What you need to consider before attending an event during family strife
6th March 2023

Harry and Meghan seem to have been invited to the upcoming coronation of King Charles III – but they haven’t said whether or not they’ll attend.

‘An immediate decision on whether the Duke and Duchess will attend will not be disclosed by us at this time,’ a spokesperson for the couple said.

So while they weigh up whether to go or not, it’s got us thinking about how to handle these situations – whether the relationships are estranged or muddied in bad blood.

Drama can quickly sour any gathering, but you might also feel you have as much as right as anyone else to be there.

Caroline Plumer, psychotherapist and founder of CPPC London, says sometimes it’s ‘best to politely excuse yourself from the event’, for the lowest amount of risk.

She says: ‘If this is a drama that you’re involved in, even if it seems there is little to nothing you could have done differently, taking some time to self reflect is always useful.

‘Even if your contribution to the issue is minimal, there is nearly always something we could have done better.’

You need to consider whether being amicable is a possibility – because if not, attending will likely start more fire.

Do apologies need to be made? Caroline believes taking time to decide can allow you to reflect and take ownership of the situation if needed.

How to decline the invite

‘If you decide not to attend, and the host is aware there is an issue, it may be a good option to gently explain that you don’t feel comfortable coming along and suggesting the two (or a few) of you meet up another time,’ Caroline advises.

‘It’s best not to get into the specifics of the issue with people who aren’t aware, or are only broadly aware of the problem, because this can quickly devolve into gossip.

‘You may also be opening yourself up for unwarranted and unwelcome opinions.

‘Regardless of whether or not the host is privy to the issues, you may want to keep it very simple and say something like “I’m really sorry, I won’t be attending this one but let’s organise to meet up soon.”‘

Of course, you always run the risk of worsening things by offending those who invited you and being deemed a trouble maker, unwilling to build a bridge.

If you don’t want to reconcile, declining may be your best bet.

How to attend peacefully

If you decide to attend, you are well within your rights to set a boundary around discussing contentious issues. In fact, this could save the day.

Caroline says: ‘If someone tries to raise the topic, find a way to kindly but firmly say you do not feel comfortable talking about it, or this isn’t an appropriate time, and you’d like for everyone to focus on enjoying themselves.

‘If pushed, you may find yourself having to be more firm, and perhaps even creating some physical distance.

‘Scary as some of us may find saying “no”, this can be good practice in holding your boundaries and advocating for yourself.’

When deciding, you also need to think about whether your boundaries will be respected.

Even if you set them well, we all know some people will simply never adhere to them.

When that happens, you need to ask: ‘Can my wellbeing manage this?’

You shouldn’t have to miss out on an event if you don’t want to, but you should absolutely be prepared.

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