If You Stand Up Your Man, Don’t Be Surprised When He Replaces You 

Ask Demetria: When you refused to attend an important work event, you violated one of the most important relationship rules.

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“I had huge fight with my boyfriend over the phone and told him I wouldn’t go to his annual work gala that night. After I said it, I regretted it and felt bad so I made steps to make things right. I got dressed for the event and finally went to his place. I get there, and his female friend, who always smiles and chats with me like she is my friend, is with him all dolled up. I tell him, ‘I’m sorry, and I’m ready to go.’ He says he would rather take her since she is reliable. She didn’t even offer to stay.

“This is his big work gala. Why take just any woman? It means something. Pictures of the event are on social media. My man is posing with some lady for the world to see. I am humiliated and mad at both of them. What should I do?” —A.H.

Be forewarned: You’re not going to like my answer.

You got what you deserved here. You acted like a brat by pulling out of an event at the last minute because you were mad, and you wanted to ruin your boyfriend’s night. You knew what a big deal this event was and that people who matter to you would see those pictures, and yet you canceled anyway. Your concern about how important the event is feels hollow after you discarded it like it was nothing to you.

Pulling out of an event on the day of is bad enough. It’s worse that it was a work event. One of the core rules for operating in a healthy relationship is “do not embarrass your partner on the job,” which you attempted to do. That’s a big violation.

Let me explain to you the tight spot in which you just put your man. You described the event as a “big work gala” and the type that has pictures that will be plastered everywhere. That suggests this was a seated dinner, with name placecards and all. When you canceled, your man was left with the option to go—because not going wasn’t possible—and be alone, sit next to an empty seat all night and field questions about where his girlfriend was. It also wouldn’t have gone unnoticed by organizers and perhaps his bosses, too, that they wasted money on an empty seat.

Now, he could have been “responsible” and called the party planners to say that his date wasn’t coming, and that means he’d possibly have to field “what happened?” questions from colleagues, and the situation would spread around the office. And he would still be alone at a work function full of couples.

He did what most people would do and called a friend to fill the void. Explaining what happened to a friend is better than explaining to colleagues. Luckily, she came through for him when you didn’t.

I’m not surprised he chose to go with her. When you changed your mind, you didn’t even call him to apologize and discuss. You assumed that he would be at the house in a panic, and you expected to whisk in and save the day after you'd attempted to ruin it. You were caught off-guard when you discovered he had made other plans that showed you were replaceable.

You created a bad situation, and he made the best possible moves under the circumstances. Canceling on his friend because you suddenly decided to show up would have been the wrong move. You created chaos. His female friend did him a solid by dropping any plans she might have had for the evening to accommodate him when you screwed up. To then cancel on her the way you did on him would have been taking her friendship, time and effort for granted.