My boyfriend hates my friend

Dear Meredith,

After years of dating, I have met the definition of a "great guy" -- caring, understanding, good communicator, etc.

So far, we have succeeded in working through issues as they come up and tackling our different views. But there is one issue where we are at an impasse:
I have a friend named "Chris." He is not a close friend, but he's in my friend circle and frequently attends the dinners, parties, and get-togethers that my friends throw. My boyfriend, Paul, cannot stand Chris. He thinks that he is rude (which Chris is) and feels extremely uncomfortable in the same room as him. Paul believes that Chris was personally rude and mean to him in the past and that he actually spit into his drink at a party.

We agreed that we would not go to small gatherings if Chris is attending, but my boyfriend does not want to attend any event if Chris will be there. I feel like this is putting me in an awkward position. If one of my friends invites us over for a large dinner party, I have to make up some excuse why Paul cannot attend too. We debated telling some of my friends that Paul does not get along with Chris, but we think that will develop a rift between people.
From my perspective, I think that Paul should not let Chris determine his actions and control where and when he goes. Paul does not want to be in the same room as someone who treated him poorly in the past.

What should we do? We have started debating this every weekend since there have been frequent events that both Chris and Paul are invited to. How should we handle it so that both of us feel content?

– Stuck in the Middle, Boston

I'm getting the sense that you don't like Chris at all, SITM. Does anybody like Chris? Do you believe that Chris spit in Paul's drink? (Just curious.)

I wish I could tell you that Paul is overreacting and that he should be capable of hanging out with anybody in a big group, but this Chris character sounds pretty terrible. At the very least, Paul deserves some time to cool down from this situation before he's forced to show up at a party where Chris is in the mix and being his awful self.

My first piece of advice is to make sure that Paul understands that you're in his corner. My second piece of advice is to be proactive about signing up for smaller events so that Paul can attend. My guess is that the closer Paul gets to your more appealing friends, the less he'll worry about Chris, even at parties.

I understand why you're annoyed, and I hope that Paul can rise above Chris's disrespectful behavior. But honestly, if a significant other's acquaintance called me a name, made me feel uncomfortable, or spit in my beverage, I'd probably avoid a few parties, too.

Tell Paul that you're on his side. Go to (and plan) smaller events. Attend the big parties alone for a while. See how this feels in a few months, after Paul gets to know your real friends a bit better.

Readers? Should Paul be able to deal with Chris at these big events? Will this change over time? Should the letter writer tell her friends that Paul dislikes Chris? Would it be so bad for her to go to these events alone? Should they confront Chris? Help.

– Meredith