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April 27, 2009

Is there a polite way to keep someone from bringing their partner to a party?

Question: I invited a friend to a small party I’m having and she wants to bring her partner. I actually can’t stand her partner and would much rather just have my friend come on her own. Because of this issue, I don’t normally invite my friend to parties. This time I took a chance though and worded my invite carefully to make it clear that I was just inviting her. No dice though, obviously. Is there any way I can prevent her partner from attending?

Answer: Ooh, this is always a tricky situation. You enjoy your friend, but strongly dislike the person with whom they are romantically involved. There isn’t really a polite way to say “Only YOU are invited, not your S.O!” Couples are a package deal, I’m afraid. It can be awkward and uncomfortable to be in this position; having dealt with something similar myself, I can certainly feel your pain.

I know you said that you’re planning a “small” party, but make sure you invite enough people to your party that you will have options for conversation partners; just because this unlikeable person is there doesn’t mean you have to hang out with them, right? You may just have to buck up, put on a brave smile, and remind yourself that at least YOU don’t have to deal with the unlikeable S.O all the time; a few hours isn’t certain death. Mingle, keep moving, and don’t put yourself in a situation where you are one-on-one with them. If it’s conversation snafus that are concerning you, perhaps don’t plan a sit-down dinner where the unlikeable S.O could say something inappropriate. If it’s their behaviour that concerns you, keep an eye the alcohol flow (good practice as a hostess anyway) if you think that could make things worse.

I have to add though – if there is a REAL reason you don’t like this person (say, you had a nasty fight with them, or they caused a scene at a previous get-together) then you could voice your concern about inviting the S.O to your party. Other than that, be prepared to put a smile on your face. Don’t forget though, you can still hang out with your friend one-on-one – even couples need their apart time, right? Schedule some one-on-one quality time with your friend, no unlikeable S.O’s allowed. Chin up!

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