Adapted from a recent online discussion.
When friend backs out of offer to host, boyfriend gets in a snit
Midwest: I find myself in a very stressful situation. I live in the Midwest; my friend lives in D.C. Last year I mentioned that my boyfriend and I would be in town in spring; she offered to have us stay at her place, but backed out a few weeks later. I mentioned three months in advance that we'd be in town again for an upcoming visit; she again offered her place to stay.
Last week she informed me that she cannot host us. This is very disappointing, for I never took her as a flake (although she has provided excuses). My boyfriend is quite irate — we made these plans in the hope we'd be able to stay for even just one night each time.
My boyfriend believes I should again request one night during this upcoming trip, since we are now forced into housing expenses we were not expecting. I am not so certain. How do I handle this situation with my friend?
Carolyn: You don't, except to say, next time she offers her place, "No, thanks, we'll get a hotel room." Unless you want to say something to her.
Yes, she has flaked out on you twice, but that gives you two basic choices: Make a big deal out of it, or don't make a big deal out of it. The former doesn't warrant serious consideration, since the only argument in favor of squawking is that you're out some money — money you would have had to spend anyway if your friend didn't volunteer her place.
The latter, meanwhile, has so much to recommend it — less stress, no risk of staying with a grudging hostess, no gratuitous confrontation, no guilt-tripping, no risk of punishing the innocent (since your friend may actually have had two legitimate reasons to withdraw her offer, and may well feel worse than you do about it), and no shaking up a friendship just because your boyfriend can't/won't roll with the punches.
Think about that last one; what he's really asking is for you to pay his anger forward. When has that ever been constructive? And is he like this about other things? And is he always going to be like this?
Now, if you have a bad habit of being a doormat, and if your boyfriend is making a well-meaning attempt to get you to stand up for yourself, then his solution — pressuring you to pressure her — is making things worse. The only answer is for you to handle your friend the way you think is right, while asking him to give you room to do that.
Hold that line. And when/if you decide to talk to your friend, ask instead of insisting: "This is the second time you've canceled on us, so may I ask if there's something else going on?"
In case I haven't said this clearly enough: You're in a stressful situation not just because of your friend, but also because of your boyfriend. To ease both stresses, you need to figure out what you want from each person; what you feel you're entitled to ask; and what responses you consider fair. Not everyone will agree with you, but people who are good for you will respect your right to draw these lines for yourself.