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Me and my girlfriend were invited to a common friend's farewell party (this friend is going to live in another country). She does not want to go because some people I've been romantically involved in the past might be there. She says that if they are there and come say hi to me, she will feel bad.

I understand why it wouldn't be a nice situation for her to be in, that she can't control what she will feel and that I'd probably not be comfortable if the situation was the opposite.

However, to me, it doesn't seem right to lose an event just because of that. I made it clear to her that if one of these people approached me I'd just be polite and try not to engage in a conversation, but it wasn't enough.

I don't mind not going to this particular event (because we have another opportunity to see our friend before she travels), but I'm afraid this opens up a precedent and we end up losing something in the future.

I tried to be understandable and made it clear that I didn't think she was wrong to feel that way. All I asked was that she give it some thought and didn't blind herself behind the "I feel that way, so I'm right to avoid this situation" argument. She got mad because I was "questioning her about what she feels".

How can I approach her to see if we can change this in the future? Ideally, I'd like to help her deal with her feelings instead of avoiding them and losing opportunities to be with our friends.


Background: We are both in our early 20s and we know and dated each other since we were 15. We have broken up twice in the past (for several months), and I was with those partners (short) before we started seeing each other again.

She believes that some of my past partners will be there because they are friends with our common friend (we are part of the same large group of high school friends). AFAIK she did not have a bad experience with them specifically.

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    Hi and welcome to IPS! I've made an edit to take out the part asking who is right, since that's off-topic here (more about that in the help center), but I think talking with her about this is something we could help with. Some info about the background might help to understand what's going on - why does she think some of your past partners would be there? Has she had a bad experience with them specifically, or some other reason to worry about it? asking since your approach will likely depend on why she'd be upset (or if you don't know, talking about that first). – Em C Feb 7 at 3:34
  • Hey @EmC, thanks for the feedback. I added some background based on it, hope it helps :) – user27897 Feb 7 at 3:57
  • It isn't clear in your question whether going by yourself would be acceptable? – Laurent S. Feb 7 at 7:26
  • @LaurentS. She says I can go by myself, but I think this would probably hurt her too. – user27897 Feb 7 at 17:07
  • To me it seems like she has a clear understanding of her own feelings (she knows what would make her uncomfortable or not) and she acts accordingly (by avoiding the party) while not forcing her problem on you (she says you can go)... it this not simply a mature behavior? If you feel bad going anyway, then there is a problem: either she resents you for going and there is a communication problem, or she does not and the problem is in your head. But that is not obvious from the question. – Mowgli Feb 11 at 23:11
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From what I understand you exposed your arguments, she heard them and didn't change her mind. At that point, being willing to change her decision would not be respectful.

You understand her and may want to help her to feel better about the issue, but as you already said, her feelings are beyond your reach to change.

You express anxiety about loosing something. I'm not really sure what you are afraid about. What there is to loose here is maybe her presence to a few parties with your large group of friends. If the issue didn't raise before I'd guess they are not too frequent. In my point of view this is a sustainable situation but light my lantern if you feel like it's not.

How can I approach her to see if we can change this in the future?

I have experience with trying to rush people about their feelings and that didn't end well. I argued with my boyfriend to open up about his painful past as I thought it would be good for him and the relationship. I felt anxious about the fact he refused, but the more I insisted on arguments the firmer he was about his position, and the more it looked to him like I was coercing him. I've learned to "let go". Eventually, he told me some bits. I realised that not knowing didn't change anything.

I also know for fact that exes can be a sulfurous subject on many couples, being very close to a friend that went in with someone that was just out of a long lasting relationship.

From these experiences I learned that being unrespectful of people's feeling is destructive, and that the longer your relationship will last with your girlfriend, the more she will put in perspective the romance you had with your exes.

So I'd suggest you keep asking her for invitation to parties where she can decide to come or not, and respect her decision. Eventually, her bad feelings will dim and she will be more likely to hear your arguments. That's the best I can see you approaching.

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When you say that you'd be uncomfortable in the same situation reversed, would you be willing to sacrifice your personal comfort to show support for the friend who's leaving? If not, I don't see why you would impose that on her.

I agree that you should not let previous romantic relationships affect your relationship with a current friend. Assuming that you and your girlfriend are about equally close with this mutual friend, ask her to message/call the friend to apologize about not attending. That would hopefully prod her to evaluate the benefit of attending the party vs the discomfort of being around your exes.

In this particular case, since you said

we have another opportunity to see our friend before she travels

I wouldn't press it too much, as there doesn't seem to be that much lost from a social perspective of not attending the party. It might come across as you having an ulterior motive for attending, or that you don't value how she feels. Next time a similar situation occurs with greater consequence (e.g. the party is the only opportunity to see the friend before he/she leaves) you can try gently bringing up the matter again.

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