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Wedding refusal brings guilt trip

Washington Post

Dear Carolyn:

My friend is having a destination wedding – by which I mean many, many, many hours in the air. We have small children, which would make the travel very difficult, and we have nobody to leave them with at home for the trip. And while we could technically afford it, it would set us back more than we are comfortable with – it’s our “if something bad happens, we need this” pot.

We do not question our decision to send our regrets. The problem is that our friend is taking this personally, and the guilt trips, while relatively mild, are persistent. I really think if you have a wedding that requires (multiple!) planes, you need to recognize your guest list may shrink and not blame guests who are unable to make the trip.

I’m struggling to say this in a kind way. I’ve said other things about the difficulty of travel with kids, although not the bit about the money, since I don’t like sharing finances with friends and worry the friend would also take our prioritizing of the rainy-day fund personally, too. Any suggestions?

– Destination Wedding Blues

Please worry less about kind and go for clear – because often clarity is kindness. Next time Friend cranks out the guilt: “Multiple planes + small kids = non-starter. You seem to be taking this personally; am I hearing you correctly?”

Get it out there, say what you need to say, listen to what you need to listen to. Then, that’s it – you no longer engage on this topic.

Normally I’d skip right to the do-not-engage square, since “no” is both a complete sentence and a sufficient RSVP. However, your attempts to say this “in a kind way” suggest you’ve undermined your goal of communication by mincing around the truth. So, be direct, then be done.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.
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