Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“I’m Too Broke To Attend My Friend’s Wedding”

A couple of weeks ago, one of my good friends called and asked me to be the only attendant in her bridal party for her summer wedding. I told her that I will be there if it’s possible, and I really really want to be there, but after giving it a lot of thought, I just don’t know how I can make it happen. I’m a recent college grad and I’m B-R-O-K-E. I have a couple of job opportunities I’ve got my fingers crossed about, but what if I don’t get a regular job by then? I can’t really ask my parents to pay for my expenses, and I’m about to spend what little savings I have left on the dress for another summer wedding (that I agreed to be in over a year ago). If I do manage to get the job I want before then, travel becomes an issue — her’s is a destination wedding with the ceremony on a Sunday night, and I would be pushed to catch a flight back home to get to work on Monday morning. Since her wedding is coming up at the first of summer, I know I need to tell her now if I’m not going to make it, but I’m afraid of letting her down. How do I tell her I can’t be in or even at her wedding without damaging our friendship? — Too Broke for a Wedding


You need to be honest with her and share everything you just shared in your letter to me while you express heartfelt regret over your inability to participate in her wedding. Any friend who makes you feel guilty or any friendship that is damaged because you quite literally cannot afford to be in/ attend her destination wedding — especially given our current economy — is not a friend or friendship that was truly genuine anyway. While certainly being disappointed, a good friend will understand your financial limitations and be grateful that you share in her good news even if you can’t be with her to celebrate in person. If you can afford to, I’d certainly send a nice gift and a very thoughtful card, and be very proactive and interested in seeing photos of the wedding afterward. If you live in the same city, or close enough to visit relatively cheaply, it would be a nice gesture to cook dinner for her or do something else to show her you care. And if one of the jobs you’re hoping for comes through, and you suddenly find yourself with enough money to attend a destination wedding, ask your friend if it is too late to squeeze you in as a guest. Definitely do that before advertising a big purchase or vacation, as is often a temptation after getting a new job. If you’re using finances as an excuse to miss your friend’s wedding, nothing would end your friendship faster than her hearing about you doing or buying something expensive.

I’m 23 and have been with my boyfriend for a year now. He’s attentive, sweet, goofy, and good looking. He’s convinced he wants to marry me, and I’m open to the idea but I’m not planning on marrying anyone for a long time, which I’ve explained to him and which he doesn’t appreciate. And that’s the issue. He’s clingy. He gets upset if I make lunch plans with someone else or if I want to spend a night by myself (he thinks we should spend every night together). When I explain that I need time to myself, he gets real quiet and then says something like, “You know that I don’t like that.” Then he wants to compromise by “giving” me the evening to myself, but then sleeping over anyway. And if I don’t like that then I’m being “stubborn” or “mean.” I love him, but sometimes I want to wring his neck. WHAT CAN I DO? Besides leave him. — Miss Independence


Don’t mistake being controlling and manipulative with being “clingy” or “needy.” Today, your boyfriend may have a problem with you having lunch with a friend or spending the evening alone; tomorrow or next year or that day he hopes to marry you, it may be your job he has a problem with or the way you wear your hair or what you’re wearing. This is a serious red flag. Any guy who gets so upset when you want a little time to yourself or with your friends has issues, and you need to tread very carefully. Tell him in no uncertain terms that he does NOT have a right to tell you how to spend every night of your life or whom you can eat lunch with and if he keeps it up, your relationship is over. And then stick to your word! If he continues to try to control your life, you need to MOA. No guy — no guy — has the right to tell you how to live your life, no matter how much you think you love him.

*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at [email protected].

23 comments… add one
  • avatar

    AnitaBath February 24, 2011, 3:37 pm

    LW#2: I once dated a guy who was dead set on us getting married soon. I also dated another guy who was pretty much exactly what you described, and had a problem with any second of the day that wasn’t spent with him. They obviously didn’t work out separately, and, holy shit, it would be a nightmare if the two of them combined forces to fit the description of your current boyfriend.

    RUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUN!

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      callmehobo February 24, 2011, 3:47 pm

      I would like to expand on what Anita is telling you

      RUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!
      as fast as your legs will carry you!

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    • avatar

      Mainer February 25, 2011, 8:27 am

      Get to the chopper!

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      averardoll February 27, 2011, 6:14 pm

      MOA LW2. You are young and it seems reasonable to be in no rush for marriage.
      This sounds like a Stage 5 Clinger and you shouldn’t feel rushed or pressured.

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    ReginaRey February 24, 2011, 4:00 pm

    @AnitaBath and callmehobo – you guys cracked me up!

    And seriously, they make a legitimate point. I can understand when a partner is disappointed that you might want some time to yourself – they interpret it as you wanting “time away from THEM” which isn’t necessarily true…everyone just needs some me-time once in a while! But your boyfriend seems to have stepped over the line of “disappointed to not be spending as much time with you as he’d like” to “wanting to spend every waking second with you or ELSE.” The fact that he actively tells you he doesn’t like you spending time away from him is, like Wendy said, a very troublesome red flag. I would absolutely take Wendy’s advice and tell him that he has no right to be making these demands of you, nor does he have any right to be upset over you spending a night alone. If he doesn’t get the picture, and fast, I would definitely MOA. As a side note, I’m also worried that given his controlling nature (at least from what we can tell in your letter), you might have a difficult time cutting ties with him if you do choose to MOA…in any case, stand your ground girl!

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      AnitaBath February 24, 2011, 4:03 pm

      Yeah. Nine times out of ten, an insanely clingy boyfriend evolves into a psycho stalker ex.

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  • avatar

    Amber February 24, 2011, 4:09 pm

    lw#1 like wendy said, just be up front and honest with your friend. if she’s having a destination wedding i’m sure she’s already thought about the fact that some friends and family simply won’t be able to make it. offer to have them over for dinner to celebrate when they get back. and good luck on the job search, searching for jobs sucks big time right now!

    and to lw#2 i agree with the commenters above. time to moa.

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      Amber February 24, 2011, 4:11 pm

      i obviously didn’t read wendy’s reply all the way since she said to cook her dinner in her reply. oops, sorry wendy!

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    Lamia_Aster February 24, 2011, 4:09 pm

    I’ve been in LW2’s situation. I was barely 18 when my ex was pushing marriage and living together. When I told him I wasn’t ready, he threatened everything from cheating to suicide. I wasn’t “allowed” to hang out with friends alone. He always had to tag along. Needless to say, this guy turned out to be a Grade A psycho!

    Run, run, run, as fast as you can!

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  • avatar

    Kat February 24, 2011, 4:33 pm

    LW1 I’ve done both options you have. Last year, I flew cross country to be in the bridal party for a friend from high school. I spent around $1000 in total on airfare, lodging, dress, food, car rental… and it was money that, as a recent grad myself, I didn’t have! flash forward to this year and I got an invitation to a destination wedding like yourself for one of my best friends. I just told him the truth, there was no way I could afford it and he took it really well. He knew having a destination wedding, with so many of us without well paying jobs (if we have jobs at all), he sort of knew that most people wouldn’t be able to. Just be honest, and maybe send a little gift or card in the mail when the date nears.

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  • avatar

    honeybeenicki February 24, 2011, 5:04 pm

    LW2: I agree with the all of the other comments… run, run, run. I was with someone like that for four years. It started out fine but gradually he tried to tighten the rope and it didn’t work because I left. He became a creepy stalker and I had to break up with him repeatedly (he just didn’t get it) and when he started calling me 20-30 times a day and showing up in the middle of the day knocking on my bedroom window (I worked third shift so I was sleeping during the day), I ended up having the police break up with him for me. It is not a good situation to be in.

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    • avatar

      thyme February 25, 2011, 5:17 pm

      “I had to break up with him repeatedly (he just didn’t get it)”

      This makes me think of the Friends episode where Eddie, Chandler’s crazy roommate, keeps forgetting that Chandler told him to get out.

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  • avatar

    WatersEdge February 24, 2011, 5:13 pm

    LW2- This is not good at all. HUGE red flag. HUGE HUGE HUGE. Do you want to be with a guy who won’t let you do weekends with your family or friends without him, who gets angry with you when you work late, who instead of supporting you as you pursue your hobbies/passions, only sees them as an obstacle to him spending time with you? If that’s not how it is yet, that is what it will evolve into. Anything you choose to do that is optional will eventually be shut down in favor of time with him. Either he is controlling or insanely insecure, and either personality trait is a fatal flaw for a relationship. If you’re not ready to leave him yet, as your letter indicates, I hope that you take from these comments that his behavior is really not normal, that it is indicative of serious personality flaws that will only get worse with time, and you have no reason in the world to live this way.

    Hopefully he will continue to annoy you with this crap and you will dump him when you’re ready.

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    • avatar

      Blitzen February 25, 2011, 5:29 am

      Once again, I agree with WatersEdge.

      I was with a guy like this for 4 years.

      *Don’t mistake being controlling and manipulative with being “clingy” or “needy.”*
      Dead on!! I made that very mistake and my life started spiraling outta control bcos of all the manipulation and emotional abuse on his part.

      You don’t seem ready to leave, but I hope in time you will be.

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  • avatar

    Pam February 24, 2011, 5:14 pm

    LW2 — I agree with the others.
    Like honeybeenicki I dated a guy like that (right after I left my husband who was controlling as well) — he did everything “for me” and when I didn’t appreciate “how much he did for me, how much he sacrificed EVERYTHING” the clinginess would flare up. He knew I didn’t want to live together, that I didn’t want to be “owned” like i had been with my husband, but he kept talking about moving into my apartment. When I would go out without him he’d text and call and even show up waiting in my apartment (he found my apartment for me so he, naturally, had the landlord make him a key) so he could spend the night with me.
    The stalkering started as soon as I broke up with him… dropping by at all hours crying, threatening suicide, threatening emails, texts, and phone calls (threatening to tell on me so I would have my children removed from me, which was groundless, but he knew it scared me because of my ex’s abuse), and even “anonymous” comments on my blog and “gifts” on my doorstep.
    And it all started with him calling me “mean” and “stubborn” when I wanted to have space without him!!

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  • avatar

    AKchic February 24, 2011, 5:38 pm

    Miss Independence:

    My first husband was like this. I mistook overbearing, demanding and controlling for overprotective and clingy. It’s obvious you two do not live together. Kick his ass out of your apartment and tell him that he is not staying the night. If he gets mad, tell him that if he cannot handle sleeping in his own place for a night, too bad. If he makes so much as a fuss in the hallway or an internet tizzy on facebook and tells people that you are to blame, then you need to break it off ASAP. Be prepared for the guilt trips, lectures, and even other friends of his calling you to tell you what a mistake you are making (he’s told them to call and they just don’t want to deal with him so they are calling to get him to shut up). He may even threaten suicide. Or, you may end up with police at your door doing a welfare check because they got an anonymous tip that you haven’t shown up for work in two days, or that you threatened suicide yourself.
    Save all communications that he sends you. Do not answer your phone and let it all go to voice mail as proof of harassment in case you need a restraining order.

    I divorced mine 8 years ago and I’m still dealing with death threats. Some of the things I hear about me are so ridiculous it’s funny.
    Be careful.

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  • avatar

    convexed February 24, 2011, 5:51 pm

    LW2:
    Your letter stated that you weren’t really open to leaving your boyfriend, and I was detecting in your letter that, though you understand his behavior is inappropriate and unwanted, to say the least, you kind of might have some sympathy for his feelings or find the clingy sentiment endearing? After all, it’s not too far from normal to be a little sad when your bf or gf has plans that don’t include you sometimes. But, while his feelings may be understandable, any grown up person who takes on a relationship needs to understand and practice self-control and be mature enough to address those feelings within himself, to recognize he is the site of the problem, not you or anything you do.
    I’m trying to avoid commenting on his ‘character’ or simply declaring that he’s a jerk or a creep, though I think he might be, because I’m not sure you’re going to hear that. What is totally clear is that at BEST he is emotionally immature and unpracticed in regulating the boundary between his feelings, his actions, and the effect his actions have on you. And, that best case scenario is still a serious red flag and, in my opinion, a serious dealbreaker, because a reasonable person like you who thinks through things (not rushing into marriage, for instance) is bound to be incompatible with someone who operates by projecting irrational feelings onto others.
    Whether or not he materializes into a stalker ex or an even more rampaging control freak, you should deal with this now. I second the suggestion of a serious, direct conversation that sets the terms you are willing to live with, such as, you will never accept him trying to control your life or playing mind games when you do things on your own. No more passive-aggressive/vaguely threatening ‘You know I don’t like that’. Then, you two either decide to break up now, or he goes to therapy to figure out his shit and he has like, 3 strikes or 3 weeks or whatever to prove himself eligible to continue on a probationary period that lasts, I don’t know, forever, or until it becomes obvious even to love-blinded eyes that this is a situation to totally discard.

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      ReginaRey February 24, 2011, 8:49 pm

      “What is totally clear is that at BEST he is emotionally immature and unpracticed in regulating the boundary between his feelings, his actions, and the effect his actions have on you. And, that best case scenario is still a serious red flag and, in my opinion, a serious dealbreaker” – Seriously well written, @convexed! You hit the nail right on the head…his “at best” behavior is STILL a dealbreaker, and the “worst case” behavior is seriously creepy and potentially scary!

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  • avatar

    Lucy February 24, 2011, 8:11 pm

    LW1: Once you explain your finncial situation to your friend, you may be pleasantly surprised to find she offers to pick up most if not all of the tab. I had a destination wedding during a period where several of my close friends were struggling financially, and I ended up renting a house for them to crash in and using airmiles to fly them there and back.

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  • avatar

    Rachelgrace53 February 24, 2011, 11:37 pm

    “Tell him in no uncertain terms that he does NOT have a right to tell you how to spend every night of your life or whom you can eat lunch with and if he keeps it up, your relationship is over.”
    Yes. Just YES. LW, please, PLEASE listen to Wendy. I have been there except it was even worse and I can say with total certainty that no one should be manipulating you, and that IS what he is doing. It will start with small things like not wanting you to have lunch with someone else, and escalate into much more dangerous territory until he has the power to make you feel horrible about any and every part of your life. I understand that you love him, and it will be hard, but if he isn’t willing to drastically change, you need to remove yourself from this situation. No guy, or person, for that matter, is worth the kind of life that comes with deep control issues. Definitely talk to him about this and give him the chance to fix the issue, but you have to be willing to stand up to him unless you want to be walked on for the rest of your relationship with him.

    I say this with the best of intentions and from 3 years of experience with a very controlling man. In my case, he thought he was right and so I broke up with him. One of the best decisions I have ever made, despite the fact that I loved him dearly.
    Good luck.

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  • avatar

    ladiejoy February 25, 2011, 9:47 am

    LW1 – I’m in a similar situation now. One of my best friends asked me to be the maid of honor in her wedding next year, and I accepted. At that time she was planning on a wedding in May on the beach in FL. Now she has changed her plans to a 4 day cruise in March, when I typically go skiing every year with my family(and which I told her when she first started planning). I told her I loved her and wanted to work it out (besides having NO desire to go on a cruise), but the change in time and added expense of a cruise might be too much for me. She is disappointed, but she and her fiancee both understood that a destination wedding (including a cruise no less) would mean a lot of her friends and family couldn’t make it. She offered to chip in $150 to help with my expenses. Clearly that’s not going to cover even a significant portion of it, but it was a thoughtful gesture nonetheless and one I appreciate greatly. You may find your friend offers the same if she discovers you are willing but not financially able. It’s possible she has enough in her wedding budget to cover your expenses, but regardless you need to be upfront and honest with her about it and don’t delay having that conversation. As close friends, you owe her honesty and the sooner the better.

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  • avatar

    plasticepoxy February 25, 2011, 11:20 am

    Like a lot of other posters here, I was in a long-term relationship with someone who’s behavior started out very similar to this, so this guy’s behavior is a huge red flag for me.

    In my own relationship, I thought it was sweet he wanted to be with me all the time, when that transitioned to not being able to see friends without him (or at all, since he didn’t like them), having to wait at home while he went out with HIS friends (and sometimes didn’t come home at all), I protested it wasn’t a two way street, he wouldn’t do the things he was asking of me. He said it was different for him.

    Little things he said throughout the course of our relationship to that point had undermined my self confidence and my feelings of value and worth as a person and partner. He blamed his behavior on me, put me down and made even more comments to “break me down so [he could] build [me] back up the way [he wanted]”. By the time he said those words, I was separated from friends, family and didn’t have a support system to validate that he was out of control.

    He had encouraged a quick pace in our relationship, resulting in moving in together after only a month+ of dating. I was excited and young. For 4.75 of the 5 years we were together, I was unhappy and walking on eggshells, to say the least. As soon as he was on the lease, everything changed and the “nice long enough to keep you around”/”scare the bejeebus out of you” cycle started.

    It took over a year to break up with him because he refused to leave, we shared a lease, so I couldn’t just kick him out and he made threats I believed he would act on if I left.

    Until I left. It was hard, scary and embarrassing to have to ask for help from friends and family, but having myself back after all that time was worth all the effort. He still attempts communication, I ignore it, but keep track of it, just in case.

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  • avatar

    evanscr05 February 25, 2011, 2:12 pm

    LW1: In 2005, at age 22, two of my good college friends got married to each other, and I was asked to be a bridesmaid. I, of course, said yes. But as the wedding grew closer, and the end of college neared, I realized that it just wasn’t in my finances to be able there, let alone in it. I debated over what to do, since I had no job prospects yet, I had no college job, and I was living off of loan money since that’s all my parents could do for me. So, I did the difficult thing and told her. I apologized profusely, particularly for telling her so late, and wished them well. She, like all good friends, completely understood. I had never been in a friend’s wedding at that point, and I had no idea the cost that comes with saying yes to that role. Weddings are expensive, and people are more understanding than you think.

    Another friend of mine got married that same year and had also asked me to be a bridesmaid. That was a little a different story since she was my high school best friend, and my parents offered to help pay for the dress (plus, it was at home, so I could stay with my parents). But I was in a weird job situation and wasn’t sure what state I would be living in at the time, so eventually she asked me to step down from being in it as it was getting closer, I had no guarantee I’d be able to be there, and it was stressing her out. As a good friend, I completely understood and took no issue with it. Things happen. I still made it to the big day and had a blast.

    Now, it’s my turn to get married and my fiance asked his best friend from college to be his “best chick”. She, of course, said yes because she knew this was coming for 3 years. But when the time came to find out about how much it was going to cost her, we got a very non-commital text about her finances. We couldn’t tell one way or the other if she was bowing out or not, so we continued with our plans. Eventually, he emailed her to give her a run down of stuff and then she finally sent a simple, two sentence email explaining that she just couldn’t afford it. You know what? It was fine. We understand how expensive weddings can be (especially since we are paying for it ourselves) and if we could afford to pay for everything for our attendants we would, but it’s just not in the cards. If it’s outside of her price range, who are we to dictate her finances like that? Things happen.

    So, I guess what I’m trying to say is, like Wendy said, just be up front and honest as soon as you can, and preferably not over an electronic device. Be specific, be apologetic, and continue to be interested in her nuptials. Good friends will understand, and she will be grateful you were honest with her sooner rather than later.

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