Should I Boycott My Son’s Wedding After He Cheated?

I think he doesn't love her

by Liz Moorhead, Editor, Ask APW


Q: My son announced his engagement last October with a phone call. I feel he isn’t in love with his fiancé, so I told him that I wasn’t happy over the announcement. He called back later screaming at me, upset that I wasn’t supporting his decision. Ten months of silence from him followed, and any little tidbits of information I received came from my two daughters who will be in the bridal party. I did get a wedding invitation from my son, but haven’t made a decision yet to go.

Last week, he betrayed his fiancé with a co-worker. She screamed, yelled, ready to cancel the wedding, and even quoted me, “Your mum knew that you didn’t love me.”

One day later, the wedding is still on.

My son doesn’t know that I know what happened. My daughters have begged me not to say anything to him. I’ve asked my daughters to support me and not be part of this wedding, but they refuse, which leaves me alone to deal with this mess as the only one honest enough to say that this wedding is a joke.

Do I tell my son that I know?

Do I go to the wedding?


A: Dear Anonymous,

I don’t know if you should tell him that you know. But you for sure should go to the wedding.

There’s a shift happening in your son’s life, and it may be hard to swallow. But he’s at the point where your opinion, as his parent, no longer is the final say. Yeah, you’re free to have opinions! I definitely have plenty. But your son is going to make his own decisions about his own life, and it’s not always a personal slight when he makes them contrary to your advice.

I am glad you voiced your opinion in honesty. That’s an important thing when you’re worried that a loved one is headed for some hurt. I just worry a bit about how you came across. I don’t know how that original conversation between the two of you went. Maybe you were really gentle and loving in sharing your advice. Maybe he completely overreacted when he heard your opinion. Maybe these past ten months of silence aren’t your fault at all. But some of the things you say in that note up there (calling his marriage a joke, considering not attending the wedding) make me concerned that you’re coming on a little harsh when you tell him what you think. I get the feeling that you expect him to necessarily agree with you, and you’re trying to force him to change his mind by opting out of the wedding.

And be honest, is that helping anyone? You’re not on speaking terms, you’re being iced out of the whole wedding process, and now he’s going through this adultery mess and you’re not in the loop enough to know what’s going on, let alone to help him through it.

As for whether or not you should tell him what you know about the coworker, well, that seems like a question of motivation. Do you want to bring it up so you can be there for him in his dark time, or (it sounds more likely) to use it as an “I told you so” moment? Because that second one is a terrible idea. Before you decide whether or not to say anything, think to yourself, “Will this make it easier for us to reconnect, or make it harder?”

Finding a careful balance of honesty and support with this stuff is difficult for anyone. It really takes a lot of effort to express concern without putting someone on the defensive. But consider all of the possible endings to this situation. What’s the worst-case scenario? He ends up in a marriage that makes him miserable? Or, he ends up in a marriage that makes him miserable, and he doesn’t feel he can turn to you for help through it? Your son is going to make his own decisions no matter what, so you may as well find a way to be there for them.


Liz Moorhead

Liz is an illustrator and writer who paints custom stationery and types up impassioned opinions about weddings, etiquette, feminism and motherhood (usually while shaking a fist and mumbling expletives around mouthfuls of cheese fries). Her spare time is spent sipping bourbon with her husband and playing Don’t Throw That in the Toilet with her sons.

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  • Amy March

    His financee know he cheated and wants to marry him. I don’t see why it should matter to either of them that you know as well. Marriage is never a joke, even when it seems ill-advised.

    I think if you want a relationship with your son, you should go. You should be pleasant, congratulate the couple, and behave generally in a way that will draw no attention to your internal disapproval.

    • raccooncity

      Oh man, yes. Mom, please don’t go to the wedding if you’re just going to sulk in a corner and hold court telling people how wrong you think it is. If you do, you didn’t ‘try’. To paraphrase Thumper’s mom: if you can’t be there and be nice, don’t be there at all.

      • Joy

        Where did you get the idea that the mom was going to tell everyone at the wedding her private thoughts? Certainly you didn’t get it from anything in the mom’s letter.

        • Lisa

          The fact that the mom is trying to convince her daughters to join her in the boycott seems to indicate that she’s willing to share her feelings that she doesn’t support her son’s marriage.

        • raccooncity

          Yeah, she definitely didn’t say that. I guess my general read of the letter is that a ‘boycott’ is, by definition, something meant to make a public statement of disapproval, and it sounded like she was ok being rather hurtful with her words (although as Liz pointed out, we don’t know that for sure). I was just concerned that Liz seemed to imply that being at the wedding was a relationship-healing thing in and of itself, while going to the wedding and behaving in the ways I mentioned would probably do MORE damage.

          I suppose I meant it for all moms/dads/relatives/friends in all analogous situations, although I do think there were things in the letter that indicated that simply being at the wedding might not be healing for this particular family, because mom’s feelings are so strong.

          • Lawyerette510

            I think it was a fair thing to say. As Lisa pointed out, soliciting other family members to boycott a wedding is a very public act. If she’s encouraging her other children to not go and hasn’t made any effort to bridge the gap with her son (I know, assuming facts not introduced, but she also doesn’t say that she’s made an effort to make things better since she voiced her ‘concern’ and boycotting a wedding certainly doesn’t make that effort) then it’s fair to be concerned that she may not behave in a way that goes towards a positive spirit at the wedding towards her son or his fiance.

    • guest

      I agree that the LW should go to the wedding, act nice, and work on repairing her relationship with her son. That said, it’s a little hard to glean exactly what is bothering LW the most here, whether the precise details are the issue or whether there’s more to it. Because if it’s the details, eh, consenting adults get to make the decisions that work for them. But if this is about raising a son who is willing to hurt his fiancee by having an affair (assuming it’s not an open relationship, etc etc etc), then there’s a lot more work to be done in terms of both how the LW feels as a parent and the relationship she has with her son.

      Because it should be possible — if the mother-son relationship was otherwise in decent shape, which does not seem to be the case here, but could be in other circumstances — to have a conversation about values and emotions and concern about a child acting in a deliberate way to hurt someone close to them rather than finding a different way to resolve the core issue. Again, I’m not saying that’s what’s happening here, but a different version of similar facts could leave a parent feeling squeamish about a child’s behavior in a way that merits a conversation.

      • Amy March

        Should it be possible? I’m really not sure. To me the conversation you’re describing is only appropriate with a child, not adult offspring, whether the relationship is good or bad.

        • anon

          I think this is an interesting question. I’d expect a friend to say something if they knew a friend was cheating on a partner and hurting that partner. Should a parent not be able to do the same?

        • RNL

          Interesting. I’m 31 and I was recently corrected by my mother (about something very different, but about a decision I was making about how I (did not) support a family member in a time of crisis.

          I was super grateful for the correction, I was surprised to learn.

  • Eenie

    You can attend a wedding to support someone even if you don’t fully support the marriage. They invited you for a reason. Take the olive branch if you want it.

    As an aside, I must say I’ve enjoyed the letters from parents that have been published lately.

    • Christy

      I was in a wedding I wasn’t 100% behind–the couple had some big unresolved issues and could have benefited for waiting, and my bff was considering calling it off 48 hours beforehand. After the stress of that experience, I told myself I wouldn’t stand up in a wedding if I didn’t fully support the marriage.
      I’d like to hear more about attending a wedding to support someone even if you don’t fully support the marriage. I have a hard time thinking about that, just offhand, and I’d like to hear your (and others’) perspective on it.

      • emmers

        I’ve attended weddings where I don’t believe the marriage is necessarily a good idea, but I’ve gone to support my friend. I’ve found that people generally will do what they do, but if I show support to them, then it will help retain the friendship, which will be especially important if the marriage later crumbles. And if the marriage succeeds, then double bonus- I’ve supported my friend, and their marriage is good.

        • Eenie

          Exactly. And people change! I hated one of my friend couples for the longest time and now they’ve both grown up and I support their relationship. You can’t expect someone to change, but over time people do grow up and mature.

        • Lawyerette510

          This exactly

        • kate

          yes, this is really well-put. and while we’re all presumably coming from a place of love for our friends/family when we have these doubts about a marriage, who are we to really know in a lot of these cases? (outside of cases of obvious abuse/toxic relationship)
          people change and grow and can really improve their relationship skills and we never know all the details from the outside. IMO, it’s extremely condescending to assume we can predict the future of anyone else’s relationship in most cases.

          so that’s why we suck up our doubts and show up, it’s the loving and respectful thing to do for those we care about.

      • Eenie

        I think not attending a wedding where you don’t support the marriage creates a very large hole in the relationship that makes it hard to fix down the road. I’d much rather put on a smile for my friend so that he/she knows I’ll be there if they need me without feeling like I’ll say I told you so. You don’t NEED to attend the wedding, but I think it’s totally possible to think, I’m here for my friend because I think down the line she’s going to need some friends to help pick up the pieces and I’d like to be one of them.

        I only said this because a lot of the cultural narrative around weddings is about your community and support and love and how everyone comes together to support you. It can make you feel like if you don’t truly 100% believe in the couple that you are ruining their wedding by coming. As long as you keep those thoughts to yourself and are respectful and kind, you’re not ruining the wedding, you’re keeping your friendship and giving your friend one more person to fall on if the marriage doesn’t end up working out.

        • TeaforTwo

          I suspect it creates more than a large hole in a relationship, and usually just ends it.

          If anyone had told me “I can’t attend your wedding because I do not support your marriage”…what does our relationship look like after that? We are not exactly going to be inviting them to Thanksgiving. After I’ve stood up and made a lifelong promise to my husband that included forsaking all others, I don’t have one bit of energy to sink into a relationship with someone who is trying to undermine my marriage.

          Refusing to attend a wedding may feel good and principled, but it’s not good friendship. The couple will marry anyway, your relationship with your friend will be ruined, and if it does go south, you won’t be able to be there to support them because you won’t have spoken for years.

          • Eenie

            I was thinking specific to this example when it is another family member. I would agree that not many friendships would/should survive.

      • MABie

        A few years ago, I was also in a wedding that I didn’t fully support. The couple was treating each other terribly throughout the engagement, but the pressure from family to go through with it was holding them together. They almost called it off the night before the wedding AND the morning of the wedding. The day after the wedding, while they were on their honeymoon, the police showed up to their hotel room because they had been arguing so vehemently that someone had called the cops. That’s how bad it was.

        I felt weird about it at the time. In the pictures of all of us standing up there with them during the ceremony, everyone looks gloomy. Nobody cried at all during the ceremony (and I cry about something or other at LEAST once a day). Three years later, their relationship is healthy and back on track. They had been together for about 10 years by the time they got married, and their relationship is very much like it was before they ever got engaged.

        After all these years, I just live with the weirdness of knowing that I didn’t totally support the relationship at the time they got married. Occasionally, I talk to my partner about it, but that’s it. I’m glad they’re in a good place now.

        I think that no matter how much I didn’t support a relationship, I would probably always attend the wedding. You never know what is going to happen. I have two friends who are getting married next month, and many of us are concerned about it (this will be the fourth or fifth marriage for one of them, and the other one is VERY young — among many other things). But I will go, and if the marriage survives, then I’ll be glad for them, and glad I went. If it doesn’t, then I will still be there to support them both as individuals.

        I might feel differently if my friends’ marriage had crumbled in the end, though. I really don’t know.

        • Christy

          So the answer is just to have the weird feelings, but go anyway. It’s weird, but go anyway.

          I guess that’s how I feel about funerals. Sure, they’re awkward and everything, but you go. That’s a fair mental comparison for me to make.

          • emmers

            And if you really think you can’t keep it together at a wedding, or if you’ll be really upset by going, you don’t have to. But I don’t think you have to feel like you’re fully supporting the idea of their marriage by going to the wedding.

          • MABie

            Yeah, I think the distinction here is that you can support your FRIEND by attending the wedding, but that doesn’t mean you support your friend’s RELATIONSHIP. (I’d bet there’s usually at least one person at every wedding that doesn’t 100% support the relationship for one reason or another.)

            And if you really don’t feel good about it, you can always politely decline without giving a reason!

          • Meg Keene

            Are funerals awkward? I donno. We just went through two big ones, and our friends came in support and I HOPE it wasn’t awkward but was out of love.

            But, I mean, I also do totally get what you’re saying. Our friends came to support us in a really hard time, and sometimes weddings are a little bit of a hard time, but you just show up. Friendship is, in the end, about showing up when you’re most needed, and putting your personal shit on the side.

          • Christy

            I don’t find funerals awkward at all, but my girlfriend hates hates hates them. But I am firmly of the opinion that you always go to the funeral, even if you hate them, because it’s important to go.

          • MC

            I do think many people feel awkward at funerals because the majority US culture is not great at addressing death and mourning. I was actually just talking about this because I live in an area where many people celebrate Dia de los Muertos and it is really great to see people talking about their loved ones that have passed and having a ritual to acknowledge them. It’s not something I’ve really seen anywhere else. (But yes, people should absolutely still go to funerals because it is important to be there.)

          • EF

            A few months after my foster father died, there was a small celebration of his life — a wake, really, hi boston-irish — that I specifically asked my best friend to not come to with me, but to meet me right afterwards. Because I knew how to get through the afternoon, which I did, but having BFF waiting, and knowing that he would rush several towns over if I asked him to, well that was enough. We’d been to funerals together before, unfortunately, but this was different. And he didn’t for a second make me feel like I was asking too much (we spent the next 10 hours walking basically the entirety of the red line subway in boston) and he didn’t force anything, but was just SO THERE. And that, oh man, that’s what friendship is.

        • Kyle

          I have friends who were talking about calling it off up until at least the weekend of the wedding (I didn’t know this at the time, but the bridal party did, and it’s basically common-though-not-frequently-discussed knowledge among our friend group now). They’re still together 10+ years later, and have supported each other through some serious shit, so it seems to have worked out for the best.

          More recently I’ve been part of a wedding I didn’t feel good about… they never talked about calling it off or anything, I just didn’t think they liked each other very much.

          Really, though, I think it comes down less to whether you approve of the wedding and more to whether you want to continue to be in the person’s life, because skipping the wedding of a close friend or relative on principle is usually the nuclear option.

          • MABie

            “I think it comes down less to whether you approve of the wedding and more to whether you want to continue to be in the person’s life.” Totally agree. You can love and support a friend even if you don’t 100% support the wedding.

        • Meg Keene

          Both my husband and I have been attendants in weddings where the marriages ended. I think we mostly are just glad we were able to be there for friends when they needed us. On the happy day with the pretty outfits, and on the shitty days when they needed love and help and sometimes cash. Ya know? So goes friendship.

          • MABie

            Oh, yeah, I totally agree with what you’re saying as a general rule. I left an important part out of my story about being a BM in that wedding, which was that I had the vague notion that my friends might have an abusive dynamic. In that case, if their marriage had ended, I think it would have been much harder for me to be like, “I’m just glad I was there and I supported them.” I would have felt like I was an active participant in something that I was not comfortable with.

            (My suspicions were not ill-founded; my friend’s husband’s brother abuses his wife, and this is just something everyone in their family knows and doesn’t talk about…including my friend.)

            As some other commenters have discussed, abuse is obviously an entirely different scenario.

      • K Robertson

        I was an attendant in a wedding where I had some serious concerns about the relationship. I think every situation is different, but in this one the couple had been dating for several years and my friend and I had had multiple serious and honest conversations about the relationship, which made me feel like I could stand next to her and honestly answer “I Will” when the priest asked us all to promise to support the couple, even though I privately thought a break-up might have been a healthier choice. I had stood by her through the relationship, so standing by her during and after the wedding wasn’t really that big of a leap. Plus, if I hadn’t she would have married him anyway, just without me beside her. Anyway, the whole experience taught me that while honesty is valuable, it’s possible to be honest while putting on a smile and keeping some things to myself.

        • Kayla

          I think you can promise to support a couple even if what you’re thinking is, “I promise to support you, up to and through your divorce, if it does come to that, which I think it might.”

      • Kayla

        I think it’s important to show up for our friends for all the big moments, good and bad. I will go to a wedding even if I think it’s a bad idea. I will go to a game I’m sure your team is going to lose. I’ll go to your art show even though I think your paintings are not very good. I’ll be there when you’re really sick. I’ll host the divorce party. Sometimes you just have to be there.

        • BB

          Yes. Yes. And yes.

      • Amanda

        yup. yup. yup. happened to me. more than once. one couple just had bad communication skills–they’d “never had a fight” before they got married (read: bother were super passive aggressive & never solved their conflicts). J & i privately had a conversation conveying our doubts, but were certain they loved each other. we kind of shrugged and said, “well, i wouldn’t be surprised if this ended…” now, how quickly it ended was a bit of a shock. another couple i was a bridesmaid for had a really, really difficult engagement, but the bride was convinced that she had to have “no doubts” and lied to herself and others about her doubts. i’m from a school of thought that says doubt/unknown is important because it gives you the space to grow–the best i could do was talk to her about those principals throughout that time. now, i don’t know what i would do if i suspected abuse…that’s a horse of a different color.

        • Kayla

          I would have an extremely hard time going to a wedding if I suspected abuse. I think most of us would. But also, since abusers try to isolate their partners, and abuse often intensifies after marriage. I would hate to give an abuser the chance to say, “She’s not your real friend. She didn’t even show up for your wedding. You should never speak to her again.” It gives me chills just thinking about how an abuser would spin my not showing up.

          ETA: I don’t mean at all to say that if a guest skips that wedding then abuser’s actions following that are said guest’s fault. Just that that’s probably a possibility to be aware of and to weigh when making a decision.

          • Amanda

            I’m very much in the showing up camp for support & am learning to keep my big bazoo shut. In college, my close friend had a terrible breakup and afterwards, was like, “yeah, never liked that guy” and he told me to speak up the next time, and I did. well, that second relationship didn’t last either, but our friendship went down the toilet too. A few years ago, I really, really didn’t like how my friend’s boyfriend treated her in front of me (fondled her in public, called her fat, went on and on about traditional gender roles, was generally really patronizing & not letting her make her own decisions). And I called him out on it in the moment. But later, I learned that she told me how great everything was, and told a mutual friend she had doubts. I never wanted her to not feel like she couldn’t talk to me about her relationship woes again, so I just shut up. It’s such a hard line!

          • Kayla

            It is such a hard line. I lost one of my best friends over this stuff. She was dating a homophobic racist who treated her terribly.

            At the time, I focused on telling her how terrible he was. It didn’t go well. If I were in the same situation again, I think I would focus on reminding her that how he treated her wasn’t normal or okay, and on making sure she knew that I’d help her get out (logistically, monetarily, etc.) if she needed it. Which still might not work. Leaving shitty relationships can be really hard.

          • Amanda

            In an open conversation about it, I pointed out that he was being disrespectful in my home, which I reserve the right not to tolerate. Her point of view was that it was up to her to decide what “being treated right” was, which I still feel squeamish about, but can’t really argue with. She became more tied to standing up for her boyfriend than herself. Ultimately, I think the best thing to do is ask gentle but firm follow up questions about how she feels in certain moments when she does express frustrations.

          • Lawyerette510

            I think your point about isolation for the abused person is why I’ve gone even when I suspected abuse. In my experience, I’ve worked harder to maintain a relationship with friends who I worried were in abusive relationships than those who I didn’t have that concern about.

          • Liz

            It is really tricky. I’m in this position now, and the abuse is documented and well known by everyone involved, and yet the wedding is being treated like this amazing situation? I don’t know that I’ll be able to stand it. I frankly haven’t decided.

          • Amanda

            Maybe a one-on-one check-in with the bride–maybe as a de-stress cocktail in the lead up to the wedding? Not to voice your concerns, but give her a safe space to be honest with where she is in the relationship.

          • Kayla

            This is such a hard decision. It does almost feel like going to the wedding is condoning the abuse, and I totally get not being willing to do that.

            Really sad to hear that you and your friend are going through this. I hope you make the choice that’s best for you, and know you didn’t do anything wrong either way. Hugs.

      • Ashlah

        Assuming they don’t break up in the next year, I’ll be attending my sister’s wedding even though I think it’s a terrible idea. For me, it’s about preserving my relationship with her. What good comes from not attending? Our relationship will be damaged and she’ll still get married. If the marriage becomes something healthy and beautiful, I’ll have missed out on being a part of that, and if it falls apart, she won’t feel like she can come to me for support. I fully admit, though, that it is weird and it is HARD.

        I think it can be different for not-very-close friends. If it’s someone you hardly ever see, and you don’t support their marriage, but you don’t care much about the friendship going forward, or you don’t feel like they would come to you for emotional support anyway? Then I would lean towards not going if you can’t be happy for them.

        • Amanda

          ditto on this. if you don’t show up for this, they won’t feel like they can come to you when it’s really rough. but i’ve skipped out on weddings for people i wasn’t close to, and felt that the couple would break up in 35 years in one of those awful divorces (let’s just say the couple was repeating some patterns…). you send a card and get back to binge watching netflix.

      • Meg Keene

        I’ve done it, more than once. I’ve even stood up at the wedding, as has my husband. (Our friends married really really young. That not infrequently involves some ill advised decision making.) At the end of the day, we felt it was our job was to support our friends, particularly if we were worried they were getting themselves in some trouble and might need us later (they did).

        My line in the sand is that I won’t stand up as a bridesmaid in a wedding where I think there is abuse. That very nearly came up once, before a wedding was called off. I’ll go to the wedding. I’ll back you to the hilt and be there for you in whatever ways you need afterwards. But if he’s abusive, I’m not going to stand up next to you in implicit approval. (I will, however, stand up for you in choices I think are maybe just a little dubious, because hell, we all make dubious choices, and recover from them. And how do I know I’m for sure right? I don’t.)

      • Christy

        I’d really like to thank everyone for their thoughtful responses. I think it’s really useful for me to think about it like funerals–you go. You always go. (And I’m sorry, Meg, if this comparison is hurtful. I don’t mean it to be. Really, I’m always on team “go to the funeral even if it’s painful” because I think it’s so important to be there. And frankly, I don’t even dislike funerals.)

      • InHK

        I stood beside a friend marrying a guy I truly don’t like for a variety of reasons, including his shitty treatment of my friend.

        The window to say, hey, I think this dude is a douche closed about 3 dates in. Though I didn’t say anything, the bride’s sister, mother and a couple other friends did. She knows how they feel. She made her choice. She wanted him and so they got married.

        I stood, watching their wedding vows, thinking, “That’s it. It’s too late now, so good luck.”

        I meant it when I said, “I will” at the wedding. They’ve made a massive commitment to each other and I hope they both grow and have a good marriage. That said, one of my reasons for a) not adding the chorus of people voicing their concerns and b) attending the wedding with a smile on my face is that I love my friend and I want her to be able to turn to me if she and this guy do eventually break up.

        Their wedding was (privately) a bittersweet celebration for a lot of our friend group.

        • JenC

          I was BM at my friends wedding and I didn’t like her husband, as you said for a number of reasons. After the ceremony, her mother said to me “now we wait for the divorce”. I agreed. They’re coming up to four years and yes they still have a long way to go but he’s really improved and he actually treats her pretty well now. They’ve gone through some really hard stuff and I think it’s made him grow up and realise what he’s got. I’m not saying that this will happen in every case, but sometimes it takes couples a bit longer to find the rhythm. It feels weird knowing I didn’t really get behind them but it’s one of those times I’m happy to admit being wrong. People can grow and have a good marriage, just keep supporting her, whatever the decision.

      • I’ve been involved in a couple of weddings where I wasn’t 100% on board. the first I spoke up and kept my mouth shut after I said my piece because I thought the guy was THE WORST and was strongly against the marriage. I didn’t think he would treat her well and he didn’t. I spoke up when they first started dating, she heard me out but did what she was going to do anyways. I went to the wedding and supported her because I’m her friend and that’s what friends do. The other one I didn’t say anything at all because there wasn’t *issues* I just feel like they were a great fit. Oh well.

        Sometimes it’s just not about being right. It’s about being there for the people that you care about and that need your support. Their marriage isn’t about me, you know?

  • Anon for this post

    Also remember that there are many valid reasons why people choose to marry. Perhaps your son desires the partnership in life that being with his fiance will provide. Perhaps he’s just not that emotionally driven. I, for one, am not. i care much more that my partner shares my values, my vision for the future, and is equipped to achieve those values and that vision than if they give me butterflies and a general feeling of being “in-love”.

    In contrast, if this marriage really is going to ultimately fail, your son may well need your support at that time. Do what you can now to build/maintain a relationship with him that is built on trust and your unconditional love for him. He may someday need to know that he can turn to you without hearing “I told you so”. If he anticipates that being your response, he may just try and handle things on his own.

    • TeaforTwo

      This is exactly how I feel about cheating. Monogamy isn’t the core value of my marriage. We’re not non-monogamous, because that doesn’t feel like a priority either, but sexual exclusivity just isn’t the bedrock of our partnership.

      I would be more offended than if my husband wanted to have separate bank accounts than if he slept with someone else. I know that many, many commenters here and people in general do have separate bank accounts and happy marriages. I use that example deliberately, because people want different things from their partnerships, and that’s fine.

      • Eenie

        Another example: I’d much prefer my fiance sleep with someone else than develop a friendship that crosses emotional lines into relationship territory. We value our emotional relationship higher than our physical one.

      • Anon for this post

        “people want different things from their partnerships, and that’s fine.”

        – That!

      • InHK

        Related to cheating: when I was younger, and definitely before I got married, I subscribed to the idea that cheating once meant the relationship was over. Now? Heck no. If my husband hooked up with another woman, it would be a conversation and we’d go from there.

  • Nell

    Another question. . . Where is the LW getting the info about the fight between her son and his partner? My best guess is that this is all being filtered through her daughters.

    My #1 piece of advice is to stop talking to your daughters about what goes on between your son and his partner. Regardless of what you decide to do about the wedding, or your relationship with your son, talking about it behind his back with your other children will only lead to pain.

    • EF

      RIGHT. Like, if she’s getting told the gist of a conversation, most likely private, between her son and his fiancee, it’s going to be like third or fourth hand accounts. That is not at all reliable.

      Also, can I just point out, cheating =/= not loving someone. Lots and lots of people love their partners, but suck at monogamy. Lots of partners don’t care as much about monogamy. Lots of couples work this out. And there’s nothing wrong with ANY of that. The mother trying to force *her* ideals of marriage on her son’s relationship, though? That one isn’t okay.

  • Kay

    Please leave your poor daughters out of this. Don’t pressure them for information, and don’t ruin their relationship with their brother by making them choose between you and him. Nobody can win in this set-up.

    • Theresa Hendrick


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    • Rita Sanchez


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  • anon

    My brother’s marriage fell apart devastatingly and spectacularly when I was about 23 years old (he was young as well). He did some pretty hard to forgive things and we were honestly all pretty hurt and betrayed that someone we thought we knew so well could be so … wrong. In the immediate aftermath my mom really sided with his ex-wife, mostly because there was a kid involved and she didn’t want to lose that relationship. They had also been together for a long time, so we had close relationships to his ex, but the fact that no one from our family was really there for my brother when he too was clearly going through a rough time did some real damage to everyone’s relationships (even if he was maybe “in the wrong”). The fact is now, almost a decade later, he is remarried in a good marriage, and we don’t have any real contact with his ex-wife. I’ve been able to look back on that time with some helpful clarity from my now husband who wasn’t around and didn’t have to go through the hurt, and truth is, we were in the wrong. We were hurt and felt betrayed but ultimately the relationship that is going to stick around is the one that is blood, and I wish we had all had a little more grace for him, even if it would have been “you are an idiot do you need a place to stay” style grace. I understand how hurt the mother is in the case and how angry and betrayed she feels by her own blood, but this isn’t really about her, and if the wedding is happening I think 10 years from now you will be happy you went.

  • Sara

    To be honest, I don’t see how you not going to your son’s wedding will help anyone. He knows your opinion. His fiancee clearly knows your opinion. Your daughters know how you feel. By insisting on being heard about your assumptions about his relationship, you’ve created a wall of hurt between you and your son. Not attending is only going to build that wall higher. Go, be civil, have fun and if it ends poorly, don’t say ‘I told you so’.

  • MABie

    I would urge you to stop and deeply examine the true reason that you would not be attending this wedding. My gut reaction is that, by taking such a strong stance, you want to convince your son that it’s a bad idea to get married to this person. But your “boycott” of the wedding is NOT going to make the wedding not happen. It is not going to be the magic tool that somehow makes your son stop and think, “Huh. She’s right. If she feels so strongly about this, that means something is really wrong here, and I shouldn’t go through with this.”

    People get married for lots of reasons. Your reasons for marrying someone (romantic love) might not match up with your son’s. Even assuming, arguendo, that yours are more “right,” in some cosmic or moral sense, it doesn’t make them right for your son at this moment – or ever.

    Choosing not to attend is not going to “prove” anything to him about his relationship with his fiancee. It’s not going to convince him that he doesn’t love his fiancee enough (?) to marry her. It IS, however, probably going to bolster any negative feelings he has about you.

  • eating words

    Go to the wedding. Be there for your son.

    A story from my family: Once upon a time, a young man got married. His mother was certain it wasn’t going to last; they were both nice people, but fundamentally incompatible. On the morning of the wedding, the mother of the groom took a moment with her sister to go hide in the basement and cry it out. Then they put on their game faces and went to celebrate the wedding. The marriage ended a couple of years later, and to this day people talk about that ‘cry it out’ moment: it’s become funny over time, but more importantly, shows that they could express their sadness without damaging any family relationships.

    • Lawyerette510

      My sister and I had a big ‘cry it out’ moment in the bathroom at our Dad’s wedding (9 months post-divorce from our mom). That marriage ended but we still laugh about ugly-crying in the handicap stall of that bathroom.

      • TeaforTwo

        I had one of those at my dad’s wedding rehearsal (had to step out during the rehearsal itself to have a sob). Then on his wedding day, I took a couple ativan and stood where I was supposed to stand and smiled in the pictures. I love and support him, and that day, it meant standing up at his wedding. The only thing that would have changed if I’d refused to go is that there would have been a lot more hurt feelings.

  • Alice

    I hope the letter writer sits down and thinks about this very carefully before she doesn’t go, or even before she keeps talking to everyone about it. I can only speak from my own experience here, but my hubby’s family didn’t approve our our relationship (of me, really). They are very conservative and I’m not at all what they had in mind for their son. They voiced this loudly and unkindly when we announced our engagement, and gossiped about us with other members of his family. The end result was that they didn’t attend our wedding (which was honestly a relief at that point, but also a great source of sadness), and it has been over a year since they’ve spoken with us, although my husband regularly sends them letters.

    What I hope the letter writer can understand is that if she loves her son, she should show up for him. She doesn’t have to love his decisions, she just has to love him. If my hubby’s family had calmly voiced their opinions and then showed up, smiled, and said no more about it, we could have started healing. The fact that they weren’t willing to do that said a lot about their priorities. Even if things get better between us in the future, that damaged our relationships with them irreparably. There aren’t many harder lessons to learn than that your family’s love is conditional.

    • Nikki Hellyer

      Oh THIS completely!!

      Their wedding day isn’t about who said/did/slept with who. For that day only, it just needs to be about ‘love’ – the love for the couple, the love for both of them individually, for friends and for family.

      If that means showing up and shutting up. So. Be. It.

  • NatalieN

    This is close to home for me… there was a lot of tension between my husband and us over our relationship and wedding. Please go to the wedding, but only if you’re there to support your son. Please don’t go if you’re going to wear black, feel like you won’t be able to restrain your negative emotions or in any way will verbally or non-verbally voice your disapproval. I understand that you’re concerns are out of love for your son, and that’s good! But he is the man you raised and there comes a point where you need to trust him as much as you asked him to trust you when you told him you didn’t think marriage was a good idea.

    And please don’t ask your daughters to back out of being in the bridal party. It is good and right that they’re standing up to support their brother. Don’t make them choose. Instead, feel good about the fact that you raised children that support one another and care for one another, not all siblings do that.

    Finally, I’m not sure how you were informed of the infidelity, but I’d advise not to bring it up. Often the only people who know the full story are those involved. What constitutes a betrayal? Because that can be different for different people. Unless one of the parties involved brings it up I’d let it be. Chances are if you bring it up it’ll bring up guilt and shame and instead of having an open conversation he’ll throw up walls and neither of you will get anywhere.

    Sorry that you’re going through this difficult time.

  • Sharon Macklin

    I also agree that the mother should go to the wedding, keep her mouth shut and stop involving her daughters. However, I don’t agree with some of the response – the son will do what he wants, he is an adult, but the fact that he’s going through this “adultery mess” is totally on him! Does the mother have to be there for him “during his dark time”? She should do nothing to further shut down the lines of communication, but it doesn’t sound like he wants her opinion.

    • Liz

      The messes people make for themselves are the ones that sting the worst. And are probably the times where they most need those “unconditional love” sort of folks around them.

    • Jess

      No parent HAS to be there for their children through their struggles and dark times. Making that promise is not and has never been a requirement for bearing children.

      Many parents want to be part of their child’s emotional support system, to be able to provide comfort and generally care for that child both young and grown up.

      Some parents choose not to, for a variety of reasons.

      Maybe the LW doesn’t have that relationship now, in which case, it’s pretty unlikely she’ll be asked to be there for her son in the bad times, because he won’t turn to her anyway.

      I’m generally of the opinion that people do need parent figures who can be emotionally available to them, and that being able to have a support system they can trust in is valuable.

  • Kelly

    I’ve attended 2 weddings in which I stood in support of the couple getting married with no reservations. Both husbands abused their wives, my friends. I feel sick that I was a part of that celebration of a terrible union. The point I’m making with this is, you never know what is going on inside someone else’s relationship, even if you think you do. Show up, be supportive. Especially as a parent.

  • Kayla

    I especially love this part of Liz’s advice: “Before you decide whether or not to say anything, think to yourself, ‘Will this make it easier for us to reconnect, or make it harder?'”

    If you want to be a positive presence in your son’s life in the future, knock off this boycott, go to the wedding, and try your best to support you son and his marriage in whatever ways you can.

    If you’d rather act out in hopes that you can control your son that way, then continue your boycott, skip the wedding, and keep trying to turn your son’s sisters against him. But I can’t see any scenario in which this goes well for you. He’s still going to get married. Your daughters are still going to support him. Is trying to get your way worth alienating yourself from your children?

  • hchrist

    It is impossible to tell from this letter what’s going on here. Like, maybe the mom is right and this is a horrible mistake and the son is an asshole who’s messing up his entire life and his fiancee’s too? Though as the response says, I’m not sure how endless lectures from the mom are going to help if that’s the case. OTOH, it could totally be something like, they have an open relationship but the wife-to-be got freaked out going into the wedding! Which still signals that they have things to work through but not necessarily in the way the mom thinks. The judginess/”look-at-me” quality of the letter just really makes me feel like the mom has an agenda that doesn’t quite line up with just wanting her son to be happy. *shruggy man emoticon that i still don’t know how to make*

    • Lawyerette510

      Good point, and even if “the mom is right and this is a horrible mistake and the son is an asshole who’s messing up his entire life and his fiancee’s too” as you put it, how does her boycotting the wedding help the situation? (seconding the emoticon)

  • Mrrpaderp

    It sounds like everyone in this situation needs to learn how to keep their mouths shut. Why did son tell fiancée that his mother thinks he doesn’t love fiancée? Why did the daughters tell their mother that son had an affair? Why was LW’s first response to her son’s engagement announcement, “I think this is a bad idea,” instead of having that conversation at a less emotionally charged time?

    LW should endeavor to be a positive role model to her children, who clearly have not learned that silence is golden. Telling son that everyone has been gossiping about him is only extending the drama. If LW is going to say anything to anyone, she should tell her daughters to sit down and shut up.

    LW should also apologize – without reservations – to her son for her response to his engagement announcement. That means without saying “I’m sorry I reacted that way BUT I HAVE A VALID CONCERN.” No. When you raise a valid concern in an invalid way, you pretty much guarantee that the person you’re concerned about won’t be able to hear it from you anymore.

    • eating words

      Also: does anyone ever REALLY know what’s in the head of another person? LW thinks her son doesn’t love his fiancee, but no one can really, deeply know that except for him.

  • Carolyn S

    This discussion brings up an interesting thought for me: is there ever a good enough reason to boycott the wedding of someone you love? The comment thread below is pretty unsympathetic to the fact that standing up and blessing the marriage of someone you love can be pretty hard if you believe you have valid concerns about said marriage. The flip side of course, being that, if you think the marriage is a mistake there is a good chance that person is going to need you down the road, and avoiding a wedding could burn some bridges.

    • Liz

      For sure. I’m not sure it’s ever the time to Make A Statement via your absence, though. Like, “Well, I won’t go to the wedding, that’ll show them how I feel!” I think it’s super important to address motivation here. No one is going to change their mind about their wedding because you decided not to come- that’s not going to make someone introspectively think, “Wait, am I making a horrible mistake?” They’ll more likely think it says something about YOU and, “Fine, be that way, then.”

      But if you’re personally motivated, as in, “I wouldn’t feel comfortable sitting at a celebration of what’s happening here,” and it’s about YOU and YOUR ability to sleep at night, yes. I think so.

    • emilyg25

      Sure, like Liz said, but I also think you need to accept that if you do that, it will probably permanently damage your relationship.

    • Amy March

      I just don’t view attending a wedding as “standing up and blessing a marriage” at all. Half the time I don’t even know the couple well enough to have any idea how I feel about their wedding.

      • Caitlin

        Totally with you. I don’t think a marriage has to be an endorsement of everything about the couple, but it is a major life event and if you are close enough that your absence would be very notable (immediate family or best friends), not showing up to a major life event is probably going to impact the relationship in some way. I think that it’s important to consider the impact it will have, even if your not trying to Make a Statement.

  • Amanda

    Anecdotally,everyone I know whose parents didn’t attend their weddings by choice–even if it was truly the best thing in the moment to do–are scarred by it. A woman I know, happily married for over 30 years, still feels a twinge of sadness reflecting on her wedding day because she remembers it as a time she and her father weren’t on speaking terms. A friend is still hurt because his mother & father could not be civil, so the mother refused to go. And he’ll always know that his mother valued her spite for her ex over the love for her son. If you are able to go, go. Nothing says, “I love you no matter what” like showing up.

    • AnneBonny

      THIS. That is not something a child would ever, ever forget, even if you make up later.

  • Fabulous Caroline

    Your son is an adult and unfortunately you may not like his decisions or choices in life, but whatever mistakes he’s going to make will be his to deal with. There’s no point in telling him you know about his cheating, his fiancee knows and is moving forward with the wedding, even if it’s a sham. You speaking to him will cause another fight. Sounds like you guys have a strained relationship already, why add fuel to the fire?

  • Noah

    If you can’t be happy for the couple getting married, don’t go to their wedding. It’s that simple. Generally speaking, if you’re not there to celebrate with the couple, people *don’t want you at their wedding*.

    Your attendance or lack thereof need not be a referendum on your relationship with your son. If you want to work on your relationship with your son, you can do that in ways unrelated to his relationship and his wedding.

    • Eenie

      I’d change it to: If you can’t ACT happy for the couple getting married, don’t go to their wedding.

  • laddibugg

    He’s not marrying you, he’s marrying his fiance. This is a matter between them.
    And unless he’s flat out told you ‘I don’t love her’, you have no idea what his feelings are. Cheating on someone doesn’t mean that love is totally absent.

  • I am assuming this wedding is pretty soon, since the invitations have been sent. I think if I were the mother of this son, I would go to the wedding out of love for my son and my hopes to maintain that relationship. But it would be difficult for me.

    And I am concerned for his fiancée. I worry that what she wants from marriage and what the son wants from marriage might not align. If the couple has worked out some sort of agreement or if monogamous fidelity is not that important in their relationship, that’s one thing. But if it is important to the fiancée, I am concerned. I hope this couple can do some counseling to make sure they are on the same page about their goals and expectations for marriage (love, fidelity, etc.).

    I am concerned that the fiancée agreed to continue the wedding plans only one day after learning of the infidelty. When I learned my now-ex-husband was leaving me for another woman, I was in shock for months. And my feelings were clouded by love for much longer. If my ex had wanted to come back, I don’t think I would have been able to think clearly about my situation during those early weeks and months. The pain was overwhelming and I wasn’t thinking rationally. I hope the fiancée has good counsel in these weeks leading to marriage, and I hope the couple is able to honestly communicate about desires and expectations for marriage, and if those desires don’t align, I hope they have the courage to stop the train heading towards marriage and re-evaluate.

    And if I’m really honest? If I knew the fiancée, I would be one of those people ready with the get-away car if she changed her mind at the last minute.

  • Theresa Hendrick


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  • Evey

    This is THE BEST advice. Thank you, Liz.

  • Kara Davies

    Having recently been to a wedding where none in the family supported the marriage nor the choice of person marrying in to the family, and the entire day was uncomfortable and awkward for all involved, my advice to LW is this. LW stand your ground, tell your son what you think you need to say and then stay absolutely clear. Don’t go to the wedding if you don’t support it. Deal with the fall out later. Just because he’s your son and you love him doesn’t mean you *have* to support the wedding. :p He’s an adult, you’re an adult, deal with it after the honeymoon.

  • Rita Sanchez


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  • Anne

    I know I’m late to the party, but as someone who grew up – and still deals – with a mother who sounds very much like the LW, I’d like to add something: Telling your adult child that you think they don’t love their fiancée and shouldn’t marry them upon the announcement of the engagement is not ok. In no possible scenario. It’s abusive behavior. Why? Because your “child” is a grown up person and trying, in whatever way, to manipulate them to do as you say, is not normal behavior. If you love and support your child, you’ll have plenty of time to voice your concerns in a respectful way during their engagement. You will, however, have no need to directly and, I suspect, violently voice your disapproval. If, however, you absoultly need to do so, then try to pressure your child into not getting married by threatening not to attend the wedding and, even worse, try to pressure your other children into joining you, I’m sorry I have to break it to you, but you’re being an abusive parent and need to either change your ways or not attend the wedding.

  • Jeff Creedon

    “He who is without sin cast the first stone” is not for the religious, its a school of thought that helps us to forgive. I may not have committed adultery but I also was not in his position, perhaps I would not have resisted either. Empathy also makes it easier to forgive. I’ve discovered passing negative judgement makes it enormously more difficult because now there is a negative emotion tied to it that’s burned the event into our brain to relive, snowballing each time. The only person who was wronged in this is the son’s fiancée, if she can forgive and move om then let us learn from her example.