#20 Friends won't RSVP my invitations / "Friends" are communicating something


Dear Abby: I have planned my last party. Out of 45 invitations mailed out, we had three RSVPs! The invitations clearly stated a date by which we needed a response, and still only a tiny percentage complied.

My husband and I would not have been as upset if those 42 people had called with their regrets. But sitting around and wondering how many, if any, people are going to show up is nerve wracking. I had no idea how many people to prepare for, or whether we needed to rent tables, chairs, etc.

The same thing happened with our wedding invitations. They included a response card and a self-addressed, stamped envelope (all they had to do to indicate whether they were coming or not, and put it in the mail), but many people never responded to the invitation. Some showed up without letting me know they were coming and others failed to show when they said they would.

Has something changed? Why do people think it's OK not to respond to an invitation when specifically asked to do so? FED UP IN MILWAUKEE

DEAR FED UP: Nothing has changed. "RSVP" stands for respondez s'il vous plait," and translates to "please respond." To ignore an invitation, and neither accept it nor politely refuse, is inexcusable. It takes only a moment to make a call or return a written reply. However, if people haven't responded in a reasonable period of time, I see nothing wrong with calling them and asking if their decision is "yea" or "nay." As a host or hostess, you need to know how many guests to prepare for. —ABBY

Gabby's Response:

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Gabby’s Response: 

Hi Fed up: I doubt you have planned your last party. My sense is you are addicted to creating and receiving such treatment.

I'm concerned about your definition of the word friends. Your "friends" have been communicating something to you, since before your marriage (hint). Specifically, that they have lost their respect for you, possibly it never was there. People who experience respect with each other don't treat each other like that. Experience tells me that you are more committed to being right about something, perhaps that it's better to be polite than to tell the truth. Look at you! Ratting on your friends, behind their backs, rather than communicating to their face your experience. No wonder they didn't come.

The communication model your friends use mirrors yours. Who in your life would say that you are treating them as your friends are you? You are going to have to be willing to not have any friends in order to have friends. In other words, you aren't being open, honest, and spontaneous with your acquaintances. Inviting people to stand around at "another nice party" is actually sickening, it compromises ones integrity. Most everyone in attendance at such an event has so many things they aren't communicating verbally to everyone else (withholds), there's not much space for the experience of communication (therefore love). It sets the guests up to badmouth others on the drive home.

Notice also the absence of responsibility. Your irresponsible use of the word "we" will keep you from discovering what this is about for you. Withholds, once verbalized (communicated responsibly with the intent to enhance a relationship), do just that. Withholds dramatized (non verbally) keep relationships stuck in mediocrity.

I'm thinking you would have been equally, if not more, upset if all 42 had called to decline your invitation. That kind of reality, 42 calls in a row, would be quite devastating. Either way, they have served you; you have gotten to see a part of yourself you had been denying. I suspect that part of why the 42 didn't call to decline was their fear of having to tell you the truth, [I don't like you. I don't respect you. You're boring. You're shallow, Too Christian, or whatever], and of your reaction. It would take considerable clarity and appreciation to have politely thanked each for calling without dumping disappointment and guilt in their space. Clearly your invitation was not a request; it was not OK with you that most didn't come and they intuited it. Yours was a covertly delivered needy ultimatum, "Come or I'll be disappointed and hurt." For an invitation to be clean (spacious) it must communicate (not necessarily with words) that it will be perfectly OK with you that they not come. With your kind of friends your written invitation included the non-verbal implication that they need not R.S.V.P. We know this from the results your leadership-communication skills produced. Mo betta to invite a person verbally (preferably in person) so as to create space to complete any incompletes which also recreates the experience of relationship.

Use this opportunity to call a few and ask for the truth, a reality check. It might just blow your mind; perhaps you'll discover that it's only your husband that no one likes, or that most don't respect you for marrying or staying married to him. Who knows what withholds are lurking in the collective hive?

Thank you for your willingness to share that part of you that is us. —Gabby

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Check back occasionally for minor edits (last edited 12/7/12)

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