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.
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