Addressing Spouses

Melissa at Shakesville is commenting a question that people asked of Bill Clinton and says the following:

That’s fucking gross when it’s a salesman who refuses to ask me a direct question and instead asks Iain, like he’s my owner and can read my mind. When it’s the Secretary of State being treated that way…OMG.

I’m not in any way disagreeing with Melissa but I kind of do the same thing as the salesman in her example. When I’m talking to a hetero couple, I always address the woman. Even if the man is my close friend and I barely know his wife, even if the question I need to ask is supposed to be answered by the man, I still turn to the woman and address my utterance to her. In the same way, I think it’s wrong when women address my husband and not me when I’m present. It feels rude when they do that.

The point of this post is not to say anything about the Clintons, politics, or anything of the kind. I’m just wondering if my approach is some sort of a cultural thing that I just do without even noticing it.

9 thoughts on “Addressing Spouses”

    1. “I’ll say that when talking to couples I have often looked mostly at the guy because of the possibility that looking at the woman too much could be taken the wrong way.”

      – That’s exactly what I’m saying.

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  1. My wife would think it was really weird if a female mathematician came to us when we were together and started talking to her about homogeneous indecomposable continua. So would I. I am offended by this whole idea.

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    1. I think it’s not extremely polite to talk shop in front of a person who has no idea what is being discussed. That makes people feel excluded and like they are in the way. Professional conversations, I believe, should be kept for professional settings.

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  2. When I was married, some salesman from a water softener company came round to sell us a system. My then husband was at work and not due home until 11pm-ish.

    The salesman was extremely annoyed that my husband wasn’t there, saying he needed to speak to the couple otherwise he was wasting his time. I said he could either talk to me or hang around until midnight, or just leave, so he left. The next day I complained to the company, they grovelled, and I told them not to bother trying to sell me anything ever again.

    I also used to get people talking uniquely to my husband, like I was a non person spare part. I could not believe the macho French attitudes. Things have improved a tad since then, happily, especially as I’m not longer married. 🙂

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  3. When I was married, some salesman from a water softener company came round to sell us a system. My then husband was at work and not due home until 11pm-ish.

    The salesman was extremely annoyed that my husband wasn’t there, saying he needed to speak to the couple otherwise he was wasting his time. I said he could either talk to me or hang around until midnight, or just leave, so he left. The next day I complained to the company, they grovelled, and I told them not to bother trying to sell me anything ever again.

    I also used to get people talking uniquely to my husband, like I was a non person spare part. I could not believe the macho French attitudes. Things have improved a tad since then, happily, especially as I’m no longer married. 🙂

    When I talk to couples I look from one to the other (not manically) to show I’m talking to both so no one thinks I’m being rude by ignoring them.

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  4. I talk to whoever I happen to be talking to. I mean, I observe normal company rules (no monopolising, move around, include bystanders if in a purely social setting and try to avoid anyone being isolated) but generally, if I’m chatting to a couple I try to distribute my eye contact, attention and conversation equally.

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