Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Mother-in-Law Forced My Husband to Attend a Wedding Without Me”

I am hoping to revisit the topic from “From the Mailbag: “It’s Wrong to Go to a Wedding Without Your Significant Other.” My situation brings a unique twist to the topic and I am desperate for non-biased advice.

My husband, James, and I separated in 2017 for about seven months and he even filed for divorce, but we decided to reconcile and have been together ever since (about 14 months). We are not living together but we are a couple, and both of our immediate families know that we are together and working through our problems. (I am very close with my entire family and he has continued to be a part of our family life — he doesn’t really speak to his family except for his mom and dad.) Although my family has been extremely supportive, his mom has made it clear to me that she doesn’t want us together. (I hurt her son deeply and he told her everything which I understand, but I’ve also been working all year to reconcile with her as well.)

Long story short, he still lives back at his parents’ house and his mom is very controlling. She opens his mail, makes decisions for him without telling him, etc., so I was not terribly surprised last Thursday when he sent a text that his cousin’s wedding was that coming weekend and I clearly wasn’t invited. I was at the house a few nights earlier and nothing was said about it. His mom simply told him Thursday night that they were leaving the next day after work for his cousin’s wedding (about a three-hour to four-hour drive away). I don’t know who I am mad at more: her for not telling her sister and niece to invite me or James for not standing up to his mom for me.

I expressed how upset I was about this to him multiple times and in multiple ways. The way I see it, if I am not welcome there, how could he disregard my feelings and go anyway just to make his mom happy? I would never go somewhere he is not welcome and, furthermore, would never allow my family to exclude him from anything!

Do you still think it was OK to leave the other half at home or am I standing on solid ground being this upset (to the point where I am ready to walk away after this – it feels like my breaking point)? I accept that James’ mom will never feel the same way about me again, but she shouldn’t deliberately come between us and he definitely shouldn’t allow it! How do I stay with someone who won’t put me first ahead of his mom? How do I have children with a man who won’t stick up for me? — Ready to Walk Away

I get your frustration and your hurt feelings, but if this is truly your breaking point, then that must mean there have been a series of other small and big things in your relationship that have piled up that you’ve either ignored or have not addressed successfully. And if that is true, then maybe after 14 months of “working it out,” during which time your husband has remained at his parents’ home living with his meddling and controlling mother, you two are either not very committed to working it out, or you’ve given it a good go but you simply are not a match, or you need help to work through the issues. If it’s the latter, have you sought help? Are you in marriage counseling together? Because that seems an obvious choice for two people who were on the brink of divorce but decided to try to reconcile.

Fourteen months is long enough to figure out whether or not you’re committed to working it out and whether the problem is that you simply aren’t a good match. If you aren’t, then it’s time to move on. It’s time to move on if your husband’s going to a family wedding that you weren’t invited to is enough to genuinely make you consider walking away from your marriage for good. If that was just something you thought and said while the hurt was fresh and you since feel that that might be an overreaction, I’d suggest, again, seeking the guidance of a therapist if you haven’t yet, with specific focus on improving your communication with your husband, setting boundaries with family, and moving your husband out of his parents’ home (even if that means his getting his own place if you aren’t ready to live together again yet).

If you stand by your statement that your husband’s attendance at his cousin’s wedding is your breaking point, I’d advise you to look for any other symbols of your husband’s feelings and level of commitment to you rather than just that one thing. Do your husband’s actions in regards to you make you feel loved and valued, or are you more often feeling disappointed and under-appreciated? No one is perfect; no relationship is going to be without some issues. But if you feel great in your relationships like 80% of the time, you’re doing pretty well. If this wedding thing falls in the 15-20% of the time you don’t feel great, I’d let it go for the sake of your marriage. You have to pick your battles, and this just seems like a petty hill to die on. But if it’s the breaking point in a marriage that leaves you feeling bad as much or more than you feel good, and after 14 months of trying that still hasn’t changed, then it probably is time to throw in the towel and call it a day on a marriage that simply doesn’t work.

Two years ago my best friend got involved with a guy, “Craig,” who used to work at the same company as she did. He walked out of his job and moved in with a woman not far from where we live. My friend and I share a house with her daughter. While Craig was living with his girlfriend, he was chatting to my friend via messenger. They started going on dates while he was still with the other woman. Three weeks into the affair, Craig’s girlfriend threw him out. Since he had no place to go, my friend said he could stay in his car in front of our house. My friend’s daughter doesn’t like him and wouldn’t allow him to sleep inside. But after a couple months my friend moved him into the garage without our knowledge, and this is how things remain.

My concern is that they are very clingy and obsessed with each other. She quit her job to start a business with him. They don’t go out or do anything without each other. I don’t think he has any friends. Our friendship isn’t the same; we haven’t done anything alone together as friends. I gave up on our friendship. I know it will never be the same. Her friendship with her daughter has changed. Craig has been married three times before and he is changing her into someone I don’t know or like. She has gained a lot of weight, she complained to me that they are not intimate, and a few mutual friends of ours (who have not met Craig) asked me if she’s getting abused. They see the change in her. Is this healthy? — Worried About My Best Friend

 
No, it’s not healthy, but what’s even less healthy is that you continue living with your friend (and her daughter and Craig). It’s time for you to get some distance from this whole situation. Find a new place to live, and tell your friend that you’re moving out because you no longer feel the living environment at her place is healthy for you. Tell her you love her and care about her and miss the friendship you used to enjoy and that you hope you can begin making time for each other one-on-one, like before, and that she can still lean on you if she needs anything. And then focus your energy on… well, on yourself. Make some new friends, do some dating if you aren’t already, foster some hobbies. I get the feeling that, in the past two years of living in the middle of this reality show, you’ve lost sight of YOU, and you desperately need to find that again.

***************

Follow along on Facebook, and Instagram.

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

17 comments… add one
  • Lucidity

    Lucidity November 16, 2018, 9:51 am

    I’m surprised LW1 expected her MIL to force her sister and niece to invite her to the niece’s wedding. Demanding invitations to weddings usually doesn’t go over well. I wonder if the guestlist was set while the couple was separated or during the early stages of reconciliation. Since LW states her husband has no communication with his family other than his parents, I wouldn’t be surprised if the niece and her fiance had no idea the couple was even back together, or had heard rumors that the reconciliation was shaky and didn’t know if they’d still be together by the time of the wedding. Either way, the guestlist was up to the engaged couple, not LW’s MIL.

    This really doesn’t seem like the enormous slight that LW makes it out to be, and I think Wendy has really hit the nail on the head.

    Reply Link
    • avatar

      JD November 16, 2018, 9:56 am

      I thought the same. I also can’t stand people who are horribly offended by not being invited to something without their spouse. I get that it’s the norm but people seriously lose their minds over this stuff and will cut off friendships and family relationships. While I’m sitting here praying I don’t get roped into going to my husbands grandmothers for Xmas. Agree with Wendy also, if you haven’t figured this out in almost a year and a half then you have your answer.

      Reply Link
      • avatar

        Bcamber November 19, 2018, 12:36 pm

        It’s super rude to invite one half of a married couple to a wedding.

        That being said, there is way more going on here.

        Link
      • avatar

        JD November 19, 2018, 12:43 pm

        Uh ya but they aren’t together.

        Link
  • avatar

    anonymousse November 16, 2018, 9:57 am

    LW1- you’ve been living apart for over a year and things don’t sound like they are getting better. Why would anyone think to invite you?

    As we so often point out, you don’t have a MIL problem, you have a husband problem.

    Reply Link
  • bittergaymark

    Bittergaymark November 16, 2018, 10:01 am

    LW1). Eh, I dunno. Is it REALLY that big a slight to not invite the other half of a unhappily married / separated couple to a wedding?
    .
    I say — no.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    Northern Star November 16, 2018, 10:22 am

    LW 1, I can’t see any reason for the bride and groom to invite the kinda-wife of their distant cousin to their wedding. They probably barely wanted to invite your husband, because they don’t know him. Your relationship status is ill-defined, and guess what: You’re separated since your husband is living with his parents. Whatever you did to “deeply hurt” him means some people (like your MIL) will not get over it. Yay for you that your family is supportive. You didn’t mention that he hurt you, so I guess there’s no reason for them NOT to be supportive.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    LisforLeslie November 16, 2018, 10:48 am

    Hell you don’t even know if HE was actually invited. From the description she told him they were going to a wedding. Who the hell knows if the cousin sent an invite to him?

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    ron November 16, 2018, 11:49 am

    LW #1
    You seem like a person who seeks out quarrels and reasons to be pissed at someone. You write so melodramatically, but with zip when it comes to actual facts which might cause you to be so angry and distraught. You weren’t ‘left at home’ by your husband so that he could please his mother. You haven’t live with your husband for 21 months, so he is probably in your home practically not at all. It’s your husband’s cousin’s wedding — not someone you’re close to. And he’s driving his mother to the wedding. Likely she knows she can’t stand to be in the same car with you for 3 hours each way. I know I couldn’t, and I’ve just had the limited exposure of reading your letter.

    I agree with Wendy’s response. You are upset about next to nothing and if you and your ‘husband’ haven’t been able to get your shit back together in 21 months, then a logical person would just throw in the towel and get divorced. You mention no children to stay together for. It sounds like you and he don’t get along, but are weirdly too co-dependent to fully sever the legal link. Neither of you is behaving like a capable adult.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    csp November 16, 2018, 12:00 pm

    LW1 – If you guys were back living together, it would be different. But you aren’t. I don’t think this is the issue. You want your relationship to be validated by his parents. In order to do that, he needs to move back in. Look, separations hurt everyone and healing takes time. Just because you have moved on, doesn’t mean everyone can so quickly. I had a terrible start with my mother in law. Now, we are 12 years into our marriage and have a family and things just got better over time. It took her time to realize that I was worthy of her son and it was by her seeing how consistently I treated him well. It wasn’t one thing but just the accumulation of years or respect.

    Reply Link
  • Pheebers

    Phoebe November 16, 2018, 12:13 pm

    I do think it’s pretty bad not to invite a spouse, but then they’re not acting as if they’re married so I can understand why it happened. My husband and I do social things without each other all of the time, and that’s the way it should be, but family weddings? Spouses get an invitation, even if they can’t go for travel/childcare/work/whatever reasons.

    That marriage is over though. Controlling mother, husband not standing up for wife, not living together still… MOA.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    brise November 16, 2018, 12:22 pm

    LW1: you are pretty far of being in a marriage where it makes sense to imagine having children. If the family know you are trying desperately to work on your couple since months, still living separately, they probably think it is best not to invite you at their wedding and they don’t want the drama.
    Personally, I don’t believe in second rounds after a break-up. But if you want to give a real second chance to your marriage, don’t enroll the family. Don’t care about what his mother thinks of you. Don’t get in a competition with her.
    Is your husband always telling her everything about your marriage, or did it occur when you broke up, when he filed for divorce? In a divorce situation, it is pretty normal to turn to your parents in order to vent your feelings and seek confort. It usually means that the solidarity in the couple is dead.
    So you have a long way to go if you want to repair it.
    This wedding thing is totally irrelevant here. Why would you want to go to a wedding of a cousin you don’t say you know, with a MIL you dislike, 3-4 hours away, when you have so much to worry about already. You dodged a bullet here. Focus on the real issues.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    london November 16, 2018, 2:30 pm

    #1LW, This is a big over reaction. However I am guessing this has become the “last straw”-meaning though it really does not sound that bad to not be invited-you are likely counting it among many grievances and you have finally “had it”.
    Not sure what caused the near divorce (affair on your part?) but this marriage does not sound viable to me. Not good for either of you,maybe the civorce idea was a good one…

    Reply Link
  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom November 16, 2018, 2:40 pm

    LW1 Neither your husband or his mom have control of his cousin’s wedding guest list. I wouldn’t blame anyone in his family if they didn’t want the drama of an off again, on again, did something terrible to him relationship where you aren’t back together enough to be living together. Why would they want to invite that type of drama to their wedding? Their wedding doesn’t exist to validate your marriage. Neither does their guest list. It’s also much harder for him to walk into his family event with you than it is for you to walk him into your family event. He didn’t do something terrible to you so you family still likes him and is surprised and pleased he would think about getting back together with you. His family will all know what you did to him and be appalled to see him walking in with you after the way you treated him. There are going to be times when he isn’t up to that. He won’t be up to having the entire family whispering about why he is back with you and why he is bringing you to their event. If you treated him terribly you humiliated and his entire family knows it. Having you walk in with him is a reminder to all of them of who you are and what you did and that would ruin his evening and it would probably ruin yours too.

    You are expecting him to have your back after you stabbed him in the back. The two of you aren’t getting very far when it comes to reconciliation. You need to try counseling if you haven’t. See what it will take to rebuild your relationship and rebuild trust. After doing something terrible to someone it will likely take years to rebuild trust and it may never happen. Sometimes relationships can’t be saved because too much damage was done and there is no remaining foundation to salvage the relationship. You would never go somewhere where he isn’t welcome but you were certainly willing to severely harm him. Keep that in mind when he seems distant. A separated couple that says they are back together but remains separated appears to be a separated couple regardless of what they claim.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    dinoceros November 16, 2018, 7:12 pm

    LW1: I think this particular situation is not really worth all the energy. Some people limit their guest lists more than others. It’s not reasonable to expect people to demand that you were invited. Based on your description, he barely interacts with this cousin … why is it so important to be at the wedding?

    I think you’re in denial that your relationship is on its last leg and you’re focusing your anger on something silly to avoid really looking at what’s going on. If you’re back together, why are you living separately? I mean, you’re supposed to be a married couple, right? I think that there’s just too much that’s happened. He doesn’t seem to be all that into the marriage anymore. You are at the point where you just get super angry over silly things. Is there any truly worth salvaging at this point?

    LW2: Are you asking for advice? Sure, their relationship sounds bad, but you said you aren’t even really friends with her anymore. What’s the point of polling internet strangers to find out if it’s healthy or not? You need to work on moving out.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    Fyodor November 17, 2018, 8:31 am

    I think that it’s pretty clear that for LW1 this isn’t about the wedding. She’s taking it as a signpost for whether her husband still thinks of them as a couple. That issue, the state of their marriage, and whether they’ll stay together, is what needs to be hit directly. See a counselor, and figure out whether you are going to stay married. Fish or cut bait.

    Reply Link
  • bittergaymark

    Bittergaymark November 19, 2018, 1:36 pm

    Your husband could also be his mom’s plus one.

    Reply Link

Leave a Comment