Hello everybody, welcome to episode 189 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. Today's question is on setting boundaries when it comes to sticking to a small wedding guest list and respecting your relationship.
I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino reminding you before we begin that if you have a question you would like help with on the show, we welcome you to email it to us at advice AT oldpodcast.com
Happy February, dear friends. Love is in the air. We’ve got Valentine’s Day in a few weeks, and we’ve got a question today sent in from a woman who is getting married soon, yet is struggling to say no to people who keep insisting she add more and more guests to the guest list. In spite of her ability to ward these people off so far, she’s agitated, and I see an opportunity to fix this problem now and similar ones that will inevitable arise in the future. Let’s hear her out and help her out. Here’s her question…
QUESTION: “I’m getting married this year and struggling with saying no to people who keep adding other people to our guest list. We’re trying to keep it on the smaller side because of COVID and who knows what that will look like in July of this year (when our wedding is taking place), plus having people at our wedding who have been a part of our lives versus friends of people we have never met isn’t something we wish to entertain. We have expressed these concerns openly and some people have been very appreciative of our direct approach, others not so much. We understand we can’t please everyone.”
Wedding Guest List: You Can't Please Everyone
Well, hey, you’re off to a good start in understanding that you can’t please everyone. Of course, many of us know that and still try to do it anyway (Greg Audino, ever heard of him?), but that’s really what this thing boils down to.
It is what it is, and the fact that you’ve been open about your boundaries and stuck to them is about as much as you can ask for.
This isn’t to say you shouldn’t be open and listen to those who try to convince you to add certain people to the guest list, but that doesn’t mean you have to fold, and inviting more people than is necessary to your wedding is something a lot of couples do fold on out of guilt and obligation. And it’s this idea of openness that’s really going to propel the rest of the episode.
See, while the wedding guest list is a classic example of something to really stick to your guns to as a couple, it’s also a very good indicator of what you can expect out of life from now on – that is, how to harmoniously interact with and set boundaries with people as a couple.
Marriage and Commitments
Certainly all marriages look different and spouses make different types of commitments to one another.
We can argue all day about the fundamentals of a good marriage, including the tiers of people we have in our lives and what promises we make to all of them, but I dare say that if we’re marrying right, we’re doing so because we find someone who has become our number one priority, and we’ve become theirs.
This means that with all the other people in each partner’s life, boundaries are going to have to be set and you’ll have to make decisions as a couple that exclude others. The wedding is the first major test of that, but there’s going to be a whole lot of it throughout your journey as a married couple.
So look at this guest list conundrum as a sign of things to come for the rest of your life, and get good at this process. Surely you wouldn’t be here if you weren’t a little uneasy with it, and that’s totally natural since this is new to you.
So let’s go over the skills you and your husband can start honing to become more comfortable with keeping the guest list short, as well as many other exclusive situations that will follow.
Letting Others Down Respectfully
In no particular order, the first thing worth mastering is letting people down respectfully. You can imagine what this looks like; you’ve disagreed with people respectfully before.
It means not being rude. But beyond that, it means being caring in what you say. It’s not just using a tone that isn’t harsh, it’s also not criticizing or going after people’s character when you’re frustrated.
It’s the difference between calmly saying “I appreciate your feedback, but I just don’t feel close enough with this person that it’s worth it for me to invite them to the wedding and I’m going to stand by that” and calmly saying “I’m sick of you imposing. I don’t care who you think should be there, I’m going to invite who I want to invite so please leave me alone.”
Same tone, different messages. If you can’t help it, and you do feel this need to lash out or fiercely protect the privacy of your marriage, it may be a sign of insecurity within the marriage that you’re trying to overcompensate for, or underlying issues with the person in question.
Remain respectful, and if you have a separate issue with them in regards to their character or a compulsion to be overly defensive about your marriage, discuss it separately in the same respectful way.
It's Not Personal — And If It Is…
Letting people down respectfully requires you to simply state your boundary, and let them know it’s not personal. And if it is personal, you can respectfully relay this information as well, and offer a chance to talk more and try to fix the relationship at a later date should you want to. But this is not something you owe anyone.
Next, you want to work on hearing people out. This means actually listening to the opinions of others, giving them a chance and letting them know that they’re heard, that their ideas have been contemplated and you’ve received your thoughts openly, regardless of whether or not you decide to make changes based on them.
To sharpen this process for both of you, you may decide to repeat their ideas out loud, weigh the pros and cons with them, and so on. And afterwards you may choose to thank them. After all, they’re making suggestions based on what they think is good or helpful. And if not, and their intentions are indeed more self-centered, you’ve still set a good example for them in terms of considering others’ thoughts and feelings.
Wedding Guest List: Conclusion
And finally, be sure you’re being steadfast in your boundaries that you set with others. Have certainty in what you want and stick to it as long as you’re not being stubborn. The more you can repeat (again, with certainty) what your boundaries are, the faster those you’re setting them with will be to learn them, respect them, and not think that you’re either making excuses or being flimsy in your viewpoints.
Like I said, don’t be stubborn and refuse to change your viewpoints for the sake of seeming more firm, but be direct, consistent and assertive about the boundaries you have, as well as your thoughts if and why those boundaries might change.
All of this clear and concise communication is great for your relationship with yourself, your spouse, and anyone else.
You stand by your values, you learn to make decisions with your partner and not let others invade your valuable space, and you prevent yourself from building resentment towards people that could otherwise result from you trying to be too flexible or please more people than is possible.
Boundaries, people! Boundaries are important, but tough sometimes. However, you might have noticed in yourself and others that boundaries are easier to maintain when they’re tied to things you really care about.
It’s always easier to fight for something that really matters, so the good news is that the amount you’re willing to fight for something or with something is good reflection of how much it really means to you (though that can be cloudy if you have irregular attachment issues or insecurities that prevent you from letting go of certain other things). If you’re not setting boundaries too well, then might it be time to reassess what you really care about? It might.
But regardless of if you are or aren’t setting a lot of boundaries right now, for the ones you are setting or will set, follow the guidelines today to do it smoothly.
And that’s it for this one, my friends. Thanks for being here and thank you to the asker for submitting this question; really hoping it helps you and your spouse now and in the long run. Time for me to get out of here. Have a wonderful start to your week, and I’ll be back with you all on Wednesday. Talk to you soon.