Q: My friend’s long-term partner is philosophically opposed to marriage, and expresses his disgust with the institution by showing up at other people’s weddings wearing jeans and a tuxedo shirt and saying snide things to everyone in earshot (especially the happy couple). The guy is a pill at the best of times, but during weddings, he dials up his obnoxiousness to eleven.
Past brides and grooms have learned that confronting him about the behavior directly just gives him an opportunity to deliver his soapbox speech about his disgust for marriage in general and weddings in particular. When they have tried to speak to our friend, his partner, she responds with a mix of placating (“that’s just his way”), defensiveness (“he’s not really doing any harm, just defending his beliefs”; “his class background means he’s not comfortable with formal affairs and you are being classist about this”), and amusement (“isn’t he funny?”).
I strongly suspect that being this man’s partner is no picnic. I think he bullies her, and I would label his treatment of her emotionally abusive, though she would not agree. But I’m getting married and, much as we love our friend, my fiancé and I do not want her partner to be there. The bigger and more formal the wedding, the more he escalates his childish B.S., and our wedding will be very large and formal indeed.
We know it is rude not to invite people’s partners, but can we make an exception for this jerk? One solution is not to invite the couple at all, but I have read that when a friend is in an abusive relationship, it is better to keep the lines of communication open, so that she has safe places to go and people to talk to, and a reminder that someone loves her in a stable and supportive way. She will be very hurt if she is excluded. We know there is no easy way around this one, and any answer will cause an issue for someone—help?
A: Dear Anonymous,
Normally I’d say that if you love your friend, you include her partner. I’d remind you that you’re stuck with some folks, regardless of their terrible opinions. I’d cosign and underscore everything you said about abusive relationships and making your friends feel loved on.
But in this case? This guy gives you a readymade excuse, and I’d latch right onto it.
Invite your friend and personally let her know that you’re leaving her partner off the invitation so he doesn’t feel obligated to come. You totally understand how uncomfortable weddings make him (you’re just so compassionate!), and you’d hate for him to feel out of place for a full six hours. Besides, she’ll know plenty of other people there to hang with all day, and you guys will be able to catch up with him some other time!
But, I’m warning you. Hold this plan with a very loose grip. There’s a pretty good chance she’ll turn around with, “Oh no! He’ll be devastated not to come! You’ve got him all wrong!” in which case, yeah. Let her know you’ll be delighted to see him there. Invite the jerkface.
And if he comes, at least you’ll have a glimmer of hope that calling his bluff by trying to exclude him will put him on his best behavior (whatever that even looks like for this guy). If it doesn’t, be assured that you’ll have way better things to think about on your wedding day than some loudmouth in a tuxedo t-shirt.