I live in a tourist hotspot in japan, in particular a place where people often go when travelling solo. This means that when people I know (even just passing acquaintances) come here, they often ask me to show them around (in particular, good places to eat). This is fine by me, I'm a reasonably social person and enjoy catching up with old friends/acquaintances. If they're a guy, I usually just say, "Yeah bro, I know some great local places to show you".

But things get awkward when the person coming is a girl. At least where I'm from, having dinner alone with someone of the opposite sex usually has some romantic or sexual connotation. I don't want to lead anyone on and have anyone think there is any such connotation to the dinner. I also have a girlfriend, who is understandably not too happy about me going on 'dinner dates' with other girls.

I've been in this situation with a couple of girls in the past. The last time it happened was with an acquaintance I met a couple of years ago in university - for the sake of the question, I ask about this instance. She is Scandinavian (Norwegian if I recall correctly), and I am from the UK.

I've tried inviting my girlfriend to come and eat with us, but she's a bit of a shut-in and doesn't like the socialization. The requests usually come out of the blue, so I don't have time to work my relationship status into the conversation naturally. Finally, the girl hasn't said anything explicitly indicating a romantic or sexual connotation so a blunt 'sorry, I have a girlfriend' would be very presumptuous IMO.

Is there any way to tactfully remove any subtext from this situation? If it comes to it, I'm fine with not taking them anywhere (although I do enjoy these nights out, so I would prefer to go if possible).

  • 2
    Please don’t write answers in comments. It bypasses our quality measures by not having voting (both up and down) available on comments, as well as having other problems detailed on meta. Comments are for clarifying and improving the question; please don’t use them for other purposes. – Tinkeringbell Jul 11 at 11:30
up vote 114 down vote accepted

The requests usually come out of the blue, so I don't have time to work my relationship status into the conversation naturally.

What's wrong with saying

"Sounds great. I know a few great places like X, Y and Z. I'll ask my girlfriend if she wants to join as well."

or something along those lines?

To me it seems perfectly reasonable to ask my SO if they want to join in such an activity, just as it seems absolutely natural to inform the acquaintance of this. The acquaintance in question does not need to know that I can already somewhat safely assume that my SO will decline.


As for avoiding causing my SO any discomfort, I would straightup ask them if there is anything I could do to make it less uncomfortable to them.

QEDemonstrandum wrote in their answer

simply state: “I have to leave at 9.30pm because my girlfriend and I are going to watch a movie.”

I don't like lies, but why not make it true? There's nothing wrong in agreeing with my SO on some activity later that evening. Not only can this serve as an explicitly set time boundary, it also shows my SO that spending time with them takes precedence over spending time with any other person (I am shortening the time with my acquaintance in favour of time spent with my SO, after all).

You say your girlfriend does not want to accompany you on these outings, but perhaps you could ask other friends of yours if they would like to join you? Your local friends might really enjoy meeting people from abroad and showing them the local sights, and your guests from out of town would have the opportunity to get to know other locals. And it would solve your main issue of dining alone with your guest.

A couple real solid answers already, going to add in a different angle I didn't see yet!

I have several friends who work in the tourist industry, and my sister's husband is a pilot who travels a ton. It's not uncommon for these people to be hit on as some people look for that juicy vacation fling.

As others have stated, suggesting places saying

OH man, I got to take you to this restaurant if you are looking for authentic local foods. My Girlfriend and I go there at least once a week for their Yakisoba noodles!

Now they know you are with someone and anything they thought was implied with you offering to show them around will likely be removed.

Also, not everyone feels comfortable talking about their private life even among friends. There have been several times I was hanging out with a female friend that I was curious to their relationship status. I never pressed for it and it sometimes took several months or even a year before an "oh yea my boyfriend[...]". There was nothing they did to lead anything on, they were just an individual I found attractive and a ton of fun to be around. Some we grew apart eventually, others they are my best friend to this day.

I think the best way to handle the situation though would be to provide an activity list of things you could do. Recommend them with the inclusion that these are spots you and your Girlfriend frequent and leave it at that. Then as another commenter said, offer to take them around town with your Girlfriend. We all know she will say no, but they don't. Then when your Girlfriend doesn't show up, you just mention she was too tired but wanted me to help you out. That there shows that your Girlfriend trusts you and that your bonds are close that she would let you go out with a random female and any notion at this being a romantic thing should be the farthest from their mind.

Naturally, many of us are also forgetting the actions and body signals you give off as well. We don't know how you interact with them that they could think it's romantic. Maybe you are a lot more flirty than you realize, or maybe the way you ask the questions with your vocal tones give off a vibe of elevated interest. Thanks and good luck!

I suggest you set a time limit. Let’s say you go to the restaurant at 8pm, simply state: “I have to leave at 9.30pm because my girlfriend and I are going to watch a movie.” This achieves several things:

  • You mention your girlfriend and that your activities are important to you.

  • You set boundaries by limiting it to the restaurant visit only.

Additionally you should not pay for her, or pick a restaurant which has a romantic touch. In my opinion visiting a restaurant together is totally fine as friends, especially if there is a practical reason for it.

If you want to decline, I would not mention your girlfriend forbidding it, because this might lead to negative feelings from your friend’s side towards your girlfriend. “Just because of your girlfriend I have to eat alone.” I would say something like: “I do not want to go to a restaurant together, because this is something I(!) want to do only with my girlfriend.” This means you take the responsibility, which someone should do on these situations (my opinion).

  • If someone's asking me to take them to dinner under these circumstances, I would assume they're paying for themselves. That said, making sure they're aware of that is important, as is understanding any spending limits they may have (if they're on a business trip, or just short on money). I'd recommend making a price range for the restaurant part of the question back to them. Clears that aspect up immediately. – RDFozz Jul 11 at 23:14

Just keep it simple:

> Hi, would you like to show me a local restaurant?
< Sure, just let me check with my partner to see which dates are available

The other person is now aware of your partner, but you still show interest in showing a restaurant. This aproach is probably something that you're doing anyway (otherwise you should, this could fix the 'issue' yout SO has too, because she is explicitly kept in the loop).

The other issue is that your girlfriend is "not too happy" about this. You have to make sure it's clear that this is no different from going to these restaurant with a guy. You could take her sometimes to 'keep the balance', or offer some other date night, however you both like it.
Inviting her to join is a good way for her to keep some control on the situation, if she decides she wants to stay hope that is her choice, but you're showing you're not excluding her.

My strategy here would be to embrace the awkwardness. You have concerns, but it's quite possible that they're unfounded in the first place. So say that!

Yeah, I can show you a nice place to eat. Just so you know, around here if a man and a woman eat dinner alone together, there are sometimes certain implications. I'm not suggesting that you're flirting, and I'm unavailable anyways, but I thought you should know.

This way, you're communicating your concern, you're shutting down any intention that may be there, you're not lying to anyone, and you're not blaming anyone else. It also fits in great with your "tour guide" approach.

  • Note that the OP's "where I'm from" (UK) is different from their "around here" (Japan). – das-g Jul 10 at 23:51
  • Upvote from me! I'd think 2 people of different gender eating together is almost universally recognised as potentially being a date so saying 'around here this is thought...' is a great way to bring it up (they'll likely know this from there home town as well so it won't come across as presumtuous). – RyanfaeScotland Jul 11 at 10:51

I like that you’ve mentioned in your question that a blunt 'sorry, I have a girlfriend' is presumptuous because my suggestion will make you sound so as well, that’s why I suggest keeping it light-hearted and even making fun of your presumptuousness as well!

I suggest that you are open and honest with your friend. When you get the request, or even when yous are organising where and when to go out, raise your concerns with them in an honest but light-hearted way.

To give you a better idea of what I mean here is what I would say in the same circumstance:

Hey Jessica, yeah of course I’d love to come out for some food, I know some great places we can try if you don’t have anywhere specific in mind. I have one rule though, and I know this is presumptuous but I have to bring it up because it has happened in the past (more than once):

You’re not allowed to fall in love with me.

I know, I know, it sounds ridiculous now but if we go out for a meal, just the 2 of us, there might be a candle on the table, we’ll probably gaze into each other’s eyes once or twice (or at least look at each other), there may even be some soft music playing and there will be a very strong urge to fall in love and make lots and lots of beautiful babies together.

I just want to make sure you know from the outset that I’m in a committed relationship with Heather and that we can’t act on this urge, no matter how strong or overpowering it becomes.

Of course I’m not suggesting you say this verbatim (especially if your girlfriend’s name is not Heather) but if you do decide to go with it of course adjust it to suit you and your friend’s humour / personality.

Now, why do I think this is a good approach? A raft of reasons!

  • Zero lying to your friends.
  • It doesn’t shift any ‘blame’ onto your girlfriend (if you say you’ll invite her, but don’t, then your friend may incorrectly get the impression she is rude / isn’t interested in meeting them or doesn’t consider you or your friends important).
  • Similarly you’re not ‘accusing’ or giving the impression of your girlfriend of anything (like being insecure / overly possessive).
  • You aren’t forcing your girlfriend to ‘be the bad guy’ by inviting her when you know she will refuse. (If she is the ‘shut-in’ type she’ll probably appreciate this, but be sure to still offer the invite if it is cool with your friend as well but emphasise that it is fine if she doesn’t as well.)
  • You aren’t just inviting other people out to the meal without discussing it. (This is an important one for me because if I’m catching up with a friend then perhaps there are things I want to discuss that I don’t want other people to hear! Hell, maybe I want to discuss your girlfriend!)
  • You give them the chance to suggest she comes out as well.
  • You set yourself up for something fun and interesting to talk about over dinner. (Just how often do people make a pass at you that you need to pre-warn people? What happened last time? How does your girlfriend react? Have you ever been tempted? Was it Jenny, that ho-bag!?)
  • You aren’t artificially limiting your night to a 9pm curfew (which sounds super lame!)
  • If it later turns out that your concerns were justified and your friend does make a pass at you then you have an escape route ready that saves both of your embarrassment:

Damn it Jessica! I told you no falling in love with me! You’ve broken the one rule I have!!! (Then bring it down to a more serious ‘You are great but things are really serious with Heather and I could never jeopardise that, not even for one night of fun…’ hopefully that would let you keep your friendship and not have too much red faces the next day.)

What I really like about this is it doesn't even have to be just your female friends you use it on!

You could just as easily go through the same spiel with your male friends, warning them off falling in love with you, letting them know you are seeing someone, a little humble brag about past admirers who have tried their luck.

It's a fun little ditty that will roll off the tongue once used a few times. Andddd when it does you can even tell your girlfriend you tell it to everyone you go out with. It can become an 'in-joke' so when your girlfriend does meet your friends she has something easy to bring up (again being the un-socialising type she might appreciate this) 'Did he give you the spiel?' ('What spiel?') 'The one about falling in love! You're such an ass Omegastick, not everyone you go to dinner with will instantly be swooning in your arms!'

(Btw, I love Japan and am planning to visit there in a few years with my wife and kids, if we don't meet up and have this exact conversation I'm going to be very disappointed)

  • 2
    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. @RyanfaeScotland, you can find the comments there for your planned edit. If anyone else has suggestions for improvements or requests for clarification to add, they are encouraged to use the chatroom as well :) – Tinkeringbell Jul 10 at 18:58
  • 3
    I just had to remove a very chatty thread of comments again, and any information in it will sadly be lost. Please be aware that mods can only move comments to chat once per post, so if you'd like to present your opinion/insights to RyanfaeScotland, please use the chatroom :) – Tinkeringbell Jul 11 at 17:25

This question is just about confidence and security. If you are confident in your commitments, having dinner with anyone has no other issues other than in their head.

A lot of people are very bad at intimacy, friendship, getting along well with others. And if you get to know people, yes they may flirt, share things about their problems and want support etc. But this is very different from actually getting involved or it being "meaningful".

Once you realise, there is no other field across the way, just the issues you have today, and working through the compromises, there is no threat or problem helping and being friendly to others who you get along with.

And when you show where you are, and how settled you are, anyone playing dreams or possibilities quickly close down, because there is no point. What many do not see is compliments and seeing peoples strengths when things are out in the open is very enlivening and enjoyable, because there is not fear here or risk, just sharing life experiences.

Your Answer

 
discard

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.