Yeah. I mean, it’s fine to discuss that kind of thing with your partner. If my partner called me from a work event, trashed, then when he got home we’d have some kind of conversation (although it would not be “you aren’t allowed to do that,” it would be “that’s really not like you and I’m kind of worried–what’s up?”). It’s legit to have discussions about e.g. drinking with a partner. But they’re discussions. With her, not with trying to get a third party (Alison, in this case) to give a ruling that you can then use against her.

        1. fposte*

          Right. The universal curfew for drinking alone with your boss is whatever the girlfriend says is okay with her. She may or may not choose to make that decision with input from others, but it’s ultimately her call.

        2. CMT*

          And I highly doubt that if OP had this kind of discussion with his girlfriend it would be the kind you’re talking about. It would probably be him trying to set rules.

          1. Purest Green*

            You have to be in by 10 pm so that you can call and soothe me to sleep with the bedtime song I made you memorize. I mean, otherwise it would violate our signed contract and you’d have to pay the penalty – 48 consecutive hours of me-time!

                1. JessaB*

                  Nope. I should have seriously learnt by now not to drink ANYTHING whilst reading this blog. Well my sinuses are now clear. Pepsi will do that. Every time this happens I swear I will remember and not drink while reading AAM. I always forget.

          2. Turtle Candle*

            Oh yeah–I was speaking more in the general case of functional relationships. I don’t think the LW should have any kind of discussion with the girlfriend in this case, except maybe “I’m sorry, I’m going to work on these issues with a therapist on my own” (and even there, I think this particular bridge is burned).

        3. Lissa*

          Yeah, getting a third party involved is so sketchy, and even if it *wasn’t* a work thing would still be sketchy. If somebody sent me a message about too much drinking with their boy/girlfriend I’d be like “whuh….”

          It really sounds like the LW here is trying to couch their controlling behaviour by making it about the work related component, such as with the question at the end about appropriate boundaries re. drinking with the boss. There’s no overall rulebook about this — I personally feel like drinking with the boss might usually be a bad idea but it’s not like I get to make that decision for other people.

      5. SystemsLady*

        Whatever is within the boundaries professional where you work (and trust me, that varies a LOT), which is a judgment *the person with said job* makes on their own like the grown adult they are!

        It’s none of OP’s business whether his girlfriend is doing that successfully unless she’s asking him for advice (and even then, she’s asking for advice, not to be monitored!!!).

    4. LawLady*

      Also his creepy worldview isn’t even consistent. Imagine if the boss had felt like the romantic relationship was distracting OP’s girlfriend from work, so he called up OP to talk man to man about it. OP would get that that’s an incredible overreach, right?

    5. MillersSpring*

      Even if, and this is a big IF, the girlfriend’s boss was a sexual harasser who acted inappropriately that evening or any other time, the OP has ZERO role or authority to contact the boss. You do not interject and fight battles for her. You do not interfere at her job.

      And of course this sounds like nothing untoward happened at all.

  9. Apparatchic*

    This is BANANAS. Honestly, if I were talking to your girlfriend about this, I’d be the come-t0-Jesus-conversation friend telling her to dump you. You’d better get right, or you’re not going to have any girlfriend problems pretty soon because you will be super single.

    1. Snarkus Aurelius*

      If I were the boss, I’d be talking to HR about getting this employee professional counseling and finding other ways to address dangerous relationships.

      1. INTP*

        I really don’t think the boss should bring this to HR unless the girlfriend wants that to happen. The last thing she needs, if she’s about to leave an abusive relationship, is for her career to be damaged by people thinking her judgment about men is a reflection of her professional judgment (unfair and fallacious, but common), or work becoming an uncomfortable place where she feels everyone knows her personally business. It’s common for people to become controlling towards abuse victims (and going behind her back to force her into help would be controlling), and I understand it because it IS scary to just not know what is going to happen next, but it’s not what they need.

        And if she’s not in an abusive situation, just has a very clueless boyfriend, it introduces drama unnecessarily.

  10. Emmie*

    Thank you for mentioning that this kind of behavior is a big red flag for potential abuse. The OP likely caused significant damage to his girlfriend’s professional relationships. When a person is an abuser (and I am not saying OP is), that person accomplishes his / her mission (power, control, and isolation) by damaging these relationships. It’s also very normal for a person’s time to be accounted for – even until 11:30 pm – on a business trip. OP was way out of line for even being upset that his girlfriend was busy.

  11. K.*

    I read the title of this and was like “Oh no.” And then I read the letter and was like ” … OH NO.” OP, you were so completely dead wrong. You were wrong … well, I was going to say “professionally” but that’s not accurate because you have no professional standing. This isn’t your workplace. You can’t “involve HR” because you don’t work there. HR isn’t going to reprimand one of the company’s employees because someone outside the company said so. There is zero reason for you to insert yourself into your girlfriend’s business matters, and you have unquestionably, and possibly irreparably, damaged her relationship with her boss. I would be so mortified if someone I were dating did this, I would strenuously consider looking for another job because I’d feel like I couldn’t show my face around there again, especially if word spread.

    And you were definitely wrong personally. I’d dump you for this. You come across as very controlling and quite frankly, a little scary. She didn’t call you until 11:30. So what? Did she have a curfew? She’s a grown woman.

    I’m really in my feelings about this – I feel so sorry for the girlfriend.

    1. JOTeepe*

      That was probably not terribly constructive to the OP, but I really don’t have much to add to the very constructive advice others have offered.

      I sent this post to a friend, who in her old position had frequent work travel with her boss. They had a very collegial work relationship and their (very small) team frequently socialized outside of work, so going and having drinks at the end of the day while traveling was a common occurrence. Both of us were in stitches as to how he would react if a boyfriend of an employee sent him an email such as that. (Not laughing at the situation here, or the OP’s girlfriend, mind you – just imagining HIS reaction if he was the boss in this case!)

      1. Isabel C.*

        The OP is That Guy, and there isn’t much, IME, that is constructive for the species.

        1. Yup*

          Sadly, I agree. There’s no talking to people who think like this, because they simply *cannot* and *will not* see someone else’s viewpoint. Instead a discussion turns into a yelling and berating match about how THEY are right and the other person is wrong wrong wrong.

          That Abusive Guy never changes.

          1. Isabel C.*

            Pretty much. They’re sort of like a virus: the best hope is to isolate and hope they don’t reproduce.

  12. Shouldercat*

    In what world does it seem to be reasonable to email your partner’s boss, ever? If I were your girlfriend, I would be livid, especially because you may have compromised her job. If you can’t trust your girlfriend to make the best decisions you should leave the relationship. What would you have done if she didn’t call you as planned… I’m guessing you would have been even more upset which just shows you are super controlling and out-of-line. Let’s hope your girlfriend can salvage her job and relationship with her boss.

    1. Rowan*

      Only acceptable case: your partner is somehow so ill or injured that they are too incapacitated to send email and you have to let their workplace know. Or maybe stuck somewhere without internet access past their planned departure date (vacation gone horribly wrong?). Barring that, nope, never.

      1. INTP*

        Yup. And the only acceptable thing to say is that the employee will not be in the office, and a brief explanation as to why they can’t call themselves, with just enough detail that they don’t worry excessively. You don’t get to weigh in on how the business or business relationships work or anything like that.

      2. JayemGriffin*

        My partner has emailed my boss on exactly one occasion. My mother had died very suddenly that morning, and I was running around half-crazy trying to book a flight home, pack, and get to the airport as soon as humanly possible. I’d sent a very hasty “out until further notice” email, and she gently pointed out that perhaps a little more detail was warranted. So I said, “fine, can you let them know what happened, MY CAB IS HERE NOW,” and she did, with a lot more coherence than I could muster at the time.

        I am having a hard time coming up with any reasons besides that and Rowan’s for acceptable times for a partner to contact your work.

        1. sam*

          Yes – the only time it is ever appropriate for a significant other/family member to contact your workplace is if you are literally physically or emotionally incapacitated from doing so, so that they don’t think you decided to just not show up to work.

          – Your mother died and you’re wracked with grief/have to plan a funeral/travel/etc.? OK
          – You got hit by a bus (or some other less ‘exotic’ medical emergency) and are in the hospital? OK
          – You decided that you get to control your significant other’s whereabouts, ever? Not OK

          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*


            I ended up calling out on behalf of my roommate once, but that was because she jammed her phone into my hand while it was ringing and ran to throw up for the third time. Plus, her boss knew me and knew that I was in fact the roommate.

      3. Emelle*

        My husband texted my boss on 2 occasions- a migraine so bad I could not stand the light from the screen of my phone and a really awful stomach bug. And my husband is friendly enough with my boss that she meets his standard to be Facebook friends.

      4. Pickwick the Dodo*

        Once I had some pretty intense food poisoning, so my fiance sent a text to my boss from my phone. Not even sure that counts, since the boss didn’t know it wasn’t from me.

        1. JustaTech*

          I’ve had my husband dial my boss’ number from my phone when I had a horrendous stomach bug, but I still did the talking. (I didn’t want to risk dropping the phone)

          (Totally OT, but I love your ‘nym!)

      5. Jess*

        I emailed my husband’s boss once– we all work for the same government agency and my name appears before my husband’s in the Outlook address book. One time his boss typed our last name into the To: field and hit Enter, so the email came to me. I replied to let him know the email had gone to the wrong [LastName] and gave him directions for deleting my address out of his Outlook auto-complete file.

        1. Jess*

          Oh, and after we had our daughter, I emailed my husband’s boss plus a few of his coworkers with some baby/happy family pictures. But I knew them all personally and they had asked before I went out on leave that I send some pics when I could. More importantly, ** my husband was okay with this** and looked over the pics and email text before I hit Send.

        2. Jules the First*

          I sometimes get email one of our directors meant for his wife, but it’s usually not obvious that it wasn’t meant for me until about halfway through the message (because we all work in the same industry). I usually write back with ‘I think you meant this for a different Jules….’

      6. pope suburban*

        Yep, the only time my husband has ever called my office is when I was getting a surprise appendectomy, and I couldn’t call from inside the hospital because there was no cell service. It was either that or just not showing up the next morning, and I felt that *some* heads-up was necessary, since I didn’t know when I’d be lucid or able to contact them (and no one ever checks the messages when I’m out, so it would have to be called in during business hours).

      7. ThursdaysGeek*

        I don’t know my husband’s boss’s phone number or even name. I hope if he is too incapacitated to notify his boss that he’s not too incapacitated to tell me who to call. I should probably get some contact information. I should probably give him some contact information for my bosses too.

        1. Jayn*

          I know DHs boss’ name mainly because I’ve called him in on a number of occassions (nothing serious, just if he’s sick he’s usually not very coherent until well past his start time). Fun story–one of the first times I did so he told me to call Ken, so I looked the name up in his phone and called, and had a rather confusing conversation with the guy who answered. It took a while to figure out why: DH had his boss listed under his last name only, and I had inadvertently called a high school friend living in another state.

        2. Blue Anne*

          Yeah, when my husband went into the hospital overnight for appendicitis I had to just call the front desk of the agency he worked for and say “Hi, I’m the wife of your employee Mr. Blue, do you know who his manager is because he’s in the hospital and I want them to know why he didn’t show up twenty minutes ago.”

          Took them about ten minutes to figure it out, but they did. It can work.

        3. JessaB*

          The first thing Mr B and I do when we have a job is give each other full contact info for the bosses. I think we’ve used it like once each, but having it is important. I also have it so that if we’re out together and he needs to call someone he can just borrow my phone.

    2. Lemon Zinger*

      Exactly my worries, beyond the creepy OP. If my boyfriend reached out to my boss, I would fear for the safety of my job, and also be concerned that my professional reputation had been seriously harmed.

    3. James Buchanan Burn*

      I have emailed my husband’s boss to update him on my husband’s recovery from emergency surgery. I can’t imagine another scenario where I would do that.

    4. Meg Murry*

      The only other times I can think of where it would be acceptable to contact your significant other’s boss (beyond what others have said about if the SO physically can’t contact the boss themselves)
      -you have a true emergency and can’t get ahold of your SO, and the boss is the only other person at the company you have contact information for. And by true emergency, I mean along the lines of an immediate family member is in the emergency room and the SO needs to leave work right this minute. My husband and mother have my boss and admin’s direct numbers in case I need to be pulled out of a meeting due to an emergency (my phone is typically silenced during meetings, and calling my desk phone wouldn’t help during an all day meeting).
      -you have a true relationship with the boss outside of your SO’s job, and you are contacting them regarding that – for instance, you are in the same Rotary club, and you are emailing them just like you would any other club member to ask if they are available to work at a shift at the fundraiser. Even then, you would keep the tone of the message the same as you would with a customer/client/vendor/boss, not your BFF.

      Oh, the only other reason – if you are me and your husband’s boss is also his father, and you are calling to ask him to pass along the message that your husband left his phone behind at home when he left for the day, and they should swing back to come get it before heading out for the day since it’s the main business line. But that probably fits scenario #2 (personal relationship with boss), with a little bit of #1 (urgent and no other way to reach spouse) :-)

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        One other one: your SO is missing.

        My boss was involved in a fatal car accident, and the way anyone found out anything was wrong was that her husband called the department head to ask if Boss was still there, because she should have been home several hours ago and he was getting worried.

        1. JessaB*

          Yeh but that falls under general “it’s a real emergency reason” to make a call. We have a seriously unreliable car and with us it’s “if we’re more than an hour late and have not called,” consider it a major problem.

          I’m sorry for what happened to your boss and what an awful way for her husband to find out something was wrong.

    5. Dan*

      Whenever these things come up, I’ve always wondered how the non-employee got a hold of the boss’s contact info. Not to say that my experience was typical, but I never gave my ex wife any of my work info, other than the name of my employer.

      1. Kristine*

        If OP knows his girlfriend’s work email and the boss’ name then it might not be hard to figure out. My husband knows my boss’ first and last name (in case he ever had to contact my office in case of emergency, he’d know who to ask for) and knows that our email addresses are FirstName.LastName@company.com. So he could email my boss if he was ever so inclined.

      2. LQ*

        I think it depends on a lot of things but I’d guess that this person might have access to the girlfriend’s email and it might be in there. The other thing is that this person might have demanded that the girlfriend give him the email address. I would also be surprised if this letter writer didn’t have a lot of details about his girlfriend’s employer.

      3. many bells down*

        My spouse would probably just use my phone or my laptop in the event of an extreme emergency where he needed to contact my boss. I *think* he knows my passwords, but he’s never had occasion to use them so I’m not 100% sure.

      4. LadyBelle*

        Well he probably knows the email from the times she’s emailed the boss. After all, she can’t have unsupervised time on the computer.

      5. JessaB*

        To me that would be odd. All of my significant others and my now husband have always been given that info. We always trade numbers in case of an emergency. If something had happened to your ex how on earth would anyone call you?

    6. Tuxedo Cat*

      If your partner went missing and the last place you knew they were was at work/at something work-related.

      And I mean missing missing. Not a few hours late.

    7. SG*

      I KNOW I feel awful for girlfriend. Also, at least for me, if I am out drinking with coworkers and am, in fact, drunk I am still able to behave professionally. If I got back up to my hotel room and called my boyfriend and was like teehee I was driiiinkin with my boss! the norman response is “you goose.” NOT interfering in her professional life in a particularly scary manner. If this boss has any HR training, as everyone else has said, this would warrant a conversation with the girlfriend to make sure she is safe and if she needs support.

      Granted, if my boyfriend were to be let’s say, two hours late to a call we had scheduled (because if one person is away it’s nice to schedule time to chat) I would be hurt, but if it’s a work thing and he was still out with coworkers I’d be like ok I would have appreciated a text but that’s fine you’re on a work trip let’s find another time.

    8. Greg*

      I’m sure I’m not the only one who, as they start reading an AAM letter, tries to guess what it will be about based on the headline. In this case, I was pretty sure it was going to be that the boss actually did something inappropriate, like hitting on the girlfriend. And even then, I *still* assumed Alison was going to tell him it wasn’t his job to contact the boss.

  13. Snarkus Aurelius*

    Not only is this possessive and creepy, but your behavior was downright sexist and misogynist. People aren’t possessions. You don’t own her; she doesn’t own you.

    If you don’t understand AAM’s response or the backlash you’re going to get in the comments, please familiarize yourself with feminism and individual human rights.

    Yes seriously.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      The “owning” mentality is what really disturbed me. It’s like the boyfriend thinks he is loaning his girlfriend out to her boss during the day, and at the end of the day the boss returns her. Emailing her boss is similar to saying “you damaged my goods and didn’t return them on time.”
      Ick. Ick. Ick.

      1. Snarkus Aurelius*

        And the justification is dressed up in the “relationship” like it’s a vendor contract or something.

      2. MashaKasha*

        Yes, that was the part that raised my hackles too! “This man took something that belongs to me, didn’t return it until 11 PM, and, when he finally did return it, it was completely drunk. Needless to say, I sent him an email.” So. Freaking. Scary.

      3. AMT*

        “You’re the boss of her work life, and I’m the boss of her personal life! Get off my lawn!”

    2. KEM11088*

      Yes this whole “owning” aspect is what concerned me. The GF is not property; poor girl.

      1. LQ*

        Woman. Adult woman. (I know this isn’t usually a big deal to me, but in this case especially the op needs to read that his girlfriend is an adult woman who is old enough to drink and have a job and is a woman, not a girl who needs to be taken care of or “handled”.)

    3. Elizabeth West*

      Exactly. If the girlfriend had written the letter, Alison’s answer should be the same. Because having a relationship with someone does not give you control of them. If you think that, you need serious help.

  14. Reg poster going anon*

    In addition to what I’m sure will be a mountain of comments urging you to see how unacceptable your behavior and attitude towards this situation is, I’d also like to add that the term “needless to say” does not apply here. Most (all?) other people are not going to automatically assume you’d take the action you took. This is not normal behavior, and it is not justified, and it is not acceptable. If you reaction to the feedback here is to be defensive and dig your heels in, try to remember that you asked for feedback from this site, presumably knowing the general vibe of the community here.

    1. Karo*

      The “needless to say” got me, too. Like…No. This is definitely something you have to clarify because this is not rational human behavior. (I’d also love to know what the “professional” email sounded like because, as someone else said, there’s no professional standing here. There’s no way for “I’ll allow you to have drinks with my girlfriend, but only 2, and only at these places; her bedtime is 10:00” to sound professional.)

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      Yes, I found that phrasing to be insane. “Of course I took this incredibly overreaching step, as would anyone in this position!” “Needless to say…” in this case should have been followed by, “I had a conversation with my girlfriend about my concerns.”

    3. K.*

      Oooh, thank you for reminding me – I meant to say this in my comment! That really stuck in my craw – it’s completely tone deaf.

      1. Jadelyn*

        +1 – it’s a tactical phrase. One of the phrases my therapist taught me, actually, for dealing with my abusive father – you use something like “needless to say” or “as I’m sure you understand” as a way to guide a conversation into being based on premises that you’ve chosen, rather than letting your conversational partner/opponent define the assumptions and values that guide the conversation. So you’d use something like “As I’m sure you understand, when X happened I was concerned about Y, so I did Z” and just keep talking about the outcome of Z and moving forward from there – then, if the person wants to challenge your choices, you force them to stop the flow of conversation and go back to “no, I don’t understand the connection X->Y->Z, explain that to me”, which is enough of a social contract violation that about two-thirds of the time it results in people letting statements go unchallenged. “Needless to say” is in that same category of useful phrases when you’re trying to either steamroll someone, or prevent them from steamrolling you (which is why my therapist taught me how to do that, because I needed scripts for how to interrupt my father’s anger and get back some control over conversations).

        Thankfully, especially in a written advice-column format, Alison was both able and willing to put the conversational brakes on and re-route the OP back to the underlying premise he was trying to elide by using that phrasing. But I would honestly put money on it being a deliberate attempt to sneak his controlling behavior past Alison in order to gain her “support” for his abusive and controlling behavior.

        1. Ben*

          I mean, I use it in much more casual situations. “There was chunks of mold in the coffee pot at work, so needless to say, I’m stopping at a coffee shop before I come in now.” And yes, that did just happen.

          But its interesting to see how else it can be used for good and ill. I hadn’t thought about it in this detail. Hopefully, it was helpful to you in your situation. Cheers!

          1. SystemsLady*

            Come to think of it, extra annoyance about something gross and particularly food-related (rat-infested restaurant, pink chicken, mold in coffee [eww by the way]) covers most uses of this term that don’t annoy me.

            Satirically is one of the only other uses I can think of, and even then the subject/rest of the satire had better be good.

        2. Megs*

          Wow, this is a really useful explanation of that type of phrase. I’ve always disliked it but couldn’t quite put my finger on why.

          1. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

            Agreed; to me it’s in the same category as “obviously…” and “it’s just common sense” – efforts to get the other party to accept what you said with a minimum of questioning.

        3. AdminMeow*

          That is incredibly interesting! Thank you for sharing as I may have to use these in the future myself.

        4. Dan*

          “Obviously” is another one of those phrases. Maybe 5% of the time that someone writes “obviously” around here, is something in fact obvious to me.

          1. AFT123*

            Totally. I get irked when people use semantics that imply their conversational audience should have arrived at the same conclusion given then context. It feels bossy to me.. don’t tell me how I should be thinking, please. I feel the same about the phrase “Mind you”.

            1. Aunt Vixen*

              My thesis supervisor called it “rhetorical bullying” and wouldn’t let me do it at all, even (especially!) when I had presented all the data and was summing up in a conclusion. “Naturally” and “Obviously” and whatnot are bad enough in the ground-laying stage of the research, but when you get to the results and have to tell the reader “clearly, then, [outcome],” you’ve done something wrong. Put another way: if you have to tell them it’s clear, it’s not clear; and if it is clear, you don’t need to say so.

              1. Megs*

                I love love love “rhetorical bullying” – I’m going to use that the next time I explain why it’s a bad idea. I see it a lot in legal writing and it drives me bananas.

                1. Aunt Vixen*

                  Oh, man, it’s everywhere in legal writing. Even in otherwise very good legal writing. See, e.g., every decision Scalia ever wrote. “We know X.” Yes. “We know Y.” Yes. “We know Z, A, B, C, D-N, and Q.” Yes.

                  “Therefore, obviously, BANANAS.” Wait – what? No!

              2. Misc*

                I use those sort of phrases a lot as ‘filler’, because I forget what I’m saying and need to ramble a lot until I remember, so I make a lot of use of words like ‘naturally’, ‘basically’, ‘therefore’, ‘um’ and so forth. Half the time they’re reminders to *me* so I can restate the premise/show the other person I’m acknowledging the issue so I can actually move forward to slightly more productive rambling – “obviously it’s bad if I’m late, *therefore*… [actual point]”. I tend not to *write* them though, because I can actually read over my writing and edit it to reflect my intended meaning a bit more closely, not just whatever words flowed out until I reached my actual point.

              3. pope suburban*

                That is a brilliant phrase and I’ll be pilfering it. My boss is one of the worst offenders when it comes to this type of bullying. Some days, it feels like every other sentence of his starts with, “The reality is…” It’s always struck me as self-important and gaslight-y, but “rhetorical bullying” is a much better way of describing what is going on there.

            2. Emilia Bedelia*

              Oh my god, I feel the same way about “mind you”and”keep in mind” and also that thing where people say “Before you say…”. No one tells me how to think my own thoughts, thanks.

              1. Uptown Girl*

                My ex would say “I take it” a lot, generally while making an incorrect assumption; “The table, I take it” is no longer in the room.” (It was, as there was enough room for the washer, dryer, and table.)

          2. LQ*

            I think 95% of the time I hear obviously it is ironic. That extremely obscure legal fact means that thing. Obviously.
            The other 5% is when I say something incredibly stupid, like “So this thing I’m holding in front of you is round. Obviously.” (I’m an idiot, why did I just say that!)

            1. Kelly L.*

              Yeah, I’ll do “obviously” a lot for totally out of left field or silly conclusions. “My boss yelled at me and the weather sucks. So I got ice cream. Obviously. As one does.”

        5. TL -*

          That explains so much! I definitely have a habit of pointing out that no, X does not obviously follow B. And some people get really, really angry when I do, while others back up and explain. I’ve never been able to understand the former reaction.

          1. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

            Me, too. “You said X, therefore Y, but it’s not clear that Y follows from X.” But then I’ve always had a rather poor understanding of social graces. Lol.

            1. AnotherAnon*

              I love it when social awkwardness unintentionally derails someone’s evil plans. ;) my best one was when I walked into a room and some guy immediately asked me “hey, would *you* want to see two guys make out?” and I sheepishly said yes – it turned out I’d just destroyed his argument for why it was okay for girls to be gay, but not guys. :)

        6. Kay*

          This is a really terrific explanation for that phrase. I never thought about it that explicitly before but it makes perfect sense. Thank you for typing that out.

        7. ajhall1927*

          It’s like the lawyer sneaking in an outrageous clause which begins, “For the avoidance of doubt…” It preconditions the other side to read it as clarification and not to expect it to move the goalposts.

  15. March*

    I don’t know what I find more concerning: OP’s actions or the tone of their letter, implying that of course they did something reasonable and justifiable.

    That is honestly terrifying to me.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        I find that when someone on the internet says “needless to say,” invariably it wasn’t as needless as they think.

        1. Apostrophina*

          I’ve started trying to weed that phrase out of my vocabulary because it seems to precede so much eye-popping stuff on the internet.

        2. Rindle*

          +1 “Needless to say” tends to be as accurate a phrase as “to make a long story short.”

          1. Whoopsy*

            And about as much of a signatory of something reasonable about to be said as “I’m not racist, but…”

          2. BeautifulVoid*

            Every time someone says “Long story short”, I interrupt with “Too late!”, like in Clue, one of the greatest movies of all times.

            Either my husband hasn’t caught on yet, or he just doesn’t care. And the cycle continues.

            1. JustaTech*

              Best movie!
              “Flames, flames on the sides of my face.”
              Come to think of it, that’s kind of how I feel about this letter.

        3. Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude*

          As a child I had a friend whose mother used to say, “Needless to say…” and then stop talking because whatever she had been about to say was, as the phrase indicated, needless.

          It was only funny the first like 200 times (I was a kid, I liked repetition) but it definitely hammered it in that the phrase itself is, by definition, needless.

    1. BeautifulVoid*


      My shoulders were getting closer and closer to my ears the entire time I was reading the letter, and I’m glad you addressed the bigger issues head-on, and in no uncertain terms.

    2. catsAreCool*

      I agree. The LW sounds like he thinks he owns his girlfriend and that somehow he doesn’t think she’s responsible for her actions, like her boss controls her when she’s at work, and the rest of the time she’s owned by the LW. Made me feel very uncomfortable.

  16. Bend & Snap*

    What the ever loving fuck.

    To the girlfriend: PACK YOUR BAGS AND RUN, GIRL.

    This is horrifying on so many levels. Hopefully the girlfriend won’t face repercussions at work. But she’s certainly extremely embarrassed.

    Also: spending time with coworkers and bosses on business trips is completely normal and no rational person would see it as an encroachment on a personal relationship. The company owns her time when she’s traveling on their behalf. Boyfriends own her time NEVER.

  17. Amber T*

    No no no no no no no.


    Listen, you have a right to be uncomfortable with your girlfriend drinking with someone else. You have the right to ASK HER (just once) about it. You have the right to not be ok with it and not trust her. BUT THEN IT’S THE END OF THE RELATIONSHIP. You can say “hey, this made me uncomfortable because of X Y and Z” and her response could be, “I didn’t think of it that way, I’m sorry,” or “He’s my boss and it was professional, I need boundaries.”

    Your relationship is between the two of you. Even if they’re having a crazy ridiculous affair, he is none of your business. You get to decide what you’re happy with and comfortable with, but so does she. And if they don’t match up, you’re not compatible. End of story. You Don’t involve someone else, regardless of their personal or professional relationship with your partner.

    OP, please take a hard look at yourself and your tendencies, because this is super major red flag disturbing behavior.

  18. BethRA*

    What Allison said.

    OP, this was way out of line, and I hope you can step back and do some serious self-reflection.

    1. LiveAndLetDie*

      I would love to hear the entire scenario from the girlfriend’s perspective. Including the part where she dumps him, which I hope is what happened.

  19. Allison*


    She called you later than expected and had a little too much too drink. Is that Perfect Girlfriend Behavior? Probably not, and it would be normal to feel slightly annoyed, but this is something you brush off and let go, because she’s only human and humans do sometimes have one too many and lose track of time. If you lose it like this every time someone does something you don’t like, you’re going to end up alone. Possibly in prison.

    1. Pwyll*

      I actually do think it’s perfect girlfriend behavior, assuming the girlfriend likes her job and didn’t feel uncomfortable by the interaction with the CEO. (I get what you’re saying though).

      If only everyone could be so lucky to have a partner who has a great job and works with generous (assuming the company is paying for the drinks) people. He should be happy she had a good time and was safe, not pissed that she missed her curfew.

      1. SystemsLady*

        +1. My husband gets jealous when I go out to drink with friends alone…because he didn’t get to come with.

      2. Leatherwings*

        I’ve gotten annoyed at my SO when he doesn’t check in with me for long periods of time on work trips. Then I keep it to myself because everyone should be allowed to go out and get drinks and have fun, and I remember I’m pleased that he’s making the best out of work travel.

        1. Allison*

          In college I was definitely the one to panic if a boyfriend took a long time to get back to me. Now, I think “gahh this is annoying, I’m trying to make a date, gimme something here!” but I deal with the frustration on my own, realizing me may be out with friends or watching a movie or something, maybe his phone’s on silent on the other side of the room, it’s not actually a big deal! If something may be a problem, either I’ll ask next time I see him, or he’ll get around to telling me what’s going on.

        2. LadyKelvin*

          Me too. But mostly its when we have arranged a time to talk (because for both of us, work travel is very long hours and short periods of downtime when normal people aren’t sleeping) and I can’t get a hold of him. I try not to get annoyed, mostly I’m worried that he’s not responding because I’m afraid something happened and I can’t really wait much longer to talk to him because I have things to do as well. So my annoyance comes from the fact that if we miss our scheduled talk time, we probably don’t talk at all that day, which sucks.

          1. Foxtrot*

            I’ve gotten upset with a boyfriend for missing the scheduled skype time. It was because I had to physically be at my computer to accept the skype call, so he left me waiting for a hour and a half not knowing what was up. I didn’t care that he went out with friends and had a good time, but I did tell him he has to at least text that he’s busy and won’t make future appointments. There’s so much else I could have done with that hour and a half if I had known he was going to be late…

            1. Isabel C.*

              Oh, totally. I can absolutely understand being peeved at anyone who’s super-late for a scheduled appointment, whether a call or not, because it’s inconsiderate of the other person’s time. And as I mentioned above, I can understand some “I thought you were dead in a ditch!” anger if someone blows off a late-night check-in kind of call, especially if there’s a lot of travel involved.

  20. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

    A very very scary letter. I hope the OP’s girlfriend is alright.

  21. Chickaletta*

    Holy cow. I’m really curious about the girlfriend’s and boss’s reactions to what OP did. I really hope they’re in line with Alison’s response because the OP should not be allowed to continue in this manner.

  22. Rusty Shackelford*

    This is either scary or hilarious. I mean, it would be hilarious if we heard from the girlfriend and she said “Oh, yeah, that was a real turning point for me. I dumped that loser and the boss and I had a long laugh about it.” But if the girlfriend thinks she has to put up with this? That’s scary.

    1. Emac*

      Even in that case, it’s still scary that the OP has this view point and that it’s a view point that’s still so common.

  23. Rebecca*

    To the OP’s girlfriend – run away now while you still can. This is a harbinger of very bad things to come in your life. RED FLAG WARNING!!

    To the OP: please take a step back and look at what you’ve done! Listen to Alison’s advice. When (I hope it’s soon) your girlfriend breaks up with you, use this as a life lesson and get some professional help.

  24. Salameche*

    I hope your ex (yes, she should run) girlfriend does still have a job after that horrifying behaviour of yours.

  25. Little Love*

    (Needless to say) I am sure I speak for all of us when I say I want to hear from the girlfriend–did you leave this controlling jerk immediately and OMG are you looking for a new job because of this controlling jerk?

    1. Miaw*

      Ha! Now This reminds me of that One Episode Where Joey Told Rachel’s Boss Off for Trying to Buy Her Baby. :D

    2. INTP*

      I was too young to watch that when it was on, so I watched on Netflix a couple of years ago and was honestly horrified at that relationship. I don’t understand how anyone could root for them to wind up together!

        1. Debbie Downer*

          We went back and watched a few episodes recently. The humor of the late 90s/early naughties is so mean-spirited. I don’t think sarcasm goes over that well anymore, thankfully. See also: Win a Date with Tad Hamilton. Clearly Tad was the better choice there.

        2. KHB*

          Times haven’t changed that much. The way Sheldon treated Amy last fall was deplorable, but it seemed like a given that the show expected everyone to root for them to get back together.

          1. INTP*

            I inadvertently shocked a room of people by saying “Good for Amy!” or something like that. She’s a smart girl with a good job, a solid set of friends, and now some self-confidence – I don’t understand why I’m supposed to root for her to settle for a relationship in which she feels constantly rejected and has been unfulfilled by from the start. I was told that Sheldon is “changing” – trust me people, Sheldons never change. (OTOH, I wouldn’t say he’s “as bad” as Ross, because he’s been pretty open about the type of person he is from the start, not pretending to be nice/sensitive/supportive, and not sabotaging her career on purpose or anything.)

            1. KHB*

              Maybe it’s not as bad as anything Ross ever did, but Sheldon’s behavior while they were broken up was straight-up stalking – and her “friends” enabled it and played it for laughs, because they (and the show itself) only tolerate her presence because of her connection with him. I was almost as upset with the rest of the gang as I was with Sheldon (who, as you said, is at least honest about who he is).

            2. JMegan*

              Yes, and that bit with his grandmother, when she told Amy she was being hard on her because AMY had hurt SHELDON, and she didn’t want that to happen again. Fair enough on not wanting your grandson to be hurt, but where was the discussion of how badly Sheldon had hurt Amy?

              1. JPlummer*

                Writers of Big Bang Theory have hinted but never said definitively that Sheldon has Aspergers Syndrome. He has many of the symptoms–high intelligence, social awkwardness, inability to distinguish humor from sarcasn. With that in mind, I have always enjoyed Sheldon and his protective (ok, overly -protective) family. Ross Geller, just a run-of-the-mill a–hole.

                1. Julia*

                  I love Sheldon’s mother. However, none of this makes it okay for Amy to be treated like that.

                2. Hrovitnir*

                  I actually hate that, because it’s the most classical example of “high functioning” autism = arsehole ever. He’s just a jerk, and whatever issues he has with social cues or body language did not force him to be a jerk.

                3. AnotherAnon*

                  one of the reasons I can’t watch that show is the (bullshit, harmful) implication that aspergers === asshole. :(

            3. LJL*

              My husband and I both said “Good for Amy!” in tandem. You’re not the only one. Also, that is one reason I love my husband.

        1. Jinx*

          Ughhhh, I watched Friends once on Netflix, and I’d totally rewatch it if I could erase Ross from the show. But I can’t, so nope, never again.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I watched it a few times when it was on, but Ross and Chandler annoyed me so much I had to stop. They haven’t improved in reruns, either. I just don’t really care for that show.

            I do think Seinfeld is hilarious, but mostly because they don’t try to present awful characters as anything other than awful. And I loved the way the show ended, ha ha ha.

      1. miss_chevious*

        As someone who watched it during the original run, at first it was cute that he liked her for forever and finally got to be with her. And then she started her career and grew as a person and he flipped out and I (and my friends who watched) were all WHAT?! NOOOOOOO?! ROSS IS THE WORST!!! and didn’t want them to be together anymore and thought the baby/ending were a huge mistake.

      2. themmases*

        I watched it recently because some of my friends are huge fans and kept recommending it. It was funny but that relationship was so creepy! Even at its best times when nothing upsetting was happening, it seemed to just bring out what was most annoying about both characters. I can’t understand rooting for them to be together either.

        I wanted Phoebe and scientist guy to end up together so the show relationships were one for three to me. Once Monica and Chandler get married, I guess stay for the jokes if you can handle fat jokes?

      3. SystemsLady*

        You should watch some clips of Friends with the laugh track ripped off.

        One of them was the scene where he tries to get lessons from an assault self-defense instructor about what the *assaulter* should do.

        Hard to describe what it came out as, but it definitely wasn’t a light-hearted comedy. As much a commentary on sound editing as on Ross’s behavior, too.

        1. LBK*

          I mean, that’s more about the scene being completely removed from context than having the laugh track removed. I hate Ross but that’s not really a good example of why, it’s involved in this whole running joke/feud with Phoebe and Rachel.

    3. CM*

      Yesss… there was that time that Ross decided to go to Rachel’s boss and beg for her job back (which she didn’t know about and didn’t want), and the months on end that he gave her a hard time about her coworker having a crush on her, and probably more stuff that I’m not thinking of. Talk about inappropriately injecting yourself into someone else’s professional life and decisions. I also hated that relationship. Anyway, sorry to derail.

    4. LiveAndLetDie*

      Too true. Ross ruins the rest of that show for me now, upon rewatch. And we’re meant to think his obsessive, possessive stalking of her is “romantic.” He spends that entire series (and even marries other people in the meantime) creepily interjecting himself into every facet of Rachel’s life. The only reason she didn’t run screaming for the hills and ask for a restraining order is because in Sitcom Land that’s meant to be romantic (see also: Wolowitz on Big Bang Theory… that guy was constantly written as borderline date-rapey for laughs, and instead of being sad and lonely forever like he should have been, the writers brought him Bernadette, who deserves so much better. I had to stop watching. The fact he wasn’t shunned or ever seriously called out on his behavior toward women just made it unwatchable).

    5. Lissa*

      oh my god. This is so spot on. I feel like Ross is such an interesting/horrifying character because he’s actually a pretty realistic (if you take the sitcommy ridiculousness) portrayal of that kind of “Nice Guy” behaviour. It’s quite consistent, in my experience. I feel similarly about Dean on Gilmore Girls — when I went to rewatch Season 1 I was really surprised at how some of his later behaviour was foreshadowed. Though with Ross I think it was all unintentional.

      1. LiveAndLetDie*

        Dean was possessive and jealous, and definitely willing and capable of violence. He was also very prone to guilting Rory and trying to change her mind about things if he didn’t like them. He also told her who she should and should not hang out with (Jess), and made her feel bad for even innocuous interactions where she was nice to Jess.

        That boy was a terrible boyfriend from the get-go, and the way his storyline continued as they got older just made it worse.

        1. Lissa*

          Yup! I never really noticed it the first time I watched the show, but when I did a rewatch with my best friend later we were both horrified by Dean in Season 1, and also impressed at how certain things foreshadowed his later behaviour, ie his irrational behaviour about Tristan, or (and this one really got to me) his freakout when Rory wasn’t ready to say “I love you” after three months.

    6. Bowserkitty*

      I’m one of the few people around here who had NEVER seen an episode of Friends until this past weekend when I was chilling out with my own friends, and I got outvoted for what to watch. (FTR, I’m in my late 20s and so are they.)

      They kept saying Ross was horrible and when I asked if he and Ross and Rachel actually were together in the end, I was pretty surprised at the answer. Ugh.

      Don’t think I’m going to watch more. :/

  26. Sad*

    It was easy to picture OP as a big scary macho guy marking his territory and claiming his girlfriend as property… but as I reread I started picturing an anxious and insecure person desperately trying to scare away better options that would take his girlfriend away.

    I imagine a lot of reactions would shift if the roles were reversed and the girlfriend was the one reacting this way to her boyfriend getting drunk with his female boss.

    1. Brogrammer*

      It doesn’t matter what OP looks like or how he feels. The behavior is unacceptable, full stop.

      1. SevenSixOne*

        It also DOES NOT MATTER if OP has reason to suspect (or even if he knows for certain!) that his girlfriend is cheating. His issue is with his girlfriend, never ever her boss.

    2. The IT Manager*

      Nope! The sincerity that the crazy reaction is presented made me wonder “is this fake?” Is this some kind of trick where someone will jump out and scream, “I swapped the sexes, ha, ha, you fools.”

      It’s still just as crazy with the sexes reversed. The LW is still crazy controlling of their partner’s schedule and acts like their partner I incapable of handling professional things themselves.

    3. Ellen Fremedon*

      Sad, why are those mutually exclusive categories? That kind of performative machismo is deeply rooted in insecurity.

    4. Cambridge Comma*

      Having lived with the insecure version you describe: that is still scary. Your friends still worry that you won’t survive the break up (in a non-figurative way).
      The OP doesn’t sound insecure. He or she sounds entitled.
      Past letters where the spouse/partner have contacted the boss have met with didapproval irrespective of gender. I don’t think this is a gender thing. There was a woman being controlling with her female partner fairly recently.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Yep, we’ve had multiple letters, of every combination of genders, on the topic of “contacting your partner’s boss over your partner’s head is almost always the wrong call.” And that’s even on innocuous topics like planning a surprise. Add in the jealous anger factor and I’m pretty sure this letter would get the same response.

        1. Naomi*

          I’m pretty sure we’ve had “contacting your partner’s boss even with your partner’s permission is usually still a bad idea.”

      2. Putting Out Fires, Esq*

        There’s no daylight between the macho and the insecure. It’s all a form of insecurity. All dangerous to the object of their possessiveness.

      3. Cactus*

        Yeah, I’ve dated both “versions” of this. They’re both awful. A third ex once dated the female version of this, who was also terrible.

    5. Apollo Warbucks*

      Either way the OPs actions are inappropriate and boundary crossing.

      If the roles were reversed, I’m sure people would being saying things like the guy was under the thumb or being henpecked or the woman was nagging so I disagree that the genders involved make the responses any worse because the OP is a guy.

    6. Myrin*

      For what it’s worth, I actually read the story thinking of the OP as female and had the exact same reaction as everyone else.

      1. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

        As in – it’s a myth that only macho guys are abusers. That’s FAR from the truth.

    7. Tammy*

      I imagine a lot of reactions would shift if the roles were reversed and the girlfriend was the one reacting this way to her boyfriend getting drunk with his female boss.

      As someone who was in a controlling/abusive marriage (and isn’t it horrifying how many of us there are on this thread?) for far too long, I can say pretty unequivocally: No, my reaction would not shift at all, no matter the genders of the parties involved. And while I can’t say nobody else’s reaction would shift, they shouldn’t. Controlling boundary-crossing behavior shouldn’t magically become okay if the genders of the participants change.

      I can understand the LW being concerned about his girlfriend getting drunk with a male boss, especially if this is unusually out-of-character behavior for her. He would have been well within his rights to have a conversation with her when she got home. “Hey, I was concerned that you were out drinking with Fergus, because you sounded really drunk when you called me and that’s not usual for you – was everything okay?” is a perfectly reasonable question. It’d be especially reasonable (unfortunately) if LW’s girlfriend works in tech, where alcohol-fueled workplace sexual assaults are not unheard of. But that’s where the boundary of reasonable stops.

      Contacting his girlfriend’s boss? Feeling JUSTIFIED doing it, and saying the boss should be grateful he didn’t contact HR? That would be the moment at which the LW became my ex-boyfriend, to be honest.

      1. Elsajeni*

        Oof, you make a good point that I hadn’t really thought about. If I stayed out unusually late and got much drunker than usual with a coworker my husband didn’t know well, I do think he would be concerned — for me, because that’s a situation that raises the possibility of sexual harassment or assault at worst, as well as various lesser problems like just feeling uncomfortably pressured to stay and keep drinking longer than I wanted to. The fact that the OP was concerned isn’t in itself the red flag; the red flag is that his concern was 100% about his girlfriend having done something wrong, not about whether she was okay or enjoyed the night out.

    8. Allison*

      That’s very true, he may not be the stereotypical abuser. But anxious, insecure guys can also be abusive; they can lose their temper, they can be controlling, they can be manipulative and they can be dangerous even if they don’t look strong.

    9. some1*

      Nope, actually. My former best friend treats her husband this way and it’s one of the reasons I ended the friendship.

    10. Katie F*

      A lot of abusive men are terrifically anxious and insecure. That doesn’t make their behavior not abusive.

    11. NotAnotherManager!*

      Nope. Contacting your significant other’s boss because they had too many drinks too late for your liking on a business trip is so far over the line, you probably can’t even see it looking back. I don’t care one bit about the offender’s gender, it’s scary-over-the-line and an abuse hallmark.

      I do not personally think the significant other did anything horribly wrong either. Not my style, but they had their drinks in a public place in safe proximity to her hotel room. The SO’s reaction to this is insane and wrongly directed.

    12. BethRA*

      Nope. Letter – and more importantly the behavior – would be alarming and creepy no matter what genders were involved.

      And as others have said, OP being small and insecure doesn’t make this any less alarming, either.

    13. Rusty Shackelford*

      I imagine a lot of reactions would shift if the roles were reversed and the girlfriend was the one reacting this way to her boyfriend getting drunk with his female boss.

      Actually, no, I think you’re wrong there.

      (Also, there’s no reason to assume the letter writer is a boyfriend. In fact, the letter reads as if it were written by a woman to me. In my experience, the unnecessary “needless to say” is something typically said by women, not men.)

    14. Lily in NYC*

      No, women can be controlling and abusive as well. I would be just as horrified. The reaction was way too over the top for sympathy, regardless of motivation.

    15. INTP*

      That actually is how I pictured the OP when I read the letter, but it doesn’t make it any less scary IMO. Desperately anxious people *who are willing to sabotage their partners’ career and outside relationships to hold onto their partners* are capable of a lot of scary things. And whether OP did it intentionally or just with willful ignorance, this was a step toward compromising her work relationships. If anything, this seems much more likely to devolve into a very serious situation than if it were just some macho misogynist who believes women should follow his rules of propriety about drinking with men in public.

      And if the genders were reversed, maybe people wouldn’t feel the same sense of fear and urgency for the girlfriend to get out now – men are less likely to be beaten to death by women than the other way around, it’s just a fact. But I think we would still all call it a toxic situation that the man should get out of.

      1. Dan*

        I’m actually with you on the second paragraph. I recall a letter from here about a woman whose husband worked at a car dealership. I can’t remember the details, but there was some inappropriate contact (or potentially inappropriate contact) from the wife to the manager. There was an outpouring of “holy crap this is wrong on so many levels” but there really wasn’t any suggestion that her husband should divorce her, let alone ASAP.

        1. fposte*

          IIRC the inappropriate contact was that she made baked goods. If the OP had made baked goods I think we’d have a different response.

          1. ToxicNudibranch*

            Although there is still an overstepping of boundaries, foisting lemon bars on your spouse’s office is really, really removed from what OP did. Whole different ballpark. Whole different planet.

            1. Dan*

              Not the ballpark I’m talking about. The one Brandy in TN mentions is certainly much closer to what I had in mind… methinks that’s a similar ballpark to what we’re talking about here ;)

              1. ToxicNudibranch*

                Whew! Because yep, that’s about the same ballpark. I remember the reaction being pretty darn horrified to that one, too.

        2. Brandy in TN*

          There was another one, where the car dealership guy worked with an ex girlfriend and the ex GF bought a square on his football card. Wife saw her name on there, flipped and told the ex GF not to speak to her husband again, and HR called the husband in for some chewing out.

          But I also remember the baker wife. But she seemed nice, just over-reaching, the co-workers didn’t eat her baking anymore.

    16. Jaydee*

      The reactions might be phrased differently, but I think the general idea would be the same. If a girlfriend emailed her boyfriend’s boss after boyfriend was out drinking with the boss and didn’t call her until 11:30 PM, that would be equally inappropriate. She would have no standing to contact the boss or HR or whatever. She should take up her concerns with boyfriend directly, not act like it’s his boss’s job to police his behavior.

      It doesn’t really matter whether this is a big scary macho guy marking his territory and claiming his girlfriend as property or whether this is an anxious and insecure person desperately trying to scare away better options that would take his girlfriend away. Heck, a lot of big scary macho guys are probably pretty anxious and insecure too, and the big scary macho stuff is a front to hide that insecurity. Either way, the mindset and the behavior are the problem. Both the big scary macho guy and the anxious and insecure guy view the girlfriend as somehow belonging to them and think they should have some level of control over her choices and actions.

    17. aebhel*

      Big scary macho guys are not the only people who can be abusive. Anecdotally speaking, most of the abusers I’ve met have been desperately insecure people who try to isolate and control their partners because they’re terrified of ending up alone or feeling disrespected… AND THAT IS STILL ABUSIVE.

      Abusers aren’t cackling comic book villains; generally speaking, they’re people who are lashing out from their own perceived inadequacy or repeating dysfunctional behavior patterns that they’ve learned. None of that makes their behavior any less terrifying or destructive.

    18. Katniss*

      I don’t care one tiny bit what his reason behind it was. I don’t care if he’s anxious. He is a grown-up and should deal with his anxiety and insecurity like a grownup. He acted controlling and abusive towards another person and that is NEVER okay, no matter how many sads he has.

        1. Cyrus*

          I didn’t even notice that. That’s hilarious. I may have uttered that phrase now and then and I’ll try to stop. I swear, it’s not because I’m a domestic abuser, it’s just because I’m pompous!

      1. Lissa*

        Thank you for posting that other letter! I admit to thinking to myself that, in a gender flipped version, there might be a little less fear for the girlfriend and comments telling her to “run immediately”, but I think everyone would equally agree it was inappropriate. And I think the reason for the difference would be, well, it’s not a double standard or misandry etc. to realize that men are violent towards their female partners more often than the opposite. It would be just as inappropriate regardless of the genders (…needless to say…) but I can understand why one might prompt a more visceral reaction from more people.

    19. Rowan*

      As others have said: likely all abuse is rooted in anxiety and insecurity. Heck, my abuser used that explicitly to control me: “I’m so insecure and anxious because my last girlfriend dumped me suddenly. If you just agree to [various explicit, unreasonable, and controlling restrictions, plus a few surprise rules tossed in at random], then in a year or so I’ll be all better, and things will be great!”. Spoiler: after two years of this, he was just as anxious and insecure as ever.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Oh man, you too? My (now ex-)fiancée used “well, my last girlfriend committed suicide, so I have to rely on you and you need to be strong for me!” This was while I was struggling with depression and really needed someone to lean on. But if I hinted at such a thing, she’d immediately start in on how her last girlfriend committed suicide.

        … Spoiler alert. There was no girlfriend. There never was. Her little sister contacted me a while after I broke off the engagement to be like “… Just so you know…”

          1. Blurgle*

            And very common. The controlling person who blames the cheating ex probably never had a cheating ex.

      2. Cactus*

        One of mine said “but you fell for me when you were still dating [first asshole ex], how do I know you won’t do the same thing again with someone new?”
        Conveniently “forgetting” that he also was in a committed relationship when we met…

    20. some1*

      The “he’s lucky I didn’t involve HR” remark doesn’t scream “I’m meek and insecure”.

    21. SystemsLady*

      If anything, isn’t it likely the OP’s behavior would be deemed unacceptable by more people than in this case?

      (You’d probably be seeing the word “crazy” more, too).

    22. James*

      Not in my experience. I regularly work in the field for weeks or months at a time, with female co-workers/superiors/subcontractors/employees. Going out for dinner and having a drink afterward is common (on some jobs more than others). There are many reasons to drink after work, ranging from “I don’t want the conversation to end just yet” to “Yeah, after that you need a drink, I’ll buy a round”.

      If my wife ever emailed my boss complaining about work “encroaching on our relationship” I would leave her, and do absolutely everything in my power to make sure she never saw our kids again. There is simply no excuse for this behavior. Don’t misunderstand me–I love my wife. But there are lines no moral person crosses. It was bad enough when she complained to ME about being unavailable when she thought I should be; going to my boss would say that I was her property and got no say in what I did.

      The psychological damage this can cause is terrible. Folks traveling for work rely on a support network back home, and to have that network turn into a net trapping you is a horrifying experience. It can get you killed, easily–traffic fatalities are a leading cause of death in the developed world, and this sort of thing is VERY distracting. And it adds to the tremendous psychological burden already on someone who’s away from home, dealing with stressful situations (businesses don’t foot the bill for easy work), and navigating a host of interpersonal politics that are all new.

      Controlling is controlling, regardless of sex/gender. The idea that normal socializing is “encroaching” on one’s “relationship” is controlling, regardless of sex/gender. Common courtesy matters, regardless of sex/gender.

      1. EmmaLou*

        Okay, this was a bad thing he did, but you’d make sure your wife never saw your kids again over it? This one instance? Yes, there are absolutely moral lines that are in different places for different people. Yes, this has the flags of crazy, controlling behavior. Me worrying and being angry (because I would be) that my husband called much later than he said he would and when he did he was drunk (because he doesn’t drink at all) is now going to cause him to get in a car accident and die?! Those seem like big leaps from bad to nuclear war.

        I think it’s possible that this man is… wow… seriously misguided in how today’s relationships tend to work in a healthy way. In his mind, it could be that he sees this as “Boss imposing himself on young woman employee!!!” therefore inappropriate all over the place. Still not his job to fix. It’s still a relationship issue.

        1. fposte*

          There’s no court in the land that would accept that as a reason for denying a parent custody.

          1. Aurion*

            James probably meant that someone who would exhibit that kind of controlling behaviour would have other issues, and the sum total of those behaviours (especially if it’s a regular pattern) would be enough to keep that person away from the kids.

            But I think this is really aggressive parsing of one sentence on both sides.

        2. James*

          I think you’ve misunderstood a few things, quite probably because my interpretation of “travel” is different than that of most people here. I once described a jobsite as “as dangerous as an active combat zone”, and a few combat vets agreed with my description.

          As I said below, there is a history and other issues here. Part of that (the part I’m willing to talk to strangers online about, because it’s general) is that traveling a great deal for work puts TREMENDOUS strain on a relationship. When you’re gone for 6 months straight, your lives tend to drift apart. You make every effort to not allow that, but the simple truth is intimacy is hard to maintain. Possessiveness in any form is a sign that things have gone south BADLY. My wife and I work because we trust each other when it comes to such issues as cheating, an absolute prerequisite for a relationship where one person travels. If one partner loses that, the relationship is toast. And I don’t mean that in any theoretical sense; I’ve seen more than a few relationships torpedoed in exactly this manner. Mild forms of possessiveness would be something to work on in a marriage, and my wife and I have–but when dating the cut-off criteria are much more mild, and any form is a warning sign that cannot be ignored.

          That may not be applicable to a couple where one person travels on rare occasion, but if this were to become a regular thing these issues would very quickly start to come into play.

          Secondly, the psychological and physical stress when traveling for my job is tremendous. In my case (environmental consultant), I often have to drive long hours and work in extremely hazardous situations. I’ve worked in several areas where the dirt burned my skin, in a few active missile ranges, most have been around wildly dangerous wildlife, and the like. In cases like mine, a big fight with the spouse can cause distraction, fatigue (no one sleeps well after a fight), and rushing, all of which could mean not noticing that Mojave Green rattlesnake or that the load in your truck has shifted. I’ve been on jobs where people have died that way. A huge number of property damage incidents have been due to issues like this (ie, someone rear-ends a car or busts a piece of equipment because they were angry and not paying attention). I’ve also seen more than one person kicked off jobsites because they weren’t focused on the work and were a danger to themselves and others due to this sort of situation. I’ve come very close to kicking people off jobs myself because of this. A business trip for meetings isn’t necessarily going to involve that sort of risk, but in my job this can very literally be a life-and-death situation.

          What my wife and I do is have high-stress conversations when we get home if possible. We routinely call at night (young kids), and if I have to miss a call I let her know. If there are things likely to lead to a fight, we both know it but can delay the gratification of shouting at each other until such time that doing so won’t cause the maximum amount of damage possible. It’s not easy, not by a long shot, but it does give us a chance to cool down before we talk, which is a plus. Plus, my wife did environmental field work for a while, so she has a better understanding than most of the stresses involved. So she’s probably more understanding with me than most people would be.

      2. Lissa*

        I wouldn’t leave my partner immediately if he did this because it would be so ragingly out of character for him for that I would honestly be way more concerned about him and what had possibly happened to cause this. But that’s the thing — I don’t think stuff like this happens in a vacuum, it usually happens after slowly ramping up, or being controlling in other ways etc. For somebody to get to “needless to say I emailed her boss” is so wildly out of reasonable that I can’t imagine it would happen in any scenario other than one that’s bad in other ways.

        1. Artemesia*

          Me too. If my husband of now 44 years hit me, called my boss to assert dominance or anything like that, I would assume he had a brain tumor, had had a stroke or had some other degenerative brain issue. It would not be in character. If someone behaved like this early in a relationship then I would DTMFA.

    23. Xay*

      Sure, because no one ever talks about insecure, controlling, overbearing girlfriends. The “crazy girlfriend” has never been a trope.

      Give me a break – Alison has made it clear in many responses that it is never appropriate for anyone other than an employee to contact the place of employment, whether spouse, significant other, or parent and the commenters have agreed.

      1. Allison*

        Seriously, people seem very quick to condemn women for being “crazy,” but crazy women are rarely taken seriously unless they seriously go over the edge because we don’t think women can legitimately threaten the safety of other people. So if a guy stalks a woman or acts like the OP we (rightfully) suggest he’s an abuser and if things get worse he could actually hurt her physically as well as mess her up mentally, but if a woman does these things, she’s just annoying and weird.

        1. Xay*

          I disagree – the so-called “crazy” girlfriend may not be described as threatening your life, but certainly your job and your property. All abuse isn’t physical and I think if the genders were swapped there may not be as much discussion about physical abuse, but it would still be an abuse centered conversation.

    24. mandamin*

      I feel like this comment kind of forced a lot of responders into an unnecessarily defensive position: no, his gender didn’t matter at all!

      But it kind of does, right? And that’s okay? YES, it’s totally unacceptable and scary behavior no matter who is doing it to whom. BUT, it’s also a thing that men overwhelmingly tend to be the abusive half of a hetero relationship, because they tend to be stronger and more aggressive, and the shitty ones tend to have a willingness to take advantage of those things. Bad as it would have been in any case, it DOES make it a little bit worse that the man (whether big/scary/macho or small/anxious/insecure or some combination thereof) displayed this kind of possessiveness and entitlement with respect to his girlfriend. It’s a symptom of a huge societal problem, and it’s scary for her in a way that it might not be, quite, given a different combination of genders.

      I just feel like Sad kind of set you all up, acting like it would be some kind of shameful double-standard if you wouldn’t react exactly the same way if the roles were reversed, so everyone rushed to insist they would. In reality, it’s impossible to imagine not condemning actions like this, but it DOES make it a little bit different that the power-mad neurotic douchebag is also the one who is sitting in the traditional position of power. And that’s as it should be.

      (Sincerely, straight guy)

      1. Cyrus*

        “YES, it’s totally unacceptable and scary behavior no matter who is doing it to whom. BUT, it’s also a thing that men overwhelmingly tend to be the abusive half of a hetero relationship, because they tend to be stronger and more aggressive, and the shitty ones tend to have a willingness to take advantage of those things.”

        Do you have any evidence that men are more likely to be abusive, or are you just being prejudiced against a whole gender?

        I’m partially playing gotcha there (although I really wouldn’t assume that men are “overwhelmingly” more likely to be abusive, at least not without a very careful definition of the term and effort to study it), so I’ll be more explicit about what I think. I have the impression, based on Sad’s comment, that he thinks there’s a double standard in effect, in which men are the victim of cultural misandry. His first paragraph, about whether the e-mailer is probably big and tough or insecure, is if anything a better example of this. People are pushing back on this too. He starts out picturing the e-mailer as an unreconstructed abusive stereotype, presumably that big macho guy is even wearing a sleeveless undershirt of the cut often called a “wife-beater.” But see, ah hah, the e-mailer actually sounds anxious and insecure. That means the e-mailer has a softer and more sympathetic side, right? The abuser just wants to be loved! That seems to be what he’s saying.

        ” it DOES make it a little bit different that the power-mad neurotic douchebag is also the one who is sitting in the traditional position of power.”

        Eh, maybe a tiny bit, I guess. But being 3 inches taller than someone doesn’t automatically mean you’ll win every fight. And physical violence aside, emotional abuse is still abuse. But, long story short, the part I wanted to push back on was this:

        “In reality, it’s impossible to imagine not condemning actions like this,”

        I’d wager Sad was sincere and really couldn’t imagine it.

        Sorry this is long-winded, and I realize I’m butting up against the comment policy about going after other people, but I just wanted to point out that my read on his comment was very different than yours.

        1. mandamin*

          I have no doubt that you’ve accurately described what Sad was trying to say. I don’t think we’re reading it differently at all. It’s just that it’s…wrong. For the reasons I laid out above, and for reasons other commenters have expressed. And holy crap, “misandry” is not a thing (http://www.ravishly.com/2015/01/07/myth-misandry-misogyny-oppression-marginalization). Outta here with that nonsense.

          A lot of men are really horrible to women because they can be — regardless of whether they’re big and macho or anxious and insecure — and that’s a huge problem in this country (and pretty much everywhere), and this example of an abusive and controlling man arises against that backdrop. Thus, to the extent there’s a double standard, it absolutely should be there.

          Men dominate our society and dominate male-female relationships, and there IS a bit of a double standard on things like this, and rightly so. As a lot of the responders to Sad’s comment (who are the ones I think it’s pretty clear I was addressing, not Sad himself) pointed out, if the roles were reversed, the girlfriend would be called all kinds of names, “crazy” and variations thereof probably leading the way, and that’s misogyny, but part of it is also the reality that a woman who acts that way simply isn’t the same level of threat to a man that a man who acts that way is to a woman, because she doesn’t typically have that kind of power, within the relationship or anywhere else. She gets dismissed as “crazy,” because she’s largely not in a position to be “abusive.” Whether you want to look at it statistically as CMT did or anecdotally or with good ol’ deductive reasoning, that’s just the way it is. So I think Sad is right that if the gender roles were different, some of the reactions would be different (I don’t think *anyone* would be defending the girlfriend’s behavior, but there would be a difference). It’s just that that’s a completely logical and justifiable thing.

      2. James*

        Not sure I believe it. It’s pretty well-documented that men drastically under-report abuse in the USA, and that in our culture many men are willing to accept as normal things which, if done to a woman, would be grounds for jail time. For example, where I grew up a woman running after a man swinging a frying pan was considered a normal part of being married. A man running after a woman swinging….well, anything would be taken to jail pretty much immediately. Given coversations I’ve had during my travels, this seems to be the norm.

        I’m not saying that women are more abusive than men, or anything like that–I’m saying that societal pressures cause us to accept, or at least have accepted in the past, behaviors from one sex that would not be tolerated from the other. And that has a demonstrable affect on our ability to evaluate who is more abusive to whom.

        Because of that, the best stance to take in my opinion is that NO ONE gets to be verbally, emotionally, financially, or physically abusive in the relationship. Full stop. Sex, gender, and all that are irrelevant.

        1. Henry*

          Actually dude, women also drastically underreport abuse, so that still leaves women as the ones more likely to be abused. I often hear people claim guys are afraid to come forward for fear of being laughed at (not the reality that they’ll be laughed at, but the “fear” that they will) and they overlook the fact that women are afraid to come forward for fear of being killed, which becomes a much more likely possibility when her abuser thinks she’s slipping out from under his control and going to seek aid and leave him. It’s ridiculous that people think guys fears of being laughed at somehow has more impact than the very real possibility of a woman being murdered by her partner.

    25. Isabel C.*


      I had male friends with controlling girlfriends of that sort. My advice was always the same: get out, get out now, there are three billion women in the planet and you can find one who isn’t a willful flaming trainwreck.

      Also, “anxious and insecure” doesn’t excuse this. Definitely not when OP and girlfriend are both old enough that she’s holding what sounds like a mid-career level job.

    26. Preux*

      Both of the people you described are abusive. Abusive behavior can and often does come from insecurity.

    27. Nicole J.*

      I would’ve said that a lot of issues around abusiveness come from insecurity. It doesn’t actually make the behaviour better in any way.

    28. Henry*

      “I imagine…” And that right there is the problem with guys who cry about being victims of double standards. It’s always based on their imagination. They compare a guy’s actual bad behaviour with an imaginary woman’s imaginary bad behaviour and then cry about how victimised they are. If there’s a double standard at all, it’s this idea these guys try to push that because, in their minds, everyone would make allowance for an imaginary woman, this means the real-life guy should not be held accountable for his real-life bad behaviour.

  27. Mel*

    Whoa, sounds like you have some serious personal or relationship issues. Lots of people have had too much to drink around their boss at some point in their career without any nefarious intentions or actions. It’s not the best idea, but most people eventually learn from it or grow out of it.

  28. Apollo Warbucks*

    OP you can’t have sent a professional email, you have no professional relationship with the boss. Alison has explained very well why you were out of line. Even if the guy was harassing your girlfriend you shouldn’t have approached him directly but supported her behind the scenes.

  29. newlyhr*

    I hope the girlfriend runs, not walks, away from this relationship ASAP. If I as a boss got that email, I would probably contact the authorities–I think there is a legitimate concern about abuse and stalking type behavior.

  30. CMart*

    While everyone gets to define their own boundaries for their own relationships, I want to address the OP’s notion that hanging out for a couple hours drinking (yes, even to getting drunk) is “obviously” encroaching on a relationship.

    Assuming all parties are straight, if the girlfriend’s boss was a woman, would this have been encroachment?

    While there’s certainly debate to be had about the professionalism of boss/employee socialization, hanging out and drinking (with anyone) is more often than not simply just that: hanging out. It’s not an “encroachment” and more than likely no one is doing it with the intent of undermining a relationship. It’s a super common social bonding activity among coworkers. While some people might have stronger feelings about this activity than other, it is FAR from a foregone conclusion that what happened was socially inappropriate in any way.

    1. Jadelyn*

      And if we start considering whether the relative genders and orientations affects the situation, that begs the question, what if the girlfriend was bisexual or pansexual? Is she not allowed to hang out and have drinks with anyone of ANY gender, just in case it’s ~~encroaching~~ on the relationship?

      Yeah, no, there’s no justifying this kind of controlling response regardless of gender, orientation, or anything else about the parties involved.

      1. many bells down*

        So, I’m bisexual, and I broke up with my first girlfriend for this very reason. She got jealous if I talked to men. She got jealous if I talked to women. And since I was apparently not able to talk to anyone, that tanked the relationship immediately.

    2. FCJ*

      I don’t know if it’s creepier or just as creepy, but my impression was that the “encroachment” was the fact that the boss “prevented” the girlfriend from calling on time.

    3. Meg Murry*

      Yes, exactly this. Would OP have contacted the boss if she was female? Or if this wasn’t her boss, but some other man or woman in her life?

      OP, your girlfriend is an adult. She gets to make her own decisions, including who she has drinks with at whatever hour. Boss/co-worker/friend, male/female, it doesn’t matter. And if you have a problem with it, you can discuss it with her when she comes back from the trip – but that needs to be a true discussion about how you trust each other, not you laying down rules for her like “no hanging out with your male boss after 10 pm on business trips”.

      Even if your girlfriend had told you her boss was inappropriate with her (from subtly pressuring her to have too many drinks/drink too fast/stay at the bar later than she wanted, all the way to slipping something in her drink or making a pass at her) – it’s not your job to confront or email her boss. Your role is to support your girlfriend however she needs it, which may be role playing out a scenario where she can practice saying “no thanks, I’m just going to have ginger ale now, I don’t want a/another drink” or supporting her in the terrible case that she needed to go to HR or the authorities if the boss did cross the line. But it is not your role to contact her boss, OP.

    4. Debbie Downer*

      Yeah. To answer the unstated part of OP’s question: hanging out with coworkers for a few hours over a few beers at the hotel on a business trip is perfectly acceptable workplace behavior as well as very common. Getting drunk is not a good idea, but is certainly the girlfriend’s choice, and a social faux pas that can be overcome. So no, this wasn’t anything the boss did wrong either. Drinking with the boss can be a good way to build rapport, and you undermined that for your girlfriend by contacting her boss.

    5. Qmatilda*

      So, in my case, yes. The ex firmly believed that my time with my girlfriends was “over the line” in reality it is just an excuse to control your circle and the people you can trust. They want you to have only them to rely on.

  31. F.*

    This letter caused a serious flashback to my psychologically abusive first marriage. He wouldn’t let me go out for drinks after work when invited on the rare occasions when the home office managers were in town because I had to bring “his” car straight home from work. This was not because he didn’t have a vehicle to drive, nor was it “his” car solely (titled in both of our names and paid for by both of our salaries). This is not because I drank alcohol, I would have had a cola. No, this was one of his methods of controlling me.

    The column referenced in Alison’s reply actually brought tears to my eyes. My first husband also did not support my working, even though we very much needed the money. I was allowed to work only if it did not inconvenience him.

    It took me 17-1/2 years of psychological abuse and a major depressive episode involving hospitalization and many years of therapy to end that travesty of a marriage. I sincerely hope the OP’s girlfriend realizes that she does not deserve this type of treatment and gets out of this relationship before it gets any worse.

        1. F.*

          No, I was not brave. I had such low self esteem, first from a psychologically abusive father who told me at every opportunity how worthless I was, then from the abusive marriage, that I was paralyzed in fear and depression and didn’t know I deserved better. I did my sons a great disservice by remaining in the marriage for so long that they grew up with this terrible example of marriage and male/female relationships. However, I did the best I could with my mental and physical state at the time.

          1. Aunt Helen*

            You aren’t to blame for what happened. You aren’t in that relationship now, and for that, you are brave. :)

            1. Marvel*

              As someone who has also been abused–I know this is well meaning, but it can actually be very silencing to be told “you’re brave” over and over despite your objections. It’s another way in which people refuse to let victims of abuse define our own experiences, and it can feel extremely disempowering.

              I was not brave and heroic for surviving what I did, just as people who don’t survive it are not cowardly. I just did what I could to survive, and it worked out for me. F. seems to feel similarly. Please let them define their own experience.

              1. some1*

                Thank you for this – a high school classmate of mine was killed as a result of domestic violence.

              2. F.*

                Thank you. I now consider myself (and other formerly abused people) brave for speaking out about abuse when I see it happening.

                I do not consider myself brave for staying for 17-1/2 years any more than I consider the people who cannot get out of an abusive relationship cowards. We all just try to do the best with what we have to work with at the time.

                1. Aunt Helen*

                  Whoa. I wasn’t trying to define her experience for her. I was offering support and my opinion that it takes bravery to leave an abusive situation, no matter how powerless she felt at the time. I think she spoke well about her experience, no one is silencing her.

                  Now I feel awful for trying to support a stranger. Leaving the comments now.

                2. Marvel*

                  Aunt Helen, as I said, I know you were well-meaning. But calling someone brave despite their objections is projecting your own feelings onto their abuse–something you are also doing with this comment.

                  When the people you are trying to support are saying “actually, that’s not helpful to me, and I’d like you to stop,” and you flounce away from the comments… well, that doesn’t actually send much of a message of support.

            2. Here, kitty, kitty...*

              I grew up in a violent household in which my mother was my father’s punching bag, with me taking her place occasionally. She worked and had enough money to support herself, but she was so insecure and scared that she refused to leave. Which put my brother and me, but especially me, through so much hell. I can honestly say it would have been better to grow up in a homeless shelter than in that environment. I won’t go into detail, but it was BAD.

              So since today’s thread is about domestic violence, I am putting forth my observations, based on my own experience, that it is actually the children who suffer the most in this environment. They have no experiential reference from which to judge this, no legal or financial power of their own. They are every bit as trapped as a pet. Even if the woman can’t afford to leave, she should do it anyway. The damage done to the children is so much worse than people want to admit, either to themselves or as part of being outside observers to the domestic violence dynamic. I know that women in rural areas have less recourse, and they have my sympathy. But women like my mother, who worked and lived in an urban environment, well. She made the choice to put my brother and me through a hell that echoes throughout my psyche decades later.

              No, I’m not over it. I’m not even remotely close to over it. I have health problems that stem directly back to years of horrific abuse that I was utterly, 1000% powerless to do a single thing about.

              1. Going anon for this*

                This. This right here is why I have limited sympathy for the whole line of argument that the women know best and are doing their best and can’t leave and we can’t ever blame them for staying.

                No, dammit, I blame my mother for staying. She put me and my siblings through hell because she didn’t want to rock the boat. Now that we’re all finally out, she keeps putting us through emotional hell by calling us up randomly, crying and asking us to confirm that she was a good mother and staying together “for you kids” was the right choice and that she never did anything wrong.

                And what I learned from all this is that I can’t trust a man to have that much control in my life, and I can’t put up with being someone’s emotional ballast. I’ve learned that one of the worst things you can say to someone is that you put them in an abusive situation “for them.” And I’ve learned that I’d rather be anyone but my mother.

                1. AnotherAnon*

                  “. I’ve learned that one of the worst things you can say to someone is that you put them in an abusive situation “for them.””

                  Thank you… I think I needed to hear that.

                2. OldAdmin*

                  “And I’ve learned that I’d rather be anyone but my mother.”

                  Exactly! I have the exact same feeling – the only thing I truly learned from my *ahem* spineless (manipulative unrealistic) mother was not to ever become like her. *sigh*

          2. Jaydee*

            A lot of people falsely think that bravery is about seeking out danger or challenges or adversity and then conquering them. They think that if they haven’t done that, they must not be very brave. But bravery isn’t a fixed trait that you either have or you don’t. It’s an action, a habit, that you form in response to the circumstances around you.
            Survivors of abuse are some of the bravest people around. You didn’t have to seek out danger or challenges or adversity. They were right there waiting for you in your own home. So every time that you woke up, got out of bed, and faced the day, you were being brave. Leaving was ridiculously brave (that’s the single most dangerous time in an abusive relationship). Every time you went to a therapy appointment you were brave.

            1. Marvel*

              I know this is coming from a good place, but as I mentioned in my comment above, this line of thinking can actually be the opposite of helpful. It can even come across as condescending when stated this way. Abuse survivors generally don’t need to have their situation explained to them–they know what they went through.

              And what you’re implicitly saying is that on the days I can’t get out of bed, I am not being brave. If I flake out on therapy for a while, I’m not being brave. If someone can’t leave, they’re not being brave. Calling certain behaviors brave necessarily implies that others are cowardly, and that simply is not the case here. Many, many people do not want their actions defined as “brave” for exactly this reason–it sets a harmful precedent for “ideal” behavior, even if you do not mean it that way.

              I don’t want to harp on this too much, because we’re getting off topic, but could we maybe respect a survivor’s right to define her own experience in her own words without arguing with her about what those words should be?

              1. Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude*

                Marvel, I appreciate your “harping” (and isn’t the harp a beautiful instrument, and mustn’t therefore the harpies have marvelous voices? But I digress.) Words like “brave” in response to survival of abuse (I’d probably hate it about cancer, too, if I’d had that so far) always sound to me like someone is saying to me, “shut up, shut up, shut up, here’s a lollipop, now for G-d’s sake shut UP.” It gives me the irrational feeling of both being dismissed and put dangerously in the spotlight. (Usually no one calls me brave, of course, largely because I keep my real-life mouth shut so no one has any reason to! )

                No disrespect to anyone here: I don’t think anyone says stuff like that with ill intent, at least not around these parts. I just wanted to chime in.

                1. Going anon for this*

                  Words like “brave” in response to survival of abuse … always sound to me like someone is saying to me, “shut up, shut up, shut up, here’s a lollipop, now for G-d’s sake shut UP.”

                  Yeah, basically, same here. It’s dismissive and silencing, and all the more so because it’s a good thing to be, so protesting it is met with resistance and further used to silence you. What, don’t you want to be brave? Would you rather be thought of as an ungrateful coward?

                  Living with abuse wasn’t brave, it was just how my life was. Escaping the abuse wasn’t brave, either, it was just me finally deciding to be the bad daughter and embrace my selfish opportunistic bitch side and go. If anything, I’m the opposite of brave – a rank coward, who keeps her eyes peeled for both danger and opportunity, and runs fast and hard from the former while greedily seizing the latter.

                  And I’ll be honest: I’m damn proud of that.

              2. Dr. Johnny Fever*

                When we use phrasing like Brave, we immediately go for the binary, like Marvel says. If I am not brave, I am a coward.

                Surviving abuse is not binary. The effects of growing up in abuse are not binary. And despite your best intentions, you can never and *should* never ever tell someone how to feel about that person’s self in their moments. You were not there. You were not involved in the situation. No one has the right to impose an emotion on another. Telling someone to suppress an emotion is a form of abuse itself.

                I echo the call. Abuse survivors are not brave, cowardly, strong, weak, amazing, boring, beautiful, or homely. We are people, we have our scars, and we deserve to be treated compassionately without projection, judgment, and labels.

          3. Gaia*

            You can define it however it is true for you but I want you to know that from the outside, you seem very brave for having left. That isn’t to say those that cannot leave (or, for whatever reason, opt not to leave) are cowardly – they are brave in their own right.

            My mother was physically and emotionally abused by my father and my first memory is of witnessing this abuse. It took her many, many years and many, many attempts but she left and that is brave to me. When I was young I didn’t understand why she stayed so long. It took life experiences, a lot of time contemplating and a good deal of therapy for me to understand (and even now I won’t claim I really understand since I have not been there). I hope you know that your son must be proud of you for leaving – even if it took longer than you’d have liked. You did your best and that is all anyone can ask.

            1. Going anon for this*

              I understand exactly why my mother stayed. I understand, and I won’t ever forgive her for it, and I am not at all proud of her for finally leaving, simply exhausted.

              And no, she is not owed my forgiveness just because I am her daughter, or just because my father abused her too. I am tired of people acting like parents are owed their kids’ forgiveness, forbearance, and sympathy, even if they enabled abuse or kept their kids in abusive homes. My mother may not have been the one hitting me, but she kept me there, and only left when I was gone out of a mistaken assumption that keeping the family together “for the kids” was more important than protecting me from that man. I consider her as much a part of my abuse as my father, and no, I don’t forgive her passivity or her enabling him, and no I won’t forget, and no, I am not proud of her, not at all.

              Don’t fool yourselves. If you are letting your kids be abused, you don’t deserve their forgiveness either, and you are enabling the abuse.

    1. Temperance*

      I’m so thankful that you were able to break free of him. You don’t deserve to be treated that way.

      1. F.*

        No one does. That is why I speak up and share my story, so perhaps others might realize that it is possible to create a new life without the abuser, even after many years of abuse. I am happily married (nearly 7 years!) to a wonderful, caring, loving man who is my partner in every way. There is always hope, even when it is hard to see it.

        1. Anna*

          I appreciate it when people who have escaped abusive relationships, have been raped, or harassed, or have survived sexual abuse are willing to share their experiences. Light has to be shone on the existence of abuse. If a society hides it away, it’s never addressed.

          Anyway, thank you for speaking up and sharing. I appreciate it.

    2. Dan*

      In retrospect, one of the first signs I had that my marriage wasn’t working and that it was time to go would be that I would lie to my wife/not tell her the truth when my coworkers went out for happy hour. It was quite easy, because I routinely worked until late in the evening, so there was no “awkward” time gaps to explain. But I stopped telling her when I was going out with them when she kept giving me a bunch of useless shit about it.

  32. Miaw*

    Now I am interested what would be the appropriate and personal response from the manager in this kind of situation? Alison, if the said Boss wrote to you about receiving a crazy e-mail from an employee’s crazy boyfriend, what would you say?

    If I were the manager, I would most likely have a private talk with the employee to see if she is aware of the boyfriend’s behaviour. I definetely want to know if my employee have been complaining about the drinks and business trip with the boyfriend or not.

    1. Mel*

      I think there’s not a whole lot to do other than show the employee the email. I bet without even saying a word the employee will tell the boss what she’s going to do so it never happens again.

    2. Pwyll*

      I think this is right. I would certainly not respond to the message, but would call the employee in for the meeting and give her a copy, ask if she was aware of the message and if she had any concerns about the evening. And if she didn’t immediately look horrified, I’d probably inquire as to whether she’s okay at home in as tactful a way as I could.

      In the same vein, I’m curious what we think the girlfriend should do in this situation (at work, I don’t want to spend any more time thinking about this crazy guy). I think my advice would be for her to ask to meet with the CEO and to express her horror and that she will address the inappropriateness with her boyfriend and nothing like this will ever happen again. And assuming it’s true, reassure the CEO that the e-mail was not based on anything she said to the boyfriend and that she appreciated the time to socialize with him or somesuch. But curious what others think.

    3. Cyrus*

      I don’t have a link handy, but Alison has addressed issues like this before. My guess is that she’d tell the boss to not reply to the e-mail, or only do so in a very anodyne way, and meet with the employee. In that meeting, the boss should say something like this: “I recently got an e-mail from your boyfriend complaining about us having drinks together. I found this weird and really unsettling. Maybe he was just having a bad day or something, but I hope you’re aware that policing a partner’s relationships is a common sign of domestic abuse. You should have this phone number handy and you might want to read this or this article about abusive relationships. If you want to talk, I’m available, but I’ll butt out of your personal life going forward.”

      Maybe the language would be different but I think that would be the basic idea.

    4. ToxicNudibranch*

      I certainly wouldn’t respond to OP’s “professional” email at all, but I would bring the employee in to my office and ask if she is really okay and what I can do to help. She would see the email, and I would be keeping it on file, just in case. Sometimes a lack of response or lack of “expected” response can cause the abuser to dramatically escalate their behavior.

    5. Security SemiPro*

      Well, if I got something like this from a staff member’s SO, I think I’d do something like the following

      1) Show email to employee
      2) Discuss the work-pertinent stuff (travel expectations, the point where “professional bonding” which is expected becomes “after hours hanging out with people you like and happen to work with” where you can bow out without any professional impact and reiterate that I don’t expect my employees to stay up late and drink while traveling if they don’t want to, etc)
      3) Pause. Then give a note of concern, without asking for (or wanting) any more details about this relationship, but showing how this says to me that their partner is worryingly controlling, oversteps boundaries, and has a potentially dangerous and very flawed understanding of how healthy relationships work. Offer EAP. “If this is a one time fluke, that could be fine. If this is how you enjoy your relationship working, that’s also fine, but please keep it out of the office. If this is, or becomes, a dangerous situation for you, you have my support.”

      1. Isabel*

        I disagree that travel expectations/ professional bonding, etc., should be brought up as part of this conversation. No! That amounts to letting ths boyfriend’s opinions become part of the professional conversation, and the point is that his opinions have no place in her work relationships. I agree with everyone who suggested the conversation between OP’s girlfriend and her boss should be about concern for her well being and any suggested support resources.

  33. Naomi*

    The thing that concerns me about this… well, there are many things that concern me about this, but one of the big ones is that OP makes no mention of having discussed this with his girlfriend. At all. OP, your girlfriend’s boss did not unilaterally decree that she had to go drinking with him. Your girlfriend is an adult human being who decided of her own free will how to spend her time. Furthermore, you are in a relationship with her, not her boss, and she is the person to talk to if you don’t like how late she stays out or how much she has to drink.

    Her boss didn’t inappropriately encroach on your personal relationship; you inappropriately brought him into your personal relationship when you emailed him to complain about his interactions with your girlfriend.

    1. Katie F*

      Oh, I’m sure OP’s girlfriend sat through quite the patronizing, paternal ‘lecture’ on her behavior already. I’m going to guess she didn’t knuckle under to the OP’s satisfaction so he decided to bring her boss into it.

  34. EJ*

    Unless she complained about foul-play here (ie. sexual harassment), then you had NO right stepping in. If you can’t trust here, hat’s something to talk to HER about, not the boss.

    Your girlfriend is a big girl. She can take care of herself.

    1. EJ*

      Spelling corrections: If you can’t trust her, that’s something to talk to HER about, not the boss.

      Woops :)

    2. Florida*

      Even if she had complained about foul-play, OP should not have stepped in.
      Even if Girlfriend ask OP to step in, OP shouldn’t step in. I don’t think the term helicopter boyfriend exists, but the Boss doesn’t want a helicopter boyfriend even if the girlfriend does.
      I don’t want to confuse anyone. Girlfriend did not ask OP to step in at all. This part is all hypothetical.

    3. Jinx*

      Honestly, even if there was sexual harassment it’s still wildly inappropriate for OP to email HR on the employee’s behalf. OP’s girlfriend interacts with her company as a single entity, not a sub-unit of a relationship.

    4. SG*

      Even if there’s sexual harassment, he still has no right to step in. He should be there to support her but he is NOT part of her work life and SHOULD NOT be in any circumstance.

  35. grasshopper*

    I don’t have anything new to add to the conversation, but I just want to add my voice to the multitude so that the letter writer realizes that this isn’t normal or good behaviour on his part, and that he is way out of line.

  36. animaniactoo*

    What is correct or allowable is what two people agree between themselves is acceptable. With the major vote going to the person in the situation at the time, with the best understanding of what the culture or environment calls for and their willingness to go along with it.

    Exceptions happen even to known rules – perhaps your gf felt like she really needed to make a deeper personal connection with this guy to help their professional relationship. Perhaps they both got a bit too relaxed and carried away and neither one of them intended to stay that long or drink that much when they met up. But they were enjoying themselves *as people*, and so it happened, and nothing moved so far out of professional norms that it felt like something that had to be put a stop to at the time. Maybe they spent 2 hours talking about crazy work situations or brainstorming based on that day’s meetings of for tomorrows, or discussing their newly discovered mutual love for Big Brother and were dissecting all of this season’s shenanigans.

    ALLLLLL of that is completely normal in context.

    There is zero evidence here that her boss disrespected you or her or her relationship with you.

    1. animaniactoo*

      Also to say: When you have an exception, the thing to do is say “Huh, what happened here, do we need to revisit our thinking on these kinds of situations, what kinds of new boundaries do you think should be in place here? Or do you think this is a one-off?”

      And if you can’t agree, YOU BREAK UP. You don’t try to force the other person to knuckle under to you, you don’t accuse other people of interfering and making it not possible for your partner to keep to the agreement you’ve made between the two of you.

      And maybe you go off and thoroughly explore the idea that several relationships are complex, and there is sometimes overlap in the time of day when one may take priority over another.

      Unless you are regularly being abandoned for another one, you don’t even have a sliver of a leg to stand on in raising a complaint over one episode. Not even a toenail clipping’s worth of a leg. That chalks up under “life happens”. Your perspective in not viewing it that way is indeed frightening. Completely. Even if your gf initially finds your over-the-top jealousy or desire for attention charming, she won’t continue to find it so as it restricts her ability to live her life by what *she* thinks is reasonable.

      But, again. If this episode is one straw on a camel’s back, then you break up, you don’t keep pushing – especially not when you’re involving outside parties in it. Because you cannot make another person do things your way, or corner them into seeing things your way, without being a horribly dysfunctional person in a horribly dysfunctional relationship.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’d add to this that even if the boss or the girlfriend did somehow behave inappropriately (although there is zero indication of that in the letter), there’s no situation where a letter to the boss from the OP would be an appropriate response.

      1. animaniactoo*

        Agreed. You deal with the person that you have a relationship and an agreement with, and that is explicitly only the person in front of you, not anyone else they interact with. They have choices. All of them may be pretty sucky, but the option of which one is chosen is in their hands. Even if boss “forced” her to stay and drink with him, the conversation would be about how she can handle that in the future and what she wants to/can do about it now. For her own benefit. Not her partner’s.

    3. The Butcher of Luverne*


      The whole concept of “boss ENCROACHED on my relationship” is CRAZY.

      Letter writer DAMAGED his gf’s business relationship and professional reputation.

      Letter writer, you need professional help to see why this is all so, so wrong.

  37. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    Well OP, clearly what you need to do going forward to make sure this doesn’t happen again is make sure you pee on your girlfriend every morning before she leaves for work, so your territory is well and truly marked and no interlopers come sniffing around.

    1. Serafina*

      The humans love this, but the canine population is deeply offended. As if they would ever pee on their mates! ;-D

      1. Irma Gerd*

        But that’s the point. The OP isn’t treating his girlfriend as his mate. He’s treating her as property/territory that he’s claimed.

  38. EJ*

    Spelling corrections: If you can’t trust her, that’s something to talk to HER about, not the boss.

    Woops :)

    1. EJ*

      You can delete this if you need to… I meant to reply the spelling correction to my own post above!!!

  39. Chriama*

    My question to OP is what prompted you to contact the boss directly? Did you talk with your gf about how frustrated/concerned you were that she didn’t call and she brushed it off saying something ‘oh, boss wouldn’t let me leave’ or how she felt she couldn’t leave because he was still there? Because that wasn’t an invitation for you to contact the boss on her behalf. Have you been frustrated with your gf for not drawing boundaries in other relationships or worried that drinking with the boss could have – or did – lead to other not-work-appropriate behaviour with the boss? I think the problems here are between you and your gf, and it’s not ok to speak to someone on her behalf no matter what the situation. Yes you guys are a partnership which means you should be making decisions together, but execution of those decisions should be left to the individual.

  40. misspiggy*

    OP, it is legitimately worrying and frustrating when someone you’ve been missing isn’t around for you, when you hoped they would be. It can be one of the worst feelings in the world. But it’s one of those feelings that people have to handle on their own.

    It can be reduced by building trust so you’re not worried if your significant other is with someone else. But it is always disappointing if they’re away and you don’t get to talk to them when you thought you would. However, the only thing you can do is negotiate for more reliable time with them, and accept that even with the best intentions, we don’t always get the time and attention we hoped for from our loved ones.

    There is nothing else to be done, other than avoiding close relationships. You need to sit with that idea and see if you can still be with your girlfriend on that basis. It may be worth seeking out counselling to help you manage any anxieties you might have by yourself. And you need to apologise to your girlfriend a million times and show her you’ve changed.

  41. OldAdmin*

    Alison, I won’t add to the pile on concerning the OP’s behavior.
    (Except maybe to say “Holy maccharoni…”).

    Instead, I would ask you to please reach out to the OP, stay in contact, and without blowing up or antagonizing him try to find out what is going on. Hopefully make him understand he doesn’t *have* to be a victim of his insecurities.

    You might be saving the girlfriend from (mental, physical) harm here.

    Thank you.


    Somebody who has been there. *sigh* *long story*

      1. Isabel*

        Sorry if that sounded harsh. I am truly sorry you have been through something like this and I know that your comment came from a place of good intentions. But Alison cannot be responsible for “making hum understand.”

        1. OldAdmin*

          No offense taken.
          I actually am trying to save the girlfriend from harm. It would be terrible if Alison read in the media that the GF had been… hurt.
          (I had to deal with stalking and death threats in a time and place were the law didn’t care.)

          1. OldAdmin*

            Also, all the posts here trying to communicate with the girlfriend aren’t helpful – she’s not reading them.
            Instead, the *boyfriend* is. If he’s insecure, these posts stating she should leave him might make things worse – or supply him with details and behavior to watch out for, for him to stop so she “doesn’t get away”.
            That’s I am asking Alison to address *his* issues with the OP – because that’s the only point of contact.

            1. Goats*

              I think you mean well here, but It’s not Alison’s responsibility to address *his* issues. Placing that responsibility on an internet advice columnist is an unfair burden. I don’t think she has any responsibility to attempt to reform the actions of the people who write in, or to protect the people who their actions might hurt. (Otherwise why would anyone ever be an advice columnist?) That’s not a burden a reasonable person would ever assume for strangers.

              1. So Very Anonymous*

                Agreed. Alison has already responded to the OP by answering his question. OP is not her responsibility to take on.

                OP arguably also has a problem with treating women as property and as being responsible for his feelings and behavior. Alison doesn’t need to step into a similar role.

                1. OldAdmin*

                  I definitely accept Alison’s call on this, and I understand what the commenters above mean.
                  I… I just wish something could be done. Anything.

                  I’m worried. *sigh*

  42. The Cosmic Avenger*

    OP, if you’re reading this, instead of piling on I’ll try to offer some constructive advice. Take particular notice of this line of Alison’s:

    “Your girlfriend is in charge of managing her relationship with her boss and her relationship with you.”

    If you want to have a normal, healthy, grown-up relationship, you need to do your best to act like a grown-up and treat the other person as a grown-up. That means not only respecting that your girlfriend is responsible for her actions, but if you have a problem with her, you should discuss it directly with her. What if she had sat drinking alone at the bar until 11:30? The fact that her boss was there is irrelevant, and you probably blamed him in order to keep from blaming and fighting with her, but adult relationships are harmed, not helped, when you avoid the tough issues.

    1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

      “adult relationships are harmed, not helped, when you avoid the tough issues”

      Thank you for this gem. It is so true, and exactly the kind of advice the OP probably needs!

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        I had a lot more to say, but I wanted to say something the OP might be more likely to hear. Plus, he’s the one that wrote us, not his girlfriend, and plenty of people gave the advice for the GF that I thought about giving.

        (Also, love the nickname…and the character!)

    2. Megs*

      This is really well put. And along those lines: it is okay to be upset at your partner. Heck, I think most of us would be upset if our partner said they’d call at a specific time and blew us off. But again, being an adult means correctly identifying the source of our anger and the appropriate response. The OP managed neither of these.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Great point. I think I’ve even said it here recently, it’s never not OK to be mad about something, what usually causes issues is how you act on your feelings. Usually an emotional reaction is not constructive towards solving the issue, and indeed can make it worse if you express yourself in an unconstructive manner (which applies a lot more often in the office than in a relationship, but still good to keep in mind).

    3. OriginalYup*

      In the same spirit of constructive advice, I’ll address a few specifics points in the OP’s letter:

      “Now I believe her boss crossed the line from “business” into “personal.” He encroached on our personal relationship.”

      The person who gets to decide if the boss crossed a line and if any encroaching occurred is Girlfriend, not you. It sounds like you’re saying that Girlfriend shouldn’t spend time with colleagues outside the office, on non-work conversations, or outside of regular business hours because that is “relationship time”, aka yours. This is incorrect. No one encroached on your relationship, whatever that means, and that fact that you’re seeing it as a violation of some kind is wildly out of sync with how adults conduct professional and personal relationships. You are allowed to complain to Girlfriend if the boss is calling your home after work hours etc. But you are still only allowed to bring it up with Girlfriend. Not with her boss or her workplace.

      “I would never show up at his work and encroach on his business, and if I did I would expect he would address it with me.”

      You did “encroach” on his business. You contacted him, inappropriately, with personal objections to a business relationship he has with someone who is not you. Not okay.

      “Likewise, I would hope that he would never encroach on our personal life, and if he does then I have the right to address him professionally, as it now involves me.”

      You have no right to contact someone else’s boss about them without their explicit permission. The only scenario where it would be okay for your to contact Girlfriend’s boss is if she was too ill to call out of work and you did this on her behalf or something like that. But otherwise, you have no standing to contact Girlfriend’s boss, colleagues, clients, or workplace.

      “Needless to say, I sent him a professional email outlining my concerns. He was lucky I didn’t involve HR as I think it was extremely inappropriate.”

      What did you see HR’s role being in this scenario if you did contact them? To tell the boss that he isn’t allowed to socialize with employees if the employee’s significant other objects? To reprimand him for drinking with an employee? The boss, and Girlfriend, did nothing that merits HR involvement. It’s deeply, deeply weird that you would think it would be feasible to contact the HR of a company where you don’t work and have them manage your significant other’s managerial relationship to your liking.

  43. Art_ticulate*


    Checking in and calling at a certain time of night is something parents make their children do. Are you her father, OP? No? Then stay out of her works life. You DID encroach on her boss’s work- and humiliated your girlfriend as well. I hope she leaves you.

    1. Anna*

      Even if he were her father, his actions would be inappropriate, unless somehow she was a minor!

  44. beepbop214*

    Alison, de-lurking to say I want to hug you for this response. Thank you thank you thank you.

    Also, your cover letter & interviewing advice helped me get a great job (my first “grown up” job!) almost two years ago. Thank you for that, too. :)

    Re-lurking now, but not before I send you ALL THE LOVE for the work you put into this site.

  45. Lady Blerd*

    I can’t be the only one who cringed just from looking at the title! And then it gets worst almost from the first line of the letter.

    Nothing else to add to the chorus besides “No!!!”

    1. Wendy Darling*

      I made an ‘oh no’ face when I read the title and it just kept getting more and more horrified as I read the letter. It felt like watching the bad guy stalk someone in a slasher movie. Like, “I know this is gonna be terrible and now I just have to sit here and wait to see HOW terrible.”

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Me too–I was like, “Oh I get to sit at the desk today, which will give me time to see if this is really as WTF as I think it is!”

        And it was. o_O

    2. Ad Astra*

      I cringed at the title, but the content of the letter was so much worse than I was expecting.

  46. Joseph*

    So it seems like everybody is all over the “totally wrong”, “control problems”, and so on. This is a completely correct and appropriate response, so nothing to add. But I do think the last paragraph could be an interesting discussion.
    “Also, what are appropriate boundaries for drinking alone with the boss on a business trip? […] (Number of drinks, time of night, etc.)”
    This isn’t something the boyfriend should be deciding for his girlfriend, but if the girlfriend had written in asking for advice about an upcoming business trip, what would people say?

    1. Karo*

      I think it would be highly dependent on each individual and their relationship with their boss. I wouldn’t get drunk with my boss, but I would certainly have a few drinks with him, and would go to bed when I felt like it. If my boss were more standoffish, if I didn’t know him well, I’d probably just call it an early night because I’m awkward around new people.

    2. animaniactoo*

      I am unwilling to have a detailed discussion about that question here on this thread for fear that it fuels the LW’s focus on this rather than the much more important issues that have risen from their question.

      Also to say – it depends on context. There are company and industry cultures where it is normal, and others where it would be out of line.

      1. Nervous Accountant*

        I agree, it is a legit question, but maybe more appropriate for the Open thread on Friday, just because it has potential to derail the discussion at hand, which is that the OP’s actions are horrifyingly controlling and creepy.

    3. lamuella*

      that’s an interesting question, but one that doesn’t have an off-the-peg answer. I think it would depend on the boss and the relationship. I’ve had bosses with whom I’d have happily got wasted without it feeling inappropriate, and bosses where mentioning alcohol in any context would feel a little weird.

      (and then there’s my wife’s current boss, with whom both of us got quite drunk last week, but that’s a different story…)

      1. Kelly L.*

        +1. I’ve had jobs where we all, bosses too, went out drinking after work. And I’ve had a job where I was worried I’d get in trouble after I accidentally made a pot-related joke, because I thought they’d think less of me for knowing pot existed (not even smoking it). And I’ve had a job where it wasn’t a regular thing, but we did all have lots of wine after our big annual event. And everywhere in between.

    4. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Yeah, this is not about giving the boyfriend rules for his girlfriend to follow. The only answer appropriate for this is “Not your call, bro.”

    5. Mel*

      Well it depends on a lot of things but mostly what you are comfortable with, how it might affect you the next day if you have work to do, and how it’s going to affect your professional reputation at work. Those are really the only things that should be considered.

    6. neverjaunty*

      If th girlfriend had writt n in because she was concerned that her boyfriend would be monitoring her number of drinks and setting a curfew, the response would still be “wow all of the no”.

      Otherwise, “it depends” and “nothing that makes you uncomfortable” are the only answers.

    7. CM*

      I don’t think adults need to set rules like this for themselves, unless they know that they are likely to exercise poor judgment in the moment (because of prior problems with alcohol, inappropriate crush on a coworker, etc.) The only time I can imagine it being appropriate to set rules like this for someone else is if, again, you have evidence that they have had serious problems in the past and you both agree that these rules are necessary to preserve your relationship — for instance, your partner has cheated on you with person X in the past, and you agree together that you’re OK with them having drinks with person X but you’ll be really upset if they come home drunk. And even then, it’s not so much a rule as an agreement, and if your partner comes home drunk, you have a discussion with them about it, you don’t contact person X and say they were over the line.

    8. Anonymoosetracks*

      I don’t think the answer to this has anything to do with the girlfriend’s relationship with her boyfriend, though; that’s the problem. The correct answer is as many drinks, and as late, as she feels comfortable with. For me, on a work trip, that would be about an 11pm bedtime, and 2-3 drinks, but just because I wouldn’t be able to do good work in the morning if I had been out very late or was hung over. There wouldn’t inherently be anything inappropriate about staying out later, or having more drinks, than that, for someone who can operate on less sleep, or is less of a lightweight, than me. I might stay out later, or have more drinks, at a work event on a Friday night where I was just going home after. Certainly in my line of work it is very typical for collegues to stay out much later, and have many more drinks, than that, and no one would look at it askance. I have done so with male bosses (and my husband has done so with female bosses) and this is not something that bothers us because we are not controlling or abusive to each other.

    9. mehowe*

      Certainly this isn’t something anyone should decide for his or her partner, but really, it depends. I am super-super-super sensitive to alcohol. I cannot even finish one standard drink without being far too affected to drive safely. So my limit is none at all. But I can’t apply that to anyone else. I wouldn’t blink an eye at most adults having two or three or even more drinks over the course of an evening, especially if that includes a meal.

    10. burneraccounthello*

      My boss is (against all advice) one of my best friends (and this has worked for a number of years, so – I am not here looking for advice, commentariat!). So, the answer to “appropriate boundaries” for me is: there are literally none.

      That is to say, it REALLY, REALLY depends on the employee and the boss.

  47. Bee Eye LL*

    Reminds me of the scene in Wayne’s World where they try to get backstage at the Aerosmith concert and argue “But my girlfriend’s in there!” and the security guard (I think it was Chris Farley in a cameo) says “Lot’s of guy’s girlfriends are in there.”

  48. Anna*

    I have no words, except to say that I’m sure that everyone at this woman’s workplace who knows about the incident is horrified on her behalf, and I hope she is able to get away from this guy as soon as possible.

  49. STX*

    I felt kneejerk-uncomfortable emailing my husband’s boss, at my husband’s request, to let him know my husband had gotten out of surgery OK. I can think of literally one situation where it’s acceptable to contact a partner’s boss without prior permission: “My spouse has died/gone into a coma and won’t be at work today.”

    1. Miaw*

      I think it is ok. When my former co-worker got hospitalized, her sister had been CALLING the boss regularly to give updates about her condition (i.e. When she could start work again, etc). My boss was fine with that and nobody thought it was weird. Certainly no sane person expects updates from an employee who had been hospitalized/sick and not in a good condition to speak or function.

      1. STX*

        I didn’t intend to imply that it *was* weird, just that it *felt* weird to contact someone I did not know about something so personal, even with permission. Presumably your coworker gave permission to their sister, as my spouse did to me.

    2. Mustache Cat*

      Oh goodness. I’m not trying to be too lighthearted about this topic, but I’m trying not to laugh thinking about what I would do if I received an email stating “My spouse, Employee, has died and won’t be at work today. Maybe tomorrow. Sorry for the inconvenience.”

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        It’s okay, my dark sense of humor and I had the same thought!

        I honestly have no idea how I’d contact my husband’s boss. I know her first name and have a general idea of what her last name is (unsure on spelling), but he works for a huge agency and I don’t have her email or phone number. He’s worked for her for 5 years.

        I work for a smaller organization, and he could probably just call the main number and ask for my boss by name but I can’t imagine this would even occur to him had something serious happened to me.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            Yeah, my husband knows the passcode to mine, but his work phone is government-issue and protected by a PII security policy. There is a warning on the screensaver about the legal penalties for unauthorized use. No thanks, they’ll have to find out about my husband’s incapacitated some other way.

      2. OldAdmin*

        It made *me* laugh.
        Sometimes silly jokes are what you need to lighten up on super serious topics. :-)

      3. Heather*

        Worst Boss nominee: Writes back, “That’s not an excuse. I expect her to report in as usual.”

    3. Photoshop Til I Drop*

      One fun reason I think it’s okay for spouse and boss to speak: at my old job, long-term work anniversaries (think 20, 30, 40 years of service) were celebrated with a cake and quick speech. The boss often contacted the employee’s significant other to see if they would be willing to provide old photos or mementos related to the employee’s hiring or early years with the company, as a surprise to the employee. It was totally voluntary, and often made for some great conversations.

      1. STX*

        My spouse’s boss has no reason to have my contact info. It would make me extremely uncomfortable if they used my partner’s emergency contact information to reach me in a non-emergency.

        1. calonkat*

          In the olden days, families would have one land line phone number, so the “home” number of the employee could generally reach other members of the family as well.
          I’d hope that in the modern world, emergency contact info wouldn’t be used for this purpose.

  50. Mrs. T Potts*

    This reminds me of a situation at my former workplace. My coworker, Mary, was dating a guy she and I had nicknamed Psycho Joe (for various reasons). The kicker came when she took a two-week tour of Europe, and Joe called our boss, asking if the boss knew what countries Mary was in! On top of that, he charmed her next-door neighbors, who were taking care of her plants, into letting him into her apartment. They had previously met him and thought this was OK, I guess. Once inside, he went through all her stuff and read her diaries. When she came home, he gave her all kinds of hell about FORMER relationships.

    Boy, was I relieved when she got away from Psycho Joe.

    1. Allison*

      Oh dear . . . I wonder if it’s the same Joe I dated in high school. Didn’t go through my stuff, but definitely became abusive and controlling in the last 4-5 months of our 2+ year relationship.

  51. Donkey!*

    I was raised in a highly misogynistic religion where this sort of behavior would be fairly normal (except for the fact that the woman had a job in the first place). The best possible explanation for this scenario is that the OP was raised similarly and this will be a wake-up call that this is not normal, or okay, or conducive to a healthy relationship.

    That said, if my husband pulled this, we’d be on the fast train to divorce town.

  52. lamuella*

    Other people have dealt with this being a weird thing to do that suggests real issues, so I don’t have much to add there.

    From a manager’s point of view, it would be horrifying to be contacted in this way by the boyfriend of an employee. I’d feel exceptionally embarrassed and be wondering what must have been said about me to produce a reaction like this. The conversation with the employee that would have to result would be at best mortifying.

  53. Amy Farrah Fowler*

    Oh wow! I can say with certainty that my husband would NEVER do that, nor would I call his boss.

    To the OP, I get being worried if you expected a call at a certain time and didn’t get it. My husband and I usually have a late night call (or text) if one of us is out of town or going to be out late. And once when I didn’t call to tell him I’d made it home (when we were still dating) it was because I’d been in a serious car accident. Worry is a normal, even healthy, emotion. However, your worry doesn’t override her need to maintain professional (and separate) relationships with her boss and other coworkers. I still remember the one time I called my then boyfriend(now husband) at 3am because I woke up and panicked when he wasn’t home. He got quite the ribbing from the friends he was with because of the call, but I didn’t call them, just him to make sure he was okay. We worked out together how to tame that worry. You obviously need to have a similar heart to heart with your girlfriend (if she’s still willing to be your girlfriend after this).

  54. Mustache Cat*


    I can trying hard to see a scenario where you are just young, have a bad understanding of both professional and personal norms, and made a bad judgement call–but to be honest, you’re making that really hard. This is controlling, abusive behavior. Note that I am not calling YOU abusive–and I am sure that is something you don’t want to be–but your behavior in this instance IS abusive.

    I would immediately profusely apologize to your girlfriend. This should be a detailed apology laying out the specifics of what you did wrong and why that was wrong, not a “Oh I’m sorry that I cared too much” fauxpology. Assure her that this will never, ever, happen again, assuming that she is inclined to allow the relationship to continue, and take steps to make sure that is true. And if she does decide to end the relationship, know that no one could possibly blame her for it. Don’t try to get her back.

      1. bridget*

        It’s a semantic question, but I don’t think so. I certainly think most people are capable of doing an awful or thoughtless thing without being awful or thoughtless people to the core; it depends on how much of a pattern it is and how able and willing a person is to correct course. More importantly though, I think that calling the behavior (and not the person) abusive is just more productive; a person is a lot more likely to take “you did an abusive thing” as constructive criticism and apologize and fix it than if they are called an abusive person (which is virtually certain to trigger defensiveness and digging in of heels).

      2. Mustache Cat*

        No, I don’t think so!

        If the person engages in a series or pattern of abusive behaviors, then yes, I think you can safely say that the person is abusive. But one action or event being abusive doesn’t mean that the person is habitually abusive. It’s a major red flag, don’t get me wrong, and one often leads to or is indicative of the other, but it doesn’t necessitate it.

        There is generally, I think, a difference between the character of actions and the character of people. Someone might make rude comments and not be a rude person, for example.

      3. disconnect*

        Maybe, but saying “you’re abusive” invites an argument (“well you’re judgemental and an asshole!”), whereas “your behavior is abusive” invites a discussion (“no it isn’t! it’s coming from a place of love and concern!”).

  55. Mena*

    Everything Alison said.
    And he is attempting to set “rules” in place (e.g. how many drinks, what time is cut-off)??
    OP: your girlfriend chose to sit and have drinks with her boss … this isn’t any of your business, what so ever. What else do you control in her life (you’re trying to control her work relationships)? What other “rules” are in place for her?
    I hope-hope-hope that your girlfriend knows you wrote in here and that she see’s this community’s response to your actions. You’ve humiliated your girlfriend by exposing the controlling nature of her relationship with her boyfriend to her boss. The only thing she can do to salvage her professional (and personal!) image is to explain to her boss that you over-stepped, that she realizes the inappropriateness of your actions, and she is re-thinking the relationship. (and then she needs to re-think this relationship)
    In developed countries, women are no longer chattel.

  56. Liz*

    I have the feeling that the OP won’t be chiming in, but just in case…

    OP, do you have a job? If so, let’s try a thought experiment. Do you think it would be reasonable for your girlfriend to e-mail your own boss if you were in a similar situation? Or would you find that inappropriate coming from her?

    1. Edith*

      Of course it would be out of line coming from her. He’s the man.

      Now excuse me while I projectile vomit all over my desk.

      1. Misteroid*

        To be fair, we don’t know the LW is male. They could be a woman, and the advice and commentary on creepy, boundary-crossing behavior would still apply.

        (I mean, yes, the LW is probably a man. But we don’t *know* that, and I don’t think sweeping generalizations help anyone.)

        1. Florida*

          Agree. The odds are goo that OP is a man, but making huge generalizations based on minimal information doesn’t help anyone.

        2. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

          Agreed with you and Florida. Moreover, it doesn’t materially change the situation if the OP is a woman, or if the GF were a BF instead. Regardless of the combination of genders, the key points are basically that (a) the spouse of an employee has no professional relationship with the employee’s boss/coworkers/workplace, and (b) OP’s behavior is overly controlling and abusive.

  57. AnonyMeow*

    I guess Alison gets letters from people who never read her posts? This is so bizarre; if the OP had read a decent amount of posts and comments here, he’d have known (I’d hope) what kind of response his letter would get–clearly nothing he’d have wanted to hear. Either the OP hadn’t read much of the posts, or he had but didn’t have enough self awareness to realize where the behaviors he described in the letter would fall. Either way, this boggles the mind.

    1. DamnItHardison!*

      I wondered the same thing. I also wondered if the OP sent in the letter on the assumption that he would get a positive response from Alison that he could show to his girlfriend to prove he was right and she was wrong.

    2. Isabel C.*

      Frankly, I’m wondering if OP has ever read anything that’s not on 4Chan.

      I’m also hoping that his girlfriend and her boss *were* shtupping and then laughing about it afterwards, because it would serve him right.

    3. Isabel*

      I suspect OP’s girlfriend is a reader of this blog and has talked about it or showed posts to the OP. So, he wrote to Alison hoping the outcome would be: “See? Needless to say, your office advice lady agrees with me!”

      1. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

        I hope OP’s GF is a reader of this blog, and that she sees Alison’s response and this comment thread.

    4. Artemesia*

      I thought this was a troll; it read to me like something written to disparage someone like the OP rather than a sincere letter. On the other hand, I have known men over the years who think rather like this, so maybe. Hard to imagine someone having so little self awareness though. If this really happened, my sympathy for his poor girlfriend and I hope this is the wake up call she needs to move out from under this control freak.

    5. So Very Anonymous*

      I was thinking it was someone who believes that “polite and professional” justify any kind of communication related to the workplace, even when it’s this off the mark. It’s like he believes that he and the boss are operating on the same wavelength — they’re in Man Land where the common understanding is that women are property, so the Man Boss knows that he’s encroaching and just has to be told to back off by Alpha Dude. (Like a kind of forced teaming — “we’re both men, so I know what you’re doing, Man Boss, and I know you know what you’re doing.” The forced teaming is making me think OP is a man).

  58. OlympiasEpiriot*

    I once was in an abusive marriage and even he never did this. (Plenty of other things, but, this one? No. If he had I probably would have gotten out a lot faster because pulling this shit in public is blatant.)

    I’d like to write a professional e-mail to your girlfriend exhorting her to break TF up with you yesterday.

    1. Cactus*

      Yeah, mine did e-mail a friend of mine once encouraging her to encourage me to call a company who I had interviewed with back, since his own badgering me about it wasn’t working. (I was pretty convinced I hadn’t gotten the job, but didn’t want to deal with it right then because I had a thousand other things going on.) Apparently his e-mail to her was pretty full of “she never does anything without a lot of pushing”-type comments. That was…not cool. But at least he didn’t ever e-mail any of my bosses.

  59. Pwyll*

    I literally gasped out loud at this one. Wow.

    Drinking in the hotel lobby bar with your boss is so normal in my industry. You’re upset because she called you late?! Insanity.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Yeah, I was just about to say the same thing. I think “you’re being abusive and controlling” and “you have no reason to contact her workplace” have been well covered in the comments above.

      Would I get drunk with my boss? No, I wouldn’t personally. If I were supervising other people, would I get drunk with my direct reports? No, I wouldn’t personally. But it definitely happens a lot, and it’s not wrong or unethical. It may be inadvisable (your direct reports may not respect you in the same way after you seeing you drunk)—not objectionable, though.

    2. YouHaveBeenWarned*

      I was wondering if any of the other lawyers were going to point this out. Drinking in the hotel with coworkers is as common among lawyers as brushing their teeth. Even drinking excessively. What the heck else do you do once you realize the jury’s not going to return a verdict until Monday?

      I will also add that boozing with coworkers has been extremely productive for me professionally. I’ve gotten opportunities, learned about clients, and gotten a feel for firm politics all while drinking late at a bar with partners and not calling my husband.

      1. Pwyll*

        This. We had an intern once who came to me privately and told me that she was invited to drink by our Partner but she is “straight edge” and doesn’t believe in alcohol. I asked if being around drinking made her uncomfortable, but she said she didn’t mind. I told her, so long as she was comfortable, to accept the offer and just to order a cranberry juice, participate in the first hour or so of conversation, and then excuse herself.

        At the end of the internship she mentioned that she learned more about the clients and firm politics by doing so than she ever would have if she had turned down the invitations. And, for better or worse, our Partners had a much higher opinion of her for attending even though she didn’t drink, than if she had refused to participate at all. It’s just so normal in this industry.

        1. Brogrammer*

          I don’t drink alcohol anymore, but when I want to join friends or coworkers who are drinking, I’ll ask for an iced tea with a twist of lemon in a lowball glass. It’s not strictly necessary and a bit silly, but most people I socialize with find it endearing. And I get to enjoy their company, which is the important thing.

          1. Isabel C.*

            A friend of mine, while pregnant, used to order a grapefruit juice and grenadine when she went out drinking with the rest of us.

          2. Artemesia*

            I rarely have more than one drink and back when I was going drinking with colleagues, I would just switch to tonic with a twist after the first drink. You can easily arrange this with the bartender when you arrive if you want to be discreet about it.

          3. Lisa*

            I usually get a virgin water on the rocks, and if I’m feeling brave, I’ll make it a double.

  60. The Mighty Thor*

    Holy crap! This guy is nuts! Good on Alison for the harsh reality check. I feel sorry for his poor girlfriend

  61. Edith*

    Needless to say, I can’t wait to see OP eviscerated on That Bad Advice like the “It’s a good thing you’re pretty” asshat and the fat chicks $150 bumper sticker douchenozzle.

    1. MashaKasha*

      I had no idea it existed. Wow! This site is awesome! And I hope she does start posting again. But what’s already there will keep me entertained for a while!

      “Help! My grandbaby is being raised by its parents” certainly does bring up some memories.

    2. HRish Dude*

      Totally off-topic, but I saw that bumper sticker on a truck the other day and I wondered if it was the guy.

    3. MillennialMayhem*

      I saw this post and immediately went to see if the Bad Advisor had picked it up. Nothing since January! *goes into corner and cries*

  62. Jaguar*

    Oh, and if we can assume the best in OP for a second:

    OP, if you do read this, you need to be able to trust whoever you’re in a relationship with. You clearly don’t trust your girlfriend, and who knows? Maybe she shouldn’t be trusted. Maybe she’s even made it clear through her actions that she can’t be trusted. But that’s between the two of you. You have to make the decision of if you’re going to continue with the relationship on the basis of that mistrust or you need to get out of it.

    I’m working under the assumption that getting drunk and being out all night by itself isn’t problematic for you. If it is, then as many of the other commenters have pointed out, you have the boundary issues, not anyone else.

  63. CCi*

    I get such a creepy vibe from the LW.
    “From 9 to 5, he owns Girlfriend; outside of those hours, I own her. See, Alison, I send him a professional email! To ask him, equal-to-equal, to stop encroaching on *my* time with *my* property. Didn’t I do well?”

    1. Lynxa*

      That’s what creeped me out. Like he has equal standing with his girlfriend’s BOSS! *shudder*

  64. East of Nowhere south of Lost*

    Wakeen Teapot Factory.

    Wow, just wow. OP’s girlfriend: run, run hard, run like the wind away from this psycho.

  65. ZSD*

    Wow, I’m surprised by all the people calling this abusive. I see this as more clueless than abusive. (And that’s me speaking as a former victim of emotional abuse.) I think this guy is probably straight out of college and isn’t yet used to either professional norms or having real adult relationships.
    To be clear, OP, what you did was wildly inappropriate, and you should absolutely apologize to your girlfriend, and frankly, yes, she’d be justified in breaking up with you over it. But I see this more as immaturity than abuse. Just don’t do it again.

    1. Mustache Cat*

      But the thing is, the behavior is in fact controlling and abusive. It doesn’t necessarily mean that OP is abusive, in his person. But he should be called out on abusive behavior, lest it lead to an abusive pattern of behavior.

      And clueless and abusive are not mutually exclusive. OP could be totally ignorant of how healthy adult relationships work. He might have no intention whatsoever to make his girlfriend feel controlled or scared. But that doesn’t mean that the end result, the behavior or pattern of behaviors, is not abusive.

      1. VivaL*


        We are so conditioned to excuse, explain away and de-emphasize this kind of behavior (not to mention victim blame – not that ZSD did that, but society in general does) that it becomes really difficult to label abusive behavior as abusive. Even if it only happens once. Even if he’s otherwise a nice man/woman.

        Being really clear about it now, and about just how far over the line it was, and the kinds of people that exhibit this type of behavior hopefully serves as a wakeup call to the OP about what these kinds of thoughts and feelings signify in him/her, so s/he can really do some soul searching about their reactions and boundaries going forward.

      2. justsomeone*

        Yes, this. When I was in an emotionally abusive relationship, some of it was cluelessness on his part. I don’t think he ever went “I am going to abuse, isolate and control her” it’s just how he thought things worked. He was clueless, and it was still abuse.

      3. ZSD*

        I agree that this behavior is controlling – and completely wrong. I think that many people here, though, are jumping from saying that *this behavior* is abusive to saying that *this person* is abusive, and I think they’re making a lot of assumptions.
        Now, if the guy is 35, then the following argument I’m making is completely moot. But let’s assume that he’s been in the working world for less than 2 years. When you’re new to the working world, you often don’t have a great grasp on the difference between professional and personal relationships. So he might not yet have an understanding that contacting his girlfriend’s boss about *anything* is inappropriate.
        Let’s say he’s seeing this the same way he would see it if one of his girlfriend’s male *friends* took her out drinking late at night. Now, even in that situation, the proper thing to do if he’s upset is to discuss it with his *girlfriend*. But if he hadn’t quite matured to that level yet, he might think that the right/manly thing to do was to talk directly to the male friend. He’d be wrong, of course, but I don’t think somebody would call that behavior abusive. They’d just call it stupid. “Dude, that’s not how relationships work. Talk to your *girlfriend*,” is pretty much what people would say. They wouldn’t be throwing around words like “scary,” “abusive,” or, “red flag.”
        So my guess is that the mistakes he’s making are 1) not being mature enough to know how to have a functional relationship and 2) not understanding the difference between professional and personal relationships.

        1. LiveAndLetDie*

          Regardless of the guy’s maturity level, what he has done to his girlfriend in this instance is abusive, and people are right to call it out. I feel like this distinction between “the behavior is abusive” and “the person is abusive” is getting WAY into the realm of speculation, especially since we don’t know anything about the LW’s age or life beyond what’s in the provided letter.

          1. Myrin*

            A big yes to your first sentence.

            I agree completely with commenters who say that a young person just out of school and/or not yet overly familiar with all the existing workplace rules might not grasp that, absent dire situations, it’s extremely unprofessional and Not Done to contact you SO’s/friend’s/child’s employer. That applies to situations ranging from “Calling to ask why SO wasn’t considered for [job]” to “I heard it’s my SO’s boss’s birthday today and I called to sing her a song”. That is one situation.

            But added to OP’s unprofessional contacting of the boss, additionally, there is the very nature of why and how he contacted the boss. That is the behaviour that is abusive. And I feel like some people fall into the trap of conflating the two.

          2. Katie F*


            It’s working hard, very hard indeed, to excuse, deny, and ignore the very troubling and clearly abusive language in the letter. This is why dating violence can be so hard to stop before it escalates – because we tell victims to internalize SO MUCH of the early psychological or verbal stuff as “he doesn’ tknow any better” or “he just doesn’t realize it’s inappropriate”.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          I see your point, but either way, the OP feels entitled to control who the girlfriend drinks with, and when/for how long that happens. No matter who the complaint eventually goes to, this is the crux of the matter, and it’s not simply based on immaturity. It IS controlling behavior. And if you don’t define a controlling person as “one who exhibits controlling behavior,” how else do you define it?

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      Really? He ticks a number of the boxes on the national Domestic Violence Hotline’s guide: http://www.thehotline.org/is-this-abuse/abuse-defined/#tab-id-2. There is nothing to support or refute the idea that he’s young, and his behavior is troubling, even if he’s young. I dated all through college and would have been frightened by this attempt at control even as a naive early-20-something.

      He’s treating her like property he has a right to and is angry at the boss for infringing upon his time.

      He’s trying to control her actions from afar and expecting her to abide by some code/rules that seem to exist only in his head.

      He’s addressing another man rather than his adult partner, taking away her agency in the situation.

      He has interfered with this partner’s job by contacting her boss. Hopefully, she has an understanding employer who isn’t going to decide that keeping her on staff is more trouble that it’s worth to deal with Mr. Needless to Say. This could be a disruption to her ability to support herself.

      1. AnonInSC*

        Exactly. I was actually scanning the comments to see if anyone linked to that resource. If anyone reading the comments is thinking “wait…my partner would do that,” please call the hotline at the link in NotAnotherManager!’s post.

    3. STX*

      The part that pings my sensors is this: “He encroached on our personal relationship.” A clueless person emails their partner’s boss to ask them a question about vacation policy, not to lecture them for spending time with their partner after business hours.

    4. neverjaunty*

      Guys (and ladies) straight out of college are perfectly capable of being controlling and beaching abusively.

      “Oh they’re just young and don’t know any better” excuses a depressing amount of dating violence.

      1. So Very Anonymous*

        Victim of abusive dude while in college raising hand here. Youth isn’t an excuse.

    5. ToxicNudibranch*

      But not calling out these actions as abusive is a huge part of the problem. “Oh, I was a controlling asshat who tanked my GF’s professional image because of my own immaturity and insecurities, but I wasn’t *abusive*. I mean, I didn’t hit her or anything!” Immaturity and abuse aren’t mutually exclusive, and if the problem does stem from immaturity and lack of empathy/perspective rather than a well-entrenched behavior and thought pattern, OP still needs to recognize that the actions he took were abusive. Even more so, I’d argue, because if he’s not set in his ways, there’s still time for him to change.

      No one wants to hear they’ve abused someone else, but when you cross that line, you need to recognize it for what it is. You (general) need to recognize the severity of your actions before you can properly internalize what needs to change and why.

      1. ZSD*

        Thanks for the comments, all. I agree/realize that cluelessness and abusiveness are not mutually exclusive, and I absolutely realize that many (most?) abusers aren’t setting out to abuse someone. And I agree that this guy needs to understand all the ways in which his behavior was wrong. But I stand by my assessment that the commenters here are being overly alarmist.

        1. TL -*

          I have three brothers who are varying degrees of stereotypical frat bro college partiers, who have been in typical and worse than typical clueless first love relationships and none of them would do anything like this. Nor would any of their friends I know.

        2. VivaL*

          I’d be really interested to know why you think it’s ok that this young *man* has not learned these lessons yet. And that this woman should be understanding of that fact instead of appalled (ie being understanding by not labeling it abusive)

          A follow up – When exactly can one label it abusive?

          When exactly is one supposed to learn they cannot control the actions of others and that actually trying to control them is on the spectrum of abusive behavior? After they’ve had an incident? Physical? Emotional? Trashed someone else’s career? Threatened to do so? (spoiler alert – these are lessons he should have already learned in life and the fact that he hasnt yet doesnt make them any less abusive)

    6. TL -*

      Trying to control another person (which is what the OP is trying to do) is abuse. Treating people as property instead of people (which the OP is doing) is abuse. The OP, with the action, has abused his/her girlfriend. Thus, the OP is an abuser.

      This is not definitive of the OP forever – they can change their behavior, they can seek help, they can do differently and be better – but it is definitive of them right now.

    7. MashaKasha*

      Uh, no. As a mother of two young men, 21 and 23 years old, I cannot agree that this behavior is typical for a guy straight out of college. My sons and/or their friends would be horrified if any of them did that to their partner. IME, the average age by which a person realizes that he or she doesn’t own other people is somewhere between four and five. OP is way behind schedule.

      Not to mention, I’ve met men in their 40s and 50s with that mentality.

    8. Katniss*

      If this is normal for guys straight out of college, guys straight out of college should never have relationships.

    9. Anon for this*

      As a fellow victim of abuse, my bar for abusive behavior is so much higher than other people’s. What other people see as abusive behavior is every-day to me. I often need to re-read or re-evaluate situations like this so I can make an honest assessment about behavior. I try to think about those very early warning signs, and this why I’m okay with behavior that others are not.

    10. Xay*

      The OP may well be clueless or immature, but that does not mean their behavior is not abusive. Intent does not define abuse.

    11. Isabel C.*

      I would have called this abusive *in* college.

      Like, if my college friend had been late calling because she was drinking with, IDK, a professor and their SO had called the professor about it? I would have told them to dump Clingy McInsecure in a hot second and then warn the rest of our friends about that person so nobody else ended up in that situation. And I would want to know about any guy who did that so that I could never ever date him.

      That level of “clueless” would be maaaaaybe forgivable in, like, early high school. If you’re old enough to drive, pulling this shit is, at best, intentional “ignorance”–the guy who chooses not to know better because knowing better means he might have to change.

    12. blackcat*

      So I was in an abusive relationship when I was a teen. I got out, went to college, moved on with my life. I attributed the abuse mostly to cluelessness, rather than malice. After all, he was 17, and so was I.

      As it turns out, it was 100% malice. After an intervention by his parents, he went away to residential therapy. After that, when I saw him (and I did want to see him. I wanted to figure out a way to be ok if I ran into him when visiting home, and that involved having a “If you see me in public, stay the F-away” conversation), he completely owned that he intended to control me. He knew it was abuse at the time. He just thought he had the *right* to abuse me. As a 20 year old, he saw that that was very messed up, and he was in intensive therapy/on a lot of meds. He was quite rightly horrified by the actions of his teenage self, and handed over a hand-written confession to me, intentionally giving me the choice to take that to the police (when it was happening, he frequently said that no one would believe me, so I thought help was impossible). He promised to leave any area or function if I ever showed up, and he has kept that promise.

      Generally, I’m all for assuming ignorance over malice. But I don’t with abuse, physical or emotional. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe people can change for the better over time.

      1. Melissa B*

        This is amazing and actually inspirational. I was also abused by my boyfriend as a teen to the point I had to get a restraining order (and the normally lenient judge struck all references to mediation), but he never admitted what he did. In fact, he’s still friends with several of my best friend from HS, who are still, 15 years and three restraining order violations later, convinced that I overreacted. It’s so rare to have somebody own up to what they did, and I’m so happy to hear that he’s both recovering and that you have closure/validation. That kind of thing messes with you long term.

  66. Always Thinking*

    To the OP’s girlfriend, if she should read this… In the words of advice columnist Dan Savage, DTMFA.

  67. Sfigato*

    First, I agree with everyone and Allison that what the OP did was inappropriate, controlling, and frankly terrible.
    Second, I go on a lot of business trips, and for me, the most interesting, important conversations happen over drinks after dinner, when people are a little loose. Many lasting professional relationships have been forged in the hours after dinner. Holding your liquor/controlling your intake is an important part of this – Getting drunk is not the greatest idea, and getting drunk with your boss is doubly not a great idea, but depending on her industry/company it might not be out of the ordinary. I went on a work trip where everyone was up drinking whiskey until 3am, boss included. My wife worked in advertising, and getting drunk with colleagues with the bosses was expected behavior – it would have been weird to abstain. In this case, I’m guessing that the boss is a drinker and the OP’s girlfriend was keeping up. Or she’s fresh out of college and hasn’t learned to regulate yet. Either way, maybe not the best look to get trashed, but hardly crossing any sort of relationship line.

    1. TL -*

      I mean, let’s also consider that the OP’s judgment is clearly off and the girlfriend could have easily been anywhere from relaxed and a little tipsy to blackout drunk and it would have all gone under “clearly drunk.”

      1. nonegiven*

        For that matter 11:30 pm could have been anywhere from 8:30pm-2:30am depending on time zones.

  68. Stella Maris*

    Wow, just wow. Inappropriate AT BEST.

    OP, this letter displays, frankly, a terrifying attitude towards boundaries and control.

  69. Menacia*

    What is interesting is that the OP sent the email and *then* asked if it was appropriate or not. I’m hoping that he’s having second thoughts about his actions, and that he’s not the controlling type but perhaps insecure? This is absolutely a red flag, but I do hope we aren’t blowing it out of proportion. Please OP, give us additional details as to why you did this, and if you received a reply from your gf’s boss (did you tell your gf you had emailed him?). I absolutely agree with all the other posters in saying that you completely overstepped some serious boundaries, and am hoping, from the responses here, you can fully comprehend why.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I’m guessing either the boss or the girlfriend told the OP how completely inappropriate this was, and now the OP is looking for backup.

      1. Catabouda*

        I agree. I assumed that he got negative feedback (I hope he actually did get dumped by her) and he’s writing in in order to prove he was right by trying to enlist others to back him up.

        1. some1*

          I’m betting that the BF flipped the F out over the business trip as soon as he found out about it, but his GF told him it was required so he “let her” go. And now he is looking for justification that women can’t go on business trips w/o drunk shenanigans.

      2. Yup*

        Not sure. The abusive douche I semi-dated looooved to underline his unreasonable controlling “rules” and highly capricious standards of behavior with the assertion that “*everyone* thinks like I do! *anyone* would agree with me!!” *Needless to say* (ha!), I was the only one in the wrong – which meant that, the more ridiculous the rule, the broader the assertion.

        I can absolutely see a situation where OP has sworn up and down that anyone would find GF’s behavior inappropriate, and look! I’m gonna prove it! I’ll write in and Everyone will agree with me! Note that he doesn’t ask IF he’s right, he asks for assurance that he IS right. It’s all quite delusional.

    2. Purest Green*

      That’s a good point. It’s pretty clear to me that he’s controlling, but maybe he’s at least somewhat aware that his behavior is not OK. As awful as everything in the letter is, at least he asked the question (granted, it seems like he wanted validation more than anything, but maybe he will realize something about himself and seek help).

  70. Dang*

    I think it’s basically all been said in the great response and also the comments.

    However, one of the things I find to be most unbelievable about this whole thing is how the LW thinks the boss should “feel lucky he didn’t involve HR.” WTF?! Who would even contact HR for a company they don’t work for about this?!!

    Also there’s not a single mention of talking to the gf about it… part of me thinks it’s inevitable that she got an earful, another part of me thinks she’s probably totally blindsided.

    1. neverjaunty*

      OP’s thinking is probably this:

      1) Boss was obviously hitting on my GF
      2) because she works for him, this is sexual harassment
      3) therefore this is a matter that should be reported to HR.

      (Becaus, bluntly, for a lot of people it is much easier to handle situations by pretending they are all logical and objective problems, rather than emotional ones.)

      1. Observer*

        Highly unlikely. For one thing, who thinks they can report sexual harassment on behalf of someone else, if you are not even in tat company? And besides, he expresses NO concern over his gf’s welfare. All he is concerned about is that the boss trespassed on his property.

        But, that’s actually what he probably was thinking. We’ve seen enough situations where telling HR about inappropriate behavior of the clock got someone in trouble. I’d bet that he was thinking that he could involve HR in someone encroaching on his property – and it doesn’t make a difference if the property in question is his lawn or his GF. (He seems to have missed the fact that, at least in the US, people don’t get to actually own other people.)

  71. some1*

    “Needless to say, I sent him a professional email outlining my concerns.”

    So, yeah . . . the email itself is unprofessional. It doesn’t matter if you used correct grammar, punctuation, etc. and professional language.

  72. Kathy-office*

    I hope the OP’s girlfriend reads this and realizes that she needs to get away from this dude ASAP

    Getting outside validation is a tactic many abusers use to manipulate their partners. I’d bet good money that he planned to get a validating response from this letter and show it to his GF to say “see I told you so, now listen to what I say.”

    This behavior is beyond a misstep, this is classic abuser behavior and a HUGE red flag. I’m hoping she’s safe and that OP’s actions don’t have any deep negative ramifications for her at work. The only good thing to come of this is that it can be a wake up call for her to realize just how toxic this relationship is, and the danger she’s in.

    1. Yup*

      I said the very same above before reading your response, and agree a million percent. “Everyone agrees that you’re wrong! Look!” Ugh.

    1. motherofdragons*

      That jumped out at me too. Like it was an obvious, inescapable conclusion. Yeeeuch.

  73. burnout*

    I bet this happens more than you realize, because so may partners out there think it is normal, or think it is “sweet” (as in…. gosh he loves me SO much, I didn’t realize he would care so much about this!)

    Crazy town.

    1. some1*

      Luckily I never dated anyone this possessive, but when I was a teenager I definitely equated jealousy with caring (although this is so far over the line of “jealousy” that line is probably invisible).

  74. NarrowDoorways*

    In the end, this just makes me sad for the letter-writer’s girlfriend. I hope there weren’t horrible repercussions for her at work.

  75. Mena*

    I read this column, and the commenters’ posts, nearly every day and every time I read it, I learn something. Today, I just feel scared for this guy’s girlfriend.
    Girlfriend: this is not normal or remotely appropriate behavior; you are an adult, professional woman able to make your own choices and judgments; this guy needs a LOT of help; don’t waste your time. Good luck to you.

  76. East of Nowhere south of Lost*

    The LW needs a girlfriend-robot, not a flesh-and-blood person for his relationship norms to work properly for him.

  77. Catabouda*

    Others have covered the DTMFA aspect quite throughoutly.

    My only other thought when reading this – I’m willing to bet she was also not “totally drunk” when calling him. It’s another way for abusers to gaslight you, to make you think you were acting inappropriately or more inappropriately than you actually were. It’s a method of keeping you in line.

    1. Beefy*

      Yes, this has happened to me. “See, you’re stumbling!” I’m a bit of a klutz, but that doesn’t change the fact that I had 2 beers over 2 hours, with food, and am very much not drunk.

  78. LTR.*

    What the hell.

    I’m going to skip writing about how unbelievably inappropriate this was (and creepy, indicative of abuse, etc.) because Alison and others have noted it perfectly. Instead I’d like to ask you, OP, what were you expecting to get from your email to the manager? An apology from your girlfriend’s manager? Some sort of guarantee that situations like this won’t happen again? And from your girlfriend? Does she even know that you did this? What on earth made you think this was OK?

    Please take a step back (in fact, several) and think about how this could impact your girlfriend’s career.

  79. Kelly*

    #1 HFS dude! Are you kidding me! Yeah, gotta throw the flag on this one – personal foul – ejected from the relationship flag.

    #2 I’m dying to know how your probably now ex-girlfriends boss responded.

    #3 Please get professional help with your insecurity and control issues before you even think about going on another date much less getting a girlfriend.

  80. A. Nonymous*

    …what would ever possess you to believe that this is okay!? My wife goes to conferences and sometimes doesn’t call, it’s not the end of the world! Networking is a huge part of professional relationships. Just… two hours late? I seriously would like to have this mindset broken down for me like I’m a particularly slow to catch on 7 year old.

    The ONLY way I could ever think of this as something that is logical is in a BDSM relationship where the Submissive has a huge public embarrassment kink. AND EVEN THEN you’ve seriously crossed the line as a Dominant if that’s the case.

    To sum up, this is wildly out of line and I cannot fathom how you don’t see that.

    1. Jadelyn*

      Ye gods, I *am* in that kind of relationship as the submissive and I would absolutely 110% leave any Dom-type who thought it would be a good idea to involve my workplace in anything between us. Being submissive doesn’t mean you don’t have a professional life and need to keep appropriate boundaries in place around that.

      1. A. Nonymous*

        Yes, this. I certainly hope it didn’t come off as I condoned the behavior, just that I’ve seen this kind of thing played with in pretendy fun scene times. Emphasis here, for the OP (not you, Jadelyn) with pretend and played with.

        Completely out of line and disrespectful to cross that line.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Yes, I can see that–like “I’m writing this email to your boss!” and then reading it to them and that’s the pretend. It doesn’t actually get SENT!

        2. Jadelyn*

          Oh, no no no, I’m just…commenting because I’ve known people who *did* assume that play – even casual play – with me could and should extend into “public sphere” activities. It touched a bit of a nerve, but that’s on my end, not anything you said wrong! :)

          1. A. Nonymous*

            Ugh, I’m so sorry that you had to deal with that. In every subculture you get guano sacks that push boundaries. ,You’d think that with all the communication that is needed in a BDSM relationship everyone would get it. But no, guano sacks are always gonna be bat poop.

      2. Anon Accountant*

        Exactly. Many in those relationships respect the boundaries of work relationships and would never do anything to interfere with their partner’s job.

        1. OlympiasEpiriot*

          Actually, I’d say that most do, with the exceptions being people who are a problem in many ways. People I know in D/s environments also take care with the issue of ‘unwillingly involving others in their kink play’, which covers hauling co-workers into the dynamics of a personal relationship.

    1. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

      It’s a pretty safe assumption in the case.
      (And no, it’s not sexist to assume that.)

        1. Megs*

          For one thing, heterosexual relationships are far more common than homosexual relationships. Plus, the post had a certain whiff of paternalism…

          1. Jaguar*

            Would a “certain whiff” of femininity be okay to assume an unspecified letter writer is female?

              1. Jaguar*

                Well, suffice to say, I’m a guy and I assumed the OP is a guy and I think you’re completely wrong that the assumption is not sexist.

                1. Megs*

                  Well that’s totally your call. In any case, Allison posted a couple of hours ago that the OP was male.

                2. Observer*

                  Given what we know – that the GF is female, and that the boss is male, and given that the HIGHEST estimate of people being gay / bisexual is 10% of the population, it’s a safe assumption that the OP is male. Nothing to do with sexism. If the boss had been female, it would be different.

                  Beyond that the OP’s language is typically culturally male. The sense of ownership – the comparison of the GF to a *business that he could own* is something that comes totally out of heterosexual, male dominated cultures.

    2. Noble*

      I don’t think it matters either way (Unless you are addressing some comments here?) because out of line controlling behavior is out of line controlling behavior regardless of gender. This is wrong and scary no matter who is doing it.

    3. Pwyll*

      I think we’re assuming he’s a guy, but I don’t think any of our discussion would be any different at all if she were a woman, save for the additional inappropriateness of the OP potentially outing her girlfriend to the boss as a lesbian.

    4. MashaKasha*

      OP is pretty clearly jealous of the girlfriend’s male boss, and is assuming that something unsavory had occurred, or had the potential to occur, between the two, so, I’d say the odds are quite high that OP is a guy.

      Although, like everyone else said, it doesn’t matter either way.

      1. Anonymous for this because it's scary to say*

        As a female survivor of a scary female abuser… it matters to me that these conversations virtually always make the assumption that abusers are male and victims are female.

        1. Anonymous for this because it's scary to say*

          I read this letter and heard it as a woman writing about her girlfriend, and it was actually really jarring to me when everyone assumed that it was a guy. I read the letter a bunch of times to see if I was missing something.

          And it turns out that it is a guy — but I still think the emphatic assumption that people who act like this are men reflects a big cultural problem.

          1. Observer*

            I don’t think that the assumption that all abusers are male. But given what we know, the odds of the OP being a female are just way too low.

            But, there is nothing in the answer, or most of the responses, that would be really different if the genders were reversed or it were a gay couple.

        2. Jaguar*

          Exactly. When you assume something is the case just because the odds of it are on your side, you are enforcing a narrative that the alternative doesn’t exist or isn’t valid. It contributes to why men who are abused in heterosexual relationships aren’t taken seriously. It contributes to why female bosses aren’t taken seriously. It contributes to just about every gender stereotype out there, because they are by definition gendered and come with built-in narratives. And so often when it’s pointed out here, people double-down. It’s really disappointing.

          And again, I say this as someone that immediately assumed the letter writer was male.

          1. Hrovitnir*

            Ehhhh, I think it’s complicated. I think domestic violence campaigns really need to stop the overwhelming focus on “violence against women” as opposed to domestic/interpersonal violence. It’s conflating abuse with violence and victimhood with a specific gender, and I think it plays into a cultural narrative that isn’t especially helpful for fighting domestic abuse.

            However. I have noticed the internet has an overwhelming propensity to attract “women are abusers too!” in the context of silencing people talking about how horrendously common male-on-female violence is. Which is unhelpful and really gross when it’s people using male/queer domestic violence survivors (see also: rape) as a bludgeon. Though I can certainly understand survivors themselves being (yes, really, it’s a real thing) triggered and would not object to their objections, if that makes sense.

            Basically I think that while abuse needs to be acknowledged as gender-neutral, assuming a male protagonist based on this story with a male boss and female partner is not something that needs to be jumped on, though the question certainly can be asked.

  81. Tangerina Warbleworth*

    OP: Allison’s advice is spot-on. Now, get your self-important butt over to Captain Awkward and look up the “Darth Vader Boyfriend” tag. After you’ve read every word, talk to YOUR HR about an EAP to get counseling. While you’re in the waiting room of the counselor, read Gavin de Becker’s The Gift of Fear. Your future self will thank you.

  82. Ann Furthermore*

    Thank you Alison for calling this guy out in such a blunt and straightforward manner. I hope he reads all the comments here and gets a clue.

  83. ACA*

    Oh nooooooo. Nooooooo. OP, I hope you can recognize how out of line your behavior was. And Alison – thank you, as ever, for providing the most wonderful sane advice.

  84. Noble*

    This is scary, controlling and like Alison stated, humiliating for your girlfriend. If this is a weird one-off thing that you did, then maybe you will learn from this that this is not okay and to never do it again and hopefully your girlfriend can recover from this at work without too much awkwardness.

    But if this is an indicator of your behavior, or if you are this controlling in other aspects, I really hope your girlfriend has a safe out and can leave you. This is so beyond okay that I don’t even have the right words.

  85. Bend & Snap*

    I posted a sweary reply that seems to have been filtered out–so I will just say:

    The company owns the girlfriend’s time when she’s on the road. It’s totally normal to go for drinks with the boss.

    In some office cultures, drinking heavily is expected and encouraged. That’s not the case in my core team, but I’m traveling this week for one of the businesses I support, and that team expects late drunken nights and extreme morning hangovers (I can’t hang so I’ll be bowing out after a couple, but still).

    The OP doesn’t own the girlfriend’s time. Even spouses don’t OWN each others’ time, IMO.

    Isn’t it better to have a partner who communicates, checks in and spends time with you when and because she wants to, vs. when it’s mandated? Food for thought.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      Yes, I’ve had two posts that were accepted but never posted this morning — is it because of the curse words? I know the first one did, but I don’t think the second had any profanity, and it just disappeared. Other comments have posted just fine. I don’t think I’m on moderation, but those two have vanished into the black hole of the internet…

      1. Bend & Snap*

        Mine posted above so comments are a little redundant.

        I wonder if the spam filter is extra diligent today.

        1. Megs*

          Now I’m imagining the filter having settings like:
          Low: Post on cover letter punctuation
          Medium: Post on overreaching or gross boss/coworker
          High: Post on female hygene products, anything involving children I guess?
          RED ALERT: Post showed up on Reddit

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Did the comments ever post? I had a bunch waiting for me in the moderation queue when I arrived, but they should have posted by now. (Stuff can go to moderation because of profanity or other spam triggers, or they can just go there because the spam filter is being weird.)

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Yes, mine ultimately went through, thanks! (I usually try to moderate my language, but this one really called for a wholesale WTF.)

  86. Temperance*

    This reminds me far too much of the letter from the woman whose husband emailed her bosses to let them know of the “family decision” for her to quit her job.

    I hope that the LW here reads everything, carefully, and checks his possessive attitude. And/or that his girlfriend sees it and gets a clue.

    1. some1*

      The thing they seem to have in common that jumped out at me is the resigning LW made a point to say that her husband’s email was “polite and professional”, which . . . no. Just because something is written and phrased with appropriate language does make the subject in any way professional

    2. Liz T*

      Same here! I was remembering how well that OP’s supervisors handled it–they wanted to know if everything was alright.

  87. YawningIbis*

    Thank you so much for saying this. I’ve recommended your site to lots of people, but I’ve never jumped into the comments before. Although I’m not involved in this situation, I know people who’ve been involved in similar ones, and I am so thankful for your handling of it. Not just telling him that he overstepped, but identifying it as a red-flag for being controlling and abusive, and not mincing words.

    Mostly I read your site and recommend it because I think that it gives people much broader insight into workplace cultures, and what’s ‘normal’, and that reading through your questions and answers helps give people scripts for difficult situations that they haven’t faced yet, but might – so it’s easier not to freeze in the moment, or just go along with something. Here, your refusal to normalize or excuse the letter-writer’s behaviour is important for the same reasons: it’s not just that he needs to know it’s a problem, but it could prevent other people from trying to exert that control over their significant others, and for people it happens to, it’s a clear message: that’s not acceptable, and it’s a very bad sign of future behaviour.

    I’m sure you know all of this :) I just think it’s very easy to feel a strong pressure not to express these sentiments in a public forum, or to soft-pedal them. And even though I’m used to your excellent handling of tough situations, I personally felt so grateful that you did it like this. So: thank you.

  88. InfoGeek*

    Is it even clear that they had an agreed upon time for a call that she missed?

    In my experience, phones work both directions so he could have called/texted her if he was worried about a missed call. I’m fairly certain it would have been mentioned if he had tried and she didn’t respond.

  89. Lily*

    I hope she dumps him. I seriously hope she has already dumped him.

    I work as a volunteer with women you are/have been in abusive relationships, and this is *so scary*.

  90. Chriama*

    OP, the way the letter was written makes it sound like you believe you were in the right. If so, what prompted you to write in here? I’m assuming because someone told you that it was inappropriate? In this case they were right.

  91. Aunt Helen*

    The phrase “encroaching on our personal relationship” keeps jumping out at me. What else “encroaches” on the LW’s concept of his “personal relationship?” Her going out with friends? Her running personal errands alone? She was on a weekend business trip – even using his skewed logic, that entire night and the following 2 days were her “business relationship” time. This phrasing sounds very much like abuser-speak, controlling her time and whereabouts from afar, and destroying her relationships with anyone who is not the LW.

  92. SaMu*

    This made my blood run cold.

    The number of drinks she can have. The time she is allowed to spend. “I would say nothing past 10pm” …

    What happens if she breaches the number of drinks, the allotted time. What happens if it is the client that asks her to stay out … are they going to get a ‘professional email’ outlining how not to encroach on a personal relationship?

    It sounds like the OP is projecting some sort of distain of the girlfriend being ‘drunk’ and is trying to punish her by outlining to her boss all the reasons why this has had an impact on her personal life … and also trying to shame the boss into taking some sort of accountability. For all the OP knows, she could have been enjoying a night of sweet freedom with a bubble bath and the mini bar and forgot to check in with Overbearing OP.

    As Alison says, it’s scary that the OP thinks they have the right to have ‘control’ over the girlfriend like she is property. Huge red flag.

  93. Chantel*

    If I was dating a guy and he did this, I would be embarrassed and angry at him! I’m glad to see that so many people see this for what it is: controlling behavior that is probably indicative of abusive tendancies.

  94. Maria*

    With questions like this, I wish for a form letter to submit questions to AAM, so the LW has to answer “How did you find us?”

  95. Kathy-office*

    Sorry to post again, but another alarming thing I just noticed. She got back “late” to call at 11:30? There was some set time she had to check in with him, and had to go back to her hotel room to call him? That in itself is another HUUUUUUUGE red flag for an abusive relationship. Lots of abusers have their partner have regular check-in calls, and if they’re a minute late, they start laying out consequences. In this case, the punishment was to email her boss and try to cause trouble for her at work. That”s not to say OP wasn’t genuinely mad at the boss, but the OP knows that this would have a negative impact on his GF as well, adn jsut doesnt care, or thinks it is “deserved”.

    Also, this line chilled me: “Also, what are appropriate boundaries for drinking alone with the boss on a business trip? Is what I outlined above fair? (Number of drinks, time of night, etc.) I would say nothing past 10:00 p.m. as well.”

    Those aren’t “boundaries”, those are controlling rules. Being uncomfortable with your GF drinking with someone else is one thing, but what about these rules would alleviate that? That much detail suggests that it’s more about control than any worries about cheating.

    I’m starting to get really concerned, because these are not behaviors by assholes that don’t know better, these are manipulative tactics used by dangerous people.

    1. Spectra*

      The exact same thoughts crossed my mind as I read through the letter –mixed in with slowly building rage.

      Everything described just screams manipulative tactics to me. It doesn’t even come across as a young person who doesn’t know better, or who is clingy beyond belief. It just plain out screams manipulator that knows exactly what they are doing, and is now seeking backing to justify their actions.

    2. AMT*

      Yep, the mandatory 11:30 phone call sounds like a tripwire. Forget the 11:30 phone call (or whatever very specific, unnecessary thing you’re asked to do every day) and there’s hell to pay.

    3. I just want to scream*

      I didn’t read the part about being late to call at 11:30 the same way as you, did I thought it just meant it was late at night not that his girlfriend had a set time to call the OP.

      But it is still some seriously alarming behaviour beign demonstrated by the OP.

  96. Nanani*

    OP, you are controlling. And have clear trust issues. Do not date ANYONE until you can treat partners like people, not like possessions.

    OP’s girlfriend, if you are reading, dodge the bullet and break up as soon as you feel safe.

  97. Chocolate lover*

    I don’t have anything to say that hasn’t already been said, and better than I could have possibly done. I just felt the need to express my agreement, as someone who witnessed an ongoing, abusive relationship as a child. This sets off all sorts of alarm bells, and I hope that gf ran far and fast.

  98. FiveWheels*

    “The scariest part of this letter is that you don’t realize that it’s scary at all. Please rethink this.”

    X 1,000,000,000

  99. KT*

    …I just…I’ve never read a post on here that literally left me shaking. This has so, so many warning bells.

    I have nothing to add, but I’d like to remind people of resources available:

    If you have 2-1-1 in your area, call, text, chat or email 2-1-1; they’re available 24/7. They can connect you to counseling resources and, if you are experiencing emotional or physical abuse, they can connect you to emergency shelters.

    You can also contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline for men and women: http://www.odtc.org/

    Safe Horizon is another resource.

    They are all completely confidential.

    1. Spectra*

      Thank you for posting this ^^^^


      Though its of no use to myself (I live in Australia), people need to know about these resources!

    2. fposte*

      You may already have reposted and it’s in moderation, but there is an error in your link– the hotline is at thehotline dot org.

  100. Erin*

    Oh dear. Even if for argument’s sake you’re right and her boss was acting inappropriately that was 100% on her to deal with. You completely crossed a line and put her in a really tough position. I’m sure you’re a nice guy and you mean well, but your behavior was totally wrong.

  101. Spectra*

    Whoa. Just whoa…..

    I don’t particularly have anything to add that hasn’t already been said, but I want to join the chorus to say that: OP, you are so far in the wrong that it’s legitimately scary.

    You need go back right off, take a very long look in the mirror, and get yourself some help. Straight out, what you’ve done is so inappropriate. Frankly it is actually disgusting.

    Full disclosure, if my SO *dared* to do something like this, I’d have his head on a silver platter in a second flat. Thankfully my SO would never, not even in a million years, attempt anything like this.

    This letter made me so angry. How on earth can people think this is okay?! I can’t fathom it!

  102. Annie*

    Oh lawd!!! No! Just no! Boyfriend: this is not okay!

    Girlfriend: get out of this relationship now!! You do not need this controlling person in your life and much less progress into a long term relationship – do you want to live this for the rest of your life? NO! Get out now!

  103. Laura*

    This is way out of bounds! I’m so curious how the boss handled this. I also find it interesting that many assume the op is a man, it wouldn’t change the answer but just a side thought.

    1. The IT Manager*

      Well, we know that the employee was a woman so the percentages greatly favor that the LW is a man. A quick Google reveals that less than 4% of the US population identify a gay/bisexual; I suspect that number is low because there is still stigma, but it’s not going to be a 50/50 chance.

  104. Liz T*

    Wow, dude really emailed Alison asking about the appropriate curfew to set one’s girlfriend.

    1. Bend & Snap*

      Well, duh. She clearly can’t be trusted to govern herself, her hours, her alcohol intake or her relationship with her boss. Someone’s gotta do it.

      1. Observer*

        No, no, Children. It’s not that she can’t be trusted. It’s that she belongs to him. You know, like a puppy.

  105. Regular Commenter, Going Anon*

    Years ago, I had a job I enjoyed very much. I was awesome at my job and received rave reviews from everyone. Someone who did not work for that company, and really had nothing to do with the company, called HR to talk about me. The issue had nothing to do with work, much like your relationships have nothing to do with girlfriend’s work. Soon after, I was fired.

    If your goal is to get your girlfriend fired, you are on the right track. If you have another goal (which I suspect you do), please do not involve her work.

      1. Regular Commenter, Going Anon*

        It really was crazy. It was a licensed profession. Another professional in my field (not at my company) was blatantly violating the law, so I reported it to the licensing authority. (Think, an attorney filing a complaint to the Bar.) This wasn’t petty stuff. She was seriously violating the law. In the complaint, I made it clear that I was acting on my own behalf and not on behalf of any company.
        She sent the complaint to my HR department. They said it was poor judgement because she sent a lot of referrals to work at our company. I was fired.
        It was baffled at the time, but it is probably just as well. I’m not sure that is the best type of company to be working at. (This was half a lifetime ago.)

        1. Serafina*

          So it was retaliation because you reported a violation to the licensing authority. Lovely. Maybe that wasn’t actionable half a lifetime ago, but it is now. So sorry you went through that!

          1. Regular Commenter, Going Anon*

            I don’t know if it was actionable when this happened, but I also don’t know if I would’ve known what to do even if it was. I’m smarter now.
            I keep that license, even though I don’t use it now, and I see the complainer at our required continuing ed every other year. It’s coming up in a few weeks. I’m sure she will give me a nasty look the way she usually does. Oh well, I don’t think I’ll lose any sleep over it.

            1. Serafina*

              In most licensed professions, said professionals are supposed to have a DUTY to report violations – and many ignore that duty for reasons like your former employer give! That’s the disgusting thing about it. Glad you’re not losing any sleep over her stink-eyes. You’re so far up on the moral and ethical high ground I’m surprised she can even see you without a telescope.