Let go of feeling responsible for everyone else's feelings
Q: I will be a bridesmaid in the wedding of a dear friend who lives out of state. My partner of four years is also invited. I'm torn about whether he should come.
On the one hand, I will be busy with wedding stuff for nearly the whole time, and I know he would be bored and stressed about work if he came. (He has met the bride only once, and never met the groom.) I would be just as happy for him to stay home.
On the other, I would hate for my friend to feel like it was some sort of snub if he didn't come. I'm also nervous because his history of depression has meant that he frequently did not accompany me to things in the past, and I don't want my friends and family to get a bad impression of him.
Bridesmaid + 1
A: To those who have grown weary of wedding questions, please note, this is not a wedding question.
That's because the wedding element here is a non-issue. The partner attends if he wants to, or stays home if he wants to.
The underlying issue is the important one. Bridesmaid-plus, you apparently have appointed yourself guardian of: your partner's mood; your friend's feelings; your friends' and family's opinion of your partner; and the way all of their feelings and opinions reflect upon you.
It's fine to care about all these things, and in fact it's important that you do. If you're oblivious or impervious to people's feelings, then you're bound to trample them often.
But when you mistake caring about people's feelings for an obligation to try to control those feelings, then you're going to be "torn," "nervous" and emotionally overextended; you're setting yourself up to fail. You simply can't control other people. You're also setting yourself up to annoy the people closest to you, because it's just not your place to get so involved in people's decisions.
Whether your partner would be stressed or bored at this wedding is his responsibility. Your job ends at laying out the facts of the event, to the best of your knowledge, and letting him decide whether he wants to be there.
The way the bride feels about your partner's absence is her responsibility. Your job ends at telling her the truth about why he stayed home.
The impression your friends and family have of your partner is their responsibility. Your job ends at choosing your partner well, believing in that choice and letting it speak for itself — or in being honest about your own doubts.
Distancing yourself from these outcomes may seem selfish, but in fact the opposite is true. By trying so hard to make everyone happy, you're actually inserting yourself into the middle of all these emotional transactions. You tell yourself it's because you're concerned for others, but in practice it usually turns out that everything's focused on you.
Take the following two basic facts — that you are responsible for yourself, and that you are not responsible for other adults — and use them to create for yourself the most basic emotional job description: Do your best, and let others do theirs.