When I talk to people about why they’re hesitant to invite others over, most of the time they say it’s because they’re worried about their house or their cooking or that it’s so much work. But every once in a while, I hear hurt in their voice as they say something like this:
“We’ve invited people over so much over the years, but I can only think of 2-3 who have reciprocated. I had hoped that by entertaining, we’d make more connections, but when it wasn’t reciprocated, we felt rejected. Over time, we entertained less and less. Now it doesn’t seem worth the effort.”
Can you relate? Have you felt the sting of inviting and inviting and not being invited back?
I see you and your discouragement. And I want you to know that you’re not alone. It hurts to reach out time and time again and to feel like your effort at connecting with others is for nothing.
That’s why today we’re going to talk about 4 things you can do when your dinner invitations aren’t reciprocated.
Tell Yourself a Different Story
Let me share with you a secret: my family doesn’t get invited over to other’s houses very often either. We invite people over at least 25 times a year, and we maybe get invited to someone else’s house 2-3 times in a year. I can literally count on two hands the people who have invited us over in the 10 years we’ve lived in our town.
Does that hurt? Not really because I know that I really enjoy entertaining and not everyone does. But it could, if I worried about why. I could wonder whether people think my kids are overwhelming. Or if they didn’t have a good time when they came over to my house. Or whether they think we’re weird.
But are any of those things reality? Most likely not.
The truth is, so many times, what we tell ourselves others are thinking or not thinking isn’t the case at all. For example, I recently asked my friends why they are most likely not to reciprocate when someone has invited them over.
And here is what they said:
- Their lives are crazy busy — it takes several months to find a date that works
- Not everyone enjoys entertaining in their home — it’s stressful to them or they enjoy their private space
- They’re introverted or not naturally an initiator
- They’re struggling financially and don’t have the means to feed another family
- They’re insecure about their home or cooking
- They have private struggles in their marriage or family that keep them from opening up their home
- They have good intentions but just don’t get around to it
- They’re struggling emotionally and can muster up energy to go out but not to initiate
When it comes to why people don’t invite you over more often, choose to tell yourself a different story than the one you could create in your head. It’s obvious from my casual poll of my friends that there are any number of reasons why people don’t reciprocate.
You can look at it and conclude that there must be something wrong with you and give up entertaining all together. Or you can choose to think, Hey — their lives are probably crazy busy or they must not feel comfortable having people in their home.Write a different script than the one playing in your head.
Give Up Expectations
When my friends and I were discussing why they do or don’t reciprocate, my friend, Jill, said something profound.
She said, “The biggest disappointments in life start when you have expectations of others.”
I don’t know about you, but that hits me with conviction.
The biggest disappointments in life start when you have expectations of others.
Wow. How profound. The minute you start expecting someone else to reciprocate an invitation, you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment. No one else can read the expectations you have in your head, so there’s no way they can meet them.
Instead, when you invite people over with no strings attached, you start hosting with joy. Instead of expecting a give and take, you start seeing meals in your home as a gift that you’re giving to others.
When you host people in your home, you’re giving them the gift of your time and undivided attention, a good meal filled with great conversation, and the knowledge that you thought they were worth all the work.
Give up those expectations and give the gift of an invitation without expecting anything in return.
Embrace Being an Initiator
Years ago, I read the book, “Friendships Don’t Just Happen,” by Shasta Nelson. (It’s a great book that I highly recommend.) Something she said about taking on the role of initiator in a friendship struck me.
She said, “We all give in different ways…Maybe the gift we give to relationships is enough initiation to get the plane off the ground.”
I love that idea. What if what you have to offer in a friendship is extending invitations? And maybe your friend’s gift will be making you laugh. Or inviting your kids for a playdate when you’re overwhelmed with things to do around the house. Or providing a listening ear when you’re going through a hard time.
You can choose to be an initiator. Someone who looks for opportunities to welcome others. Someone who chooses to love other people through invitations to their home. Someone who invites. And invites again. And again and again.
This is what we initiators choose to do because inviting is one of our values. It’s one of our gifts. And ANY time that you invest in another person is worth it EVEN IF you never spend time with them again.
Even if you’re the one who does all the inviting.
Embrace your role as an initiator.
Related: 28 Things to Do with a Mom Friend
Accept Their Form of Reciprocation
Let me share one last thought. When you invite someone over, they have a choice. They can choose to say yes or they can choose to say no.
When they choose to say yes, is that not a form of reciprocation?
Feel good that someone likes you enough to say yes to coming into your home and sharing a meal with you. They see value in taking time out of their busy lives to spend an evening with you. You toss the ball in their court by inviting them over for dinner, and they return it to you by accepting to come.
Accept their form of reciprocation — it’s valuable, too.
When it comes to inviting again and again with no reciprocation, I hope you can remember these 4 things you can do to reframe how you’re feeling. Choose to tell yourself a different story. Give up your expectations. Embrace being an initiator. And accept their form of reciprocation.
You might just find that it changes your heart.
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