My wife and I disagree about COVID rules for her party

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Dear Meredith,

My wife and I have been happily married for 25 years. I love her very much. Most years she holds a lovely outdoor party at our home mid-July to celebrate summer. We invite neighbors and close friends. Last year, due to COVID, we didn't have the party.

My wife intends to hold our party this year. She's inviting guests, all but one of whom have been fully vaccinated. The lone holdout is the partner of a good friend. She's told us that "Fred" has no medical or other reason for remaining unvaccinated; he just doesn't want to. A mutual friend has speculated that Fred behaves this way to draw attention to himself. This makes some sense as we've noticed this behavior in him in the past.

MIT states that it's now more dangerous than ever to remain unvaccinated. I still have some reentry anxiety. I haven't attended an event that included Fred since March of last year. I've declined invitations to their home. I've explained to my wife that I can't attend our party if he's present. I also suggested we should inform our guests that there will be an unvaccinated person at the party. My wife won't discuss this with me and gets upset when I bring it up.

My wife is important to me. The party is important to her. If I attend, I'm not certain I can treat Fred with civility or restrain my anger. Do you have any suggestions as to how I might handle this dilemma?

– Worry Wart


"My wife won't discuss this with me and gets upset when I bring it up."

Your wife might be the host of the party, but the gathering is at the home you share. That means you should be able to collaborate on rules and boundaries. If you're uncomfortable with Fred, he shouldn't be on the invite list. The end.

We're on the other side of a year and a half of learning how to talk about consent and boundaries when it comes to our own health. All of that work doesn't go out the window just because people are indoors and living more open lives. We're going to have to continue to negotiate and define our comfort levels with various activities and people.

Your wife might not want to talk about it, but that's life sometimes – sitting with uncomfortable questions and finding answers together. Some people (kids) can't get vaccines right now. People who are around them want to keep them safe. Others (myself included) have high-risk people in their lives and have not stopped asking, "Can I go to this place ... and then see my loved one?"

This is about more than Fred. It's about how you navigate these questions with respect. It's about how you operate in a community.

Have the talk again. Explain how important it is. Make your boundaries clear (clarity is key!). Talk about the rules of the house so you both know them and have a say.

– Meredith

Readers, I come at this with a lot of high-risk loved ones and little patience for people who aren't respectful of these kinds of concerns and boundaries. How do you suggest talking about this so that the conversation get this couple to the right place?