Any objections if I poke your partner in the eye?
By Julia Moore
Hardly world-shattering, this month’s rant. More troublesome than life-threatening. We’ve all experienced it... your dearest pal has a dreadful partner. Statistically, your circle of friends, carefully chosen by you, are likely to pass the test of affection and tolerance. It would be odd, to say the least, if your titular pal was not held such - does anyone not like their ‘friends’...the real ones, I mean, not the ones on Face-Net, or Book-Tube. The problem - and it can be a big one - comes when your much-loved pal has chosen a partner who - selecting words carefully here - does not pass the selection criteria, yours, obviously. Thankfully rare, but, oh gosh, what an egg-shell treading moment, when it becomes a reality. S/he enters any social environment and, fairly soon the presence starts to a) clear the room b) make people cry c) cause folk to speed-dial their counsellor, or d) all the above.
If you have a treasured relationship with core pal - maybe forged over decades of connections - university, workplace, school, even - there maybe ‘an opportunity of honesty’, where you can express your a) horror b) grief c) sympathy d) contract killing plans. Core pal should, in theory, take any of those options seriously, after all - yours is the key, cementing connection, even if problem-partner has been also been part of the mix for decades. It is highly likely, however, that the irksome persona is the 2nd, or subsequent relationship, forged in later years. I say that because, when you are young - teenage/university age, you were likely to be in a drunken crowd for 3-4 years, when the sheer weight of opinions against the ‘strange one’, would have seen him/her off. Sadly, in middle-life, you may be more isolated (I wanted to say ‘desperate’, oops, I just have), have less honest pals, and much less likely to be found drunk, in a ditch during rag week, if tempting.
So, having scoped the problem - what is the solution?...Ha...not so funny now, eh?...how does one address the agonizing question of, for example, going on holiday …’it would be LOVELY to join you in ………, but not with idiot-face’....’what DO we do about the wedding invitation….if ‘the strange-one’ turns up, s/he will turn it into a memorial service’?...’I’d LOVE to meet for lunch/theatre/walk, but not if ‘the face of doom’ is part of the plan’. It takes a strong friendship to hear those words against your partner. The best comment, directed at my previous partner, was that we were always invited to a new circle of associates twice, - the original invite, plus the 2nd one to apologize for his behaviour during the primary visit. My response was always the same, you could not fault his consistency - he took no prisoners, did not discriminate, loathed most people he met and the feeling was often mutual.
The solution?...play to the weaknesses of the offender - if they have an allergy, acquire the cat/dog/gluten, item which renders them unable to speak or, preferably breathe, as soon as they step into your house. Suggest going on holiday to places you know they will hate, and, as for the wedding, ask them to take on a key duty/role - usher, best man/matron of honour, dancing tutor at the reception,magician, stripper. With a bit of luck, their lack of social skills (it is usually a common factor) will render them terrified by such a command, that they self-elect not to attend. Job done. Of course, all the above is the last-resort tactic. Kindness, understanding, patience and tolerance should be employed for as long as humanly possible. However, this is balanced by the ‘life is too short’ maxim, so I’d give it 5 minutes, then employ the previous suggestions and vent your spleen. Does it work? I wouldn’t know, I’ve never been in such a position (for viewers at home, I have my fingers crossed).