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February 2017, I organized a surprise party for my girlfriend's 40th birthday. I don't think I'm exagerating saying it was a real success.

In February 2019 I'll turn 40 myself and am convinced she is going to do the same. The thing is several clues already lead me to know when it will be. It's just clues but all the pieces coming together already made it quite certain to me.

I will, at some point, tell her I know or knew. What would be the best time to tell her?

I'm looking for reasonable consequences of telling her early, late or after the event. I'm not asking "what should I do?" but what might happen in each scenario. That would really help me to be sure that whatever I decide, an evident consequence that was not so evident to me doesn't blow into my face.

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    If she wants it to be a surprise, why would you spoil that? Would it hurt to pretend? – Michael Harvey Aug 11 '18 at 22:55
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    " I'm not asking "what should I do?" but what might happen in each scenario" - I am sorry, but I fail to see any interpersonal skill in such question. – Suma Aug 12 '18 at 7:37
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As I'm sure you are aware, your choices boil down to either tell her before the event, or tell her after the event.

  1. Tell her before the event

Among the many drawbacks of this option, is that (despite all the evidence) you might be wrong, and you might seem a little foolish for jumping to conclusions. Alternately it might seem as if you expected your girlfriend to throw you a surprise party, and she might feel that she let you down by not having one.

This alone makes it the less tenable option. While you might draw reasonably logical conclusions from the evidence you've seen, you can't really be sure it's going to happen.

On top of this, it spoils the fun for your girlfriend and your guests. They've come expecting to try to surprise you, with the general understanding that you might not be surprised. If you tell her your suspicions in advance, and she tells others that you figured it out, they'll all likely be disappointed that they weren't able to keep you in the dark.

The benefit of telling her in advance is that you don't have to try to keep up the act until the day of the party, and (depending on who else knows you know) you might not have to act surprised. Also, it's possible that your girlfriend will get upset that you deceived her the whole time, which could upset your relationship ... but this is unlikely, and anyway it would be pretty hypocritical for her to get mad that you deceived her about not being deceived by her.

If you feel that you are unable to keep up the act -- which may be likely, if you have a poor poker face -- then a variation is to tell your girlfriend in advance of the party, but advise her not to tell anyone else. That way you both can work together to make everything appear to go smoothly.

  1. Tell her afterward

With this option, you get to have your party, and everyone gets to have their fun. The only drawbacks are the previously mentioned "mask of ignorance", and that you have to "trick" your girlfriend and your friends. However you can always respond that you suspected but you didn't know, and anyway you didn't want to spoil their fun.

Moreover, while the party itself may not be a surprise, you might be surprised by who actually shows up, or by the exact circumstances. As long as you don't actively look for clues, there should be something about the party that turns out to be pleasantly unexpected.

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