Guilt drives people apart, not together
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Dear Carolyn • A couple of years ago, when my two nieces married, I organized my two sons and flew cross-country to attend their weddings. This year, my son is getting married and my sister is blowing it off. She said she's too busy with her job as a teacher, but I note they've taken midyear golf vacations. I am considering phoning her to say it's a family duty, but my son's fiancee said if they aren't enthusiastic, then she doesn't want them at the wedding anyway. Should I guilt my sister into coming, or realize that our family isn't as tight as I once thought?

R.

Dear R. • When you offer up "guilt (someone) into (something)" as one of only two choices, then you make mine the easiest job ever. This is not an either-or question, though. Families are too complicated for that. So are people, finances, travel, careers and a few other relevant things. Just for starters, while it's wonderful and important that you and your boys rallied for these weddings — and while I completely get your hurt feelings — it's not fair to unilaterally set "travel cross-country for weddings" as the bar your sister must clear to prove her family devotion. You give your way, she gives hers, and over time you both adjust your ends of the give-and-take as you deem fit. Then there's the fact that you can't fully know what her circumstances are, nor can you extrapolate from those golf vacations. Maybe they're broke now. Maybe cutbacks have her in fear for her job. Maybe she never expected you to rally for her girls' weddings — appreciated it, but never expected it. Then there's the fact that guilt drives people apart faster than just about any emotional choice you can make. If it's so important to have your sister there, or if you found her "no" dismissive, then call her to talk with, not lecture, her. Isn't it your "family duty" not to draw hasty conclusions, but instead to share your feelings and open your mind to hers? If her answer is still "no" after further discussion, then decide which befits a "tight" family — to judge or punish her for it, or to choose not to. My advice? Keep the door propped open.

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