Dear Carolyn: My fiance and I have had a best friend of many years who was meant to be one of my fiance’s groomsmen. However, he started dating a girl a few months ago who is honestly just awful, racist and causes drama and fights out of thin air with everyone around her every time we’ve been around her, no exaggeration. We can’t stand her, even though we were so excited to meet her and have earnestly tried to look past things and be her friend.
We haven’t told him this outright, although he justifies her behaviors to us often.
We gave him a wedding invite without a plus-one, a decision we made before this girlfriend was ever in the picture. We did this thinking about money and about who we actually wanted with us at our day, not the traditional “everyone gets a random guest.”
But recently he asked for her to come to the wedding. We told him we’re sorry, but we don’t feel able to accommodate that, that we’re paying per person and that we planned this guest list well before they were even dating. He said he can’t come then, because this new girlfriend has already given the ultimatum that he cannot come unless she comes as his date.
I can’t believe he’s being such a disloyal friend after 10 years of friendship when we’ve both really been there for him. It makes us both not really want anything to do with him anymore. Is there any better way to handle this?
— Losing a Friend to an Ultimatum
Losing a Friend to an Ultimatum: You can ask him how he feels about the ultimatum. Is he comfortable with it? Does he think she (or any partner) has a right to do that: to leverage his friendship to get what she wants? Does he think that’s healthy?
If he has any interest in your perspective, then you can let him know in kinder words than mine that you find her demand to be seriously messed up. “I understand she feels left out, but that doesn’t justify taking hostages.”
And you can admit your we-decided-this-pre-girlfriend-and-also-oops-no-money! excuse was thin enough for him to see right through. I, you, your fiance, your friend and I’m guessing his girlfriend all know you are able to include her but have opted to draw the line on her here. They’re doing what problematic people do: refusing to take your hint.
So if you value “loyal friendship” to the same degree you expect your friend to, then you will have to be one to him as well.
That means either trusting him to handle it if you explain your girlfriend misgivings — with a few specific examples of her crossing meaningful lines — or respecting his right to figure out his own intimate life without your working against it behind the scenes.
That doesn’t mean you have to suffer her bad behavior in silence. On the contrary, decency demands that her racism and other bad behaviors get no quarter. But that’s between you and the girlfriend, not you and your friend, so keep it that way, and speak up when she says awful things.
One more thing, maybe, between the lines: You’ve “both really been there for him,” you say, for the past decade. If chaos is part of his story, then you might want to adjust your expectations accordingly, at least so his romantic misjudgment doesn’t surprise you again.
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