Many thanks to @adamdachis for letting me help with this post.
life, relationships, mental health, & technology
Anyone who’s been in a relationship long enough has had to attend a social function with their mate that one or both of you would rather not be at. While there are some events that you can’t avoid (e.g. Thanksgiving at ‘Crazy” Aunt Jeanne’s house), there are a few things that you can do to help you and your mate get through the event while minimizing the pain. Most of the following list of ‘interventions’ require preplanning so make sure that both you and your mate are in the habit of working like a team.
Before arriving at the social gathering, develop verbal and non-verbal signals to tell your mate things like “don’t leave my side”, “get over here”, and “I really want to leave/stay”. The signals should be the type that wouldn’t look odd if done or said in the middle of a social interaction with another person.
Have a Check-In Plan
It’s common to become separated from your mate during a gathering but that doesn’t mean that one of you won’t need the other to “rescue” the other from a boring conversation with that awkward cousin that loves talking about his train collection. You can have a signal for when you’re next to your mate to check in with them and another one for when you’re far but within eyeshot. If you are going to be too far to be seen, find a way to check in with them (sometimes sending a text every 20 minutes will suffice).
"Sandbox" Your Stay
Nothing sucks more than either being forced to leave before you want to or being made to stay longer than you’d care. To avoid any confusion, talk to your mate beforehand about how long you want to stay at the gathering. Agree on a minimum amount of time you’re going to stay (even if you’re hating the party) and a maximum length of stay. That way you know when to start checking in with your mate about leaving/staying.
Prep Each Other for Specific Guests
If you know ahead of time who’s going to be at the social gathering, let your mate know about anyone that they might want to keep an eye open for or someone they should know “just because”. That way the both of you can come up with plans for how to handle the various interactions with those people. It also helps you two know what NOT to say in front of which person (e.g. “Don’t talk about marriage or divorce in front of Cousin Debbie… her husband just left her).
Have an Escape Plan
Sometimes you just absolutely HAVE to leave but don’t want to make a scene; that’s when an escape plan is essential. As previously-mentioned, you should have a signal that tells your mate, “okay, let’s go”. The thing is that the escape plan should be something is only used in case of “emergency” (i.e. “my digestive system is about to explode”, “if I stay near your mother I’m going to blow a gasket”, etc.). The two of you should establish what qualifies as an emergency beforehand and agree NOT to use the escape plan unless it’s absolutely necessary.
What good or bad things happened? What do you wish was different about the party? What angered/pleased you most? Who was fun/unbearable to be around? After the gathering, make sure you and your mate talk about these things and much more. Make plans for the next gathering. Refine your signals. Vent your frustrations (but don’t say anything that might offend your mate).
With a little preparation, the inevitably-uncomfortable gathering at a friend or family member’s place can be made a little more tolerable with your mate’s help. Even if it’s a gathering that the both of you want to be at, having signals can be a great thing and can avoid some potential issues. Talk to your mate and plan ahead. Above all, try to have a great time with your mate there… not in spite of your mate being there.