Dear Captain Awkward,
I think my partner has a big Geek Social Fallacy problem.
We live together in a small house in an expensive area where lots of people live with parents or roommates. So, ever since before we met, he’s hosted huge blowout theme parties for his entire geeky friendgroup. He always encourages them to bring new people and expand his social circle. Partner enjoys being The Cool Fun Host.
Partner was a late bloomer socially, had terrible ostracizing experiences and some related depression issues, so now he’s trying to make up for lost time. He wants to be as inclusive and welcoming as possible. Which sounds great in theory! He’s big-hearted and just wants everyone to be his friend.
When I first moved in with Partner, I enjoyed these parties — organizing them, coming up with themes. But the more comfortable I became thinking of it as “our house” instead of “partner’s house”, the more protective I’m becoming of my living space. The more I dread the thought of prepping the house for a destructive messy horde of nerds and cleaning up after them and yielding my space for a night. I’m finding I’m enjoying hosting smaller, more controlled gatherings.
On top of this, our good friend recently pointed out a Missing Stair in this friendgroup. Missing Stair has made a few people uncomfortable, and, who knows, may be driving away others. But we just know a couple of anecdotes, and while Partner admits Missing Stair is a jerk, he doesn’t know where he should draw the line. Because inclusivity. And Missing Stair hasn’t done anything egregious and maybe a few people just don’t like him. Partner isn’t comfortable disinviting _anyone_, much less this specific Missing Stair, because he knows how it feels to be uninvited and it’s evil and horrible.
So how wrong and awful does Missing Stair have to be for Partner to disinvite him? And how do we balance how much control over the parties I get to have? Obviously I think Missing Stair should be uninvited right now. But these are still mostly Partner’s parties, even though I help host and I live here too. I hate feeling like I’m trampling all over Partner’s fun and trying control everything now that we live together.
Normally Partner and I are great at communicating, but he has a terrible blind spot here.
Spoiler: You are not being unreasonable.
“Missing Stair” gotta go, y’all. It sucks to be excluded because of stuff you can’t necessarily control when you are a child, but being sidelined from social events for bad behavior as an adult is a reasonable and predictable consequence of behaving badly. These folks always think they’re being disinvited unfairly because they Once Loved Dragons Too Much, but the appeal to everyone’s ostracized geeky teenaged self is disingenuous when it’s about creepy present-day chosen behaviors. “So how wrong and awful does Missing Stair have to be for Partner to disinvite him?” is a scary question. I mean, how wrong and awful DOES someone have to be? What will he have to do? Harass someone? Assault someone? Speaking of fallacies, are these really the terms your partner wants to play on when you’re talking about inviting someone into your home?
To be clear, someone who is a jerk to you and to your other guests does not deserve an explanation before being left off once and future guest lists. However, if it’s important that Partner give Missing Stair one more chance/the benefit of the doubt, then he could talk to him directly about it, like, “Missing Stair, at our last couple parties you were doing x, y, and z (specific behaviors) that made me uncomfortable. I want to be able to keep inviting you to events, but for that to happen I need your word that you will stop doing (those specific things).” If Missing Stair apologizes and promises to be cool, then maybe he gets another chance. If Missing Stair derails that conversation by demanding to know exactly who was which exact brand of uncomfortable, Partner can say, “Well, that’s unfortunate to hear” and then stop inviting him. Partner should keep the talk to things that make him uncomfortable (even if the behaviors named are based on hearsay) and not invoke “the group” or “unnamed others.”
If Partner knowingly keeps inviting Missing Stair without addressing the bad behavior, and Missing Stair keeps doing his jerky thing, then Partner is knowingly subjecting his other guests to that behavior, and he hopefully won’t be surprised when some very cool people drift away from his scene because those parties have stopped being fun for them.
And let’s back alllllllllllll the way up for a second. “I don’t like Missing Stair and I‘d like him to not be invited to parties where I live because his behavior makes me uncomfortable FULL STOP” is not about your Partner’s revulsion at the thought of anyone being excluded, it is about your own comfort in your living space. Are you really not “allowed” to request this because of Partner’s desire to be Lord Bountiful?
The rest is gonna be a series of conversations, Letter Writer.
Conversation 1: “I am getting overwhelmed by the size and frequency of the gatherings at our house lately. I know they mean a lot to you, and I enjoy them too, but I’d like your thoughts on what we could do to involve smaller groups on a rotating basis and outsource or involve the group more in some of the party prep and cleanup when things are at our house.”I think you can approach this in terms of a talk about best-case scenarios and laying out a positive vision for how & when you want to open up your home, together. “We both like hosting, but we have different styles. Can we do it in my style more often, and your style more rarely (but make it more awesome when we do)?” You could have smaller events with friends once a month and do some more social stuff out of the house, and then do a bigger thing once or twice a year. Some of the great nerds I hang with recruit Party Supervisor/XOs who wrangle the potluck contributions, pass the hat for $ for cleanup & groceries, and delegate tasks to the cleaning crew so that the actual hosts don’t have to do that much besides “have neat house with big space.” Don’t drill too far into these specific suggestions right now, just put the general thing out there and see what happens. The goal is to a) make your needs known and offer up a few suggestions that might meet your needs better and b) put the ball in his court for following through on making this work for you.
Your partner will say some stuff, and if that stuff is about his feelings and doesn’t eventually incorporate some version of “I hear you, why don’t we try (solutions) for a bit and see if that’s more fun and manageable” then it’s time to cut the conversation short and try again another time. “Partner, why don’t you think about it for a bit and we can check in before the next time you want to plan an event. I definitely want to support you and to see our friends, but after the last few events I’ve felt overwhelmed and I’d appreciate it if you can think of some ways to make hosting more sustainable for us.”
Scripts for Conversation 2-infinity, when a plan is coming together:
- “Can we keep the guest list to 10-15 people for this one, and make it clear that’s what we’re doing?”
- “Are there some people in the group who would be willing to take on some planning & cleanup duties on a rotating basis?”
- “For parties of more than x people, could the group pitch in a few $ to hold it offsite?
- “Can we treat ourselves by hiring a service for cleanup?”
- “I would prefer that Missing Stair not be invited, and that if you still want to see him sometimes that you find a way to do that outside of our house.”
- “Last time our guests really made a mess. What do you think we could do to remind people to be more respectful and careful of our space?”
- “I want this to be fun and sustainable. What can we do to make it easier on ourselves?”
I hope y’all can work something out that lets you enjoy your home together. Keep this strategy in your back pocket, too, if things don’t immediately get better: For the next big party or two, you’re totally allowed to go visit distant friends & family and not help at all with prep OR cleanup OR jerk-wrangling. “My house full of loud people” = OH LOOK, VACATION TIME. I think if you did that all the time it would speak to some incompatibility between you and your partner, so I don’t recommend it every time unless you really, really need to bail, but it might be good for him to be reminded of how much work everything actually is and for you to give him some space to initiate some changes.