Dear Emuna,

It’s wedding season and I’m grappling with a dilemma. I hang out with a group of guys; some of us are obviously closer than others. One of the guys in the group recently got engaged and we’re all very happy for him. I’ve been invited to and participated in his bachelor party as well as his engagement party, both of which required a financial commitment on my part. I’m not complaining, just providing the relevant facts. Now the wedding invitations have gone out and I find that I am not on the list. He told me I could come as a particular girl’s guest but otherwise… I was a little taken aback. It seems like if I paid, he was happy to have me but if he had to pay, he felt differently. I’m really struggling with how to look at our relationship going forward and whether to participate in any other (pay-as-you-play!) wedding–related events. Do you have any thoughts?

Friend or Acquaintance or Maybe Not Even on the List…

Dear Confused about Your Relationship,

Forgive me for being blunt but I don’t see any reason for confusion. I think this guy has made it pretty clear where you rank on his totem pole. There is no reason to be bitter but I think it’s appropriate to take an honest look at his behavior and then, based on that, you can remain courteous and friendly but determine for yourself how much you want to invest in a relationship that seems clearly one-sided.

His suggestion that you are only invited as his female friend’s plus one is certainly evidence of his unwillingness to pay for you (actually the lack of invitation was that!) so I think he’s told you where you stand. You just have to come to terms with that, in the most gracious way possible. Especially since he is a part of your social world. And more importantly, since you don’t want to behave in a way that you are not proud of.

Be reassured that what you are facing comes up for everyone in so many similar occasions. I recently received an invitation with no RSVP card inside. At first I thought it was just an innocent mistake. But a friend “in the know” informed me that it meant I wasn’t invited to the wedding dinner, only to the chuppah. I was a little taken aback – and likewise it was a reality check for me in terms of how they viewed our relationship. I felt that if I wasn’t important enough to them to get invited to dinner, then I wasn’t going to spend all the time involved in going. (It’s different if given options and then deciding to only go to the chuppah). I immediately felt badly about that decision and wondered if I was just being petty.

An informal poll of my family members affirmed my choice. There was unanimous agreement (such a rarity that it must be true!) that such a limited invitation suggested a very limited relationship and limited obligation on my part as well.

I see no reason to be bitter. I’m not angry with them (okay, I’m working on not being angry with them) nor resentful. They are lovely human beings and I wish them and their children well. I am just now under no illusions about the nature of our relationship and whether to invest further resources in developing it. And that’s actually valuable.

My situation was only an invitation. I do run into these people socially but only in larger community events so it won’t be as awkward as it seems it may be for you. But I think you can move through it more easily if you adjust your expectations and stop seeing them as a friend and see them instead as a pleasant acquaintance. We are all very lucky if we have a few good friends and instead of focusing on those people who have let us down or disappointed us, we should spend our time and thoughts enjoy and appreciating the ones who truly have our backs.