Hi, Carolyn: Recently, I had a very serious cancer scare.
I didn't tell my friends and family because I didn't want them to be scared until I knew if it was real. But the result was that I spent six months feeling very anxious and, worse, almost as though I were lying to them. Not to mention that it was very lonely going through it by myself.
Support for me vs. (maybe) unnecessary fear for them . . . should I tell them if there's a next time? Would you?
J.: Wouldn’t you?
You’ve made a clear case for telling: You were scared, alone, needing support; you were lying by omission to people you loved. Very persuasive.
And what case did you make for the other side, for withholding the information — that you didn’t worry them unnecessarily? Maybe you accomplished that, and certainly you meant well.
But if you were out of sorts during those six months — as you likely were, unless you’re unusually stoic — then chances are your inner circle was worried anyway: that you weren’t yourself, that you weren’t sharing something, that you were upset with them personally. After all, they had no information to help them understand your behavior. People faced with blanks tend to fill them in using their darkest imaginations.
These are mostly technical points, though. The best argument for sharing information is love itself. Have you ever heard after the fact that someone you care about was suffering and kept it to him- or herself? Wasn’t your first reaction “Why didn’t you tell me — I would have been happy to help”?
You describe the possibility of others’ being “scared” as if feelings exist in isolation. But had you notified people, they could have felt worried and . . . affectionate toward you, useful to you and grateful for the chance to help, all at the same time — and of course elated when the scare was over.
The best-case scenario of loving someone isn’t an unbroken stream of easy, happy feelings. The best case is intimacy: the sense of being included, important, close.
If you ever don’t want to share news like this for your own emotional benefit, then that’s your prerogative, and certainly some people will vanish on you the moment you do share. It’s not all hugs and kittens.
But when deciding what to tell others, don’t try to manage their feelings for them based on your own assumptions. Tell what you want to tell and trust them to respond as they wish.
Hi, Carolyn: Does inviting a family member or friend to a couple's wedding shower necessarily entitle that person to a wedding invitation? The couple are planning a small wedding at a resort in a different state. However, we think some of the couple's family members and friends might enjoy taking part in a pre-wedding shower and wouldn't be upset at not receiving an invitation to an out-of-state wedding. Are the "rules" for destination weddings more flexible?
— Perplexed Party Planner
Perplexed Party Planner: A shower invitation that isn’t followed by a wedding invitation says to people, “You’re not important enough to make the wedding cut, but we’ll take your gifts.” It’s not a good look.
It’s also easy to fix: Plan a party for everyone after the wedding, to celebrate the marriage with them.