Dear Captain Awkward,
I’m organising a house party for my 21st birthday, but I’ve run into a dilemma which I don’t know how to resolve. Backstory is, I was dating this woman, let’s call her X, for over half a year. We split up before January. It was my first real relationship and the breakup really, really hurt me badly, and I’m not sure I’m entirely healed yet. Having said that, me and X are on friendly terms, and I like to think that neither of us harbours genuine ill will against the other. After a long period of no contact, X and me started talking against and she invited me to her house party a few weeks ago. I went, and realised that it was a terrible mistake to go. I was pretty unhappy for a few days afterwards. Since then, we’ve still been in contact but only on a fairly light-hearted context.
So, that’s the history behind it. My dilemma is, should I invite her my party? My gut feeling is to say, hell no. I know that if she comes, I won’t enjoy it, and I’ve never organised anything like this before and I’m a bit shy at the best of times so I want to be 100% on the top of my game that evening. Also, some of my friends have a pretty big grudge against her (she never got on well with them when we were dating, and they’ve not exactly warmed to her since we broke up), so I know it wouldn’t make for a very pleasant atmosphere. That all sounds very clear cut, and I don’t expect that she’d want to come anyway even if I invited her. The problem is, since she invited me to her most recent party, and I was also at at her 21st birthday last year which was an event that was very important to her, I feel that not sending her an invitation – even though I don’t think she’d accept it – would be a really nasty snub to her. We’ve also got a few mutual close friends who I want to invite, so she will know if I don’t invite her.
She’s not a bad person and I don’t want to be rude to her, especially since she’s been nice to me and has tried to make things up with me, but I don’t want to potentially spoil an event that’s supposed to be happy. Doubly so, since I’m graduating soon after that and it’ll be one of the last chances to properly hang out with a lot of the other people who are leaving as well. Please help me out!
Unsure about how not to offend my ex
You can invite anyone you want to your party, and you don’t have to justify it to your friends. You can not invite anyone you don’t want to your party, and you don’t have to justify it to your ex. Good reasons: “Felt like it.” “Didn’t feel like it.” “Forgot.” “Thought about it, decided not to.” “Can fit only 8 people in my living room.” Your party, your money, your booze, your house, your space = your rules about who to invite. 21 is a good time to learn this, so, happy birthday!
You don’t have to be friends with your ex at all. Even if she’s not an inherently bad person. Even if she’s trying really hard to be cool. Even if you’re friendly, more or less, you definitely don’t have to be good friends with her or let her back into your inner circle. An invitation is not a contract, or an order.
Say you agree with both me and your own gut, and you don’t invite her. Say she finds out that you had a party and didn’t invite her. Say she invokes Party Smeagol and actually brings it up with you and tells you it hurts her feelings. Awkward! What can you really say? “I’m glad we’ve become somewhat friendly again, but I wanted my birthday celebration to be uncomplicated.” “Oh, didn’t realize you’d want to come to that. Maybe next time.”
You don’t have to work hard at this lady anymore. Happy birthday!
Edited To Add: This Miss Conduct piece on how to figure out who to invite to what is great.