#1161: “Being the New Kid in my partner’s friend group, four years in, with a jillion weddings and other events on the horizon.”

Dear Captain Awkward,

I’m reaching out because, while this is a relatively specific scenario, I’m sure a lot of people feel this way at one time or another. My partner’s old friend group never really warmed to me when I first moved here, and I let that be okay because I knew his ex was still really hurting from their break-up (there was no cheating, I should be clear, and I wasn’t involved). I accepted that they didn’t really see me as a fully-drawn person but rather the reason why everything was different between two of their closest friends now – which isn’t great from the outside. I made a few attempts to get to know the more accepting ones on my own terms, and I had mixed results. Some I do legitimately feel have become friends and I see them semi-regularly. Others were kind to me but clearly not feeling it and we have enough fun when we see each other but don’t really keep in touch. There are a significant amount, including his ex, who I barely see and when I do it’s tense.

I don’t really subject myself to the full group because it’s an anxiety-creating experience, and I still have feels about being sorta bullied by then when I first moved back – pointed glances, whispers to each other while I was at the table, conversations where I couldn’t contribute anything that lasted the entire time. It didn’t feel good, so I just dipped. I made my own friends here, and I have my own life. I’m polite when we see each other out, but that’s about it. That said, there are a lot of big birthdays and weddings coming up, and my partner and I have been together about 4 years so he wants me to attend them with him. I want to go, too, because I feel some type of way about being intimidated out of attending – and also because I want to have the kind of relationship where I go to significant life stuff as his date.

I am … dreading this more than I thought. His ex will be there, and she feels the way she feels about me. She’s not been above being super kind to him and acting like I don’t exist, and everyone more or less follows suit and resumes the Mean Girls (and Boys) act. I’ve talked to my partner about how this kind of exclusion makes me feel, and he’s been supportive and empathetic – and tries to help bring me into the conversation, when he can – but he can’t change what other people do or don’t do. His position, which I can see, is that he’s cut way back on this group in general and never asks me to be around them – but these are big significant life events, and he wants us to go.

I don’t know if there’s even a question in here, but — I guess what I’m asking is, how do I handle a situation where I know there will be a few friendly faces but also a few (more) openly hostile faces? How will I hold it together if the bullying and whispers and whatnot start? How will I stay chill and composed and above it if what I really want to do is scream I HAVE LIVED HERE FOR FOUR YEARS, Y’ALL, YOU DON’T HAVE TO LOVE ME BUT GROW UP. How will I stop myself from feeling awkward and excluded when the conversation mostly involves stuff that I wasn’t around to see? I want to do this; I know I can do this for a few hours for wedding or a 30th birthday just not every week. I’ll say I’ve booked plane tickets and whatnot to some of these things, so the “just don’t go!” advice ship has sailed. What are your/the commenters thoughts, if you’re up for it? Thanks in advance.

Hello there!

You can’t stop yourself from feeling awkward about things or dreading these events a bit. Your feelings will be what they are and they sound pretty reasonable based on the history! I think your strategy up until now – to find individuals within the group that you enjoy engaging with to spend time with and give the rest a wide berth – has been a good one. An ex who is still playing the “I’m going to pretend you don’t exist…to your face” game after FOUR YEARS (and people who enable that behavior) isn’t someone you can cheerfully Nice your way through hanging out with, so, good job disengaging there.

So what can you control and what can you do to make these trips more enjoyable for yourself?

First, here are some things I’d need in order to be okay with RSVP-ing “yes” to all these events: 1)Total acknowledgement from my partner that he is taking me into potentially hostile territory and that any hostility there is Not My Fault, 2) thanks & acknowledgement for being a good sport about it, 3) him doing whatever he can to look after my comfort and enjoyment during the trip, including steering me toward the most fun and welcoming people to be found, ensuring comfortable accommodations, and building in tons of down time where I don’t have to be “on,” 4) absolute respect if I need to head out early or step away from a given conversation, 5) him doing the bulk of the planning logistics of the trip and all the work of picking out of gifts & cards & stuff for these people 6) When the weird “you don’t exist” thing happens in the conversation, doing something to break the cycle right fucking then, up to and including saying “Well, this got weird!” and prioritizing you in some way, even if that means he steps away from the conversation temporarily and 7) him quietly doing any smoothing over with the ex and her circle that needs to be done, like, “You don’t have to like LW (and they don’t have to like you), but this Obvious Silent Treatment thing is WEIRD and I don’t enjoy it, please stop, because if LW isn’t welcome then I don’t feel welcome.”

If the partner could guarantee me that, I would hold up my end of the “wedding/party date” bargain, which is to put on my nicest clothes, show up where I’m supposed to show up, smile and say nice things whenever possible, be quiet when nice things are not possible, hope and expect things to be pleasant and look for things to enjoy (vs. coming in ready to criticize everything), to be fairly self-amusing (get my own drinks from the bar, introduce myself to new people), generally go with the flow (ok, I guess we are dancing now, it is dancing time), hold my liquor (if any), stay engaged at least an hour past my early-to-bed natural inclination to flee, and generally do my best to relax and have the best possible time I can and let other people’s weirdness fall where it may. Like, if awkward shit happens, it happens, but it won’t be started by me and I won’t go looking for it. Mantra for myself: “I chose to be here, so since I’m here, I will choose to try to enjoy it as much as I can.” I will also pay attention to and advocate for my own needs, like, if the schedule is weird and I am hungry I will figure out how to get a snack vs. becoming a hangry martyr, I will gracefully opt out of shit I know that I actively hate doing (complicated board games, escape rooms, I’m realllllllllly not a hiker).

As for not feeling like you have the option to not go, you’ve bought tickets and said yes to some events, but not all, and it’s okay to mentally reserve the right to opt out of others if the first ones don’t go well and if for any reason you don’t feel supported. If the first 3 events are hell, it’s okay to reasonably  decide the next 7 will also be hell and cut your losses! Or have a serious “Look, this isn’t fun for me, when are you going to talk to your shitty friends/when I am allowed to bow the fuck out?” readjustment of expectations. Hopefully it won’t be necessary and this will all go fine! But you didn’t sign a binding blood pact with the Party Demon.

As for those conversations where people talk about stuff that happened years ago that you weren’t around for, you have choices: 

  1. Engage fully and get the people to tell you the stories. You have something precious and beautiful to offer them: A BRAND NEW AUDIENCE who hasn’t heard this story a million times before. “He did what? Tell me all about that!” 
  2. Remind yourself: The people who already don’t like you don’t like you, and you can’t do anything about that, which also means that unless you act like a total asshole, you can’t really fuck it up, either! This isn’t an audition, you aren’t failing at it. You showed up, that’s all you have to do, you don’t have to be “impressive” or “sparkling” or do anything to fix the awkwardness in the group. 
  3. You probably won’t be the only person there as “the date” so, engage with your fellow “dates” who haven’t known these stories forever. Especially since you have a bunch of these things coming up, you might make some real “Hey wedding buddy, is that a new tie? Looking good!” friends among the SOs. You didn’t find the group all that welcoming when you joined it, but four years in, you can be a person who makes the group welcoming to the next New Kid(s). 
  4. Think of each event as “practice.” You are practicing a skill. That skill is “meeting new people!” That skill is “pleasant small talk!” That skill is “remembering people’s names and how they know each other!” That skill is “giving compliments that light up people’s faces!” Give yourself points (any amount of points, there are no rules here) for stuff like finding out all about someone’s interesting job, for giving that “elevator pitch” about what you do, for facilitating the flirtation of cute single people, for telling someone they look beautiful, for finding out about a book or a movie that you didn’t know about and wouldn’t otherwise be on your radar, for remembering someone’s drink order (“I’m so sorry, I’ve forgotten your name, but I remember you like an Old Fashioned and you have a really cute dog. That’s a great jacket! I’m [Name]. What’s new with you?” = 10,000 points.) 
  5. Weird conversations at a wedding are actually awesome? Once a bunch of guests with security clearances at a D.C. wedding where I was “the date” came up with a terrifyingly long list of innocuous items that could be MacGyvered into incendiary devices over dinner. Once a good friend of Commander Logic’s came to her wedding & crashed at my house, breathlessly told me all her deepest dramas and secrets (including about an ex who was going to be there, with his new partner, which she had A LOT of feelings about plus a lot of LiveJournal-related drama and feelings), dramatically exited rooms a lot to go outside and smoke and talk on the phone about said feelings, came back into the rooms and recapped the entire phone conversations (about people I knew nothing about, answering questions I had not asked), breathlessly told me many times what a good wonderful friend I was, emailed me once afterward to say thanks and reiterate our undying bond of friendship and invite me to come stay with her anytime, DAY or NIGHT, and then…literally never interacted with me again. I am telling this with far fewer capital letters than it deserves (FEELINGS!), but it was hilarious and I regret nothing about it. Can you find a way to laugh at the whole dramatic ex situation? 

Additionally, Mr. Awkward has one superstar trick for big family events like weddings and baby showers and funerals that I will share with you: FIND THE CHATTIEST OLD PEOPLE AT THE THING AND CHAT INCESSANTLY WITH THEM. “Oh, are you the bride’s Grandma? You must be so proud! It IS  a lovely wedding! That’s a such a great hat, it looks perfect on you. I bet your wedding day was a lot different than this. What was it like?”  and then they are off to the races and it is AMAZING to behold. I don’t think it’s a trick, in that he is genuinely friendly and likes old people (as do I!) and is a good listener, it’s just, he will become Best Friends with everyone’s elderly relatives at parties, fix them plates, refill their drinks, trade book recommendations, learn what it was like to set up a paper company from scratch and run it in the Midwest in the 1960s-80s or what it’s like to leave your small town and move to the big city by yourself in the 1970s or “How did you and your spouse meet?”  Everyone’s family is different, but if you’re at a big wedding and you want to meet the people who give zero fucks and who have comfortable seating, steer for the gray hair. It’s probably more fun than standing next to your partner in uncomfortable shoes while you wonder if his ex will acknowledge your existence this time? 

Another thought I have: Are you using all or most of next year’s precious vacation time and travel budget to go to the far-flung life events of your partner’s friends who don’t like you? Because if so, that’s one clue as to why this is not sitting well right now!

So, to address that, are there any getaways planned that are just about the two of you spending time together? Or ways these trips can be 2 days of friend-group hijinks and then 2 days of a nice trip in the region for the two of you? You’re staying somewhere nice with privacy and a good bathroom and you’re not expected to sleep on people’s floors or be with them 24-7, right? Can you look at each place you’ll be going and find some things you want to do/see/eat while you’re there? Let’s face it, as “the date,” there is a lot of each trip where your plans will realistically be “I don’t know, it depends on what the whole group is up to, gotta keep the schedule open” but you might feel less anxious/more in control if you have good private lodgings to retreat to and also have a list of nearby places at the ready that you can pleasantly fuck off to, like, “Oh no, darling, please go catch up with everyone, I’m going to try that new lunch place that just got written up in a fancy magazine/go see the medieval manuscript exhibit at the art museum/churn butter at the living history museum/tour the historic cemetery and learn about how Memphis’s sex workers nursed everyone through the Yellow Fever epidemic (true story!)/ have tea with my college friend who lives in this town/take advantage of the pool and the spa and this really good book I’m reading. I’ll see you at the rehearsal dinner!” 

If you do opt to do your own thing for part of these trips,  I checked The Wedding Date Pact and it reads: “It is understood that if one is a Wedding Date On A Weekend Trip, attending a certain amount of Group Fun with a willing attitude (if not a willing heart) is expected. However, if you shalt opt out of select Wedding Weekend Group Fun to do one’s own thing and recharge for short periods, your partner shalt not make a big deal about it. They shalt not sulk, they shalt not whine or wheedle, they shalt not blame. If Group Fun Participants inquire where the Wedding Date is, verily, they shalt say only “DATE has some plans early in the day and wanted to give us some time to catch up on our own, but they are excited to see everyone at [formal event]!” They shalt not use your absence to create drama or indulge drama, as one’s romance CAN in fact survive temporary spells of not being joined at the hip. So it is written, so shall it be done.”

Those are my thoughts. Readers, have you been “the date” to an awkward event? How did you get through? Have you ever felt frozen out of a romantic partner’s friend group? Did it ever thaw? What changed?

Letter Writer, I hope you have the best possible time. Embrace the other New Kids! Find the old people! Insist on comfortable accommodations with a lot of privacy! Wear comfortable shoes! 


257 thoughts on “#1161: “Being the New Kid in my partner’s friend group, four years in, with a jillion weddings and other events on the horizon.”

  1. Oh my gosh, I could have used this letter two years ago except swap out “weddings” with “endless theater parties with capital TP Theatre People with you are not a Theatre Person.”

    I second the advice to ask questions so you can catch up (“Ooh that sounds juicy; that was before I moved to town so tell me all about it!”).

    I also second the general theme that there is a lot of work to be done between you and your partner, and for a long time I wanted to avoid that so I framed it as “Evil Ex is so mean to me at parties!” and not “Partner abandons me the second we walk into his friend’s parties and the only person I recognize is Evil Ex so of course I’m focused on her response to me.” Once I had some conversations with my partner about this, it all became much more manageable because he had my back.

    I will say that one other unexpected result is that, once partner realized that his friends were treating me like crap, he also came to understand that people who treat your partner like crap aren’t very good friends at all. So he distanced himself from those people a bit, invested some time and energy in other friendships, and now our social life with friends is pretty happy and stress-free in general.

      1. LW specifically says that their partner has distanced himself considerably from the group, that he tries to mitigate the group’s behaviour when in person and does not pressure LW to spend time with them, so it sounds like he has in fact come that conclusion. 🙂

        1. Except that he’s also making excuses for them and expecting the LW to suck it up and attend events where these people continue to be shits to the LW.

          And it sounds as though he’s using whatever “distancing” he’s done as a way of suggesting that the LW owes him.

          1. Yeah, there’s a big difference in attitude between “I’m distancing myself from my friends because I’ve realized they’re not really good friends and I don’t want to be around them so much any more” and “I’m distancing myself from my friends because you don’t get along with them” — if boyfriend’s attitude is the second one that’s not really a good or stable situation.

          2. LW also says that LW wants to have the kind of relationship where they go to life events as dates. It doesn’t seem like the problem is a constant one; they’re not having weekly game nights, it’s just a Year of Big Events. I don’t think LW’s boyfriend is the problem here. And “he wants me to go with him” may mean nothing more than he wants LW to go with him – I didn’t get a sense that he was EXPECTING LW to go outside of the general expectation/desire to share things with your partner of four years.

    1. A good friend of mine was recently broken up with by her Theater Person boyfriend of three years. The turning point from intense heartbreak to moving on can be pinpointed at the exact moment she realized, “OMG. I never have to go to another cast party!”

      1. Hah! My aha moment was when I realized I would never have to listen to jazz or go to a home and garden show. Freedom!

      2. Ha! This reminds me of how happy I was when I realized after a breakup that I would never again have to attend another overstimulating and dull kinky event with a bunch of boundary-pushing assholes. Not opposed to kink; very opposed to loud parties and misogynistic jerks, which my local scene is packed with.

      3. I will never date a guy in a band again. Yaaa! No more awful gigs in bad, empty clubs. So amazingly grateful.

      4. People who don’t break up do sometimes come to this conclusion, too, albeit maybe after twenty years. I was so happy when I realized it didn’t actually OWE it to my husband to watch his boring artsy animated films with him. And the trade-off is that I GET to watch my period dramas without him heckling the male main character. Woo!

    2. Oh gosh, Theater Parties when you are not a Theater Person are the literal worst. Yes, okay, you are all Cute and Idiosyncratic and Different and Quirky and as a boring mundane I am born to be your audience and admire your shenanigans in awed silence but really, please. stop.

      1. I came here to offer insightful commentary and I’m honestly feeling so attacked right now. I”m different and quirky and idiosyncratic in a uniquely me way! *shouts dramatically until someone walks over and we break into song and dance number*

        Seriously though I always feel so bad for dates at cast parties. The entire party is one giant inside joke, why would you do this to someone you like?

        1. Much like high school reunions. I left my husband at home for my 20th and both of us were happy about it.

        2. When I was a senior in/just graduated from high school, I’d go to my brother’s college theatre cast parties and always had a blast despite not knowing anyone there.
          Then again I was a drama student in high school so I guess it was just in my blood, lol.

        3. Right? We are, in general, not like other people – there are very good reasons for the long-standing, cross-cultural association of Theater People (which, broadly defined, includes magicians, carnies, performance artists, musicians, circus folk, buskers, drag performers, sex workers of various stripes, etc.) with marginal social spaces and various contra-normative behaviors. Obviously not ALL theater people, but we are most certainly a distinct subculture, and one that tends to be a bit closed off to outsiders (this varies with the particular group, region, and branch of performing arts), partly because of the association with marginal social positions.

          And the shared experience of a production – it’s a lot of hours spent with the same people, often in emotionally and physically vulnerable situations, and generally with a lot of emotional investment on the part of the troupe memebers – lends itself even more to in-jokes. It’s nice to be open and welcoming to partners and friends, but definitely don’t try to FORCE people into theater spaces if they’re not into it (and, really, that goes for everything).

          1. alllll of this applies to Rennies (Renaissance Faire performers) too. So much. …Which is probably why I try to drag new partners into faire if they’re not already faire people lol

  2. Jeez, four years and they’re still at it, his ex and friends? With friends like that… Who is your partner picking for friends? They sound like terrible petty people!

    And ex seems to be confirming, for four straight years, what an absolutely good decision it was for him to be with you instead.

    I mention the four years–twice–because in your shoes I wouldn’t have a shred of guilt for anything I said or did anymore. You’ve done the kind, sensible, healthy thing for four years while these people continued to be petty and rude. There are therefore now no more fucks to be given. You have free rein, having put up with their pointless shit for four years.

    So: Make no apologies or excuses to your partner for any Stay Sane And Avoid Petty Assholes plans you may make. If he has a burden to smooth it over instead of saying, “You’ve been lousy to her for four years, what did you expect?”–then he can do the smoothing. Since he has kept all these people as friends and clearly wants to continue to be in that circle and part of their events.

    I just would have no patience or fucks or fuse left at this point. FOUR YEARS.

    “GROW UP” is right.

    1. Yeah the fact that it’s been four years makes it extra tough for me to wrap my brain around this. I was honestly wondering if it was too much for OP to expect that her partner bow out of this friend-group completely.

    2. All of this. This foolishness has gone on for four years? While Partner can’t control Ex’s actions, I think it’s high time for them to be more aggressive about shutting this down/being loud about how unacceptable this is. It’s absolutely ridiculous that either of you are having to expend any emotional labor dealing with this childish, tiring “Nyah nyah I can’t see you, you’re not there” routine that Ex insists on putting on FOUR YEARS LATER.

      1. Partner can sure as shit control HIS OWN actions. Which appear to be tolerating his old pals being inexcusable jackholes to LW.

        1. Seriously.

          I know that’s not really helpful, but I’m also having a hard time understanding how or why Partner tolerates it.

    3. I suspect a lot of it is that they don’t see each other often. It’s very easy to fall into old patterns when you live on opposite sides of the country and only see each other like once or twice a year. Like when you’ve lived away from home for ten+ years and yet still somehow become a shitty teen again sometimes when you go back for the holidays.

      That might not be what’s going on here, but it could be a contributing factor! (It’s still shitty.)

  3. As a single woman without a plus one, I’ve absolutely spent time with the gray haired guests. Dancing with uncle Lou, or grandpa Jack (with grandmas permission if she’s around, but unable to dance). I get to have fun and not feel awkward.

    1. They have the best stories and they have no fucks left to give, so if someone is scandalized that they’re talking about how they used to be a stripper or run bootleg liquor or something, the older guests just don’t care. It’s great!

      1. At & after a family wake, I chattend up my husband’s elderly aunt. At some point I mentioned our brewing hobby. Auntie laughed and said “I guess it’s hereditary”… and proceeded to tell how her grandmother had refused to stop brewing because of Prohibition.
        My husband’s jaw dropped. “Is that why your mom always closed the blinds when giving my mom s beer? ”
        His dad hadn’t known either.
        That conversation turned a habit on its head–everyone had assumed it was done because Gramma was weird about Baptist neighbors.
        And nope…it was because her training for beer was when mom had been running an illegal home speakeasy!

    2. This, and also – I like kids, which is not a universal feeling – when a wedding (or family event/whatever) has kids at it, I will hang with the kids for a while. They will say genuinely amazing things, in any and all directions, and they love it when a new adult will listen to whatever super cool thing they’re into at the time. And it gives the parents a break/a chance to dance and/or talk with other adults.

      1. This is basically my strategy at large family weddings and holiday gatherings, especially now that there are *GASP* toddlers around! They don’t talk much, they love it when you chase them around the fringes, they’re the best dance partners, their parents are super grateful for the break, and basically everything (particularly silly noises) makes them laugh. This has gotten me out of so many awkward political conversations before the awkwardness breaks into an out-and-out brawl.

        “On every formal visit a child ought to be of the party, by way of provision for discourse.” – Sense and Sensibility

      2. One of my favorite tricks for entertaining fairly young children (think toddler through early elementary ages) is to engage in some sort of game that involves pretend and chew the entire fuck out of the scenery. Seriously, little kids think adults (or older kids, because I totally pulled this schtick when I was a teenager to entertain younger cousins and kids I was babysitting) being incredibly over-the-top dramatic is the funniest thing they’ve ever seen, and it’s fairly broadly applicable.

        Bonus is their parents/whatever adult guardians appreciate you getting the small ones out of their hair for a few and a nonzero number of the adults will find the overacting silly/funny too.

        1. I do this with a game I call “Blah opera” — you extemporize super-dramatic “opera” with all the gestures, facial, expressions, and dynamic range you want, and to make it easy for kids, all the lyrics are “Blah.” As in, blahblahblahBLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHblahblahblah…

          I’ve never seen that one not be a hit.

          1. I can see why that would be a hit with the kids (and, again, with a nonzero number of the adults)! I might try it the next time I go to a family gathering, with potential for added hilarity because I thought I was a mezzo soprano until about ten years ago when my voice said, “Nope, alto.” 😀

      3. This is my go to. I love kids and I haaaaaate gatherings. I get fun kid time and parents will not complain.

        1. Kids and dogs. Oh gosh does someone need to just play rope tug in the corner with the dog? FOR AN HOUR? What if the dog needs to go walks and I can stand outside on my phone while a senior basset wanders to the perfect place? Just checking, would love to help by going outside and not coming back for half an hour

          1. We bring our dog with every time we visit our in-laws for exactly this reason. Even if he’s going to stay at the Airbnb, he needs a million walks so I gotta go be back in 30 byyyyyeeeeeeeeee

  4. I love the end of #3, be welcoming to the newbies. There is no reason for you to not go into ambassador mode and treat people the way you wanted to be treated but weren’t. In a class I take (very long term), we are all expected to introduce ourselves to the new students, so they feel welcome and know who they are training with.

    1. I like #3, too. Having been the LW in a few situations, not necessarily date related, really taught me how awful it feels and I’ve vowed to do my best not to let anyone “new” feel left out or ignored.

  5. I think “Wear comfortable shoes” is good advice for so many things. Just, going through life, whenever possible, wear comfortable shoes. Because then, if you’re in an uncomfortable social situation, you don’t have to internally debate if the emotional discomfort of staying is better or worse than the physical discomfort of getting up and walking away.

    1. Plus, the less physical discomfort you’re in, the more patience you can spare for whatever bullshit you’re dealing with that day.

    2. Excellent advice! I have a wedding like this one coming up and I just got myself some flat sandals for precisely this reason. With the added bonus that flat shoes make you look like you give less of a fuck.

      1. You can get really gorgeous flat shoes and sandals that still look “formal” if you want to though. I have an awesome pair of black sandals covered in diamantes, cos who doesn’t love bling. That said, my sister, who was only just walking again after a life threatening car accident, wore sandshoes under her wedding dress. People cared way more about the fact that she was alive and walking than the style of her shoesl

        1. Wedges are generally pretty comfy too, imo. Plus if you want heels for pictures or whatever, you can always put a pair of those folding flats in your bag or pocket.

      2. This! I wore pointy heels like once as a teen and decided “nope, never doing that again”. Flats, platforms (shoe or boot), non-pointy boot heels, all fine. Any shoe that sacrifices my balance is not happening, and it turns out most of the time no one cares enough to make a THING of it. YMMV but hell yeah comfortable shoes!

        1. I used to have a friend who made a THING out of the fact that I didn’t wear high heels to formal occasions. She is, unsurprisingly, not my friend anymore. Life is too short to hang around with people who refuse to accept that different folks have different thresholds of tolerance for pain in their feet.

  6. The Captain’s answer about how to handle all of this was pretty thorough, so all I’ll say to the LW is that the people who are still being rude to you after four years are almost certainly have other baggage—either they were never that close to your partner to begin with (so it was easy to take his ex’s “side” in their break-up) or they’re shit-stirrers who love creating drama, even if it’s only in their heads. Since you’re now at the age of 30th birthdays and weddings, I would bet good money that other, more functional members of this friendship circle have noticed (or are starting to notice) this behavior and are getting sick of it, even if they never call it out or defend you. It’s not guaranteed to happen, but if you’re able to strike the balance of fun and friendly without coming off as trying too hard or trying to upstage anyone at these events, you might find yourself with an increased number of allies—or at least fewer enemies—in this friendship group by the end of this stretch of celebrations. Good luck!

    1. I was thinking they might be very old friends, like from high school or earlier, who regressed when LW’s partner came back from wherever they were when they met LW. But after FOUR YEARS, when everyone is hitting 30, yeah it’s time to drop the teen shenanigans.

  7. I think all this advice is great – including the “random wedding friends can be great” advice, you don’t have to spend your time with the group – and I would add that since it sounds like a couple of these people are legitimately friends of yours too, now, it’s ok to lean on them a little if you think your bond can handle it. Even just to the point of saying simply, “I’m a little anxious since not everyone in the group has really gotten to know me.” They might end up being part of your team, helping you feel more connected, and have a slightly higher level of awareness if other group members are being crappy to you.

    Plus, my guess is that in any decently-sized group, not everyone actually loves everyone else – it’s not the monolith that it appears to be from the outside. I bet the ones who have been nice to you are fully aware that their friends can be mean, and have better tools than you do to try to cut it off.

    I also STRONGLY agree about making some time with your partner on each of these trips to have your own explorations, even if it’s just for an afternoon. It helps to make the time feel “more yours.” This is a requirement for me when I’m attending my wife’s family/friend weddings, and I love her family and almost all of her friends – it just helps to take a little recharge time from the massively intensive social energy that weddings, etc., require.

    Good luck. I also am a late entry into a very tight friend group from my wife’s college days – most of whom, bizarrely, married the people they were dating in college, so it’s an unusually static group. It took many years for some of them to warm up to me, and if it wasn’t for the few who made an effort right away, I’d still be shying away from those gatherings. But those couple of people made a really big difference.

  8. Oh my gosh, I could have written this letter a little while ago. Mr. Automaticdoor and his best friends all went to the same undergrad university. He had dated this woman for like eight years (starting in high school!), so when he started dating me a year post-breakup, as the first person he’d dated since Ex, the group was weird/cold/tense at first because they were so used to Ex and because they’re really insular as a general rule. However, we are more than five years in and married now, and things have improved considerably!

    What helped:
    –Other people dating/marrying other “outsiders” (whom I welcomed enthusiastically because I remembered how it had felt)
    –Time, time and time! It just took a while.
    –Conversations that my (now-)husband had with sympathetic members of the group expressing some concerns “generally,” saying things like “Hey, I think we need to be more welcoming to significant others” and the like.
    –Me initiating hangouts with some of the frostier members of the group. Persistence was key here, as was picking low-chat activities like movies. It was like getting skittish cats to like you; you don’t want to look threatening, just have a constant, low-pressure presence.

    I really feel for you, LW, and I realize I’m lucky because Ex was not a core member of the friend group. I hope you’re able to make inroads here.

    1. Yeah, I had some of the same with CurrentGuy, and I think it was because they first assumed I was a fling, then were annoyed because they’d always thought he’d settle down with someone from within the original group, and I’m younger, so I think they were mad at *him* for supposedly cradle robbing. I think it helped that I just kept sticking around and that I eventually got visibly older too, haha. There’s less of an age difference between 50 and 40, say, than there is between 40 and 30. And eventually I just went to so much stuff that I think people kind of forgot I was “new.” And other people had bigger scandals that made “single guy dates younger woman from another town” seem like small potatoes.

  9. I particularly liked this: “This isn’t an audition, you aren’t failing at it.”

    If you’re with a bunch of people who have already shown hostility (or even merely indifference or whatever) to you, you really do have permission to stop trying to win them over. Don’t worry if you say something weird or awkward! They already hate you! Who gives a ****? RIGHT?

  10. I’ve only rarely been The Date where I didn’t know anyone but my date, but I have often been The Stag at weddings (because why impose that sort of thing on your date?!). But every wedding involves a bunch of people who don’t know a bunch of other people, so the suggestions are very much the same. Talking to the old people is a great one, or really any proud family member who will be happy to accept some warm compliments and share some stories. Finding the other +1s and wallflowers is great. Since I’m usually attending as a bridesmaid, I spend a lot of time with the wedding party and there’s a lot of “Do you know this spouse-to-be or the other one? How did you meet them? Do you live around here or did you travel in?” which make good icebreakers for the people who aren’t the surly friends you’ve already met, but if you’re all traveling to the wedding destination you can at least eke some “How was your trip? where are you staying?” out of the surly ones. But I feel like your best bet is to find the people who haven’t already been mean or weird to you–there will be some on both sides of the family!–and ply them with questions and compliments, and exit the party with a trail of New Best Friends in your wake who will say “Oh, I met LW, they’re so nice!”

    If you like dancing, +1000 points. Everyone loves an enthusiastic dancer at a wedding.

    And yeah, an escape route is key. I’ve been to many many weddings in my time, and I almost always enjoy them (cake! wine! dancing! people who just came out to have a good time!) but the ones I did not enjoy were 1. the wedding I paid more than a grand to participate in (ugh! why impose that sort of thing on your friends?!) where my bridesmaidenly duties involved keeping the bride away from her terrible family and 2. a wedding on a boat that I could not disembark when my date got too drunk to manage.

    1. “ply them with questions and compliments, and exit the party with a trail of New Best Friends in your wake who will say “Oh, I met LW, they’re so nice!””

      I regard weddings as my opportunity to do some serious Public Relations. They’re almost never about “being myself”; they’re about “making a good impression on people who’ve never met me before.” I am always performing at other people’s weddings.
      And I select my audience carefully–I always aim at the parents of bride/groom (whichever one I’m not related to), or both; grandparents; sometimes aunts & uncles.

      Often I frame it as “me making the bride/groom look good to their new in-laws” by way of making a good impression myself. So they’ll say, “our Susie must have done good marrying Matt; his relative was so nice to us!”

  11. I had to go with my boyfriend to his uncle’s funeral and it was super awkward because of the drama surrounding how uncle died.

    So Uncle Jim (the deceased) had suspected his wife was cheating on him. He had his sons install some kind of recording device on the phone so they could listen to her phone convo’s. Uncle Jim heard some juicy stuff* and he figured out who his wife was seeing on the side. He decided to go to the man’s house and confront him. During the confrontation Uncle Jim had a heart attack and died in the man’s driveway. The man called Uncle Jim’s wife and said “I think your husband had a heart attack in my driveway”. Wife said “Good I hope he dies”. Cheating man eventually called the ambulance but it was too late Uncle Jim was gone.

    At the viewing the sons were openly hostile to their mother and told her she could not come to the funeral service. Then they asked all non-family to leave the room so they family could pray/have some private family time, but my boyfriend wouldn’t let me leave (he held onto my hand and said “you have to stay with me). Other uncle “prayed” and it sounded more like a hell fire sermon. It was honestly the weirdest thing ever.

    *Sons brought the recordings over to my boyfriends house so boyfriend and boyfriend’s dad could listen to them. I was there so OF COURSE I listened, too and it was like soundtrack to a porno movie. Noises and background music- it was actually embarrassing. Then the “meet me at hotel at 2pm” stuff and then the conversation when Uncle Jim had a hear attack.

    1. This is exactly the sort of amazing anecdote I hope to some day be presented with by a new friend at an awkward social event, thank you.

    2. Michelle, I would like to thank you for confirming for me that a) truth really is stranger than fiction, and b) my life, although weird, is not alone in its weirdness. Bless you for helping out your BF!

    3. Well, that’s macabre. I would be having a boundaries party about how little I wanted to hear about (or HEAR) any of this, but it sounds like my tastes aren’t universal.

      Is it my imagination or are we getting a string of “one person in a relationship where there’s cheating lets the other die without medical assistance” stories lately? We got one last week too.

      1. I have to admit that my immediate first thought was “That poor lady! How awful of a husband/person was Uncle Jim that not only did his unhappy wife have an affair, she didn’t care if he had a heart attack and died?” I’d say the electronic eavesdropping is a big red flag of a clue pointing towards just how bad it might have been for her ☹️

        1. If she was unhappy and wanted to be with other men, she could have gotten a divorce. It seems she wanted to stay married, not work on her problems in her marriage and have affairs. The man who she was cheating with could have also refused to have an affair with a married woman, but hey, maybe I have a stronger sense of morality than they do.

        2. Oh, I agree that it must have been bad, or at least that she judged it bad enough. I mean I can’t Monday-morning-quarterback this person’s horrible-sounding life situation, but calling 911 and then serving papers when someone’s well-supervised in the hospital might be an option for someone up a similar creek.

          I feel like the drama level in this family has already extended the whole way into “wrongful death”, though, and like everyone involved will be freshly fascinated with every turn, and the whole situation is just hitting me in the pit of my stomach. Blech. Getting involved in someone’s death, including through neglect, is just the worst possible way of getting disentangled from their situation, because even if you’re not morally broken up about it those angry sons could still bring a wrongful death suit and drag this thing out for decades. She might actually have had a legal duty-to-rescue in some states, too. I’m not immune to a good rubbernecking but this one makes my stomach hurt.

          1. purps- I was responding to Ms.Mildew’s comment assuming that Uncle Jim was an awful person/husband so that’s why his wife had an affair and the electronic eavesdropping being a clue of how bad is was for her. Sure, it’s possible, but many people in otherwise fine relationships have affairs and maybe, just maybe, she was the awful one for not only having an affair but for saying she hoped he died.

            Ex-boyfriend and I had a good relationship, including healthy a sex life. I ended the relationship when I found out that he was regularly cheating on me. When I asked why he said he “didn’t know”. He agreed we had a good relationship and good sex life but couldn’t explain why he needed to have sex with other women. Maybe Uncle Jim’s wife was the same way.

  12. (NB: This is the Awkwardeer formerly known as bostoncandy.)
    This letter reminds me, so much, of interacting with my ex’s family. After some number of years (five? seven?) of trying to get them to warm to me, I realized that they were never going to forgive me for the crime of not being his first wife (college classmate, homemaker, baby-wanting perfection other than the fact that she dumped him) etc, etc. And that was ok – and I said “from now on, I will be around your family once per year, MAX, and it won’t be Christmas, and one of the days we are there will be a day trip for the two of us.” And my ex said okay, and so it was, forevermore.
    I would also just suggest you treat this, in addition to being a practice, as a test. Will your partner stand up for you when you say “You gotta stand up for me if you want me to spend time with these people”? Will the friends’ behavior change at all? Will you be better able to handle it with more self care and strategizing? If the answer to all of these questions is “no” then I suggest you decline all the future social occasions with these people. You’ve absolutely done your time already.

    1. Also, this whole thread reminds me of the Most Awkward Wedding of my whole life – in which this same ex took me to the _second_ wedding of the aforementioned first wife.
      Her entire family was staring daggers at us the whole time we were there, from the grandparents on down.
      She was marrying a guy she’d met on Adult Friend Finder about six weeks prior.
      She propositioned me for a threesome with her new husband, at her wedding reception, while I was there _as her ex’s date_. Her ex spouse, _who she had invited_.
      That was one for the record books.

      1. holy cow that’s so much better than my version, “I went to my current partner’s first [only] wedding as one of his groomsmen’s date, hated hanging with the women because they all think they’re better than me*, and ended up hanging with all the guys during the rehearsal and pre-wedding festivities (including everyone getting dressed; I turned my back when any of the men had to change).”

        *they are.. not. Some are more educated than I am, some are not. Some have better paying jobs than I do, some do not. Some come from “better” families than mine, some do not, some only *think* they do. All of them were cold and bitchy to me – before, during, and after the wedding. The bride and her best friend have been known to shit-talk me (before Current Partner and Bride split, so it was never a romantic-jealousy thing) because.. I got my degree from a very small university. The same undergrad degree Bride’s Best Friend got before she went to law school. The same undergrad degree Bride NEVER FINISHED getting from ANY school. Ugh. Those two are The Worst.

  13. When I was a kid, if there was something I didn’t want to do I would take my invisible friend with me for moral support, and I confess I sometimes still do this as an adult.

    Fictional characters from my obsession du jour are great for this; they make catty remarks, roll their eyes, beg me to let them shoot people, etc. Other good candidates are sassy friends (you can also go outside to text them all the hilariously awful things people are doing) and relatives. A few years ago someone I knew totally blanked me at a party, and in my head my grandmother said, “Oh, thank God, I thought you were going to have to talk to her.”

    1. I have a fictional character that likes to Mess With People. I keep him on a tight leash. But I gotta say, the hypotheticals improve any situation.

      1. My brain immediately went to Loki, because yesssss.

        I so need to remember this trick… maybe I’ll use it today at my stupid work white elephant.

    2. Imaginary/fictional characters and friends are handy to have around, even if you are an adult. I have them still, and they are wonderful for trading silent, snarky dialog with, when life starts imitating a sitcom or a bad rom-com. Just because I’m too polite to say it out loud, doesn’t mean that I’m not thinking it.

      1. OH wow, can I just say how relieved I am that I’m not the only one that does stuff like this? ❤ It honestly makes me feel a ton better knowing other people do this also.

    3. I totally do this too. Being a cultural US-Southern woman, I can apply some hellacious passive-aggression/kill-them-with-kindness if the need arises, but sometimes the passive-aggressive comments are best left in my head for the sake of general peace and quiet.

    4. that’s brilliant! It honestly never occurred to me that I could just bring the Legends [of Tomorrow] with me as my own personal snark brigade 😀

  14. My suggestion is that for any wedding/potential multi-day celebration – is to have the LW’s boyfriend push as kindly as possible for an itinerary of events (aka expectations) ahead of time. If the big date-expectation events are rehearsal dinner + afternoon wedding then evening reception, then find a way to communicate and coordinate around extra things where the LW is just happy to pass on completely (i.e. post rehearsal dinner drinks) or side trips that the LW might want to do solo during such down town (i.e. you get drunk with your buddies the night before the wedding – but in the morning, I want to hit the hotel spa or check out cool local attraction).

    At a recent family wedding, I know that ultimately I felt particularly stressed by the experience by more and more activities that just popped up and because of fa-amily saying no felt like a far more nuclear option. I personally find being able to own whatever truly is my down time makes those more stressful events far easier.

    Something else I highly recommend is if the event truly appears like a marathon event with very few options for breaks – then if it’s possible I totally recommend building in a TLC day – either solo or with the boyfriend depending on the LW’s preferences. That TLC day could mean taking off the Monday the day after a wedding weekend in your hometown and doing some kind of staycation or local day of fun or even just sleeping in and then getting caught up on errands that may have slipped due to other commitments. I’ve started doing this some with short vacations I take – even if they’re essentially all teed up to be fun but very action packed – having that day home to decompress really helps me.

    1. I always build in at least one extra day off when I travel. Like: I’ve been doing Things all weekend, now you want me to go to work and do Things there? No, I will be home in my jammies not doing anything today, thank you.

    2. I agree 1000% on knowing the activities in advance and being able to plan. Additional, spontaneous events rarely go down well with me, and in LW’s situation with unfriendlies, they would be a hard “no” for me. It would be imperative that my partner understand that and we both come to an agreement that: 1) allows partner some free time for spontaneous events if they want to attend solo, and 2) spontanous invitations never supersede our own private plans as a couple (e.g., date night away from the group).

  15. I was the plus one at a wedding once. After the wedding there was an after party that I wasn’t invited to (I forgot why), so I had to leave the party by myself… we broke up shortly after that…

    1. WOW. I just… wow. I’m so sorry that the lack of consideration was so blatant, but good on you for no still being with them!

    2. Ouch.

      I was *not* the plus one at a wedding once. Long story short: I’d been with my boyfriend a year at that point, his good friend was getting married, she invited him without a plus one, he didn’t ask her for one, he took her sister as his date. I stuck it out for 2 more years after that … I wish I could end my story with ‘we broke up shortly after that’ 🙂

      (Hope this isn’t too off-topic)

    3. I’ve been the “uninvited to the after party” several times before, but never at a wedding where I was a plus one and my date ditched me for the after party. That is an epic level of rudeness. Glad the breakup came shortly after!

  16. This is all great advice, especially the stuff about taking time apart to recharge or do something by yourself or whatever and how your partner ABSOLUTELY CANNOT “use your absence to create drama or indulge drama,” as the Captain explained so well.

    Two additional points:
    1) It’s long, long overdue for your partner to address these dynamics with these friends and with his ex. He is not supporting you well if he empathizes with you in private but has done little to nothing to address this ongoing issue with the people who are perpetrating it. Two years ago I was the maid of honor in the wedding of a good friend from college, and one of her sorority sisters was dating (and is now engaged to) my ex with whom I’d broken up with about two years previous (he took it pretty poorly at the time). A couple months before the wedding, the bride talked to her sorority sister and basically said, “Look, I love you and really like Boyfriend and was happy to extend him an invitation as your plus-one and want him to attend and have a good time, but Deb is my MAID OF HONOR and will definitely be physically present the whole time and featured/recognized by name [during the ceremony, reception speeches] at some points, so if he can’t be cool, don’t bring him.” This was the good and right and supportive thing for my friend to do for me, and it named a dynamic without making sweeping accusations of badness, and I think it was better for everyone involved that she did it well in advance of the event and not just like the week before.

    2) If you feel able and if your partner did step 1, you can address this directly with the rude people and rude ex if the situation presents itself. During the reception of that same wedding, my ex was not actively rude to me, but he was clearly avoiding me and even avoiding making eye contact (for what it’s worth, his then-girlfriend-now-fiancee was super friendly to me and not at all a part of the problem). Knowing that his girlfriend had had that conversation with him, I pulled him aside at one point and basically said, “Hey, I know you were told in advance I was going to be here, and you’re being rude. We don’t need to spend a lot of time chatting and catching up if you don’t want to, but you’re acting like a jerk, and you are not being discreet about it. Get it together.” And he did! He was kind of sheepish and basically said, “Yeah, you’re right, my bad,” and we caught up for a few minutes and then went our separate ways. It was fine. Sometimes people who are being rude and/or weird will respond pretty well to being called on it, especially if it’s done in a way that isn’t public or really shaming and gives them an opportunity to correct course.

    Good luck with all of this.

    1. I love stories where nobody involved is a jerk, and it’s more about acknowledging potential issues and maybe having a bad moment. I think sometimes people think they are either being more discreet than they are, or that they are coming off as “a boundary-holding cool cucumber” but they are actually coming off as a sullen pain (I have an ex like that…)

      1. Oh, an ex of mine was absolutely TERRIBLE at Faking Having A Good Time. I swear he didn’t even try…he’d just sit there with a face like thunder, whilst I desperately tried to jolly things a long and try to make things Not Totally Awkward for everyone else present. I do not miss those days at all.

    2. A friend of mine had her hen weekend last year with this one girl who (for reasons unknown) adored the bride but basically hated all her other friends. Would come to social events but only want to talk to Bride, or Bride’s fiancee, or (occasionally) Hot Single Male Friends, and pretty much ignore all other women present (efforts had been made to befriend her, I promise. They were just unsuccessful*).

      Bride was fully aware of this, so in advance of the hen weekend had a similar conversation with Friend, boiling down to ‘if you’re going to come I need you to promise that you’ll make an effort to be nice to everyone and not spend the weekend pretending 80% of my friends don’t exist’.

      Friend informed her she could not agree to those terms.

      It worked out fine in the end because their compromise (after what sounded like a lot of drama and passive-aggression and periods of silent treatment) was that Friend attended one dinner, made a token effort to be pleasant for that couple of hours, then skipped the rest of the weekend, so this is definitely another point in favour of preemptively tackling the issue. But also, sometimes people who are being rude and/or weird will respond…not that well to being called on it.

      *I once spent an entire social event being my Most Charming Self, making sure to draw her into conversations, ask her questions about herself etc. She responded, I found out some time later, by blocking me on Facebook, a medium we had never interacted through, in some sort of…preemptive strike?

    3. “my ex was not actively rude to me, but he was clearly avoiding me and even avoiding making eye contact”

      Which… is fine, right? Why is an ex not allowed to avoid you (you generally, not just you Deb) and have their own boundaries about interacting with a person they don’t care to interact with? How is that “rude” or “acting like a jerk”?

      I mean, making a big show of explicitly refusing to acknowledge a fellow human’s existence would be uncouth– turning your back when offered a “hello,” rolling eyes and talking past anything that person says, or similar– but just… absenting yourself from any conversation that person is in, and going and being polite to Other People Elsewhere– how is that not just Good Boundaries?

      1. I think the problem is when you are obviously avoiding someone, avoiding eye contact, then it’s uncomfortable for other people. Just absenting yourself in a low key way is fine.

  17. No advice LW but this is a timely reminder for me. I’m v tight with my sibs and cousins, and over the last few years I’ve gone from having one bro-in-law to having a bro-in-law, two cousins-in-law, a cousin’s girlfriend and a sister’s boyfriend (the latter two are serious enough to attend family get-togethers). I like them all but I will make extra-sure to be warm and welcoming with them – especially the three newest ones – during the holidays.

  18. So, OP, y’know how you were saying you thought other people might have a similar issue? YOU WERE CORRECT. See: that Spring wedding I’ve committed to attending with my husband (short backstory: apparently wanting 24 hours notice before house guests descend on my small non-soundproofed apartment makes me, and I quote, a bitch, and I haven’t seen that whole crowd in almost 7 years because my husband was like ‘um friends don’t talk about my wife that way wtf’ and stepped out, and now a mutual friend is getting married so… yay.)

    In short: good, universally-applicable advice. Thanks, Captain!

    1. Ugh. “Maybe I’m a bitch, but I’m the bitch with the keys and her name on the lease/deed, so, 24 hours notice.”

      1. Yep. Like, if you give me the choice between bitch and doormat, just WATCH ME.

        (I’ve gotten MUCH better at boundaries in the past few years, and my life has improved drastically. I highly recommend it.)

  19. Anyone else side-eying the ex? To me, she seems like she may be trying to get back with the LW’s partner. Fawning over Partner while ignoring LW to her face looks like a big ole red flag.

    1. It’s the LW here – yep, I’m majorly sure that’s her – and everyone else’s – goal. It’s part of what makes everything so uncomfortable. That said, this is just one of those situations where I haven’t had any reason not to trust my partner and until I do have one, I can’t hold him responsible for what she/they are doing.

      Maybe I’m looking at this the wrong way, but I just don’t see what a “hey, are you trying to flirt with him? Back off!” gets me (not that you were suggesting that) other than playing into her hands when she says I’m crazy/mean/don’t fit in. I’m 100% sure she’s trying to put me on tilt so I’ll say/do something awkward or unkind because I’m flustered. I mean. It’s not ideal, yes.

      1. If they aren’t getting the message after four years, there is nothing you can do to get it through to them. It’s on your partner to enforce boundaries: “Please stop touching me,” “Yes, I vaguely remember that vacation we went on, but it was years ago and there’s nothing to new to say, so [subject change].”

        Just remember that pining for a guy who broke up with you more than four years ago and who has been in a relationship with someone else for four years is objectively pathetic, and if you can summon any pity for her, it might help you get through some of tenser moments. It’s not really about doing anything differently (it sounds like your behavior’s been pretty admirable so far), but mentally reframing her behavior (and that of her allies) so that it has less power to get under your skin.

      2. Okay, I’m gonna admit to the most passive-aggressive thing I’ve ever done.

        My ex’s sister hates me. We are…insert literally every metaphor for two things that don’t mix. Whatever you can think of, we’re all of them at once. And she’s mean – she’d sometimes say things to/about me, but more often than not her game plan was to exclude me/ignore me/make it clear that I didn’t fit in and she did.

        So when I knew I’d see her, I steeled myself and then I put on the kindest, sweetest, most forgiving persona I had access to. I publicly painted everything she did in the gentlest possible light, publicly interpreted everything as if it was the most kindly meant thing in the world. (Publicly, mind you – I knew exactly what she was doing and how she meant it.) Ohhhhhhh it made her see red. It was glorious. She would seethe and she would rage and she’d escalate and she’d look so freaking unreasonable to everybody around her because I was not doing anything that LOOKED like baiting her but because I knew she hated me it ABSOLUTELY WAS baiting her.

        Did I taste blood in my mouth from biting my tongue? Frequently, especially at first. But dangit, I was going to win over EVERYBODY ELSE and leave her hosting a mean-spirited party of one. And ohhhhhh but it worked a treat. It was like giving a big smile and friendly wave to a driver who has decided you’ve done something unforgivable and is in the middle of honking and gesticulating to let you know exactly how scummy you are. I’d stir the pot, leave everybody else saying how sweet I was, and know she’d rage every time a relative or family friend mentioned how much they liked me. Petty and passive-aggressive? ABSOLUTELY. But it made me feel like I was in control, and as long as my game was to stay cool and calm it meant nobody else could see how much she got to me. To this day I think my ex is the only one who knows how much I loathe her, and I’m okay keeping it that way.

        So not saying I whole-heartedly recommend this plan, but I am saying…if you decided to use it, I wouldn’t blame you.

        1. Sarah….My grandmother called this “killing them with kindness” and it is a strategy I’ve used often and it’s never failed me. You just be so, so, so nice to your nemesis in public that anything negative they do toward you will look bizarre or confusing. You walk away smelling like a rose because you are Just So Sweet while your nemesis looks like the jerk.

          1. I’ve always interpreted “killing them with kindness” as needing to actually be kind – but this reframe helps a lot!

          2. I came here to suggest this same thing! Killing people with kindness WORKS EVERY TIME. Because if you say, “oh wow, Petty Ex, that dress you are wearing is STUNNING”…what is she going to do? Snark to someone, “pssst…can you believe she just had the nerve to say my dress is stunning?” You can even pull this off by looking at it as a little game you are playing. And you should get points for sure (per Captain Awkward) for every time your compliments and kind words hit the target. You’ll know.

          3. Yep, my mom always called it that too. And it does work.

            I don’t see it as being passive- aggressive at all, because being nice to people is just kind of what you are supposed to do anyway.

          4. Well, it’s a sort of gaslighting – you’re insisting on acting as though your relationship is something other than what you know perfectly well it is, manipulating the other person’s scoial reality. I don’t think that makes it bad, it’s a reasonable strategy to navigate a hostile social space. People acting in bad faith cede the protection of the social contract they violated in the first place.

            Maybe “killing them.with niceness” is more accurate, though it lacks the aliteration, since one is using “nice” social scripts in a way that isn’t really kind.

        2. My version of this is that ‘nothing p*sses a person off so much as being forgiven’. Even if you don’t feel actually feel that way, it can be very therapeutic to rise above the pettiness and be better than ‘the enemy’.

        3. Dang. Thanks for this comment because I think it just explained what someone is doing to me. Except I believe I’m mad at them with fair reason and they refuse to deal with problem straightforwardly. They’re holding me at arm’s length with perfect calm and acts of kindness. It’s a real chess move, for sure!

        4. I’ve been executing this exact plan for a relative who decided I deeply wronged her (there is a lot of backstory but, essentially, I consider myself FAR MORE the wronged party in this situation, because I was wronged in a way that cost me housing and thousands of dollars and she was wronged in a way that caused her disappointment and hurt feelings). I have been unfailingly pleasant and proper in highly visible ways, over and over, and made sure to be very present with other family members. She has spent years repeating to them how I wronged her, and I have blithely said “well, here’s what happened, but it’s in the past, I wish her well.” I have very studiously created the appearance that I’m above her petty feud. I am absolutely not above it.

          In fairness, if she were to come to me and say “let’s hash this out,” I would do so openly and willingly. I am hurt and upset by how she’s acted, but I don’t consider it irreparable. But unless that day comes, this is my extremely winning strategy.

      3. You can absolutely hold him responsible for his expecting you to hang around with these people and put up with their juvenile crap. FOUR YEARS.

        Next time he makes sadface at you about how he wants you to go with him to their events, consider tellinghim flat out: THEY DO NOT WANT ME THERE, AND I WILL RESPECT THEIR WISHES.

      4. LW, why the flying fuck is your partner still hanging around his ex and these other shitty people? I’m guessing he knows that’s what his ex is trying to do. If he knows, he sounds like he’s getting off on having two women competing for him. If he doesn’t know, then he’s putting his own social life above your well-being. Either way, dude is not looking very good here.

      5. A) They’re toddlers without a clue. I would take a sympathetic/amused onlookers approach to the tantrums and only say kind, adult things which will very obviously contrast with their vibe. Think of the anecdotes they are giving you!
        B) This would be a lot easier if boyfriend was rolling his eyes in tandem with you and you were both laughing at their fuckwittery together. A clever man will see the dynamic for what it is and give these people very short shrift. Never trust a stupid man. A kind man will be more hurt at behaviour aimed towards you than he could be at behaviour towards himself. Never trust an unkind man. And as for genuine trust, it is EARNED, not handed over like a blank cheque of obligation because you have no reason to refuse. Perhaps this is the trip where he earns it.

    2. Yeah, it seems pretty weird to have not moved on from a breakup after four years, no matter the circumstances it ended under. Like….has she not dated anyone else in that time? Has she not made new friends? Is she not doing new things in her life at all??? Because to me, if you break up under bad circumstances, once you’ve healed, you usually kind of stop associating as much with the person you broke up with. And if you break up under good circumstances, once you’ve healed, you usually don’t act really weird and exclusive toward any new people your old SO dates. This behavior doesn’t make any sense unless she’s still hung up on LW’s partner and hoping to be with him.

      1. So I’m not ‘hung up’ on my ex. At least, not like that. I’m still pretty bitter about it all tbh and I have very strong feeling about how I’d like him to be lonely and miserable for the rest of his life. But he’s remarried now and I have feelings about his wife and seriously, “how dumb/ignorant/pathetic must she be to want to be with a guy like him?” And then I realise I’m being sexist and bitter and I start feeling crappy about it all and thinking “maybe she’s just better than me and could bring out his good side” blah blah blah more patriarchal bullshit. If we didn’t have kids I would have nothing to do with him/then. Alas we do have kids and he’s decided he wants to see them so I am resigned to it but I 100% organise things so I have to deal with him/them as little as possible. If that makes me rude and mean and whatever else I really DGAF.

        I’m pretty confident that’s not what’s happening here (at least LW says nothing about kids or joint custody of pets) but, yanno, people’s heads be weird. Sometimes we can’t just “get over it” no matter how much time passes.

        1. If she’s falling for the same bullshit you fell for she deserves pity.
          If he happened to have grown up since the break up, or they happen to be more compatible or whatever its not because she’s a better woman or person.
          None of this obligates you to spend more time with either of them than you have to.

    3. Ehhh we don’t know what went on there and as far as the LW is concerned it’s irrelevant. What Ex wants or thinks doesn’t matter and wondering about it is only gonna stress the LW more.

    4. YES. For real, she hasn’t moved on after four damn year? Four months, I could understand; but I can’t imagine holding a grudge for that long.

    5. I have even more side-eye for the friends who are apparently encouraging her. Four years might be enough to discourage this kind of thing if they hadn’t kept stirring the shit for the sake of drama, or whatever they’re getting out of it.

  20. Don’t fall victim to the sunk-cost fallacy – you’ve booked plane tickets, so what? What happens if you don’t go? You have to pay for the plane ticket. What happens if you do go? You have to pay for the plane ticket. So that shouldn’t play into your decision at all. What should is how much you want to go for various reasons (to support your partner, to spend time with your partner, to see some of the nicer people, to have different experiences, whatever) and whatever the additional costs, the ones you are not yet committed to, would be (people being unkind to you, feeling uncomfortable, paying for a hotel room and restaurant food, feeling jetlagged when you get back, and so on). But the plane tickets you’ve bought are a set cost no matter what you do, so you actually have freedom in what you choose.

    And while this tack is not for everyone, if I went to a few such events and were treated badly, I would rescind any further commitments I had made, and RSVP ‘no’ to any further events, and I would tell the hosts why: “I won’t be coming, because you/partner’s ex/the whole friend group/people X, Y,and Z treated me very badly at the last three events, and I’m not interested in any more of that.”

    1. Also, you could take the flight, keep partner company on it and other travel, but bow out of the wedding stuff and find other things to do the whole weekend.

    2. Agreed. And, weighed in the balance, which is more important … the $X you could lose, or your peace of mind?

    3. Agreed. I’ve actually cancelled paid for in advance plans before. I’ve considered it the price I had to pay to get out of an event without feeling guilty. I know that sounds weird and I have no reasonable way to explain it, but sometimes just knowing that I bought a ticket gives me enough courage to say “Now I don’t have to go if I don’t want to.”

  21. This sounds tough. My only thought is that you can always “get some air” and go outside to for a break/to gather yourself at any point. You can also invite your boyfriend to “get some air” with you. A brief up and down the block walk could be really nice for a quick, private check-in and a hug to reconnect. And I might suggest wearing something you feel confident in? Nothing like worrying about what you’re wearing to make one feel self-conscious. Good luck! You got this!

  22. If you can’t manage the level of seeking out strangers for friendly engagement the Captain describes, an alternate framework is to view the entire experience like you’re an anthropologist observing the interactions of a bunch of aliens.

    I once spent several days at a wedding where the bride, groom, and their entire close friend circle were furries. To the point that the groom put on his fursuit during the rehearsal dinner, to the polite bafflement of both extended families gathered for the occasion. It was so awkward that I remember the entire weekend through a veil of dissociation, like an out-of-body experience. It would have been nice if I’d had the social and mental wherewithal to connect with someone there, but at the very least I got a series of weird stories out of it.

    1. In addition to some super-traditional weddings in cultures not my own where some guidelines about traditions were much appreciated and super-non-traditional weddings, I’ve been to Star Trek weddings, Harry Potter weddings, Dr. Who weddings, a wedding with a How I Met Your Mother-themed puppet show…no Furry weddings, yet (that I know of) but it’s certainly possible. Anywhere you have geeks, costumes could come out at any moment! Be vigilant!

      It sounds like the hosts of that event could have stood to do some “Hey, we’re into this fun cosplay thing where we dress up as animals!” education/notification of guests (what those cheesy wedding websites are made for) but this anecdote certainly is a reminder that “Hey, when you’re a guest, it’s okay to just hang back and BE.”

      1. I would have cheerfully attended their Big Furry Wedding Bash (Ears and Tails Provided at the Door), but watching them use a traditional wedding to tentatively prod at the boundaries of their families’ acceptance was… intensely awkward and also kind of heartbreaking. I eventually lost touch with the couple, but I hope they’re somewhere they’re able to be who they want to be without apology or hesitation.

    2. Very good introvert hack. My level of being able to People waxes and wanes; when I’ve got the mental energy, Captain’s advice about ‘seek out chatty old people or awkward newcomers’ would work well, but when I don’t, anything that INCREASES the amount of interacting I have to do would be a massive nope. The dissociated-anthropologist mode would be a better fit in that instance.

      Also potentially helpful for weddings/receptions – a camera! Can be done with your phone, but looks like more of A Thing if it’s an actual camera. Feeling awkward and don’t want to talk to anyone or just stand around? Snap away. Get the email address or Facebook contact info of a point person in the wedding party – your candids may catch some great moments the official photographer or people busy socializing would miss. Or just bring a disposable and give it to them after (one of my favorite weddings had ‘please fill and return!’ disposables on each table at the start).

      Disclaimer that this only applies to events on the slightly casual-er scale where you can see others have phones or other devices out.

      1. Truth! There were a half-dozen photographers of varying professional degrees at a friend’s handfasting. But when the actual Moment came along, I looked around and didn’t see a single camera in play, so I pulled mine out and managed to be the only one to get the money shot (as it were).

    3. My partner and I ended up in the same hotel as a furry convention for our honeymoon. Unintentional, but it makes for a great story. And the convention attendees were generally polite, charming, and gracious!

  23. Have you ever felt frozen out of a romantic partner’s friend group? Did it ever thaw? What changed?

    Not my spouse’s friend group, his family, but I think some of what worked for us would be relevant here. The list of things the Captain identified as things she would need from a partner for this kind of event really rang true for me, especially #6 & 7. Sure, he can’t change how people behave, but he can actually *react* to it in some way, rather than ignoring it. The point, of course, isn’t to change how anyone is behaving but to validate your feeling that this or that person is being rude.

    Early in our relationship, I absolutely dreaded visiting my now-in-laws because the whole family is basically a missing stair, and my spouse and his sister had learned to cope by literally blanking out and retreating into their own internal world. Which left me in the living room wondering if I was loosing my mind or imagining the general horribleness. And of course my spouse and I would fight a lot, culminating in the time he took me on an “errand” that was just an excuse for me to chainsmoke, angry cry, and yell at him about how much I hated his family and him when he was with them, and how I was already watching my language plenty and wasn’t going to be smoothing anything further by avoiding taking the Lord’s name in vain. Not our finest moment, but it apparently was the kick in the ass he needed to pay attention to what was happening and actually prioritize the relationship he said he cared about more.

    That said, I am aware that it can be really hard to recognize and break out of those kinds of ingrained patterns (it’s something I struggle with in one familial relationship) so the alternative option probably would have been me having zero interaction with his family, including big events. I mention this because it really is an available option. I have an aunt who has been married for 25 years at least and I bet I can count the number of times I’ve seen her husband on one hand. He does not go to events. I gave her a backdoor plus one to my wedding so she could bring her youngest kid instead of Uncle Whatever because I actually know and like that cousin, and Uncle Whatever doesn’t want to be there either.

    In addition, I know I feel so much more comfortable when I have the logistical decisions already made in a way that makes it easy to get away / stay away. So, you know, make sure your preferred taxi / ride hailing app is loaded on your phone and has a current credit card, and just build the cost of that into your trip budget. Book a hotel somewhere else, not in the block of rooms where all the old besties are going to stay. Make skipping the satellite events your default position, so any change is upbeat “yay, I decided I can come to the happy hour after all” not downbeat “sorry, I have to cancel”.

  24. My husband was divorced when I met him, and had been for a number of years. I didn’t have to deal with people who were friends with his ex (when they were married, they lived far away), but I did have to deal with friends of his that were used to getting the bulk of his free time. And some of them weren’t so cool with losing his friend time when he started dating. It wasn’t personal to me – and maybe, LW, they would treat anyone your partner dated the same way? Would it help if you realized (or decided) it wasn’t personal? Anyway, most pf my husband’s friend got over it, and most of them pretty quickly. One never did, but fortunately for me my husband took this as a cue that this particular person was not a good friend. She didn’t care about his happiness, only that he suddenly wasn’t available to hang out whenever she wanted, which is a pretty crappy way to treat a friend. They don’t talk much anymore.

    It is a little concerning that your partner hasn’t stepped up a little more, and had some hard conversations with his friends. A simple “Look guys, are you all expecting that I’ll never date anyone besides my ex again? Because how is that something you would want for me?” might go a long way. And I’m curious – has his ex not dated anyone else? If she has, does the friend group treat her dates poorly as well?

  25. I’m totally on team LW who has done everything right as far as i can tell, but WHAT did the LW’s bf do to his ex?!?! If the friend group is pissed at his “new” partner four years later, good lord he must have done something awful in the breakup with the previous gf. LW said she wasn’t involved with her bf before the breakup, but do his friends know that and believe that?

    1. But if what he did was so awful as to be worthy of still holding it against him four years later, why are they apparently still willingly friends with him and inviting him to parties, birthdays, weddings, etc.??? Something about their reactions is certainly strange.

    2. They might not, or there could be things I don’t know about, or they could just not believe that, or maybe someone spread a rumor and now I’m powerless to stop it because it’s not like they like me enough to believe me anyway. I think it’s more that – Everyone hung out an awful lot, but I think his ex was the more social one, and so naturally people felt more connected to/defensive of her.

      Also, since she has no problem being very nice to him now, I assume she’s over that but just not over the fact that when I moved back and didn’t really fit in, the dynamic in their social group changed. No one knows me, so I imagine it’s very easy to make this all about me. I’m sure to them, it feels very much like, “well, we were all friends, and then they broke up, and we weren’t as close/things changed in a way I do not like – also, he started dating her. Let’s get rid of her and everything will be back to normal!” It’s correlation/causation.

      1. Also, in fairness, I don’t know if things would be different if I’d tried a lot harder with them, but I just didn’t want to after my initial attempts fell flat. I’m sure they think I’m standoffish and didn’t work hard enough on fitting in, rather than realizing I made a very reasonable conclusion that I didn’t want to keep putting myself in a position to be bullied until they got tired of it and just did other things with my time.

        1. I’m not crazy about groups that make displays of withholding approval, and expect new person to tap dance and beg for it – too much of a powerplay. Sounds like you’ve tried hard enough in the past and you don’t owe anyone any more than basic pleasantries.

        2. There’s no ex involved in this story, but years ago two of my close friends were roommates. Friend A owned the house, and had invited Friend B to live with them. And all seemed to be going really well…until Friend B announced that their girlfriend, who lived in another state, was moving to theirs and would be staying with them until she got herself a job and somewhere to live sorted out.

          And then everything was awful. From Friend A’s perspective, they’d never been asked if it was ok to have someone else move into their home, that they owned, and so was (understandably) quietly furious at the situation, but also it was too late to do anything about it. Girlfriend found herself in a very small house, with nowhere else to go during the day and someone who was doing her best to appear welcoming but clearly was also unhappy about her presence and, (also understandably) felt kind of unwelcome. Friend B spent a lot of time in between two people they loved and cared about very much, both of who were being very carefully polite to each other but also really really did not want to be in the same space, totally oblivious to the fact that the whole situation could have been avoided if they’d just had a proper conversation about it in the first place rather than announcing it as a fait accompli.

          Friend A and Friend B are still friends, and Friend B has been happily living Somewhere Else with Girlfriend for several years now, but Girlfriend will never, ever come to any group social events because she spent her first few months in the state feeling like she wasn’t wanted here, and it’s totally fair for her to feel that (even though I don’t think it was really the case…Friend A genuinely liked Girlfriend, but there’s a difference between ‘I think your new partner is awesome’ and ‘please, feel free to install them in my home for several months’). And that damage is done, and there’s no coming back from it without some horrible deep conversations with Friend B about how they caused this situation and made two of the people they cared about the most so unhappy, which obviously neither of those people who love them want to have.

          So I can totally understand how some decisions made by people who weren’t you, LW, can have spiralled to have these consequences that are totally not your fault, but that no one really knows how to get back from without having to unpick several years of friendship and poke at some painful bits that they’ve let scab over. As the person in the middle, it’s your boyfriend who’ll have to make the decision about whether to go there or not.

          What you can do, in the meantime, is practise you and your boyfriend being a team. Going out and making your own friends is EXACTLY the right thing to have done, but maybe it’s also time to find some people who can be friends with both of you. Those friends can come from his friends or your friends, or (preferably) a mix, but you might want to consider inviting individual couples for dinner, or round for a board game, or anything else you both enjoy. Instead of feeling like you’re auditioning to be part of his social circle, start auditioning people to be part of the one the two of you might create together. Take control of the situation.

          Then, go to the weddings, go to the birthdays, and promise yourself that next year the events that you’re going to are going to be the events of people who are actually friends with the both of you.

        3. I know I am late to the game here, but I just wanted you to know that these are just shitty people. Your boyfriend has shitty petty friends. And ya know? That sooooo common in the 20s. You’re 20s are like the adult equivalent to junior high where everyone is childishly trying to look cool while adulting. It is not surprising that you are coming to the point after 4 years of this of being tired of all the nonsense. It is also not surprising that your partner is just choosing to distant himself more from them. While approaching 30, A LOT of people start dropping friends. It really starts sometime after 25 or so but really always seems to come to a head in the early 30s. It is because people just get really tired of the petty “looking cool” games of the 20s. Families start being made (whether with kids or not), partnerships are sealed for a good long while, people really start owning their personal interests and hobbies, and people’s careers are really starting to take off. Priorities change significantly. Their capital of giving an eff goes way down. I would not be surprised that after the next few rounds of marriages and other milestones, people stop engaging with one another in these friendships of younger days. Sure people still stay in touch, but really they start forming different types of relationships and their penchant for drama decreases significantly. I just want you to know that its not you. Your BF could have done a bit more to set boundaries here, but honestly him starting to just bow out is the more common approach. As for now, I would follow the captains advice, and just keep in mind, this too shall pass.

          1. Spicy Onion, I kind of want to print this out or put it on a billboard or something because you are SO SPOT ON.

          2. My big mid-20s social realization: the reason why Friends-style sitcoms feature 4-8 people who hang out nonstop with only transient new people is BECAUSE THE STARS HAVE CONTRACTS TO BE IN A CERTAIN NUMBER OF EPISODES. In real life it’s normal to have multiple overlapping social circles instead of spending all your time with a closed posse. Honestly, once i realized that I realized that my mid-20s friendgroup was actually disturbingly insular and changed my focus to building one-on-one friendships with the few people I was actually really into as friends.

        4. Oh, LW, this is so not your fault! These people are treating you horribly, and your boyfriend is putting up with it. I think you have a boyfriend problem here. Strategies for the events are good, but to be, the underlying problem is you have a boyfriend who has apparently been fine with his friends treating you like shit. FOR FOUR YEARS.

      2. That’s a pretty reasonable guess. I know I’ve been guilty of being shitty to a friend’s bf/gf when I was resentful that my friend had backed away a lot due to their relationship, even though the issue was with getting friend-dumped and not with the bf/gf themselves. Now I’m wondering if your bf’s choice to pull away from the friend group to support you was actually counter-productive, if some folks are resenting that they don’t have your bf in their friend group in the same was as they had him when he was still dating the ex. Whatever the situation though, none of it is your fault and you’ve done everything reasonable, and I hope you survive wedding season and that everyone’s marriages are successful so that the wedding years are finite and brief!

    3. LW’s BF didn’t necessarily do anything wrong. Breakups are painful and sucky even if no one did anything “wrong” and even if the breakup is ultimately for the best. I have yet to encounter a breakup that did not involve some amount of hard feelings at some point. Also, the friend group might have been really invested in the idea of LW’s BF and the Ex as a couple and might be having a hard time letting go of that idea.

    4. If he did something that awful, why are they mad at his new girlfriend but apparently not mad at him?

      1. That’s pretty common, especially if the something awful is cheating. That’s the sort of thing for which the friend gets forgiven, but the new woman never does. Even if it isn’t cheating, but a breakup followed by a new relationships, the new GF still gets accused of “luring him away”.

    5. It might be as simple as a shitty breakup and the Ex has to make nice with BF cos he’s still part of the friendgroup, so it’s easier to displace her rageyness onto the LW. Ultimately the why doesn’t matter to the LW.

    6. Probably nothing. It could be that the friend unit hoped LW’s BF and the ex would get back together. Would make things “how they use to be.” When two people date within a close friend unit, a breakup will change the dynamic. Mature individuals will recognize the two who were dating weren’t right for *each other* while acknowledging they’re great individuals separately.

    7. I don’t know that this is fair to assume. It’s possible that they think he was cheating, but it’s far from a given. Maybe they assumed he would get back together with Ex eventually and were mad when LW’s arrival ruined their idea of the future? Maybe they saw that Ex struggled with seeing her ex with a new partner, and see their behavior as somehow rallying around her? Maybe they’re just bad at being sociable, welcoming people and don’t want anyone outside their original group involved? There are so many possible explanations.

  26. If they really treat you like dirt, I’d also just ask why they invited you.
    At least, I assume you’ll get an official invitation, addressed to the both of you. If you didn’t, then I think BF should ask if they want you there, if not: you’re free.
    But if they do invite you, even as a formality, I think it’s worthwhile to remember them that you’re there on their request.

  27. I would like to know how LW’s partner responds when his ex is being “super kind” to him while ignoring LW. If she’s the ringleader and has positive feelings toward LW’s partner, friendship or otherwise, perhaps he should call her out on her behaviour? Not in public, just a quiet aside. Something like, “Enough with the frostiness to LW. When you’re rude to her, you’re rude to me. You don’t have to like her, but stop ignoring her and start being civil. Otherwise you and I won’t be getting along as well anymore.”

    It might do the trick if the ex values a good relationship with LW’s partner whatever her motivation, and perhaps others in the friend circle will follow suit. If ex doesn’t care and is being syrupy to LW’s partner just to make LW feel bad, she might drop the charade and break the group’s anti-LW dynamic. Coolness between LW’s partner and the ex might cause the friends to re-evaluate the characters of everyone involved.

    1. I’d also like to know that. While it’s true that LW’s partner can’t control how other people act, he does have a lot of control in how he reacts to them. So maybe it’s on him to be more assertive and less accepting of the weird interactions.

      Like, if three people are having a conversation, and A is chatting to B and ignoring C… that dynamic only works if B goes along with it. For instance, B can keep really clearly bringing the conversation around to C (A: “How are things, B?” B: “Oh, great, I’m doing X, and C is really enjoying Y” (looks at/makes physical contact with C)). Just… don’t allow a normal conversation that ignores your partner to take place. If the other person is ignoring your partner, make it really obvious and awkward for them. Even explicitly calling things out: “Are you having trouble hearing me over the music? I said C is also really into motocross these days”, or “Huh, you’re acting a little strangely, do you need to go sit down for a while?”

    2. Why not in public? I think that would be the most effective course of action. I have serious doubts if the boyfriend would even WANT to do this.

      1. Personally I believe in addressing stuff privately first; it can be as effective as doing it in public and not as dramatic. LW doesn’t say whether her partner has talked to anyone privately about their behaviour, and I think my wording would be a bit aggressive in a public setting — feels like going from zero to 60 all of a sudden, you know? I wouldn’t want to say that, in the tone of voice I use in my head, in public. Something else maybe.

  28. Remember that you don’t have to stay until the bitter end at these things. Get your partner to agree – before you touch foot in a plane – that if you’re miserable at an event, you guys are gonna bounce. Together. And I hope, if questioned, your partner actually tells the truth about why you left and doesn’t make you the bad guy. No “Oh, GF was sick.”

  29. I went to my step daughters’ graduations, both filled with toxic family, abusive ex, and every flavor of pretentious faux-rich fuckery. I was not there to audition. I was not there for their fuckshit. My goal was to support my stepdaughter and mission accomplished, as I focused on her and not what everyone else was wearing. The abusive ex tried everything to passive-aggressively cause shit with me, which I cheerfully ignored, or asked with my best puzzled face, “why on earth would you say that?” As in, “where are your manners?” I learned the Fine Art of Shade from Sanctified Church Matriarchs, and this is not for amateurs, so YMMV. But it turned into one of the most entertaining weekends I can remember for years. I was like Steve Irwin in my head, narrating the distress and mating calls from an unknown species. Made people wonder what I was giggling about. Maybe that was rude but … Fuck it!

    1. I love this! I’d be right alongside you with the Steve Irwin narrative, and smiling and giggling for no apparant reason. The Fine Art of Shade as taught by Sanctified Church Matriarchs should be a real course, online, available to all.

    2. “I learned the Fine Art of Shade from Sanctified Church Matriarchs, and this is not for amateurs”

      I, I just love this so much.

  30. All the suggestions were great, and especially the befriend older people one. They loooooove to talk about anything and everything. At a friend’s wedding I wore a really great 50’s style dress I found that had tiny cats on it and allllllll the older women were rushing over to fawn over it, then over my daughter who was 2 at the time, being all super cute dancing around.

    Also, if you or your partner are in a position to ask the bride/groom of a wedding if there’s a seating plan, you can ask if it’s possible to not be sat at the same table with the jerk-friends. I totally did this with friends who were getting married and I knew there was someone I did not want to spend time sitting at a table with. As long as you ask well in advance and they don’t seem to be in totally stressing out mode people are usually pretty understanding.

  31. The other dates are the best because some of them also probably are feeling uncomfortable. I ended up at a fairly religious wedding where the hostility was pretty blatant and I hung out with a bunch of other non-religious +1s and we had a blast joking about being the “heathens” (what the older folk called us). Husband was in the wedding party and could not help me so I was very relieved to find friendly faces.

    It sucks being in hostile territory but even one chat companion really helps.

  32. I just have a couple of suggestions that may or may not be of minor help. The first is to pretend you’re an exchange student. This is some strange foreign gathering you’ve never been to before, and you are going to experience the decor and the food and the people as something rare and new. And sure, some people will be strange and some may be unfriendly, but that is not your problem, you foreign visitor you, you are just there to experience the day in this exotic locale (even if it’s Cleveland). It sounds dumb, but it’s a way to subconsciously remind yourself that this day is not Your Real Life and you don’t have to be invested in what anyone else there thinks or does, because you’re leaving soon to resume Your Real Life.

    The second suggestion is to remember the value of maintaining good sense of humor about the situation. Any dumpster fire can be fodder for a dishy convo with a good friend when you get home, over a glass of wine if that’s your thing (“So the ex gave me nothing but side-eye the whole time and they broke up FOUR YEARS AGO!”) If you can pull it off, it’s always better to be amused than offended, and someone else’s bad behavior may be your next good story. Good luck!

  33. My first big event as my now husband’s date was a wedding where he was in the wedding party, so there wasn’t really a way to leave the venue early and partner was busy with lots of helping. I couldn’t even sit with him at dinner because he was at the head table! In addition to the advice above, one thing I’d mention is that it is quite likely if your partner is occupied, no one will notice if you just disappear for a little while. I did my best to socialize and be friendly and enjoy myself, but it helped to slip out and have a drink on the porch of the venue when I needed a breather. Weddings are a little intense for the easily over-stimulated, ha! Lots of venues will have porches, hallways, bathrooms, gardens, etc. if you need to take a break from the awkward or intensity. Be kind to yourself. ❤

    1. in the letter writer’s situation I’d be tempted to join my partner while he’s in conversation with the ex and as she ignores me, reach across my hand and introduce myself. Or ask him “Honey would you introduce me to your friend?” Treat all the cool characters like it’s my first time meeting them, introduce myself, chat and ask how they know so and so, be interested to the point of (their) embarrassment OR completely ignore them like they are not even visible in the room. Treat it like a game. The older I get the more I see humour in silly drama.

    2. Yes! I came here to post something similar. Popping to the shops for cigarettes/painkillers/tampons or needing to pop back to where I’m staying to top up the parking has bought me much needed breaks from the last few weddings I was at! One guy tried to make a weird innuendo to my partner and I about going back to sort out the parking but we just completely dead-panned him and laboriously explained how the place we were staying only issued parking 24 hrs at a time so at some point in the evening we had to go switch out the ticket. That time it was true but I’m absolutely keeping that excuse in my pocket for next time as well! Very few people noticed our absence and the ones who did thought it perfectly normal behavior to discreetly run an errand. In fact, the smokers I offered to get fags from the shop for thought I was a hero and bought me drinks for the rest of the night!

  34. Kind of a small thing, but plan a way to get home from events or back to the hotel by yourself, and carry some taxi cash. If you’re ok with leaving the event by yourself whenever you feel “done” and leaving your partner to hang out by himself (and if you haven’t considered it, it’s an option), then have that conversation beforehand. Like, “hey, I might leave on my own when I’m done, but you can party as long as you want,” so you don’t end up having a drunken “are you mad at meeeeee???” conversation when it’s time to go. I’m an introvert so I do this a lot because it’s easier to deal with Socializing if I know I can leave whenever I want. Occasionally when I leave after I’m SO done with socializing, I end up feeling lonely after all, so I stop somewhere and get a drink/cocoa and read a book on my phone and then I feel cool and mysterious. This is all irrelevant, of course, if leaving alone would make you feel slighted and abandoned. That’s also a perfectly reasonable.

  35. If you can crack the old people algorithm, they are awesome to hang with. They know everyone there and what they did that time in 1995. You may need to open with, “So can I get anybody some of that choice hooch?” (Sometimes they’ll just stay a wall, but they’re always worth a try.)

    Do you collect anything? Get on Google Maps and make yourself a map of the town’s bookstores/toy stores/tea places/comics shops/schmancy paper goods stores/architecture/art, and you’ve got something to do if the reception goes belly-up. Or make it part of the deal for getting you to go in the first place. “We did the wedding and reception, we are going to Quimby’s before the plane leaves.”

  36. So, we may have been that awful group once-upon-a-time. I’m part of a very close knit group of college friends (and we’re all turning 40 this year, so you know it’s been a while) and many years ago one of our group was dating a guy who was not good to her. There was much rejoicing when they finally broke up. And when he came back on the scene a couple years later claiming to be a changed man, many of us were skeptical. I led the skeptics brigade since I was filled with righteous fury that he could not remember meeting me before (we all spent a week together on a vacation the first time they were dating!) and I was just CERTAIN that he could not have changed that much.

    They got married and a group of us all traveled together to the wedding shit-talking the groom the entire car ride. Just about an hour before the rehearsal dinner one of our group called us out (nicely) and reminded us that we weren’t inside their relationship and we didn’t know what they had done to repair trust and if we didn’t think we could celebrate their union in good faith we shouldn’t go at all – because it would be hurtful to a friend we claimed to love to be so terrible about her life partner. We’re long-time friends and so it was a safe place to work through all of our feelings, and we came into that rehearsal dinner determined to be on our best, most welcoming behavior. And they are still together and super happy and recently he confessed how hard it was when they got back together trying to interact with the whole group. We froze him out and made it hard to get to know us again and no wonder he didn’t remember me! I just another one of her many friends who hated him and treated him like shit. It was different because he knew that he had been in the wrong and so he was able to convince himself it was worth it to keep trying because the fact that we loved his wife so much that we hated him was something he could actually agree with, as opposed to the LW’s situation where they hate her for no reason.

    Anyway, what I’m saying is, maybe one of the mutual friends who has come to be close to you, LW, can have one of these call-out conversations with the group (without you there), because if our dear friend hadn’t done that for us, we might have never really given him a chance and probably lost our friend over it. It has to be about reminding these friends of your boyfriend that they are not being good friends TO HIM by refusing to welcome you. Anyway, just a thought about what got through to us and led the un-freezing.

  37. Where were you with this spot-on advice a gazillion years ago when I was the New Wife having to deal with similar awkward stuff? Wow. What you wrote here is gold!

  38. I’m in a similar situation — most of my boyfriend’s friends are lovely, but one doesn’t seem to like me (though luckily this person isn’t his ex). Any advice for how to handle the situation where the friends have been invited to your house and someone makes insulting comments (e.g., about the lack of cleanliness of the house) to the whole group? I haven’t come up with a good script for that other than just sitting awkwardly. Between that and the cliquey stories from long ago, this person performing “fake interested” when talking to me, interacting with them is exhausting and it makes my boyfriend sad (though he understands) when I want to skip group events.

    1. “Wait, did you really just say that?” is the #1 response I could see making. Did no one say anything? Like, everyone just let this person talk and didn’t say anything? In your HOUSE? Aw hell naw.

      I’d not invite this person back to anything where I live, ever again, and if asked I’d say why – “Oh, we don’t get along, and the last time they were here they said some really rude stuff about my housekeeping. I’d just rather not from now on.”

      1. I guess it’s a key point that it’s our shared place….and the comment was technically directed at my boyfriend.

        Most everyone was silent except for one lovely person who stepped up to defend us/me.

        Thank you for the script suggestion! I will keep that in my back pocket for the (likely) next time.

        1. i’m also fond of “Pardon me?…Oh, that’s what I thought you said,” as an indirect record-scratch reframe

          1. It is SO HARD to return awkwardness to sender when someone is actually making a considered power play in these situations. It requires so much facial and tone control and there are certainly people (I once moved in a social group with people!) who relish seeing that it bugged their target.

            If you CAN manage a controlled reaction, I do think Natalie Wynn is onto something when she says that the right tone is often not “I’m so offended” but “this is boring and you’re being a dum dum”. I think getting them to repeat, followed by an “oh wow” or a “hunh!” or a “you said that!” that seems like you’re amused at them but not with them, followed by rapidly engaging the rest of the group in conversation that excludes them… can work.

            But that kind of affect management is absolutely exhausting. And frankly I’ve never managed to play this game as long or as hard as really interpersonally awful people want to play it! So I think of course the only real winning move is not to play and a) stop caring what they think b) socialize with the people you like and not them c) stop caring if they’re mad about it. That is easier said than done but if you treat them like bad weather and try to avoid them it’s so much less of your time and energy sunk into social slapfights with someone who sucks. So like – if sitting there like “oh shit am I supposed to – say something???” is the price of later that month having lunch with the 3 shared friends you like and never seeing that person again if you can help it – good for you. You tucked and rolled out of there instead of getting sucked into something awful.

        2. Frame it as doing him a favor. “Oh dear, I know Rudaldo is very stressed out by our level of housekeeping and being in our apartment is very hard on him, so it would be very unkind for us to invite him over.”

        3. I tend to channel Roy Zimmerman’s line from his introduction to “Jerry Fallwell’s God” and say, “That was…out loud, did you know that?”

          I’m ever so grateful to him for giving me the perfect thing to say.

    2. If someone insulted my house’s cleanliness to my face, I don’t think I’d be able to stop myself responding, “Well, feel free to leave.”

    3. My Mom uses this phrase and it’s fantastic in this setting: “Did you come to see me or see my house?” (which also can be turned around when you visit someone else to be “I came to see you, not your house!” and then, depending on your relationship/ the circumstances, be turned into an offer to help that person clean or do a load of laundry, usually used in times of new babies/grieving/depressive episodes).

      But also, your boyfriend should be saying deploying the phrase. Also, he shouldn’t be “sad” when you want to skip things, he should notice when One Friend is rude and impolite and call them on it himself. Also, I’d say shore up your relationships with his other friends (if you want to be closer!) in smaller hang-outs, with or without boyfriend. It breaks up the Group Dynamic (and maybe make some of your own cliquey inside jokes, eh?) and in larger gatherings, you’ll have “safe” people to talk to while boyfriend is socializing and don’t have to resort to talking to One Friend (maybe start with the person that defended you, they seem nice).

      1. OOh I love this! I had someone pull something similar where I didn’t know them well but they were loosely in my partner’s friend group and so were invited to our house for a party. They did and said somethings and cornered my other guest and friend for hours and were angry and rude. After that I said…never again…we’re not that close, I have no interest in getting to know a person better who came to my fun party and didn’t even acknowledge my existence.

        My partner had a sort of cognitive confusion reaction around GSF where everyone is everyone’s friend and invited to everything forever but once he recovered from that we moved on and never looked back and she’s never been to my house since.

    4. The answer should probably be “Get the fuck out of my house.” You don’t need “friends” like that.

      1. I have a lot of friends with no evil intent but poor filters, so at a low level I’m explicit about my priorities (yeah, I hope it isn’t troubling you, we try to just have people over “as is” so we can host more often.) If they’re being a jerk though I do go for “you know, you don’t *have* to be here.”

        In the right tone that seems to snap people more or less into realizing they crossed a line. It has a nice implied threat, too – if you’re here to be an ass you won’t be welcome.

    5. “You’re welcome to leave.”

      Keep the tone as neutral as you can: you’re not taking the bait and getting angry, and you’re also totally serious and not making a lighthearted joke. I’d aim for the same tone you might use if a guest asks where the toilet is.

  39. “An Ex who is still playing the “I’m going to pretend you don’t exist…to your face” game after FOUR YEARS (and people who enable that behavior) isn’t someone you can cheerfully Nice your way through hanging out with, so, good job disengaging there.”

    I recently went through this with a coworker—as in worked together on the same team every day for 4+ years— and yeah, at some point you just have to be like, “Other Person is choosing to a weirdo nutbar, so I’m going to choose to ignore her behavior even though she’s 30-something goddamn years old and the rest of us left middle school behind YEARS ago.”

    Good luck, letter writer!

  40. I feel this. I am 17 years younger than my partner, and in our normal friend group we have people of all ages and its a non-issue, but one or two of his “contemporary” friends from Way Back are weirded out and manifest that by being Weird at me (bringing up his girlfriends of yore, only talking about people/events that I wasn’t there for, looking panicked and changing the subject when we talk about our actual current lives together, etc.) It’s extra silly because by their own logic that sees me as a Smol Baby Unsuitable For Dating (I’m in my early thirties, lol) shouldn’t HE be the gross one? But they can’t be mad at him, because they love him so much. So I must be the problem. (insert eyeroll emoji)
    Ultimately, though, I’m glad they love him so much, even if they act dumb about it, and things have (eventually) gotten a bit better, because they can tell I freaking adore him too and ultimately we all love Partner and are on the same team. They might not entirely approve of him dating me, but they like that I love him.
    LWs group seems kinda immature (4 years of this nonsense??!?!?! really?!) and like they have a Geek Social Fallacy-esque Nothing Must Ever Change Or All Friendship Is Ruined!!! mindset going on. I’m a big proponent of the Kill Them With Kindness method for people like that– just blithely ignore any whispers and awkward looks, be fascinatedly engaged with the dumb exclusionary stories and in-jokes, add some dumb stories and associated kindly explanations of your own, be SUPER nice and Authentic and Kind– not to try to win them over, but to make them look REALLY silly for trying to be weird at you. And, of course– this is essential– take the Captain’s advice and build in a good support system and plenty of self-care time, because that shit is tiring.

    1. Oh wow! That’s unfortunate. I too am partnered with someone far older but luckily his friends see it as a non-issue. They’re always just as shocked as I am when they remember the actual age difference.

  41. Channelling Dame Maggie Smith can be refreshing on these occasions (especially Dame Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey). Even if you’re only doing it inside your head, it helps to be delighted by everyone else’s idiocy.

    1. Oh, I don’t know, channeling Minerva McGonagall would be fun. Especially in her feline form.

  42. “You don’t have to like LW (and they don’t have to like you), but this Obvious Silent Treatment thing is WEIRD and I don’t enjoy it, please stop, because if LW isn’t welcome then I don’t feel welcome.”

    I’m wondering why her partner hasn’t said this before, as in the FIRST time it happened. Sorry if I’m late to the comment thread, but yeah, wow, that would have set some much-needed boundaries and limits RIGHT THERE, with one statement. I’m not sure the boyfriend here is Team Her nearly enough!

    1. Agreed, it sounds like he has been supportive in that he’ll do the “subtle engage attempt” to include LW in the conversation but subtlety has not worked so far. I think it has lent itself to the plausible deniability of “we’re doing nothing wrong here” and it’s long past time for partner to call a spade a spade and call that weirdness out directly and explicitly.

      Best of luck.

    2. A lot of people feel very uncomfortable calling out rude behavior in the moment. Sometimes, they are so shocked it’s actually happening that they don’t even know what to say or start to doubt themselves that it’s happening at all.

      I think that’s evident from the fact that so much of Captain’s advice centers around what actual words to say in situations like that. I don’t think we should necessarily fault the boyfriend for not knowing how to manage the situation better. A lot of people have to learn those types of boundaries as adults (I did). That’s part of the point of writing in, right? To figure out how to manage this situation in the future.

  43. LW, I want to call out something you said about your partner’s response to all this: “he’s been supportive and empathetic – and tries to help bring me into the conversation, when he can – but he can’t change what other people do or don’t do”.

    The thing is, he can. Or at least, he can do more to encourage change. He can call his friends on their behavior–he can tell them “Hey, I see how you’re excluding LW, and it really upsets me to see my friends treat the woman I love like that. What’s going on?” He can make a point of having conversations about topics that you can participate in, and of drawing you into those conversations. He can talk to a couple of his friends in advance and say something like “LW is nervous about going to (event) because she knows that Ex is still upset over our relationship and might make things tense by giving her the cold shoulder. Could you keep an eye out for her and help me make sure she’s included?” Heck, he could talk to Ex himself and say, “Look, I understand that it’s hard to see an ex move on, but we broke up for a reason. It’s not LW’s fault that we didn’t work out together. You don’t need to be best friends with her or anything, but can you at least be civil when you run into her at parties and things? And I’ll do the same for (your SO/your potential future SOs).” He can stop being friends with people who go out of their way to treat you badly and refuse to listen when he asks them to stop.

    The bottom line is, if he wants you at any event centered around his friend group, it’s his job to either keep you entertained or make sure that other people are being friendly and inclusive. He doesn’t get to ask you to come and then leave you out in the cold while you’re there. I’m concerned that he’s abdicating that responsibility in favor of shrugging his shoulders and not bothering to try. Yeah, he can’t control it completely–but there are ways that he can influence the situation.

    1. Right? Lots more modeling of his expectations and gentle steering of his friends toward meeting those expectations.

  44. Apologies if someone has already noted this, but there was a story line like this in the 1981 movie, “The Four Seasons” (starring, i.a., Alan Alda). The new woman was ultimately accepted into the clique. I hope that happens for LW…if she even cares anymore, which it’d be entirely understandable if she didn’t!

  45. Oh, and incidentally, the last time my sister-in-law was visiting (with her lovely son and daughter-and-law), she made a point of how nice it would be for my husband’s ex-wife to join us and how she was thinking of texting her to issue an invitation. I remained stonily silent while hubby opined as how he didn’t think that was a great idea. Crisis averted.

    On the other hand, there was the time hubby was undergoing major surgery, and sister-in-law invited the ex-wife to join us in the vigil at the hospital (you know, without asking me first). Thankfully my focus was on hubby, so I just tuned out the outrageousness.

    Sending sympathy to LW and so many others on this thread. Plus the usual kudos to the Captain for an awesome answer (so many great suggestions and The Best Attitude!).

    1. “Thankfully my focus was on hubby, so I just tuned out the outrageousness.”

      Just to play Devil’s Advocate, I think it’s slightly less outrageous in this instance; I could see, for example, a well-intentioned person coming to the conclusion that your hubby would benefit from all the extra prayers/goodwill he could possibly get … Just In Case Something Happened. I know that, when King Edward VII was dying, his wife, Queen Alexandra, invited one of his mistresses to come and sit with him; it’s usually spoken of as an example of her forgiving and tolerant nature, but I suspect that by that stage her attitude was ‘Anyway, it couldn’t hurt’. In other words, extreme situations sometimes demand unusual solutions. Your SIL may, in this case, have felt the situation was serious enough to warrant it, and that in itself probably came from a good – if not a tactful – place.

      1. Hmm, for Alexandra, I wonder how much of it might have been, “Let her sit with him so I don’t have to.” Just a guess. ‘Cause that would totally be my reasoning.

      2. Hm. For Alexandra, it might have been “it couldn’t hurt” or “this gives me a break” or something “I’ll never have to see her again, and I’m doing this for Edward, not for her.” But even if you believe that it matters how many people pray for someone or something, it shouldn’t matter whether they’re all doing it in the same place: the ex-wife can pray at home, or in her own church, or on a beach…. Praying together is, I think, because it comforts the people praying to do it together, so te sister0in-law should have at least checked first about whether the ex’s presence would be a comfort to Searcher and/or Searcher’s husband.

      3. The devil doesn’t need advocates in general, and do we really need to bend over backward to make excuses for shitty behaviour? I think Searcher was quite stressed enough about their husband’s major surgery without also having to cope with his ex-wife. Asking first, even if Searcher and ex-wife turned out to be perfectly fine with each other, is pretty basic politeness.

    2. Yikes; if SIL wants to hang out with Ex-wife, she could maybe arrange that on her own time? If it happens again, you could try explicitly suggesting that: “I [or We if it’s true of both of you] don’t really get along with Ex-wife. You should definitely hang out with her if you want to see her, but please don’t invite her to hang out with me [us].”

  46. Advice on how to not accidentally come across as an Evil Ex? My ex from over a decade ago is married and he and wife live in another city. I’ve attended social events with them a couple times since they got together, and he’s never introduced the two of us — and I’m super shy and awkward and haven’t introduced myself either. But he’ll still strike up conversation with me about common interests, and I’m happy to reciprocate (though I’m not trying for flirty, more like, yay, there’s someone who knows about *topic* that I can talk to). I’m not sure when I’ll see them at another one of these, but I should probably enlist help from another mutual friend to introduce us?

    1. In this case, the ex is being weird by not introducing you, so it’s ok to introduce yourself. “Hi, I’m AM, we’ve met before, thought not officially maybe? I like your shoes.”

      1. Thanks! I suspect that I am mainly just Overthinking It here (the rest of our social group has largely forgotten that Ex and I were ever in a relationship) and that it will be fine when we actually get to meet properly sometime!

    2. Get a script for introducing yourself next time you see them! Something like “Oh, hey Bob, nice to see you! *Turn to wife* And I don’t think we’ve met before? I’m ___, it’s lovely to meet you.” It’s so much easier to get through a nerve-wracking, potentially awkward interaction when you have a plan for it in advance.

    3. Next time Bob drifts over to talk about Bridge Club, start with “Are you going to introduce me to your wife?” in the sound of a statement, not a question. Bob IS the mutual friend.

  47. Yeah, I agree with the Captain that there’s a lot more partner could be doing to support you in these situations. Like talking to the friends about freezing you out(?!). Sure, he can’t force them not to do that if they’re determined to be petty assholes, but then the question is, why is he still friends at all with people who are openly hostile and disrespectful to the person he loves? Even if he rarely subjects you to them, why does he still want to be around people who are so petty and manipulative? Like, I think this is at least partly a partner problem not just a friends problem.

    I hope you can find some cool and fun things to do for yourself on these trips too. ❤

    1. Also, ex girlfriend needs to get the fuck over it, it’s been FOUR YEARS. Or if she can’t, get the fuck away from him and stop causing drama.

  48. During my previous long term relationship we had just been married in a very small ceremony when my then husband’s grandfather died. He was very old and sick and the nearest family had expected it to happen but of course it still came as a shock to everyone. The family is bilingual and we ended up arranging one funeral and two memorial services in different parts of the country and in two different languages. I do speak both of the languages but I am not as fluent in one of them so during one of the memorial services I just sat and listened to people reminisce which was kind of nice in and of itself. Still, it felt weird that despite being having never met the deceased I was now part of the intimate family and everyone expressed their condolences to me. I decided to help my then husband’s parents get through it all since I did not bear the same grief they did and I am happy I did it.

    Captain’s advice is brilliant as always and I especially want to punctuate how delightful it can be to chat with the older people attending the parties no matter whether or not you have any ties to them. They often have hilarious stories and so much life experience. I myself also enjoy the drama other people create around as long as I do not really have to participate since it is such good material to inspire my stories and the characters in them (writing is one of my biggest passions).

    Just one thing: do not be afraid to make sure that you do not overly tax yourself and that you are comfortable and that your significant other really understand how big of a favour this is. His friends do not sound nice at all; if my friends had behaved this badly to my husband I would have ditched them right away.

    Take care of yourself – and if possible have some fun!

  49. Note on the “drawing the chatty people into conversations” strategy of dealing with these kinds of events: If you’re someone who struggles with coming up with things to ask/talk about with strangers try looking up “sociolinguistic interview questions” (groups of them are sometimes called “schedules”). Sociolinguistics is a field where getting data requires getting strangers to talk for extended periods of time, and consequently there’s a lot of shared knowledge of how to ask interesting questions of people you don’t know well.

    So if you’re desperate for some icebreakers beyond “What do you do?”, try wandering off in that direction.

  50. LW you’ve gotten a lot of great advice. My advice would be to change the story you are telling yourself about you and these people. I will take your letter at face value that these are gossipy, kinda rude, kinda cold unfriendly people. It seems like you’re telling yourself the story that you’re nice but meek and doing your best and your BF is a great guy except around them etc. That makes this upcoming wedding a no-win for you. How can a nice but meek person who is with a great-guy-except manage to get through a weekend of a united gossipy cold front? There’s no winning in that situation. There’s only the nice but meek person being increasingly hurt as her great guy fails to warm the rude people. Literally no good thing comes from that story.

    What if you told yourself a different story? What if, I don’t know, this friend group was too scared to ever make a move outside it. They don’t have any courage or personality. What if they all cling to each other in fear all the time. What if your BF is the first one to break out of that mold and he found a truly amazing person (you) that is so beyond cool that nobody knows how to deal with it? What if the exGF is even now kicking herself for whatever she did that made them break up and just can’t get over how special your BF is. What if you’re actually the lick of glamour that irritates them all by its contrast with their boring existences.

    This might sound mean but the first story is way more mean to your own self. You don’t have to tell the other story to them, tell it in your head, make yourself the femme fatale that nobody can handle but your BF, make yourself the breath of fresh air that forces them to wrap themselves even tighter, be the hero of your story! If you come in like Jessica Rabbit, even if it’s in your own head, you’ll be able to treat their glances and whispers with the proper disdain and maybe even a little pity. Their little lives, look, bless their hearts, they can’t handle anything new, how sad for them. You’re awfully busy with your amazing life (of whatever, cats, crochet, following the Mars Lander, whatever you’re into) and wasn’t it nice of you to come and sprinkle a little fabulousness on their wedding.

    Tell yourself a good story! It doesn’t mean you’re crazy or cruel if you just have a bunch of self-fan-fiction going on in your head. It might make it easier to act in a way that you are comfortable with and respect yourself for if you just… make yourself the hero this one time.

    1. Moss, this is brilliant! I’m going to try this myself the next time I get a chance — to which I’m now almost looking forward!

      1. Why thank you! Good luck being an international figure of mystery! Or the galaxy-wide expert on […] or whatever fabulousness you get up to.

  51. What’s LW’s boyfriend doing/saying about all of this? It’s messed up to keep inviting you to places with people that are rude to you if they’re not sticking up for you as it happens.

  52. I use awkward events with jerkish people as a chance to practice my ‘professional mingling at tiresome work cocktail parties’ skills. Like the Captain said, it’s a genuine skill set to be able to talk smoothly and politely to people despite your personal interest and their level of sociability and kindness. I think of my partner’s asshole sister, who I only see once or twice a year at certain events, as great practice for developing the smoothness and unflappability to deal with difficult coworkers or clients.

    It doesn’t make it fun, but it makes me feel like I’m levelling up in something that could benefit me and my family, which makes it feel like less of a waste of time.

    The other thing I find intermittently useful is to focus on feeling sorry for those people who are so full of bitterness about the past that, instead of enjoying a fun gathering with their friends, they’re wasting energy on their resentment of me as the the “new” partner who has been around forever and clearly isn’t going anywhere. Like, talk about not being able to accept the truth and moving on with one’s life! If I frame it in terms of my own happiness that I would never act that way or poison my social events with pointless vitriol, I can float a little above the pettiness.

  53. I haven’t read everything yet, but may I just say, ” I HAVE LIVED HERE FOR FOUR YEARS, Y’ALL, YOU DON’T HAVE TO LOVE ME BUT GROW UP” is…not the worst script? If not for you, it’s certainly something you can expect your partner to say! I would honestly require some kind of intervention by my partner with these people, both because it would make me feel better knowing my partner has my back, but also because sometimes people need to hear that they’re acting like idiots within a group and calling it out is what it takes for them to collectively correct themselves.

    It’s also been brought up here a lot that it’s not the end of the world to pull out a well-timed “…Wow” or “What a strange thing to say!” when people are behaving particularly egregiously. Depending on your tone, you aren’t “making a scene” (since of course it is not you who broke the social contract) but also because someone lightly standing up for themselves in the face of fuckery is always going to look poised and the fuckery makers are always going to look like jerks. I highly recommend it.

  54. I’m in my 40s, and what Spicy Onion wrote about the 20s resonated with me. So much drama and silliness, and some people grow up faster than others. Some never grow up.

    LW, bottom line is it will get better, but it may be a while, and some ties may have to be cut, as priorties change and people become more aware of what they truly value.

    I have nothing to add to the excellent advice already given. Only this: find me, or the person like me, at your events. I make it my mission to be welcoming to all, and I will definitely talk your ear off about all kinds of topics if you are willing to listen. I’m most likely someone’s eccentric relative, perhaps not wealthy like Mame (see the movie), but channeling her spirit as an Auntie. Wishing you the best for your upcoming events.

  55. Related story from another side. Tldr: good friends will eventually get sick of the weird ex who can’t get over it or treat new partners with respect.

    Way back over 10 years ago one friend (we’ll call him Bob) briefly dated Sue in highschool before dating Sally and then Bob and Sally had a child. Sue NEVER got over it. Ever. She would show up to things at Bob’s house and ignore Bob’s child. She would ignore Bob’s dates. She would show up uninvited once she found out Bob would be somewhere. Sue believed the child should’ve been hers. For a long time Geek Social Fallacies caused all the friends to continue to invite Sue to things hoping she’d move on or not be weird this time. That never happened.

    Then one day Bob went to a show with his daughter and invited friends and Sue was NOT invited. Sue found out about it. Sue showed up at the show. Sue tried to sit at our table with Bob and his daughter! Sue was told to leave. Sue sat one table over. Sue has now been 86 ed from the group. explicitly and directly.

  56. This kind of situation so common but one thing that always confuses me is the behavior of the partner. If my close friends were actively cold and impolite to my partner (of years!) that would REALLY bother me. I don’t think I could let that go without confronting it and it would make seriously question the friendship.

    LW, it sounds like your partner listens to you and has your back to try to make these situations a little easier. But I think it’s also within your right to ask him to advocate for you a little more directly (in private) with the worst 1 or 2 offenders.

  57. My strategy, which may or may not be helpful: For whatever reason, I’ve occasionally found myself alone at a ‘do where I was being essentially ignored for some or all of the time. (The worst was a b-day party for my 5 year old’s friend. She was his only friend and the rest was family who, for whatever reason, literally didn’t look at me or speak to me the whole three hour party.)

    During those times, I compose in my head (and sometimes on my phone if I can do it surreptitiously) a running snarky social commentary for the BFF and/or husband. To mix it up, I’ll sometimes do it in the style of XXX. Sometimes it’s just deadpan GenX snark, sometimes it’s breathless society-pages reporter, sometimes it’s in the style of boxing announcer Don Dunphy, sometimes I just narrate it like I’m recapping a really bad sitcom.

    It’s often unkind and indulges my worse impulses (but not my worst), but it gets me through.

  58. I’m dubious not just about Partner’s present behavior, but his taste in people more generally. It sounds like the small measures he’s taken are because of LW, not because he sees that these people are jerks. Even if he dumps these sorry “friends,” will he be doing the same thing to LW five years from now with his awful work buddies?

    1. Who can know? Given the ages involved, I think the friend circle is the “intense college/first adult friendships” kind, everyone is about to turn 30, figuring this stuff out is part of growing up. It’s a process, not an exam you ace one time, so, if in the LW’s judgment this is a good person who is doing his best to figure out how to keep ties to important people and make sure his partner is comfortable, I’m cool with assuming that, too.

      1. I guess I have a really different perspective. Young people often make spectacularly bad choices (as well as good ones) about who to bond with. The question is, how do people move beyond that, as they get on with their adult lives? In my experience, the mean people in the group usually don’t change. Instead, the not-mean people quietly move on, or reconfigure with the other not-mean people. The fact that Partner hasn’t done this would give me serious pause if I were in LW’s shoes. It may, in fact, be as you say. But I think the question deserves some thought.

        1. I think a “is this person’s style compatible with a happy life for me?” checkins are always in style, so, fair!

  59. I had a similar issue, once upon a time. Thankfully it was just the ex and a couple friends who were the issue, not the whole group, but when we were still in the phase of her trying to freeze me out and get my husband back, big events were a lot of checking in with each other beforehand, making plans in case of the most common meanness, and talking about possible exits if anything got worse.

    I would make the extra effort to be cordial- not super nice or chummy, but polite. Greetings and goodbyes, a polite question once or twice if we were involved in the same conversation. Very clearly Not Ignoring Or Being Rude, which theoretically highlighted the behavior towards me to the others around, but not being fake-friendly because I am not a good actress or liar.

    I also made “mean bingo,” which was a little list on my phone of the stuff she would usually do, and I’d text myself a tally throughout the evening. It both helped acknowledge that the behavior was ongoing (even the stuff that seemed small but aggregated quickly, so I wasn’t sitting there halfway through the night thinking, “why am I so mad/hurt/upset, nothing really bad has happened,” and gave me a prize to look forward to if things got bad and we had to duck out.

    We could text each other to check in quietly if the event was such that it was hard to get a moment of privacy.

    In the first few years, it was really hard. My husband pulled back a lot from the worst offenders, and from his ex entirely. He really had my back on the couple occasions where people decided to confront him about his terrible girlfriend. We didn’t go to some things and we left others early. After that, the people who didn’t want to get involved in private drama eventually ended up pretty much dropping her, and those that stayed close to her we see very, very rarely.

    It did actually take about four years for the behavior to mostly die down- two years of dating and two years of marriage. It was worth it to me because of how much my husband backed me up and acknowledged that the behavior was bad and didn’t insist on spending a ton of time with the offenders. It helps to know that there’s usually a big round of weddings in the late 20s-early 30s, and after that it’s even easier to just drop off the radar of the people in a friend group who don’t like you.

  60. The other thing about weddings is that there’s an entire other family there who you don’t know! If the friend group isn’t going to talk to LW, LW can meet baskets of other people. She can behave as if they don’t exist, the same way they do to her. She can leave if it isn’t fun. She can spend the weekend doing what she wants to do at the location. Partner can join her. And maybe eventually he will.

    Totally seconding the idea of finding interesting local things to do so if there’s friend group stuff that BF wants to do but LW doesn’t want to do, there are backups.

  61. Just a comment about My Worst Date Ever. I met a guy who was really good looking. We had mutual friends, so I saw him several times and knew he didn’t have a girlfriend….anyway, he finally asked me out to a Christmas party – sounds great, right? We had been at the party maybe 30 minutes when someone introduced him to a woman and….that was it. He never looked at me again that night. After about an hour of watching him talk to this woman, I decided I was ready to leave. I told him I was leaving and was going to WALK HOME. He said, and I quote, oh, okay. (His eyes never left her.) Someone else at the party heard me say “walk home” and, horrified, drove me home. And that was it. Never saw him again. I’m still a little traumatized, to be honest.

  62. I would really be focused on not spending too much time at the event where people are being rude (be an early leaver, not a late leaver), and for events with travel I would make sure that you have a fun activity there to enjoy. Going for a walk to admire the place? Museum? Park? Cinema? Local history place? Something that can be like “on the weekend I did fun thing and also some socialising which went okay”.

  63. Please thank Mr Awkward for the book reccomendation. I hadn’t heard of that title, but was fascinated when I checked it out online and have already downloaded it from audible. Yay! Looking forward to starting it this week.

  64. I hope you’ll allow me to get angry on your behalf, LW, because I AM. You’ve been more or less miserable because of this for four straight years and all your partner did was try to “help bring you into the conversation, when he can”? That’s really weak. You say he can’t change what other people do or don’t do, but he absolutely can, by actually standing up for you and possibly cutting them out of his life altogether. This isn’t some two weeks or two months where people might need a little bit of time to get used to the new dynamics or whatever, this is you having been his partner for four straight years and people still being petty and childish about it. What are they even thinking? That after four years he will dump you and go back to to his ex and then everything will be magically the way it was before? Whatever that even means. These people are CHOOSING to behave this terribly and your partner is CHOOSING not to take a stand and confront them about it. You really deserve better, LW. You deserve him standing up to his friends and saying, “Look, I know things might feel awkward for a while but I chose to break up with ex-girlfriend and now I love and am committed to LW. They are an important part of my life now and if you for some reason can’t accept that and feel the need to treat them poorly, then YOU can’t be part of my life anymore.” That’s the least you deserve, LW, and you deserved it four fucking years ago. And as long as he can’t do that, he better not expect you to have to accompany him to any of those events. Or expect you to be around for how many more years of this bullshit.

  65. Deep, passionate love and agreement for chatting up the older guests. They’re more fun, anyway. They really could care less what they say. My favorite moment was the time an older woman told me her ex-husband was a “pistol-packin’ pecker-head.”

  66. In my case, my then-partner’s ex was most definitely a Missing Stair. They had been broken up for several years when me and then-partner started dating (long distance), and she had even gone on to date other people, but they had remained close as each was the other’s main Team Me from what I could tell. When he finally told her we were dating, she took it poorly, and he was completely surprised by her reaction (I wasn’t, given their dynamics). When his friends discovered we were dating, more than one was really happy about it and told me they hoped that our relationship would finally cut the dysfunctional cord between then-partner and his ex. (Spoiler: it didn’t.)

    The funny thing was that she and I had a lot of friends in common, all part of the same social group, and we had a lot of interests in common too. We had somehow never met over the course of 20 years because both us had moved away and back intermittently over the years and hadn’t overlapped our time in the local area until me and partner started dating. At that time, he was living in a duplex she owned (but didn’t live in) and acted as the on-site manager, and I was living in a different city and only visited on weekends. Then she moved into the other unit of the duplex. Awkward! She would call him up and tell him to come over to her side for something because she was unwilling to see or hear me if she knocked on the door/came over to his side. And he always complied.

    Anyway, I had no clue about how she felt really, and how it was having a ripple effect in the social group at first. She was always very pleasant and cordial to me in person. But. When she moved back into the duplex with a roommate (yet another mutual friend), he made sure to fill me in on how much she loathed me. And then I figured out that I was being excluded from invites to my then-partner, or he would ask me not to attend because she would be at the thing. And people would reassure me that it wasn’t a problem with me, and I was fine. And I was like, of course! I know it’s not about ME! It’s about everyone else (and especially my then-partner) throwing me under the bus as being the easier solution to the social discomfort and general appeasement of the Missing Stair.

    This bullshit went on for 3 years! I was patient and compassionate the first year because change is hard, and they’d been in quite a rut, and losing your main support person is not easy. But started getting annoyed into year 2, and angry and starting to get vocal about it in year 3. Like, people! This is not high school. We are all in our 50s and 60s, and it shouldn’t be that hard to tell the source of the problem to grow up and knock it off. Well, a lot of the problem was solved by my then-partner relocating to my city to live with me, so there was much less frequent social contact with the group, and when it happened, it was part of larger gatherings so the dysfunction was much less concentrated.

    But frankly, it wasn’t just an ex problem. It was also a boyfriend problem. Basically, he didn’t want to deal with things that were hard, and he was far more concerned with self-protection than my comfort or needs. So he didn’t talk about her or think about her if he could help it. He is very conflict avoidant, so he wouldn’t challenge her or set a boundary of any sort. And frankly, the social group followed his lead in a lot of ways. It went the same way at parties where I didn’t know people–they’d come up to us and engage in intense conversations with him and completely ignore me. This would happen repeatedly with no break in the flow of words for me to edge in an introduction. So I would just walk away because there’s only so much being ignored.

    We had lots of talks about these dynamics. At first, I didn’t even realize there was a problem, but then my partner would tell me that she left the party early because I was there, and I would be all Great! Problem solved! Nope. Because apparently she would then call him and complain extensively about it and generally make him miserable. And he apparently was not capable of hanging up, or just not picking up when she called (again, no boundaries). So in his cost-benefit analysis, it was easier to leave me behind than to deal with the personal fallout that my presence would trigger. I assume other people had similar calculations running in their heads. He did get slightly better about all of this over time, but it took a lot of talks, and a lot of me getting increasingly frustrated and upset before he would begin to step up.

    We are now broken up (for the last 2-3 years). She just moved to this city and is over at his place regularly and even uses his place to entertain friends because it’s larger than their apartment (and again, all those shared friends). Of course, he rarely says anything about any of this, because he still just tried to blank out the fact that she’s a presence in his life. I get more updates from mutual friends who socialize separately with all of us to some degree. Whatever. Not my problem anymore.

    So yeah, the fact that this situation has festered for 4 years is in part because your boyfriend hasn’t really spoken up and told ex and enablers to knock that shit off and then enforced the boundary that the friends group has to treat both of you with basic courtesy/respect, not just him. And that ex’s shenanigans are not okay when you two are present at social gatherings. He has to be willing to walk away from that gathering the moment the bullshit starts. As long as there are no negative consequences to ex, she’ll continue to act terribly, and the others will continue to enable it. If they value your boyfriend’s presence (if not your own), then he needs to enforce the negative consequences to both ex and enablers of taking his presence away when bad behavior ensues. Kinda like how the Captain talks about resetting the dynamics of terrible, toxic family members with you. That’s his work to do because it’s his shitty, toxic friends group. And if he doesn’t step up to do that work, then it shows you that he values his comfort far more than yours, and is willing to keep it at your expense. And that would really suck. But it is extremely valuable information to have.

  67. Seconding Cap’s advice about seeking out the elders.

    Also, if you like kids even marginally, you can have awesome and low-key conversations with them. The preschool and kindergarten crowd are often very eager to discuss their new party shoes, while the elementary set enjoy performing feats of physical or intellectual prowess. They are very likely to think you are a rock star, which is a nice feeling when others are being crappy to you.

  68. I joined my then-husband for his 50th high school reunion. We didn’t really talk about how that would go (and, because of work schedules, I’d attended my own without him). As we walked in the door he was enthusiastically greeted by his best friend from 14-24 and immediately whisked away into a group. Several times during the evening he would come find me, or I him, but it was entirely clear that he was most interested in catching up with people he literally hadn’t seen in 40+ years.

    I had a truly lovely evening with a half dozen other wives of his classmates. We spent most of the evening sitting in the most comfortable chairs and talking about our respective careers, the places we’d lived, and what our mates had in common from having grown up ‘here.’ By the end of the evening there were two that I would have loved to have as longtime friends, and yet we all knew that wasn’t going to happen — chiefly because we were all out-of-towners in different directions. But I would happily do such an evening again.

  69. What I did to get out of these events with my in-laws was to have a kid. I really recommend this. Now, I know this is kind of scorched-earth because a baby will also prevent you from doing things you want to do and could potentially destroy your physical and mental health, as well as your finances and even your relationship, so maybe a demanding puppy would be good if you don’t want a baby. But my kid is awesome and also a hell of a social alibi. Like even if I have to go to something, I can just be like, “oh man my kid needs a nap” and disappear with her for two hours. “Oh no! I think that’s my kid calling me! It’s her bedtime!” A+++, would 100% do again, but won’t because I don’t want another.

    1. I did the Lite version of this, which was to get a rescue dog who doesn’t like to be left (actually he’s fine now, but it was sufficiently impossible for the first year that the narrative of Needy Anxious Dog was well established). When my wife and I met, I was only her second girlfriend and she got very, very ill not long after. Her friends from one friendship group were used to being the ones who took care of her (it was almost an identity thing for one particular friend, I’d not be surprised to hear she’d put it on her CV) so were really put out to be told no, don’t visit in the hospital, she’s not well enough. They assumed I was shutting them out/replacing them, when actually she was more ill than she’d evet been before and was genuinely not up to visitors. Not my fault, folks – she’s literally only just come out of a coma, visitors are too much right now.

      Anyway, I was invited to the wedding of Caring Identity Friend a couple of years later but conveniently the dog wasn’t ready to be left. I wasn’t invited to another wedding and have zero fucks, as I wouldn’t have gone anyway. I tried to be friendly to these people and I was not the reason my wife stopped being available to hang out all the time, that was a combination of health and new job, but I’m an introvert with a low tolerance for groups and I lose nothing by not being accepted by you, Old Friends Resenting New Partner.

      Another friend group (my wife is definitely an extrovert!) was a total contrast, really kind and supportive. I actually moved into my girlfriend’s shared house while she was in hospital, as my flat was four hours’ train journey away, and they are still close friends for both of us. Probably a bit chicken and egg as to which caused the other; the second group are just better at being friends who stay the course, because/therefore they are willing to accept that things change.

  70. I think your partner should have nipped this in the bud about three years ago. One year is perhaps an adjustment period and seeing how serious a new relationship is before it affects a whole friendship group… but now? Now it’s pretty unforgivable behaviour. You’re not going anywhere. You’re not a shameful secret. Instead of standing up for you and for your relationship your boyfriend has let his friends get away with a lot of rude behaviour and you are not wrong in wanting it to stop.

  71. “You don’t have to like LW (and they don’t have to like you), but this Obvious Silent Treatment thing is WEIRD and I don’t enjoy it, please stop, because if LW isn’t welcome then I don’t feel welcome.”

    I really hope the partner has said something to this effect BEFORE now, to be frank. If he has not, in 4 years, attempted to do this… well, that makes this a significant other problem, in my eyes. I understand that an entire friend group isn’t going to warm up/get along, but if my significant other didn’t address it (starting with individual conversations, leading to a larger conversation if they still resisted) that just would not be ok with me. I’m especially not ok with the bullying behavior and worry because the LW doesn’t say that her partner put a stop to that, or even tried. Maybe I’m missing the mark, that’s just what came to mind.

  72. Yes, yes, yes to your partner supporting you at awkward events.

    My family’s events can be, though aren’t always, hostile territory to my partner. The stage was set against us from the start because we were living together before marriage (the horror!). At the recent Thanksgiving it was unexpectedly sprung that we’re all going to take turns looking up a Bible verse in an actual Bible in front of everyone and reading it aloud to the group. And *then* say something you’re thankful for. My partner whispered to me as his turn neared “I’m opting out” and I nodded. So when it came to him he announced he was opting out due to anxiety. And you could feel the atmosphere in the room shift. My turn was next, and I looked everyone in the eyes and gushed about how thankful I was for him and to have him in my life.

    Later that evening I noticed a look on his face, and excused us from social circles to pull him aside out of earshot and check in. He was desperate to leave. So we did. I told everyone I have an early bedtime now (which was true!) and so we had to get going. And the next day, I wrote a long FB post read by family expounding on his best qualities, how well he treats me, and how he’s the best thing to ever happen to me.

    If I’m going to ask my partner to come to these events with me, then he gets my 100% support throughout.

  73. Try also finding the Young Adults who are seated with the Older Adults (aka their parents, aka the young adults are the cousins), because they may not have been seated with friends, might also feel left out, and might very much appreciate another young person coming to rescue them from All The Old People Who Want To Comment On How They’ve Grown Up. I’ve been the cousin, at a wedding where I didn’t really like my cousin who was getting married, but I was close enough family that I was obligated to be there. I hung out with my sister and our other much younger cousin who had also been seated with the adults rather than the friends, and I was bored and annoyed most of the time. I definitely would have appreciated Someone Else coming over to say hi and ask if I wanted to dance, so I wasn’t dancing by myself.

  74. I’m very glad of this letter and the advice, as I’m in a sort of similar situation; the modifiers are that instead of a horrible friend group it’s a slightly dysfunctional family wherein the sister is the mother of all Missing Stairs, we live close to the family so contact is regular and avoiding is hard, partner cutting off contact from the sister would upset the parents, and they’re Chinese so throw in a language barrier with other family members I might ingratiate myself with (including the parents) and some cultural features I have difficulty wrapping my head around.

    I don’t think it’s contentious to say Sister is a really dreadful person. For example, she holds what I would diplomatically describe as “libertarian views” — if you work hard then you have nothing to worry about, anyone who doesn’t have a great life just isn’t working hard enough, discrimination and prejudice aren’t real and people who talk about them are babies, I shouldn’t have to pay taxes, welfare is for scroungers, etc. — which is particularly abhorrent as she doesn’t work herself because she doesn’t really feel like it and lives off of her family’s money (she’s approaching 30). But she stresses that her family “is not that rich”, and her own boyfriend is REALLY poor. He’s a year out of university and earning six figures, but his family _only owns 2 houses_; they’re so poor! Besides not working, she has no hobbies or interests either, and only ever seems capable of talking about shopping and what her boyfriend thinks about things (which include such gems as ‘learning Spanish is useless’). And that’s before we get into how she’s very hostile towards me for reasons known only to herself.

    Parents are aware Sister is kind of awful, but they are incapable of thinking badly of her. Partner has explained to them that she’s been horrible to me, such that other people have noticed, so I won’t be coming over as much. They don’t speak to me much when I am there (language barrier) but they seem a bit put out that I don’t feel welcome in their home. They just want “everyone to get along”, which I think _should_ mean that Sister stops being a dick (that’s not going to happen) but in reality would be me just being “less sensitive” (that’s Sister’s take on the situation. It’s weird how many “sensitive” people she knows…). Partner has told Sister that he thinks she was vile to me, that she has a problem being vile to people in general, she should learn to treat people better, and that if they weren’t related he wouldn’t be hanging out with her (she thought that was “a bit harsh”). He’s also a bit wary that if he skips family events because of this situation, his parents won’t interpret it as “our daughter is a total fucking ghoul” so much as “that hussy has her claws in our son and is stopping him from seeing his family”.

    I’ve tried going to family stuff a couple times since Partner called Sister on her shit, and she did seem to be making an effort to be polite. But the whole time I was waiting for her to slip back into Horrible Mode (also… I mentioned above she’s hard to talk to even when she’s not being deliberately vile). I also feel guilty being around the parents; they’re very generous with us (they’re letting us move into one of the properties they own in the city), and I feel so bad accepting their gifts, help, and hospitality when I hate their daughter so much; like I feel like maybe I should be “less sensitive” if I’m going to accept this stuff.

    Anyway, that’s the only real source of drama in my life. But it’s been bothering me. So Partner and I read this letter together, and Captain’s list of stuff required for me to go to events and be polite was really helpful, because everything I need was on that list but the one thing I hadn’t thought to ask for (and was slightly embarrassed to) was no. 2: acknowledgement and thanks for being a good sport. I have been polite and bubbly when I have ventured to family gatherings, but it was tense and awful for me. And then there’s the literally years I spent trying to like Sister, to ignore all of her bad behaviour, asking Partner if there were subjects she was interested in other than shopping, to keep believing she’s a nice person (it… involved some mental gymnastics), and to keep being polite while she kept being weird (laughing at me about an eating disorder, quizzing me about just how poor I was and how could I afford that cheese if I was so poor… _mental gymnastics_). I asked and Partner is happy to give (along with the other stuff), along with a backlog for my exemplary prior conduct. And some reassurance that I shouldn’t feel guilty, he’s managing the situation with his family and it really is up to me whether I want to make a go of it, that it isn’t my fault, that he’s on my side, etc. etc. etc.

    So thank you Captain and LW! You both really helped me out. I think I will say, LW, that I second the people in the comments who mention that your partner will probably get tired of these people — I’m sure their rudeness to you isn’t the only sign that maybe they’re not great people. I also proffer reassurance that it sounds like you’re a pretty awesome person and you’re doing everything right. And don’t be embarrassed to ask for recognition and reassurance! You’re being awesome and you deserve it! Best of luck and jedi hugs xxx

Comments are closed.