A woman who feels her boyfriend’s close friends ruined her birthday getaway plans wants to know how to avoid a similar situation in the future. Readers, what advice can you add to what Nina suggests below?
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I am about to turn 30 so I wanted to use my birthday as an excuse to go away for a long weekend with my boyfriend and some friends. I had originally planned on inviting two of my closest friends and their boyfriends, but that weekend had some important life events for both of my friends and they could not come. I decided that it would be nice to invite my boyfriend’s closest couple friends, “Brad” and “Jill,” to come along since I knew that they like the location and we all are friends and get along great.
However, a week or so after Brad and Jill said yes, they informed us that they were heading out of town 2-3 days ahead of us and that they would book their own Airbnb separate from the one they knew I’d booked for us all. Their anniversary is a few days prior so I tried to be understanding, but I still felt like my birthday trip had been hijacked and made into their anniversary trip.
I gently explained that we could not afford to stay at the large Airbnb we booked without sharing the cost as we had originally planned. After a discussion, Jill offered for us to stay at whatever place they ended up booking for the nights we’d be there. This really irked me as this was a trip that I planned for my birthday and invited them along and now we would basically be showing up at their accommodations and crashing “their” trip. Not to mention, we would get a pull-out couch or whatever extra room there was rather than getting the nicer accommodations for my birthday.
I found a way to mention to Jill that cancelling my reservation to stay with them instead would mean my boyfriend and I paying cancellations fees. Jill finally agreed that they would stay with us once we arrived and that they would simply book another place for the earlier two nights. Now every time I see her, she’s showing me the place they’re staying and telling me their plans (some of it is stuff that I had planned for the group to do together, which she knew about). The lack of regard for others is a pattern with them and it always makes me feel terrible. If these were my friends, I would distance myself from them, but they are my boyfriend’s long-time close friends and I have no options at this point. He gets defensive when I talk to him about it, even though he completely agrees with me about their behavior. We have other circumstances in place that make Brad and Jill a part of our lives so there’s only so much distancing that could even potentially be done. I can’t escape the toxic relationship and I can’t help but feel extremely hurt that my birthday trip has been completely hijacked.
How do I approach this with them or with my boyfriend in a way that would be productive and/or how can I find a way to not feel hurt and pushed aside when they do things like this? I don’t want to come off as jealous or irrational when their pattern of behavior is so hurtful to me.
Tired of being hurt
Dear Tired of Being Hurt,
I usually avoid blaming the letter-writer in my answers, but a major element of your letter puts you at the center of the problem here. The good news is that it’s an easy problem to avoid in the future!
At the beginning of your letter you said, “I decided that it would be nice to invite my boyfriend’s closest friends, “Brad” and “Jill,” a couple, to come along since I knew that they like the location and we all are friends and get along great.” But then at the end you said, “The lack of regard for others is a pattern with them and it always makes me feel terrible.”
I am (understandably) confused about your decision to invite Brad and Jill in the first place. Did you book the big Airbnb before checking with your friends and then needed another couple to fill it? I guess the answer to that doesn’t matter as much as the answer to why you invited people who make you feel terrible. As I pointed out, you said at first that you get along well with them, but then later you were not surprised at their inconsiderate behavior. In this case it feels like you voluntarily invited disaster into your plans.
Backing up for a moment, I am still curious if you had already booked the big Airbnb and needed another couple to cover expenses. If that was the case, then the obvious way to avoid the same problem in the future is to only book space for you and your boyfriend and hope to upgrade later if more people can join you. It’s usually easier to upgrade than downgrade. You also could have planned the trip around your own friends’ schedules if a group trip was an important part of the celebration. I know it’s nice to celebrate your birthday on the actual day or close to it, but I think it’s better to celebrate with people who make you feel good even if that means you’re a few weeks or months beyond the date. To that point, my husband recently threw me a surprise party for my 40th birthday five months after the day I turned 40 because of unusual circumstances in our schedule this year. I didn’t enjoy the party any less! In fact, it felt like I got an extra birthday since I’m not accustomed to that kind of attention in the spring. I say we get the whole year to celebrate turning a new special number.
But let’s get back to your birthday. Even after the invitation had already been issued to Brad and Jill, you had other options once the plans went awry. I realize nobody wants to pay cancellation fees, but perhaps the fee would have been better and emotionally less “expensive” than the headache of dealing with Brad and Jill. My best friend, Taryn, agreed and because I always want Taryn’s advice, I’m passing on what she had to say about your situation. “She asked people who are never all that nice to her to join in on a birthday trip? She should have cancelled the bigger space and paid the cancellation fees once any trouble starting brewing and considered it a lesson learned not to have invited them in the first place.”
Hard to disagree with that.
My other go-to is my mom, Kathy, who also addresses your questions at the end of your letter about the relationship beyond the trip issue. “In my opinion this falls under the category of needing to learn to pick your battles. In the grand scheme of things, this one weekend is simply not that important. The bigger issue is whether she wants to continue the friendship. I suspect this may not be the first incident that irritated her. In any relationship—friendship or marriage—there is some stuff we all put up with. No one is perfect. I don’t think anything would be gained by discussing this issue with Jill. The letter-writer might just back away and let the guys be friends if this is a pattern and she makes the decision not to continue the relationship.”
I agree with my mom on that. I know you feel it’s impossible to end this friendship and I get that. But you can certainly encourage your boyfriend to hang out with them on occasions when you are busy or “busy” as the case may be. You can also make it a point to only be there for the plans when it’s an even larger group so that it’s easier to keep things light without having to engage in too much one-on-one time. Since Jill is not your close friend, I agree with my mom that nothing is gained by confronting her about this weekend or even about the relationship in general. And as Taryn said, you’ve now learned your lesson on inviting them on a trip or anyone who doesn’t treat you well.
In other words, you do have options!
Good luck and happy late birthday,
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