is my girlfriend cheating with her old boss, turning down handshakes, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My girlfriend had dinner with her old boss and I’m suspicious about what’s really going on

I have been in a relationship for over a year. Seven months into our relationship, one evening my girlfriend went to dinner with her former boss. She did not tell me that she had plans. I texted her our regular evening banter. “Hi, how is your evening,” no answer. An hour later, ‘”Hi honey, hope you are not running around crazy. I know you were tired today.” No answer. Finally before bed, “Wishing you a good night, I love you. I think you fell asleep in your chair lol! Love you always.”

The next morning, I see the answer that she sent me: “Hi honey, I love you, good night,” past 11 pm. I asked if she had fallen asleep, as I thought she did. No, she answered. She went out to dinner with her former boss. In a time of confinement, she travelled an hour and he he did too, so they could have dinner. It left me completely perplexed. Since when does a civil servant meet his former secretary (she worked for him 18 months) for dinner and why the secrecy?

I asked her and she told me he wanted to talk about a job. I knew it was a lie. Then I noticed that they talk 3-5 times a week on Whatsapp. Both of them are on Facebook and quite active, yet they are not friends. Sometimes they send each other a picture. She said he is just a friend. I find it fishy. When I asked how his wife feels when he goes out with former secretary, she said the subject did not come to mind. I asked if he knew she had a boyfriend. She did not answer.

Lately, all the lovers from her past are texting her. She keeps adding them to Facebook and chatting with them.

We spend a lot of time together; I feel that she loves me very much. Her actions and words with me are very attentive. Yet when she is away, I feel like she is preparing the after-me. Am I on my way out?

I have no idea! What seems clear is that you don’t trust her, and what’s unclear is whether you have good cause for that. It’s not odd to have dinner with an old boss; people do that all the time. (Doing it during Covid restrictions is a different issue.) You asked why the secrecy … but what secrecy? You asked where she’d been and she told you. And it’s perfectly plausible that her old boss wanted to talk about a job — and troubling that you’re sure that’s a lie. If you’re at the point where you’re sure she’s lying to you, I’d question whether this is salvageable on either side. Either she is lying and thus the relationship is broken, or she’s not lying but you think she is and thus it’s broken.

If you don’t trust her, there’s not much to save, regardless of what is or isn’t really happening. But if you want to try, you’d need to have a direct conversation about your concerns and then decide you can both move forward with trust or not.

2. How to turn down a handshake

I have always been against handshaking. It’s unnecessary, awkward, and I’ve seen what passes for “hand washing” to some people. The last year and a half has been horrific, but the one tiny bright spot has been that fewer people extend their hand and, to those that do, it’s been easy to jokingly turn them away. I decided this would be a good opportunity to set a new resolution: no more handshakes, ever*.

I work in a fairly informal, non-hierarchical field, so I thought this would be easy, but it hasn’t gone smoothly. I’ve only been offered a handshake twice recently. The first was at work and I panicked and went along with it. The second was in a more social situation and I mumbled something like, “I don’t shake hands, thanks though,” and everyone laughed awkwardly. Do you have any advice on how to turn down a handshake? Maybe I should carry a bottle of hand sanitizer everywhere and squirt some in their hand when they reach out?

*The one exception will be during job interviews, but once I get an offer, it’s over.

I think a lot of people hoped Covid would kill off handshakes for good, but I suspect they’re poised to make a bone-crushing comeback. We’ll see.

Meanwhile, though, we’re still in a pandemic! People should get it if you say, “Oh, I’m still not shaking hands, but it’s great to see you.” That implies “because of the current health situation” in a way that “I don’t shake hands” doesn’t … and it’s the latter that’s going to throw some people off.

But at whatever point Covid doesn’t anchor your response in something people will easily understand, you could just say, “I don’t shake hands but it’s very nice to meet (or see) you.” The key is to say it with genuine warmth and friendliness so it doesn’t come across as chilly.

The awkward laughs you got last time were probably because you mumbled it, and also from the “thanks though,” like you were declining a favor. Instead, say it warmly and confidently and it should go better. Most people will figure it’s for religious or health reasons.

3. Can I ask a coworker to chew more quietly?

Plenty of people are bothered by slurping sounds, and obviously there has to be some allowance/grace because no one eats absolutely quietly, but what’s the limit or when can it be brought up to potentially discuss eating a bit more quietly? Say a colleague’s eating sounds are so loud and persistent that it causes people to adjust their lunch schedules or move their seat away from the noisy eater, and its frequent enough that people talk about it not in the presence of the noisy eater, what can be done? Obviously gossiping about it doesn’t solve the issue and is actually rude, so that needs to be shut down, but its also a really hard thing to broach with another person, whether you know them well or not. Is it even possible to do so, or do the people bothered by the noise just need to suck it up and wear headphones or eat somewhere else or at another time?

You can try … but there’s a good chance it won’t work. If you want to try, you could say something like, “Whoa, you’re chewing really loudly over there!” or “Can you please chew more quietly? It’s really loud!” (Obviously whether you’re comfortable saying this is going to depend on the relationship, and few people will say that to, for example, their boss.) And it might work! If your coworker is considerate, they’ll at least make an effort. But for a lot of loud chewers, the habit is pretty ingrained … so yes, handphones or eating somewhere else might be more effective.

Also, I went a whole 16 months without this kind of question, and I am so happy to have them back. (The letter about the person farting in high-level client meetings was when it first started to feel like my inbox had turned a corner.)

4. Coworker refuses to listen while we train him

I have a coworker who needs help in a lot of areas due to his limited experience in our field. When anyone of my team tries to approach him to give him advice or information on anything, he completely shuts down. He doesn’t listen and literally walks away from the conversation. But if he asks us for help on something, then he’s all ears, takes notes, and it’s clear that he is listening.

How do we navigate the complete lack of attention whenever we try to initiate the conversation? Our managers have asked us to train him on various topics, and a lot of our success relies on him knowing how to do these things.

Someone with authority over him needs to intervene, which means you should go back to the managers who asked you to train him and ask how they want you to proceed. Say something like, “We’ve been trying to train Felix on XYZ like you asked, but we’re having a lot of trouble. He doesn’t listen and literally walks away while we’re explaining things. What do you want us to do from here?”

Alternately, has anyone said directly to Felix, “Jane asked me to train you on this, so I need you to pay attention and take notes” or “hey, why are you walking away while I’m giving you this info?” Those are options too, although it sounds like it’s at the point where his manager needs to be aware of what’s happening.

5. Using a reference from a job that’s not on my resume

Is it a bad idea to use a reference from a job that isn’t on your resume? I just had a job interview that went well, and my fingers are crossed I will make it to the references stage. (Good vibes are welcome!) But I realized that one of my references is from so long ago that the job I know him from has fallen off my resume. It is still on my LinkedIn, for what it’s worth. (It is also less relevant — an admin job that I parlayed into a different career, thanks to said reference.) He is someone who has mentored me at times throughout my career, so we are still in touch. We had a great working relationship (almost 15 years ago).

That’s fine! Just include a line of context explaining why he’s on the list, like “managed me when I worked as a rice sculptor at Rice Emporium in college and has been a mentor throughout my career.” (In fact, it’s smart to include a line of context for everyone on your reference list, so the person contacting them knows what the relationship is.)

{ 616 comments… read them below }

  1. LifeBeforeCorona*

    LW1 Logically, if she was cheating on you she would have responded to your texts at some point just to say that she’s tired and will be turning off her phone. Instead, she replied late and gave a simple explanation as to what she was doing. However, based on their texting on social media, and your suspicions, perhaps you should part ways because you are clearly uncomfortable with the relationship.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        LW is a good encapsulation of how suspicion of cheating is not allayed by having access to your partner’s phone and social media. I imagine she offered them up, or agreed when he asked, thinking the transparency would quell his jealousy and suspicions.

        … Nope.

        (LW, last fall or summer I would have considered someone driving an hour to meet someone and then eat outdoors to be unremarkable. I wasn’t eating indoors at that point, but a whole lot of people were.)

        1. Yorick*

          Everybody wanted to get out of the house and go somewhere new, so it’s not weird at all.

        2. ShowTime*

          Or he’s snooping on her phone, which also leads back to: end this relationship asap.

        1. Lenora Rose*

          Or because he asked who she’s texting to and she answered as people do when there’s nothing inappropriate going on… and it STILL irks him and leaves him suspicious. Which is no better as far as his trust issues.

    1. Jyn’Leeviyah the Red*

      The letter does read to me like OP is looking for validation about the girlfriend cheating. If that’s the case, then there’s just nothing that can ever be “proof” enough, and that’s not fair to either party. I think it’s time to move on. Maybe in a few months, with some space, OP can do some honest reflecting about whether or not the signs were truly there, and grow from the experience, either way.

      1. Sally*

        If I were the girlfriend, and I came across this letter, I would break up with my boyfriend on the spot. No one needs this kind of jealousy and stress.

        1. anonymous 5*

          THIS. LW’s girlfriend didn’t write in, but yeah…she doesn’t need this interfering with her professional life OR as a major part of her personal life, let alone both.

          1. Caboose*

            We’ve definitely entered DTMFA territory. Not sure who’s who, but this…does not seem healthy.

              1. Ally McBeal*

                “Dump the mfing a-hole” is another variation on what Coder von Frankenstein said. Dan Savage made it a popular phrase among certain circles maybe 15-ish years ago.

        2. Parakeet*

          This. Meeting friends for dinner, maintaining friendships with exes, and sending pics to friends – and she described the ex-boss as a friend – are all normal things to do. And the LW got all upset because the girlfriend didn’t tell them beforehand about meeting a friend for dinner, and didn’t respond to messages for…only a few hours, it sounds like.

          1. Ace in the Hole*

            My opinion of the situation is different depending on whether LW and Girlfriend are cohabitating.

            If you live with a partner and routinely eat dinner together or hang out in the evenings, it’s inconsiderate to not give them a heads up if you’ll be out late. I would be pretty darn worried if my partner didn’t get home at the usual time and didn’t respond to texts for hours… not because I’m concerned about cheating, but because I’d be worried for her safety! I think it’s reasonable for a couple that lives together to expect at least a heads up if their partner will be out all evening.

            On the other hand, it sounds like LW doesn’t live with their partner. In that case, it should be totally fine for her to have other plans and take a few hours to respond. Unless she stood him up on a pre-planned activity, it’s not rude or a sign of anything other than having a normal life.

            1. Blazer205*

              I agree. Even if not living together, anything that varies wildly from normal patterns is a red flag.

        3. Willis*

          Yes…I wanted to vicariously escape this relationship just reading the increasingly cloying text messages sent by the OP. And I fail to believe that this was a trusting relationship up until that dinner, given that the OP immediately assumed she was lying and has saved or memorized those texts as some sort of evidence. He was already suspicious/insecure/controlling, which doesn’t work in a healthy relationship regardless of what his partner is doing.

          1. DollarStoreParty*

            all of this, plus I’d bet next stop is LW contacting former boss’s wife to find out exactly what she does think.

            1. Blazer205*

              Oooh yeah. I bet he either has already or is finding contact info as we speak, err type.

        4. LilPinkSock*

          Same. Girlfriends are allowed to do things without their boyfriends’ explicit permission, women are allowed to be friends with men, we lowly secretaries are allowed to have dinner with bosses and former bosses. There’s a lot here that has nothing to do with work and everything to do with insecurity in a relationship.

      2. ThatGirl*

        I am very much reminded of the storyline on Friends where Rachel was having lunch with an old boss and Ross freaked out. I mean, their relationship was pretty toxic anyway, but Ross’ irrational jealousy at Rachel trying to have a career always bugged me – the end result of that lunch was that she got a new job!

      3. meyer lemon*

        Yeah, basically either you feel you can trust your partner or you can’t. There’s no amount of surveilling or questioning that will actually reassure you if that basic trust isn’t there–they’re anxiety behaviours, and they’re unhelpful to you and extremely uncomfortable for the other person. I think these fears are best addressed in therapy.

      4. Lolo9090*

        Absolutely! Since this is only barely workplace related, I get the impression that Alison isn’t the only advice blog that he consulted either

    2. Anonys*

      Honestly, if the OP thinks someone not responding for an evening (likely because they put their phone away at dinner) and then texting him back the very same evening and telling him what they did the next day is in any way “secretive” I really think he needs to re-evaluate his approach to jealousy and communication in general, not just this relationship. The detail about the “she must have fallen asleep in her chair” also bothers me – it kind of seems that OP thinks if girlfriend is not texting back and hadnt previously mentioned plans that the only possible reasons is she must be at home sleeping because is she (above board) plans, OF COURSE he would know. Most people would think: Oh she’s not texing back, well she must be busy , or too tired or whatever, no biggie.

      Also despite the OP mentioning the girlfriend talking to her ex boss and multiple other exes, this dinnerfrom almost half a year ago is the incident this letter is focused on – I think this indicates that the dinner is the most “egregrious” thing that has actually happened in terms of “cheating indicators”

      1. Malarkey01*

        Yes to all of this- and I’m trying really hard here to be kind. Being in a past relationship where I was always suspected of cheating but never was, I can say that it’s horrible and in my case emotionally abusive. I still have random defense mechanisms 20 years after the fact. LW the language and behavior is really damaging (expecting immediate text responses, baiting GF, questioning normal social/friend interactions, monitoring their social media use). Please reevaluate how you are approaching your partners need to prove they aren’t cheating.

      2. Cat Tree*

        I admit I’m very far on one end of the relationship preference spectrum, but OP seems super needy and clingy to me. Texting every single day even when you have nothing to talk about? Getting upset about not getting an immediate response? I would nope out of that kind of relationship so hard.

        1. Butterfly Counter*

          I think it depends. Granted, I’m an X-er and my (now) husband and I never texted at the beginning of our relationship due to flip phones and needing to push the 6 key 4 times to get to “s,” but often did call to stay once a day. We still almost never text, but I know the newer generations very much do rather than talk on the phone.

          To give the OP a more charitable reading, it’s probably that the lack of texts back from the gf was unusual for their relationship (not just needy on their end), so the OP upped the texting and looked to other reasons she didn’t text back (falling asleep). Idk. Pretty standard, I think, for how people newly in a relationship think, just with our technology, we have the evidence of our thoughts on us at all times.

          The problem is when the gf told OP where she was and the OP assumed she was lying. Very not good. Lack of trust is solely something needs to work on for themselves, not anything that someone else can fix. Either they were cheated on in the past, which has made them gun shy about trusting romantic partners, or they’re just not trusting. Neither of which is current gf’s fault or something that she has to, or even can, resolve for OP. A therapist might help with trust issues because no amount of transparency or openness by their romantic partners will fix these issues.

          1. Momma Bear*

            I also think that some people’s expectations of instant responses to texts needs to be dialed down.

      3. HereKittyKitty*

        I’ve been with my partner for 7 years and we’re married and there have been times when one of us has been out of town and we texted like once or twice a day lol. So the whole 3-times in the span of a few hours is a lot for me, especially if they didn’t respond the first time.

    3. JJ*

      LW1 your behavior is giving me flashbacks to an abusive relationship of mine. If you do not trust this person, which you clearly don’t, then break up with them, because your jealousy is only going to spiral into abuse, if it hasn’t already. In my case, ONE DRINK with a single friend spiraled into “that was a date…you cheated on me…you are constantly cheating on me” which in turn ‘justified’ some very scary behavior on his part, which made me avoid him and be afraid of breaking up with him. Which is exactly the path you’re on.

      YOUR BEHAVIOR IS A HUGE PROBLEM HERE. Yes, she might be cheating on you, yes, your relationship might be winding down, OR she could be acting totally innocently and you’re interpreting her actions as bad. You don’t actually know. She might not respond to your interrogations because your jealousy is already plain, and it’s either easier or safer for her not to respond.

      Be an adult and just have a calm break-up conversation, because this relationship is over. Don’t accuse her of cheating, just tell her the relationship doesn’t work for you anymore, and then go get into therapy.

    4. Momma Bear*

      It’s clear that LW doesn’t trust her and that’s not a good foundation for a relationship.

      Is LW expecting GF to have no friendships with anyone at work? Or outside of work? Work is where we spend a lot of our time, and if her office or career is male-dominated….LW is going to be very unhappy worrying about every interaction.

      But really, this is only peripherally about work/boss. It’s more about LW and his insecurity in this relationship, and perhaps his own lack of a social life outside of GF. Sounds like GF is guilty until proven innocent. I hope she dusts off her resume, so to speak. This kind of jealousy is not healthy.

  2. Tim*

    “Where were you?”

    [Gives clear answer]


    [Gives clear answer]


    1. MK*

      Not completely accurate. The natural response to his texts would have been “been to dinner with former boss, talk to you tomorrow”; she didn’t tell him until she was in a position that she either had to share or outright lie about it. I agree that “all the secrecy” is overblown, but she is not acting in the forthright manner that people who have nothing to hide do, in my opinion. Maybe I am wrong and she is just a more closed off person than I am used to deal with, maybe the OP is unreasonably jealous and controlling (the letter certainly comes off like that) and this is her reaction, maybe she is inching towards an inappropriate relationship with her ex-boss. Certainly having dinner with someone 5 months ago, in the peak of the pandemic, texting 3-4 times a week and having a friendship with a married man that his wife doesn’t know about, while probably ot telling him you have a boyfriend? I would be suspicious too. Then again I don’t want to discount that maybe she is desperate for a job, and agreed to dinner reluctantly, or that she is simply an irresponsible idiot/ covid denier.

      In any case, OP, end it. You don’t trust her, you have started to find completely normal behaviour, like being Facebook friends with exes, suspicious, and I am pretty sure you are snooping in her social media without her knowledge to get all this info. This doesn’t sound salvageable.

      1. Corey*

        > she didn’t tell him until she was in a position that she either had to share or outright lie about it.

        Oh come on. If I arrived home after 11pm to see all those texts, I would respond in the exact same way. She was sending a courtesy text to say that she is safe and to tell him goodnight. The very next opportunity to tell him what she was up to, she did.

        Then again, my relationship is free of suspicion and jealousy, so what do I know. The multiple check-ins on their own would be out of the ordinary for me and my partner.

        1. Autistic AF*

          Also, she’s either driving or in a business meeting. It would be pretty normal for her to have silenced her phone.

          1. Momma Bear*

            Or be in a cell hole. But yes, driving or being polite were my first thoughts, too.

      2. RagingADHD*

        Or maybe she thought that she didn’t owe an explanation of all her movements to someone she doesn’t live with. It is quite natural for an independent adult to go where they like, eat dinner with whoever they like, and not have to report back to someone else by a particular “curfew.” Dating for 7 months can be quite serious and committed, or…not. The OP isn’t entitled to keep tabs on the girlfriend, just because they want to.

        She may not have mentioned it because it didn’t occur to her, or possibly this is not the first time OP has showed controlling tendencies, and she wanted to avoid an argument about her right to go about her own business without a minder.

      3. Kella*

        “The natural response to his texts would have been “been to dinner with former boss, talk to you tomorrow””

        That’s only the natural response if you are checking and responding to texts on your phone in real-time during a dinner/business meeting. Otherwise, the natural response is to wait until you’re not actively busy anymore and respond to the text, which is exactly what she did. If a partner expects me to always respond to all his texts within a couple hours, otherwise they think I’m hiding something, that would be a big red flag, unless we had a specific prior agreement about being responsive during a hard time or something.

      4. Lenora Rose*

        Or, she was tired after driving an hour after a long evening, and she sent him a short message because she saw he’d texted, then keeled over into bed like a tired person does. And maybe she thought, like a normal person, that a longer explanation could wait until she wasn’t tired. Especially if his texts read to her at the time as sweet, not him being suspicious.

      5. Ali*

        I also disagree that she was being secretive with her texts – seems normal to me. I’ve been in a committed relationship for seven years yet I have multiple friends of both genders (I am straight) who were former coworkers that I chat on WhatsApp with multiple times a week, and I frequently get dinner with a former boss. It’s not necessarily that weird, they could just be actual good friends.

    2. No Name Today*

      OP: why did you have dinner with him?
      GF: he was telling me about work opportunities
      OP: Did his wife know?
      GF: The subject didn’t come up I didn’t ask if he needed permission to eat a meal with a protege before continuing our meeting.

    3. Julia*

      If it’s normal in LW’s relationship for each person to inform the other ahead of time about where they’ll be, then maybe his suspicions are grounded. Thinking about my parents, it’d be REALLY weird for one of them to go off and have dinner with somebody without the other knowing about it, and only tell them later.

      Different couples have different standards of communication. You can’t really fault this guy for his discomfort if his girlfriend normally acts differently from this.

      But LW should know this is not the type of thing to write in to an advice columnist about, because there’s nothing Alison can tell you. You need to talk to your girlfriend yourself.

      1. kathy*

        This is my marriage too. I have been working from home, and only recently started going back to work about once per week, mostly to have lunch with clients (male or female).

        Me: I’m going in to the office next week on Wednesday. Husband: okay, whatever.
        two days later – husband: let’s do this thing on Wednesday. me: I can’t… I’m going to the office that day, remember? husband: oh yeah
        Wednesday – husband: where are you? did you go out?

        1. Hybrid or Bust*

          This is my marriage but in reverse! My husband will have this exact conversation with me and then on Wednesday, I will be up from my desk looking for him to ask him about the most random thought that popped into my head.

          1. SweetTooth*

            I am the same! He puts everything on our shared calendar because these things just do not remain in my head. They sound familiar when he reminds me what’s happening!

        2. Dorothy Lawyer*

          This is my marriage so much. He never remembers what I tell him, but fortunately he doesn’t really care either. We’re pretty independent during the week, we work very different hours.

        3. Lana Kane*

          Ugh this is us too. We have a 9 year old so we need to juggle office days.

          Me: I have to be in the office on Monday
          Him: Ok
          Next day:
          Him: I was thinking of going to the office on Monday.
          Me: I will kick you in the shins.

        4. Just @ me next time*

          Me: My dad’s invited us for dinner on Sunday, mark it in your calendar.
          Partner: Okay, sounds great!

          Me: Don’t forget about dinner with my dad on Sunday!
          Partner: Right, looking forward to it!

          Partner: When’s that thing with your dad again?
          Me: We’re going for dinner at his place on Sunday.

          Me: Don’t touch the tin of cookies on the counter, I’m giving them to my dad tomorrow at dinner.
          *Partner complains about not getting to eat the cookies on the counter while I hand him a plate of cookies saved for him*

          Sunday afternoon
          *Partner is lying in bed naked, browsing Reddit*
          Me: Will you be ready to go to my dad’s in an hour?
          Partner: Wait, that’s today?

          1. Llama Llama*

            Are you me? This sounds like me and my partner. Right down to browsing reddit in bed.

      2. Jennifer Strange*

        Thinking about my parents, it’d be REALLY weird for one of them to go off and have dinner with somebody without the other knowing about it, and only tell them later.

        I think there is a WORLD of difference between a couple who has been dating 7 months, and one that (I assume?) is married and has been together for many years. I don’t think 7 months into dating my now-husband that I told him everything I was doing, especially if it was a work thing (which it sounds like this was).

        1. Your Local Password Resetter*

          For one, they’re probably not living together at 7 months. Or otherwise have their lives so intertwined that you would immediately notice when someone leaves on their own thing for a few hours.

          1. KateM*

            If they were living together, the question would be “where’s was OP that they didn’t know that she wasn’t asleep in her chair?”.

        2. Julia*

          You’re probably right on average. My point, though, is that every couple’s different, and the people in the comments telling this guy he is weird and controlling for feeling suspicious don’t *know* this couple. This could be super unusual behavior for her; we don’t know. There are plenty of couples whose lives are pretty intertwined at 7 months.

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            and the people in the comments telling this guy he is weird and controlling for feeling suspicious don’t *know* this couple.

            The reason people are telling him he’s controlling is because he’s clearly monitoring her communications with people (which is a controlling behavior) and that he immediately jumped to the idea that she’s cheating on him. Plus the fact that she DID tell him where she was (albeit after the fact) and why, but he still believes she is lying to him and is accusing her of “secrecy”. She’s kind of in a lose-lose situation.

          2. Idril Celebrindal*

            Except the weird and controlling aspects that people are picking up on don’t have anything to do with communication styles. Even if it was common for this couple to tell each other everything they are doing, the healthy response would be “hey, are you ok? Did something happen?”

            Jumping straight to accusations of lying and cheating with a side order of snooping on her texts and social media is weird and controlling and full of red flags regardless of any other factor.

            1. Kal*

              Agreed. Me and my partner are the “tell each other everything” types, and have been since very early in our relationship. Even at seven months in, my partner being out of contact for an evening would be weird and mildly concerning for me. But my response would be to be concerned something bad had happened, and when I learned the next day that it was just a social thing they forgot to tell me about, I would be relieved and trust them and believe what they said, cause I would have no reason to jump to cheating. I would be glad it wasn’t something bad, though also a tiny bit sad/mad cause I probably wasted time worrying because they didn’t tell me ahead of time, and I coulda been doing something fun instead.

          3. yala*

            If she had been having dinner with a female friend, would he have assumed cheating?

            …I mean, I guess he could have assumed lying-about-who-she-was-meeting-and-then-cheating.

            Either way, this feels like an uncomfortable amount of suspicion for such a mundane thing. Having a bit of anxiety…eh, that happens. But to the point that you write in to an advice columnist?

            Shoot, I’m not even sure what OP’s goal was here. This doesn’t really have to do with work. There’s no work-related advice Alison can offer him. It just kind of feels like he wanted to vent his suspicions?

      3. Greg*

        I do all the cooking so my wife would get really upset if I went to dinner and didn’t tell her…because then she wouldn’t know to make dinner herself and be hungry, not because she thought I was doing anything nefarious.

      4. Just Another Zebra*

        Sure, but I certainly communicate with my husband differently now that we’re married than I did when we were in a relationship for half a year and not living together. It’s obvious OP didn’t have plans with his GF – I’m sure that would have come up in the letter – so GF didn’t owe him an explanation about where she’d be. It could be my past experiences, but all I see in this letter are red flags.

      5. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

        I think if girlfriend normally told the LW ahead of time what her meal plans were, that would have ended up in the letter in addition to/instead of the paragraphs about her becoming Facebook friends with exes and exchanging WhatsApp messages with her ex-boss. This guy has stalker vibes all over him and it IS ok to fault him for that shit.

      6. myswtghst*

        Agreed on all counts. Keeping a partner apprised of your plans and being responsive to texts the majority of the time may or may not be a normal part of their relationship. But immediately assuming someone is cheating because they had a meal with a former boss/current mentor and keep in touch with a few exes should not ever be normal in a relationship.

    4. RabidChild*

      THIS! Also, it’s been several months since this happened and you are still harping on it? Do both of you a favor and have a serious discussion about whether this relationship should continue.

  3. HypnotistCollector*

    Misophonia is very real. It’s fair to ask for some consideration in open offices, and the sound of chewing/crunching is a common trigger. Otherwise, noise-cancelling headphones.

    1. Astrid*

      At my last firm, we had luncheon meetings regularly and there were a couple senior partners who had the worst eating habits. (Who slurps a wrap sandwich?) The power balance was too great for me to ask anyone to pipe down. I would try and position myself away from the worst offenders but they would invariably sit within earshot. The best I could do was to discreetly plug one ear. I never learned anything during the meetings, the chewing and crunching noises were too much.

      I also hosted catered bar association committee meetings in the evening. I was shocked the first time when chips were served – the administrative guys assumed that I must have inadvertently failed to order them. Alas, the problem was the same with my fellow committee members. There are some people who cannot eat quietly. Considering I had to serve with them and we had to reach a consensus on a variety of matters each meeting, I did not feel comfortable saying anything.

      1. Chauncy Gardener*

        This is why I never ordered chips at catered lunch meetings. There was always someone who was incapable of eating quietly. It was especially bothersome when we had some folks in another country on a call in the meeting. They could hear nothing but crunching!

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Multiple people are reacting to & talking about Loud Eater — OP is just the one not willing to suffer a bad situation .

      1. traffic_spiral*

        Yeah, what’s next, a medical condition that means you don’t like watching people chew with their mouths open?

      2. londonedit*

        Yeah, I don’t have misophonia but strangely I still didn’t enjoy the time I spent sitting next to a colleague who would loudly slurp and crunch cereal while mouth-breathing every morning.

        1. ShowTime*

          Yep. I once had an adjacent cubicle to someone who drank seltzer all day and burped constantly. No misophonia, but it was unpleasant.

    3. Dust Bunny*

      I used to have a coworker whom I could hear eating from 70 feet away, around a corner. I’m a bit noise-sensitive but definitely do not have misophonia. Some people are just really loud chewers.

      (I never said anything to her about it since we were literally in different office spaces separated by a workroom, but I was always amazed at how clearly I could hear her. She was eating breakfast tacos, which aren’t even crunchy, so the sound was entirely her snuffling/grunting.)

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Apparently people can’t resist talking about misophonia despite the clear request not to derail on it, so I’m removing those comments and closing this subthread.

  4. WhatOnEarthDidIJustRead*

    #1 – I sincerely had to look twice to make sure I was on the Ask A Manager site. I thought for sure I’d somehow landed on Dear Abby. I have no idea what your girlfriend is up to, but your letter comes across as controlling – you know far too much about her online activities and are creating way too many narratives in your head. End the relationship (you obviously don’t trust her and it’s only going to get worse) and use the time to work on learning boundaries.

    1. Specks*

      Second that. The fact that you’re texting her several times with increasingly passive aggressive messages, that you don’t trust her and are getting jealous over normal behavior, your need to know where she is and who she is with, your description of grilling her later, they all come off as super controlling. Do you both a favor: end the relationship and go to a therapist who specializes in helping abusers, because that’s where you’re headed. And I say that as someone who works and volunteers with domestic violence victims,

        1. Tired of Covid-and People*

          I totally disagree. In committed relationships, both folks have a degree of “control” if you will. And, people lie.

          1. FrenchCusser*

            But if you’re assuming someone’s simple explanation is a lie, then you’re far too jealous and immature to have an adult relationship.

            1. Lance*

              Basically this. Yes, people lie… but if ‘they’re lying’ is your default assumption, then there’s a very clear problem somewhere in the relationship.

          2. Carter*

            I disagree with you. In committed relationships, there is absolutely no need to control anyone. I run things by my partner and notify them of my whereabouts in order to be considerate, safe, and kind – not because they control me in any way. And yes, all people lie – but a good relationship naturally makes lies unnecessary.

            1. Loosey Goosey*

              This. “Control” is not a word that should enter into a healthy relationship. Partners have input into each other’s decisions to some extent, but one doesn’t get final say over the other’s behavior. OP is badgering his girlfriend and refusing to accept her at her word — if he can’t trust her, they should break up. And it sounds to me like he is doing some intense snooping on her phone to monitor her communications, which is completely not ok.

          3. Observer*

            Well, at 7 months, and not living together, that doesn’t include knowing about every dinner ahead of time.

            And at no point does it mean knowing everything about who texts each other, etc.

            1. Just Another Zebra*

              This is where I land, too. Dating for half a year with separate living accommodations… I don’t need to tell someone my every move.

          4. Yorick*

            OP seems to want more control than is normal, and seems to think it was wrong that his girlfriend didn’t ask his permission to network with a professional colleague. This is not appropriate behavior in a relationship.

          5. Kella*

            No, you don’t control your partner. You are both autonomous adults who *choose* to offer the other person certain commitments and you negotiate together what each of you wants to offer and to receive.

            This guy wants to receive hourly updates from his girlfriend about her whereabouts and doesn’t want her having friendly contact with her exes… or her ex-coworkers who are male, apparently. And the fact that she’s not offering him that has lead him to assume she’s lying and cheating. That’s not how mature adults handle the process of negotiating their needs.

            1. Momma Bear*

              Is anyone else thinking of that letter where the employee was rushing to leave on her husband’s schedule?

          6. Mannequin*

            Control is unhealthy, and if you have reason to believe your partner lies to you, break up.

      1. tinybutfierce*

        Same. I’ve witnessed a friend go through very, very similar experiences with an ex. Their relationship did not end well, and included him throwing up even more read flags that his behavior was headed to even worse territory.

      2. Tired of Covid-and People*

        It’s a leap to accuse OP of being on the track to abusing his GF. OP could just be insecure. Men get insecure too! Not fair.

        1. Penny Parker*

          It is not a leap. One of the biggest red flag signs of abuse is excessive jealousy, like this man has. Leave her! She will be so much better off.

          1. Tired of Covid-and People*

            When I have shown excessive jealousy, I was very insecure because I knew the relationship was very rocky and I was expecting to be dumped. I sure didn’t abuse anybody, didn’t have that kind of power, the other person had all the power. I got depressed, and was definitely codependent with an outsized fear of abandonment. But abuse? Didn’t do it. I’m a woman, FWIW.

            People and situations are different.

        2. Penny Parker*

          Also, “insecure” is HIS problem, not hers. Except he is making it hers. The letter itself describes abuse. The very interaction within this letter is abusive. It may not be hitting her, but it is still a form of abuse.

          1. LTL*

            I’m curious about how you came to that conclusion. He asked questions which were uncalled for so I’d say it wasn’t a healthy interaction but I wouldn’t call it abusive.

            1. Your Local Password Resetter*

              I can definitely see the abusive angle in this.

              OP is trying to control their partner to a very unhealthy degree, trying to undermine their career, and creating mountains out of non-existent molehills that they use to get very angry and suspicious at their partner. He’s also monitoring her excessively, and it’s not at all clear if she knows about that or is okay with it (and most people wouldn’t be).

              Any one of that is enough to seriously hurt someone, and coming from a romantic partner it’s outright abusive.

              1. LTL*

                He hasn’t taken any actions to restrict what his partner does, though he erroneously disapproves of her actions. We also don’t know what’s going on re: monitoring so anything about that is speculation. Thus far his behavior is problematic but none of the actions he has taken are abusive.

                1. Amaranth*

                  The real issue is LW doesn’t trust her. She hasn’t hidden where she went, or that some of her friends are exes. (I’m assuming LW is correct these are exes and isn’t jumping to conclusions) Monitoring is an attempt at control, its just not as flashy as other red flags until it escalates. LW is checking her phone apps, and facebook activity, looking for suspicious activity. That’s monitoring.

            2. Penny Parker*

              from the Domestic Violence hotline website; this describes the OP’s letter fairly well:
              “Emotional abuse includes non-physical behaviors that are meant to control, isolate, or frighten you. This may present in romantic relationships as threats, insults, constant monitoring, excessive jealousy, manipulation, humiliation, intimidation, dismissiveness, among others. Sometimes emotional abuse is more obvious, like a partner yelling at you or calling you names. Other times it can be more subtle, like your partner acting jealous of your friends or not wanting you to hang out with someone of another gender. While these emotionally abusive behaviors do not leave physical marks, they do hurt, disempower, and traumatize the partner who is experiencing the abuse.”

            3. LifeBeforeCorona*

              It can very easily slip into abuse under the guise of concern. An ex used to insist that I check in with him the minute I got home from my night class so he knew that I was safely home. Which meant I needed to come directly home instead of staying behind to talk with the profs or fellow students. I couldn’t be late because he worried that I might have an accident driving home. This was before cell phones so I had to be physically in my home in order to call.

              1. HereKittyKitty*

                My ex needed check-ins so often that the first time I went by myself to the mall after we broke up I threw up in the parking lot because of the anxiety that I hadn’t “checked-in” like I used to.

              2. Zelda*

                “An ex used to insist that I check in with him the minute I got home from my night class so he knew that I was safely home. Which meant I needed to come directly home instead of staying behind to talk with the profs or fellow students.”

                I have been around this block. It is not a nice neighborhood.

                1. Kate*

                  Ugh, yesssss. For example, I’ll text my parents after I drive 4 hours from their house to mine if I leave at night.

                  OP’s texts to a relatively new girlfriend that he doesn’t live with, dressed up as concern and love are just a host of red flags. Best case scenario he’s EXTREMELY needy, and this is how it comes out. Best case scenario. :(

            4. Malarkey01*

              I responded above but as someone in a past relationship where I was constantly suspected of cheating is can be a form of abuse. It’s not just questioning this one dinner- it’s thinking the fact she didn’t text him immediately means she’s asleep (with the expectation that you can’t not just not be in the mood to text), it’s reviewing her social media to see who she is and is not friends with, it’s questioning why she texts her former boss (and since she said we’re friends he has questioned her about it), it’s questioning why former exes are friends… this is a big pattern.

              1. Momma Bear*

                Re friends with exes…something tells me this is not something he’s been able to do (wonder why…) so he is suspicious of someone who can. I am friends with some exes. They’re good people. It just didn’t work out. Doesn’t mean I want them back again. But this guy…can’t trust that she just likes them as people.

            5. JJ*

              This letter could very easily been written by an abusive ex of mine, the behavior is identical and will absolutely lead to behaviors no one can dismiss as abusive.

              LW’s behavior is well beyond normal, early-relationship-style insecure jealousy. He feels she owes it to let him know where she is and with whom, and if it’s another man (assuming hetero here, but might not be the case), no matter the relationship with the man (boss) or his relationship status (married) LW jumps to THIS IS OBVIOUSLY CHEATING. LW is positioning himself as a victim that his girlfriend has to appease. This is all textbook abuse…he’s grooming her to think she has to clear communications/meetings with “exes” and “suitors,” putting him in control.

              In my case, I didn’t even realize how far it’d gotten until I found myself hesitating telling new partners about friend meetups and realizing how trained I was. (New partners of course were like “oh cool, have fun with your friend!” because that is the non-abusive response)

            6. Momma Bear*

              He asked repeatedly. But more concerning was his reaction to her response – that she was lying. He also monitors her social media and apps and follows her communications to the point that he knows who she sends what to. The other thing for me was that he felt completely justified in his behavior and distrust and wanted vindication. This is not healthy behavior.

        3. LTL*

          I think people imagine abuse as this huge, scary, Disney-villain-esque thing where abusers are simply Bad People(tm). Abuse is a horrible, traumatic, and very serious thing, no doubt about it, but the idea that abusers are monsters and not human isn’t helpful. OP may not be twirling his mustache or doing anything off the cuff so far but that’s not the point. He’s showing some initial signs that he may be headed down a bad path. No harm can come from checking out a good abuser program.

          You also mention gender in your comment. Let’s be clear, if a woman displayed these same signs, it would also be a good idea for her to look into an abuser program.

        4. Observer*

          OP could just be insecure

          Sure. And that’s a common reason that people abuse others.

          I don’t know if the OP is abusive. But I do find it rather odd that he knows so much about his GF’s social media and even texting activity. It really looks like he’s monitoring her phone. That is NOT ok.

          1. Chauncy Gardener*

            This whole scenario is giving me the major creeps on behalf of the OP’s GF. I feel quite concerned!

          2. Your Local Password Resetter*

            Why he’s doing this is frankly irrelevant, and he needs to stop all of this immediately .

        5. WantonSeedStitch*

          Abusers often ARE insecure. They feel insecure when they can’t control people.

        6. tinybutfierce*

          His insecurity does not give him the right to monitor his partner’s social media and communication with others to the extent he has. His insecurity is HIS issue to work with, not to put on his partner.

        7. Rainy*

          Any insecurity he may have is a him problem that he should be working out in individual therapy, not a her problem for behaving like an independent human with a career.

          A lot of abuse starts small with “insecurity” and a desire for control. It is not a leap to see the red flags.

        8. Mannequin*

          Thinking that insecurity gives one the right to control or interrogate ones partners actions if they “seem suspicious” is actually textbook abusive behavior.

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I was very confused as well. It sounds like these two aren’t going to work, just because they have very different ideas of who belongs in a friend circle. Some people can stay friends after a break up, others it’s a bad idea, but it’s wrong to judge someone just for being able to stay friends.

      1. SAS*

        She wasn’t even meeting an ex though- just an ex-boss! I can think of about 3 ex-bosses I would love to catch up with about opportunities.

        OP is wildly, offensively off-base. Break up and stop treating your girlfriend terribly.

        1. UKDancer*

          Definitely! Also if the girlfriend is a good secretary these are like gold dust to senior execs / civil servants. It’s very likely that the former boss may indeed have had a job or wanted to flag something to her that was coming up either with him or someone else. He could gain considerable kudos from his peers if he can link one up with a good calibre secretary.

        2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Right – but later in the letter he complains about her being friends with exes on social media. The former boss dinner was so a non-event for me that I moved straight to the thing that bugged me more, the fact that he seemed really hung up on who his girlfriend was “friends” with on social media.

          1. Your Local Password Resetter*

            Right? Being friends with your exes is a good thing! It means you’re all emotionally mature people who can break off relationships without having the whole thing go down in flames!

          2. Eleanor Konik*

            Definitely this. I definitely am still “friends” with a bunch of exes on social media, and their families, because we parted amicably but weren’t right for each other. I’m married, with a toddler and have had dinner with a handful of the exes to catch up (one ex gave me the microwave & curtains we’re using in our ‘marital home’ at just such a dinner haha, it was before he was moving and he posted on social media that he was giving stuff away).

            My husband didn’t care, any more than I care when he goes dancing with some of our his friends from college who happen to be female. Some of his exes are still a big part of our social circle.

    3. allathian*

      Yeah, me too! The biggest red flag for me was when the LW said they were sure the girlfriend was lying about talking about a job with their former manager. That said, if I’d been going out to dinner with a former manager to talk about a job, I would’ve told my boyfriend/husband about it, no question. So I’m wondering if the LW’s been giving their girlfriend any reason, such as unreasonable jealousy, to avoid telling them normal things like this.

      But like Dear Wendy often says, a relationship shouldn’t be this much work less than a year into it. Also, why on earth write to Alison now, if this happened 7 months into the relationship and you’ve been together for more than a year already? Cut your losses and move on, it’s not going to get any better. I’d give the same advice to the girlfriend.

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        Point of clarification: Girlfriend did share that she was out at dinner with the former manager:

        “The next morning, I see the answer that she sent me: “Hi honey, I love you, good night,” past 11 pm. I asked if she had fallen asleep, as I thought she did. No, she answered. She went out to dinner with her former boss.” (emphasis added)

        1. Lunch Ghost*

          Not until she was asked, though, and I would definitely have mentioned it before that– if not as a “Oh, here’s an interesting thing I’m doing tomorrow/later today”, in the goodnight message when I got home too late to talk. But maybe that’s a per-relationship thing since it sounds like other commenters don’t find it weird.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            This wouldn’t bother me. Maybe the ex-boss asked her on short notice. Maybe the LW would have freaked out preemptively instead and the GF knows it and decided to tell him afterwards to postpone the interrogation.

            1. pieces_of_flair*

              Yes, or maybe she just forgot to bring it up beforehand, or it didn’t seem like a big deal, or she didn’t feel the need to keep her controlling boyfriend apprised of her every move.

              Honestly, having been in a relationship with someone like this who needed to keep tabs on everything I did and was always suspicious that I was cheating, this letter is making my skin crawl. It reminds me of the time I went to visit a (female) friend and my controlling boyfriend a) kept “subtly” hinting that I should send him pictures of me with my friend, obviously to prove that I was actually with her and not cheating on him instead, but of course when I suggested that was his motive I was the one being unfair and suspicious, and b) repeatedly texted and called and freaked out when I wouldn’t talk to him right then because I was with my friend, since he was worried I was cheating on him and thus it was my job to comfort him and convince him I wasn’t, and of course my fault that he had a panic attack when I wouldn’t do that.

              I know I’m not expressing myself clearly, but the point is I’m really disturbed by LW1. I do think he should break up with his girlfriend, for her sake, and I hope he will take these comments to heart and seek counseling for his controlling and abusive tendencies.

              1. Pomegranate*

                You expressed yourself very clearly, your description made MY skin crawl. Glad you are out!

            2. Old married*

              This is a good point. Part of the problem may be a mismatch in communication styles and different work cultures. The girlfriend is a lower level communicator than the LW. The gender dynamics are catching our attention and making us think LW is a controlling male, which could absolutely be the case. But what if an anxious girlfriend was worried that her boyfriend went off and had dinner with his former female boss? Or what if we consider a queer couple? It is theoretically possible that these people just have different baseline expectations due to background, personality, and context. Fwiw, I’m a woman and my husband is a low communicator with a “need to know” pragmatic style in an industry to match. He keeps in touch with at least one female former female boss in an industry where lunch is the norm but dinner wouldn’t be weird, especially when the participants had to drive an hour as here. I’m a high communicator in an industry where coffee or drinks is the norm. We live in a region where some people would find the kind of dinner described as strange and suspicious, but we do not. I can see that the kind of problem LW has could be controlling but it could just be not understanding how the girlfriend communicates and her industry and cultural background. My husband and I have been together a decade. I sometimes ask for more info and he definitely still wonders why I’m telling him all of this background.

              1. Yorick*

                I might wonder why my husband didn’t tell me before, but it wouldn’t make me suspicious. The info was offered freely so there’s no secrecy. If I found out somehow after my husband lied to me about where he was, then I’d be suspicious.

                1. Willis*

                  Right, different communication styles is definitely a thing that can be frustrating. But if the assumption then becomes that the other person is lying to you to cover up cheating…well, you have more than just a communication issue.

                2. Amaranth*

                  I find it odd that people find it suspicious she didn’t explain it all in the 11pm text but she was replying to LW’s most recent text which was ‘wishing you a good night’. LW didn’t ask where she was, unless you count the indirect comment about running around crazy. (seriously, after reading LW’s entire letter, it made the texts about hoping she wasn’t running around and assuming she was asleep in her chair sound passive aggressive)

              2. Llama Llama*

                I don’t know if I buy it. From the way this is written I think these people are fairly young. They aren’t living together, they aren’t married. When I was dating my current partner and we didn’t live together I didn’t give him a play by play of what each day would be – I was a busy grad student who had other friends and classes and things to do. The guy I was dating didn’t need to know if I was in the lab late or studying with friends if we didn’t have any plans. I don’t think that “low level communicating” I think that’s called “healthy boundaries”. It is different when you are living together and/or married but when you live separately and haven’t been together long you do really have separate lives and you aren’t required to provide the other person an itinerary.

            3. GraceRN*

              Right – it wouldn’t bother me either. “Not until she was asked” is only an issue if the pre-assumption is GF did something wrong the night before, as in she didn’t “fess up” her misdeed and was trying to lie by omission. But there was nothing to “fess up” about.

          2. AnotherAlison*

            As to whether I would have mentioned it before, probably, but I have been with my husband for 25 years and it would have been more about being gone for the evening than being with my ex boss at dinner. If I met my old boss (of 6+ years) for lunch, I’d probably mention it that evening, and if we were busy, didn’t connect immediately, and I did not have any good gossip to share, it might not come up at all. My husband knows my old boss. Now, if I had been dating someone for 7 months and didn’t live together, I don’t know if it would be worth mentioning. Probably not if I already thought my boyfriend was a little controlling and would overreact, as his GF might already think. The fact that it still bothers him enough to write this letter 5 months letter is a sign for all to move on.

            1. AnotherAlison*

              I’m just gonna come back and add this here. . .

              A memory came to me just now. Back in ~2006/7, a former co-worker found me somehow and asked if I wanted to meet for lunch. We had worked at a previous company together. He had been somewhere else, then back to the previous company after I left. I don’t know. It didn’t seem that weird. I had a few other old coworkers that I met for lunch separately. Then after lunch he emailed me and asked if I’d like to see him romantically. We were both married with kids. I was at least 10 years younger. He was also not a native English speaker, so I wondered if he really misinterpreted things. I of course declined and tried to never speak to him again, but he turned up on a project call I was on sometime last year. He worked for a totally different company that my company was partnered with on a project. Ugh. At least he didn’t email me privately.

              Anyway, I guess I shared that because the boss could have been looking for a romantic connection, but OP’s girlfriend could have legitimately not known and been completely uninterested, but now it comes off oddly when discussed because the boss did something creepy like my former coworker. Probably not. But maybe.

              1. anonymous 5*

                That could be. But it’s not GF’s responsibility to manage/prevent that, especially not for OP’s benefit.

          3. an infinite number of monkeys*

            I was in a relationship where I would sometimes hedge about perfectly innocent things I was doing because I knew exactly how it would go over. She might not want to deal with OP during dinner when she was trying to have a conversation; might have put it off until she had a chance to get some sleep and can deal with them when she was fresh.

            I am not saying that was a healthy relationship… but I can definitely see waiting until the next day to tell him where she was, even if it was completely innocent.

            1. Loosey Goosey*

              That’s a huge sign that it’s NOT a healthy relationship. Feeling that you have to walk on eggshells to avoid triggering your partner’s anger/jealousy/insecurity is a hallmark of the abuse cycle.

              1. an infinite number of monkeys*

                “I am not saying that was a healthy relationship” was intended with a sense of ironic understatement that didn’t come across! :) Because you’re absolutely right. That whole relationship was built on a foundation of eggshells.

          4. Merry R.*

            I think things are different since they aren’t living together. This totally could’ve been a last minute, “he called me at 530 for dinner at 630 and it seemed like a good distraction for the shitty day at work. he says he has a new role?”. We have no knowledge of when the dinner was planned. Also, if the OP has a history of being controlling, she probably didn’t want to tell him because she knew he would try to keep her from going. But since they don’t live together, she probably didn’t even think he’d notice/care.

            1. Yorick*

              If it was last minute, she was driving an hour and then at dinner and then driving an hour and then going to bed. She may just have wanted to go to sleep and it didn’t occur to her that he needed to know where she was or that it was his business she was at dinner with an ex-boss. Or it’s possible she knew not to tell him because he would have a bunch of REACTIONS, like other commenters have suggested.

          5. Carter*

            They haven’t even been dating a year and they don’t live together. The boyfriend has no right to details on what she is doing in her free time.

            1. Carter*

              I meant, they hadn’t been in the relationship but 7 months when this incident occurred. (I think it’s weird that they were already saying I love you at that point!)

              1. Greg*

                Eh, I told my now-wife I loved her in the first six months or so. People move at different speeds. Now, the “I love you” with all the other behavior…that context gives a little more color to the situation.

                And even if they did live together I wouldn’t think the boyfriend would have any right to details of her free time.

                1. Yorick*

                  If you live together you do have some right to details. If my husband is going out to dinner I need to know that. Otherwise I’ll wonder why he didn’t come home and be worried and not know whether I’m supposed to eat without him. And it might seem weird if he wouldn’t tell me who he was going to dinner with. But as long as he told me to expect him later and to have dinner alone, I wouldn’t care.

          6. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

            Yes, I would think this would depend on the relationship. They’ve been dating 7 months–for some that’s a long time, but we don’t know how the relationship has progressed and that’s during a pandemic. For instance, I’ve been “dating” someone for over a year, and we are nowhere near integrated into each other’s lives. We didn’t meet in person for months (cause pandemic), and then we weren’t close enough by winter to be in each other’s circles, and didn’t meet again until spring.

            That’s an extreme version, but without more details it’s impossible to know how integrated a couple are into each other’s lives (and how much they update each other about their activities) from the outside. And we certainly know from LW’s letter that they have an odd idea of boundaries in the first place.

            1. LTL*

              A relationship I had in the past progressed at an incredibly fast pace. We got very close, very quickly and committed to a long-term exclusive relationship in a short amount of time. But the thing about having known someone for just half a year is that no matter how close you are, you’re still getting to know them. So sure, *maybe* LW and his girlfriend had a very close, committed relationship. But that doesn’t mean the expectations surrounding the relationship and each other weren’t still in flux.

          7. LTL*

            They were together for seven months at this point. They could’ve just been out of sync. It’s clear from the comments that some people feel that this is something to share beforehand and others don’t see anything of it. Girlfriend could have thought it wasn’t a big deal.

            1. Amaranth*

              They are apparently still in a relationship and still don’t live together, but she is ‘very attentive’ so the dinner obviously wasn’t the kickoff to a grand affair with Old Boss and leaving LW. Yet, they are still hanging on to that as suspicious behavior and obsessing over all her interactions with Potential Lovers. If LW can’t talk about their insecurities with their girlfriend they might want to look into therapy before they end up pushing her away.

          8. Myrin*

            I don’t think it’s so much a per-relationship thing as it as a “circumstances” thing – the two of them don’t live together, so there’s no immediate effect on OP’s side if her girlfriend dines out of the house the way there would be if they lived in the same space and suddenly girlfriend was just gone.
            I hear you on how she could have tacked it onto her goodnight message (I probably would have) but then again, different people communicate differently and she might’ve been half asleep already, been annoyed with OP’s many messaged and not wanting to talk to her more right then and there, or not have the food sit well with her and written a short message hanging around her toilet. Who knows.

          9. Managing to Get By*

            At one point in my life, if I was dating someone who would freak out if I had dinner with a member of the opposite gender, I would have not mentioned it ahead of time.
            Nowadays, I just don’t date people who freak out if I have dinner with a member of the opposite gender.

      2. myswtghst*

        The end of your first paragraph is something that stood out to me as well. While it’s entirely possible the dinner happened on short notice, and didn’t seem worth mentioning in advance, it’s also possible LW1 has given the girlfriend a reason to think she was better asking forgiveness than permission, so to speak. In my mind, her hiding it because she’s cheating is very low on the list of possible explanations, especially since she told him so willingly after the fact.

    4. Np*

      Same. I usually just do a quick laugh and say “shall we fist-bump instead?” and proffer my curled up hand. So far so good, actually! (Although I don’t live in the US, so I don’t know if cultural issues are at play.)

    5. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I bet Captain Awkward has something on this – like if your trust in your partner is breaking and you’re watching their activities closely to try and spot proof then it’s better to just ask upfront if anything nefarious is going on.

      If the other person gets evasive, tries to redirect the conversation to ‘what about when you did X?’ or ‘how dare you say you don’t trust me, you’re revolting’ or similar then it’s (generally) a bad sign.

      However if they’re straightforward ‘it was a long dinner, there’s really nothing else going on – I just like getting to speak to people and lose track of time’ or something like that then it’s (generally) all ok.

      I do bet the Captain would add something about not keeping tabs on who they are friends with, exactly how long they spend talking, everywhere they go that kinda thing though. It’s not good.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Basically: ask up front if anything else is going on and if she says no either drop it or realise the relationship can’t go on if you can’t trust her.

        And I’m saying this from someone who used to call her boyfriend (back in the late 90s) over and over and over again until he picked up and said the words I wanted to hear because I distrusted him constantly. We lasted a year of that and while we’re actually in contact again and mostly friendly it’s only because we can both agree it was a deeply messed up situation.

        1. NYWeasel*

          There was a point where I was getting very anxious and suspicious of my boyfriend at the time. I realized that it was less about him talking to other women, and more about the fact that he wasn’t acting engaged with our relationship (acting distant, not including me in future activities, etc). We ended up breaking up about that change, and it was the best thing I could have done. If he hadn’t loved me, it would have freed me to meet new people, but in this case he realized his mistake and changed his behavior completely. We just had our 23rd anniversary a few weeks ago! :)

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            Aww congrats!

            I got a lot better about not being so obsessive when I finally got diagnosed and treated for several psychiatric conditions – which didn’t happen until long after we’d broken up. I had this idea that I should always be the foremost thing in his mind, or at least be thinking how his actions were reflecting on me, all day every day. Basically I was a hot mess.

            (Coming up to 18 years with my husband who I’d never have met had I stayed with the ex I put through hell so it works out)

    6. Allie*

      Agreed, this really doesn’t have anything to do with her work. I mean he’s not her boss the question of professional boundaries doesn’t apply.

      Maybe I’m just old and cranky, but just break up. You wrote this whole letter to Alison. Either she’s cheating and break up, or she’s not but you don’t trust her and, break up.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        That’s where I land. No amount of her letting him monitor all her interactions with other men is going to allay his suspicion.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I said something above about judging over mismatched expectations- I just don’t think they will work from the fact he’s so worked up about people she’s in contact with over social media. I think those differences in this instance (writing to a work advice column because somebody is friends with their exes on social media and had a long dinner with a former boss) is just not something you’re going to recover from. Set the GF free of the hovering.

    7. SheLooksFamiliar*

      I also had to look twice because a friend of mine has a boyfriend just like the OP, and I wondered if he wrote this letter (don’t think so). If she meets her girlfriends for a spur-of-the-moment dinner while he’s out of town, he scolds her for keeping her plans from him. I’ve read his texts and they are very similar to what the OP describes, and it’s chilling.

      OP, please take everyone’s feedback to heart. If you don’t trust your girlfriend and truly think she’s not trustworthy, move on. But please know that the reasons you’re using and the scenarios you’re creating are all on you – NOT HER.

      1. Marc*

        Hi there. MY GF best friend is a guy. I am fine with it. The dinner happening without any mentions is what bothered me. Her best friend slept a week at her house for a week. Again, it did not bother me. We all have lives and for one, I think being social is good. Secrecy, I don’t like. She only told me a week later she had dinner with her former boss. A few weeks later, in a conversation with her mom, she said nothing would come from the dinner has the job is with the government and there is a hiring process. Been hurt after 20 years with ex wife. Just don’t want to be hurt again.

        1. Persephone Mongoose*

          I’m sorry you were hurt by your ex-wife, but it’s pretty clear from your letter and your responses here that you are carrying that into your current relationship and that’s not healthy.

          If you don’t trust your girlfriend, you shouldn’t be with her. THAT is how you set yourself up for getting hurt again.

        2. Penny Parker*

          The interaction you describe in this letter is emotional abuse. You are already being abusive. Break up with her and get a therapist; you will both be better off.

        3. kittymommy*

          I work in government and yes there is a hiring process. That doesn’t exclude “having an in” with someone working there. Sometimes the hiring process is just followed as a matter on requirement but the candidate is already (mostly) selected. I have seen this happen a half-dozen times in my 1500+ organization w/i since the beginning of the year.

          Keeping that line of communication open with her old boss is not a bad idea and rather smart from a professional stand-point. I don’t think there is secrecy here as much she probably didn’t think it important/significant enough to mention. I certainly wouldn’t. You are making this a way bigger issue than it really is.

        4. SheLooksFamiliar*

          Thank you for commenting, Marc, but I’m not 100% sure you’re seeing things from a secure, healthy place.

          ‘Secrecy, I don’t like. She only told me a week later she had dinner with her former boss.’
          What secrecy? She told you! It sounds like you expect information in real time. That’s not realistic or healthy, and you have no right to expect it. There was no secrecy here.

          ‘A few weeks later, in a conversation with her mom, she said nothing would come from the dinner has the job is with the government and there is a hiring process.’
          So what? There was no guarantee your girlfriend was going to be a shoo-in, nor that she would be interested. Her former boss thought it was worth a discussion and they had one. They might not have another one. She networked with a former boss, always a good thing. No secrecy or bad faith here, you’re reading way too much into this.

          ‘Been hurt after 20 years with ex wife. Just don’t want to be hurt again.’
          This is what it all comes down to, Marc, and I said it already: the reasons you’re using and the scenarios you’re creating are all on you – NOT HER.

          No one wants to be hurt but you’re causing your own pain right now. My ex lied to me in the worst ways, but that doesn’t mean other men will. It’s not fair to them for me to project his bad acts onto them…just as it is not fair to your girlfriend. Break up with her, or learn to trust her. If you need professional help ot learn how to do that, please get it. You’ll do yourself and her a favor.

        5. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Your girlfriend is not your ex-wife. Don’t assign your girlfriend the burden of proving to you that she’s a different person. This is not her “fault” because she did nothing wrong. You are allowed to ask her to give you a heads-up if she goes out for a spontaneous dinner, but you do not get veto power over her dinner companions.

          If you’re still reeling from your marriage, which is understandable, and you can’t see that you have the opportunity to create a new relationship, then think seriously about whether you’re ready to be in a committed relationship, period.

        6. Observer*

          Been hurt after 20 years with ex wife. Just don’t want to be hurt again.

          Well, you’re going about it in a very bad way. You’re focusing on “evidence” (some of which you seem to be manufacturing) of lying, while ignoring evidence in the reverse.

          Like “secrecy” about the dinner – but somehow she told you about it anyway. On the other hand even though you “know” she was lying it obviously was about work – she told her mother (who has not skin in this game) that she realizes that nothing will come of this.

          You have trust issues – work those out with a therapist, not on your GF’s back. Whether you can get yourself together before you break the relationship is anyone’s guess. But the path you are on is not sustainable.

        7. Penny Parker*

          As I posted elsewhere on this page:
          from the National Domestic Violence Hotline website you will find your actions described here:
          “Emotional abuse includes non-physical behaviors that are meant to control, isolate, or frighten you. This may present in romantic relationships as threats, insults, constant monitoring, excessive jealousy, manipulation, humiliation, intimidation, dismissiveness, among others. Sometimes emotional abuse is more obvious, like a partner yelling at you or calling you names. Other times it can be more subtle, like your partner acting jealous of your friends or not wanting you to hang out with someone of another gender. While these emotionally abusive behaviors do not leave physical marks, they do hurt, disempower, and traumatize the partner who is experiencing the abuse.”

        8. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Hi mate. Been hurt incredibly badly by an ex in the past and can empathise that it can really do a number on your trust.

          However, I couldn’t treat all subsequent relationships like they were going to do the exact same thing if I didn’t monitor what they did/who they talked to/where they were – a lesson I learnt later after completely torpedoing one relationship because I’d do things like assume he was cheating on me because he’d chatted to an ex girlfriend over drinks, or hadn’t answered his phone when I called.

          (Not saying you’re me – I had a few other issues going on)

          Ultimately it was better for my stress levels and any future relationship if I started from a position of ‘assume the best’ instead of ‘assume any nefarious motives instantly’. I definitely got more sleep I know that. My husband can go out with female coworkers/ex managers/business contacts etc. and I pretty much just ask him to not wake the cat up when he gets back. Because that’s how I want him to treat me in return.

          When I start feeling a bit paranoid (I have other issues as I said) I distract myself from it. Computer games, sewing, reading that one favourite book of mine that always cheers me up, that sorta thing. Maybe that’ll help when you start worrying about who she’s talking to online/in person?

          Best of luck.

        9. Quantum Hall Effect*

          Secrecy, I don’t like

          It sounds more like irrelevance than secrecy. It’s possible that your last relationship left you with a skewed sense of what is reasonable. It’s good that you are checking in on that, and it is going to take a lot of work to stop responding to your last relationship and start responding to your current circumstances. Good luck!

        10. tinybutfierce*

          You said in your initial letter that she told you she had dinner with her boss the next morning. Now it’s a week later?

          1. Quantum Hall Effect*

            I wondered that myself bc if you read the initial letter, the way things are described, it does sound like he asked her where she had been and she told him about the dinner with her boss the next morning. But if you read it really carefully, the only thing that definitely happened the next morning was that he read the “hi honey I love you” text. He does not say when he asked for details, and he does not say when she answered.

            So basically, he is doing the same thing his GF did! And we are responding the same way that he did! He gave us information without every single detail in it, and we are jumping all over him about those details when really there is an innocent explanation.

        11. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

          Marc, your insecurities are *your* problem to deal with, not your girlfriend’s. You’ve already decided she’s being duplicitous. Move on, get therapy and be a better partner to someone in the future.

        12. Pyjamas*

          You are still fighting old battles with your ex-wife, only now you’re trying to role-play them with your new gf. So your ex treated you badly. Life can suck that way, but no one, let alone your gf, owes you special treatment because you’ve had a hard time. The smartest thing you can do is get to a therapist and don’t start new relationships until you’re done with your old shit.

        13. Anonalone*

          I was recently a victim of infidelity in a long term relationship and I just wanted to say that I sympathize. It can be an extremely traumatic and life-disrupting experience. People don’t really understand unless they go through it themselves. It can be difficult (if not impossible at least for a period of time) to trust anyone in different types of interactions and relationships (family, friends, professional, etc.). Having trust issues due to infidelity doesn’t mean someone is automatically controlling and abusive, but it may mean getting help from a therapist is necessary to recover from the trauma and establish healthier boundaries and relationships.

    8. Dust Bunny*


      I’ve texted boyfriends and not gotten a response until very late or the next day and my assumption was always that they, you know, have other stuff besides me going on in their lives. I have no reason to think any of them cheated on me.

      1. Merry R.*

        When my husband and I were first dating in college, there were a few nights I knew he’d gone out with friends that he didn’t text me back. Drunk at bars, I have no idea where he is, he’s not texting me back… and you know what I figured? He was out having fun with his friends and wasn’t paying attention to his phone. Or, the worrier and me was afraid he was face down in a ditch… But never ever did I seriously consider that he was out romancing another women.

    9. Boof*

      It’s really hard to tell from this letter if OP has a habit of mistrusting girlfriends or if this one is doing things that are setting off alarms and they’re just subtle so it doesn’t sound like much from here.
      OP1 big question – have you had similar problems in past relationships? If so, it may be that you need to work on controlling your jealousy / trust. If your prior relationships have all been fine and this is the only one that’s keeping you on edge, then it’s hard to say what’s going on but it sounds like it’s not really working out and should probably move on. (also, OP1, I take it you are not doing any of the things you are suspicious of your girlfriend doing? Hopefully not!)

    10. Sylvan*


      What’s going on there? I’m not seeing the girlfriend doing anything wrong, but the OP’s clearly upset about something and doesn’t trust her.

    11. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Well, Alison did reveal recently that she used to have a dating advice blog. She’s arguably even more qualified to answer this inquiry than most of the others, where she’s only completely qualified.

      I don’t think the relationship is necessarily moribund. Armchair diagnoses; I do find often those most suspicious are those with something to hide, so if that is true here, I’d advise LW #1 to come clean with Girlfriend. If that’s not the case, a therapist or psychologist should be able to help LW #1 manage the trust issues in the short run and develop a better capacity for trust in the long run.

      Or, since human beings are fungible and disposable, there’s always the next girlfriend.

    12. Jack Straw*

      Also did a double take to make sure I was on AAM. #1 isn’t a letter about whether it’s common for a protegee to have dinner with a mentor, although I think that was the guise it was sent under. I like that Alison didn’t ignore the real issue in the letter, which is trust and the LW’s behavior, but it was odd to see her giving relationship advice. (Not in a bad way or anything, just weird.)

    13. LTL*

      The strange thing is that the LW is acting as if not receiving immediate text replies is suspicious. It sounds like they’d normally have extensive text conversations every night, and one night his girlfriend didn’t really engage in one. If an evening conversation is/was their norm, there could have been one night where she was just… busy? Or wanted some space from her boyfriend? It makes me wonder how rigid LW’s expectations are.

      LW, if you notice your girlfriend doesn’t really want to talk to you about this stuff anymore, then it’s probably because you made it really clear that you are either suspicious and/or you don’t approve but are putting it on her instead of owning your feelings and being direct (rather than passive aggressive). “Was his wife okay with it?” and “does he know you have a boyfriend” send a pretty clear message. I wouldn’t want to talk about it either if my SO put me on trial instead of being like “hey, can we talk about this thing that’s bothering me?”

      Perhaps you have reason to be suspicious but none of that is reflected in the letter.

      1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

        This is very important, OP, if you are reading. There is nothing you can do from your current stance to prove/disprove that your GF was in the wrong (which she wasn’t–she’s allowed to manage her career and social life without clueing you in to everything about it). None of her behavior going forward around this topic is proof of you being right, because YOUR current behavior is wrong and will affect what she does. You need to drop this topic and stop obsessing over it, and either have a conversation about trust (YOUR trust of her) with her or with a counselor, or break up because you don’t trust her.

      2. Amaranth*

        Its also really insulting to ask ‘does he know you have a boyfriend’ as though it would be a warning of ‘hands off my property’ to the ex-boss or as if she can’t deal with unwanted advances on her own. I wouldn’t have answered that either.

    14. BBA*

      Yes, this letter raised flags for me. The texts OP says he sent sound, on the surface anyway, nice and caring and laid back. Which is probably how OP wants to come across. But that kind of messaging combined with the suspicion and the controlling tendencies raises flags. Reminds me of the MO of someone I knew who had a habit of ignoring my boundaries. Sometimes when people want to trample on someone’s boundaries or control their behavior, they cloak their bad actions in a veneer of good will and reasonableness as a cover.

      In any case, sounds like they should break up.

    15. Not So NewReader*

      “I knew it was a lie.”

      OP, you have already decided what the correct answer is here. The truth is irrelevant. If she herself cannot convince you that she is telling the truth there is less chance of anyone here saying something so profound that the situation changes for you. You already know it’s a lie, you have already decided.

      It’s okay to break things off and go find someone who you feel comfortable with.

      One thing that is good to think about, if you can’t really trust a person then you don’t really have them anyway. Without trust in place, there is no foundation to build anything enduring.

      Going in the opposite direction perhaps this person is not trustworthy, perhaps your gut feeling here is right on the money. The answer is the same: “It’s okay to break things off.”

      When I first met my husband we lived almost 200 miles apart. We both said the same thing to each other, “I don’t care what you do when I am not around. But don’t rub my nose in it.” What happened next was interesting. Independent of each other, we both found ourselves sitting home at night. We both later said, “I don’t wanna go out with other people.”
      Love that is given freely is love that actually belongs to us. We can’t *make* people love us. We can only hope that they do find a way to commit their love to us.

  5. autumnal*

    No more handshakes for me. Nope, not gonna do it, don’t care why. I’m in no way, shape, or form a germaphobe, just smart enough to know when an ancient relic of a greeting has outlived its time. Kind of like curtsying.

    1. Troutwaxer*

      I’ve been giving people the Vulcan salute, along with a “Live Long and Prosper” if they look like not getting it.

      1. Artemesia*

        I have been doing the elbow bump — most people ‘get it’ — but you can always say ‘since COVID – just don’t do hand shakes anymore.

        1. Nobby Nobbs*

          The rise of the elbow bump (as a COVID-specific precaution, I get why people like it in general) sort of baffles me. It requires you to bring your faces awfully close together compared to a fist bump, or even the dreaded handshake. Multiple times over the past year and a half, someone’s gone in for a friendly greeting and all I could see was their germy face closing in. I must have come across as so rude when I basically teleported six feet back!

          1. Pennyworth*

            The elbow bump bewilders me too – I just don’t want to get that close. Nor do I want to bump fists or make any other sort of physical contact. Having a strategic armful of stuff to preclude handshakes etc can help, and I always try to be warm and friendly and ”happy to see you”ish.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer*

              Additionally the elbow tends to have zero cushioning on it so if you bash it ow ow ow.

            2. Cat Lover*

              Yeah but the difference is that elbows are way cleaner in the sense that you aren’t touching your face/hair/mouth etc with your elbow like you do with a hand.

              Plus, you don’t really get that close? It’s no closer than sitting next to someone.

          2. Flor*

            THIS. I always thought it was silly because there are so many options that don’t involve physical contact or coming within 2m of each other: an inclining of the head, a cheerful wave, even a friendly smile (that one’s harder in a mask, but elbow bumping became A Thing before masking did).

          3. Apples*

            IMO you should both turn to opposite sides as you step/lean in to elbow bump, so when your elbows are touching then your faces are facing away from each other and you’re not breathing on each other. You can’t do that with a handshake since it must take place straight ahead or it feels really weird. But human instinct tells people to make eye contact while greeting, so if you look up images of the elbow bump almost everybody is doing in a germy way!

          4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            It’s especially baffling since we’ve been told to cough into our elbows…

          1. Mary Bennet*

            Maybe I’ve got the wrong idea about when Troutwaxer would use a Vulcan salute and “Live Long and Prosper” as a greeting, so apologies if that’s the case. I’d be baffled by that in regular work/social situations and would have absolutely no idea how to respond (and as someone with no interest at all in Star Trek, I don’t know if I’d even recognise what the hand gesture was).

            1. I want to go to Brighton!!!*

              If Pride and Prejudice and Zombies comes, can a P and P and Star Trek mashup be far behind?

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Why? I’ve got staff who’ll give you the whole Klingon ‘Qa’pla’ greeting.

          (Look, IT can be weird)

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I think you hit on a key aspect here: If you initiate what you want, it is way less awkward than if you leave the other person’s hand hanging.

        For example, fist to palm, slight bow, before they get their hand out.

        LW, “hope it doesn’t happen, mumble when it does” is too passive an approach to changing this norm in those around you.

      3. DataGirl*

        Love this. I usually throw a peace sign but the Vulcan salute would be fun. At my synagogue they make an announcement every service about not shaking hands, instead they encourage elbow bumps.

      4. HannahS*

        I’d find it very weird if the general public started throwing around a one-handed version of the birkat kohanim. Which is where Nimoy got it.

    2. Retired Prof*

      I have badly injured hands and handshakes hurt. But I’ve learned to stand behind someone else in group intros and nod quickly, and I’m seldom offered a handshake.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Arthritis sufferer here who’s managed to not shake hands for years. Generally it’s because I have my walking aid in my right hand (which most people lead with) and I just give them a slight bow of the head in respect instead.

    3. Just plain Old Cat Memes now*

      Am I the only one who pictures a doggo with a dubious look on its face anytime they hear someone say “I don’t shake hands”?

    4. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Now that we’ve started going back into the office, I find that my auto-programming means that I sometimes extend my hand for a shake without really realising it. I think that’s true for most handshakers (I’m sure there are some who are die-hard about helping handshakes return, but in a lot of cases, I think it’s just borderline unconcious habit).

      I’ve always caught myself and pulled back, apologizing, but I would be 0% offended if someone declined the shake, especially if they cited the pandemic.

      1. JustaTech*

        I’ve had people automatically offer a hand to shake even in obviously inappropriate settings (we were in the lab and I had gloves on; seriously, you do not want to touch my gloved hand!).
        I’ve found that a friendly wave works well on several fronts: it’s friendly and cheerful and clearly acknowledges the other person, and it keeps your hand up by your own face, well away from the other person’s hand in case they try to insist.

        That’s for a more informal setting; in a more formal setting I tend to keep my hands together in front of my body and do a hybrid curtsey/bow thing (make eye contact then bow head and bend knees in a down-and-up bob thing).

        1. Llama Llama*

          I’ve been doing the little wave during the pandemic and it works really well.

    5. Not Australian*

      I’m a strong believer in “Forgive me, I’m not shaking hands at the moment.”

      I’m sure some people will find ‘Forgive me’ stilted and odd, and probably too old-fashioned to use, but my experience has been that people are disarmed by it; it gives them a slight psychological edge that ‘I’m sorry’ doesn’t quite convey (i.e. it puts them in a position to do some forgiving!), and feels a bit more individually-tailored than a rote ‘sorry’.

      OTOH, words are my thing and I sometimes place too much emphasis on them. YMMV.

      1. Ariaflame*

        Have you read any of the Liaden Universe by Lee and Miller? The Liaden culture has a lot of formality to it and in their culture you only say ‘I’m sorry’ if you are actually at fault for something, otherwise you use something like forgive me to indicate that you understand that their necessities may not match with yours, but that you are still going to prioritise your necessities.

        (Really really fun space opera, which considering some of the comments I’ve seen discussing books I think some of the regulars might like – first book ‘Agent of Change’ available free on Baen free library)

        1. Jack Straw*

          I’m always up for good book recommendations, and I’ve been craving a good scifi read. I’m off to look this one up!

      2. SheLooksFamiliar*

        Pre-Covid, I used to decline handshakes when I felt a cold or flu coming on. ‘I’m coming down with something so I’m not shaking hands,’ got the occasional surprised look, but no one was offended.

        As a recovering over-apologizer, I’m trying not to apologize for things that are fairly straightforward, nor ask for forgiveness when there’s nothing to forgive. If the handshake offerer feels slighted, I’m sure they’ll find a way to cope!

    6. Hornswoggler*

      I’m doing a small curtsey or a bow with my right hand on my heart. Admittedly this is mostly in non-work situations (I work for myself and have few colleague interactions), but everyone seems fine with it.

      Of course they might be laughing at me when I leave the room, but I don’t care!

      1. Shirley Keeldar*

        Autumnal’s comment and this one totally make me want to revive curtseying. With a polite bow on the other end, natch. No gendered application, though–everyone can just pick the one they prefer. I love the visual.

    7. The Original K.*

      Agreed. When COVID first hit I heard someone say that they don’t wash their hands at all during the day, they only get clean in their daily shower. I resolved to stop shaking hands then.

    8. SheLooksFamiliar*

      I haven’t been in a situation involving handshakes and don’t think I will be for a while. Now we have the Delta variant to worry about, so even though I’m vaccinated I’ll need to keep some distance.

      However, I’m definitely telling people to back up at store checkout lines. Retailers aren’t enforcing the 6 feet rule anymore in my state, but I am. It’s not solely about germs, I don’t like people crowding me.

      Pandemic or no, if I can feel you literally breathing down my neck, you’re way too close.

    9. pleaset cheap rolls*

      Yes – to the OP just say “I don’t do handshakes”

      That’s it.

      1. often trapped under a cat*

        I’m with this. I stopped shaking hands a couple of years ago–at least a year before COVID-19–because I got tired of a) the many, many terrible handshakes I had to suffer through and b) getting sick so often after traveling or attending events where I met many new people.

        People really don’t know how to shake hands well. There are the limp ones, the ones who only offer you their fingertips, the ones who squeeze too hard, the ones who hold on too long, the ones who use handshakes as a way of pulling you into closer contact (especially if you are a woman and they are a man), etc….

        If my hands aren’t full (and I sometimes ensure that they are), I literally put my hands behind my back, smile, and say, “I don’t shake hands.”

        1. JustaTech*

          The worst handshake I ever had was at a cousin’s wedding – the son of one of my uncle’s friends did the “here’s my business card while I shake your hand except I’ll hold your hand with both of mine to make sure you can’t drop the card”. It was so sales-y in the worst possible way, and so very off at a wedding reception!

          One of the bridesmaids commented that I’d done well to only get a handshake as the guy was clearly angling for an over-long hug. Eww.

    10. FrenchCusser*

      I’d be happy to go back to bowing and/or curtsying.

      So much more elegant and hygienic than handshakes.

    11. Lego Leia*

      Have you replaced it with another gesture? I am thinking of using a head nod, so that there is a shared, physical gesture involved with formal greeting.

    12. Charlotte's Web*

      Way back, I had a person who didn’t shake hands for religious reasons and loved his approach. When someone reached out their hand, he would place his hand to his heart, incline his head, and give a short but warm explanation. I liked that this method did a good job of acknowledging the other person’s gesture respectfully and kept the interaction positive.

  6. CatBookMom*

    L//w /4 – yeah. Had an intern at our CPA firm back when. Jonathan was academically brilliant, a Zero with other people. On his first day, he said he didn’t need to have to learn how to use an adding machine (yeah, that far back), because he knew everything. His first job, he came to the junior partner to say that the J.P. was inaccurate on a worksheet; turns out the intern had not done more than ONE pass of addition.

    It went downhill from there, which was very remarkable. When his internship came up for renewal, all of us who had dealt with him said, “Please don’t hire him, we’ll have less work to do without fixing his messes”

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Ughh – I think I have that intern as a coworker – but the fields are totally different. He has at various times called me his portable brain (so he didn’t need notes).

      Manager has shut him down on that – and he’s actively looking for other jobs, just hasn’t found one yet. I keep hoping one day he’ll announce that he is moving on….it get repetitive asking him to check his notes before asking me questions (frequently he doesn’t have any notes to check).

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I once told a new guy, rather forcefully, at a previous job that I was NOT his ‘portable hard drive’.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I’ve told him too. And every time he asks me a question I just ask him what his notes say – and he wanders off to go ask someone else.
          It’s the only thing at my job that I really don’t like, so I consider myself extremely fortunate.

    2. tamarack and fireweed*

      I don’t know… I thought #4 is interesting. LW 4 writes that *their* team’s success depends on the co-worker knowing certain things and that *their own* supervisors have ask them to train the co-worker. Not the co-worker’s bosses. On the other hand, the co-worker seems to be fully capable of learning and listening attentively when he thinks that his own success depends on learning something.

      So this could be a conflict whereby the co-worker gets the signals that either he’s been told he should not focus on those tasks/skills, or more deviously that he think that’s in his interest not to be too knowledgeable in them (for example, so that they stay firmly within the purview of the LW’s team, or if there is some competitive setup in which the LW’s team’s success would take away from the co-worker’s or vice versa). And that puts the problem mostly into the LW’s lap, unfortunately. I agree with the advice to go back to their higher-ups — this may be a case from “my boss needs to talk with his boss and get on the same page first”.

      The point that would be infuriating to me is that the co-worker doesn’t openly address the topic. If I was in his situation and was (of course for good reasons in my case :-) ) disinclined to submit to the training, I’d say something like “I’m not sure I understand why spending time on this should be a priority for me at the moment – at least that’s what I hear from my manager; can you explain your rationale for training me on this?”

      1. LW4*

        Hi, LW4 here!

        We’re all on the same team and have the same managers! And they know about the issue but not much has been done about it.

        1. Trek*

          The next time he comes to you for help ask him why when anyone tries to give him information outside of his asking he doesn’t listen and walks away from the conversation. Explain that you are less inclined to answer his questions because of this behavior. See if that helps. Alternatively you could walk away from him when he asks you something and see what his reaction is to it.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          Is he by any chance really young? Because I picture a young person thinking “I was brought in for the brilliance of my ideas! And great thought thinking! To facilitate that, when I need information I will ask other people to explain, and if I have some great thoughts to think I will walk away from any interaction with coworkers aka my support staff.”

          He may just need a few wallops from reality to come around. And sometimes someone neutral explaining “This thing you think? It is wrong” does get through to people–you don’t know what you don’t know, and some people need help to cue in to the signals of that.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            The new coworker also reads as very young to me as well – and possibly still “unlearning book way of doing things” to a degree. Maybe the next time it happens have a chat with them and ask why they’re doing it. Alternatively, can you return any of this to sender/manager and have manager tell new coworker that I’m having Jane/Bob/Jill/etc train you on next steps every time so that nobody feels like time is being waisted this way?

        3. EPLawyer*

          But has the intern been EXPLICITLY told that his coworkers are to train him? I can see a situation where he thinks just people are coming up to tell him things. When he might be wondering who this person is who is telling him? He might be thinking he can ask questions of others but that they aren’t TRAINING him.

          There needs to be a point person for training rather than people just choosing when to train him. Otherwise, I can guarantee something will get missed or he will get conflicting information or something will go wrong.

        4. ecnaseener*

          I scrolled through quickly and didn’t see if anyone had asked this yet – does it make a difference if you schedule these trainings in advance? Obviously that won’t always be feasible and he still needs to improve on this, but my guess is that he disconnects when the feedback/training takes him by surprise.

      2. JB*

        It is mystifyingly bizarre to me that you assumed they were on different teams and report to different bosses.

    3. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Back in the dim and distant past (when Diplodocus coded in assembly) there was a coworker who would quite literally just walk away whenever he lost interest in something – be it in a meeting, a non work discussion, a work discussion, whenever.

      I think it was finally stopped when the lead engineer yelled after him ‘Oi! You know that’s *expletive* rude to just walk away when I’m talking!’ (This was at a sewage treatment plant, the language was cruder than the intake valves. I do NOT recommend hurling swear words at people).

      Cannot remember if the guy stayed long or what else happened after I’m afraid (long long time ago) but I *think* he realised that actually, yeah, people were getting pretty annoyed with him.

      If one of my lot did this I’d probably tell them when they started to walk away ‘it’s not a good image to portray at work to be someone who refuses to listen, unless you have somewhere you need to be right now?’ I dunno.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        If someone I was training started walking away, I think I’d deliberately let them fail at the thing I was training them for. Then I’d let rip.

  7. Aphrodite*

    A long, long time before COVID I developed an intense dislike for shaking hands. People have nasty bathroom habits but even ones as simple as not closing the lid before flushing or turning off the tap with your hands after washing them leave fecal germs all over. There were several times during my current job when a former unpleasant bossy boss lectured me on how important it was and how bad it looked to others. Didn’t matter to me; I ain’t doin’ it for anyone for any reason. I am happy to give warm, bright smiles but it stops there. If someone stuck out their hand before I could do anything I would always fall back on the line “I would but I feel myself coming down with a bad cold and don’t want to pass it on.” Almost everyone backs away quickly and thanks me. The key is saying it with genuineness.

  8. just some random person*

    #1: I’m in regular contact with “lovers from my past”, because they’re also friends from my present. My wife, likewise, is friends with several of her ex-es. The idea that faithfulness to one’s partner requires erasing history and cutting out anybody you used to date needs to be retired post-haste.

    1. allathian*

      I’m glad you can do that! I’m rather envious, actually. All of my relationships have ended so badly that I’ve wanted nothing to do with my exes afterwards. I’m just glad that I never had kids with the wrong boyfriend. My divorced friends can attest to it that coparenting is so much easier when you still like and respect your ex as a coparent even if you’re no longer in a relationship.

      1. many bells down*

        Same. I’m not friends with ANY of my exes… but I am friends with my husband’s first wife!

        But more importantly for the LW1, we both have a lot of friends that are former co-workers, managers, etc. The issue isn’t who you’re eating dinner with, it’s who you trust.

        1. allathian*

          Absolutely. Admittedly pretty much all of my work friendships have been situational friendships that have died because neither of us has been interested in keeping in touch when we’re no longer working together.

          My husband’s uncle’s been married three times. Both his first and his current wife are united in their disdain for the second. The first wife, who’s also the mother of his only child, still gets invited to family celebrations hosted by him and his current wife, whereas the second is definitely persona non grata.

          1. UKDancer*

            I think it really depends on how well you get on with people. I’d agree with you, in my experience most work friendships are situational and end when you move on. I have about 4 people I’ve met through work and have an underlying friendship and things in common with. So we’ve made the effort to stay friends.

            I have a broader circle of work people I’ve stayed in touch with because they’re useful contacts. So we’re not personal friends but it’s useful to have coffee / lunch together from time to time and pool intelligence about job opportunities / best practice etc. Some of my former bosses are in this category. So I could quite see one of them getting in touch and suggesting meeting up because they had something to discuss.

      2. just some random person*

        I don’t mean to say that it’s always possible. Sometimes the breakup burns the friendship with it; been there, done that. It’s easier to stay friends when it ends well.

        OTOH, sometimes it’s possible to preserve a friendship even after a very painful breakup. BTDT too; it took a lot of work from both of us to fix the trust and respect that had been damaged, but we’re stubborn cusses and we had enough history as friends to make it worth working for.

    2. Batgirl*

      I actually can’t think of anything worse than remaining friends with an ex and I like to leave those relationships in the past. However the OP speaks as if not doing so is obviously suspicious, which of course it isn’t; it’s just different to what they would do. They simply can’t ask their girlfriend to change their whole approach to relationships for their sake, so if they aren’t comfortable with it, it needs to be owned as their problem to either accept or pass on.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes I don’t remain friends with exes either. Once the relationship is over I prefer to leave it and move on. One of my close friends has remained friends with all of her exes and they came to her wedding. Either approach is fine and the OP can’t and shouldn’t try and make his partner change.

        I do keep in touch with some of my former bosses and have met up with them before although more for lunch than dinner because that’s easier to fit in. With a couple of exceptions I would be happy to have dinner with them if that was offered (and the exceptions are because we just didn’t get on).

      2. SheLooksFamiliar*

        I’ve remained friends with some exes, and not others, it depended on what caused our breakup. We just didn’t click, or want the same things in life, but were on good terms? It was often worth preserving a friendship. They lied, cheated, had abusive tendencies? They’re dead to me.

        It’s worth noting that I became friends with a few of my exes’ exes. It can be healthy and enriching.

        1. Batgirl*

          Yes I think how they treated you is a common way to decide on whether to make it a friendship, and I get it. It just doesn’t apply to everyone. I would never be friends with an ex even if they were a wonderful person. I don’t have that switch some can flip that can make someone platonic based on circumstance. I suspect OP is similar – since they can’t do that switch, they think it’s off to try and keep a connection alive. My advice to them is to just accept that people are different in that respect.

          1. SheLooksFamiliar*

            I think it’s a personal choice, as it should be. But I don’t think – and hope I didn’t imply – it’s as easy as ‘flipping a switch.’ It usually isn’t, I just didn’t go into the mechanics of how we remained friends.

            When we both said, ‘Eh, I don’t think this is happening,’ we still took some time before we got drinks or hung out as platonic friends. One time I was interested in being friends but a little absence made him realize he wasn’t. That’s fair.

            If one of us was more invested than the other, that person made the decision on when or if it was okay to try hanging out as friends. One guy got back to me 3-4 months after we split, it took that long for him to sort through his stronger feelings. We’re still friends after 30 years, and he jokes that I like his wife more than I like him. And I kind of do!

            Time and perspective are always good things in life. Sometimes, that’s how the switch gets flipped.

      3. Le Sigh*

        I think it depends on the people involved and the relationship. I have a few exes I don’t like as people and they hurt me. I might not run in the opposite direction if I saw them at Walmart, but I would go out of my way not to interact with them. But I’m friendly with a few others because while the relationship didn’t work out — we were young and immature, or maybe just didn’t work well longer-term — they’re still good people who I have things in common with. And my SO is good friends with an ex and by extension, I now am, to the point where I forget they once dated.

        That’s not the case for everyone, but I think the distinction for me is — are you just not friends with exes and prefer to move on, or are you a scorched earth and talk trash about all of them? Is every last ex a jerk who did you wrong? And/or do you view your SO being friends with any ex as suspicious? Do you declare that no one you once slept, even once years ago, with can be at your wedding? Those are the kinds of folks who often dump that baggage onto new relationships and view things rather black/white. It’s a ticker tape parade of red flags that I would avoid.

    3. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I’m good online friends with several of my exes too. Generally the reason we broke up was because we realised we were great friends but utterly catastrophic as anything else.

      There’s one ex of mine that I pray regularly doesn’t ever find me again though – or finds anyone else. He’s very likely the same kind of dangerous he was 25 years ago when I escaped him. But he’s the only one – I’m Facebook friends with several of my exes of all genders.

    4. Dust Bunny*

      I’m not actively friends with any exes but I don’t actively avoid them, either. Like, if we bumped into each other at the grocery store it would be fine. I just don’t have anything left to say to them. But they all had exes themselves and at least some of them were still in semi-regular, cordial contact (one had an ex-wife with whom he shared a kid. She was great, but they were also really clear on why they’d divorced so it wasn’t a problem).

      We’re still very friendly with my uncle’s first wife, though. She was always way nicer to us than my uncle was. They broke up thirty years ago.

    5. Jennifer Strange*

      Not only that, but “exes” can really refer to such a wide spectrum of situations. It could mean that you had a deep, intimate relationship for multiple years (in which case the breakup was probably harder) or it could mean you were friends in high school, went on a few dates, and then decided you were better off as friends (in which case there was probably less emotional attachment and an easier breakup). I can only think of one “ex” I’m still friends with on FB myself (definitely in the latter category) but I’m certainly not going to automatically assume anything nefarious on that alone.

    6. HGNFP*

      Same – as long as it didn’t end badly, I’m friends with them (and frankly, even in one case where it did, I’m friends with them).

      There’s a reason it’s over, right? And there’s also a reason you enjoyed spending time with them. That’s frequently a good place for friendship to crop up.

      Similarly, my partner is friends with some of his exes.

      We think absolutely nothing of it when one of us goes to drinks or dinner with our “past lovers.”.

    7. OyHiOh*

      Unfortunately, most of my dating history ended rather messily so I don’t really have friends who were once lovers. My partner, on the other hand, has several dear friends who were once romantic partners – including his ex wife, who started out as a friend, followed by a go at marriage, followed by divorce and understanding they make much better friends than lovers.

    8. Anonalone*

      I recently found out my significant other cheated on me with an ex and lied to me about it for years. It hurt me profoundly and was the last thing I ever expected. Their lack of character is independent of how many exes if any they choose to keep in their life, but I can’t imagine being comfortable with exes in someone’s life still in a relationship, now that I’ve been burned. Maybe some day I’ll get over it, but I’ll never go back to where I was when I was blissfully unaware of the truth.

  9. Gelie Fish*

    To avoid the handshake put out the fist bump or elbow bump. Everyone has gotten used to that as an alternative and you don’t have to give a reason

    1. Malarkey01*

      My problem with the elbow bump is we’ve all gotten used to coughing/sneezing into our elbow and I don’t want to then bump that.

  10. Edie*

    Wow I had never thought of using references from 15 years ago. I only give names of recent managers. Is that not the norm? I am not in America.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I think the difference here is that this manager is also a mentor for quite some time for this person – so still regularly in contact about work related things even though they don’t actively work together anymore.

      Most of my references from that long ago are off my resume, just because they retired and we have lost touch.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes, exactly. The reason it could make sense to use this reference is because he’s been a mentor to her throughout more recent times.

        1. Colorado*

          that’s funny, my reply to #1 below is I have ex-boss (15 years)/ now mentor that I certainly use as a reference. And we occasionally have dinner (alone), and my husband doesn’t care.

  11. nnn*

    Are people actually able to control the volume of their chewing? I think I only have one setting. After reading #3, I’ve been sitting here trying to make my chewing quieter and trying to make my chewing louder, and no matter what I do it sounds the same, at least in my head.

    1. river*

      I think “please chew more quietly” is often code for “please chew with your mouth shut”.

      Unfortunately, some people cannot easily chew with their mouth shut, for example my aunt has to breathe through her mouth, so in consequence is a rather noisy eater.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, this. Most people can chew with their mouth shut, but it’s good to remember that some people can’t.

        That said, some chewing noises are annoying. A former coworker used to chew gum all the time. That wasn’t a problem, but when they were focusing intently on something, they’d also blow gum balls and pop them over and over. That was annoying. We were peers with similar seniority, so I had no problem saying “hey, do you mind?” They were apologetic, but would forget and do the same thing the next day. I liked working with this person otherwise, but it was a relief when they quit.

      2. Klio*

        I breathe through my mouth.
        Shut mouth
        Open mouth
        Shut mouth
        Open mouth

        Also helps with not accidentally getting food down the ring pipe during breathing.

        1. Lily*

          Whether that works depends on your heart’s and your lungs’ capacity. It clearly works for you; it won’t work for everyone.

          1. Bagpuss*

            But even for those for whom it doesn’t work, there may well be things they can do to reduce the noise – taking smaller bites, opening the mouth less widely.

            You may need your mouth to be open to breathe if you can’t breathe through your nose, but you don’t need it to be wide open, for example, and Klio’s solution will work for most people, and most foodstuffs, if the eater is sensible about the size of bites / mouthfuls they take.

          2. Neptune*

            I think they’re just describing what they do, not suggesting that it’s a universal solution?

          3. Sonia*

            Exactly! Thank you Lily. Not everyone can breathe easily, and the technique that was described could lead to passing out for some of us. I had an embarrassing experience once in the work lunch room and it led to me almost passing out. I could have been injured if my coworker hadn’t been there to help get me to the floor safely.

      3. Machiamellie*

        Sometimes it depends on what the person is eating, too. My husband isn’t a messy/noisy eater typically, but for some reason when he’s eating pretzels it’s unreasonably loud. He’s got his mouth shut and everything, but I find myself glancing over all the time, like, “WHAT on earth are you … oh, pretzels, again. K.”

      4. Jack Straw*

        I think it also depends on mouth shape, just like a room with good/bad acoustics can amplify or dampen sound. I 100% chew with my mouth closed, but when eating chips, my partner swears he can hear it across the room. Which is why I don’t eat chips at my desk–ever.

      5. Ex-Dog Coor*

        This! I chew with my mouth closed, but am just a loud chewer. There’s nothing I can do to change it. Plus, my jaw clicks sometimes so that adds to it. It used to bother my partner, but he’s probably used to it after almost 7 years. Having someone point out something I really had no ability to change just made me self conscious and now I often worry about the volume of my chewing…

    2. Barbara Eyiuche*

      Noisy chewing is a result of chewing with the mouth open. Chewing softly and not opening the jaws very much, along with keeping the mouth closed, will result in quieter eating. Taking smaller bites also helps.

      1. Myrin*

        Noisy chewing is a result of chewing with the mouth open.

        Not necessarily, apparently, because I very definitely chew with my mouth closed and yet my family periodically tells me that I’m a terribly loud chewer. I’ve never heard this from anyone else I’m close to and I don’t seem to be doing it all the time so I’d hope it would never get as far with me as it did with OP’s coworker but ugh, I really wish I knew how to control it better.
        (FWIW, in my own head, it doesn’t sound like I’m chewing loudly at all, but I reckon that’s like that thing where you hear your own voice differently from everyone else.)
        I tried the smaller bites and not opening my jaw a lot but somehow it persists, apparently. This letter reminded me to ask my family about it again today!

        1. Damn it, Hardison!*

          Agree. I married into a family of loud chewers. All of them, even with their mouths closed. After 21 years, it still gets to me on occasion (mostly with chips).

          1. onco fonco*

            I cannot be in the same room as my husband eating raw celery. His mouth is shut but it sounds like some kind of natural disaster going on in his mouth. I don’t know how he does it.

        2. JB*

          Do you chew straight up and down? That’s the case for all ‘loud chewers’ I’ve met, they just chomp directly up and down like they learned to chew by watching cartoon characters.

          The molars are for grinding, not crushing. Your jaw should be moving as much side-to-side as it is up-and-down while you chew.

        3. FlyingAce*

          Heh. My husband insists I drink water too loudly. I’ve never had anyone else comment on my drinking habits, and I’ve tried to figure out how to be “quieter” but I just can’t think of what I should be doing differently when drinking. *shrug*

        4. Hush42*

          Yeah, in the pre-COVID days I shared an office with another manager. He was the loudest chewer and it drove me crazy. I never said anything because I figured he wouldn’t be able to control it. He always had his mouth closed but he somehow loudly chewed things like oatmeal? I don’t understand what he was doing but it was gross. I dealt with it by using headphones, conviently needing to go talk to one of my team members in person when he started eating, and leaving the office on lunch rather than eat there as I typically used to. We were sent home for COVID but are going back to the office in October. However this particular coworker quit in January so I will be getting my own office all to myself- no loud chewers allowed.

        5. Fushi*

          Are your family normally sensitive to sounds? I ask because I sure am but with my parents it’s magnified by approximately a billion, and I’ve heard similar things from folks with the same/similar conditions, so it’s possible that people outside your family have never even noticed how you chew but your family can’t help but fixate on it! Which would still be unfortunate, but at least there’d be less times when you have to worry about it.

          1. Myrin*

            My sister is (she has actual misophonia, although her issues with mouth sounds in general are separate from that) which is what I would attribute her reaction to if it was just her, but my mum isn’t at all which is what’s throwing me whenever this comes up.
            I’m thinking of asking a close friend about it the next time we meet, that might shed some light on the issue at hand.

      1. IndustriousLabRat*

        I imagine steamed dumplings would be somewhat quieter than fried dumplings! ;)

        Although my personal take on Food Noises is that it’s not even so much the volume, as the actual type of sound. For example, CRUNCH CRUNCH might be louder, but it doesn’t bug me; while the sound of someone gnawing on a piece of well done steak SMACK SMACK [insert assorted wet noises here] is just cringey.

        1. UKDancer*

          And now I want dumplings so am adding gyoza to the Sainsbury’s order!

          I think you’re right “slurp, slurp” bothers me more than chewing noises, regardless of volume.

    3. Susan Calvin*

      oh, you most definitely can. My spouse has what almost certainly counts as misophonia around mouth noises, and I’ve become a champion stealth-chewer over the last decade, lol

      – if it’s something you’re biting off, are your teeth visible or do you keep your lips wrapped around the thing?
      – if it’s something crunchy, does it go between your teeth immediately, or does your saliva get a slight headstart?
      – if it’s something squishy, does it go between your teeth only, or do your tongue and hard palate also do some work?
      – are you chewing quickly or slowly and gently?

      Generally, I wouldn’t expect anyone to make themselves as conscious of their own chewing habits as I am, but if someone gently pointed out to you that you’re being unusually or distractingly noisy, well, you might be! (or they might have auditory standards you’re not able or willing to meet, and could instead look into not sharing a space while eating)

    4. SillyLittlePittyPat!*

      It sounded to me like the person being referred to, is chewing with their mouth open. Rude and gross. Also, slurping. My Mom has misophonia and I learned to be a quiet eater. I wish open mouth eaters, slurpers could “read the room”. One woman I used to work with would also moan sexually when she was eating, also gross.

    5. PostalMixup*

      I have read that, in some cultures, loud chewing and slurping is a way of showing appreciation for and enjoyment of the food. I’ve had a number of coworkers from these cultures that you cannot block out the sound of their chewing and slurping even with noise isolating earbuds and music. Seriously, you should be able to eat a banana nearly silently. I shouldn’t be able to hear you slurp your banana from down the hall. Eventually I started timing my lunches to not be in the break room at the same time as those coworkers because I couldn’t handle the sound.

      1. JustaTech*

        Yeah, I had a coworker who was the loudest slurper ever. He could slurp completely dry foods. When people asked him to be a little quieter he would insist it was a cultural thing, which was promptly shut down by other folks from the same culture who basically said “Yes, but you’re still being a jerk, everyone else here is quiet.”

        (This coworker would claim cultural differences and language problems as a way of excusing some of his thoughtless behavior for years until everyone started calling him out on it as a poor excuse.)

  12. learnedthehardway*

    OP#5 – You CAN use a reference from that far back, but is it going to be relevant to the role you’re being hired for today? I wouldn’t use the person as your only manager reference – they’ll only be able to speak to your skills, abilities and work habits from when they managed you, and you’ve undoubtedly progressed a lot over 15 years. As a mentor, and someone who has continuously had visibility to your career – that has some value, but not as much value as a current or at least recent manager reference.

  13. Mer*

    Shaking hands is so Pavlovian for me, even now. When I meet someone new, I just automatically extend my hand and say nice to meet you, but then I remember *all of this (gestures to the world at large)* and I’ll add, “If you’re shaking hands.” I certainly wouldn’t be offended or find it weird if someone didn’t shake my hand. In ordinary times I might have found it slightly odd but in an innocuous “everyone has their quirks” kind of way.

    1. Foreign Octopus*

      I had the same instinctive reaction to meeting new people too. When I first moved to Spain, I had situations where I’d stick my hand out for a handshake only to have the other person lean in for the cheek kiss and I was stuck with my hand sort of jabbing them in the stomach until it was done. It took me about six months to stop automatically offering a handshake.

        1. Mary Bennet*

          My response is influenced by the fact that I live in a country where the cheek kiss (in fact, more than one) is a standard greeting. I really hope it isn’t on the way out, as when we can use those old greetings again it’ll mean that the threat of Covid has seriously diminished.

  14. Colorado*

    #1: An ex-boss is a mentor of mine now even 15+ years later so it would not be weird to my husband to arrange dinner with him and end up talking later than expected. The 3-5 times a week on WhatsApp.. how do you just “notice” something like that (without snooping) and why don’t you ask her directly? Maybe she’s looking for a new job and networking, or maybe it’s what you think. Ask..

  15. RitaRelates*

    OP1: Out of all the letters I’ve read on here, this is the most random. Mostly because this is a work blog and this is almost completely irrelevant to work, not even sure why it got an answer. Like asking a dentist if I should get a divorce after my husband says I don’t smile like I used to anymore. Anyway, break up with her because you don’t trust her. Her actions do seem suspicious imho but if you want to try to salvage the relationship, you can try to sit down and have a heart to heart with how you are feeling.

    1. Willis*

      I like that dentist analogy! Is relationship advice covered by insurance? While I agree this is a misplaced question, still good advice from AAM!

    2. Unkempt Flatware*

      I love that Alison answered it, though. We’ve had people write in about situations where the young woman went to lunch alone with the older male colleague/boss/mentor and judged by someone in the office.

      OP, this is normal and she should be treated like a professional and independent adult. Also, it’s insulting to her character to even suspect this.

      1. LifeBeforeCorona*

        Indeed, it plays into the cliche that men and women can’t have a professional relationship outside of a work setting. It’s another way of controlling and denying career advancement to women if they can’t interact with men unless it’s in a very closed and supervised environment. It’s the optics, men can meet for drinks or dinner after work but if a woman does it then clearly there are ulterior motives involved. It’s like something out of the 50s, or 60s, or 70s.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Or “My employee thinks I’m having an affair with my husband.” (That lunch having thing.)

    3. Ellie*

      He’s looking for backup from a workplace forum about whether its appropriate to still be in contact/go to dinner with a former boss. Back-up that Alison didn’t give him, since its not odd at all and she didn’t even lie about it. The most generous interpretation is that he senses something amiss but wants to know if he’s being paranoid or unfair. But he could also be extremely controlling and just looking for ammunition to attack her with.

      A heart to heart is the way to go though, we don’t know what his girlfriend’s thinking. The only way is to ask her about it.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        Yep. I heard the question boil down to “Are women allowed to have dinner with their previous male bosses?” with a bunch of “I don’t trust her” thrown in.
        The work question’s answer is Yes. People do not immediately sleep with their old bosses as soon as they see them in public.
        The broader answer is “Dude, you don’t trust your gf. End things and move on.”

        1. Unkempt Flatware*

          Yes, ending this is best for both you of. Being suspicious sucks and being suspected sucks worse.

    4. Joielle*

      I love when Alison answers relationship questions! It’s only tangentially work-related, but still good advice and interesting to read.

  16. Not A Manager*

    #1 – Here’s where things go downhill: “I have been in a relationship for over a year. Seven months into our relationship, one evening my girlfriend went to dinner with her former boss.”

    You’ve been stewing over this ONE DINNER for five months? This relationship is unsalvageable.

    1. Heidi*

      I noticed that too! What happened that made the OP want to write for advice about this dinner now instead of 5 months ago?

      I’m also confused about why the girlfriend and the boss NOT being Facebook friends is suspicious.

      1. Dr Rat*

        I think the LW’s girlfriend has been telling him for 5 months “People have dinner with former bosses all the time; it’s called networking” but the LW is so pathologically jealous he wants Alison to confirm that NO ONE ever has dinner with a former boss, EVER, so that he can continue to harass her about it.

        1. AnonEMoose*

          Yep. And besides all of this, this is one of the reasons women struggle to advance in the workplace. Because we don’t get as many of those mentoring opportunities and support from higher-ups, and too many men try to turn “networking” into “dating,” so we have to spend way too much time and energy parsing whether it’s a sincere offer of career support, or a stealth date. Having an SO scrutinizing and questioning on top of it is adding insult to injury.

          If the girlfriend had written in, I would tell her to dump this guy so hard his grandparents retroactively divorce, and run far and fast.

        2. Corinne*

          I’m pretty sad the the girlfriend has been putting up with his nonsense for this long! Girl, get out of there. There are men who don’t have this ridiculously pathetic insecure jealousy crap going on, find yourself one of them and let this sad little man be a distant memory.

      2. UKDancer*

        Yes. I’m not facebook friends with any of my former bosses. I use facebook for close friends and family, Linkedin for work contacts and Whatsapp for times when the work IT system goes down. I very rarely move work people from being a LinkedIn contact to being a facebook friend and we have to be really close friends before I do.

        Different people use social media in different ways. It’s not weird or suspicious for her not to have him as a friend on facebook.

    2. Willis*

      Not just stewing, also keeping an eye on her Facebook, text, and WhatsApp correspondence too! If you’ve been suspicious of someone for 40% of your relationship, I dont think it’s a very good relationship. I don’t think dinner with a former boss is that big of a deal nor is FB friendships with people you’ve dated, but nothing anyone says on this blog can make you trust your girlfriend.

      1. Bart*

        I agree with allathain. Having finally fled from an emotionally abusive husband after 24 years of being controlled, my radar is on the lookout for that behavior. Society often gives controlling people a pass because it’s “a trust issue” or “something that needs to be worked through” or “they just love you so much”, effectively sharing the burden of addressing the issue between the couple when this is all the OP’s problem. People have a right to make plans without getting permission from a new dating partner. OP, I hope you will look back at your letter and notice how much time you spent monitoring your dating partner and badgering her. Would you want your sister or friend in a relationship with someone who is behaving like you are behaving? There are lots of resources out there if you want to make some changes, including checking out Captain Awkward.

      2. EvilQueenRegina*

        I thought of both him, and the guy who wrote in five years ago who actually emailed his girlfriend’s (current) boss about them drinking together during some conference. He got compared to Ross at the time.

        1. Observer*

          That one was scary. I’m sad that we’ll probably never get an update, but I hope GF got out of that relationship. SOOOO unhealthy.

    3. Nope, not buying it*

      Yeah. For the girlfriend’s sake, I hope that she sees this post, realises it’s about her, and gets the chance to dump him. This kind of controlling and obsessive behaviour is not okay.

      Stewing about a meeting for several months, building it up like this, trying to seek outside “confirmation” that he is right to obsess – is not okay. It’s a classic in the abuser’s handbook – “look, all your friends/family/colleagues are on my side” style. Along with his monitoring social media and wanting to control her relationships with exes – massive warning signs.

    4. Kaiko*

      There is a certain type of partner who is convinced that everything their partner does is about them. It’s never “dinner with a former boss,” it’s “you didn’t tell me/ask permission to go for dinner with a boss.” It’s not “she’s keeping in touch with someone from her past,” it’s “these people from her past make me feel bad, why doesn’t she stop?”

      OP1: stop, take a breath, and remember (or realize) that not everything your girlfriend does or says or prioritizes is somehow a comment to or about you. If you can’t stop feeling jealous (and, from the sounds of your letter, controlling), please get some therapy.

    5. onco fonco*

      Oh god, I missed that and thought this was recent. LW#1, let it go or break up, this is desperately unhealthy.

    6. tinybutfierce*

      Holy cow, I totally skipped over that in the face of everything else in the letter. But yeah, if the OP has been stewing over this for five months, that’s beyond normal or healthy in a relationship. OP needs to leave the gf so she can be with someone who actually trusts her, and OP needs to do a LOT of self-introspection and work on themself.

    7. Caroline Bowman*

      Agree. I do see that on the face of it, it’s very likely the girlfriend hasn’t done anything shady, but OP cannot shake an instinct that all is not right, and it did make me pause that she’s in *such* regular whatsapp communication with the old boss. Only OP knows if they regularly are very jealous and suspicious with no cause and thus if the problem is in fact them, but usually I trust my instincts, even if I can’t articulate quite why it’s weird and off.

      I say cut bait and move on. You are clearly not happy, you cannot change your partner, nor should you. Find someone more compatible and yes, do examine if you are in fact the one with the problem around jealousy and suspicion.

    8. Anonymous Hippo*

      If I was the significant other, and I saw that letter, I’d run for the hills and no mistake.

  17. RJ*

    LW #2; I’m not Muslim myself, but I believe Muslim men place their hand over their heart and bow their head slightly when a handshake is extended to them from a woman. Can anyone else shed light on this? It seems like a easy-to-understand, courteous gesture instead of touching.

    1. many bells down*

      I was told that if the woman offers her hand first, then it’s polite for a man to shake it. The man doesn’t initiate the handshake with a woman.

      1. allathian*

        Certainly in the past in “polite society” this was the case, but I’m not sure if it applies anymore in a business context.

        That said, many Muslims and Orthodox Jews don’t touch people of the opposite gender unless they’re close family members.

        1. PollyQ*

          This definitely doesn’t apply to business interactions, and has pretty much fallen by the wayside for social ones. (Do people still shake hands socially?)

          1. Crivens!*

            I’m not religious but come on. This isn’t okay. Don’t insult other people’s religious practices.

          2. Keymaster of Gozer*

            Heck, I’ve used that gesture a few times myself (I really don’t want to shake hands) and it’s just as polite as a handshake.

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        ah no, I’ve had a Muslim refuse my proferred female hand. It was impure.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Sorry that sounds Islamophobic. Let me specify that the guy was a total Islamist, the kind who’d have gays stoned to death.

    2. Susan Calvin*

      My only contribution to this is, I had a quite traditionally Muslim female classmate in grad school, who did the same thing to men, so it’s quite symmetrical that way, and I never saw anyone not just roll with it.

      If you search the archive for related keywords though you should be able to find a letter from someone who, iirc, had a prospective new hire practicing this, and was concerned about optics. The following comment section was second only to the Great Pantyhose Debate – the closest thing to consensus was that as long as you were shaking *nobody’s* hand it was probably ok, but given the association with (benign) gender discrimination I might think twice about adopting the gesture myself.

    3. Govt Gal*

      I worked with an Orthodox Jewish woman who did not touch men she wasn’t related to, a common practice among some orthodox communities. We worked in a public facing role and met a lot of different people from different communities. When a man would go to shake her hand, she’d clasp her hands in front of her and say “I don’t shake hands! But I can wave at you!” She was the sweetest person I’ve ever met, so she pulled off the second line beautifully, but you can also just say the first part! As long as you say it with confidence and a smile, most people will respect it.

      That’s not to say it doesn’t get awkward sometimes. But if you stick to your guns, the awkwardness blows over pretty quickly.

    4. Reba*

      Both men and women do this! It’s a greeting gesture in itself, not merely a denial of a handshake. (Hope that made sense.)

      I like it a lot, and I think it works well in part because you are doing something visible with your hand so it’s unambiguous that no shake is happening :)

    5. Buni*

      Came here to say this; I used to work a lot in the local Muslim community and the hand-on-heart is done by both men and women. Do it with a smile and a small enough nod that you can maintain eye-contact and it works fine.

    6. LTL*

      My mom does the placing a hand over her heart thing when a man offers her a handshake! I also refrain myself from touching people of the opposite gender but personally, if a man offers me a handshake, I just shake their hand lol.

      (We’re Muslim.)

      1. SnappinTerrapin*

        This gesture is clearly intended as a respectful greeting, and that should be obvious, no matter who proffers the hand over heart and bowed head, and no matter to whom it is directed.

        It would strike me as bizarre if anyone decided to be offended at such an obvious show of respect and courtesy.

  18. learnedthehardway*

    OP#1 – The more you tighten your grip, the more [people] will slip through your fingers…

  19. C Average*

    I have declined handshakes for years because I have bad eczema on my hands and I’m really self-conscious about how rough they look and feel. I just say, “I don’t shake hands but it’s lovely to meet/see you. [Insert quick subject change].” People almost never comment on it or act weird about it.

  20. Woah*

    I don’t touch men and find it easier to just not shake hands with everyone. I just put my hand over my heart and smile warmly and say “its so nice to meet you!” i’ve never had any trouble.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I’ve done this more than a few times too (have arthritis, if you squeeze even a little I’ll be in hideous pain) and generally people don’t ask for an explanation or anything – more often than not they’ll repeat the same gesture you just made a few seconds later or do something similar after maybe looking a little puzzled for a sec.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I am very impressed with this idea and it made me smile. I am sure no one has ever had any problem with such a sincere and kind gesture.

    3. ecnaseener*

      Yes, I think doing some other respectful gesture is key. Hand over heart, or clasping your hands together by your chest, or waving.

  21. NomAnon*

    I don’t mind handshakes, but I’m hoping that COVID means the end of the kiss hello.

    1. The Original K.*

      And hugs from people you’ve just met. “I’m a hugger!” I don’t know you; please let go of me.

    2. KK*

      Oh, I hope not. :( :( It’s a beautiful part of my culture that I miss deeply living in a part of the US where it’s not the custom. :(

      That being said – it’s not done with strangers, nor acquaintances. There are appropriate limits.

      1. The Original K.*

        Yes – that’s my thing about hugs and kisses. They are intimate gestures, to me; I don’t want to do them with people I don’t know. Hug a friend hello, absolutely. Hug, like, a work vendor upon first meeting? No thank you.

      2. ecnaseener*

        Not work-related at all anymore, but I’m reminded of comedian Paul Taylor’s bit “La Bise Is Too Complicated” :D He certainly made it sound like you kiss strangers and acquaintances!

    3. Faith the twilight slayer*

      Well, giving people personal space has already gone away. I’ve been in line at the store and had people practically breathing down my neck. I’ve learned to leave the cart behind me while paying at the register so folks are at least a cart’s length away (I don’t leave it though! People who don’t put their carts away drive me nuts)

  22. HereKittyKitty*

    OP1, sounds like this relationship has run its course. It happens! Whether or not she’s doing anything wrong doesn’t matter because you don’t trust her. And if you don’t trust someone, there’s not really a point in dating them. At best you have a good reason not the trust them and at the worst you end up controlling and making miserable someone who has done nothing wrong. You’ve been dating her for over a year and this happened 7 months into the relationship- this has been bothering you for at least 5 months! Almost half of your relationship! I think it’s time to break up.

    If you wanted to keep going with it, you could go to couples counseling and use the counselor as a mediator to communicate with your girlfriend. If you’re exceptionally calm and level-headed you can even just… ask and explain your feelings?

    On the work side of things… eh it’s not that weird she had dinner with her former boss. My first boss is still my mentor and I have dinner with her on occasion and we text.

    1. HereKittyKitty*

      I wanted to add that couples counseling is not recommended in abusive relationships, so if anyone reads this and is in an abusive relationship, don’t go to couples counseling. However, getting yourself into counseling is good and helpful.

  23. Oui oui*

    #2 Why not just say, “Hey, I like to do elbow bumps!” or “Elbow bumps are way more fun!” and stick your elbow out with a smile. The other person will probably laugh and go along with the elbow bump.

    1. Susan Calvin*

      I love your energy, but professionally, that would go over about as well for me as dressing more like Jojo Siwa (read: severely undermine my ability to be taken seriously as a consultant by men who have daughters my age)

    2. Paperdill*

      Elbows are used for all the touching things, though! Elevator buttons, door handles, pedestrian crossing buttons, etc – grubby elbows are the new grubby hands!

      1. allathian*

        Possibly, but you don’t transfer as much muck elsewhere as you do when you shake hands.

        1. Grits McGee*

          And, unlike your hands, your elbows rarely get close enough to your mouth/eyes/nose for gunk transfer.

          1. nona*

            Uh – I sneeze into my elbow, instead of my hands, all the time (inside, vs outside though).

            1. JustaTech*

              Yup, the inside vs outside is important for germ spread – the germs can’t move through your clothing so even if you’ve sneezed into the inside of your elbow the *outside* of your elbow is still clean. And dry! Which is much more important when it comes to bacteria and viruses; very few pathogens do well in a dry environment like a piece of clothing (compared to your shirt your skin is quite damp), so anything you did sneeze or cough onto your sleeve will die faster than on your hands.

              And of course we don’t eat with our elbows, and most people don’t rub their eyes or nose with their elbow either. (Working in a lab I’ve learned to scratch my nose by rubbing it on my shoulder because I can’t touch my face with my gloves, but it’s a specialized skill.)

      2. JB*

        Yeah, but you don’t then rub your elbows on your face or use your elbows to pick up food. That’s the point.

        Or, at least, I don’t. I suppose some very talented people out there might be eating with their elbows.

    3. scooby dooby doo*

      uhhhh i would be really weirded out if i went for a handshake and the person said “elbow bumps are fun!!!” instead of just being like no thank you.

    4. MapleHill*

      Unlike Scooby, I would not find this weird. I like this line. And my colleagues (heavily male) are already back to handshaking! Ugh, I’ve always hated handshaking and thought Covid might have killed it, but nope, it’s back. I might be attending some in person career fairs this fall and I definitely don’t want to be shaking hundreds of sweaty palms because 1)it’s gross, and 2) now we need to be even more concerned about germ transfer. Especially here in Texas where many people won’t get vaccinated purely for political reasons. I was trying to think of what to say to students to refuse handshakes and this is a cute line with plenty of variations available for the 4 hours I’ll be repeating it haha.

  24. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

    #2, thanks for this timely post. I am new to being out in the world again, and I have reflexively reached out to shake hands several times. A few people responded by initiating an elbow bump, offered with a smile. That’s a perfect reaction, and a good reminder for me as I reacclimate. I cheerfully transition to the elbow bump, smile and sometimes apologize. The environment is a warm, friendly one, being introduced by a common friend/colleague, but it would work well for me in any environment.

  25. Ludo*


    If you really want to commit to the no handshake thing forever I would come up with a go to line. The “I don’t shake hands” thing sounded really awkward maybe because you weren’t ready for it

    Personally I would go with something like “sorry I have sensitive skin and can’t shake hands, but it’s so nice to meet you!”

    1. Klio*

      I don’t like to lie. I don’t have sensitive skin, I just don’t want to shake hands.

      1. Wrench Turner*

        Same. I never lie to customers. I usually say “My hands are gross and I don’t want to touch people.” which in my case is usually true.

    2. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      I don’t think a fib is necessary — it’s less about the words and more about the emotional tone, IMO. If the speaker sounds like they’re expecting others to be offended, that’s going to set an awkward tone.

      I agree that picking a standard line and then getting comfortable with it is key.

    3. Bagpuss*

      Why lie? “I don’t shake hands” or “Nothing personal, I don’t shake hands” are both fine. Especially if as Alison says, it’s said in a warm and friendly tone and you’re also saying something along the lines of Pleased to meet you / It’s nice to see you / How are you?”

    4. Mental Lentil*

      Enough with people in the comments suggesting lying as a way to get out of a situation.

      Some people have NEVER liked to shake hands. It’s now become the time to acknowledge that you’re not some sort of societal deviant if you don’t like to touch a stranger.

    5. Sara without an H*

      Ludo, I don’t think you, or OP#2, really need to make up an excuse for this. A bright smile and a friendly tone with “Oh, I don’t shake hands, but I’m delighted to meet you” (or words to that effect) should be enough. I think what got OP#2 into an awkward spot was the awkward, unconfident tone.

      It doesn’t matter that you don’t shake hands because of COVID, religious reasons, personal reasons, or that you’re saving your hands to play Rachmaninoff’s 3rd piano concerto in two hours. A bright friendly small and tone, plus a willingness to keep the conversation moving, should be enough to indicate your choice without implying an insult.

    6. ecnaseener*

      NGL, “I have sensitive skin” would come off as so ludicrous to me. (And possibly insulting – are my hands too rough for your delicate soft baby skin?)

      If you feel too uncomfortable being straightforward, you can make a little joke out of it — “I have a personal bubble” or whatever.

  26. Calyx Teren*

    LW4: I’m not excusing Feegus’s behavior, but there could be a couple of good underlying reasons (which don’t excuse the rudeness, but let’s treat that as a separate issue). Some people are very practical and don’t learn well when people talk at them, no matter how helpful the people are trying to be. They learn well by interviewing and asking questions near to the time they’re applying the information. You might try asking Fergus how he learns best, and how he would bridge the gap when he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. Again, I’m not defending his rudeness or any possible arrogance he might have if he thinks he can wing it and will know all the right questions to ask, but I offer this as an angle from which some of it could make more sense.

    Or he might just be a jerk.

    1. Paris Geller*

      I think literally walking away while people are talking to him definitely qualifies him as a jerk.

      1. ecnaseener*

        Or just very socially awkward / freezing up and retreating in a blind panic. Either way it’s not acceptable and he needs to change it, but I wouldn’t assume it definitely comes from a place of arrogance or jerkiness.

  27. Lily*

    Does Fergus know he should be trained in this? Because walking away seems like a rather harsh gesture that makes much more sense if this idea of your boss (not his) was never communicated with him. And someone who is clearly interested and taking notes otherwise doesn’t seem that likely to just walk away. OTOH I can imagine some big misunderstanding; maybe he even thinks you’re training your coworker/the intern or talking to yourself if he doesn’t know about it?

    1. Myrin*

      Yeah, the walking away is so blatant that I found myself wondernig if something else might be going on, like he’s unaware that your bosses actively asked you to train him in things. Even if that’s the case it’s still rude, though – even if he thinks you’re just approaching him to aggressively and unsolicitedly show him something he has no need for, he should either ask about it directly or “endure” it and then later ask his boss about it.

      OTOH, it’s quite possible that he’s simply a jerk who wants things only when he wants them and all else is just a huge bother to him. I would be very interested in hearing an update to this because it’s so ~mysterious~ and I can’t quite fathom what might be going through his head.

      In any case, both of Alison’s proposed answers are great and should be used!

      1. Pennyworth*

        Could be that he is receptive when he wants something and initiates the interaction and totally resistant to someone coming up and instructing him. He sounds like a jerk.

    2. Gray Lady*

      Yes, I was thinking that he might believe that he only has to pay attention to things you tell him when he perceives that he needs help. He doesn’t realize he’s being “trained”, he thinks he’s being given suggestions about how to do things he already knows how to do.

      Even in that instance, his behavior isn’t great, and he should be more open to instruction from more senior people, but there’s a difference between “walks away when being trained” and “walks away when he thinks he doesn’t need the help being offered.” In the latter case, simply having it made more clear that he’s being given information that he needs in order to do his job to standard may help, whether by his boss with an explanation of the situation, or simply by you and your co-workers as the situation arises, depending on your working relationship with him. Does he know that he’s in a trainee/trainer role with you, or does he just think you’re a resource to turn to when he has a question? Stuff like that.

      1. LC*

        Yes, that’s what I was thinking too. Particularly this part –

        approach him to give him advice or information on anything

        Makes me wonder if he knows he’s being trained. In my mind, there’s a big difference between someone training me on a thing, and someone offering me unsolicited advice or info (not that you can’t offer unsolicited advice or info to someone you’re training! I just mean that I would see that as its own thing, and not as training). There is such a disconnect between his behavior in these two situations, it makes me think that he just doesn’t realize this is a learning moment.

        That being said, his behavior sucks regardless, particularly the walking away without a word bit. I can’t really think of any situations, work or social, that it wouldn’t be seen as, at best, incredibly impolite (outside of some kind of confrontation, but in those kinds of situations, being “polite” probably isn’t high on the list of priorities).

        I definitely think that, at least once, someone should call him out on that in the moment with something like Alison’s scripts. I’d probably lean toward her second one, making it a question that he needs to answer. That might clear everything up, and if it doesn’t, you have one more data point to go to your boss with.

    3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Even if he doesn’t know he’s supposed to be trained, walking away as someone is talking is rude. Even if he’s new to the workplace, he should know that, because it’s elementary politeness, not just a workplace norm. He should perhaps ask “why are you telling me this?” or explain that he has a deadline to meet and can’t concentrate on what the other is saying and could they talk later, or explain that he already knows about this stuff – i.e. acknowledge the other person and get out of whatever awkwardness he is perceiving. There’s no excuse for such rudeness.
      I would be petty and walk away as he asked me to do something, give him a taste of his own medicine. Then point out where he’s messed up because of not listening to me. And tell the boss that he’s impossible to train.
      Then again, this kind of antics from colleagues is exactly why I prefer to freelance.

  28. Less Bread More Taxes*

    Regarding OP2, be aware that even if you are super warm and friendly when you decline handshakes, some people may take it extremely personally and there’s not much you can do about that. I would practice adopting an overly friendly demeanor when you decline to shake their hands – big smile, open body language, and a truly enthusiastic greeting. I stopped touching my very touch-happy coworkers two and a half years ago, and the responses were mixed: some people moved on immediately, some stopped greeting me entirely (my “hello”s in the mornings were completely ignored, I assume because they took my lack of touch to be personal), and some insisted (for months!) that I just “try” and would literally grab my hand. If something like that happens, keep your boundaries firm, but still try to be as friendly as humanly possible. That’s my advice anyway.

    1. Wrench Turner*

      This can be a challenge in customer facing roles where anything less than immediate super happy hyper enthusiasm to anything to please the customer can tank the transaction. If it starts off bad, you have to be real careful about giving bad news because a customer that goes from unhappy to complaining, even if you’re just doing your job, can get you fired.

    2. allathian*

      I would find the expectation to shake hands with my coworkers every day extremely odd. Sure, it’s better than the expectation of kissing on the cheek every day, but still… Granted, I’m in the cold and distant North where we keep strangers and acquaintances at literally arm’s length and letting someone in closer than what it takes to shake hands denotes a more intimate relationship than what’s expected or acceptable at work, and people in a more touchy-feely culture would almost certainly feel differently.

  29. Dr Rat*

    Oh, LW #1. I hope you are young, because if you are, there is a good chance you can learn to grow out of this.

    You need to look up the definition of “self-fulfilling prophecy.” If you keep monitoring your girlfriend’s career and social media like this, I have no doubt she IS preparing for the “after-you.” Pathological, clinging jealousy is not attractive.

    You texted her THREE TIMES in an evening when she didn’t reply. Text once and wait for her to text back, my dude. She didn’t tell you ahead of time that she was meeting her boss for dinner because she knew that you would find it “fishy” and probably try to keep her from doing some much needed professional networking. You are monitoring her social media, her apps, and her texts. If you want to keep her, take a deep breath and Back. Off.

    I am in touch with numerous former lovers, none of whom I have any interest in sleeping with, ever again. They are friends. I am in touch with several former managers and colleagues and would be happy to have dinner with any of them, whether or not they had a current job to offer me. Again, none of them could ever get to first base with me.

    I was insanely jealous when I was in my teens and early twenties and had to learn the hard way that healthy people who want healthy relationships won’t put up with it. So stay with her and work on backing off and growing up, or leave her – but work on the issue, in any case. Seriously, this will destroy you and every relationship you ever have, if you let it.

    And, uh, bruh – this is an advice column about WORK. Writing the “is she gonna leave me?” letter here was – a little odd.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Jealousy absolutely can kill a relationship – I’m with you in that it was a painful lesson to learn in my early 20s.

      (Good goddess, I was possessive. Seriously badly)

      1. River Song*

        The thing I once heard that resonated with me was “You can’t build a high enough wall to keep them in if they want to be out”. If they want to leave, or cheat, they will and if the only reason they don’t is because of your constant surveillance, then that’s terrible. So either break up or take a deep breath and choose to trust her.

    2. GraceRN*

      I agree with this comment.
      LW: Other commenters already gave good work-related suggestions. But just in case this helps: when I saw your letter I initially felt angry. Speaking from my own experience having been a falsely accused girlfriend: Your girlfriend didn’t reply because she knew exactly how you would act. She knew you would grill her about every little ridiculous thing: “what did you wear, why did you wear that? – It’s too sexy with your arms showing, did you shave, what did he say to you, did he give you a hug, did you drink alcohol, how long were you at the restaurant, what time did you get home, how come it took you 20 minutes to get home it should have only taken 12 minutes, did you take a shower when you got home – endless accusatory, insulting line of questions. She couldn’t deal with that. She was tired, she had work the next morning, and she need to go to sleep. She knew you would keep her awake for hours with your relentless questioning and it’s better if she didn’t reply to you. She knew you already decided to believe she was cheating. What would have bene the point of texting you back?
      But If you don’t trust her to go about living her life like a normal human, then the relationship is already over.

      But after having written this out, I feel empathy for you. Maybe you’ve been cheated on before. Maybe you’re feeling a great deal of anxiety and pain. But like Dr Ray said, your actions are counterproductive. Your behavior is only causing even more pain for both of you. I am just a stranger on the internet but I don’t think you should try to keep her. If you were to grow out of this mindset, you need to gain some space to reflection on your actions. You need to stop questioning her, stop checking her social media, and let her go.

      1. Amaranth*

        Its troubling, too, that its six months later and he’s still seeing that dinner as suspicious despite evidence to the contrary, and is actively looking for indications she will leave him. As you said, that’s the kind of behavior that drives people away.

        1. GraceRN*

          Yes – and the path that LW1 chose won’t lead to any happiness. If he’s constantly looking for evidence of cheating in fear that she’ll leave him, he’s always going to be in this spiral even if his girlfriend stayed home all day long.

    3. Koalafied*

      LW, I know from experience how hard it can be to loosen your grip on your relationship(s), even when you know you should.

      One thing that might be helpful is to realize that what you’re doing is not going to get the result I think you want, which is for your girlfriend to be faithful, show it in ways you can recognize, and not do things that make you feel nervous or uncomfortable. You can’t lawyer her into doing those things by finding proof of an affair, and you’ll never find enough lack of proof to satisfy you. Here’s a few things that you can realistically do:

      1) reflect on what you need from another person in a relationship. Then do the work to throw away those that don’t spark joy. Maybe the truth is you need a girlfriend to not have contact with her exes for you to be happy with her. If you’re okay with having that need, there are women out there who are on the same page as you. If you don’t want to need that, do the work inside – possibly with the help of a therapist – to get to a place where you don’t.

      2) once you’re clear on what you need, and comfortable owning those needs, share them directly with your girlfriend or future girlfriends. Tell them you need these things and ask if they’re able to give them. If they aren’t, you can’t make them change into someone who can, and it’s best to just move on to someone you’re not compatible with.

      I’ve had to move on from someone I had (tbh still have) very strong feelings for and great chemistry with because we had very different ideas about how a relationship should work, and because of that, I rarely felt secure in the relationship, and my attempts to grasp for security resulted in a lot of fights. I loved him and believe he loved me, but just looking at the facts, I was unhappy most of the time we were together. Life sucks that way sometimes. He wasn’t going to change who he was and I wasn’t willing to change my expectations, so we broke things off before we completely ruined our friendship, and I still count him as a friend today, 6 years later.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I have a male friend who has remained in touch with most of his ex’s. I was and still am pretty impressed that he put everything in a peaceful place and they both moved on. In one case, he is even friends with the ex’s current long term SO. No one bats an eye at that. It’s nice to see everyone contentedly going about life.

  30. Virginia Plain*

    Re LW#1 I can see why he wrote to Alison because in his mind this was a question of, “is it appropriate to dine with a former boss [of the opposite sex]?” to which the reply could have been, yeah, networking; chill, bro”.
    But then LW opened the insecurity can and now there are problematic worms everywhere.
    PS he says civil servant which suggests U.K. to me – anyone else thinking he may be taking the recent Dominic Cummings scandal a bit too much to heart? Maybe LW’s gf used to work for a cabinet minister (jk lol)

      1. Charlief*

        Yeah- it’s normal and not an affair unless her old boss is in the Tory cabinet – if it’s bojo, gove or Hancock, sorry dude your girlfriend went there, but you can at least do a tell all for the sun and £200 ….

        1. Charlief*

          Of course if it was bojo she should have got at least £60k and probably a contract for ppe so it may be worth sticking with her?

          1. londonedit*

            Yeah if she’s not at least in charge of a new test and trace system by now then maybe OP should dump her…

    1. Virginia Plain*

      Apols, I meant Matt Hancock not Dominic obvs. Seems we have an embarras de richesses when it comes to “one rule for me and one for others” politicians in the U.K. atm!

  31. UKgreen*

    I shook hands with someone yesterday, and then we both kind of looked at each other and laughed out loud because it had been such a long time since we’d done so! It felt awesome!

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I got caught unawares and yelped in pain because they had a really strong grip and I did something to my hand doing yard work that’s not getting better and…
      Yeah I babbled an apology about the yelp. And the rest of the gathering I carrried my plate and glass and did a “cheers” gesture as if it were wine not lemonade.

      1. allathian*

        Ouch. My SIL is a very petite Lutheran preacher and at an event at a social club for retirees which she attended because it was her job, some old geezer squeezed her hand so hard that he fractured at least one of her metacarpals. She shook hands with her left hand for six months at least.

        1. UKgreen*

          YIKES!!!! I’d much rather the ‘limp’ handshake than the bonecrusher! I hope she’s fully recovered.

    2. Mannequin*

      I’m looking forward to NEVER having to touch a strangers hand again, one of the few bright spots of Covid-19.

  32. June*

    LW1: your letter is better answered by Carolyn Hax :) Not really a work issue. Trust your gut.

  33. Sonya*

    Removed. Please don’t make enormous assumptions based on facts not in the letter and then present them as definite fact here. Your later replies also included armchair diagnosing, which the commenting rules prohibit. I’m nuking this whole thread. – Alison

    1. Sonya*

      Excuse me. I worked hard on my answers, and I don’t particularly appreciate my work being deleted, thank you.

      Actually, I find your interrupting me to be just as rude as LW’s employee walking away. What I have to say has value.

      Regrettably, now the LW gets to go on believing her employee is beyond help, he gets sacked, and he gets to go on in life believing that the company were the jerks all along until somebody, down the line, finally tells him what’s wrong.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        No, you don’t get to write anything you want here. It’s not your space, and there are rules. Please read them.

        It looks like this is the first time you’re commenting here; you do need to read and follow those rules if you’d like to comment again.

        1. Myrin*

          It isn’t, actually. I remember very clearly a poster with the same name, avatar, and length of comments from a few years back. I’ve intermittently been trying to find the specific letter all day but to no avail. I believe at least the threads this poster participated in were also about disability/accommodation of some kind but I’m not sure; what I definitely remember is that Princess Consuela, whom we all know for her calm, reasonable, and judgment-free comments, became really heated and exasperatedly explained how what Sonya was suggesting would be clearly against the law.
          So, yeah. Seems to be a thing with this person, even if it only comes up once every three years or so.

      2. RagingADHD*

        Interrupting you?

        Honey, no. Step away. Maybe start your own blog. It’s free.

        1. Sinister Serina*

          This +1,000
          It’s Alison’s blog and she makes the (extremely reasonable) rules.

      3. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I’d like to add that you needn’t feel like you can never come back here or anything after being modded. This forum has a quite wonderful track record in being warm and accepting to people who’ve made a mistake, apologised and/or never done it again and they don’t harp on on people’s past errors.

        And yeah, I’ve messed up a few times!

  34. Wrench Turner*

    I’ve always hated shaking hands. Always. I really hate being touched by strangers. Since Covid, instead of a handshake I offer a sharp salute. For certain groups of people, that’s almost better. I really don’t want to go back to needing to touch everyone all day. It’s bad enough I have to touch the gross insides of your air conditioner.

  35. JustJustin*

    OP 1, yes she is cheating on you. You know it – all the signs are there. Don’t look to an online advice column to convince you otherwise and please don’t wait around and give her the chance to lie her way out of it. Trust your instincts and move on.

    1. IndustriousLabRat*

      Wow, that is quite a confident leap to take from the minimal information given by LW. “All the signs?” I’m not seeing that. The #1 sign of a cheater is dishonesty. The GF was honest about where she was.

      The more worrisome issue here is the the LW is stewing for months over this stuff and sounds like they are snooping in GF’s social media. It’s creepy and jealous and if I had any advice to give either party, it would be to tell GF that she doesn’t need that kind of controlling behavior from a partner. It’s just plain unhealthy.

    2. FridayFriyay*

      This is an absurd response. Nothing in LW1’s letter is actually a “sign” of cheating. He sounds controlling and paranoid and if you’re the type of person who reads into the innocuous normal interactions described in this letter and decides your partner is cheating and lying, you may be too.

    3. sswj*

      I really hope this is sarcasm/hyperbole/tongue-in-cheek.

      Because no, a woman having a male friend in an ex-boss does not automatically = cheating. Surprise, it IS actually possible for people of the opposite sex to connect in a businesslike and friendly fashion with zero thought of sex! And reasonable, mature people recognize that …

      1. UKDancer*

        Definitely! I worked for my last boss for several years. In that time we travelled on business a fair amount, spent time at conferences and meetings in various countries and sometimes went sightseeing in the foreign cities we visited. At no point were we overcome with irresistible lust for each other. I enjoyed working for him and he was a good travelling companion but that was it.

        Now I’ve moved to a different company I still see my former boss for coffee every 3-4 months or so (virtually at the moment) and he sends me articles and news I might be interested in and I return the favour.

        Having an affair with someone requires both parties to want to do it, not merely proximity or working together.

      2. Forrest*

        otoh, if you’re treating your girlfriend the way LW1 is, best to move on regardless of whether or not she’s cheating.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        Yeah, I can’t tell if the “trust your gut” things are sarcasm or not. I hope they are?

        OP, you should look for the advice upthread from Dr Rat about learning to be less jealous as you mature.

      4. Tired of Covid-and People*

        At 11:00 at night. Sure Jan. A “dinner” she couldn’t tell him about beforehand. Then, when she leaves him for boss, surprised pickachu face. The commentariat is very naive today.

        1. JustJustin*

          Thank you. You’re the only one I’m going to respond to. The fact that OP’s girlfriend did not tell him about the dinner beforehand is more than a clue that she’s cheating. In the age of constant communication, going to dinner with someone and not telling your significant other is completely damning. These things absolutely do not happen by accident. And no, the fact that she told her boyfriend the truth the next day does not make it better. And I doubt they were at dinner, at least the whole time. “dinner” is a euphemism or a prelude to what really happened.

          No, this is not sarcasm. This is the truth. People who have been cheated on know this.

          I don’t think the commentariat is being naïve,l; they’re mostly women who are consciously or subconsciously trying to defend another woman’s actions, often my victim blaming OP by directly or indirectly telling him his suspicions and investigations are the issue and not his girlfriend’s behavior. His suspicions are what will save him from further embarrassment.

          Also, the reason OP’s girlfriend and her former boss aren’t friends on Facebook when they are constantly communicating is because they’re avoiding adding each other because they think it will look suspicious. When, of course, it’s actually the fact that they haven’t added each other as friends that winds up looking more suspicious.

          I wonder how many people who are defending OP‘s girlfriend have cheated in the past or are cheating now. I would guess it’s a high percentage because they’re so adamant about gaslighting him about what is completely obviously happening.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            Okay, wow, suggesting the commentariat are cheating on their partners because they have an opinion you disagree with is….really not appropriate.

            Disagree with the words, not the person.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              I suspect that’s the old “Baseless accusations of cheating are often a sign of cheating” rearing its head.

              1. Keymaster of Gozer*

                If I tried to feed their kinda logic into the computer it’d blow its processor clear out the rear fan.

            2. Observer*

              Okay, wow, suggesting the commentariat are cheating on their partners because they have an opinion you disagree with is….really not appropriate.

              Combined with “it’s all a bunch of women trying to defend the bad things women do” and it smells very strongly of MRA types.

          2. Jennifer Strange*

            The fact that OP’s girlfriend did not tell him about the dinner beforehand is more than a clue that she’s cheating.

            Or she knew he would blow it out of proportion and wouldn’t take her reasoning at face value (which is exactly what he did once she did tell him). I’m not saying it’s entirely out of the realm of possibility that she’s cheating on him, but his reactions/reasoning in the letter indicates to me someone who is looking for reasons to be suspicious.

            I wonder how many people who are defending OP‘s girlfriend have cheated in the past or are cheating now. I would guess it’s a high percentage because they’re so adamant about gaslighting him about what is completely obviously happening.

            Nope, never cheated! Just able to recognize an unhealthy relationship when I see him. Also, if she were gaslighting him why not say she was out with female friends? She was very forthcoming about it.
            Also, the reason OP’s girlfriend and her former boss aren’t friends on Facebook when they are constantly communicating is because they’re avoiding adding each other because they think it will look suspicious.

            That is some high-level fanfiction you’ve got going on there.

            1. UKDancer*

              Definitely. I mean honestly I don’t add my former bosses on Facebook either because Facebook is for my friends. I’ve got most of them on LinkedIn but to be honest I’d usually send an email if I wanted to reach out.

              Also 3-5 Whatsapp conversations per week isn’t really constant communication. It just isn’t.

          3. Falling Diphthong*

            Married decades. Not cheating. All this stuff about the damning evidence of not constantly communicating who you’re with to your spouse is bizarre.

            Likely she didn’t tell him in advance because she knew he’d be weird and suspicious about it. This was an accurate prediction. The correct move was to examine that and break up with him, just like the correct move for him is to examine his constant jealousy that is not allayed by any amount of monitoring her communications and break up with her. Hopefully one of them does this before any kids are involved.

          4. pieces_of_flair*

            I wonder how many people who are defending the OP have been controlling and abusive to their SOs in the past or are abusing their SOs now. I would guess it’s a high percentage because they’re so adamant that something nefarious is “obviously” going on with no evidence whatsoever.

            Also you are using the word “gaslighting” incorrectly. The word you’re looking for is “lying.” Gaslighting is an abusive tactic designed to make someone question their own sanity. No one is doing that here.

            1. JustJustin*

              I know it gaslighting means and The definition is exactly what I intended. She will make him think he’s imagining things right up until the end when it all comes out. Why do you think he got to the point where he wrote a letter to this website? He’s questioning himself because she’s playing him.

          5. Observer*

            The fact that OP’s girlfriend did not tell him about the dinner beforehand is more than a clue that she’s cheating. In the age of constant communication, going to dinner with someone and not telling your significant other is completely damning.

            Good heavens! A numbe rof years ago I read an article by a psychologist in which she lamented that cell phones make people too attached to each other. I thought she was out of her mind. But now I see that she may have had a point. “I have lots of communications options so that means I must clear EVERY move I make with my BF” is NOT a healthy thing.

            That she’s acting like an independent human (who happens to not be living with this guy) is NOT “proof” that she’s cheating. It’s “proof” that she’s an independent human being that doesn’t need to clear everything she does with another person.

            Also, the reason OP’s girlfriend and her former boss aren’t friends on Facebook when they are constantly communicating is because they’re avoiding adding each other because they think it will look suspicious. When, of course, it’s actually the fact that they haven’t added each other as friends that winds up looking more suspicious.

            Actually, the is classic “dammed it you do, dammed if you don’t”. She has contact with him that she didn’t get cleared -PROOF that she’s cheating. She messages him a few times a week. PROOF THAT SHE’S cheating. She DOES NOT message him every day? PROOF THAT SHE’S CHEATING!

            Do you not see how ridiculous this is? And how impossible the standard you are setting is?

        2. Colette*

          She doesn’t have to get her schedule approved by the man she’s been seeing for half a year, and she replied at 11 – that doesn’t mean anything other than that she replied then. Some people are not on their phones 24/7.

          Could she be cheating? Sure. Could she be having a legitimate business dinner? Sure. Does assuming a woman can’t have a business dinner with a former colleage she’s not sleeping with hurt all women? Absolutely.

          1. UKDancer*

            This so much. Also I don’t check my phone when I’m having dinner. I am usually enjoying the dinner and giving my attention to my company because that’s what I was raised to believe was manners.

            In a non-work context I’ve actually ended dates early because the chap was on his phone all of the time.

        3. Observer*

          Then, when she leaves him for boss, surprised pickachu face

          I don’t think anyone will be surprised if she leaves him – his behavior makes it pretty clear that this relationship is pretty toxic.

    4. Tired of Covid-and People*

      Removed. The Bill Cosby stuff is over the top and derailing. Move on please. – Alison

      1. Crivens!*

        I’m very confused by the mix of issues in this comment. Here’s what I’m seeing:
        1. “People lie”: yes. But there’s no indication the LWs girlfriend is except his own paranoid imagination.
        2. If the genders were reversed: I think all of us would still think the LW came across as paranoid and controlling, frankly.
        3. MeToo: If the LWs concern was about the ex boss being a potential predator, don’t you think that’s what he would have written in about? But he didn’t. He wrote in about cheating.

      2. Allypopx*

        I am both those things too, but give me a break. “The risk is out there” for so many minute behaviors do you really expect women to unilaterally miss out on professional development and networking opportunities because someone might have ill intent? Do you expect us to never interact with a man? Especially women in male-dominated industries? This is a previous mentor, someone she knows and trusts and clearly likes enough to travel to dine with – let’s trust the woman’s judgment a little bit here.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes the twice I was made to feel uncomfortable at work were both during the daytime in an office setting. I would not have dinner or socialise with either of the culprits because they were both unpleasant to me. If someone is a pervy scumbag they’ll be one regardless of the setting.

          If the woman in question is comfortable talking to and dining with the man in question, you should trust her judgment.

      3. Keymaster of Gozer*

        No, if the genders were reversed I’d have said the exact same thing. My husband goes to dinner with a ex boss who is a woman to network? I just hope he doesn’t order garlic because he goes he stinks after that!

        And please, please, please can people stop bringing ‘you might be assaulted!’ into every time a woman has any kind of networking connection with a man? Seriously, it’s actually scaring me.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          This. My husband carpooled to work with a female coworker today. The reason I know this is that he was hurrying to get changed and out the door and explained why. That he carpools with someone–and occasionally a third coworker–and sometimes tells me and sometimes doesn’t is… so boring and routine and not a thing that drives me to monitor his text messages.

      4. Ritu*

        Wow. I’m very sorry life has been so hard for you that your understanding of reality is so badly warped. It must be terrifying and upsetting to go through life feeling so threatened and attacked at all times. I hope you are in therapy and getting the help that will one day allow you to see how disturbed and disordered this thinking is. Best of luck with that! I wish you the happiness and opportunity that you have lacked in life, and I know you can come through this and learn to live in a healthier and more successful way.

      5. Observer*

        Being in a relationships brings a degree of accountability on both sides.

        Maybe. But the level of “accountability” the OP is asking for at 7 month without an engagement or living together is out of line.

        If the genders were reversed here, the tone of these comments would likely be different.

        You have no way to know that – and in fact at least one commented did explicitly say that they would have said the same thing if genders were reversed.

        Bill Cosby victimized dozens of women by pretending to want to “help” them get roles. Stop pretending the risk isn’t real out here, hasn’t MeToo taught anyone anything?

        None of which is relevant here. If there is one thing MeToo SHOULD have taught us, but which you apparently have not learned, is that blaming victims is not the way to keep women from being abused. The reverse is true – this kind of thing is deliberately used to make it harder for women to take action when they do get abused.

        Further none of what the OP describes matches the Cosby stuff or the patterns of most of the other MeToo types. At all.

    5. Not A Manager*

      I don’t think most people on here are saying that the GF *wasn’t* cheating. They’re saying that what the LW posted isn’t always indicative of cheating. Intuiting whether someone is deceiving you involves a lot of small “tells” that can be hard to summarize in one letter. It’s possible that LW is correct in his intuition.

      What’s weird isn’t necessarily that his spidey-sense is tingling. What’s weird is that he hasn’t acted on it in an appropriate manner. If I’d been dating someone for 7 months and they behaved in a way that made me pretty much convinced that they were both cheating and lying, I wouldn’t wait around for another five months spying on their social media. I’d move on. Is there ANY evidence that the LW could gather at this point that would make him feel secure in this relationship? Of course not.

      But none of that means that the GF is, in fact, cheating on him. I’ve made social plans and not told my newish, not-living-together boyfriend in advance. I’ve socialized with former colleagues. I haven’t felt the need to evade my partner’s scrutiny due to his jealousy, but I’ll bet the GF does in this case. The point of the responses isn’t to convince the LW to stay in a bad situation (and it’s bad either way); the point is not to reinforce the idea that these behaviors in and of themselves are some kind of red flags.

    6. Jill*

      Whether or not she’s actually cheating is honestly beside the point of posting it to a workplace forum. You can give OP advice but calling the commentariat “not naive but mostly women trying just trying to defend another woman” definitely says something very telling about you and how you treat the women in your life. Us women commentators are totally incapable of having our own opinions and experiences, you definitely know us better than we do.

      OP might be a victim of cheating, he might not, but he openly admits to tracking her socials for 5 months instead of just confronting or dumping her. That’s unhealthy for both of them, but it’s manipulative on his part. If telling someone they need to stop putting themselves in a crappy situation is victim blaming I think most of us would fine with that.

  36. Paperdill*

    OP1: you’ve already gotten a lot of responses here, but here’s my bit:
    My husband and I have been together 20 years. During that time almost of our separate closest friends have been of the opposite sex. Don’t know why – it just turns out that way.
    While this was a difficult adjustment to make initially (we were quite religious back then and there was a culture of “no doing anything alone with the opposite sex – it looks bad and you might be TEMPTED”), we eventually realised that this fear was not justified, that it was silly to just assume “opposite sex=infedelity” AND we were allowing each other to have some truly wonderful, fulfilling friendships (which is what you want for the person you love).

    I love my husband completely and utterly, but I can message late into the night with my male friend whole used to be my manager. Similarly my husband is totally devoted to me, but he can go out for dinner and drinks and stay out til two with his best friend (a female former employee).
    I also don’t always answer any texts he sends when I’m out with my male friends for the same reason I don’t with my female friends. Why? Because I’m out with friends and it’d be rude to constantly be tapping away at my phone and ignoring my friends.

    In short, OP1, relax. People can absolutely be good friends with people of the opposite sex.

    And please TALK to your girlfriend. And talk. And if that doesn’t work, talk some more. HONESTY is so important. If my husband and I hadn’t been honest with each other at the beginning we never would have gotten as far as we are now.
    All the best.

  37. Paperdill*

    OP1: you’ve already gotten a lot of responses here, but here’s my bit:
    My husband and I have been together 20 years. During that time almost of our separate closest friends have been of the opposite sex. Don’t know why – it just turns out that way.
    While this was a difficult adjustment to make initially (we were quite religious back then and there was a culture of “no doing anything alone with the opposite sex – it looks bad and you might be TEMPTED”), we eventually realised that this fear was not justified, that it was silly to just assume “opposite sex=infedelity” AND we were allowing each other to have some truly wonderful, fulfilling friendships (which is what you want for the person you love).

    I love my husband completely and utterly, but I can message late into the night with my male friend whole used to be my manager. Similarly my husband is totally devoted to me, but he can go out for dinner and drinks and stay out til two with his best friend (a female former employee).
    I also don’t always answer any texts he sends when I’m out with my male friends for the same reason I don’t with my female friends. Why? Because I’m out with friends and it’d be rude to constantly be tapping away at my phone and ignoring my friends.

    In short, OP1, relax. People can absolutely be good friends with people of the opposite sex.

    And please TALK to your girlfriend. And talk. And if that doesn’t work, talk some more. HONESTY is so important. If my husband and I hadn’t been honest with each other at the beginning we never would have gotten as far as we are now.
    All the best.

  38. Jane of all Trades*

    RE LW1, since this is a work advice blog – I’d love to see some discussion around that this type of paranoia is really harmful in a work setting. As in – it is possible for people of opposite genders to form working relationships (and friendships) that are not sexual. Your girlfriend meeting her ex boss for a meal doesn’t mean she is having an affair (she may or may not, but this is not an indication that she is). But jumping to conclusions around these types of issues makes people more hesitant to seek out people of the opposite sex as mentors or mentees, which is harmful especially for women.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      The thing is nearly everyone on THIS workplace blog know that’s misplaced paranoia and mistrust a relationship problem and not a workplace problem. If the paranoid partner is assuming the worst and making thing up, then it’s time to ditch them and the relationship. There’s nothing in the workplace to fix. It could harm professional progression, but the solution is to ditch the relationship not work around the problems it causes at work.

    2. IndustriousLabRat*

      This is a really good point! We do sometimes see letters about suspicions of affairs within offices; a couple from the perspective of someone upset that they have been accused of having an affair with a colleague have been pretty disheartening to read, because, to your point, the woman in the suspected pair seems to take more of a professional hit or at least feel more discomfort from the gossip mill.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        It’s a very salient point. I think there are fewer women around who haven’t had the ‘people will think you’re cheating if you’re friends with a man’ talk from someone than those who have.

        Most of my friends are guys (this is partly because I grew up a massive nerd and there were more geeky guys around than women in those times). Some are not attracted to women, some are, others are attracted to both, some are married, others not. Likewise my workplace friendships generally tend to be men (not my staff for obvious reasons of not being mates with the boss) and I’ve had that ‘what will your husband think?’ talk far too many times.

        He’ll think ‘Keymaster is having a good time with one of her mates’ is all.

    3. HereKittyKitty*

      I also find the paranoia fascinating because I’m bi+, so theoretically anybody I meet could be a “potential romance”… so like, should I not have any mentors because of this paranoia??? I’ve heard these comments before when I was younger and when I countered “okay but I’m bi, so am I not allowed to hang out with anyone?” it would either break their brains or trigger something misogynistic, sexist, or biphobic.

  39. McThrill*

    LW 1 – Adults are allowed to have friendships, work relationships, and combinations of the two without their significant others present. They are also allowed to go out with people at night without you present. I don’t think you should be in this relationship, or any relationship for that matter, until you’ve learned this and accepted it.

    Also there’s no way to notice that two people are talking on WhatsApp without you having access to one of their phones and looking through their messages so yikes my dude, that is seriously WTF territory and I hope you realize just how way not normal or healthy that is. Your girlfriend deserves to be with someone who trusts her and doesn’t snoop on her phone.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        Married people, people in committed relationships: Would you really set up a dinner with someone and not tell your partner until it was over? Not text them, not reply to their texts until much later?

        Why are you including married people in this? That’s a completely different circumstance, not least of all because it means they are most likely living together. However, to answer your question, 7 months into my relationship with my now-husband I probably would not have mentioned plans – especially ones based in a work-relationship – until later. And yes, I would not have responded to his texts until later because I wouldn’t want to be rude during dinner. I would have no issue if it were the other way around either, but then again, my husband and I have a healthy relationship.

        try to examine your own biases and realize you are not looking at the situation objectively but rather prematurely coming to the conclusion

        I suggest you do the same. You clearly have some issues.

        1. Paris Geller*

          Not married, but in a committed relationship, and . . . yes? I don’t see what is so weird about this. To be fair, my SO and I don’t live together right now (we’re long distance while he looks for a job), but if I got dinner with a friend (even with one of –GASP– the opposite sex), I might tell him before, but I might not have the chance to. It’s certainly not something I would announce out of the blue. And my boyfriend has definitely done this–last week he had lunch with a female friend and didn’t tell me about it until later, particularly since he’s notorious for never keeping his phone charged. It wasn’t a big deal because I trust him.

  40. Handshake Hater Too*

    As we were waiting for our financial planner to come in for our appointment, I reminded my husband not to shake hands. As expected, since he is a client-facing person, he thrust out his hand for a shake, and we jokingly put it off. He was completely understanding, as expected. While there will be hand-shakers out there who can’t break the habit, I think that it will be a long time before people will stop being understanding if you don’t want to. I’m not planning to shake another hand again, so LW, more power to you. Let’s help that become the norm!

  41. Tobias Funke*

    LW1, do your girlfriend a favor and break up with her. And not the kind of breakup where you stalk her and follow her and run into her. The kind of breakup where you block her and move on with your life. Do her (and every woman who has been driven out of the workforce by an abusive lunatic) a favor and leave her the hell alone.

    1. Tobias Funke*

      And yes, I’ll own that I’m big triggered by LW1. It took me years to get my life and my career back after giving them all to a situation like what they describe.

      1. McThrill*

        Maybe not every person who acts like LW #1 is an abuser, but nearly every abuser out there exhibits some or all of the behaviors they describe. I wouldn’t describe this as being “triggered” so much as “reasonably concerned for the wellbeing of another person.” Feeling entitled to all of another person’s free time outside of work (to the point where not getting a text message for a few hours causes you anxiety),snooping through their SMS history, and being angry that they are in contact with people from before they met you are huge red flags for abuse.

        1. Sonya*

          If you engage in abusive behaviour you can’t claim you are not abusive. It’s like a thief stealing and saying I’m not a thief. Good luck with that.

  42. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

    I find doing a little wave helps if I don’t want to shake hands, especially if I’m faster to wave than they are to extend their hands – that’s what I did pre-COVID if I’d recently been sick and didn’t want to pass on any germs. It helps with more group-y introductions, but in one-on-one meetings it can also work.

  43. tinybutfierce*

    1) If I found out my partner was monitoring my social media activity the way the writer is, I’d be incredibly uncomfortable. Same for the accusation of secrecy about a totally normal thing… that she wasn’t at all secretive about. I don’t know if your behavior is arising from your own insecurity or something else, but you either need to reevaluate yourself and trust your partner to be honest with you, or this relationship doesn’t sound like it will work; it is deeply unfair for both of you to be in a relationship with no trust.

    I’ve witnessed plenty of dudes over the years who allowed their own insecurities to manifest in jealous, controlling, or outright abusive behavior to their partner (very much including aggressive social media monitoring and accusing them of lies without reason, especially when it came to members of the opposite sex or past partners). Those relationships were all deeply unhealthy and rightly never lasted long.

    1. Sonya*

      If it was me they would be out of the door before you could finish reading the letter.

  44. Hiring Mgr*

    #1 reminds me somewhat of FDR’s marriage to Eleanor Roosevelt. While by all accounts they had a great relationship, many historians now believe it was Eleanor’s sister Trudy who was FDRs real love, particularly after that summer in Hyde Park. The point is that from the outside nobody really knows what’s happening, so all our advice is pure speculation

    1. pally*

      Eleanor Roosevelt had a sister? Interesting. I know she had two brothers and a half-brother.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        Yeah, I’m not a historian, but I can find no indication that Eleanor had a sister (let alone one named Trudy).

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Maybe it wasn’t FDR & Eleanor, but with all the leaders through history, the odds are good that story describes at least one of them.

    2. RagingADHD*

      There was speculation about FDR and Eleanor’s secretary Lucy.

      “Hyde Park on Hudson” was speculation about FDR and his cousin Daisy.

      1. ecnaseener*

        Maybe Hiring Mgr combined both of these together in their head with a side of Hamilton and his SIL.

  45. Avani*

    I am an avid reader of this blog, as are all of you. While I can completely sympathize with the anguish of being afraid your partner is cheating/not trusting your partner, this post isn’t really work related and I would expect to see it on another kind of blog.

    1. Lucious*

      Perhaps not directly, but it’s a good window into how your meetings with colleagues may be inadvertently perceived by others.

      Being the subject of a false affair rumor sucks, and the LW1 is a good case study of how they tend to get started.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        There’s a letter on here from a guy asking if he can write to HR over his girlfriends boss ‘encroaching on our relationship’ because she went out for drinks with her boss. It’s a worryingly common attitude among some that women should do everything they can when in the workplace or workplace adjacent to do absolutely nothing that could be construed as ‘friendly’ toward a man because other people might think nefarious things are going on.

        Or ‘it’ll ruin her reputation’. It makes things like getting ahead in the workplace and networking ten thousand times harder for women.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Aaaand it’s right on the links below this post. Whoops! Keymaster needs to read better.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Eh, I’ve always answered any letters I receive that I find interesting and plan to continue to do that! This one at least has a work connection; I’ve answered some that don’t.

      1. Avani*

        I appreciate you and all that you so. Forgive me if I came off as snarky this morning!

        P.S. I would probably totally read a spin-off blog authored by you regarding relationship problems!!

  46. july 8*

    LW2: Maybe that was a joke, but definitely don’t squirt hand sanitizer on people without their consent. That would be really startling and offputting. I’m not against hand sanitizer, but I’m definitely against having random substances thrown on me by a stranger without warning.

    Plus, it seems like you really just don’t want to shake hands, sanitizer or not, so just own it, explain it, and don’t. And maybe work on the assertiveness skills. Are there other areas of life in which it’s very difficult for you to deviate from what you feel others are expecting?

  47. High Score!*

    I’m a female. I’ve worked in a male dominated fields for 3 decades. GROUP dinners for business? Yes. Lunches to discuss opportunities? Sure. Dinner to discuss a job with a former report alone??? That stinks. That’s how’s Bill Cosby lured in women.
    Now was she innocent? Was he? In 30+ years, I’ve never been invited to a dinner to discuss a job that was too discuss the job. I haven’t heard of my male colleagues having dinner just the two of them. Or even female colleagues.
    BUT all that isn’t the point. She’s an adult who can spend her time however she chooses and if you are not happy with her choices – you’re an adult who can choose to spend his time elsewhere.

    1. JB*

      Just because you haven’t personally heard of it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. I’ve had one-on-one dinners out with colleagues before – of all genders.

    2. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      That may be your experience but this will vary wildly by industry, location and even company culture.

    3. HGNFP*

      I am a woman, and I’ve had one-on-one dinners with female bosses and male bosses. Similarly, drinks and/or dinner with a male colleague or a female colleague. Several times. And I remain friends with most of them to this day.

      I have slept with those folks a total of zero times.

    4. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Have had one to one dinners with a former manager who’s male and it’s frankly still bizarre how many people seem to think I was wrong to do so.

      I’m admitting it may just be me (am a survivor of r*pe) but I found that Bill Cosby reference absolutely inappropriate in this. ‘But that’s how bad men lure you in!’ is something I’ve heard far far too often by generally well meaning people who don’t understand that the last thing I want to hear is people’s pet theories about how I could have stopped it happening.

      I just want to have friendly dinners with people. Sometimes it’s men.

      1. Jack Straw*

        It wasn’t just you. The Cosby comparison was not only a HUGE leap, but inappropriate given the context we have from the LW.

        1. Allypopx*

          Also let’s be real if women avoided all situations where a man may behave inappropriately to them, we’d never leave the house.

          But we do, and we take precautions. But having dinner with a colleague that you have a previous working relationship to catch up – personally or professionally – is not a red flag situation. If a man did it most people wouldn’t blink. Women should have those same opportunities for networking and professional relationship building.

          1. Your Local Password Resetter*

            And even in your house you probably have family, or roommates, or guests.
            It also feels kinda victim-blaming to be focusing on what the potential victim could or should have done. Instead of the actual behaviour from creepy dudes.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer*

              Man meets a man for dinner to discuss networking, it goes on into the night and they have a great time – no complaints.

              Woman meets a man in the same situation – omg she must be cheating!

              Further proves that no matter how we women act, or what we do, or even how we dress, it’s always gonna be our fault.

            2. meyer lemon*

              It’s convenient how these “helpful warnings” are almost always about avoiding professional opportunities and restricting women’s social spheres. No one tells women not to spend time alone at home with their partners, even though you’re more likely to be abused by a partner than attacked by a stranger in a darkened alley.

        2. Koalafied*

          Yes, and it’s this kind of attitude that penalizes women and limits our advancement by making networking with powerful men seem scandalous if you’re a woman but not if you’re a man. So the men go to the dinners and get the opportunities and the women decline because they are afraid of what people will say, or don’t get invited at all because the powerful man thinks being alone (in public) with a woman is untoward.

        3. quill*

          Yes and also… based on the context of the letter it comes across as victim blaming. Because why would a woman ever go anywhere socially, in public, with a man! Doesn’t she know that men are dangerous? Clearly any form of social contact with a man you are not dating/engaged to/married to is an affair!

          Both OP and High Score need to realize that sometimes a dinner is just a dinner, and that if a man is luring in his victims, that’s his fault, not his victims’… and that going out for dinner / passing by an alley is a very stereotypical, lifetime movie situation leading up to sexual harassment or assault that does not translate to all real world situations.

      2. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

        To me, the more relevant cultural reference is how Mike Pence doesn’t allow himself to be alone, even in public, with female colleagues, which I think we collectively agreed was bad.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Oh that’s true! Yeah, from an overseas perspective that kind of mindset is….weird.

          1. casualAnon*

            From an incountry perspective that mindset is still weird. And usually associated with people that are so into religion it would interfere with their ability to attain township judge, nevermind vice pres.

          2. Idril Celebrindal*

            Welcome to US White Evangelical Purity Culture!

            Deeply weird, deeply toxic, puts all the blame/responsibility for men’s entitlement on the women he objectifies (including, I note, his own daughters), and has deeply damaged a whole lot of us for a very long time.

        2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          I don’t like this one because of how charged politically Pence (and any politician at his level) is. There’s a large portion of the American population that couldn’t find anything Pence has done in his life to agree with (which dilutes disagreeing with him on this specific mistake).

      3. MusicWithRocksIn*

        If he had wanted her to meet him and hang out in his hotel room, then I would be happy to label that super sketchy on his part and agree that it can be a dangerous setup for women (was just reading about the Timothy Hutton thing) especially when required by your career, but having dinner in a public restaurant? Nope. I refuse act like just having dinner with another adult human is action enough for a Bill Cosby reference.

      4. LTL*

        The Bill Cosby reference was absolutely inappropriate and not based on any facts or evidence.

        If all women acted “””perfectly””” awful people would still do awful things. The assumptions that people have of what puts you at risk of sexual assault are ludicrous.

        1. meyer lemon*

          It’s such a weird conclusion to draw from all of this Hollywood abuse being made public. The lesson isn’t that women should never speak to men they don’t know, it’s that systems that elevate the prestige and power of elite men and enable their abuse of “disposable” junior women as a routine perk of the job are going to continue to repeat this pattern unless we do something to change the system itself.

      5. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

        100% agree with what you just said Keymaster of Gozer. Instead of teaching our daughters how to be safe we need to teach our sons not to be rapist.

    5. Tina*

      I’m sorry your experiences have been so sadly limited. Hopefully one day you’ll have a job that allows you more opportunities!

    6. whocanpickone*

      I am a female, have worked in a male-dominated field (engineering & construction) for over a decade and highly disagree.

      I’ve had several dinners or drinks 1:1 with male bosses and colleagues to discuss work or opportunities, recruit or to just network (or hang out).

      Creeps exist, but it’s also a big disadvantage to women & parity to suggest they can’t have similar social interactions as men in business.

    7. I'm just here for the cats*

      I think this is a damaging thought process. To say a woman shouldn’t have dinner alone with their male boss (or former boss) is wrong. It perpetuates that a woman can’t get ahead in business unless they are sleeping with the boss. It also makes it harder for women to get ahead because the male boss doesn’t want people gossiping or thinking he is being malicious.

      1. High Score!*

        I wouldn’t go to dinner with a female manager either. That’s just weird or off. Dinner is for friends and family, not work acquaintances. Dinner is more personal than lunch.

        1. FrenchCusser*

          That may be the most bizarre thing I’ve ever read on this column.

          Food is food. The timing doesn’t make it more or less intimate.

          1. Zelda*

            There is actually a tradition here– just ask Miss Manners. Dinner is outside of work hours, so it’s when the whole family is (hypothetically) available. If you are socializing *without* your spouse, that is traditionally done at lunchtime, when you were separated by the demands of the workday anyway.

            BUT, that is a reason why someone who has a social engagement at dinner MAY CHOOSE to ask the hosts to *include* a spouse in the invitation. It is NOT a reason why all persons must be immediately chained to their romantic partners of whatever degree at 5:01 PM. Miss Manners herself is quick to update the old customs for modern life, including swell ideas like “family” is not necessarily identical to “legal spouse;” friend circles are not limited to one gender; women are adults, sometimes even with jobs; work schedules vary; etc. etc.

            For the LW, it makes total sense that, since this is not someone the girlfriend *currently* works with, and the travel time is an hour, it just isn’t practical to meet this person at lunchtime. Tim has it right above: there is no secrecy or weirdness apparent here.

        2. FridayFriyay*

          This is a very specific personal opinion that you’re basing all this on – and one that a lot of people do NOT share. I have NO idea how dinner would be considered more personal than lunch.

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            Didn’t you know? Once it hits 5:00 PM women just become sex-maniacs and unable to control themselves.

        3. Observer*

          I wouldn’t go to dinner with a female manager either. That’s just weird or off. Dinner is for friends and family, not work acquaintances. Dinner is more personal than lunch.

          FOR YOU, this is the case. I tend to be the same way. But that does NOT make is universal! It doesn’t even make it COMMON.

        4. UKDancer*

          That’s your take on it. I don’t tend to have dinner with colleagues because I’m usually busy in the evenings dancing and going to the theatre but I think we should all have the food with people when we’re comfortable doing so.

          The last time someone I know from our company’s partner company in Dublin was over in London, he was only free in the evening so we had dinner (this was pre-Covid). He’s good company and it was a pleasant evening of Chinese food and laughter and we managed not to have an affair (funny that).

        5. Greg*

          I mean…I make it a point not to be friends with the people who work for me AND still invite people to dinner and beer post work. It is a good thing to know people outside of a work setting.

    8. generic_username*

      This is an interesting take…… Also, such a huge leap to say her former boss may be trying to drug and rape her. wow.

      LW’s GF’s boss may see himself as a mentor (and she may too). If either of them currently working, I doubt they have time to drive an hour during the day to gather for a meal to discuss work opportunities so it makes sense this isn’t a lunch one-on-one and it wouldn’t make sense to invite a bunch of extra people for a dinner.

      Honestly, the letter smacks of insecurity in the relationship. The only reason it was sent here was because she was meeting up with a former boss and not an ex/friend/old neighbor/etc… LW needs to have a honest conversation with his GF about why he doesn’t trust her.

    9. The vault*

      I frequently meet with male customers and coworkers…alone. It’s not like I come up to their hotel room…its at a restaurant and normal part of business, so this letter i really weird to me.

    10. Ginger Baker*

      Here to chime in that while it can be creepy (trust your gut) it definitely doesn’t have to be – in following this boss from OldJob to NewJob we absolutely had coffee alone to discuss this opportunity (which would have been dinner except that the man was so swamped he was barely in one city for a day at a time); I’ve also had extremely business-networking-only drinks with a former boss (which I would say with the wrong person would be more red-flaggy than dinner but, having worked with this person before, I had zero qualms and it was a lovely catch-up time).

    11. Observer*

      That’s how’s Bill Cosby lured in women.

      Actually, no it wasn’t. I suggest you look at what he actually did, who he did it to and how he did it.

      Beyond that, what you are saying is totally victim blaming, which is gross and again, totally inaccurate.

      Also, not relevant to the situation. The question is not whether these is some nefarious intent on the part of Former Boss to take advantage of Girl Friend, but whether this is some sort of proof that GF is cheating. Unless you think that putting yourself at risk (even if that were the case, which we have no evidence of here) is the same as having a consensual relationship, the two are wholly unrelated issues.

    12. a clockwork lemon*

      I’ve had dinner with colleagues and former bosses to discuss work, and I’ve had dinners with friends in my industry where they turned into work conversations. My husband doesn’t care, because he trusts me. On the other hand, my male colleagues socialize together outside of work all the time and it’s completely normal and nobody’s spouses think anything of it so maybe my industry is just different.

      Your logic here is entirely rooted in sexism.

  48. Machiamellie*

    #4 – can you schedule a training with him to go over the various items you need to tell him? Maybe he freezes up when he gets unexpected feedback. My son is like that. I’ve trained myself to be ready for feedback at any time but when I was younger I might have frozen up too (although I would still have listened and not walked away, that seems .. extreme)

  49. not a doctor*

    #4: When you say “approach him” and “initiate the conversation,” how are you doing that? I’m not suggesting that shutting down and walking away is appropriate in any circumstances — but there is a big difference between, say, scheduling a training in advance, and seemingly wandering into someone’s cubicle to interrupt their work.

    1. Flor*

      Yeah, I’m wondering this as well. The only justification I can think of for ignoring them and then walking away is that he might genuinely not realise he’s being spoken to (that or the people talking to him are being cruel, and he’s walking away because he doesn’t know how else to deal with it, but I don’t see any suggestion of that happening in the letter so I assume that’s not the case). This wouldn’t apply in a scheduled training, but could potentially be the case if people just walk up to him and start talking. They might think they’re being really obvious, but we’ve seen plenty of letters before from people who were being “direct” and Alison’s response is “you need to be WAY more direct, this person just isn’t getting it”.

  50. Pobody’s Nerfect*

    I don’t plan on ever shaking hands again in the office setting (or anywhere else) and I feel no need to offer apologies or say it in a joking matter. “I don’t shake hands any longer after Covid, but it’s nice to meet you.” It’s our health, our lives, we don’t have to shake hands if we don’t want to. This is how culture changes. Humans are disgusting creatures. I’ve witnessed people dig leftover lunch out of their mouths with their fingers right before they shake hands with someone who walked in. Nope, I’m done.

  51. RussianInTexas*

    I have misophonia, triggered by the eating sounds. No, you cannot ask. You can only adapt yourself.
    I used to have a coworker who’s cubicle was next to mine. She smacked her lips, chewed loudly, slurped, etc. Luckily she didn’t eat lunch at her desk, and I ate lunch at different times than her, on purpose. But she would bring her tea to her desk, slurp every sip, and make a loud “ahhhh” after Every. Single. Slurp. I am still feeling rage when I think about it (yes, feeling enraged at sounds is a symptom of misophonia). So every day from noon to 1pm was my headphones time. And when we had department lunches somewhere in a restaurant (not often), I maneuvered myself to seat as far away from her as possible.
    I don’t eat next to other people if there is no background noise. Ever. Because even normal eating sounds, from someone who is not particularly loud, will make me mad and twitchy.
    Weirdly crunchy noises, like someone eating a carrot, are mostly ok. But lip smacking? Slurping? OMG no.

    1. Caboose*

      I am feeling sympathetic rage on your behalf! I even get annoyed by my *own* chewing, and then worry that it’s that loud to everyone else and AAAAH.

  52. June Gardens*

    To the first letter-writer:

    Please read up on anxious attachment style. It might help you see why you have all these thoughts swirling in your head, and give you some relief.

  53. Erin*

    How does this LW know that his girlfriend is txting her boss? Has he snooped on her phone? It sounds like she was networking & maybe needed to see someone other than her BF. Also, I live in a part of the country that took Covid v seriously, and finding a restaurant that was open & serving dine-in food would have resulted in at least an hour drive during the majority of 18 months. Restaurants & shops are still not 100% open today.

    Re: handshakes. I’m with this LW on handshakes. I hate them. I have osteoarthritis in my hands, and the death grip that some people shake with is just painful. Plus, the hygiene part of it all. My job transitioned to 100% WFH forever, so, I won’t really know how/if this changes unless I switch jobs. Along with the elbow tap, I’m practicing my Angela Merkel style hand-clasp-with-kind-nod-to-the-other-person-greeting quite a bit.

  54. Observer*

    #1- you ask “Yet when she is away, I feel like she is preparing the after-me. Am I on my way out?

    The answer is a definite YES. Not because of anything she is doing, but because of YOUR attitude. I have no idea if she’s doing anything inappropriate or not. But you are certain that she’s cheating on you, to the point of accusing her of lying with no apparent reason, and actually making stuff up (ie claiming that she kept her dinner a secret while she in fact told you about it without you having any “evidence”). That’s a relationship killer right there.

    So, either she’s cheating and that’s the end. Or she’s not cheating and that’s the end.

  55. Cat Mom*

    OP 1, though there is a boss involved, your question may be better answered by Chump Lady.

  56. Tired of Covid-and People*

    OP 1, ignore most of what you read here. Apparently few among the commentariat have heard of gaslighting, which is what is being done to you, and has been done to countless others with cheating mates. Listen to your intuition. Not a match here. Best of luck to you!

    1. Myrin*

      You know, if I didn’t recognise your name as a regular commenter, I would honestly think that this is a trolly attempt to incite a fraught and ultimately pointless back-and-forth. And please forgive me for being a tad snarky but it sounds like “heard of it” is all you’ve ever done re: gaslighting, or else you would recognise that there is literally zero indication of this tremendous, pervasive form of emotional abuse and controlling happening to the OP.

    2. tinybutfierce*

      Plenty of us are aware of and have experience gaslighting. Plenty of us have also been on the receiving end of controlling behavior like the OP’s from our partners and recognize it for the red flag it is. It is not normal or healthy to stew for FIVE MONTHS over a single dinner someone had with a former boss. It is not normal or healthy to monitor your partner’s social media and communication to the point you know exactly how often they’re talking to someone.

    3. Not A Manager*

      Serious question. What about the GF’s specific behavior *actually* fits any definition of gaslighting? LW asked if she’d fallen asleep, and she accurately told him she had not fallen asleep, she’d been at dinner with her former boss. He asked her why, and she answered. He asked her about her social media use, and she explained it. She’s not denying that these things are happening. She’s presenting a (very reasonable) explanation for why they are happening. Could she be lying? Sure, but that’s not gaslighting, that’s just lying.

  57. CanRelate*

    Whats funny is I read #1 assuming that they were living together and she didn’t come home, and had to re-read it to realize that it was just a year long relationship and it was just because she did not participate in the “evening text banter”.

    Now my interpretation is that she went to bed, had a bunch of clearly prodding texts after going out to dinner with a former colleague (Who might also be a friend! Sometimes that happens after jobs end!) and went cold on this dude for a minute. “All her past lovers” seems like odd assumptions too, is that just “She has guy friends who are texting her”? My boyfriend did not have a running tab on every one of my EXs in our first year. Does this dude think he has to defeat them like Scott Pillgrim?

    1. Allypopx*

      “I have to defeat all my girlfriend’s exes in boss battle type heroics and this dude is worrying me because frankly I’m exhausted and not very good at it and he seems really strong”

      That would be a LW I could potentially feel sympathy for.

    2. quill*

      Yeah, that one stood out to me as being a huge leap on OP’s part. OP identified a pattern of GF reaching out to / accepting contacts from other people during Covid related isolation, wigged out because some (many?) are male, then attached that to his letter about a single dinner that he claims GF was “hiding” from him because… she didn’t ask permission first, I guess?

      OP, even if you two were married she wouldn’t need your permission to go eat food with someone else. As it is, the idea that she wasn’t instantly available to reply to your texting making you suspicious makes me think you need some therapy so you can internalize the fact that other people have things to do as well.

    3. Sonya*

      No it was a 7 month relationship. He’s spent an additional 5 months stewing about it and then wrote in…. 5 months later…..

  58. Librarian Liz*

    Letter writer one, why are you so sure your girlfriend is lying, and if you are sure, why are you with her? If I were in her shoes, your lack of trust would make me very wary.

  59. TakeABow!*

    I hate shaking hands so I do a short bow instead, as recommended by Emily Post:
    “Nothing is so easy for any woman to acquire as a charming bow. It is such a short and fleeting duty. Not a bit of trouble really; just to incline your head and spontaneously smile as though you thought ‘Why, there is Mrs. Smith! How glad I am to see her!’”

  60. Mannheim Steamroller*

    Letter #5…
    [“But I realized that one of my references is from so long ago that the job I know him from has fallen off my resume.”]

    Have I missed a development in the theory and practice of resume writing?

    Am I really supposed to “drop” my first job (1988-1989) from my resume, even though it’s relevant to my career and it led me directly to my current employer (where I’ve happily worked in various roles for 32 years)? What is the guideline for how long a job stays listed?

    1. Allypopx*

      Eh it depends on the context. You were only there for one year? I’d say yeah, probably not super relevant. Any skills you developed there that you haven’t continued to hone would likely be outdated, and where you were/what you did for one year 30 years ago probably won’t give your employer much information other than an extra year you were in your current industry.

      I drop jobs that aren’t relevant to my current trajectory, or greatly summarize jobs that are only partially relevant. My references certainly aren’t more than five years old, generally speaking.

    2. OyHiOh*

      Generally, the rule of thumb is the previous 10 years of job history, although there are exceptions to the rule. Since you mention working for one employer for 3+ decades, you probably meet several exceptions to the rule.

    3. Koalafied*

      Yes, you can think of the difference between a resume and an application is: an application has set questions you’re required to answer which the employer wants to know. A resume is a marketing document you put together where you choose what you want to highlight to present yourself in the best light for the job in question.

      Although employers do expect to see recent work history, generally anything more than 10 years ago can be considered optional. If you learned/did something at an old job that you think makes you more competitive for the potential new job and isn’t a skill you used much in more recent jobs, you can leave it on, otherwise feel free to drop it! Resume real estate is too valuable to spend on jobs that aren’t going to enhance your candidacy.

      Likewise you might change the bullet points for your job history depending on what type of job you’re applying for – I used to have a job that was half marketing and half office management, and when I was applying for marketing jobs I didn’t list my office management duties. They didn’t make me more competitive for a marketing job and I also would have rather not give any impression I was skilled at those tasks since I was trying to get away from that kind of work.

      I also have a line on my resume for what marketing software I know and certifications I’ve earned, which is 90% the same from one job I apply for to the next, but there a handful that are so niche that in order to avoid this taking up more than 2 precious lines of space, I only add them when the job I’m applying for is super relevant. (And I never list Microsoft Word; it’s assumed that someone in my line of work is competent with word processing software.)

  61. HugsAreNotTolerated*

    As OP#2 from this post last year (the handshaking one)(
    I can tell you that the last 18 months of no handshakes have been a joy for me. True, everything else about 2020 sucked, but not having to touch my coworkers in greeting was a bright spot. For most of them I didn’t even have a face to put with a name until about a year in!
    Tips that work for me:
    Have a little more distance between you than you normally would when talking to someone. Nothing hugely obvious, but like a couple of steps back. With the slightly larger gap between you, you have a couple of extra seconds to see the handshake coming and can get your hand up to your heart to telegraph your intention to not shake hands earlier. This way by the time they take the two steps closer to you to offer their hand they can clearly see that you’ve no intention of shaking hands and are less likely to offer theirs in the first place.
    Seriously. If you don’t make it awkward it won’t be awkward. I honestly don’t even mention the not shaking hands thing anymore because it just called attention to the fact that I wasn’t shaking hands. I just maintain a little more distance and get my hands up over my heart and warmly say “Oh it’s great to meet you/Nice to put a face to a name/etc.”

  62. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

    It seems unlikely that he has made it through childhood, adolescence, and possibly college without anyone ever telling him that it’s rude to walk away when someone is trying to tell him something. Not just “Listen while the teacher is talking,” though we’re told that a lot–children are also told to pay attention when their parents, older siblings, and random adults are talking to them, asking questions or giving instructions.

    It’s possible that neither OP nor any of their colleagues has ever told him “hey, come back here” or “if you didn’t walk away when people were training you, you’d know this already.” But I don’t think it’s on the OP to assume that Felix literally was never told that people don’t like it when he walks away from them in mid-sentence, rather than that he was told this and doesn’t care.

  63. Fushi*

    LW3: The gossiping is probably just making you more aware of the noise so I would encourage everyone to stop that if you can. I know it’s hard not to think about something, but thinking about this more than absolutely necessary will make it worse, in my experience.

    Personally, I would not suggest asking coworkers to chew more quietly unless you know them REALLY well. People chew loudly for all sorts of reasons, many out of their control or at least not reasonable to change (eg I currently live in a culture where it’s customary to eat certain foods loudly, and I don’t appreciate being singled out for eating quietly so I don’t think anyone would enjoy the reverse) so there’s a high risk of making them feel pretty bad without getting the results you want.

    It’s hard to tell from the letter, but is this like a “chewing echoing through the dead silence of the breakroom” situation? I find eating noises a lot easier to deal with if there’s a reasonably sized group to chat with, since that’s different loud noises to focus on, so you could try eating as a group if that’s a thing in your office. (Heck, invite the Loud Eater so you can focus on his good qualities instead of his Loud Eating…I know that sounds silly but it actually helps me a lot.) If everyone wants to have a quiet lunch, though, yeaaaah I think noise-canceling headphones (I find the earbud ones comfy enough to eat while using) or taking a walk to somewhere quieter are your best bet.

  64. Lana Kane*

    I have never seen a “friendly” chat about loud chewing actually end up friendly. People take huge offence at being told they are chewing too loudly. And on the other side, because the annoyed person is annoyed, the request tends to carry with it an edge to the tone of their voice even if they try hard to not do it. Lots of us don’t have the ability to sound as nonchalant as we THINK we sound :) The last situation I saw where someone asked another coworker to please chew more quietly ended up with the 2 people raising their voices and a supervisor having to step in. And these were two people who are normally polite and friendly.

    I’m not going to say I have misophonia, but chewing sounds really bother me. I’ve always just dealt with it however I can in the moment, because in the end all I can do is manage my own reactions to the things people do. It’s not up to me to tell people how to chew. It also does me no good to just sit there stewing over it, so developing coping mechanisms for that has actually helped me in other areas where people do annoying things that I really don’t have the power or right to make them stop doing.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      This is an excellent point. I absolutely hate the sound of my husband eating (I don’t have a mental thing about it – it just is that loud) but I can no more tell him to change how he noms than he can tell me that my stomach noises are grossing him out.

      So, I eat in a different room and if I encounter the issue at work I put a single earplug in the ear facing the noisy eater and it really helps me. I’ve got a history of blaming the entire world and everyone in it for things that annoy me and it was incredibly stressful. By coming up with ways to mitigate the effects myself, instead of demanding everyone else change, I noticed my overall stress went down and I lost my temper far less often.

      Lest I be accused of claiming to be perfect; I’m not. There are still plenty of things that some people do that trip my annoyance levels.

      1. quill*

        Yeah, some noises truly are involuntary… people who whistle a bit when they breathe, people whose jaws CLICK CLICK CLICK when they chew… LW isn’t going to get anywhere with the noise complaint, unless there is something causing the noise, such as chewing with their mouth open, or snorkeling around the bottom of a soda cup with a straw.

    2. Elle by the sea*

      I have been told to chew less loudly. I tried to pay attention to comply later. I had no idea I still had the tendency to chew loudly. I don’t think there is anything offensive about it, but it can get slightly awkward if you don’t know the person.

  65. lcsa99*

    #4 – This reminds me of when I was a teenager and was babysitting. One kid was great most of the time, but whenever I told him he needed to sit down for dinner or go to bed or anything like that he just wouldn’t listen. His parents talked to him and apparently he thought I was just there to hang out and play with him! He didn’t realize I was in charge and they had to explicitly tell him that every time. It could be that he doesn’t realize he needs to learn this as part of his job and doesn’t know that you’ve been explicitly asked to train him. I think Alison’s ideas, particularly explaining that you were asked to do this training, might help.

    1. Observer*

      It could be that he doesn’t realize he needs to learn this as part of his job and doesn’t know that you’ve been explicitly asked to train him. I think Alison’s ideas, particularly explaining that you were asked to do this training, might help.

      This is a supposedly functional adult we are talking about, not a child who still needs babysitting! The idea that he doesn’t realize that walking away presents a bit of an issue is weird. The idea that he’s doing this with people who he NEEDS TO TURN TO FOR ANSWERS speaks to a profound failure to understand how life works.

  66. Cleopatra, Queen of Denial*

    I’m getting strong Mike Pence vibes from OP1. I would have been incredibly offended if someone I was dating asked if my boss’s wife knew about our meeting. That question is itself an accusation hidden as an “innocent question.”

    Please do your girlfriend a favor and show her this letter. Since it’s important to you that you are entirely transparent with each other, don’t you think she deserves to know what you *really* think of her? Keeping this from her is a form of lying.

  67. Elle by the sea*

    The funny thing is that I like handshakes, unless they are the bone-cracking or dead fish time. I grew up in an environment where people hugged women and gave handshakes to men (even in a same-sex or professional situations), so handshakes feel really professional, formal and boundary-respecting to me. After having had so many attempts at handshakes turn into a hug or be flat-out refused, I’m happy to receive one. Not during the pandemic, though.

  68. Former call centre worker*

    #2, I use hand cream a lot. If someone goes to shake your hand, “oh, sorry, I’ve just put hand cream on” is quite a good excuse to decline – nobody wants to get someone else’s hand cream on their hand. It probably only works if your colleagues have regularly seen you applying hand cream and you don’t need to shake people’s hands that often, but for me it’s perfectly plausible. I am fully with you on shaking hands being gross.

  69. Nanani*

    #1 – leaping to cheating when a woman stays in touch with professional contacts is not ok. It’s profoundly misogynistic.
    Clearly, you don’t trust her so the relationship is over.

    Work on yourself and learn that women can and do have profesional, non-sexy relationships with people of all genders before you even think about dating anyone.

  70. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

    My goodness, OP #1: your entire letter is just one red flag after another. I’m deeply curious how much time you spend investigating the social media habits of your girlfriend, her friends, and her former boss. May I suggest spending that time on something more productive, like learning to manage your own emotions and insecurities?

  71. Faith the twilight slayer*

    I take meticulous notes when being trained. For a few reasons, one being that I understand other people aren’t just sitting around the office waiting to help me out with basic, routine tasks. Another is just me knowing what I am capable of remembering at one time and trying to compensate for that. I have never once had someone complain about my asking them to slow down so I can make sure I have all the steps involved to do something.
    I have also trained numerous people in what would be routine, everyday tasks. I can pretty much tell who’s going to be successful in what they do by how accurate theirs notes are. I remember one person in particular who I was training to take over my position who took almost no notes at all, didn’t pay attention, etc. She was completely thrown off when after about the third episode of asking how to do things I simply said “I really don’t have time right this minute, go check your notes and see if you can follow the routine and I will be over shortly.” Cue deer in headlights look. Needless to say she didn’t last long after it became clear no one was going to hold her hand the entire day.

  72. DrunkAtAWedding*

    I have no idea if I’m a loud chewer or not, but how do you go about moderating your chewing volume? If I snack at the cinema or something, I’d pick a quieter food in the first place, but what do you even do if you can’t change the food?

  73. New Here but Not New*

    Re#1: The issue isn’t that your GF is out with a former manager, it is that, in your mind and by your standards, her behavior has met the criteria of being suspect. Criteria are different for all of us, depending on many factors. She could or could not be cheating, or about to cheat, but again, that’s not the primary issue. For whatever reason, you are insecure, which doesn’t mean you are abusive (I think you’ve been dealt with rather harshly here in this regard). It could mean you would have been fine at one time with her behavior, but got cheated on so now you are extra sensitive to possible signals of infidelity.

    In any case, it’s self-torment to entertain these suspicions. And, if she is not cheating, your relationship could be damaged. Yes, people lie and don’t exit out of relationships before entering new ones. But, people also manage to have genuinely friendly relationships devoid of sexual interest, and that includes with people they may have been sexual with in the past, even if you could never do this. I get it, I’ve been cheated on, lied to, suspicious, insecure, and codependent, although I’ve never abused anyone unless excessive whining is considered abuse) because I internalized the pain (woman here-gendered behavior possibly?).

    So, you have a decision to make. If you can share your concerns in a non-accusatory way, totally accepting that your perceptions might be off, GF may be willing to work with you if you add value to her life and your relationship is otherwise good. Or, if there are problems in your relationship, and you know things are shaky and she might be looking elsewhere, ask her to be scrupulously honest about that too.

    Jealous feelings can be hard to manage, but they do not need to be all-consuming, and therapy can also address the most constructive ways to handle these feelings so that you have a better chance of succeeding in future relationships if this one doesn’t work out.

    I wish you all the best.

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