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Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Mom Refuses to Come to my Wedding If I Make My Stepmom a Bridesmaid”

I’m getting married in a year, and I have already picked out my bridesmaids. I wanted to choose people who are in my life, whom I’m close to and talk to regularly. So I chose my two sisters, a close friend, and my stepmom, “Marie.” I see Marie more like a third sister than a mom. We’re not that far apart in age. I chose her because she’s been in my life for a long time, I talk to her on a regular basis, and we’ve become closer since my father passed a year ago. My mother is really upset that Marie is going to be my bridesmaid. She says it has to be my cousins, but I haven’t talked to my cousins in years.

I tried to explain to my mom my rationale for choosing bridesmaids and that, as the mother-of-bride, her role is a lot bigger role than a bridesmaid. I don’t understand why she dislikes Marie so much. She and my dad were over long before he met Marie. My mom also says she won’t be coming to the wedding if Marie is my bridesmaid, which I find really immature of her. It turned into a huge argument and she began to cry. Also, since my father is not here to walk me down the aisle, I wanted my brother, who is 11, to do so. My mom says it would look ridiculous for him to do it.

Since my fiancé and I are the ones paying for everything, I feel like we can chose whomever we want and not care about what others think. Am I wrong for having my stepmom be one of my bridesmaids? And should I care what others think of my brother giving me away? Am I doing something wrong here? — Annoyed and Upset Bride-to-Be

You’re right that your mom is being really immature. She’s making your wedding about her and, worse, stealing the joy you should be feeling as you anticipate one of the most meaningful milestones of your life. It only adds insult to injury that she’s doing this on the heels of your father’s death, and criticizing how you choose to fill a role that otherwise would have even reserved for him. It’s cruel – unfathomably so, really – and I’m sorry you’re dealing with this.

As counterintuitive as it may feel, there is a silver living in being treated like garbage by someone you love and care about: It liberates you from worrying too much about their feelings. Your mother has abandoned your emotional needs – at a time when they are likely most acute – and so you are free to move her emotional needs way, way down on your list of priorities. Having your stepmom in your wedding bothers her? Oh, well! She thinks it’s “ridiculous” that you would have your younger brother give you away? Too bad! She is threatening not to come to your wedding? Ok, then.

You cannot control someone else’s behavior; you can only control your response to that behavior, and I urge you to respond in a way that requires the least amount of your precious energy. Truly, an “Ok, we’ll miss you then” is more than adequate. Don’t engage in an argument. She’s baiting you to divert the energy you’re spending on wedding-planning, and even grieving your father, and investing it in her instead because she’s an emotional vampire (or, at least acting like one in this scenario). Don’t take the bait. Keep your energy. Don’t let her steal it OR your joy. As painful as it is not to have your mother’s support during this time in your life – and the ramifications this means for your relationship with her going forward, focus instead on the support and the people who are there for you (the very people you’re honoring with roles in your wedding).

As for what people will think, they’ll probably think you’re a beautiful bride, that your wedding is full of light, that you are beaming with the support of your loved ones and glowing in the love you’re celebrating with your spouse-to-be. And if there’s anyone who thinks otherwise? Oh, well! Like your mom’s little temper tantrum about your wedding party, it’s not worth your energy worrying about.
 

I’ve been married for 40 years. In our sixth year I had a short — one time only – affair which produced a child. My wife and I split for a year, and each of us saw someone else. We got back together, and one year later my wife had our daughter. A year after that she had a three-weekend affair, never telling me there was a problem. We stayed together. Now years later our daughter wants to contact the child from my affair.

This brought up problems with my wife, so I told her we needed to air everything out. I told her all my history, and when she started telling hers, the lies started coming out. When we were dating, she told me she had been intimate with her first boyfriend and the person she was with when we met. Then after I was out of town for two months, she had been with one other person because she thought I was not coming back. Now in the present, as we’re trying to clear the air, she denies that she ever told me she slept with the guy she was seeing when I met her and was never with anyone while I was out of town early in our courtship.

These are not statements I made up. Why would she lie about this? Well, I just gave up and accepted what she said and dropped the subject. Also, she indicated that she never slept with the person she was dating for our year apart. — Husband of a Liar

 
I’m not sure what your question is here—-Why is your wife lying? What do the lies mean? Is your 40-year marriage doomed?—-but the question that matters the most and the one I’m most interested in addressing is how to handle your daughter’s wanting to contact the child from your affair. First, does that child know about you? Do you have a relationship when them? A way to contact them? If so, the first step would be to share that contact info with your daughter, give her your blessing to reach out, and tell her you’re there to support her through this process. She may want you to be very involved – perhaps even being the one to reach out to her sibling first – or she may want to pursue this completely on her own. Whatever she chooses – this is HER path and one you have to support in whatever way she needs from you.

As for you and your wife, it sounds like some couples counseling is long overdue. I don’t necessarily see your issues as insurmountable, but clearly you need some help wading through what has been decades of at least occasional dishonesty and betrayal and figuring out how best to move forward. Good luck!

***************
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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.

12 comments… add one
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    Guy Friday March 14, 2022, 7:57 am

    LW1, I just want to be the first to affirmatively say this out loud to you: I think the idea of your brother walking you down the aisle is AWESOME, and I think it’s going to mean the world to him that you’re asking him. When my dad — who was giving me the same kind of crap at my wedding that your mom is giving you at yours — decided to go ride a scooter without a helmet and crack some ribs a month before my wedding and then use that as an excuse not to come, my grandparents (his parents) stepped up and became the de facto “hosts” for the groom’s side. The thrill I got asking them to walk me down the aisle, and the pictures of my grandparents absolutely beaming with pride that the photographer got, made it unforgettable for me, and, frankly, it ended up being better than having my dad there anyway.

    Wendy’s right. This is your life, and your decision. You considered her input and declined to follow it. If she is really so petty as to miss one of the most important moments of your life because she can’t get past that it doesn’t match what SHE envisioned, that’s on her, not on you, and you shouldn’t look at it any differently than if one of your friends had opinions just because she’s a blood relation.

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  • H March 14, 2022, 8:34 am

    LW1, I hear you. I am getting married next month, and my partner and I are paying for the wedding, and my mother similarly started announcing what roles I should be giving people, who I should be inviting, and what she would be doing.

    I gently reminded her it was my big day and that I felt she was more focused on her feelings and wants than mine. She’s behaved much better since then.

    How lovely you have such a close relationship with your stepmum and what a gorgeous idea to walk down the aisle with your brother! Keep doing what feels right for you – you sound like you have good instincts – and have a wonderful day.

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  • Bondgirl March 14, 2022, 8:42 am

    My MIL also tried pulling the “if these people are invited then I’m not coming” card. My husband called her bluff and it was quickly a non-issue. And ironically I think those were the guests she ended up spending the most time with….it’s your big day and you get to call ALL the shots. Especially since you are footing the entire bill. I agree with Wendy’s advice; your mother clearly is is disregarding your feelings, so feel free to disregard hers in return.

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  • MPS March 14, 2022, 11:02 am

    LW #1 I just want to say that having your little brother walk you down the aisle is so special and lovely and love that for you!!! Please don’t let your mother convince you otherwise. Have the most wonderful wedding!

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    Phoebe March 14, 2022, 11:49 am

    The only answer to someone threatening not to come to a wedding is “Okay, thanks for letting me know.”

    And have whomever you want in your wedding party. I had my grandmother as my matron of honor and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life.

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  • LisforLeslie March 14, 2022, 1:37 pm

    Having your younger brother walk you down the aisle is adorable. It’s less about transferring you to your new family and more about giving him an important part in the day and making it clear that your family, and by extension his family, just got bigger.

    As for your mom -I’m sure she never expected you to like your stepmother let alone enough to make her a bridesmaid. That’s on your mom. So wish her well, “I want you both there and I’m not going to play this game. We’ll be sad if you don’t come but it’s your choice to make. “

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  • Brise March 14, 2022, 10:13 pm

    I differ here. I would never recommend to convey to people you love the opposite message of what you really feel and think. I find Wendy’s suggestion (“OK, then”) insensitive . But I love my mom, and she didn’t interfere like this with my wedding plans, and doesn’t in my life in general. Actually, I can easily understand that your mom finds your plan challenging. She was probably very hurt by her divorce and still struggles with your father having had an other spouse and family. Frankly, I find it strange to invite your stepmom as a bridesmaid, I would never do that. I would want both my mom and stepmom to be symmetrical. I would be « team mom » anyway – but I would resent being antagonized between my mom and my stepmom, especially if I like my stepmom. You plan your wedding as it matters to you. Parents who divorce, have to work on themselves and come to terms with their hurt, in order not to unload it on their children. Clearly, your mom didn’t expect your stepmom and brother (I assume he is your father’s and stepmom’s son, right?) to play such an important role in your wedding, she is jealous, probably challenged by your close bond with your stepmom, she feels sidelined. She considers really to opt out to protect her feelings (I don’t think that she wants mainly to be manipulative, let’s give her the benefit of the doubt). Nevertheless, she has to let you organise your big day as you want, to accept it and she is wrong about your brother’s role. It is not ridiculous. It is beautiful and touching.
    I would handle the situation very differently:
    1. Acknowledge your mom’s feeling would go a long way. Have an openhearted conversation with her, where you empathize with her without making changes in your plans. Tell her you can understand her being hurt and challenged, you didn’t go through the same life experiences as her, and you never intended to make her unhappy. You want to honor your father. She is much more likely to accept it if you phrase it like this.
    2. You love her, she will always be your mom and you want her to be at your wedding, it matters to you. Hug her?
    3. It would be easier for both of you if she focuses less on the roles other people will play, and more on the role that she will play.
    4. You would like to honor her with a beautiful role and discuss with her about it. What could it be? Could she make a talk (in lieu of the bride’s father talk)? Or whatever will suit both you and her.
    5. So you set a boundary where she remains in her lane, you set her in a positive note (her negativity has to stop), you reassure her on her insecurity, and you regain agency in your wedding’s plan.
    I am sure you will be able to sort out the situation, you seem very affectionate. Congratulations on your wedding!

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    • andameda March 15, 2022, 5:19 am

      I agree with you 100%. I think a mature discussion about this issue is more than an “okay, then, I guess you’re not coming to the wedding”. These people are not in our lives for ever, we should be able to be empathetic towards them, at least trying to understand where they are coming from, their hurt and their insecurities. I’m not saying to bend to their will, but an adult discussion about these things is more than welcome… I hope LW1 will read your comment too and incorporate at least some of it into her discussion with her mother.

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      Guy Friday March 15, 2022, 8:06 am

      I took Wendy’s “Ok then” comment more to mean “I’m sorry that that’s how you feel, but if you feel that is what you have to do in light of the choices I’ve made then I won’t stop you.” One would hope sincerely that this was a bluff and Mom would never miss something as important as her daughter’s wedding simply because she disagreed with the organization of it, but suggesting she do anything but call her bluff seems unfair a burden to put on the LW. I mean, it’s just cruel to say that you won’t come to your daughter’s wedding; you’re not doing anything there but trying to hurt her.

      Of course she should try to talk to her mom, and of course she shouldn’t be blunt or mean in response, but I don’t think it means she has to give in is all I’m saying.

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    • GJAMESM March 16, 2022, 12:25 am

      No. The mother is an absolute monster who deserves nothing you are suggesting. Stick to Wendy’s advice.

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      Phoebe March 16, 2022, 9:13 am

      She’s already there, though. She has really tried discussing and explaining and having conversations.

      The mom seems to be trying to control things, both by making it about herself and by telling the LW who should be in the wedding. Saying something will look ridiculous? That’s not saying her feelings are hurt, that’s just saying she wants what she wants, and she’s willing to be manipulative to get it.

      Saying she won’t come to the wedding if she doesn’t get what she wants is 100% putting her own wants above those of her daughter. You don’t just give in and reward weepy tantrums.

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