When I found out my parents had gotten divorced I thought, “Good she won’t be invited to my wedding.” I may sound bitter and I am. I lost out on a childhood and a loving mother. But I have turned into a wonderful person because of these hardships. That is why making the decision to invite or not to invite my mother is difficult. It is compounded by many family members giving advice on the issue. Everyone says invite her because I’m her first born, even though none of them have a relationship with her. They are worried because of her deteriorating mental condition due to a fatal disease and are concerned that she may commit suicide if not invited. Also, they believe I will regret not inviting her. My aunt has even offered to “babysit” her to make sure I am not caused any undue stress, letting my mother travel with them and stay with them since the wedding is far away from my hometown, where my mother lives.
All I want is a drama-free wedding. I don’t want to make any rash decisions. I know I will be happier if I don’t invite her and I know I wouldn’t regret it. But if she were to commit suicide because of not being invited, it would haunt me, even though her mental health is not my responsibility. What should I do? — Not My Mother’s Keeper
First of all, congratulations on your engagement, and good for you for rising from the ashes of your abusive childhood to become a wonderful person with what sounds like a happy life. I’m sure a big part of where you are today is due to making wise decisions that support your emotional and spiritual well-being (like seeking therapy to help deal with childhood traumas). Your wedding and the decisions you make regarding it should be handled no differently than the decisions you’ve made in the last ten years since you left your abusive home. Do what is best for your emotional and spiritual well-being.
You’ve already said that you don’t want your mother at your wedding and that you know you wouldn’t miss her presence. And why would you? You have no relationship with her. The legacy she’s left in your memory is that of an unkind and unloving mother who made your childhood hell. You already know better than to let her into your present and let her wreak havoc on the stability and happiness you’ve found. And it doesn’t sound from your letter that you have any reason to believe she’s a changed woman now and that, even if she were, you would welcome the new version of her into your life. It sounds like you’ve made peace as best you can with the fact that you don’t really have a mother, and while I can’t imagine how sad that’s been for you over the years, I have a harder time imagining how devastated you would be if the time you decide to give her one more chance is on your wedding day and she found a way to fuck that up too. Any maybe her way of screwing it up would be to simply be there because her presence alone would be enough to steal some of the light from what should be one of your brightest days.
You deserve a bright, drama-free wedding day. And you deserve the peace of mind that whatever demons your mother is fighting have nothing to do with you. That is, you are not responsible for any of them. And you are not responsible for saving her from her demise, whether that be from mental or physical or spiritual deterioration. What you are responsible for — and what you’ve proven you are more than capable of handling — is saving yourself. You can’t save your mother from her demons, but you can save yourself from them.
I don’t know where you are in the scope of forgiving your mother for the terrible things she’s done to you. But if there’s a part of you that acknowledges that there’s a part of her that isn’t evil, however small that part may be, it might help you to focus on that. If you can, imagine that that small part of her that isn’t broken or demented is a representation of her love for you. And if you feel like you need more closure before she dies — whenever that might be — let that glimmer of humanity you imagine in her be your guide. Send a card maybe, and some pictures of you and your new husband. But don’t invite her to your wedding. And don’t let well-meaning, but mis-guided family members guilt you into it either.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.