I live in America. But I’m not from America; I’m from New Zealand, and I’ve lived all over. As a result of this, I have a different world view and outlook on life than most Americans my age. And I’ve been trying to understand this strange happening in my life here…
I recently become friends with this guy. He’s cool, and we get on well. We’re very matey and not romantic at all. There’s no underlying current of sexual tension when we hang out, as it seems general sentiment would have you believe. But he’s been incessantly inviting my husband to everything we do — and this began before he had even met my husband. I thought he was just interested in my life and wanted to meet the people who are important to me. They met. Nothing weird happened. I assumed that once they had hung out, the invitations would cease. They didn’t.
In fact, every single time we plan to do anything he always suggests inviting my husband. This was very confusing for me — I didn’t understand at all. So, I asked some Americans for their take. They all said that he was just being polite. “Polite?!” I asked. “It makes me feel like I’m not good enough on my own.” I wondered aloud whether he really liked my husband, whether he wanted more male friends, whether he wasn’t my hugest fan. “No no no,” they all said. “He’s just being polite.”
So, how is that polite? Well, apparently it’s the norm in this country to ‘respect’ somebody’s spouse by inviting them to things. A single man spending time with a married woman? Gotta invite the spouse. Not too sure why, but I’m assured it’s a respect thing. Except… how is that respectful? I am more than a wife, and my husband doesn’t control me. We have a wonderful relationship, and I also value my time spent with my friends — without him. So, why is it necessary to invite him all the time? In particular, why is it necessary for my friend to invite him all the time? Surely, if anything, it should be up to me when I want my husband there?
Upon delving deeper, it seems this behavior is borne of insecurity. It seems that insecure relationships are typical and to be expected here, and social norms have evolved around them. And it’s entirely gender-dependant. If I were hanging out with a single woman, she wouldn’t have to invite my husband all the time. If she did, it’d be weird. But a single man? He must, else he’s rude. Because I, as an adult woman, cannot shoulder the responsibility of being alone with a man? Because our relationship must surely be so weak that the mere presence of a single man would break it into a million pieces? Because once married, I’m no longer a person in and of myself — just one sad half of a twosome?
I find it rude that my friend constantly invites my husband. But, now, I’m pretty sure that he’s trying to be polite. It’s ironic, and an interesting example of the massive cultural differences remaining between Western, first-world countries. I’m not a fan of this social norm, and I’m going to push back against it — even if people think I’m rude. It just doesn’t make sense in this day and age, and it posits that men and women can’t be friends, which is bizarre. Not everything is governed by gender, and I’d rather be rude than sexist — but I wish I didn’t have to be either.