26

I have a friend and her boyfriend tends to get very hammered. I really enjoy spending time with her but him not so much.

I don't want to exclude her from our group campsite but he's an issue. How can I politely tell her that her boyfriend can't get really drunk with our group at the site without implying that it's something he'd do?

This is a music festival so frivolity will be happening but he has a track record of taking things too far.

He has a history of being a DD (designated driver) and then getting obliterated and trying to drive and I'm concerned he'll just be a mess and a jerk to all my friends who I'm introducing them too.

  • 2
    Are you singling him out or do you want all attendees to not get really drunk? – Erik Jan 25 '18 at 15:50
  • 2
    Who's renting the group campsite? – sphennings Jan 25 '18 at 16:10
  • 10
    I'm conflicted about the idea of going to a stay-over music festival and expecting people not to get drunk. I guess I always thought of the music as an excuse to get together to get drunk. Like a frat party, but without the noise complaints. – corsiKa Jan 26 '18 at 7:06
  • 4
    I'm not sure, what the real question is here. Are you concerned that he'll drink and drive? Don't have him be the designated driver. "frivolity" and "taking things too far" are especially subjective terms in the context of a music festival. That aside, drinking in and of itself shouldn't be an issue, everyone's adults and get to choose their poison. – LLlAMnYP Jan 26 '18 at 7:15
  • 2
    @corsiKa I don't think the "getting drunk" part is the real issue here, but the "taking things too far" part. We all know that guy who says "hold my beer" and then Mr. Bigglesworth gets upset ... – Fildor Jan 26 '18 at 8:28

11 Answers 11

25

You can't control your friend's actions. No matter what you say there is a real risk that they will drink to excess at the campsite. Whatever you say be sure to have a plan about how to handle them if this happens. Preemptively taking their keys may be a good idea.

It's probably best to not single your friend out in particular. State to everyone who will be attending "While moderate drinking is acceptable we aren't here to get hammered. Keep this in mind when purchasing alcohol for the event." The goal is to frame this as an announcement to everyone, and an expectation of how to behave instead of singling anyone out.

If they continue to be a problem after a broad request like this, you're going to need to single them out either to admonish their behavior or to let them know that they're not welcome at future events.

19

You asked

How do I politely say to someone that they can't get really drunk at the campsite?

but also

How can I politely tell her that her boyfriend can't get really drunk with our group at the site without implying that it's something he'd do?

which are quite different questions that highlight the horns of the dilemma you find yourself on.

Horn 1: You have had enough of the boyfriend (let's call him Bob) and you can hardly face the thought of him bringing his essential Bob-ness to your camping party.

Horn 2: You really enjoy the company of Bob's girlfriend (let's call her Alice) and can hardly face the thought of offending her and/or risking excluding her from the camping party.

So the path you are trying to follow is stopping Bob from indulging in Bobbishness so that you can continue to enjoy Alice's company. You are hoping that asking Alice in a suitably inoffensive way will achieve this.

I see at least several potential flaws in this approach:

  • To directly forbid a behaviour ('can't get really drunk'), then there has to be a sanction you can impose. If you don't have a sanction, you can't forbid behaviour. Would you be in a position to have him ejected from the camping plot if he did not comply? I suspect not. Would an ultimatum of future exclusions stop Bob reaching for another brewski in the moment? Again, I suspect not. So you have no effective sanction for keeping Bob off the Booze at the camp.
  • If you managed to successfully convey to Alice that Bob really mustn't do the thing that you all know he's going to do, without implying that he might do it... could she do anything about it? Would she do anything about it?

You have speculated in comments that Bob is an alcoholic, and even if not your experience seems to be that he will always drink and generally to excess which is a problem for the rest of the group. You could say that he has a negative social value.

'Alice & Bob' have continued to be included in your social events because Alice's positive social value has insulated them as a couple from Bob's negative social value. Socially, there have been no consequences for Alice as a result of introducing Bob to your social circle.

So, some thing which might make a difference to what you try:

  • Does the whole group feel the same about Alice and Bob?
  • Does Alice seem at all bothered by Bob's behaviour, does she give any sign of understanding that it's a problem for others?

if the answer to both is 'yes', or possibly even if just the first point is a 'yes', it may be time to risk offending Alice. You can't really ask her to make sure Bob doesn't drink too much, if everyone is pretending that Bob doesn't always drink too much.

Assuming Alice does understand that Bob is/has an issue, consider an approach that a) treats Alice like an adult who isn't daft, b) sets out that enough is enough and c) offers an option for this event which doesn't rule out future inclusion AND solicits her opinion on the problem:

Alice, I know Bob's your boyfriend and all that, but seriously... everytime he shows up he gets drunk and it causes a problem for other people, we all know that. I really don't want this camping party to become just the backdrop to another one of his shenanigans. Do you think he can keep the drinking down for this gig, or would we be better not inviting him?

If Alice doesn't understand that Bob is/has an issue, then it might be time to be the true/critical friend who breaks that news to her before she starts wondering why no-one invites her and Bob to the cool camping parties anymore.

Alice, I know this might be tough to hear, and I know how into him you are.... but as a friend, I gotta tell you... Bob's a mess.

and if she doesn't throw an ashtray at your head for the very suggestion you can then start to talk about how she's doing, whether Bob gets it.. etc. etc.

If you still don't think Bob’s negatives have outweighed Alice’s positives, your other option may be to see if the whole group are willing to adopt a babysitting strategy where you all actively gatekeep the alcohol all night and double-team each other on keeping Bob entertained and distracted all night to limit his drinking.

TL:DR if Alice is a good enough friend that you want to keep her around despite Bob, be a friend and talk to her about the reality of Bob.

8

This question was oddly well timed. I was thinking about how I would handle the situation myself while I was at the liquor store picking up last minute supplies for the festival I'm heading to after work tonight.

In my experience there are two basic approaches to handling the insanely drunk...

Option 1

Be a "drinking buddy". Drink with them, befriend them, and steer them away from destructive behavior. This is easier said than done, but drunks usually respond better to their drinking buddy than to someone scolding them.

You don't really wanna drive anywhere yet, let's grab another drink...

Option 2

You can come, but I'm not babysitting. Pretty much a standard warning that you won't be taking responsibility for anyone else's drunken nonsense. Effectively you're saying that he's not your problem and you don't intend to make him your problem. When drunken nonsense ensues you just "nope out" and walk away.

Oh? That's unfortunate... I'll be over there...

There really isn't a way to keep a drunk from getting sloppy at a music festival. It's a bit like handing a kid a water gun at a pool party and telling them to have fun, but Don't get wet!

You know it's going to happen. You just need to decide how you're going to deal with it when it does. If you don't want to take the risk, don't invite people who can't handle themselves.

  • All very strong, solid points. I think this is the best answer. – Chris K Jan 26 '18 at 16:01
  • "You can come, but I'm not babysitting." That's where academia and reality clash. The specific setting of a group at a festival can make this impossible. Misbehavior by one group member could get the group expelled. So, you can say "I won't babysit" all day long - but only if you accept being expelled for someone else's BS. I wouldn't want that regarding the ticket prices over here - don't know what they are in the US. – Fildor Jan 29 '18 at 10:14
  • While I think there is some solid general advice here, I don't think it is particularly applicable to the particular question posed, which is about the externalities of the BF's behaviour, the consequences for others. I don't see how getting drunk with him or abandoning him to the rest of the group helps in a situation where the OP says 'I'm concerned he'll just be a mess and a jerk to all my friends '. – Spagirl Jan 29 '18 at 12:01
  • @Fildor "If you don't want to take the risk, don't invite people who can't handle themselves." – apaul Jan 29 '18 at 13:24
  • That would be "Option 3" , wouldn't it? – Fildor Jan 29 '18 at 13:32
8

If you don't want your friend's boyfriend to drink in excess, then nobody else can. I think that's just basic fairness principles.

You can mention to your friend that you don't want anyone to get carried away with the implication that you've said this to everyone else in the group. Perhaps include an incident you experienced with another friend as an example.

I hope nobody gets crazy at the festival this weekend, I just don't want anything bad to happen. Remember that time that...

OR

You can put her in charge of telling the rest of the group members not to get carried away.

Hey, could you do me a favor and let everyone know not to get wild at the festival? I just want everything to go smoothly and prevent any mishaps or have people go missing. I would do it myself but [insert reason].

If those don't work for you, there are other options (edited):

  • break off into smaller groups (2x2, 2x3, etc.) that way he won't have as many people to "get crazy" with.
  • if he starts to go overboard, openly announce that he's too wild for you (you could say this light-hearted and jokingly) then leave your friend and her boyfriend to enjoy each others' company.
  • 2
    I disagree with the tips. (1) Smaller groups make someone more likely to be themselves. Whereas being in a big group means that he's vastly outnumbered. (Unless he's the type of person who particularly gets loud in big groups) (3) Don't try to outdrink him, nor behave just like him. That's just silly. The mirror image can just as easily be interpreted as offensive satire, that is not necessarily grounded in reality. Or even worse, it reaffirms his behavior because he's not alone in behaving this way. Two wrongs don't make a right, it would simply make the festival more awkward. – Flater Jan 26 '18 at 12:55
  • @Flater Thanks for your feedback. I agree with your point that smaller groups tend to breed comfortability with one's individuality. I don't think that applies in this setting unless the OP's friend's boyfriend is an alcoholic. If it's a festival or setting with a large crowd, and many other people are drinking, then the boyfriend would be most comfortable drinking excessively here as opposed to being at a bar with just two or three people. More than anything the festival environment plays a big part in this scenario. Lastly, if you can't beat him, join him, right? ;) – Chris K Jan 26 '18 at 16:00
7

He has a history of being a DD (designated driver) and then getting obliterated and trying to drive and I'm concerned he'll just be a mess and a jerk to all my friends who I'm introducing them too.

This is IMO the most important detail you provide. What this means to me is that he either can't control his drinking or that he is extremely irresponsible i.e. untrustworthy and foolhardy.

If this guy can't follow through on not drinking when he is the DD and will then risk lives and jail in order to get drunk, why would you think he would follow through on a promise not to drink too much at a music festival?

It's tough advice but either you do nothing or have a frank conversation with your friend about the boyfriend. He has a problem.

4

I'm surprised to refer to this on a non-programming SE site, but your question is a case of the XY problem. You're asking about telling him to not drink (Y), but in reality you're trying to get him to not be a jerk (X).

Ask yourself this: would you prefer him being a sober jerk, or a friendly drunk guy?

Playing the devil's advocate here, I think asking to not drink at a music festival is a bit silly. Plenty of people drink quite heavily during festivals. While that may not fit well with your group of friends, it still feels jarring to try and make rules about others' usage of alcohol. It's much more relevant to address their behavior regardless of whether they're inebriated or not.

Now of course you can't just single him out and blatantly ask him to not be a jerk, but it's relevant to realize that the drinking is tangential to the actual problem; which is rooted in his behavior.

Although you haven't really described what type of jerk he is, for the rest of the answer I'm going to assume that he's not malevolent, but rather socially oblivious, indifferent, or you guys simply don't match on a social level. If he is malevolent, you should simply steer clear of him as nothing you say will change his intentional behavior.


Asking him directly.

This is the harder option, but the most effective when done right.

From your question, I infer that he's the only person who behaves like a jerk. Which puts you between a rock and a hard place:

  • If you phrase your request in general to everyone, it comes across as restrictive and, unless your friends are aware of what you're doing, can cause your friends to infer you don't like their behavior.
  • If you phrase your request targeted at him, he will feel targeted (because he is) and it will antagonize him. This can increase the likelihood of him being a jerk, or it can even blow back on your friend (his girlfriend).

If you decide to approach him, make sure to not antagonize him:

  • Talk to him in private.
  • Don't assume he is going to be a jerk. Don't even use the word "jerk" (or any synonym).
  • Don't tell him what he must (not) do. Phrase it as a worry, rather than a rule.
  • You can turn it around a bit, and imply that your friends are sensitive to energetic behavior (as opposed to implying he is the problem) or apprehensive of people they don't know. Even if that is not the objective case, he will see it that way, so you're explaining it to him in a way that makes sense to him. Don't throw your friends under the bus, the goal is to avoid making him feel like he's the problem (assuming he is not malevolent or consciously dismissive).
  • Never imply that he is incorrigible. Address it as a minor problem that can be easily fixed and forgotten about.

Something like this:

Hey, I wanted to talk to you about the festival. I'll be meeting up with a group of my friends. You guys are welcome to mingle with us. But I wanted to give you a heads up: my friends can come across as apprehensive or judgmental when they meet new people. Don't worry, they're great guys when you get to know them.
Just try to not come on too strong, (your friend, his girlfriend) and I don't want you guys to get off on the wrong foot, we'll all be there trying to have a great time.

It doesn't matter that you implied that your friends are unusually sensitive (rather than him being annoying). What matters is that you pointed out that he must approach this social occasion with caution, for everyone's mutual benefit (stressing yourself and your friend (his girlfriend) a bit more).

If you focus on how he's the problem, he'll never see eye to eye with you. But if you focus on incompatibility without blaming him, he may be more open to behaving cautiously to not cause an issue.


Asking her instead.

This seems like a safer approach, though it's more prone to failure. At least, I assume that is the case, because otherwise your friend would've already successfully addressed this with him (or is she oblivious to his difficult nature?)

The idea is pretty much the same as above, but you have a bit more leeway in calling him out as the problem, because you're not talking to him directly. However, this heavily depends on whether she understands that he can be a jerk. If she's aware of it, you can talk quite openly (but still avoid taking it too far).
If she is oblivious to his behavior, then you have no extra leeway compared to above. In that case, you risk antagonizing her by openly criticizing her partner.

  • Talk to her in private. Preferably not when he's nearby, even if out of earshot. If he's nowhere nearby, she may be more open to talking honestly about him.
  • Don't assume he is going to be a jerk. Don't even use the word "jerk" (or any synonym).
  • Don't tell her what he must (not) do. Don't assume that she'll be his "social caretaker".
  • Focus on mutual incompatibility between him and your friends, avoid playing the blame game.
  • If she does not know your friends yet, you can similarly turn it around a bit, and imply that your friends are sensitive to energetic behavior (as opposed to implying he is the problem) or apprehensive of people they don't know.
  • Never imply that he is incorrigible. Address it as a minor problem that can be easily fixed and forgotten about.

Something like this:

Hey, I'm looking forward to seeing you at the festival. I'll be with my friends, but you're welcome to hang out with us if you want. I am slightly worried about [boyfriend] though. My friends are generally apprehensive of new people they meet, and I worry that they might get off on the wrong foot if he comes on too strong.

I would expect her to reassure you at this point. If she doesn't, and isn't oblivious to her boyfriend's difficult nature:

I just hope it won't be awkward. Do you think it will be? Should I talk to him about it?

Again, I'm expecting her response to be reassuring. And if she agrees that you should talk to him, you might be better off actually doing so (it implies that she won't be able/willing to communicate that to him).

2

People that get really drunk often have a drinking problem. If his drinking is out of control then asking him to control it will do no good.

Asking everyone to not get really drunk is not going to fool anyone - in a way it is public shaming. It may be better to handle this privately.

Even though talking to him (or his girlfriend) is not likely to work you should still have the talk. Next time if you want to exclude them you can say you asked for him not to get drunk and he did.

I would not worry about imply he will get drunk. If he drinks heavy he is going to drink hard at a festival.

1

Step 1: give your friend a chance to talk about the situation. Through sympathetic, non-judgmental listening, you may be able to support her as she arrives at a sensible decision, e.g. attending on her own, talking the problem through with her partner, etc. If she asks you how you feel about his behavior, tell her frankly that it makes you uncomfortable.

If that doesn't work:

Step 2: find a couple of allies in the group so you won't be acting alone. Pick just one to partner with you for the difficult conversation. (Because more would feel like a firing line.) Focus on his behaviors, not on the quantity of alcohol or his ability to handle or not handle his alcohol. Use "I messages" -- e.g. "When Barry doesn't carry through after volunteering to be a designated driver, I worry about someone getting hurt."

Rather than kicking this couple out of the regular group activity outright, you could ask them not to attend the next one, to give them time to think things through. As a sort of "time out." Make it clear that they are welcome to try it again at the following event, but also make you and your allies' expectations clear for all these events.

Use a calm, non-judgmental tone, and if possible find something positive to say as well.

You may want to follow up with an email summarizing what was said (by both sides) in the meeting.

1

Honestly, the simplest thing to do is to tell the girl that she is only invited on the condition that she keeps her boyfriend from making a fool of himself. Remind her of times X,Y and Z when he got wasted, and no one was happy about it. This might mean that she stays sober, so she can drive him home, if required. There is no way to get her to do anything differently unless you explicitly tell her what the problem is and what you expect of her. If he can't drink without being wasted, he has a problem, and that's her problem too so long as she's with him.

1

You can ask someone to moderate their drinking but like all people, free will is involved.

Your question isn't asking about how to help your friend's bf with his drinking. You're more concerned he will become obnoxious.

The invitation

If it's too late to rescind your invitation, you can only warn your friends. If it's not then the only way to avoid potential issues it to not invite the problem (aka the friend with the alcoholic bf). I know you don't want to exclude her but when you invite her, the bf usually is a package deal.

The drinking

If his drinking is truly as terrible as described then it is likely that she knows. And if she's blind to it then that's another conversation you should have with her in private.

Through experience, I can tell you that if she knows and is not ready to face his alcoholism then all you can do is support her. Even when it feels repetitive. Like those with addiction sometimes even loved ones have issues dealing with it. She may become defensive due to denial or shame. We want to think the best of our loved ones. It took one final publicly humiliating event for my friend to finally say enough is enough.

The approach

It sounds as though you're close enough if you've already experienced multiple incidents with him. When you're asking how to politely tell her that he can't get super trashed I think the better approach is to bring up the last incident with concern.

[Friend], I'm not sure if you're aware or remember but the last time we went out, [Boyfriend] tried to drive drunk. Are you able to keep an eye on him and his keys?

This addresses the drinking issue without telling her what to do.

0

I'd approach the problem the other way round. Announce to everybody that while you want to go to the campsite music festival with everyone, you're going to keep it low key and if that bothers anyone, you're happy to split off from the group so you don't bother them (separate tent plots). You might even find one or two other friends feel the same, like you for the same reasons.

This sort of thing usually happens when you share two hotel rooms between a group of friends. The hardcore party goers usually naturally group together in one room, and the light party goers group together in the other.

But if everybody does their best to convince you it wouldn't bother them and that you should all stick together, you'll have to decide between going it alone, or sticking with everyone. At least you'll know for the next time.

PS. Actually, I just re-read your question and get the impression that you and a group of your 10 friends are going, and you want to invite your girlfriend and her boyfriend who have never met your other 10 friends. If so, I'm sure your group of friends wouldn't disown you for a friend's boyfriend's behaviour. After all, you could just say, "My goodness, I didn't know he was such a hardcore party goer!", and don't invite them again (unless your friends like him, or they have a calming influence on him).

At any rate, enjoy the festival, and don't put your tent right next to theirs.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.