My husband and I have been close friends with another family for three to four years and we feel hurt by recent events. Short background: Both families have kids the same age; kids are friends; kids are in the same school; we’re neighbors and members of the same religious community.
We like to entertain and frequently have friends over for impromptu gatherings, etc. We’ve hosted this family for various occasions. They don’t entertain much but told us we would be invited to a major holiday dinner and we were looking forward to it.
A month before the dinner, my friend told my husband they couldn’t have us over, because they had too many family members coming into town. I was upset so I started to plan my own holiday, and I acted very stiff when I saw either the husband or wife. I didn’t know how to communicate my disappointment.
Some people put family before friends and I just have to realize that. Then their oldest child casually mentioned they were inviting other friends to the dinner as well as their family. I was floored.
Clearly, they did not think it was important for us to be there. I feel our friendship has been taken for granted. Finally, they invite us over for "leftovers" to nibble on a Saturday casual gathering along with some other neighbors. We didn’t go. The idea of leftovers has stuck with me – leftover food and leftover friendship.
I felt hurt, astonished and now angry and I want to distance myself from them. However, our son is good friends with their son and both families will be in this neighborhood, etc. for a long time. So, I wonder, what to do?
Another friend suggested that I tell them how hurt I feel. I don’t know how to have that conversation. I don’t expect things to improve, because I can’t imagine they could say anything to make me feel better. I think this incident brought to light that they don’t value this friendship as much as we did. That hurts. So, I’m wondering, if I should just mourn the loss, not say anything and take it down a few notches so we’re cordial neighbors.
Are they that clueless or just don’t like us so much? I am so hurt/angry that even if they did invite us over now, I wouldn’t go. How do you have a conversation like this?
I understand your disappointment and hurt. It sounds like you feel one-notch down from the other friends who were invited to dinner and that this incident rattled your expectations of the friendship. But step back for a moment and try to reframe what happened.
What if the dinner wasn’t on Thanksgiving, Easter, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Passover, or some other emotionally significant holiday? Would you still be miffed to learning about a host’s change in plans a month in advance? Probably not. Holidays are dicey; it’s normal to magnify their significance and to feel let down if they don’t measure up to a Norman Rockwell painting.
Let me tell you about a similar incident that happened to me. My neighbor, who was also my best friend, invited my family to "break the fast" at her home after the Yom Kippur holiday. Because I’m a secular Jew, that ritual didn’t hold the same significance for me as it did for her. I thanked her for the invitation but declined. Well that set off what I subsequently referred to as the "Yom Kippur War" because my best friend stopped speaking to me—wouldn’t answer my phone calls—for nearly four months. (We had spoken multiple times a day before this.) I was clueless and didn’t even realize why she was angry or what had happened. I felt uncomfortable each time I passed her house and thought about her constantly. Later I learned that she had taken great umbrage to my turndown because her holiday invite had different cultural/emotional significance to her than it did to me. (After her anger and hurt simmered down, we eventually spoke about it, we both realized what had happened and patched up our friendship.)
Back to you: My advice is to try to be more forgiving of this family and don’t take this one dinner disinvite so personally. People experience substantial pressures around holidays. They try to create traditions that measure up to their fantasies of what holidays "should" be like. Your friend may have had to balance different relationships (e.g. birth family vs. in-laws, family vs. friends, she vs. her husband) or consider different personalities to configure her dinner table.
There may be some very legitimate reasons, however, for you to have become upset:
1. Were you peeved about being disinvited through your friend’s husband rather than by her? Maybe she was uncomfortable communicating that to you.
2. Did you harbor pent up resentment because this family didn’t reciprocate your invitations to the extent you wished they had in the past?
My advice: Think twice before you summarily end this relationship. This friend is someone to whom you are connected as a neighbor, parent and congregant; you share friends in common as well. Your family is also connected to hers. Even though she didn’t say so directly, the fact that she invited you for the leftover dinner suggests that she values your friendship and felt badly for the missed holiday event. If you can’t get over this disappointment and if the friendship isn’t a meaningful one, downgrade the relationship and act more distant and cordial.
If you do value this friendship, I think it’s worthwhile to discuss your hurt feelings with your friend in a non-accusatory way. Stifle the impulse to assign blame and you may get a better understanding of what happened and why.
Hope this helps.
Related prior post on The Friendship Blog:
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