Brushed aside by my “best friend” at a formal dinner party

Published: November 16, 2011 | Last Updated: November 16, 2011 By | 3 Replies Continue Reading


Hi Irene,

Being that a new husband is a good
friend — and should be a best friend — how do you handle being abandoned at a
formal dinner party? Your partner is right next to you, but ignores you for a
good 30 minutes talking to another woman whose husband most likely is sitting
somewhere at the table too. Should a best friend just ignore you?  


I would not even do this to a
girlfriend, as I would feel I abandoned her at the party and evoke feelings of
hurt and anger. It seems rude and uncaring. I can see doing it for five minutes
but then I would turn back to my best friend and see how she or he is doing.
How should I handle this or should I just get even at the next black tie event?

He does promise to never do it again. Thanks so much for your advice.

Signed, Barbara



Dear Barbara,

This isn’t a friendship question, per se, but you’re
obviously feeling very hurt and upset. Not only did you feel ignored and, perhaps, humiliated—I sense
you may also have felt jealous that your new husband’s lengthy conversation was with another


As a general rule, often when couples are in mixed company,
they check in with each other to make sure that both of them are feeling
comfortable. Best friends sometimes use an informal system of social cues like
that, too. For example, one friend may signal to another that she wants to
leave a party, or a friend may signal that she doesn’t want another friend to
disclose some information. Without words being spoken, they are attune to the needs of
the other individual and respect each other’s feelings.


I would urge you not to "get even" with your husband but rather to have an
in-depth discussion with him about how to handle social functions as a
couple. It could be either that you feel too insecure about your relationship,
or that your husband is a bit more neglectful and insensitive than he should
be, or a little bit of each. This is something you need to negotiate and work out together because if
you don’t, the same problem is likely to rear its head again in the future.


Since you say your husband has promised never to "do it
again," you probably have already had at least one conversation about the
topic—although it may have occurred in the heat of anger. To
strengthen your marriage, it’s best to speak to each other directly rather than to unilaterally
act out angrily or to get even with someone who is your life partner.

Hope this is helpful.

My best, Irene


Follow Dr. Levine on Twitter (@irenelevine) or on Google Plus. I’ll follow you back.




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Comments (3)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Not exactly in the same vein, but I was beginning to fall for a guy who deserted me at a party where I knew NO ONE. My rival? A huge bowl of iced fresh shrimp!

    End of long story: we wound up getting married a year later and he’s never forsaken me for another bowl of shrimp — or any other food or female. Have “the talk.” It works!

  2. Anonymous says:

    I have been to many formal dinner parties and I too have gone with a significant other whereby seating was boy/girl except that no one was positioned next to me. At many events, not everyone shows up for the gala and you may find an empty seat or two rather than someone to speak with. In fact, because of the acoustics, other people speaking and loud music, you may have no one to speak with except the person who accompanied you to the event. There is no indication from the writer that she was hovering at her husband’s periphery. You have an obligation as a couple to share not only with others, but to share the event together. You can do both, and go home happy.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I seized on the words “formal dinner party.” To me this means that the couple were possibly assigned seats, and the assigned pattern may well have been boy-girl-boy-girl all the way around the table. So if the husband was seated next to his wife, as she indicates in her letter, on his other side would have been a woman who was probably the most convenient/logical person with whom to start a polite dinner conversation.

    With large round tables, it’s often difficult to speak with people even two seats away without yelling. So the guy may not have had much choice in conversation partners. The letter writer could have done the same and struck up a conversation with whoever was on her other side, rather than hovering at her husband’s periphery (and not being able to contribute because she was awkwardly positioned).

    Maybe I’m making too many detailed assumptions here, but it’s important to understand the whole picture. The situation I’m describing above is very different from a cocktail party or buffet where it’s easy to change seats (if seated at all) and where “checking in” with one’s companion every few minutes is expected.

    Whatever the spatial logistics, to me it would have been rude for this couple to keep to themselves and not to interact with other people at the party … they can do that at home.

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