After weeks of feeling conflicted and increasing pressure from my family of origin about attending, I made the difficult decision not to go to the party because I do not feel safe. I expected disappointment from my family, but I was instead met with anger; they are not speaking to me now. Apparently, I am the only guest who feels unsafe and thinks that having the party is a bad idea right now (for a multitude of reasons).
How am I supposed to mend the relationships with my family? I tried to talk to my sister about my concerns weeks ago, but she declined to postpone the party, decrease the guest list, change the plans to stay in, or consider any other alternatives. I feel bad that Veronica, and millions of other people, are not able to celebrate life events the way that we have in the past. It’s not fair, and I can’t imagine the disappointment they feel. I have apologized multiple times and offered to have a special get-together with her at some point, but she, my mom, and the rest of my sisters are still angry at me. Any suggestions for how to move forward? — The Sane One
STOP APOLOGIZING!! You’ve done nothing wrong here. It’s your sister and everyone responsible for the terrible, irresponsible idea of throwing a large destination bachelorette party during a raging pandemic who are in the wrong. THEY should be apologizing, not you. I cannot comprehend the level of selfishness, of willful ignorance, and of entitlement that exists to plan such an idiotic, unnecessary event! I sympathize with people whose major life milestones are being affected by Covid, and I can certainly understand the desire to celebrate special events despite the limitations from social distancing precautions. But there are responsible ways to do so, and throwing a 20-person destination bachelorette party FOURTEEN MONTHS before the wedding is even scheduled to take place is not among them.
I know you know this; I know you know how reckless your sister and, frankly, all of the guests are being to take part in this shit-show, but based on the number of times you’ve apologized, you may not understand just how much you, personally, have been wronged in this scenario. It’s one thing to plan a party that endangers the lives of all your guests and all the people they may come into contact with over the next couple weeks, including hospital patients, seatmates on planes, TSA agents, restaurant and bar staff, and on and on. It is another level of insanity to express outrage when an invited guest politely turns down such an invitation, valuing her life over a weekend in a house with 19 other women and two bathrooms (omg). The increasing pressure from your family and the resulting anger directed towards you after your decision is a projection of their own messed-up values, and while you can’t choose your family, you can certainly choose the kinds of boundaries you create to protect yourself in the future from their ignorance and selfishness. This won’t be the last time their broken moral compasses lead them in a direction you’d be wise not to follow.
You asked me for suggestions on how to move forward, but the truth is that I don’t think you need help with that part. You’re already moving in the right direction. You’re already moving forward. It’s your family who is stuck, fumbling their way around hazard signs and dead ends and “do not trespass” markers. And as long as they rely on their broken moral compasses to direct them, they will continue sailing straight into rocky seas, seemingly oblivious – or at least indifferent – to the peril they put themselves and others in. They may survive this particular reckless trip without event, but at some point they – and the people who surround them – may not be so lucky. By moving forward in your own direction, even if it damages your relationship with these people I’m sure you love, you’re protecting yourself (and others). I would never advise changing that.
I know you want advice on how to mend your relationship with your sister and family, but it isn’t your job to do that. YOU are the aggrieved party here. You were asked to risk your life for a weekend getaway and then were treated horribly when you politely declined for exceptionally good reason. It should be Veronica’s job to make amends. And if she can’t even summon the grace to accept the multiple apologies you were under no obligation to make, perhaps she isn’t someone – sister or not – whom you should be fostering a close relationship with anyway. How else will she try to harm you going forward? How many other ways will she reject common sense, right from wrong, and personal sacrifice for the greater good in a way that jeopardizes your well-being?
The better question to ask rather than how to mend a relationship with morally questionable people is how to manage the mixed emotions – the sadness, disappointment, anger, grief, and maybe even relief – that will undoubtedly arise from holding fast to your personal convictions and maintaining strong boundaries with such people. And that’s a harder question to answer because there isn’t a way around these emotions except through them. You’re simply going to have to feel them. And it will be alienating because apparently no one else in your family shares your morals and convictions. And that’s a terrible feeling – to be alone in your own family and to feel ashamed and appalled by their behavior.
Fortunately, family ties aren’t our only ties and, often, the relationships we form with other people in our lives are stronger and more satisfying. This is as appropriate a time as any to really lean into those relationships in your life. People with whom you share a similar worldview and personal values can provide the kind of emotional support you may need right now, as well as affirm your decision-making. I imagine you likely have a strong circle of such people already. Congratulations – these are your chosen family. They don’t replace your family of origin. Those people and those relationship still exist, but your need for them is diminished when a different group can give you far better emotional support, and without a soul-sucking guilt trip every time you fail to follow misdirected leads into rocky waters.