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10 months ago I was out of the country for a period of three months for work reasons. During this time, my partner cheated on me with one of his friends, who is also one of his colleagues. This person is part of my partner's extended friendship/colleague network, i.e. the friend/colleague of a number of my partner's friends/colleagues. My partner has not told any of these friends/colleagues, even those who he is closer to, about his affair. My partner's ex-lover knows that I know about the affair.

I am often invited to events related to my partner's work, or to social gatherings including this network of friends/colleagues. I have previously enjoyed these events and know his group of friends/colleagues well, but since my partner's affair I feel very anxious that I will be unable to deal with the presence of my partner's ex-lover. This is not just due to my generally feeling uncomfortable around this person, but also because I am not sure how to act naturally in front of the group of my partner's friends/colleagues in this context.

Without running away from my partner's ex-lover all night, how do I handle this kind of event? Are there any techniques I can use to avoid/minimise interactions with my partner's ex-lover without making it obvious to his group of friends?

Edit: Cultural context: England (I am not English so can get away with being more direct), liberal, academic crowd

  • @Vylix No, the affair is not going on anymore. My partner has apologised to me, but I have never spoken to his ex-lover (or met them). – fhng Nov 26 '17 at 16:52
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I kind of doubt you'll need to actively avoid your partner's former lover...

Keep in mind that they will be feeling awkward about the situation too, and likely feel at least a little guilty about it. So, chances are pretty good that they won't be looking to have any kind of extended conversation with you or your partner, and almost certainly don't want to draw attention to the past affair.

Probably the easiest way to avoid extended contact is to be polite, but brief in your interactions with them. Don't be rude, but don't go out of your way to put them at ease either. Chances are pretty good that they'll be doing the same and after short awkward introductions you can both happily enjoy the rest of the people in attendance.

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Without running away from my partner's ex-lover all night, how do I handle this kind of event?

These are just some IPS tips, take or leave whatever works best for your situation:

  • Focus on yourself, your partner and your friends as much as you can and avoid thinking too deeply about the ex-lover while you are at the party. Being aware of is fine but for obvious reasons if you catch yourself brewing over something about them, distract yourself.
  • Stay cool. No matter what they say or do, try not to let it provoke you. Avoid arguments with the person, even about small unrelated matters as they can be used as a way to vent the deeper frustrations and will potentially blow up. Remain polite, you have the moral ground and there is nothing to be gained by trying to enforce this fact.
  • Say less. If they ask you a question, you can cut them short with some excuse if you must, but if you can manage to say less in a way that is more thoughtful and quiet rather than curt, people will be less likely to notice and you come across as polite while still not needing to say much.
  • Try having pre-thought out responses. Since this is clearly a fairly intense interaction for you, and you said you were worried about acting naturally, one very good idea is to think about what you could say that achieves the above goals so that when you are in the moment, you do not have to worry about losing your head and can merely repeat what you have practiced beforehand. On this note, its also a good idea to think up some reasons to excuse yourself from a conversation. I know you said you don't want to avoid them all night, but if you find yourself needing to get away its a good idea to have some exit strategies already in mind.
  • Have positive body language. Standing up straight, smiling in a normal way and not crossing arms may help make these interactions go smoothly without others worrying what is wrong between you.
  • Have fun. It is what you are there to do after all.

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