It's totally cool for people in relationships to talk to and/or befriend new people. But after an awkward incident the other week, I've been forced to question when the appropriate time is to slide into a conversation that you are already romantically involved.
After I gave a man my number felt just a bit late in the game for him to let me know he had a girlfriend.
Picture this: I was at my favorite local Midtown bar with my best friend, grabbing a few pints after work. It’s a cozy craft beer bar replete with beer-drinking men. My friend and I started talking to a group of said men and within minutes I found myself deeply engrossed in conversation with one of them. Our back-and-forth was only interrupted once, by an invitation from one of his friends for us to all take shots. This man and I were undoubtedly enjoying a mutual attraction. My friend confirmed this suspicion when, after excusing herself to go to the ladies room, she texted me: "It looks like you and this guy are hitting it off! Should I get outta here?"
Surely if my overly supportive best friend saw a spark it couldn't all be in my head, right?
Against everything in my nature, I wrote my number on a cocktail napkin as the guy was asking for his bar tab and handed him the napkin when he turned back to me. He looked down at the napkin, and then back at me. He shook his head.
"I’m sorry," he said. "I have a girlfriend."
Damn you, liquid courage.
I snatched the napkin back, mumbled my apologies, and rejoined the larger group. Later, I played back the conversation and wondered if I had missed some clues. I couldn't recall any. But then, should there have been? To save us all some future awkward interactions, here are some simple rules to follow for when -- and how -- to tell someone like me that you're not single:
Drop your SO's name into the conversation
It is easy enough to casually drop your significant other's name into just about any conversation, regardless of whether you're being hit on. Chances are this will happen organically anyway, assuming you like your relationship in the first place. Someone just told you they saw the new Star Wars? Tell them how you and your bae saw it together last weekend. Maybe a person mentioned a show they love, which your SO coincidentally just finished binge-watching. If someone asks what neighborhood you live in, tell them where you live -- and who you live with. If someone just complimented your clothing or accessories and these were picked out by your SO or given to you as a gift from them, throw that tidbit in there when you say thanks. I think you get the point. An easy variation: say "we" a few times and the other party will either pick up on it or ask, providing you with a simple way to partner-drop.
Don't lead with the fact that you're taken
While announcing you are not single from the get-go is a surefire way to prevent unwanted advances, it is also a way to deter any and all friendly conversations. Why? Because it's obnoxious to automatically assume everyone who talks to you is hitting on you. And that's exactly how you come across when you open with your relationship status.