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White Lies I Tell Myself And Others


White Lies I Tell Myself And Others | A Practical Weddingby Sarah

I don’t remember who taught me how to ride a bike, but I’m pretty sure it was Roger, the nice guy whose wife served on the condo association board with my mom. I don’t remember if my dad was there for my dance recitals, or to send me off to prom. He might have been. I do remember how he came to visit me in college, how he put up with my hangovers and my talking too loudly in restaurants where they served me wine without an ID, because I’m sure they thought I was his mistress or much younger girlfriend. I went along then because I know he’s old, and I told myself he regrets some of the things he did and some of the things he wasn’t there for. And because he was paying the tuition, fulfilling some legal agreement written before I had teeth.

I’ve spent years play-acting, willing myself a few hours at a time to be the type of person who wouldn’t even think the things I desperately want the courage to say. It’s not that I don’t want to see him. But it’s long been something I could take or leave.

When I was younger, I was naive enough to tell him once, to say that his visits just meant stopping the regular programming of my life, and what did I get out of it besides a fancy dinner where I had to be on my best behavior for this strange man who criticized my consumption of carbohydrates. “The bread, that’s your problem,” he told me at the fancy restaurant, ten years old and a curvy early bloomer. Why exactly should I care if that man came back the next month?

The one time we really fought, I broke down because he pushed his paternity on me. He asked me to change my last name from my mother’s to his the weekend I graduated from college. It felt like a betrayal of the ground rules, my assumptions that we were both coming at this relationship like two grown-ups, equals, friends. These days, I tell myself I see him because I like doing nice things for people, making other people happy. Being in my life makes him happy. It’s the same reason I hold doors for moms with strollers and smile at old ladies in fancy hats as we pass on the sidewalk on Sunday. I want people to be happy. Everything is just easier when everyone is happy. I thought for a long time I was continuing these visits because it’s healthy to “have a relationship with your father.” But we don’t have a relationship. I am still, always, on my best behavior in the fancy restaurant with a stranger.

I tell myself I forgive him for all that. People are weak. Men who are used to getting everything they want are especially weak, and that’s why they sleep with their secretaries, and try to hide and forget about the child that comes from that affair, and then try to claim her later, after she’s proven her worth with cute smiles and good grades. But he wanted me in his life. And I tell myself that’s worth something.

Now, I’m engaged. He’s been amazing with my boyfriend these last five years. We go on trips with him and his new wife. My boyfriend and I plan them, including buffer times for naps and no long walks. He’s agreed to help us pay for the wedding. I asked because we want to have a big party with bonfires and lots of time for the friends and family coming from across the country, and because my mom said to see what he would give us.

We’d be planning a different wedding without his money, and I tell myself if we had to, we would do it and be happy. But we’re still discovering what strings are attached to it. I agreed to invite his family, and his fraternity brother, people I’ve met twice and likely will never see again. But in trying to make sure he felt included, I asked what he was most worried about, and what he was most excited for. He said he was most excited to walk “his baby girl” down the aisle. So now I have to tell him that I don’t want to be walked down the aisle by him—by anyone—because I am a modern woman who doesn’t need to be given away.

The truth is, I would love to have a father walk with me, with my mother on my other arm, presenting a united front as we go, together as a family, toward my future. I would love to have them give me a kiss on my cheek as they let me go to build my baby family. But that’s not the life I have. Besides knowing that it would break my mother’s heart to see it happen, it feels wrong to imagine my father by my side as I walk into the next stage of my life. It feels weird. That’s not his place. It’s a place for no one.

I came to terms with that at the father-daughter fifth-grade square dance. My uncle couldn’t fill that space that night, and I learned to accept that “daddy” was a role in my life that will always be empty. I’ve walked to this point in my life without a father, and I tell myself I want to walk into the next stage of my life without one.

If only we were more honest with each from the start, maybe I wouldn’t be so scared to tell him so.

Photo by APW Sponsor Emily Takes Photos

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  • http://specialness.net Janet

    I have been right there with you and I really feel for you. I did not want my Dad to walk me down the aisle. I knew this from the outset. I did not want him to arrive with me, to walk me down the aisle, to give me away. This felt like a very special privalige that should be reserved for someone who has truly experienced your life with you and been there for you in every possible way.

    Our situation is different in that my Dad contributed nothing to our wedding, so I didn’t feel like anything was owed to him in that respect, but I must say that the privalige of walking someone down the aisle is not something that you are ever owed. It is an honor that is earnt through the respect and support shown to that person, not the money thrown at that person.

    I had wanted my Mum to walk me down the aisle, but I didn’t want it hard enough to hurt my Dads feelings in the process. For me is was simpler to not have anyone do it, as this felt like less of an “insult” – for want of a better word – to my Dad than having him watch someone else fulfil “his job”. In our case, my husband and I already had a daughter together, and so the three of us entered together and walked down the aisle together. Had we not already had our daughter, I think I’d still have opted to walk in with him, approaching our marriage as a team, rather than come in alone – but I was a bit anxious about the whole walk in general.

    I hope that whatever solution you choose, it is the right one for you, and you can go forward feeling confident about your choice. Telling your Dad will be hard, I was shaking and sweating and told him over the phone, but in the end I am certain it will pale into insignificance. If you do something you don’t feel comfortable with for a reason you aren’t happy about.. then that will be the choice you are more likely to remember.

  • Amy March

    Have you considered walking down the aisle with your fiancé? It might be a face saving way for your father to not participate without it feeling like a big public statement against him (sounds like that might be part of his concern).

    • This Sarah

      Actually, he read this post before bed last night, and said he’d love to do that, if that’s what I want. We’re definitely thinking about it, and I think you put the idea in his head! So thanks!

      • http://inacertainfashion.blogspot.com Kate

        I went to a wedding a few years ago where the couple did the coolest thing (I thought, anyway!) – at first it was relatively simple – the groom stood at the front and the bridesmaids and groomsmen started coming down the aisle. But instead of a bouquet, each maid carried a single sunflower (this being a Kansas wedding and all!) and when she reached the front, each one handed the groom her flower. By the end, he was holding 5 or 6 flowers. He tied them with a big black ribbon, and then he walked back down the aisle to where his bride was now standing, handed her the bouquet, and they walked back up to the front together.

        It was simply lovely.

        • Rachel

          Gosh this article was hard to read because it was so relatable, but omg that alternative aisle walk just gave me such a feeling of loveliness. My biggest anxiety about wedding planning has been, hands down, the aisle walk. My biological dad, I call him, left my mom, my brother and I for a waitress when I was two. He had three kids with said waitress, so if I want to have a relationship with my sisters, I have to see him. He hasn’t remembered my birthday in the last ten years, regularly tells me “being pretty isn’t everything” and is generally drunk all day. My step dad has been truly there for everything, so if anyone should walk me it should be him. “But he’s your father! “Is something I’ve heard far too often. That’s such a classy and symbolic way to forgo the whole choosing between fathers dilemma and assert my independence at the same. Thank you!

    • Pam in the Valley

      Why does she need to worry about saving his face? Her wedding IS NOT about her dad. Why do you all try make it that way?

  • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.ca/ Sheryl

    “I learned to accept that “daddy” was a role in my life that will always be empty”

    That’s a hard lesson. It’s hard when, on the surface, you have someone who is supposed to fill that role, who at least fits the biological requirements, and who never stepped up to the challenge.

    Good luck with the walking-down-the-aisle conversation. Telling someone something you know is going to disappoint them is always hard.

  • Nina

    Oh sigh, I feel this. I have never felt like my father is my dad. Being legally required to sleep on his floor every other weekend was not the same as being raised by him. He didn’t teach me how to ride a bike (and I still don’t know how) and he wasn’t there for the hard stuff. And I can’t forgive him for all the crap he put my mom and our family through. Twenty years after things fell apart, my mom is just now really recovering.

    I feel guilty for pushing him out because he wants to have a relationship with me but I feel absolutely nothing towards him but resentment. Still, you’re supposed to be nice to your father and send him fathers’ day cards and birthday cards and let him walk you down the aisle. My mother even said that it would be “one of the greatest joys in his life” to walk me down the aisle. It just feels fake to me. I’d rather walk with my mom, who worked 3 jobs so we could live in a nice neighborhood with good schools and have food on the table. Part of me still thinks I should just suck it up, not make waves, and let my father walk with me.

    Friends have suggested having both parents walk me down the aisle, but that feels wrong too. Having both of them would seem like we’re one happy family with my mom and father contributing equally. I would like to have my mom walk me down the aisle but I’m worried it would hurt my dad. As a grown woman, can I just walk all by myself?

    Sorry I have no advice, just sympathy.

    • js

      I think you should learn how to ride a bike, lady. Reclaim that part of your childhood for yourself! Sounds like a great activity to do with your fiancé, if you want to.

      • KC

        I totally agree! But would add: start learning somewhere easy, like a flat, empty parking lot, where you can work out the moving-forward part separately from the steering/braking part. :-)

        • H

          Really? I’m not the only one who can’t ride a bike out there?!

          • http://www.superfantastic.blogs.com Superfantastic

            I took a learn to ride a bike as an adult class in DC and there were about 30 of us there. I always thought it was just me too!

        • Kristen

          The only reason I learned to ride as a kid was because in the third grade, only myself and the 60+ nun teacher didn’t know how. I disliked the teacher so much, I spent the summer between 3rd & 4th grade teaching myself to ride so I wouldn’t be anything like her. In retrospect she was a great teacher. I still feel guilty for disliking her but I’m gladi got the push to learn on my own since no one else was interested in teaching me.

          • Nicole

            I am a kid of divorced parents who never learned to ride a bike, too! It’s weird to explain to people that your dad wasn’t around much and your mom was too busy. I did learn a little in college in a (flat) church parking lot, then recently tried a long and rainy bike ride all around Stanley Park in Vancouver – the equivalent of learning to swim by jumping into a pool. It’s not so bad and I felt very proud of myself afterwards!

    • Brenda

      “Still, you’re supposed to be nice to your father and send him fathers’ day cards and birthday cards and let him walk you down the aisle.”

      Yes, but he’s supposed to stick around in his kids’ lives and support them through their good times and bad, and it sounds like he didn’t. Whether you send him cards or let him walk you down the aisle is entirely up to you. You don’t owe him these things – he owed you something as a father which he didn’t provide. Lack of relationship with you is the consequence.

      I’m not saying you shouldn’t be nice, or send cards, or even have him walk you down the aisle if that’s what you decide to do, but if he hasn’t been there for you in your life, it’s up to you to decide if he gets to play the role at your wedding.

      I’d suggest walking in alone, or together with your fiance. These can be very powerful symbols of independence and commitment respectively, in the way that walking in with your mother, father or both is symbolic of family. These are all important, but you can choose what to emphasize.

      • Ashleyn

        “…he owed you something as a father which he didn’t provide. Lack of relationship with you is the consequence.”

        Thanks for this, it hits home in a big way.

        • Karyn

          Thank you so much for this. I’ve been trying for over 20 years to come to terms with my lack of a relationship with my own father who was absent for the vast majority of my life.

          Occasionally, he speaks with my mom and insists that he and I should have some kind of relationship. She’s spent a lot of time reminding him that he never really kindled one with me while I was younger and I think it’s weighing on him as he gets older.

          I have no interest in a relationship with a man who actively chose to not interact with me as I was growing up. A lot of people seem to feel it’s okay for them to tell me how wrong I am about him and how I’ll regret not having a relationship with him when he’s gone.

          Maybe they’re right, but I can’t help but wonder… how can I possibly miss someone I’ve never known?

    • http://teastrumpets.wordpress.com/ kyley

      I think one of the real struggles and also real joys of a wedding is all the decision making, in which you set out boundaries and decide what matters most to you. Sometimes this has to do with money (i.e. “We most want to support small businesses who are down with gay marriage” and seeking out only those vendors) and sometimes it’s about a general sense of what marriage means (“This is about celebrating our whole community, so we’re having a giant party, to honor all the people who made us who we are today!” or “This is about the love of two people, above all else, and so we want something intimate so that is central to our day”).

      The question you’re really forced to answer about your dad and the aisle is, “What does this man mean to me and what is our relationship?” And that is a hard question on the best of days. But your honest answer to that question is an extremely valid one, and you don’t have to squash that voice down in an effort to “keep the peace.” Your feelings are just as important as everyone else’s.

    • http://seasofgales.wordpress.com/ KH_Tas

      You can walk by yourself, and you don’t have to keep the peace on this (or any) day. Hugs, fistbumps and support

    • stephanie

      My husband and I walked halfway down the aisle apart, then met in the middle and walked the rest of the way together (it was a outdoor wedding). It was perfect and lovely. It is your choice. Find a way to do that works for you.

  • Sarah

    I feel for you. Nothing like a wedding to shine a spotlight on your relationship with your parents.

    It sounds like your relationship with your father has been full of expectations and disappointments all along and maybe you should think of your aisle walk as an extention of that. There’s a reason you asked him what he was looking forward to and what he was worried about — exactly to get an understanding of what he was expecting.

    It’s important to remember that his gift of money is one thing and your planning of the ceremony is another. He can’t buy a spot on your arm (or anywhere else). Perhaps he feels that it would be a redemptive moment for him, if he feels the same way about how well your relationship has been going recently. It might be a symbol for him that everything’s fine. But it’s not his decision. It’s yours. And the last thing you want at the beginning of your walk to a new family is regret. If you decide against it (it sounds like you already have) maybe there’s some other way he could feature in your wedding that would make him feel a part of it.

    Also, know that this issue comes up in families that are completely harmonious, regardless of who is providing the funds for the wedding. The father-daughter walk is as hard-wired into people’s wedding expectations (wedspectations?) as bouquets and tiered wedding cakes, but it’s no more necessary than any other tradition.

    Good luck with your decision and congratulations on beginning your new family!

    • This Sarah

      Thank you.

  • js

    I can’t tell you how much I needed this. I am, at this very moment, waiting for a call back from court regarding a stunt my ex tried to pull on his vacation time with my daughter. At only eleven, she is already in therapy due to his verbal abuse. Legally, he is not physically harming her, though we all know words leave far deeper scars, so there is little I can do. I advocate the best I can on her behalf and spend my time trying to undo the damage he’s done. All I can think, most of the time, is he’s ruining it. Ruining his chance to have a relationship with her by being carelessly and needlessly cruel. Already she has asked how much longer she has to keep seeing him. She is such a great kid with so much to give and he’s missing it. My heart aches for you, and my daughter. I’m not judging your situation or your letting him pay for the wedding. In my opinion, it’s the least he can do having never been there for you in any other way. But I am silently rooting for you to tell him to go jump off a bridge, for all the kids like mine who don’t yet have a voice.

    • Nina

      Being a great mom is the best thing you can do and it sounds like you already are. My mom is an extremely strong woman who I strive to emulate. Her example more than made up for my father’s failings. Just keep advocating for you daughter and reminding her how much you love her.

    • http://teastrumpets.wordpress.com/ kyley

      Just reading this, I can see how fiercely you love your daughter, and in that she has an amazing friend and advocate and mother for life. I actually have tears in my eyes over how much you clearly love her. And that is such a profound gift; you’re giving her the whole world when you love her like that.

  • phira

    I’m estranged from my dad, and while I did grow up in a household with both parents, I feel like I was raised by my mom. The “dad” concept that most people have is so different from mine, and vice versa, that I have a lot of trouble being around my friends’ fathers. I’m honestly grateful that our estrangement is so solid and well-established that there’s no chance he will even try to be involved in my wedding, either in paying for it or participating in it (or being invited), even though our estrangement cost me my relationship with my siblings.

    I am so sorry and sad on your behalf that to have the wedding you want, you have to make bargains with your dad. I hope that you can hold on and stand by your decision to walk down the aisle without him. You described him well, it seems, as a man who’s used to getting what he wants. I hope that he can see that in this case, there won’t be any satisfaction in getting what he wants. Either way, you have our support!

    • Ginny

      My dad left at 19 and I’ve been estranged from him since I was 21 (about 4 years now). While it hurts whenever I think about how I don’t have a dad to walk me down the aisle or to do a father daughter dance, I know that if I were to try and let him back in my life (again) it would cause even more pain. After all that I’ve been through to get to where I am today, I’m not willing to go down that road again. This post definitely helped as I continue down my long road of wedding planning, it reminded me that I’m not alone, and while I wouldn’t wish the pain of an absent parent on anyone, it is nice to know that there are more of us out there.

  • Marie

    I’m recently estranged from my dad (as in, last week), so this was pretty hard to read. I know “every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” but I think most of us share similarities, especially the urge to stay silent and pretend everything is ok.

    As we’ve all learned by now, weddings exaggerate reality. This meant I had to take a serious look at my father and our relationship. While I worked through all this, he sent some emotionally-devastating emails, which were the nail on the coffin. It’s been hard, but also freeing, to tell him what I actually think of him (that he’s an abusive, manipulative, egotistical man that I don’t want to know).

    This post really helped me appreciate how much better I am, after purposefully removing him from my life. I don’t grapple with nearly as much guilt or stress, and I know I did the right thing for myself. Sarah, I really hope you figure out what’s right for you. And I hope you find the aftermath peaceful, like I do.

    • Taylor

      holy cow – literally have been going through this exact same thing with my father the past year. and it is TRULY liberating to pull yourself away from someone so toxic and manipulative, to see the light and be OKAY with seeing the light and knowing you deserve to not have that energy in your life even if it hurts your heart. Best of luck in your new journey.. it gets easier with time. trust me.

  • AshleyMeredith

    Oh. When I read posts and comments like these, I feel guilty for having daddy issues. My dad was present, he and my mom are still contentedly and peacefully married, he checked all the (or at least all the important) boxes of being a “good dad.” And yet… I never felt loved, though Mom assures me he does. And I have known since I was at least 11 that I don’t love him. So I read these posts and I think, what right do I have to complain? But on the other hand, they validate that you feel what you feel and you can only do your best with that. Denying it, trying to bury it, don’t help.

    Two things really resonated: what Brenda said about “You don’t owe him these things – he owed you something as a father which he didn’t provide. Lack of relationship with you is the consequence.”

    And what Janet said: “If you do something you don’t feel comfortable with for a reason you aren’t happy about.. then that will be the choice you are more likely to remember.” This is SO TRUE. This is exactly x 1000. Sarah, I don’t think you want to let him walk you down the aisle. And if that’s true, no matter how hard it is to disappoint him, I don’t think you should let him just because it would make him happy, because it’s going to be this situation. But I hope, as others have said, you come up with the right thing for you.

    • http://seasofgales.wordpress.com/ KH_Tas

      I try to remind myself that there is no ‘level’ of pain at which we have a ‘right’ to complain, and if we could only complain if no-one was worse off then there would be very few people on earth who qualify. So while my story (lots and lots of bullying and an abusive relationship) may not be as bad as others, it is still bad for me, and so I still get to complain (especially in therapy).

    • Stephanie

      My godmother once said something about her father that relates. They lived together her whole young life (both parent’s were there) and from the outside they had a normal home life. She said this about him, the only time she ever spoke of him, “He is my father, I had to respect his rules, but I don’t have to love him.” Just because someone is there doesn’t mean you have a connection and can’t feel like something was missing.

  • Kate

    Sometimes all that binds two people is DNA. I’ve heard, even in the most horrible circumstances, people say “But he’s your father” or “But she’s your mother.” Having heard lectures consisting of the former from strangers and relatives alike, I felt a lot better after speaking to a friend of mine who had been urged to reconcile with his mother, a drug-addicted nutjob convicted of felony neglect (to this day he is unsure of how many of his siblings have survived to adulthood). It made me realize that people will say this crap regardless of circumstances, and it was vital to not let it plant the festering seeds of self-doubt.

  • Nina

    I don’t think Sara is taking advantage of her father, because I don’t think things are so clear-cut. It seems like there are a lot of conflicting emotions here. I can’t speak for Sara but personally I’ve felt a lot of guilt because you’re supposed to want a relationship with your father and you’re supposed to love your father. My father is also an old man now who I feel pity for and would like it if he was happy. Being in my wedding and helping out with my wedding would make him happy. It’s hard to know if the “grown-up thing to do” would be to offer the olive branch and try to forgive/forget the past, or to confront my father and tell him that I don’t want a relationship with him. The former would be difficult for me and the latter would break his heart. It’s hard to be honest with someone when you don’t really know exactly what you want. It’s even harder to be honest with someone who is a stranger… a stranger you are supposed to love.

    • This Sarah

      Y. E. S.

      Preach it, sister. It’s hard. It’s complicated. That’s all I was trying to say… Sorry you’re there too. I hope it sorts itself out in a way you feel comfortable with.

  • This Sarah

    I feel kind of compelled to post a little update of sorts for folks – I wrote this post a while ago, back when the “friendship” theme was introduced, because I wanted to explore these feelings I was having about my concept of dad as a friend, and as a friend who was complicating things by trying to be “daddy.” Just writing it brought me great clarity, and I was beyond thrilled when the APW team said they wanted to publish it.

    But in the meantime, I saw my dad recently, in a social, light-hearted context and he brought up the aisle-walking. I took the opportunity to say I wasn’t really comfortable with being given away. He accepted that. But as I said, this was in a social situation, with people he didn’t know well present. So I am still nervous that this will be an issue later in private (as he did with the whole name change thing), but it is out there for him, he knows where I stand, or at least, I hope he does.

    I cannot thank you all enough for your kind words. Brieanna, I do value the honesty you suggest. I don’t think I’ve been dishonest with him, and I don’t plan to be. He knows this is a complicated relationship and that weddings are complications on top of reality. I just don’t think it’s worth causing an old man so much pain if he’s willing to meet me where I am. If he is resistant to this, then I would be more willing to consider delving into the “why” of my feelings. For now, he knows it’s not something I’m comfortable with.

    JS- You are doing the most important work that can be done right now. Be there for her, let her know that it is not her fault, try not to exacerbate things by speaking ill of him in front of her, and let her know that she can always talk to you about how she feels. You will, I’m sure because I’ve been there, develop a jewel of a relationship with her. All my best wishes to you and your little girl. <3

  • Amanda

    I completely understand what you are going through and how you feel. But it seems to me like you are just involving him because he comes with money? I do not see what this is worth it!I had a low key wedding with less than 50 people in attendance. I did not involve my father in any capacity because even though it came with money, it wasnt worth cheapening my day to have him there. Why have his money if it makes you responsible for entertaining and feeding people that you do not care to see? Ultimately in the end accommodating that will take time and attention away from the people who matter to you the most. You need to re-evaluate what your wedding needs are if it makes you rely on someone you don’t want to. Is it worth selling yourself for it?

  • Kristen

    Sarah, thank you for sharing such honest feelings. Like many others here I have a similiar problem though it’s with my entire family of origin. I think one of the aspects of these situations is the shame one can feel for being here emotionally. The guilt and the anger which fight inside you, makes dealing with this stuff clear headed very difficult.

    I think if you think about the APW mantra that your wedding day doesn’t have to be the end all be all of life, you might be able to lessen the pressure you feel about making a choice about who walks you down the aisle or similiar situations. Because you can’t really make a wrong choice. The world won’t end if you have someone at your wedding who you’re unsure of, your wedding will still be a wonderful moment in your life even if everything goes wrong because the fundamental part about marrying your chosen life partner will still be there.

    I don’t know if that makes any sense. I just think you can and should give yourself permission to make the choices you make and that the world will keep spinning. If your dad comes back with complaints about your choice to not have him walk you down the aisle, it means only he doesn’t like it. Not that he’s going to die from your choice. As someone who feels things big it’s hard sometimes to disappoint someone, even when I feel completely justified – I still feel terrible guilt. But by reminding myself that the world won’t end if someone is upset with me, helps me calm my own bad feelings.

    In essence, I think in these situations with disappointing parents and problems that arise, taking care of ourselves and reminding ourselves that like we ourselves have to, folks have to get over disappointments. That’s life. I wish you the best and hope planning goes well. Sharing something like this isn’t easy but it’s appreciated; I appreciate it, so thanks.

  • Danni-Elle

    I’ve been a long time reader but have never commented. But this, I needed to hear. This opens doors for me to understand that there is no obligation to keep my bio father happy now, 21 years after he walked out of my life. I have no desire anymore to be in contact with him. All those years I spent wondering, who he was, whether I was like he, why he wasn’t around? They don’t matter. I am content. I am surrounded by people who love and support me. I do not owe him anything.

    So thank-you, for writing this. For opening the door for me to begin healing fully and close a door that I don’t want open. For allowing me to realise that I am not alone in the way that I feel.

  • Jen

    Thank you for this post and some of the things you have said. I have always wanted a tiny wedding and did not want to be walked down the isle- but reading all of these posts makes me realize I should probably give back to someone who has been a very caring and active father… or at least discuss it with him. It just shows how lucky I am that I could do it without resentment.

    • Brenda

      One of the nicest things about my wedding last week was seeing how happy our parents were at the things we did for them and the ways we included them. They were all wonderful about not insisting on anything and letting us do it our way, and it felt really good to do things like have them walk us down the aisle and play their favorite songs. It still may not fit into your plans, and that’s fine, but if there are things that are important or meaningful to them, it’s a lovely gift to give.

  • ART

    I feel you. My dad and I haven’t discussed – and I’m not expecting – any financial involvement for my wedding, but I’m just hoping my plans for a smallish party where he would have to rub elbows with the rest of my family will help make non-attendance feel like HIS idea. It’s rough :(

  • Erin

    Man, this was hard to read. Sarah, I hope nothing but good things for you, always.

  • Anon, just in case

    I can relate, kinda. And it also makes me glad that I don’t actually have my father in my life at all, because it makes everything less complicated for me. My dad is crazy, and was cut out by the courts when I was a kid – thank god. I made the choice as an adult to continue keeping him out, to very…noisy… results. All is hopefully settled now, and he will hopefully let it be and not contact me again. Or for a while anyway.

    But, I can relate that even with all the circumstances I still felt obligated to try to have a relationship with this man “because he is my father.” Maybe he changed? I came to terms with cutting him out forever pretty quickly, as it became obvious he has not, in fact, changed. But people have actually asked me whether he will be involved. In the wedding People who know! I don’t hesitate to say that if he does somehow find out about my wedding and show up, I will be calling the cops straight away.

  • CJ

    Thank you for this post! My parents are divorced, but father has been involved in my life (and I do remember him teaching me to ride a bike), but he’s always been manipulative and verbally/emotionally abusive. The only reason I continue a relationship with him is because my sisters are still living with him and in order to maintain a relationship with them, I have to maintain a relationship with him.

    I actually sent an Ask Team Practical letter on this topic. What to do when I don’t have a great relationship with my dad and don’t want him to walk me down the aisle. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not worth the emotional blackmail for me. I’ve been living on my own for over 2 years, so it’s not like I’m still living at home and relying on my parents to take care of me where I feel like it makes sense for them to walk me down the aisle. I think the walk down the aisle represents me, as a single woman, making the choice to walk down that aisle and be with my partner. I know exactly how I feel, but I know how much it’s going to hurt my father when I tell him that and how much he’s going to complain and cry and make me out to be the bad daughter. I’m fully onboard with the idea of a first dance with him because music has always been something important in our relationship, but the walk is going to hurt him and I hate doing that even when he is being a jerk.

    I’m not engaged yet, so I know I have time to strengthen my resolve on this issue, but I know it’s going to be tough. Reading this essay and the comments definitely helped me realize that I’m not alone in this and that I can get through this. So thank you, everyone!

  • Amy

    So have you told him? How did you? Because I’m trying to figure out how to tell my Dad the same thing. He’s been more there in my life then it sounds like yours was, but he left my mom when I was 10, and let’s just say I’ve discovered he’s not the best of people. He’s now engaged to the woman who will be his third wife, and I know he’s cheated on her already. So I don’t want him involved in my wedding. But I don’t know how to tell him.

    • ThisSarah

      Hi Amy,
      I’m sorry I just saw this. I told him in what felt like a safe place for me – a group setting, at a dinner with his wife and my fiance and some friends. He is very conscious of behaving properly, so I knew he wouldn’t say anything outrageous there. It’s come up once or twice since, and what I’ve done is make sure there are other ways for him to feel special and involved. He’s going to be welcoming guests when they arrive to the ceremony, again, a very social setting to which he is well-suited. We are having a father-daughter dance. I handled the music selection delicately, suggesting old-fashioned songs that are more benignly romantic than about “daddy’s little girl.” It’s been a source of tension in the back of my mind and will be until the day is over. Luckily, my fiance is an amazing man who understands, and is keeping me strong.