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Do I Have to Invite My Best Friend’s Awful Partner to Dinner?

It’s time to keep calm and have a conversation

Amy McCarthy stands against a colorful backdrop of talk bubbles. Collage illustration. Illustration by Michael Hoeweler; Collage by Lille Allen
Amy McCarthy is a reporter at, focusing on pop culture, policy and labor, and only the weirdest online trends.

Welcome to Rules of Consumption, a column where Eater staff writer Amy McCarthy answers any and all questions you have regarding dining etiquette. Have a conundrum? Email for answers.

Dear Amy,

Every month, I host a group of friends for a potluck dinner party, something our group has been doing for several years now. And usually, they’re the most fun thing I do all month long. Or at least they were until Sam* started showing up. Sam is my best friend Kim’s* new-ish partner, and if I’m being totally honest, I can’t freaking stand them. Sam can be really rude and condescending, and always has a snide remark to make about something — the decor, the cooking, someone else’s opinions. They just generally seem like a pretty miserable person, and they’re turning our monthly get-togethers into a real drag. I know I’m not the only person who feels this way, either — several of our mutual friends have complained to me about Sam’s behavior.

I love Kim, but I really don’t want Sam to keep ruining our parties. Do I just stop inviting them both? Or is there a way that I can tell Kim to stop bringing Sam without sounding like a complete jerk?


It’s Not Her, It’s Him

Dear It’s Not Her,

This is a tough one. My initial instinct is to say yes, you can absolutely decide who you want — and do not want — inside your own home. And you can, of course, just stop extending invitations to both Kim and Sam, but that feels a little bit passive-aggressive. If Kim’s really your best friend, I think you at least owe her a conversation about Sam’s behavior. Ideally, this conversation takes place in person, maybe over coffee, and you can gently convey that Sam’s behavior is making you and the rest of your friends uncomfortable.

Cite a few examples of especially awkward moments, maybe, and ask Kim to speak with Sam, and let them know that you won’t be able to invite Sam to future events if their rudeness persists. It is likely that Kim will be defensive — Sam is her partner, after all, and she might find their personality charming — so you’ll want to be careful to avoid anything that she might construe as an attack on Sam’s personality or character. Keep it strictly about the facts, and stay calm. Yelling or calling Sam an asshole is only likely to make the situation worse, and could really jeopardize your relationship with Kim.

If Sam’s behavior is more obnoxious than harmful, I’d give them one more shot. Maybe they don’t realize just how rude and condescending they’re being, and a reminder from their partner will be enough to fix the problem. But if they continue to act like a jerk, you’re going to have to hold firm and be willing to accept the consequences — politely tell Kim that she is still welcome at your parties, but Sam is no longer invited. If she pushes back, tell her that your decision is final. (And, if you’re petty like me, point out that you tried to give Sam one more shot, and they blew it.)

It’s possible, at this point, that Kim will decide to stop coming to these events out of respect for Sam, and that’s an outcome you need to prepare for. But hopefully, Sam will recognize the error of their ways and start acting like someone you actually want to share a meal with.

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent and guilty alike.

Michael Hoeweler is a lifestyle illustrator who loves to make work of and about people, nature, food, fashion, and more. He spends his days with his partner Billy and their two cats just outside of NYC, in Bloomfield, New Jersey.