Your big day is coming and it's going to be the beautiful, exciting, emotional, dream commitment ceremony you have wanted since you were a little kid crushed on a camp counselor and dreaming of long term committed same-sex love.
Nontraditional, unconventional, queer, LGBT, polyamorous and kinky weddings are my favorites because they're are up against so many invalidating messages about love. It's uniquely beautiful to see two people choose to validate their commitments on their own terms.
There's just that one thing ... your family. Your mom wanted you to invite your aunt, but you have seen the hateful homophobic and transphobic stuff she posts on Facebook. Imagining what she'll be like in the same room with your beautiful drag queen friends makes your stomach flip.
You think about your grandpa, and how he stopped talking to you after you brought your sweetheart home for the holidays two years ago. He's been distant ever since. Will that be a downer on your special day?
And then there's your cousins, who you never really came out to. Is it weird to come out in a wedding invitation?
Despite all the advice you are going to get, there is no one right or wrong way to decide who should or shouldn't be there. No matter what you do, there will always be another possibility to entertain. The one thing you can be sure of, is that you are doing the right thing for you.
What will make you most comfortable that day? What decision will you feel best about one year from now?
Give some thought to each of these relationships. You don't have to respond the same way to every one of your relatives. Choose the path of greatest integrity in each scenario. Every time you reach a conflict you have five options on how to address it.
Here are some options to consider based on the Five Conflict Management Styles according to Thomas, K.W., and R.H. Kilmann:
Conflict Style 1: Accommodating: This is when you cooperate to a high-degree, and it may be at your own expense, and actually work against your own goals, objectives, and desired outcomes. This approach is effective when the other party is the expert or has a better solution. It can also be effective for preserving future relations with the other party.
In your wedding scenario: This means you just invite them. Your mom is happy to have everyone in one place, and they have the option to say no. If you choose this option you may want to create support structures for yourself, your partner, and your friends to help buffer them from homophobic stuff. Maybe you have a special gathering for just your queer friends, or ask a friend to act as a bigot bouncer at the actual event. If you choose to go this route, come up with plans to support your celebration so you don't have to put up with junk you don't want on your day.
Conflict Style 2: Avoiding: This is when you simply avoid the issue. You aren't helping the other party reach their goals, and you aren't assertively pursuing your own. This works when the issue is less meaningfulor when you have no chance of winning. It can also be effective when the issue would be very costly. It's also very effective when the atmosphere is emotionally charged and you need to create some space. Sometimes issues will resolve themselves, but "hope is not a strategy", and, in general, avoiding is not a good long term strategy.
In your wedding scenario: This means you just don't invite them. Your mom may be disappointed (and they might too) but you avoid the issue of having conversations before the day, and or trying to overcome your emotions (and their possible outbursts) on your wedding day. It's especially helpful if you have family members who are particularly volatile or unsafe in their actions. Think about the person who just can't control themselves from saying something rude during your special moments. If and when physical safety is a concern this is definitely the best route to choose.
You have permission not to invite anyone who will just plain make you uncomfortable. Remember it is YOUR DAY, YOUR PARTY, YOUR MEMORIES and you have every right to stick to what will being you greatest happiness. A lot of well-intentioned allies will try to help you just "get over it", and may even guilt you about your lack of compassion. No matter what they (or I) say, only you get to decide what is right for your day.
Conflict Style 3: Competing: This is the "win-lose" approach. You act in a very assertive way to achieve your goals, without seeking to cooperate with the other party, and it may be at the expense of the other party. This approach may be appropriate for emergencies when time is of the essence, or when you need quick, decisive action, and people are aware of and support the approach.
In your wedding scenario: You've been practicing setting clear boundaries and stating your expectations with compassion for years, here is a big opportunity to put that practice into action. Maybe you send them an invite with a letter stating exactly what you expect for their behavior. Maybe you call them when you receive their RSVP and give them behaviorally specific examples of how you want them to show their support. Let them know clearly, and with respect, exactly what you want from them on this day, and if they can't participate and demonstrate support for your partnership they can show they care by staying home. Or, maybe you don't invite them and you send them a specific letter addressing why you aren't including them with compassion, care, and respect.
Conflict Style 4: Collaborating: This is where you partner or pair up with the other party to achieve both of your goals. This is how you break free of the "win-lose" paradigm and seek the "win-win." This can be effective for complex scenarios where you need to find a novel solution. This can also mean re-framing the challenge to create a bigger space and room for everybody's ideas. The downside is that it requires a high-degree of trust and reaching a consensus can require a lot of time and effort to get everybody on board and to synthesize all the ideas.
Conflict Style 5: Compromising: This is the "lose-lose" scenario where neither party really achieves what they want. This requires a moderate level of assertiveness and cooperation. It may be appropriate for scenarios where you need a temporary solution, or where both sides have equally important goals. The trap is to fall into compromising as an easy way out, when collaborating would produce a better solution. These two conflict styles may overlap in your wedding scenario. They require more work (in conversation) but can create even stronger more satisfying outcomes. You have to decide, are these relationships you want to invest in? Are the other parties willing to meet you somewhere in the middle?
In your wedding scenario: These conflict styles will likely mean these folks come to your ceremony or celebration. However, they also mean they are coming with an understanding of what you want, hope for, and expect. And when they arrive you will have a clear understanding of how they can either meet those needs or not. Either way, you will have had a conversation and may have laid a welcome mat for more communication in years to come.
Remember, only you get to decide what is right for your day. Consider what will make you most comfortable at your commitment ceremony and in years to come. Act with integrity and compassion and you won't regret your choices.
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