How to invite friend without her obnoxious boyfriend
December 21, 2015 11:31 AM   Subscribe

I love my friend L. About 5 months ago she started dating this guy M. M is, on the surface, an OK guy but when we're having a party he tends to drink a lot and become a cretin. The worst was when he threatened me, the best man, with violence at a mutual friend's wedding rehearsal dinner. He was jealous because L, the maid of honor, was coming to me because she was nervous about giving her speech.

He has apologized for that incident and I have forgiven him, but just because I forgave him doesn't mean I want to be his friend or enjoy his company.

Now I'm in a situation where I'd like to invite L on a trip with a bunch of friends but I REALLY don't want to see M there. It would ruin the trip.

I haven't told L what I feel about her boyfriend. I haven't told her about the threats that night. I don't care who she dates but I do care who she brings along to things.

How can I invite her but not her obnoxious boyfriend?
posted by cman to Human Relations (37 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
If you're inviting other people and their significant others, you can't really pick and choose who gets to bring their partner and who doesn't- it'll be obviously exclusionary.
posted by rachaelfaith at 11:34 AM on December 21, 2015 [12 favorites]


Tell L. Tell L that M threatened you.
posted by zippy at 11:35 AM on December 21, 2015 [47 favorites]


Probably not, UNLESS this is a girls only trip where no one is bringing a significant other. I do think it is fine to do a girlfriends trip where no men are invited. But not sure if that is what you have in mind.
posted by rainbowbrite at 11:36 AM on December 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


You can't do that. Not without telling her. Otherwise it'll come across as weird that you want to exclude him (which can be horribly misconstrued given his history).

Why didn't you tell her?

Bottom line: if you want her in your life, he comes along sometimes. If that's a friend deal breaker, you have to dump your friend.
posted by inturnaround at 11:40 AM on December 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


If you want to exclude him, you have to tell her why. Threats are serious and you forgiving him doesn't mean that it didn't happen or that she shouldn't know.
posted by quince at 11:41 AM on December 21, 2015 [24 favorites]


I do think it is fine to do a girlfriends trip where no men are invited.

Pretty sure the poster is a man, which complicates that idea.
posted by babelfish at 11:44 AM on December 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


You can offer a selective invite as long as you're okay with whatever the consequences may be. Like, you can't force her to be happy (or, more likely, to see the light) about your choice, but if you're at a point where you'd rather risk the friendship than put up with the guy, or you'd rather risk the friendship and tell her how you feel about him than sit by and wait for her to figure out he's awful, you can do it.

What would not be fair would be to impose this guy on the other participants in this trip, so I think your choice here is not invite her at all or invite her and specifically exclude him.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:45 AM on December 21, 2015 [7 favorites]


Pretty sure the poster is a man, which complicates that idea.

Oh, yes, in that case, no, a male friend cannot invite a female friend along on a trip and explicity exclude her male partner without a whole lot of drama.
posted by rainbowbrite at 11:47 AM on December 21, 2015 [10 favorites]


There is no polite way to exclude someone that overtly. You can be honest and explain to her that, while the situation is unfortunate, you are unwilling to spend time with M and explain why. She then has to choose where her priorities lie. It's not a comfortable thing, but the alternative is putting up with the obnoxious boyfriend. Coming up with some bullshit reason he can't come or similar shenanigans is dishonest and ultimately counterproductive.
posted by Wretch729 at 11:47 AM on December 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


Is it a friendship deal-breaker with L that she believe you like the guy she's dating? Or do you think you two could recover from that awkward conversation?

If L would be devastated to learn that you dislike M, then just don't invite her, to avoid telling her why M is unwelcome. If L would understand, then maybe it's worth having that conversation so you can invite her and leave M at home.

On preview: what Lyn Never said.
posted by Beardman at 11:49 AM on December 21, 2015


I think you should tell her he threatened you and that you would love her to come, but you don't feel comfortable with him being there. But it's up to you whether you think your friendship is strong enough that she'll understand/believe you.

If you don't want to do that, do you think she would feel hurt if you didn't invite her at all? Do you plan a lot of group events that you'll potentially be excluding her from, for as long as she dates him? It might be best just to deal with this now.
posted by blackzinfandel at 11:51 AM on December 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, there is no subtle way to not invite the boyfriend.

You probably have two options. You can tell your friend what happened and how you feel about it, and then give her the upshot. The upshot may be something like "I want to continue being your friend and I will always be polite to your boyfriend when we run into each other, but when I personally invite you to things I'm only inviting you, not him" --- or whatever works for you. Be prepared that if you take that path you risk losing/lessening the friendship, and you also risk extending her relationship with the guy past what it might otherwise have been (if she responds by doubling down on him). Your alternative is to suck it up, grit your teeth, and hang out with the guy. Only you can decide which is better.
posted by Susan PG at 11:53 AM on December 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


If he's threatening you out of jealousy over L and often becomes a "cretin" when drinking, all sorts of red flags would pop up for me that he may be abusive or controlling toward L, and I would be very careful about putting her in a position where it even looks like you're making her choose between you and him. A kind word that you're worried about her relationship with M, that you're there for her if she ever needs you, but that you really can't be around M, and then dropping contact with her unless she reaches out, might be the least drama-filled way of going about it.
posted by jaguar at 11:55 AM on December 21, 2015 [42 favorites]


I would tell her that I'm uncomfortable with the vibe that M brings to events with your friend group. I would tell her that he drinks too much and then does stupid things like threatening you and being possessive and jealous about her.
I would not explicitly say "so I am no longer inviting either of you to events, especially big intense interactions like that trip next month", I would just say that you aren't comfortable spending much time with him. When she hears that some of you are going on this trip, she will know why they're not invited, but you won't have to rub it in her face.

It's tough, because you have to respect her personal agency by not making all the decisions for her (eg totally shutting her out without telling her why) but you also have to show some respect for her choice of partner and respect for their relationship, by not demanding that she choose between you and him.

I would think about what points you're willing to give on. He's not invited on this overnight travel, duh, that sounds like a disaster - and if he's not invited, that means they're not invited. They're not invited to raucous drinking nights, that also sounds like a road to distress. But what might they be invited to? Under what circumstances will you hang out with this guy so that you can see your friend sometimes - go to a movie or a show? dinner party that doesn't focus on drinks? picnic in the public park that doesn't allow alcohol? Or if you're really not willing to see this guy ever again under any circumstance, that's something you need to tell her.
posted by aimedwander at 12:01 PM on December 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


This is red flag territory for alcohol addiction and abuse, no question. But cutting M out may also mean cutting L out - because while five months isn't a long time, she may already be caught up in some worrying dynamics from which it may already be difficult for her to extricate herself.

Forcing a choice might mean that L would lose a potential source of support (if you'd like to offer that to her). People in abusive relationships wind up losing a lot of friends, for a lot of reasons (e.g. being judged for staying, for one, or, the behaviour of their partner, is another). But that means they lose support that could be very meaningful, and helpful. (I.e. she might not risk reaching out at a time of need if she thinks she's being judged.)

If it were me, I'd definitely tell L about what happened. L & M would be welcome to group events conditionally. I.e. would tolerate this guy (i.e. deal with him in a minimally civil manner), but would make boundaries very clear - to him, L, whoever's there at the time - when he behaves like an ass. If he shows up drunk and gets fighty? Insults people? You're out for the night, buddy, that doesn't fly here. You can be around if you act like a person, and L is always welcome (would be my approach).
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:17 PM on December 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


A kind word that you're worried about her relationship with M, that you're there for her if she ever needs you, but that you really can't be around M, and then dropping contact with her

I usually just nod when jaguar posts, but speaking as someone with a background in domestic violence, please don't sever this connection, which will isolate her further. What I read here is that she's with someone willing to make threats to assert control over her relationships, which is a pretty huge red flag for domestic abuse. Whether you choose to disclose to her that he threatened you -- and I would, but it is your call -- or not, please explain to her that you are uncomfortable with her boyfriend, particularly when he drinks, and that is why you can't invite her to group outings like this one. But also please tell her you are concerned about her and always there for her, and mean it. The last thing a DV victim needs is people who drop their end of the lifeline, because then the accuser's tactic of keeping the victim sealed off from others is reinforced.
posted by bearwife at 12:30 PM on December 21, 2015 [52 favorites]


I'd have a talk with L. Let her know that you love her and want what's best for her. Explain that your last interaction with M, while having been forgiven, has you shy of inviting him along with her to parties and group vacations. "I forgive him for threatening me, but I don't like him and I don't enjoy his company," is perfectly okay to say.

My one concern is that guys like this isolate their girlfriends so that once they're in, if the relationship turns sour or abusive, the woman's friends are so turned off that she has no one to turn to for help.

If you think that this is where this is heading, model the behavior for her, and keep your door open to her. "I won't have anything to do with him, but I'll always be here for YOU."

I'm really curious what she sees in this guy. He sounds awful.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:33 PM on December 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


On preview, Bearwife and I are of two minds on this.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:34 PM on December 21, 2015


when we're having a party he tends to drink a lot and become a cretin

If this is a pattern that other people have observed too, it might be wise for you and the other people to have a heart to heart talk with her about all of it. I agree with everything everyone's said about warning signs of an abusive relationship and not cutting her out entirely. Sometimes making someone face the facts rather than politely agreeing not to talk about them is necessary. Unless she's utterly clueless or he's a maestro of timing, she's aware that he has problems with alcohol and behavior, though she may not know how bad it is.

She may choose to leave him, she may get him into treatment, she may choose him over you. But letting her know all the facts and that you'll be there for her when she needs to may help in the long run.
posted by Candleman at 12:55 PM on December 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Tell her about being threatened by him, and say if he ever does it again or behaves that way again, you're going to call the police on him.

And Tell her to date better guys.
posted by discopolo at 1:00 PM on December 21, 2015


There's also the idea that you can tell her there's only so much space. And you can be honest and tell her that you forgave him as a courtesy to her, but you don't like being around people with obvious anger management problems.

And find her a dude who actually makes for a suitable boyfriend.
posted by discopolo at 1:03 PM on December 21, 2015


Some additional information, as it may be pertinent (or at the very least interesting):

-L has been my friend for 10 years. She lives about an hour away now so I only see her a few times a year at major events.

-L and M both live in Santa Cruz. I dunno who here is familiar with Santa Cruz culture, but getting drunk and threatening someone doesn't surprise me one bit.

-The time he threatened me... It was really weird. For the longest time I didn't even realize why he had done it. L was stumbly-drunk and I caught her when she almost fell. M, also drunk, quickly seized her other arm and tried to shoo me away. L left, and then M got in my face. He was half-joking (he even *booped* my nose) but he also said things like "I am gonna deconstruct your face". At the time I was more confused than anything. When he lightly shoved me I ended the interaction.

-During the wedding, I didn't say anything about him threatening me to L or the bride/groom because I didn't want it to take away from the main event and I didn't want it to burden her when she was seriously stressing out about giving her speech (which went wonderfully, btw). Afterwards, I didn't bring it up again because M apologized profusely (drunk again) the day after it happened so I was trying to let it go. I also knew that it would come out between them and I knew it would create a conflict involving me.

-Since the wedding, I have since seen the two of them only once at a friend's Thanksgiving dinner. M drank too much and was crude but not unbearable. He would do the sort of drunk people things like talk loudly and not know when to end a story. I personally felt uncomfortable around him because I found him boring but didn't want him to feel insulted.

-Also since the wedding, pretty much all our mutual friends know about M threatening me. It's possible it has gotten back to L but as I haven't heard anything from her I doubt it.

-L's best friend (the bride) is also confused about how to handle the situation.

-L is a strong, wild woman. Nobody can cage her. But she also wants a loving relationship like many of us do and she seems to have trouble meeting good men. M is quite a bit older than most of our friend-group, and (I'm guessing) 10 years older than L.

-Nobody has suspected domestic violence. There have been no obvious, direct signs. They are currently travelling together abroad and she seems to really like him.
posted by cman at 1:08 PM on December 21, 2015


-The time he threatened me... It was really weird. For the longest time I didn't even realize why he had done it. L was stumbly-drunk and I caught her when she almost fell. M, also drunk, quickly seized her other arm and tried to shoo me away. L left, and then M got in my face. He was half-joking (he even *booped* my nose) but he also said things like "I am gonna deconstruct your face". At the time I was more confused than anything. When he lightly shoved me I ended the interaction.

-Nobody has suspected domestic violence. There have been no obvious, direct signs. They are currently travelling together abroad and she seems to really like him.


The dude knows how to physically threaten people-- while drunk. Both you, and L. He took control of the situation with physical actions, disarming you emotionally and mentally. Her liking him doesn't rule out the possibility of him being abusive. The actions he took at the wedding were in no way normal. He is a powderkeg.

He has apologized for that incident and I have forgiven him, but just because I forgave him doesn't mean I want to be his friend or enjoy his company.

He grabbed her arm. He shooed her away, and threatened you. You don't know if she forgave him, what happened then or at other times. Tell her what happened. Don't speculate what might be going on between the two of them, but tell her what he did with regards to you.

Be there for her. Be away from him.
posted by RainyJay at 1:20 PM on December 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Nobody has suspected domestic violence. There have been no obvious, direct signs.

That's not how it works. Outsiders at best notice possessiveness or find their efforts to stay in touch are frustrated. And be careful about writing off behavior as boundary setting as was his threatening behavior toward you as due only to drunkenness. Dude wasn't so drunk he couldn't recall what he did for purposes of the apology.

Whatever is up, it would be true friendship to express your concerns to her, explain absence of invitation for the upcoming event, and stay in touch with her.
posted by bearwife at 1:21 PM on December 21, 2015 [11 favorites]


Saying things like "I am gonna deconstruct your face" and shoving you is the point at which you call the police. This is not remotely acceptable behaviour from an adult, no matter how much or how little they've had to drink. Booping you on the nose is him warning you that he's prepared to get into your physical space, and interfere with a vulnerable part of your anatomy. Especially when he's going to "deconstruct" it.

Based on his already possessive behavioural displays (when you touched her, he pulled her away from you), I'd be very very concerned indeed about making any kid of attempt to separate the two of them, even if it's just on a trip. This guy has shown you that he's prepared to assault you just for touching her arm.
posted by Solomon at 1:25 PM on December 21, 2015 [11 favorites]


No change to my advice. Also, I know Santa Cruz culture. Stoned, I get, drunk and obnoxious, nope.

Also, it doesn't matter. L may be a wild woman that cannot be tamed, but I don't care how scarce men are in her life, this one, she can live without.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:26 PM on December 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


(I am not changing my answer above and I am in no way endorsing drunken bad behavior. That said the idea that the asker should have called the police after the incident at the wedding, while perhaps good and reasonable in many ways, is also somewhat blinkered in my opinion. Drunken hooliganism is a normal and common thing in many social contexts in my experience and while I'm not saying that's a good thing I do think Metafilter sometimes has a tendency to back itself into a, for lack of a better term, bourgeois place where people give well meaning advice that would be unhelpful in some social contexts. I am also not minimizing the side conversation here about potential signs of abusive behavior. Just saying we could stand to at least leave the door open to the idea that social context sometimes matters.)
posted by Wretch729 at 1:39 PM on December 21, 2015 [13 favorites]


The last thing a DV victim needs is people who drop their end of the lifeline, because then the accuser's tactic of keeping the victim sealed off from others is reinforced.

I absolutely agree, but the OP being male complicates this a bit, and I probably phrased what I meant poorly. My concern would be that if the OP keeps in touch with L without also spending time with M, M may decide the OP is trying to "seduce" L or vice versa and then take it out on L. Letting L know that you may not initiate contact but you'll always respond if she reaches out lets her manage that part of it -- she'll know if and how it's safe to reach out, while the OP may not know how his messages or texts or whatever are being misinterpreted.

I guess, basically, that a woman saying to a female friend, "I don't like the way your boyfriend behaves, but let's keep hanging out just the two of us" is going to come across very differently to a jealous boyfriend than a man saying that to a female friend (which sucks, and is unfair, but I think it's a dynamic that needs to be taken into account).
posted by jaguar at 1:54 PM on December 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


-L is a strong, wild woman. Nobody can cage her. But she also wants a loving relationship like many of us do and she seems to have trouble meeting good men. M is quite a bit older than most of our friend-group, and (I'm guessing) 10 years older than L.

This doesn't mean she's immune to abuse. It's not just something that happens to "weak" women. The dynamics are complex.

she seems to really like him.

Sure. But - not saying it's definitely the case here, but it's walking/talking a lot like a duck - people don't start out hating their abusers. They "really like" them for too long, usually.
posted by cotton dress sock at 1:54 PM on December 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


Nobody has suspected domestic violence. There have been no obvious, direct signs.

He doesn't need to hit her to be bad for her.
posted by Candleman at 2:02 PM on December 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


Nobody has suspected domestic violence. There have been no obvious, direct signs.

It's worth keeping in mind that there's a large spectrum between "not a domestic abuser" and the kind of domestic abuse that you might be picturing. (Beats wife regularly, constant belittling, daily angry outbursts.) There are plenty of people who seem like perfectly decent SO's until they snap and lash out at their partner because of a confluence of circumstances.

I wouldn't be surprised if she hasn't really seen this side of him yet, but that doesn't mean she won't. In her position, I would absolutely want to know about what happened between the two of you. Even if I didn't immediately break up with that person, I would definitely be on alert for similar red flags.

Whether or not this guy has done anything actively abusive to her, there are a million red flags here. The possessiveness, getting in your face, actively invading your personal face, threatening you, all bad signs.

In your position, I would share this information with her, but I would be cautious about inviting her without him for the reasons enumerated by jaguar. Specifically, the potential that he might lash out at her if he finds out about the two of you "excluding" him.

(Personally, I don't think there's anything wrong with a woman and a man getting together, especially with this kind of long term friendship, but it may not be wise under these circumstances.)

At the same time, if you can find a way to maintain contact with her, that could be really crucial if things go badly with this guy and she needs to get out of the situation.
posted by litera scripta manet at 2:32 PM on December 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


He doesn't need to hit her to be bad for her

He doesn't need to hit her to be an abuser, either. Some abusers have power and control nailed without doing more than threats, or property destruction, or emotional abuse. (All of which is plenty destructive in its own right. One of the cases I worked on that still haunts me was the guy who threatened, then stole and very likely killed the victim's pets. It ate her up with grief and guilt.)

I agree with jaguar that you don't want to make her choose. But don't let the communication lines go down either. And tell her you are worried about her and you are always there for her. That's a powerful and very effective message.
posted by bearwife at 2:36 PM on December 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


-During the wedding, I didn't say anything about him threatening me to L or the bride/groom because I didn't want it to take away from the main event and I didn't want it to burden her when she was seriously stressing out about giving her speech (which went wonderfully, btw). Afterwards, I didn't bring it up again because M apologized profusely (drunk again) the day after it happened so I was trying to let it go. I also knew that it would come out between them and I knew it would create a conflict involving me.

People get drunk all the time at weddings, and generally it's a matter of embarrassing photos or regrettable confessions.

You're covering for him, and making apologies for him. He didn't threaten you because he was drunk, he used being drunk as a cover to give himself permission to threaten you, to act possessive toward L, to make a scene at the wedding where he knew that L was nervous about giving a speech. He's managed to shift the awkwardness of the situation onto the rest of you, rather than keeping it on himself where it belongs - he was drunk and he apologized, right? that should be enough, right? Except it's definitely not, it's creating space for him to make further incursions and make things awkward between you and L.

Also, if he has trouble with anger management, knows that it's worse when he's drinking and continues to drink, that's another problem.

No matter how strong or independent or wild L is, she can still be vulnerable to abuse. He's going to start in the honeymoon phase, treat her like she's amazing, buy her stuff, and convince her that he's working on whatever issues she might bring up. At the same time he'll get increasingly possessive and cast it as a personal insecurity, like he's already done with you.

Talk to her. Let her know you're there for her, her friendship matters a ton to you, you want her in your life, but you have some concerns. Share that he threatened you and that you're concerned about her. Figure out a way to diplomatically say that you don't want to spend time with him but do want to see her. You may want to talk to some of your mutual friends about whether they have similar concerns, and see if there's stuff they haven't brought up either.
posted by bile and syntax at 3:13 PM on December 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


but I would be cautious about inviting her without him for the reasons enumerated by jaguar. Specifically, the potential that he might lash out at her if he finds out about the two of you "excluding" him.

In addition to which, she may not yet recognize any of this as abusive. She may not want to see it. If you exclude the person she loves, because "it's M", she may feel that you're excluding or judging her, by association. (It's just not rational, but it happens.)

I think being crystal clear about not accepting behaviour that's out of line when it occurs in your presence is slightly different, not least because there may be witnesses who can agree. It's also a strong signal to L.

I think the key thing is expressing concerns privately, while remaining as non-judgemental as possible. Not easy and maybe not achievable, but that's what I would aim for.

For this trip - for L's sake - would invite them both, keep a distance from M if you need to, and call out bad behaviour as it happens.
posted by cotton dress sock at 3:35 PM on December 21, 2015


Thanks, guys. Lots of thoughts here I hadn't considered. I'm still torn about the upcoming trip. There is no easy answer here unfortunately.
posted by cman at 4:00 PM on December 21, 2015


Couples are always package deals. You cannot separate him and her, period, no matter what reason. If you only see her a few times a year, the price of seeing her is probably that you have to put up with him, especially when your options to see her are that limited. Or alternately, if you want to avoid him, you can't see her.

My verdict: your friend can't be invited. Sorry.

The joy of this topic is that while he's obviously a dubious dude, it's very hard to separate anyone from a dubious dude, especially while in the throes of "But I loooooove him" and/or "I can't afford to be picky at my age" because as long as that's going on, she won't be seeing reason and odds are higher you'll get dumped than he will. Possibly the best advice I've seen on handling that shitty situation is this Ask Bear letter, because Bear has been on the side of "didn't see reason and married the bad person" and can see it from both sides now.

"Apparently nearly everyone I was close to knew it—which I discovered only after we split. It turned out that all of my friends found her to be manipulative and selfish and all the other things you listed (wait, is your friend marrying my ex-wife?) but no one said anything to me for the exact reasons you listed. They didn’t want to spoil the friendship. They wanted to wait until I saw it too.
Now, listen. I understand—I truly do—why they made that choice. I wouldn’t have been able to hear anyone say anything even slightly negative about her for the first several years, so completely was I under her spell."


So...I don't think you're really going to be able to do anything about the situation until SHE wants to do something about it.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:52 PM on December 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'd be inclined to invite her and let M come along. If he misbehaves on the trip you have a great opportunity to call him on his behavior. Set boundaries on what's acceptable and give L some perspective on what other people think. Her judgment may be skewed, but if she sees her close friend(s) calling M on his crap I see that as a win. You don't have to cut her or him off, but let her know by example what isn't OK.

You may need to engage a mutual female friend to have a chat with M so he's not so "threatened" (eyeroll) but you have an opening here to let him know what isn't working for you and your friend group. Keep it between you and M and don't let it affect your relationship with L at all.
posted by bendy at 9:14 PM on December 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


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