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My family and I live in a big crowded city. My dad has a little house with a big garden out of city (about 15 km away). At weekends my parents and my sister and her husband go there and stay for a few days. I am taking postgraduate education and also have a job and I'm in a serious relationship so it's obvious I'm busy. When they ask me to join them, if I'm busy I refuse, if not I will join them.

The problem is whenever I refuse, they make me feel like i want to smash my head to the wall. For days they keep saying "you don't care about us", "we won't be happy without you", "you are so selfish". They want to make me feel guilty so I accept going with them.

I tried to explain that I have work to do but nobody listens. They say come with us and do your work there. That is not possible because internet in that place is weak and I can't take all of my books and my personal computer with me every time.

Sometimes when I'm tired I yell at them. I love my family and this yelling and never ending arguing makes me feel sad for whole weekend. Last month I got sick (not covid). This illness took all of my energy from me. This weekend they asked me again and this time it broke my heart and made me disappointed at my family. They know I'm sick and struggle doing anything and I hardly keep up with my job and education. I told them if they forgot and they insist that they will be happy like it doesn't matter at all that I'm in that situation.

How can I convince my family to accept my choice?

  • I'm a bit late to the party, but I've edited your question to focus on convincing your family to accept your choice. That's on-topic for this site, we can't handle the intrapersonal aspect of 'not feeling sad'. That's off-topic for this site. – Tinkeringbell Aug 20 at 8:36
  • It could be important to know how often does this gathering take place and how often do you (not) participate. It makes a difference if you are never there or just not sometimes. – puck Aug 22 at 11:09
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    Adding a country tag would really help to this. Asian parents would need a different message than northern European parents. – baldPrussian Oct 12 at 22:02
  • @baldPrussian good point. Asian parent. – BlackCrystal Oct 13 at 4:31
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To answer question in the title: You can't. You can't make people feel how you would like. They choose how to react. Post-edit answer: You can't. You might not be able to convince them and they might not accept it.

This is answer based on personal experience. Link to few book I've read on the topic and used at the end of the answer.

To convince someone the reciepient of your message must be able to be open to accept your stance. Before you say "yes/no" they must be willing to accept that there might be oucome different than they desire. What you describe is emotional blackmail. Therefore I highly doubt they would let you convince them.

In the Emotional Blackmail book, sentece "How can you be so selfish..." is even in the blurbs on the back cover. That's how hackneyed it is.

In such situation, in my opinion and what I learned to do (that also helped my mental state and stability), it's good to amplify your stance. Don't explain. Because in such situations it's the other side who valide your explanation. And they might decide they won't. Amplify that you have full right to do as you're doing. And you require counter argument on the same level as yours.

"you don't care about us" - You don't care about me. I care but giving up on my responsibilities and job is not a sign of selfcare.

"we won't be happy without you" - then why are you going there? If I'm the one who make you happy you should accomodate for me. And I need to get my job done.

"you are so selfish" - Yes. And? I take under consideration my relationship, my job and my education. You put your "happiness" above all those 3 things. And you prefer for me to be misearable for those few days. That's why I selfishly choose to take care about me.

Don't be afraid if they will be offended. It's them who choose to be offended. I can assure you that they are not sad because you're not going. They are sad because you won't bend for theirs wish. And yoour needs are more imporant then their wishes.

Make them aware that loving them don't mean sacrificing yourself for something so minor like trip to beach house.
Being selfish is good. Being selfish means not sacrificing your health for someone else happiness.

Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You Susan Forward, Donna Frazier

How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk Adele Faber, Elaine Mazlish

10 Way to Build and Preserve Better Boundaries

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  • Hi SZCZERZO KŁY! First, please note that I edited the off-topic part out of the question, so you might want to review your answer to focus on the convincing the family to accept OPs declining of their invitation. Secondly, for this site to be a good subjective site, we need answers to be actually answers and not just opinions/your thoughts. To achieve this, we request people use personal experience or external sources to backup their answers. – Tinkeringbell Aug 20 at 8:39
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    Has this worked for you in the past or have you seen people pull this off successfully? Could you take a moment to describe what you did/saw done, who was involved, and what the general outcome was? Or do you have any external sources/research that confirms this is an effective way to convince people to accept a declined invitation? – Tinkeringbell Aug 20 at 8:40
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You don't say much about how you decline, yet this is key. Compare:

We are all having a [event] dinner this weekend, you'll be there of course won't you? See you at 3!

No, I won't be there, I'm busy.

to

Your sister is coming over this weekend. I think we'll have a bar be que. Are you joining us?

I wish I could! Unfortunately I have 120 exam papers to mark by Monday. I'm going to get on them extra quick so I might be done by Sunday afternoon. I definitely can't come Saturday, and I can't promise Sunday but I can try. I'll let you know how the marking goes.

or

I wish I could! Unfortunately I have 120 exam papers to mark by Monday. I know from previous marking weekends that there's no way I can get away to come and see you. Maybe next weekend?

You need to express agreement with their basic point that it would be nice to be together. Much of their arguing is of the form "it would be nice to be together. We are sad that we are not together" and so on. Agreeing with this means they can't keep arguing with you about it. You also need to be specific about how busy you are. Otherwise it sounds like a made-up excuse. You have a deadline, something is due, you have to finish something, you made a plan with your sweetheart, whatever. And you regret that this deadline or this existing commitment makes it impossible (not your choice, impossible) to accept their invitation this time. Maybe next time.

When they say "but we won't be happy without you" or the like, all you need to do is agree. Don't try to trap them in some logical flaw and prove they are stupid and doing the wrong thing. Agree with them. "Aw, thanks, that's really sweet. I would be happier if I was able to see you this weekend as well." And if you can, look ahead to a specific time when you are planning to come and see them, and remind them about that future happy time.

Right now, you're wasting time and effort arguing back when they say things like "we will be sad" or "you don't care about us." When you decline these invitations in the way I'm suggesting, you can see that it includes saying you care about them, saying you wish you could visit them more often, agreeing that it would be happier if you were there and so on. This is more pleasant for both them and you.

You also need to remind them that you do not have a normal workload. Most people have their weekends relatively free. They may need to do some errands, or want to spend time with the person they're in a relationship with, but they can spend an afternoon and evening with their parents easily enough. But because you have both a job and your studies, you have a lot less free time than people expect. You will probably have to mention this more than once. For example, look ahead to the time when you will have completed your studies, and will be back to normal for the time you have available. As well, you can share your fears with them.

I am concerned that if I do not do well on this exam (or do not finish my paper, or do not get this report done, etc) I will fail my course, or be fired, or not get the promotion I was counting on, or whatever.

Now you're not being all superior and saying "I have better stuff to do than spend a weekend with the likes of you" you're sharing your feelings as families do, and bringing them onto your team, the team that is making sacrifices so you can earn this degree or excel at this job, or both. You are aligning with them. This can be very powerful and make you feel much more supported and cared for while making them feel accepted and wanted instead of being the people you don't have time for.

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