When I'm in need of some girl-time and invite an old friend for dinner, she often assumes her boyfriend is invited too. I really like him, but sometimes I have a hard-to-get reservation for two, or I just want to catch up with her. Is it rude to plan a meal out with just one friend? Do couples automatically always get invited together?
Historically, one assumed that an invitation to one member of a couple included the other member of the couple. In many social circles, things still work that way. And for special occasions, like a wedding for example, or even a dinner party, it would be pretty odd to invite one member without the other.
It is in no way incorrect or rude, however, to want to see your friend on her own. Open, honest, clear communication and good intentions all around usually solve these issues. Go ahead and be direct: "Hey Ann, I'd love to catch up and grab dinner with just the two of us, does next Thursday night work for you?"
She is then perfectly within her right to accept or decline the invitation. If she declines Thursday night, ask her if there is a time that works. If she's vague or noncommittal, realize that she could be saying that she'd rather socialize as a couple. A lot of couples don't socialize that much without each other on weekends, say, or for dinner, so you may need to adjust your expectations around the friendship and keep the one-on-one time to coffee, drinks, or lunch. There is no right or wrong here (although I'm sure plenty of readers have their opinions), just different approaches to one's social life. Do I think it's a mistake to forsake old friends for a new beau? Absolutely. But a person is fully within their grown-up rights to do so.
And you know what won't help? If you're petty or pissy about it. If you make plans you think are for two and the guy is there, neither good manners nor the long-term health of your friendship will be served by doing anything other than saying: "Bob! How great to see you! I'm so happy you could join us!" and then seeing the host about getting a table for three.
We all have war stories of the friend who disappeared down the rabbit hole of a relationship, never to be seen on their own again. It happens; the rest of us have to make our peace with it. I hope you don't have to.
After a few direct and specific invitations, drop it. Wait. Even the most doe-eyed of couples tend eventually to want to see their pals without their mate in tow. And when that happens to your friend, you don't want any bitter taste of your bad attitude towards her beloved in her mouth when she thinks of whom to call.
My other (unsolicited) advice: take someone else to that hard-to-get reservation.
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