Q:My fiancé, J, and I have been struggling lately. We’ve been dodging this because of all the feelings it brings up, but in light of our wedding next year, we have to address it. My mother disregards our relationship’s validity. As a woman who has (slowly) been addressing past abuse by my mom, along with getting over constantly seeking her approval, it gets confusing for the both of us to discuss how much she sees our relationship as pointless and idiotic. My childhood with her was destructive to my self-esteem and outlook on life, and I’m just now trying to pick up the pieces.
J has shown, in innumerable ways, how much he loves and respects and cares for me and other members of my family, but she won’t have any of it. During this past Christmas, she drove us to the point of leaving my grandparent’s house and staying with his parents. I’ve tried the lunch talks, the long phone conversations, even therapy with her, and nothing sticks. Despite all of this, and despite the pain she’s put me and J through, I still have this desire for her to accept us and happily attend our wedding. Another part of me screams how unreasonable it is, and how it’ll never happen. I’m just not sure where to go from here, and whether or not I should leave her place on the seating chart blank. Am I irrational for still wanting her there?
A: Dear Anonymous,
Not irrational, no. Incredibly normal.
Typically, this is where I’d encourage you toward some introspection, thinking about what she could have against your relationship, weighing whether it might have any validity.
If your mother has demonstrated repeatedly through the years that she does not have your best interests as priority, her opinion is of little value. The rest of your family and friends—the ones who’ve shown that they care about you with love and honesty—look to them for a healthy view of your relationship. This means that as much as you’d love her consent and approval, you’ve got to harden yourself against the idea that her opinion has that much value. Seeking approval from someone who recklessly stomps all over your self-esteem doesn’t often land you in a healthy place.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t invite her to the wedding.
Know that inviting her won’t magically fix her skewed opinions, won’t repair any broken parts of your relationship. It just means your mom, with all of her drama, will be at your wedding. So, that’s the question I can’t answer for you. Is it better to have no mom and no drama at the wedding, or to have mom there with whatever trouble she assuredly brings with her?
Frankly, that might be the sort of decision you’re stuck making for a while. Unless Mom drastically changes her perspective (and I mean, she could, but let’s admit it’s not that likely), this is something you’ll be dealing with for a long time. At every holiday, every family gathering you’re going to have to decide: mom+drama or no mom? And then, you’re going to have to brace yourself for the fact that she might not even show.
It’s easy easy easy to think that if she comes to this wedding, it’ll be perfect and peachy and like so many glossy magazine wedding photos. In the same way, it can be easy to imagine that if you could just get her to accept your relationship, it would undo some of your terrible history together. Neither of those are all that likely. If you can come to terms with that idea that maybe mom and your relationship to her will always be this way, you’re going to be making steps toward being able to involve her in your wedding (and marriage and life) without setting yourself up for a world of hurt. And if you can’t come to terms with that, or can’t come to terms with that yet? That just makes you incredibly normal.
And, this may be a little obvious, but if you have a chance to practice self-care by getting yourself some therapy? Do it.
TEAM PRACTICAL, HOW DO you decide when to include loved ones and when to exclude them? How do you make sure to keep realistic expectations of your relations?
If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Liz at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though it really makes our day when you come up with a clever sign-off!