Q: My boyfriend and I were invited to an out-of-town wedding for an ex-friend I have a bad history with. We had such a toxic friendship and emotional end that I was surprised to receive an invite at all. I hardly believe we were intended to accept the invite, and I am vehemently against the idea. Unfortunately, my boyfriend, who is completely aware of my history with the bride, is adamant on attending because he has known the groom for over a decade.
We were invited via a single invitation sent to his home. Bob’s friend is someone he has known for over ten years through mutual friends but rarely connects with one on one, neither through devices nor in person. Meanwhile, the bride might as well be on that faraway island with her groom given the lengths I traveled to extricate her from my life. As our friendship dissolved, the whole situation devolved into nasty bickering that further soured us toward each other and reinforced the substantive reasons I do not want her in or near my inner circle. In the two years since then, the only communication between the two of us was the wedding invitation sent to Bob a couple months ago.
I’ll own however selfish this makes me: I am well beyond the stage of life where I’m willing to go through dire straits to please, or (worse?) not to offend, people I don’t care much about. I couldn’t imagine attending a party hosted by them on an average day in my own neighborhood, so why should their out-of-state wedding be any different?
I would like to send the couple a gift and kind regrets. Bob believes declining the invitation would be horribly rude and a bit of a buzzkill as he’s looking forward to reconnecting with other mutual friends at the wedding. There are certainly times in life that require significant discomfort in exchange for greater gain, but I’m not sure this is one of them.
What’s the practical answer?
—TOFTM (Too Old For This Mess)
A: The entire time I read your question, a second question kept bouncing back at me: Is there a reason your boyfriend can’t just go to the wedding by himself? As much as I feel you on this (truly nasty ex-friends are the worst), I have the sneaking suspicion that this idea has to have at least occurred to one or both of you, and for some reason, it’s not the solution you want. I think there could be two reasons behind this:
1. If he goes to the wedding alone, it’ll feel like a betrayal:
My initial thought was that you’re worried that if he goes to the wedding alone, it’ll look like he’s saying, “Hey (Bride), I’m totally okay with you, no matter what my girlfriend thinks.” I assume there are other mutual friends attending the wedding who probably know the entire story behind why the two of you fell out, and I wonder if perhaps some part of you worries that everyone will assume that your boyfriend showing up solo = he doesn’t support you in this matter.
2. If he goes to the wedding alone, the bride might try to start drama: Without knowing the ex-friend in question, or the specifics of how your relationship with her deteriorated, I also wonder if you’re worried that your ex-friend might corner your boyfriend at the wedding and demand an explanation for your absence, or if she and others at the wedding might devote a portion of the day to discussing how terrible you are in front of your boyfriend, and that either way he’ll be put into a position that isn’t desirable.
Again, both of my ideas are speculative, but here’s where I’ll dispel them, just in case:
1. part of being an adult means making your own choices and respecting those of others: Here’s the thing about being an adult in a relationship with someone else who is also an adult: you have to let each other make your own decisions. Maybe it’ll suck if your boyfriend attends the wedding solo, but if you’ve thoroughly explained your side of the story, and it’s truly important to him that he attends the wedding, it might be time to just respect that and let it go. If you don’t feel like your boyfriend is actively trying to piss you off by attending, then chalk it up to good memories of days gone by with the groom for him. Since it sounds like attending any part of the day is a hundred percent out of the question for you, I would spend the day doing something ultra fantastic (go out of town, stay in town and go get a massage, go to a fabulous lunch, etc.) and try to avoid fretting about the wedding and what’s happening. (And keep inquiring texts to a minimum.) Maybe he really does just want to go see friends he hasn’t seen in forever and that’s it—there’s no reason he shouldn’t be able to do that. To me, a sign of a healthy relationship is that both parties are comfortable together and apart.
2. acknowledge that he should be old enough to handle any drama: Say your boyfriend walks into the reception and the first thing the bride does is corner him and start asking about you—so what? He doesn’t have to stay and listen to it, and a simple, “Hey, it’s your wedding day, let’s not talk about this,” should suffice. I don’t know her and her maturity level, but if your boyfriend is going to see his friends… then he’ll just hang with his friends, the end. Right?
The moral of the story is you’re both adults, and he can go alone. You won’t be involved, he’ll see his friends, and everyone is happy.
IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO ASK APW A QUESTION, PLEASE DON’T BE SHY! IF YOU WOULD PREFER NOT TO BE NAMED, ANONYMOUS QUESTIONS ARE ALSO ACCEPTED. (THOUGH IT REALLY MAKES OUR DAY WHEN YOU COME UP WITH A CLEVER SIGN-OFF!)