Should I Accept It When My Boyfriend Leaves Me Alone At Parties?

Three gorgeous men

First things first, thank you for this blog. You have been a life-saver many times in my love life or lack of – I love your insight. Okay, back to me. I’ve been dating this man for a while now. He is 30 and I am 26. He was quite the party guy before we met. His family has a lot of money and he has a good job. We have encountered typical issues (nothing unsolvable) and we generally don’t fight. We truly try to communicate and solve them as opposed to arguing them out.

Anyway, last weekend, I met his whole family at a party at their ranch. It was a little overwhelming at first because there are a lot of them! After about an hour, his cousins arrived and all the men went to the bar, did shots and drank the rest of the night. I sat at one of the tables with his sisters and female cousins. It seemed as though the women and men were divided and everyone accepted it. After a while his sister-in-law told me that if I saw myself in this family, I better get used to the men leaving the women alone as they drink away. Now this shocked me a little because he is always such a great gentleman to me, opening doors for me, holding my hand, etc. I don’t know if this situation is even worth dwelling over or bringing up, or if I am being completely neurotic.

Our relationship has been great thus far and I have no major complaints. And after reading your wife’s article, I became more self-ware; from making a big deal about nothing to giving mulligans.

We’ve talked about the future and although he makes me very happy, I don’t know if being left alone at parties is something I can accept. But, I am also open to considering that I am wrong and should drop it. Any thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks again for your hard work in this blog 🙂


Dear Alex,

I’m glad you brought up the mulligan thing, coined by my then-girlfriend in 2007. Basically, it means that you have to let a lot of little things go within a relationship, especially when they’re not intended to hurt you. Giving lots of mulligans to an otherwise great boyfriend is the best way to maintain a partnership — and vice versa. Anyone who has ever been micromanaged and criticized to death can appreciate it when a partner lets something go just to keep the peace.

Anyway, I’m not going to entirely defend the “doing shots with cousins” thing, because it’s easy to spin this as rude, disrespectful, and inconsiderate of you as his girlfriend. Should he be more attentive to you? Probably. But it’s important to consider a man’s intentions — not merely his actions — don’t you think?

His family dynamic has existed for WAY longer than your relationship.

If he’s thoughtful, generous, attentive, and chivalrous 99% of the time, but checks out at his once-a-year family reunion, is this worth breaking up your entire relationship? Once again, I’m not suggesting that it’s ideal, nor am I encouraging him to ditch you. I’m only telling you something you already know: his family dynamic has existed for WAY longer than your relationship. If his cousins drink shots, and their dads drank shots, and their granddads drank shots, he’d be hard-pressed to tell his male relatives that he was going to excuse himself to sit next to you while you chat about the Real Housewives with his sister-in-law.

As always, we have two choices: try to change the world or try to change ourselves. When I visit my wife’s family, they have the same dynamic for every party — it involves a lot more booze than food, a lot more unhealthy food than healthy food, and a lot more waiting around than provocative conversation. Am I sometimes frustrated that I can only get cheese and crackers, beer, and recaps of that week’s Saturday Night Live episode? Yeah, sure. But it’s not MY party. At my parties, we serve four courses, sit at the table, and talk about relationships, politics, and child-raising. That’s the dynamic I want. I don’t get to determine what my wife’s family does when I visit for Thanksgiving, Christmas and various birthdays.

So what do I do? I go with the flow. I grin and bear it. I remember that these are nice people, warm people, generous people, family members — and that although we have different ways of socializing, it’s not my place to impose my values on them. If you had to be abandoned by your shot-doing husband every Friday, I might consider a serious conversation, or even a breakup if it was that bad. But just because he doesn’t see the need to babysit you at a family function, I wouldn’t make that big a deal about it. Especially if he’s great the rest of the time.

I can’t tell you the number of women that have said they prefer “men who don’t need to be babysat” at a party.

Finally, in case you took offense to that babysitting comment, I can’t tell you the number of women that have said they prefer “men who don’t need to be babysat” at a party. If you’re secure and you have a personality, you should largely be able to fend for yourself at a family function. If you’re insecure, you’ll get upset if he talks to his family 50% of the time instead of spending 100% of it holding your hand. In other words, one can never win when dating an insecure person — male or female. Be the bigger person, Alex. Make the best of it. Or hell, go have shots with the boys. Sounds like more fun to me.

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  1. 1

    Hmm.   It’s not entirely clear if the poster feels welcome at the party. While one should be able to hold his/her own, I feel that it would be good for said boyfriend to make sure his girlfriend is in a comfortable position before joining the guys.   I can very well say that the guy I’m with would just have to hold his own in a get-together with my non-English speaking Chinese family but that wouldn’t be very nice, would it?

    1. 1.1

      I agree with you. 9 years ago my husband and were dating and he took me to his friends party many times. At that time I was a foreign student whose English wasn’t good. And most of the time he left me alone in those parties. After the party, at home I told him that I don’t like to be left alone because I feel uncomfortable. He took it in the wrong way; he told me that I made him uncomfortable. Now after 8 years of marriage with a baby. There is a family’s party in 2 weeks, he tells me if I go to that party he will not be there to keep me company. So I may or may not go.

      1. 1.1.1

        i dont know if i am such a paranoid because every year me and my boyfriend celebrating new year in his cousins house even i dont understand thier language i understand but this year is not good for me he left me alone in the side while his having so much fun in his cousins
        and friends company he left me alone even countdown for new year i was alone he only greeted me when he already greeted
        all expect me and the worst thing after that he left me alone again and they taking pictures the cousins and friends and i am alone
        and about to cry but i didnt his
        aunt ask me to take picture with
        them maybe she realize im
        after that i
        boyfriend and he said i have only shit in my mind

    2. 1.2

      English is also my second language. But language is not the only problem with my partner’s family. I am a worldly person, have travelled and lived in lots of places. They have never gotten out of their bubble. For years, I would go to his family parties (many times a year, not once a year) and they would literally ignore me. I would walk around like a ghost trying to find someone to talk to, only to have the person say one sentence to me and then ignore me again. I am from another country and I am a professional. I’m guessing there would be tons of things they could ask me (as opposed to me being the only one make the effort). In the almost 8 years we’ve been together, they never, ever, ever asked me a question. At some point, after my therapist’s advice, I told my partner I’m not going to his parties anymore. He is furious but he never even validated my feelings. I was and am willing to break up if it means ever going to those parties again.

      1. 1.2.1

        @Helene 1.2, 1.3: Gee all that doesn’t sound good..his family don’t seem to be well-mannered or have social skills, that sounds like very socially-inept behaviour…I agree that u should have a discussion with your boyfriend about it. But your bf sounds quite insensitive so I’m not sure if that discussion will help. 🙁

        I think Evan made a great point saying “If he’s thoughtful, generous, attentive, and chivalrous 99% of the time, but checks out at his once-a-year family reunion, is this worth breaking up your entire relationship?” It really depends on how good the rest of your relationship is. Personally he doesn’t sound like a good bf to me, but u have a lot more info about him than the rest of us here do.

    3. 1.3

      Oh! I forgot to mention one, of several examples: once, two of his brothers, with their wives and children rented a vacation house out of town. My partner and I both have a child each from our previous marriages. His brothers told him that there were two beds available, they invited my partner and his son and told him there was no room for my son and I. Guess what! My partner went with his son and left my son and I alone at home for a week during our vacation time.

      1. 1.3.1

        I’m sorry but that’s shocking.   It sounds like a very semi-detached relationship to say the least. Why do you go on these trips with him?   Just stop . Tell him exactly how you feel. Say you’d rather stay at home or go on a separate holiday with your son.

    4. 1.4

      Thank you!! My boyfriend did this to me at a Spanish speaking party and I don’t speak Spanish!! Plus, he danced with another woman who he said is “like a sister” but from my perspective did not seem too “sisterly.” I was unable to fend for myself because I didn’t speak the language, and he did nothing to help my situation. I’m seriously considering leaving this relationship after that party.

  2. 2

    Men and women have been splitting off like this for a long time. Men go into the library for cigars and brandy and the women go to the drawing room or salon for tea or sherry.   Maybe this girl’s family didn’t do that but this is entirely common behavior.   My suggestion I’d she make friends with the female family members and enjoy their company.  

    1. 2.1

      In a one-to-one adult relationship its the couple who  decide how they will relate to each other.   Is the guy such a child that he immediately conforms to archaic rules once he hits the family home.   I couldn’t  feel attracted to such a big kid.

      This behaviour is not the couple’s choice. It is being forced on them.   If family/friends are actually going to try and segregate a couple in an established relationship, that’s just plain weird.   I’d let my partner visit his folks alone.

  3. 3

    At get togethers, my husband’s friends always whip out the cigars.   Guess what?   They bring one for me as well.   I would rather smoke with the boys than gab with the girls and my husband fully encourages it.   The  other wives  don’t care either way.

  4. 4

    I’m not sure what the poster is complaining about. From the title I thought it was going to be a post about how her Significant other goes to parties and flirt with other women while ignoring her.

    But Oh wait, he’s perfectly great, just that he hangs out with the boys while at family get togethers while the women hang out with together. This dynamic is not happens at certain family like situations. The women naturally gravitate towards each other.   If she’s going to go into a tizzy all about this and break up with him, she’s overreacting. Just make friends with the female relatives, if all goes well they’re going to be your family anyway. If not he’s going to find some woman that’s going to be happy to hang out with them. What a small thing to fret about.

    1. 4.1
      Sarah Lund

      I did the same thing as you. I assumed the title, was mentioning how her boyfriend left her completely alone, while he talked to other women. I thought “How rude”, until I read further, and realised it was about relatives. I was almost ready to feel angry for her.

  5. 5
    Alex Lanz


    I agree. I am sure i overreacted, which is why i had to consult with Evan first. I never brought this up to my boyfriend in fear that i may be making a storm in a glass of water (or however you say it).  

    I guess it was because it was the first time i was meeting his family. And they are many (MANY) and loud etc. Which is GREAT! I was just a bit overwhelmed is all. Especially when he left to take shots and i felt abandoned (which i am sure was nowhere near his intentions)

    I thank Evan so much for replying to me. Even if I was overreacting, i can honestly say your words help me very much to see the other person’s side and not only my own. I have recommended your blog to 5 of my girlfriends in the past year.   I hope you and your babies are doing great! And you are very lucky to have such a beautiful and understanding wife!  

    Thank you 🙂   

  6. 6

    If you’re talking future plans, especially if you’re talking future plans, take it as an opportunity to get to know his family.   There might be one day down the road after years of marriage where you enjoy not being connected at the hip.     

  7. 7

    My boyfriend’s family invites him for vacations and events that I cannot afford and he goes alone, so to be left at the party with girls is really not that bad at all 🙂

    1. 7.1
      Alex Lanz


      I feel ya! I know there are worse things though. Like Evan said, as long as he treats you great 99% of the time. Have you brought it up to him? If so, what does he say about it?  

      1. 7.1.1

        Yes, we had arguments about it and the last one was pretty bad. He went on vacation with the family abroad for two weeks and I couldn’t go but I was ok with that. Then just a month later his sisters bought him a ticket to an expensive music festival in another state. Sisters and their husbands and other friends all go. I was invited but I am supposed to pay for ticket and flight and all the expenses over there for a week and it is out of my budget so I declined. The most hurtful thing that we went to a festival few months ago and my boyfriend couldn’t afford it but I really wanted to go, so I paid for him and now the money is tight. He said he would pay for me if he had the money but since his family pays only for him, I am staying home. He says that it would be a waste for him not to go and enjoy just because I can’t. I personally don’t agree but everyone has different opinions.

  8. 8

    @Alex Lanz
    I’m sure in the biggest realm of things, it’s probably not the worst thing your boyfriend could do.   My question is would it be that terrible to broach the topic with your partner?   Not making him wrong but a “It would make me feel so much better if you spend some time introducing me to your relatives before joining the guys” nudge.   I don’t think this is making a storm in a glass of water.   I feel that most guys have no clue and you just have to teach them.   If he obliges, great because you know he really cares.   If not, you know how it is and you can accept it or reconsider how catering he is to your feelings.

    1. 8.1
      Alex Lanz


      I completely agree with you. I should bring it up. I don’t want him to feel attacked, but i do want him to know how i felt at the moment. I am sure there are worst things, but i want to further our communication, so i should “nudge” him about it. Thank you!    

  9. 9

    Honestly, if my boyfriend were inviting me to things he’s going to peace out at, I would ask if he could kindly allow me to not come. I’m sure his female cousins’s wives are great women but I have better things to do with my time and people I’d rather spend time with. That way he gets to have fun and you get to spend your valuable time how you’d like.

    1. 9.1

      That would be totally your perogative, just as would it be his perogative not to attend any events or functions at which your friends and relatives would be at.

      1. 9.1.1

        I agree…

    2. 9.2

      This comment smacks of selfishness.     You couldn’t suck it up for a day or two? When someone has a serious girlfriend and they don’t attend a family function, other family members will  ask why- especially of there was plenty of advance notice.   So what is the guy supposed to say:
      “She has better things to do with her time than spend it with you?” Or do you expect him to make up some flimsy excuse why you didn’t attend? That makes it super awkward for him.
      If I was attentive, and chivalrous and as great as the OP said to you, and one of the few things I asked was for you to attend a family function and you got all snotty about it, you would be dumped.  

      1. 9.2.1

        Well, if you think its snotty to say no to a family function, I wouldn’t be into dating you. Evan has said no to his wife about attending family functions. My boyfriend is introverted and my family is big, he says no sometimes and I don’t care.

        Sounds like you are the one who is a bit snotty and a bit controlling.  

        1. Joe

          If you plan to ever actually be a part of the family, IMO it behooves you to occasionally attend the family functions…

        2. Julia

          I would assume that not every family function is a place for her boyfriend to get sh!tfaced by taking shots in a basement all night. If they are, she might have bigger problems then simply being left alone. You don’t have to go to all family functions you are invited to, your family or your SO’s. If you have an understanding partner, they will be fine to leave you at home, especially if your partner intends to spend zero time with you.

          Maybe I come from incredibly laid back and understanding people, I prefer to find the same. (Well I have found the same) Again, if that makes me a snot, then so be it.  

        3. Jo

          Absolutely : )

    3. 9.3

      I agree, but I dont know what to do…if I tell him this he always gets upset that I wont be joining him. I do not understand why! If he is just going to abandon me anyways.

  10. 10

    Alex doesn’t really say to what extent her boyfriend left her alone at the party.   And I believe this makes a big difference. If they got there and he spent a bit of time introducing her to everyone, getting her settled in, making sure she had a drink, maybe chatting a bit with her and his family before going off with the guys, I would say that would be a lot better than if they arrived and he immediately went off to drink shots without making introductions or any preliminary niceties.
    Also, I believe if she has met them before his behaviour is also a lot more excusable than if she didn’t know them at all and was just left alone completely with people she didn’t know. I don’t know. With this kind of thing, it really depends. I don’t mind, and even prefer it, if my boyfriend and I go our separate ways for most of the party and just meet up now and then to reconnect and touch base. To me, that is great.
    But if the leaving me alone borders on neglect, or irritation if I come and find him, or complete separation for the entire party (all of which I have experienced before) that is not very nice or much fun.

  11. 11

    Ya Gods, but you’re accepted into the family! Can’t you just socialize with the women? I think it’s rather nice and he trusts you enough to be with the females without him.

    1. 11.1

      Trusts?? you enough to be with the females without him? What are you talking about??

    2. 11.2

      It’s so sexist to think you can just lump a lot of women together and ‘being female’ they will love that.    I’d hate it!    It’s not  a normal environment these days.

      I can’t think of the last time I was in a big huddle of family-type women.   I loathe domestic/family huddles. But then  my partner knows that and he is the same. I guess the main problem with the OP is that her partner did not brief her about wha to expect before they visited his family.   It was all a huge (and unpleasant) surprise to her.

      1. 11.2.1


  12. 12

    This kind of think irks me as well. I dont think youre over reacting, and I dont think “splitting off” into gender segregation is always that normal, for me its been a bit of a red flag.

    The thing is its 2015 and people still treat women like objects sometimes and we act like thats normal as a culture.

    My happiest relationships were with men (or women) who could mingle in a crowd thats diverse and does not have strict gender boundaries. You know, where you share a group of friends and people of the oppoaite sex are alliwed to chat without it being a huge deal.

    To me, when Im dating a guy who needs to be “with the boys” like its some drug fix and I need to stay home and bake cookies or get my nails done while he rages out his teenage hangover, I have to reevaluate if that guys worth my time. Its not so much drinking or bonding or family dynamics, bit recognising that discomfort when you may be in a aocial structure where your gender is margonalized (or race, or age, or whatever)

    Female family member aounds a bit bitter “warning you” did the women seem happy, or are they just o ediantly waiting around?

    There are men out there who would be happy to share in a friendship circle that isnt segregated and gender biased. Like the author said, maybe take shots with them, and if you feel youre “not allowed” to or thats some sacred man cave… Maybe listeb to your instincts, or talk to him.

    Also, a guy can come from a gender biased background and feel obligated to keep that status quo without being a total jerk, like you said. Maybe this is just the context of where he comea from, and you can choose to not go if it doant suit you.

  13. 13

    Me and my man have been together for 3 years and I haven’t met his dads side of the family yet (let alone he hasn’t seen his dad in about 5 years anyway) and if this would have happened, I would have followed him out of the room. My man is my drinking buddy, hell he’s my best friend and he would never just leave me there. I’m sorry your man does this but I world seriously have a talk with him. Best of luck


  14. 14
    Sarah Lund

    At least he’s inviting you along. It would look very suspicious if he didn’t. After all, you’re his girlfriend.  

  15. 15

    It depends on the frequency and how he treats you other time. Here in my cultures, male are busy every night and every weekends, they are drinking late until midnight, coming home vomiting and at weekends, plenty of invitations to leave wives at home doing housework or earn money to send to their husbands to keep partying or partying with relatives, drinking and vomiting again. So, there is maybe one small vacation in summer they pay a little attention to their wives. In that way, the frequency is enough to break up

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