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Miss Conduct

Advice: We hate parties, but then they shame us for no-showing

A distant relative is getting married, and we’d rather not go

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My husband’s family lives reasonable but uncomfortable driving distances away. We got a wedding invitation from a cousin of his we barely know and were debating even opening it, since it addressed us incorrectly and we didn’t immediately recognize the senders. It’s kind for them to invite us to their wedding, but when we attend such events it is always out of obligation — we are not party people. The party goes on fine without us, but the busybody members of the family seem to need to call out who is missing and how it is such a shame they aren’t there. I’m sure they provided our address to this couple since we have moved twice in the last five years. Is there any way to decline?

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S.O. / Malden

You are entirely free and within the bounds of etiquette to decline invitations politely, send a gift (not mandatory, but proper and kind), and cheerfully repeat “It just didn’t work for us” ad nauseam if questioned. You can’t stop people from being disappointed, though. They’re entitled to their reaction. Which . . . well, as you describe the situation, it simply sounds as if your in-laws like you both, and wish you liked them and are sad you don’t, but indeed you don’t and you wish they didn’t like you quite so much either. What’s up?

I’m a big believer in cutting family ties in cases of abuse or persistent bad behavior but your letter doesn’t indicate that. So why not reciprocate their effort a bit? After all, in-the-region-but-not-on-the-block is truly the ideal distance for relatives to live, close enough to help in an emergency but not to drop in on a whim. If there are a few annoying busybodies, I bet the rest of the cousins don’t like them either and have some awfully good stories about them. Find out!

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Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.