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Not inviting the ex-GF to a party

Hello everyone,

the situation is that a friend and his GF broke up 4 months ago. I’m closer to him than to her. He’s a positive, generous and kind high quality guy.

They were living together and they stayed good friends after the breakup for a couple of months.

However they told me recently that he discovered something she did and now does not want to speak with her anymore. So knowing this kind, rational and open guy I trust him for it to be quite nasty. Especially knowing that they stayed in good terms for a couple of months. He did not even care when she told him she met a new guy and kept a good relationship until then. That’s the kind of guy he is.

I’m doing a party for my birthday soon.

I asked a friend her phone number to invite her as a friend (no sexual intentions). He gave it to me.

After he sent it to me I realized he was already coming (answered quite fast).

So out of friendship and respect for his feelings I called him and asked him: “I was going to invite her, however you told me that thing the other day. I lived similar situations so I can imagine how it feels”

He told me that he appreciates my gesture. I asked him to tell me straight. He told me that if she could not come it was better for him but it was up to me. So I said: “done”. He was grateful (he even told it to me again today at rock climbing).

That’s how much I love and respect this kind and humble man.

Now I’m thinking that in Machiavellian terms I did good and bad.

Good because I strengthened our relationship.

Bad because she will realize at some point that I invited all her house sharing but her.

She’s going to move out soon for a smaller city so I will see her rarely now. So it’s a mitigating factor.

I have her number and won’t use it this time. If people ask me I have the option to say I forgot (allow for saving face). Or tell them straight away my reasoning (more eagle like I think).

In terms of social strategy how do you think I did?

Caveat: I recently read that Lucio said that during a break up frequently guys side with and girls with the girl in the common social group. This is not the case here. I have a good relationship with both and he never complained about her. I know the “secret betrayal” because I asked him about their relationship (they were doing activities together platonically from now and then). It’s the case of a good friend being hurt by someone and me wanting to feel totally at ease at my birthday party. He has the social intelligence not to make it awkward. I’m not afraid of this. He already proved it last weekend. If you don’t know you cannot tell.

Do you guys think I overstepped my boundaries and went into savior mode? Like it’s not my responsibility to do what I can so he’s at ease?

Kavalier and leaderoffun have reacted to this post.
Kavalierleaderoffun

Hello, John

It's very eagle-like to care about your friend like this!

I assume that, if you didn't have her phone number, you and her were not close friends to begin with, so it would be totally ok not to invite her.

But if you and her regularly met and you are inviting all her entourage except her, it might indeed lead to awkwardness between you and her, or between you and your other friends. They also might wonder why you took steps to invite everyone else but her. People that are closer to her might find themselves at an impasse, and might consider not going without her.

In this case, I think that to invite her is the more socially safe.

I personally would have invited her through that friend instead of asking for her phone number:

Oh, by the way, tell Jeannette that I would much appreciate it if she could attend the party too

That way you invite her, fulfilling your social obligation. But it's a weak form of invitation, as you were not personally invested. There is a chance she would be less inclined to go, although she might appreciate the invitation. Then in another occasion you ask for her phone number, in order not to lose contact with her.

In any case, now that you have her phone number, I think it's still best to call/text her and invite her personally. To "forget" to call her might still invite resentment, as forgetting is a power move itself and won't go unnoticed. To explain your reasoning to everybody might make them understand what is going on, but it doesn't solve their impasse of going without her (and to do explaining to lots of people is a situation I'd rather avoid).

The most important part is that you show support to your friend, which you already did. I'd explain to him my reasoning for inviting her:

Hey, man, I know I told you I would not invite her, as it pains me to see what happened to you. The problem is that [you explain your reasoning]. So I'm doing it out of obligation, but I totally feel you and I'm by your side

If she doesn't show up, great. If she does show up, you show even more support to your friend by spending more time with him than her. This way you maintain both friendships.

Lucio Buffalmano, John Freeman and leaderoffun have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanoJohn Freemanleaderoffun

Boom! Just Boom! Thank you very very much!

Kavalier has reacted to this post.
Kavalier

Very interesting situation and one that requires lots of social intelligence to be in good terms with both sides.

I can only offer one similar situation. A couple who attended my dinner broke up. The woman kept coming, and the man stopped. They had very overlapping social circles (which is a problem in breakups; the couple divides their friends the same way they divide furniture). This is difficult for friends of both as they feel like they have to take sides. In our case, the woman told some horrible things about the man that made the decision easy for the attendants.

Then the man applied for membership in a group that one of my friends runs. He also attended the dinners and knows about the story that the woman tells, which doesn't paint him in a good light. My friend asked me to be a judge of character for the man; which I couldn't really do because I didn't know him enough. My friend wanted to make sure he would not include an ahole in his group.

Are you still friends with J**** S****? After what we did to H****, I'm not sure I want anything to do with him. He joined another community I'm a member of and I'm considering warning them that he's a sociopath

For a bit, I thought I didn't care and didn't want to be in the middle. But then I realized that people in that dinner rely on me to somehow 'filter' for quality and that they may end up in business relationships (or any other relationship) together.

So when the man contacted me on whatsapp to invite me to an event of his (which I couldn't make), I asked him how things were and that I was there if he needed to talk. He really appreciated that, and we had a call. I communicated that he had a PR problem and asked if he knew about this. He did. Even though he initiated the breakup, he was really suffering now.

My friend did the same:

 I asked his side and he had some counter points that, if true, I hadn't considered

So my learning from this: Always give both people the opportunity to tell their story before taking sides. Ideally, tell them you are not going to take sides, and that they are both welcome to your event. I think they will talk to each other and figure out how to do it if they both want to attend the party. If they know they will suffer or make it awkward for other attendees, very likely they will organize among themselves how to do it. That way you, as a host, gave them both a welcome and put the ball into their court.

In fact the best thing would be that you manage to help them fix their relationship. Relationships are precious things that can go wrong at any time because of miscommunication. In terms of social strategy, they would be eternally grateful and you would gain socially not only from them but from anyone who knew the situation. This is what a leader does.

If you are friends with the man and know the thing she did is quite nasty... out of friendship and respect for his feelings leaving her out is noble, and I would appreciate it very much if I were in his situation.

Without taking sides (it might be too late though as he's your friend!), is there any way to do this without excluding her to be nice to the man in the relationship?

What @Kavalier proposes is very elegant: invite her through him, so you give him the power to decide whether she should be there. In my example, that would have been me taking the side of her, and never calling the man to hear his side of the story. Same for my friend and his social circle.

I think what my friend and I did (contacting the other side, making sure they feel heard), has perhaps the best upside socially because both sides will respect that. (but I'm 100% with Kavalier that 'invite through him' is extremely socially smart). You need to be sure not to judge them. These people are suffering deeply the loss of a relationship that meant the world to them. In your case, she may know that your friend told you she did something wrong. Same for our friend J**** S****. With the 'call to check your side', J**** S**** benefited because he has now more information (he may have a PR problem; an ex talking bad about him). Whether the story is true, or whether he needs to do some PR to compensate for it is in his hands. That's power he didn't have before, so he should appreciate you for it, and for the vote of confidence/not judging him immediately when you heard the bad story.

For everyone else in the group who sees this (most don't), they will feel comforted that they will always be notified of a PR problem, that you will not take sides, and that you care about 'quality control' so that everyone in the group is 'safe' from potential aholes: if the host doesn't fulfill that role, that's fine and the group could be highly functional anyway. But an 'active moderator' who cares that every relationship in the group is good is worth his weight in gold. More so if he can mend relationships. In business (startups), mending the relationship between two cofounder (a high stakes relationship that is extremely stressful) could literally mean a company is saved (and millions in revenue too!) Whoever saves the relationship will have the eternal gratitude of everyone involved (founders, VCs, employees who would have lost their jobs, spouses of founders etc).

Lucio Buffalmano, John Freeman and Kavalier have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanoJohn FreemanKavalier

I think you did well.

And if your male friend is a closer friend, it's fair to prioritize him.

I disagree with Kavalier on this one though: now that he expressed his preference for not having her at the party, you must respect.
One because it's fair that way, and two because it'd be bad to him to first ask, then deny his preference -disempowering, feels like you just asked hoping he'd say "yes", and that ultimately didn't care about him-.

If you want to contact her, I'd say one of these:

  1. Say you prefer to avoid challenging between former partners: never mention the recent news about her, but frame it as a general thing that's normal after a recent breakup.
    You'd send this one while you also invite her flatmates
  2. Contact her after the party, say that you're cool with her, that you're sorry, and that you're writing to explain (a sign of respecting someone). Say that you had to make a decision to make sure every attendee was comfortable

It's obvious what the issue is, but you never mention it clearly, saving both her face, and protecting your friend.

John Freeman, Kavalier and 2 other users have reacted to this post.
John FreemanKavalierBelleaderoffun
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Thank you very much guys! As you see I'm catching up on posts.

@leaderoffun:

Your post is of very good quality I think and exemplify well the situation you talk about: someone in the couple has a bad reputation due to the other. So this is more a case of smear campaign.

Here, I don't take sides even though it may seems like it. I respect her. I have never said anything bad about her to anyone. What my friend told me is between him and me. He did not badmouth her to anyone as far as I know. I have a good relationship with her.

When he told me that, what changed is that I'm now a tiny little bit careful with her. What I tell her about me, etc. However, I treat her just the same and we laugh together. She's just more of an acquaintance than a friend.

So it's more about social distance that a character issue. I'm not scared that she would spoil the evening or the group.

It's more an issue of respecting my friend's feelings. I don't exclude her because she hurt him. I protect him from feeling bad on a night where I would like him to let loose and have fun. And if her presence is an impediment to that, because he's my friend, now it's my problem as well.

Thank you very much for your answer. I think it enriched the thread and allowed me to clarify the situation. Feel free to comment further with this new information if you feel like it.

@lucio

Thank you, maestro! As LoF said, this requires high social intelligence and you brought this to the next level, which was required in this tricky situation.

Out of the 2 options you propose, I prefer the latter.

For more context, as I said we get along but she's more of an acquaintance. So even if I don't invite her but the whole house sharing, it won't look as if I'm excluding her or banishing her. She just happens to share their house and is quite cool.

As I said, she might have already moved out or will be moving soon. So in machiavellian terms, I won't need her that much. She does not have a big social network and did not really provide me with great info or material advantages. I enjoy talking with her. I enjoy talking with many people. So I won't miss her as such. She's cool but not that cool. Sounds cold but true. Now that I expanded my social circle (updated coming once I get to the upcoming new level), I have many people of her quality or higher around me.

However, she'll still be connected to people I know, since she's moving to another housesharing where one of my friend's GF lives. There is also another new friend who's a cool guy and a great rock climber (the best I know) who lives with them. So as I already banned Anthony the nasty social climber, I have to be careful not to be labeled as the "excluder" (which I'm not).

So that's the purely selfish WIIFM side.

Now, the relationship side. Here I think what you propose in option 2 is warranted. I will think it over after the party to make sure it's still what I want to do. Then I'll call her with the content that you proposed as it is what it's currently my heart and mind.

It will take some courage from my part but as you said it's a sign of respect to have a difficult conversation with someone.

Thanks a lot! This helped me to navigate this tricky situation while at the same time respecting my friend and my values.

Lucio Buffalmano and leaderoffun have reacted to this post.
Lucio Buffalmanoleaderoffun
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