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Heavy Meddle: Should I Sneak My Spouse Into The Company Holiday Party?

A woman writes in wondering if smuggling her husband into the holiday party is worth the risk. (eschipul/ flickr)
A woman writes in wondering if smuggling her husband into the holiday party is worth the risk. (eschipul/ flickr)
This article is more than 3 years old.

Welcome Meddleheads, to the column where your crazy meets my crazy! Please send your questions. You can use this form, or send them via email. Not only will you immediately feel much better, you’ll also get some advice.

Hugs,
Steve

Dear Steve,

I work for a large, highly visible company. This is the third year since I started — and the spouses of third-year employees are forbidden to attend the holiday party. The explanation I received for this policy? There were apparently some cheating spouses several years ago, along with angry spouses that lost their tempers at the festivities.

I understand that going to your company holiday party is a good career move. Not to mention the fact that my company throws quite the party. However, I have declined every year with the explanation that as long as my husband is not allowed to attend I will not be attending either. I myself would be hurt if my husband attended his Christmas party without me. I can't very well go to mine without him on principle.

This year, my direct manager suggested that I just sneak my husband in and that other people have done likewise for the same reason. I'm not sure what to think about this. I don't want to sneak him in. I want him to be invited. I’m not sure I could even have fun thinking the whole time someone was going to realize that he doesn't work for the company, and I could get into trouble! I have given it a lot of thought over the last couple of weeks. My final decision on the matter is that we will attend his Christmas party as usual, and not attend mine.

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I will always find spouses not invited to holiday parties to be tantamount to giving cheating spouses an excuse to party it up with their office hookup. And yes that happens. I do not approve.

Do you think I should sneak him in next year?

Sincerely,
Loving Wife

Dear Loving,

Sadly, this subject has come up before. I don’t know why a “highly visible company” would throw a holiday party and not let partners come along, but I suspect is has more to do with cost-cutting than spouse-swapping. And while I agree with you that it sucks, we both know there’s nothing in your contract that guarantees you a fixed salary, benefits, sick days and an inclusive holiday party. It’s a perk that comes at the behest of your employer.

Anyway, that’s not your concern. You want to know if you should sneak your hubby into the party.

Here’s my answer: ask your hubby.

Seriously.

My hunch is that you’re fixation on this party reflects some deeper set of concerns about your work situation...

Does the guy want to go? If so, and you don’t mind absorbing the risk of maybe being found out, then go for it. But don’t bother unless he wants to be there, and unless you feel confident that you can relax and enjoy yourself, rather than being nervous all night.

In other words, try to remember that we’re talking about a holiday party here. The central purpose of such events is (or should be) for people to enjoy themselves, to gather with co-workers and celebrate the season, and yes, to cut loose a little bit.

My hunch is that your fixation on this party reflects some deeper set of concerns about your work situation, though I don’t know exactly what those are.

I will say that your focus on holiday parties as hotbeds of adulterous conduct strikes me as a little odd. Yes, I’m sure it happens. But for the most part, people go to these events to schmooze up the boss, to gossip, to enjoy the free food and booze and listen to cheesy disco music and exchange gag gifts and dance awkwardly. At least, that’s how I remember them. The sort of people who select a holiday party as a setting for extramarital cavorting are both deeply short-sighted and self-destructive.

For now, I’d stop worrying about a party you’re not going to anyway, and devote your time and energy to your husband and family. Tis the season.

Yours in jingle and bell,
Steve

Author's noteIt has been many years since I’ve been regularly employed enough even to fret about a company holiday party, so maybe I’m out of step on all this. Am I? Could some company party invitees weigh in here? Send your thoughts along in the comments section below. And hey, send a letter to Heavy Meddle, too. You can use this form, or send your questions via email. I may not have a helpful response, but the act of writing the letter itself might provide some clarity. — S.A.

Steve Almond is the author of the book "Against Football." He is the co-host, with Cheryl Strayed, of the WBUR podcast, Dear Sugar.

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