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My female friend had a son recently, and it is a source of great joy for all of us (friends).

When her son was three months old, we organized a surprise party for him, and the mom was very happy with it.

Now the kid is close to six months old, and she decided to organize a theme party. Problem is: the theme of the party is her soccer team, which is the main rival of my soccer team. I'm not comfortable with the idea of attending this party: photographed with the colors and flags of this soccer team, listening to their anthem and so on.

Question: how should I explain that I'm not attending the party, without telling lies (as she would know it anyway) -- and giving a clue that I won't attend similar-themed parties in the future, without being too confrontational?

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    Hey Chaotic! You actually did quite a nice job of explaining why the theme of the party makes you uncomfortable to us: You used an I statement and asserted that the possibility of being photographed in rival team colours makes you uncomfortable... May I ask what makes you think this approach is too confrontational for use on your friend? And also... Have you considered attending, without participating in the 'theme', or asking your friend if you can? Would that be an option, or would just being on such a themed party (even without being dressed up yourself) be just as big of a problem for you? – Tinkeringbell Feb 13 at 20:04
  • Basically, do you know how much your friend intents to 'enforce' the theme of the party? – Tinkeringbell Feb 13 at 20:07
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    Is attending the party wearing your team colour an option or not? Could it be seen and accepted as funny? – OldPadawan Feb 13 at 20:44
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I can't guarantee your friend will understand your reasons for not wanting to come, you know her best and are, as always, the best judge of her possible reactions to telling her the truth. But there are quite a few things you already did right in your question to make your message as non-confrontational as possible:

  • Using an I-message. You wrote your question to explain about you, and your discomfort, instead of saying your friend isn't nice for throwing a rival themed party and she should've known better!
  • You've given an honest reason, and asserted your feelings on the matter. Though this may kinda be caused by EmC's edit too... Assertiveness is being confident about your own feelings and reasons, but without making the other person feel threatened in their rights. Rhetorical questions like the one originally in your question probably aren't the way to go if you don't want your friend to think of you as confrontational.

There's another thing you could consider:

  • Compromise. Find out what you and your friend both value, and work towards achieving that. Because if you go in with only what you value, a compromise might feel like a bad deal for your friend:

    Research has indicated that suboptimal compromises are often the result of negotiators failing to realize when they have interests that are completely compatible with those of the other party and settle for suboptimal agreements. Mutually better outcomes can often be found by careful investigation of both parties' interests, especially if done early in negotiations.

    If both you and your friend value e.g. your presence more than the themed party being perfectly themed, a compromise might work. If your friend values a themed party more than everyone being present, pushing for a compromise where you're present as well will likely make her feel bad, no matter what. I suggest you keep this option open as well, instead of insisting you won't be there immediately, you could open a conversation about your feelings on the party and try to find out whether your friend is open to make some accommodations for them, like not having you wear rival club colours or not taking pictures. Or even just having you around for tea another time.

In my experience, a combination of these three works well for me when declining invites to parties I don't feel comfortable going to (like ones where I know there will be a lot of alcohol/drinking games, drugs, and people that I don't get along with).

I'm mostly honest about my reasons for not wanting to go, as this sends a signal that I'm not really interested in these types of parties. Some 'courtesy' invites can't be avoided, but they are very easily declined and the declination often accepted without any objections. I must admit I am more likely to just decline with a 'sorry, can't make the date/time' if I'm not that close to the person inviting me.

With one or two close friends, I compromise. It either ends up with me being there early, doing some party prepping, talking, then leaving early at the official party to avoid the 'worst' of that. Or (more often) having a different moment where we go out for food/tea/coffee.

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As I've always thought and witnessed that a humoristic twist is a more powerful weapon than any other confrontation, I'll offer a frame-challenge here. In many situations in my life I've done the same, so I don't see why it wouldn't be a good option in your case.

You have the "soccer mom" and the "soccer fan". Hope your friend is the latter :)

Here, we're not talking about Boca-River or Barca-Real, or even Liverpool-Man. Utd. We're talking about kids. About friends. About having fun. About laughing. Like always, sports should be about sports, about sportsmanship and respect, with fun. Not a fight.

So, I'd get there dressed with your team colours. Or, less provocative, wearing a referee shirt. And anytime they would take a picture, maybe show them a yellow/red card? This way, even if pictures reach social media, your friends will see how smart you were. And even brave, facing this horde of excited "Orks and Goblins" from the other team :)

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