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Friends and holidays: Guess who’s disinvited from dinner?


Dear Irene,

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?



Dear Kathy,

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:

Couple wanted, for close friendship: Especially around the holidays

Have a friendship question or dilemma? Ask The Friendship Doctor.

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Comments (4)

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  1. mouse says:

    Dear Kathy,

    This situation would take me right into a dark place too.

    I wonder if you have any experiences in your history with being or feeling left out. I have that in my history so when something like that happens now, my reactions are often larger or longer than they should be because there is that old hurt combined with the recent hurt and I am reacting to all of it without realizing.

    I believe there is more chance of fulfillment in connection than in separation, so I am usually rooting for frank conversations and repair. However, it is very hard to begin that conversation while the hurt and outrage are so lively and fresh. Sometimes a few weeks makes all the difference in being able to hold onto yourself without lashing out in accusation.

    Some ideas for brainstorming how to have that conversation:

    Susie, I need to clear something with you, when would you be available to have that conversation in person?

    I got my feelings so hurt by something that happened and now I need to talk things out with you because consequently I don’t know how to hold our friendship.

    When your husband disinvited us for the holiday dinner I was so disappointed and tried to understand because some people do put family first. And when we learned that the so and so’s were invited I got confused. Your and your family’s friendship means so much to me and I was excited to be invited, then disappaointed to be excluded. I don’t know how to interpret this and my mind has been taking me to all sorts of dark places.

    I have invested so much in our relationship and am willing to invest more to clear this between us and find repair, because I like you a lot.

    And Kathy, if tears come through any of it, let them. Bringing your vulnerability is being fully authentic. Yes, it takes courage, and being real allows the other person to be real too. Two defended and protected people can’t’ bond. I have done this a few times (shaking and sick inside) and when one person allows themselves to be fully real, it can melt the heart of the other and then it all comes to a real place for both. This is very possible.

    Say your piece, speaking only your data and your feelings, no interpretations no accusations. Then be quiet and allow her the floor.

    Allow her to tell the story from her side, or explain or defend or whatever she says. Receive her. Some people don’t entertain often and just don’t know how to handle some parts of it. If she is revealing an ineptness, then receive that. If she apologizes, receive that. If she is defensive then receive that. Just take in whatever she offers without jumping back with reaction.

    If she is sorry you got hurt, whether through her ineptness or something else, then repair is indeed possible and please be open to it.

    If it happened to me, the part that would have hurt me the most would have been that she wasn’t straight with me throughout the whole thing, letting me help her figure it out. Maybe as more and more family wanted to come, maybe she could have chosen to split the gathering and have one for family and a second one for friends, And possibly that’s what she tried to do with the leftover dinner. Maybe she was in a jam and did her best. But its ok to let her know that you got your feelings hurt. Also good to let her know how you wish she had handled it. and its also ok to tell her that you like her so much and value your friendship and that you wish to be the one friend she will always include. Its ok to tell someone your feelings.

    I wish you good luck with this and hope you keep us in the loop.

    Kathy, I can hear that this friendship meant a lot to you, please try to save it.

  2. Julie says:

    Personally MY feelings would be VERY hurt! I would probably say OUCH big time!! I understand what Irene said.. but, I would probably STILL be smarting from that!

    I don’t think that I would want to be her friend anymore either!! That’s just me!

  3. Anonymous says:

    I HAD a friend who I was once close to. I knew her husband who was like my brother and I made as much effort as I could to juggle seeing my friends between going to school and being a single parent with two kids.

    She went through a cancer ordeal and since then she changed. Started hanging out with other people. On Facebook she announced that she was so excited to be hosting her “couples friends Christmas party”. So I was a second class piece of crap because I was single? She is certainly no longer my friend. I immediately told her I did not want to have any sort of sloppy seconds Christmas visit with her. I knew where I stood with her at that moment.

    Needless to say her true colors have come out in leaps and bounds since then. I let my kids spend time with her kids and I still interact with her husband when we see each other in passing. My battle doesn’t have to be my kids battle.

  4. Anonymous says:

    You have every right to feel offended here. What your friends did was rude. (And I say that as someone who’s been the “back-up friend” and felt the sting of suddenly coming second to another friend for no discernible reason.)

    People have strange reasons for doing things sometimes. Maybe your friend(s) would admit to why they didn’t invite you to the main dinner – but more likely, they won’t admit the truth because they want to spare your feelings. If you confront them, it’ll only be strained. No complete answers are likely to come to light.

    People are bizarre. Sometimes they’re just fickle – one minute they think you’re great, they next minute, they don’t. Maybe they’ve found they’re irritated over some minor quirk and they blow it up into something major. Maybe it’s even more vague than that. Maybe they’re bored and decide to try to impress a new kind of friend. The whole thing feels terrible when you’re the friend who’s been disregarded, and I totally feel for your hurt and confusion. Human beings shouldn’t treat each other like this but sadly, they do.

    It’s probably best to distance yourself from these “friends” and just be cordial to them like they’re strangers. Because if these “friends” can do this once they can do it again, and you don’t want to put yourself through more pain.

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