My Fiancé Won’t Marry Me If My Parents Come to the Wedding


And he's serious

by Liz Moorhead, Editor, Ask APW

man walking toward ocean

Q: To my excitement, my boyfriend came to me and said he’s feeling ready to get married. We have decided we both want the wedding to be a small one, with a dinner party vibe. However, when it comes to the guest list, that’s where we have a big dispute.

See, my boyfriend has said that having my parents at the wedding would be a dealbreaker for him. He says he enjoys spending time with my parents when we go out to dinner with them, but long periods of time (during the holidays) feel like torture to him—not because of anything about my parents (they love him and already treat him like family), but because he says he feels like he has to constantly be on his guard regarding what he says around them.

It’s kind of hard to explain, but my family was very Leave It to Beaver (without the insidious misogyny), while my boyfriend’s family was more Shameless. Despite the massive dysfunction, he was basically able to express himself however he wanted, curse, and speak freely about sex and drugs. I got in trouble for cursing, my parents disparage marijuana on the regular (he and I live in a state where it’s been decriminalized), and they kind of act like sex doesn’t exist. I understand how uncomfortable it is to have to censor yourself, and I also understand that asking him to be extremely uncomfortable on his wedding day is not okay.

I understand that this is his ultimatum—get married without my parents present, or don’t get married at all. He’s not budging, and there’s no room for negotiation. He’s perfectly okay never getting married, so the proverbial ball’s in my court.

Other than that, though, he’s made a lot of concessions. He’s not religious, but is happy to get a ketubah and rabbi. He hates having his picture taken, but for me, he would throw down on a photographer. He even said he’d be happy to have a party that included our friends and my tight-knit family sometime after the honeymoon. He just doesn’t want the stress it would bring him to have my parents physically there on our wedding day.

So my question is, how do I tell my parents they aren’t invited to my wedding? I love them dearly and we are very close. It breaks my heart to think about it—not because of any walking-down-the-aisle moments, but the simple fact that they weren’t there would be really sad.

Or do I avoid the issue by putting a kibosh on the wedding altogether? Neither of us has told anyone about our engagement, so there won’t be any backtracking necessary.

Either way, my parents won’t attend a wedding, but this way will hurt everyone less. Except I’d still like to get married…

—Oy vey

A: Dear OV,

Hoo boy, that isn’t the question I expected at the end of all of this. How can I dump him? Sure. How can I tell my parents? Didn’t see it coming.

Listen. People are complex and multifaceted beings. We each have multiple sides, various interests, even different manners of speaking. We contain multitudes. And a normal, natural, healthy part of adulthood is expressing only parts of that multifaceted self at certain times. You don’t talk about your sex life with colleagues. You don’t have a gin and tonic in the car. You don’t tell your two-year-old to fuck off (unless you’re having a really, really bad day). It’s not false or inauthentic. It’s courteous. It’s appropriate. But it’s not always comfy or cozy, and we all learn to cope with it because that’s what makes society, and being around other people all the frigging time, livable.

And that goes double for the people we love. The little bit of everyday awkwardness of restrained, polite chitchat is honestly the least a person can do for someone they care about. I muster that for the Target checkout lady, and I don’t even know her. What you’re telling me is that your partner is choosing the small comfort of being able to make a dick joke any time he wants over the importance of including your family in a significant life event. He’s asking you to risk long-term effects on your relationships with them for the foreseeable future so he doesn’t have to watch his mouth for six hours.

You know I’ve gotta ask: What’s that mean for the future? What do you do over these holidays he finds unbearable? At the hypothetical birthday parties of your potential kids? If they’re not invited to your wedding of all days, when will he feel comfortable enough to be around them? And what’s that mean for your relationship with them?

You also have to think about what this means about him, as a person. This kind of ultimatum—forcing you to make a hard, serious decision, rather than inconvenience him or make him uncomfortable—is very controlling. Worse than that, he’s trying to create distance between you and your parents, threatening to seriously impact your relationship with some of your core support folks. That’s… frightening.

But I’m just a stranger on the Internet. Ask yourself: Does this seem like a reasonable request? More specifically, what will excluding your parents for this reason do to your relationship with them long term, and are you okay with that? What does this kind of request say about your partner, and are you okay with that? If the answer to those questions is, “Nope,” then I think you know what to do.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO ASK APW A QUESTIONPLEASE DON’T BE SHY! IF YOU WOULD PREFER NOT TO BE NAMED, ANONYMOUS QUESTIONS ARE ALSO ACCEPTED. (THOUGH IT REALLY MAKES OUR DAY WHEN YOU COME UP WITH A CLEVER SIGN-OFF!)

 

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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  • Emma

    DO NOT MARRY THIS MAN!

    • CMT

      I just came here to say DTMFA. (Which was my immediate reaction to this letter, but not the kindest advice, I realize.)

      • Lisa

        That was my first reaction as well. I tried to expound on that in my comment below though.

  • Emma
  • Lisa

    That was NOT the question I was expecting either. Unless your parents had been horribly abusive to you or your partner, it is completely unreasonable for him to insist on this as a condition of getting married. That’s a serious mind game he’s playing with you by forcing you, LW, to choose between marriage to him or your relationship with your parents.

    To me, this is an relationship extinction level request. Your partner is being completely unreasonable, and I only wonder what this kind of request means for your future together. What if this gets escalated? What if he won’t celebrate the holidays with you or go on vacation if your family will be there FOREVER? (But you’re perfectly welcome to do them without him or not celebrate/vacation at all.) Are you willing to possibly damage your relationship with your parents FOREVER? I’d think very carefully about the type of person you’d be tying yourself to by getting married because I have a feeling that these kind of requests will only escalate and serve to isolate you from your family long term.

    • MDBethann

      I’m in agreement with Liz, Lisa and probably pretty much everyone else on this. His behavior is VERY controlling; I don’t care that he’s “giving in” or “compromising” on other issues surrounding the wedding – at the end of the day, a lot of those things (other than the rabbi) are window dressing. Your parents, if you have a good relationship with them and they are not abusive to you, are NOT window dressing. He also doesn’t have to interact with them the entire time of the wedding and reception. His request is completely unreasonable. It’s one thing to not want to vacation with your in-laws (lots of people don’t, and you can always go without him), but a totally different thing to not want them at your wedding if they are not abusive and have a good relationship with him. He should have packed his bags immediately after making that demand of you. Liz was spot-on.

      • 4 hour wedding (or even shorter!) vs. days-long vacation. These are two very different levels of intensity.

        Dude needs to GTFO, or get thee to a couples counselor ASAP.

      • Megan

        Totally agree. Weddings are full of compromise and meeting in the middle. I’m religious and my husband is not particularly but we got married by my minister. That doesn’t mean it’s tit for tat, and if he compromised on one thing he could request my parents not come. That is very manipulative and deserves some serious thought and, at the very least, counseling for the two before tying the knot.. Or not!

  • This screams DANGER! As a domestic abuse survivor I see nothing but red flags and it’s scary to read this woman’s letter…

  • Amy March

    WHAT?!?!?!? No. I refuse to offer any support of this jerk. He refuses to have you kind loving parents at your wedding and your question is how to tell your “dearly loved” parents that? Absolutely not. You break up with him, because he is immature, controlling, doesn’t care about your needs, and a completely ridiculous person who is not worthy of your time.

    Honestly. The fact that the options you are considering are “marry him without them” or “don’t marry him but stay together forever” is viscerally frightening to me. Please don’t let his need to curse frequently isolate you from your loving family.

    I am sure someone else will be able to summon “understanding” and “non-judgmental” about this man, but I am not on that team today. Somehow you seem to have gotten it into your head that you need to accommodate his feelings, and go with his compromises, and be understanding of all of his needs, but sometimes people’s needs are absolute nonsense and you actually need to say no.

    • Annie

      I’m also on Team Judgment. He’s an ass. An isolating, potentially abusive ass.

      • Anon for this

        Isolating and abusive were the first two things that came to mind. It can be hard to see except in hindsight – I know from experience.

        • Erica G

          SAME. I had the same thought and I have been there too.

        • Alanna Cartier

          SAME. Get away and get away fast. The fact that he is allowing you a photographer is not a compromise. He is a controlling ass and it will only get worse.

        • macaroni

          Yep. Been there, done that, got the t shirt. And I will tell every woman I meet to dump dudes like this. It doesn’t get better – it gets worse.

    • CMT

      I don’t think “understanding” and “non-judgemental” need to be about the bf in this case, but rather the LW. I hope the LW doesn’t read comments (like my own above, I’ll admit) and shut down or become defensive.

    • La’Marisa-Andrea

      There’s no understanding. He’s an asshole. Get rid of him. Period.

    • Poeticplatypus

      You see I was waiting for the part where your parents were abusive to the LW or disrespectful to your relationship or his family. It the real world one does not get to be unfiltered at all times. LW run this man will find other ways to control you. A partnership is not about controlling the other person. Also you have to ask yourself would he allow you to put him through the same turmoil?

    • elle

      Amy March you are my favorite person on the internet today.

  • KEA1

    OK. In your paragraph where you talk about the “concessions” that your SO has made, you mention some that have big implications for the wedding day itself. But your SO’s expectation that you will exclude your own parents from your wedding has big implications for your *married* *life*. Please don’t play the game (or let your SO play the game) of trying to keep score of concessions whose consequences are in *completely* different categories from each other.

  • Sarah

    Aw no hell no. I wonder if he’s asking this as a way to not get married….like it’s easier to make a ridiculous demand that say he’s not into marriage. And what is the difference between no parents at a wedding versus no parents at the party afterwards?

    • Eenie

      My reaction as well. My in laws left the reception fairly early. I really didn’t react much with them on the day besides some hugs and a five minute chat.

  • BDubs

    You say you are close to your family. If you marry him, you’re part of his family and he yours. This is an abnormal dealbreaking issue. Beware.

  • Kalë

    #BYE

  • J. Budd

    Part of being married is accommodating the other persons’ crazy, annoying, stiff, etc. family and friends (save abuse, or other threatening behavior). For most couples, it takes many years to figure out how to do this well, and sometimes “no” is the answer for certain events, times etc. (i.e. “no, we can’t make it to Christmas Eve even though you have a billion traditions on Christmas eve because we are starting our own traditions, but we will celebrate Christmas eve with you in another meaningful way on a different day.”) But, choosing just not to accommodate is unacceptable. The wedding is one of those where you have to accommodate. Liz is right- this request of his does not bode well for the rest of your marriage, and will likely breed resentment on all sides.

  • KK

    I don’t even understand how this ultimatum makes sense if he can enjoy “spending time with [your] parents when we go out to dinner with them” – we spent far less time with any particular wedding guest (besides bridal party) at our wedding than we would have going out to dinner with them.
    But obviously the far bigger issue is that this really sounds like a type of emotional abuse – please be careful with yourself!

    • Violet

      Yeah, wow, I would NOT marry someone who is so uncomfortable watching his ps and qs for a few hours that he would prefer me to basically irrevocably hurt my family of origin, who, according to LW, are kind to him. Wow. What kind of person does the math and arrives at the conclusion that a temporary bout of discomfort trumps a family relationship? And then on to the abuse angle, then tries to manipulate someone else into going along with that flawed calculus? Nooooooooooooooo…

    • Oy Vey

      Like I said below, he has a lot of lingering issues from being stuck in an emotionally abusive family. It’s not about minding p’s and q’s, it’s about being uncomfortable in any situation where he feels people have certain expectations of him (which are just expectations he puts on himself) and he tends to retreat into self-care mode quickly.

      All this abusive family stuff was in my initial letter I sent Ask APW and without it, it does sound like my bf is an ass.

      • Amy March

        Then I think the answer is that he needs to continue to work through those issues and figure out a type of self-care that doesn’t involve removing you from good relationships.

        • Violet

          Yeah, that doesn’t sound like self-care to me, it sounds like pathological avoidance/defense mechanisms. Self-care is productive in the long-term. Running away from situations that are objectively safe is not self-care. I’m concerned his therapist might be telling him it is. Self-care is not just what feels good in the moment (otherwise Dunkin Donuts is my self-care). It’s doing what’s healthy in the moment, with an eye towards long-term progress.

        • Nicole

          Indeed. Including the person’s own history might provide perspective on why such a line-in-the-sand request was made, but it doesn’t make the request acceptable, and doesn’t mean that this is a fair thing to ask your beloved to accommodate. From my own experience, going into a relationship asking your partner to (essentially) knowingly damage relationships they have with close, non-abusive family members is a manipulative and/or emotionally abusive move, whether or not it is INTENDED to be a manipulative move or comes from unresolved issues.

        • La’Marisa-Andrea

          He needs to work through his issues while single.

        • Alanna Cartier

          I was with a guy exactly like this. He had so many layers of issues, there was no way we could ever work through it together. He needs to work out his own shit before he can be a partner is a relationship.

          • Lisa

            That’s what I’m wondering a bit, too. My abusive ex had some serious family shit going down that I tried to support and help with, but I ended up being totally isolated and controlled in the process. I wonder if the LW’s boyfriend might need to work out his issues alone for a little while, and then the two of the them can reconnect when they’re both more emotionally stable.

      • KEA1

        Your parents did not cause any of his experiences with his family. Presumably you didn’t either. I am sympathetic to the idea that he is a much better person than he appears in this letter, but unless *your* parents have actively been abusive of him, this expectation is not a reasonable one no matter how much he is suffering from the fallout of hellish experiences.

      • Liz

        I’m sorry you feel like this letter doesn’t reflect what you wrote. Super lengthy ones like yours get shortened before publishing, but all of the details (even those that have to be excluded just for sake of brevity) are considered in writing the response.

        • LJ

          You gave a valid and fair answer. I think the LW/Oy Vey was looking for sympathy and people to relate to, not to be told that the premise of her question is an indicator of emotional abuse.

      • Spot

        Okay but…he is “happy to never get married”, and gives you an ultimatum that he knows is totally unreasonable and painful for you in order for you to marry him? I don’t buy this “Oh I can’t cuss around them” stuff as the real singular reason for this crap for one minute. I don’t think this has anything to do with your parents, or even his family.

        He’s forcing you to choose between the Nuclear Option to get something you want (to be married to him), or going with what he wants anyway (to be together, unmarried). As much as you insist that he poops rainbows, this still places him pretty firmly in the ‘glaringly selfish manipulative dick’ category. This isn’t a healthy way for adults to handle conflict or compromise with their partner. Hit the brakes.

        • La’Marisa-Andrea

          Hallelujah.

      • Violet

        I wouldn’t say he’s an ass, but I’d say his ultimatum (even if delivered in the throes of an argument) is so out of line as to be pretty despicable. And not only did he suggest it, you are entertaining it (at least seriously enough to write in about it). This is what’s got me worried for you guys more than anything else.

      • Mrrpaderp

        It’s the unwillingness to bend that’s the problem though. Maybe you have a morning ceremony that’s just the two of you, bask in the newlywed glow all day, and then have a dinner later in the evening that includes friends and family. Or maybe you do the opposite – parents can watch during an intimate ceremony, you have a nice lunch together, then go out and party it up with friends all night. Whether you marry this guy or not, a partnership is all about compromises, and it seems like he’s short-cutting all of that.

      • AmandaBee

        Then those issues are his issues, not yours. And he needs to deal with his own issues, not turn them into ultimatums that require you to destroy your family relationships so that he can feel better about his.

        Here’s the thing: abusive family relationships can really screw you up. And for many people, they have to deal with that personally before they can be in a relationship. Doesn’t sound like your guy is there, and so at the very least he needs to sort that shit out before getting married. probably he should’ve sorted it out before getting into a relationship of any sort.

        And I’m saying this as someone who spent a fair amount of time in therapy sorting out the issues related to my own abusive family situations. You don’t get to put problems like that on your partner, and you wouldn’t want to if you cared about this.

        The only people I know who try to use past abuse as an excuse for being a shitty partners are typically people who just don’t want to put effort into being a good partner. Be honest with yourself: how much is he trying to fix himself, and how much is he just expecting you to deal with it?

        • sofar

          “Be honest with yourself: how much is he trying to fix himself, and how much is he just expecting you to deal with it?”

          As much as I’m going to haate myself for quoting “Girls,” there’s a really good moment where Hannah’s mom talks to her about being with Adam (who doesn’t want to play nice with Hannah’s friends or family). She says:

          “I don’t want you to spend your whole life socializing him like he’s a stray dog, making the world a friendlier place for him.”

      • Couples counseling, ASAP. Probably some individual therapy, too.
        This ultimatum is not reasonable.

      • La’Marisa-Andrea

        Some advice (since you wrote in to a bunch of strangers afterall): When people show you who they are, believe them. It will save you so much drama and heartache in the future. Good luck.

      • Wren

        Oy Vey.. It is very sad that he had an abusive childhood. Unfortunately, this is a common excuse that abusers use to justify their treatment of their significant other. His lingering issues should not be taken out on you. He knows how much it sucks to be abused, which mean he should not be abusing you by making you isolate yourself and cut important ties with those you have a good relationship with. If he knows what abuse feels like, why would he want to make the person he loves feel like that? I would understand if he lovingly supported you in cutting ties with abusive family. But this? This is an abuse tactic, and having a broken childhood does not give him the right to hurt you like this and demand you cut ties with your parents because they provided you with a good childhood and have a good relationship with you. Please pick up a copy of “Why Does He Do That?”. The book actually covers EXACTLY this (that it’s a myth that abusers abuse because of experiencing abuse as children). I believe the PDF can be tracked down online since Lundy Bancroft believes it is important for people to have access to. I made the same excuse for my abusive husband… That he is abusive (mentally/emotionally/sometimes verbally) because his mother was. I was shocked at how much I saw my husband in that book and how many myths I used to justify his behavior. I am very isolated (moved to another country for him) and stuck with him for the foreseeable future. But as someone who has experience with this, I know other people telling you to leave won’t get you to leave. You think we just don’t understand him, probably. That we don’t know how wonderful he really is… The fact is, you will start planning your exit & leave when you’ve had enough (hopefully). I wish you luck and safety until then. This will destroy your relationship with your parents while you are with him – which is what he wants, but they sound like wonderful parents and will probably be there for you to help you pick up the pieces when/if you accept that you deserve so much more.

    • Yeah this is also confusing to me too. I envision at a wedding with anything more than 10 people, you’re not going to be spending a whole lot of intense 1 on 1 time with anyone. Why would it be such a big deal for this dude to just not have an extensive personal conversation with the parents at the wedding?

    • Rebekah

      I mean, I can kind of see how he’d be like, “well, I can censor myself for 3 hours at a dinner and that’s ok, but I want to be 100% authentic on my wedding day and having them there would make me uncomfortable, because I’d feel like I do at dinners.”
      The solution is simple. “Mom, Dad, Derrick is a lot less reserved than we are because he grew up in a different environment. You might not know how much of an effort he makes to be respectful to our family’s boundaries, but he does. He wants to feel like he can be himself on our wedding day, so I wanted to let you know that he will probably swear a lot more than you’re used to hearing and might talk about some things that our family doesn’t talk about. I know that you love me and that you support me and my choices. You might be uncomfortable on my wedding day.”

      Like, wouldn’t that solve it?

      • Oy Vey

        Thanks. This is the type of solution we’re currently working to reach, though “Derrick” has to get to a place where he understands letting loose is okay.

        • Her Lindsayship

          Another thing that “Derrick” should know is okay: not having the best day of your life on your wedding day. I TOTES understand that that’s the social expectation, and that pressure might be especially heavy on someone trying to claw their way out of a bad place and kind of prove to themselves they’re ok now. But a wedding will involve compromise from both parties, and that means neither of you gets your exact *ideal* circumstances. Last week’s AAPW started some great convos about how the wedding was not everyone’s fave day ever, and that’s ok. You could read through some of that together – it really helps dim the sheen of impossibly perfect standards for your wedding. Hope it’s getting better for you guys.

  • Anon

    Look, I get that family dynamic differences can be tough, and that goes double (or quadruple) when socioeconomic factors come into play. His discomfort with your parents is something that I can actually empathize with–my husband is very much the same way. I had to ask him to curb swear words and off-color storeis, he has family members who adamantly believe he married a “rich bitch,” we’ve had to work through certain expectations around social events and our life trajectory, and hell, one time early on my husband screamed, “DO YOU THINK YOUR PARENTS’ MONEY IMPRESSES ME?!” when I asked him to please not wear a t-shirt to a nice dinner. Etc., etc., etc., etc….

    I do get it and it’s something that can affect you throughout your marriage. It can be really, really hard, on both sides, because the way you’re brought up can be fundamental to the fabric of how you understand the world. At the same time though, love absolutely does not know these bounds and great, amazing, healthy partnerships can come from these circumstances (and do, all the time!)

    But the difference? We worked together to make each other feel comfortable. We saw value in both our relationships with our families and worked to build our own with our in-laws. We compromised, while being clear what parts of ourselves we weren’t willing to compromise. Without that willingness (and lots of communication along the way), we wouldn’t have made it. I know you’re going to get a LOT of this, but your fiance’s attitude is really concerning and doesn’t seem to be working towards an inclusive partnership. Please consider your own needs moving forward.

    • Jess

      I cannot stress the importance of your last paragraph enough: “But the difference? We worked together to make each other feel comfortable. We saw value in both our relationships with our families and worked to build our own with our in-laws. We compromised, while being clear what parts of ourselves we weren’t willing to compromise.”

      I completely understand and can fill in some of the unspoken reasons to fear a wedding with someone’s parents: embarrassment of them seeing my parents or family or friends and judging them, discomfort with how fancy things are and not belonging at my own wedding, bottled up feelings of inadequacy to get married to someone better than me, etc.

      Those feelings are so real. They can also be named and managed instead of being placed on the shoulders of people who are important to you, LW.

      • AtHomeInWA

        I liked this part of the last paragraph: “Please consider your own needs moving forward.”

        I don’t know it is a savior complex or being a woman or emotional labor or what. But I know it can be easy to say “I understand your needs and want to meet them” and forget to say “do you understand my needs and want to meet them too.” It isn’t scary to hear and to help, but it can be scary to name your soft spots and stand up for them.

        • Anon

          I think this can really happen when you feel like the “lucky one” in a relationship–growing up with a stable home life, supportive family, never having worried about getting food at night, etc. Not necessarily (or hopefully not) in a condescending way, but you feel so awful for what your partner has gone through and feel like your desires or needs are selfish, since you haven’t been through half of what they have. So if they have discomfort, yeah, you’re going to prioritize that because you want to be a source of safety, security, and warmth to them.

          This is generally a loving perspective, and sometimes even a fair one, but can become martyrdom (and eventual possible resentment) too quickly if you you lose sight of your own forest of needs for the small trees of theirs. And also can create confusion and sadness if your partner doesn’t realize that you feel that you’re “giving in” rather than just operating the way you wanted to (which it’s not that you *didn’t* want to, it’s just that it cost more than you realized at the time)

          Not that I’m speaking from (healed, progressive) experience or anything!

    • Oy Vey

      This letter was written in the heat of panic after we had a long discussion about our wedding that ended in his ultimatum. We’ve put the wedding on hold and are working this out via long talks.

      I appreciate that you understand how different family dynamics can bring difficulties.

      • HI Natatat

        Just wanted to pop in here with a bit of positive: Best of luck, and sending you love and good thoughts! I hope you find the best, healthiest way to sort it all out. Every family and person definitely comes with their own special, unique-snowflake set of difficulties (ugh, dont i know it) and kudos to you for trying to work with and through that, while maintaining love for yourself, your partner and your families :). Hard decisions and situations are the worst, especially for the people living through it.

  • Stephanie B.

    If he sets the precedent by banning your kind, loving parents from the wedding, I seriously hope you don’t think that you’ll be spending holidays with your parents after the wedding. Not because your parents won’t invite you, but because your husband will lay down another ultimatum. (You KNOW he will.) And will your parents be able to spend time with their grandchildren? Don’t count on it. Banning your loving, supportive parents from your wedding is the first step in separating you from the support system that loves and cares for you.

    Also, the excuse about not feeling comfortable around your parents because he can’t bust out with an unchecked stream of profanity whenever he likes? Are you kidding me? I’m genuinely curious: how old is he? Because this is not how a mature adult acts.

    I’m actually ridiculously profane on the regular, and my husband rarely swears. My family uses swear words like commas, and my husband’s family…does not. AND YET. Whenever I’m around his family, who I love beyond words, I manage to have a wonderful time with them while still not letting loose with a torrent of f-bombs. BECAUSE I’M A FUCKING ADULT who respects and loves my husband and his family.

    This man doesn’t respect your family, and he damn well doesn’t respect you. Think long and hard before you marry him or even continue to keep your life tied to his.

  • Oy Vey

    Um…wow.

    This is the LW and I’m never judging anyone on the internet ever again based on a snippet of their life.

    I’ve been in an emotionally abusive relationship before. This one is not.

    BF is estranged from 75% of his family because they are emotionally manipulative, emotionally abusive, etc. It was a situation he was unable to escape from for a long time and when he did, his life went sour (due to this family drama). He’s out of this hole now, but because of this he has a lot of issues surrounding accepting gifts from anyone, being close to anyone, dealing with others’ expectations. This is shit he’s working out in therapy. It’s not anything he’s taking out on me.

    Also, this request was very specific about wedding DAY. Not forever. Not birthday parties for potential future children. Not family vacations or holidays (which he goes on and never shows his discomfort). Not even for the reception.

    At present, we’ve put the wedding on hold and are working through this via long conversations.

    • Oy Vey

      And also, it’s not so much about the language as it is about being around people who he feels will hold him to a certain standard (PTSD from his family, again). I said in the letter that it’s hard to explain, and it is. He goes to “self-care mode” VERY quickly because of these experiences with his family.

      Also, all this stuff about his abusive family was in my initial submission to Ask APW

      • Lisa

        I think it’s great that he’s in therapy to work on this and that you’ve decided to put planning on hold for the time being. If he does all of the emotional work and still can’t tolerate the idea of your parents being around but you all still want to get married, I think an elopement would be the easiest for your parents to process. That way they aren’t the only immediate family excluded from the wedding day but two of many.

      • Jess

        I totally feel him on worrying about feeling judged and like he may not belong to the surrounds of his own wedding. It is my biggest concern today surrounding my wedding, and That Shit Is Hard.

        I really hope that he can work on managing those feelings, and that this is truly only in context of the wedding day itself. I am still working on feeling inadequate at all kinds of family events, and it is so hard, and I feel like a jerk around R’s family constantly. But I keep on trying.

        If it comes down to it – I hope you can either find peace for yourself and your family with something like an elopement or he can manage his feelings enough to have a wedding that includes both your families.

      • Violet

        You probably know this already, but many people who abuse were one time abused themselves—often when they were young. The backstory you’re explaining makes him more sympathetic, but it does nothing to render his response to the conundrum he’s having any less unacceptable.

        • LJ

          YES YES YES you don’t get vindication for abuse because you experienced it earlier. This is called the Cycle of Abuse and it is something to STOP. LW’s responses are making me so frustrated so I think I’m going to tap out.

      • Kristina

        I think therapy for him and couples therapy is great — so important in this situation — but I would also suggest therapy for you alone.

        When I was in a relationship (10 years, married for 6) with someone with anxiety, depression, and a number of other mental health issues, I spent lots of time trying to control situations so that he was comfortable and okay such as leaving early, making excuses for him, etc. He especially had a difficult time with my parents who he found annoying and hated having to put up with. I am really close to my parents so this was hard. I know this makes him look awful but he was a sensitive soul and I loved many things about him.

        Therapy really helped me figure out what I wanted in a partner. It’s hard when you really love someone, but I needed more of an equal. Being the emotionally healthy one, protecting him from difficult situations, having him send me looks when he’s with my parents that scream get me out of here — all of that is no longer a burden for me. Now, being with someone who is kind to my parents gives me great joy because I know he’s doing it for me. My fiance is so amazing to my parents and I can’t tell you the difference it makes.

    • Eenie

      To internet strangers it seems like an oddly specific ultimatum that set off many red flags.

      It sounds like you’re working through it, and I hope you know there’s a whole bunch of people here who are rooting for you to figure out what the future holds.

      • Eenie

        Oh and please write in with an update in the future? Am I the only one that wonders how these situations turn out? Obviously you don’t owe internet strangers anything.

        • Kalë

          Yes please to update, if only to advise others who may run into similar family dynamics. And, okay, a little to appease our curiosity.

        • Oy Vey

          I might update, I might not. Right now, leaning toward not.

          Everyone has created a narrative about my relationship that is plainly not true. The frustrating part is the more I deny it, the more I look like an idiot in denial. So unless I say “I broke up with him hooray!” I’ll just be asking for more of the same.

          When I step away from all the frustration and hurt of being misunderstood, I appreciate the concern and I hope that someone who is truly in a bad relationship (and I have been in an emotionally abusive relationship before, so I’m not ignorant of it) is triggered by these reactions to get the help s/he needs.

          • BSM

            I mean, given what you wrote (the unedited letter), can you really not understand everyone’s concern?

          • Oy Vey

            I understand how my letter reads, yes.

          • Eenie

            I’m sorry this afternoon has been frustrating! I hope there have been some nuggets of wisdom, and you take some time for yourself this weekend.

          • Not a parent. MockMyInsights.

            Let me start with: *Big hug*. This whole thread is why making snap judgement online is never a good idea. You never know the whole story, and these are real people. I am sincerely sorry that you felt attacked in what is supposed to be a safe space.

            It seems like you two are working through it (woo!). I think that, as long as this is a “He’s working through some stuff right now” thing and not a “Always and forever thing” you can ignore about 85% of what was said–everyone was approaching it as a “always and forever thing” which it doesn’t appear to be. While I love weddings, I think the very best (and healthiest thing) you could have done was what you did–put a pause on the wedding plans and talk about it.

            I would also, very kindly, suggest a counselor for you both. These are big complex emtional issues, and having a third party is helpful.

            Big hugs. No one knows your life but you. In the wonderful words of Elanor Rosevelt “Do what you feel in your heart to be right. For you’ll be criticized anyway”

          • Oy Vey

            Definitely not an always and forever thing.

            Thanks for the hug.

          • La’Marisa-Andrea

            I think people responded to what you wrote and I get it was a lot. Maybe step back, process and as with all advice, take what works for you and reject the rest. I don’t think anyone came at you with anything other than concern. I also think people would be happy to hear that you’ve both gotten help and are moving forward in a healthy way so I don’t think people are looking to hear you broke up. At the end of the day this is your life and I’m sure everyone on here hopes you make the best decisions for you and that there’s a happy ending here.

        • Oy Vey

          Small update.

          I got home last night, still upset, and showed him these comments after he asked me what was wrong.

          He sat there for a while reading them and then apologized, admitted he wasn’t ready to get married, but he felt bad for not being able to give me the life I envisioned and deserved, so he told me he was ready (Basically, he did a less funny version of the Chandler “I’m sorry” proposal to Monica).

          He was also horrified that the defense mechanism that reared up was essentially a tactic of abuse.

          We’re tabling all wedding conversations at the moment (which is fine with me, I would love to get married still, but I’d obv. rather do so with both of us ready, and also, planning a wedding sounds exhausting and I spend all my spare time working towards making a living as an independent artist) and he’s bringing this post into his therapist next week so he can make specific progress on how to separate all parental figures from his own.

          As much as I hated this thread, it has provoked a lot of positive change very quickly. So thanks for that.

          • Sarah

            Best wishes in the future.

          • saywhatnow

            Great to hear, OP. Please, think about talking to someone as well. It’s hard to stay grounded amidst so much change, and you deserve to understand your part in this episode, and feelings about it too.

    • Natasha Romanova

      Uh, if he has basically banned your parents from the wedding, he IS taking out his issues on you. It’s good you’ve put the wedding on hold.

    • BDubs

      Hey LW, sorry you got a facefull. It’s just scary to hear a request that might have been “Oh I just love the idea of an elopement, just US” vs “I’m not willing to marry you if your family is invited”.
      Food for thought?

    • Kyle

      “Also, this request was very specific about wedding DAY. Not forever.”

      But, unless your parents are very, very unusual people, not inviting them to your wedding is going to have implications for your relationship with them for the rest of your life. I think that’s what people are saying. This is such a strange, nuclear-seeming request. I guess there is something huge we are missing here.

      • Amy March

        Right. At the most charitable reading to him, I think he may be missing that piece of it? This is just one day, and it is just one day that happens to be classically important to 99% of parents, and it disturbs me, no matter his issues, that his answer isn’t “I’m not ready to get married yet because I’ve got issues” but rather “sure marriage lets do it btw I need you to hurt your parents sorry no other options dealbreaker the end.”

        • Maybe another one of those who believes “The wedding day is about US”, without any understanding for the community aspect of it?

          • BSM

            Even that doesn’t add up here. If the wedding day is about the couple, and the LW’s parents are important to her, where does that factor in?

          • La’Marisa-Andrea

            No bc he’s fine inviting other family.

        • La’Marisa-Andrea

          I’m not buying any of this. The further explanation doesn’t change my answer a tiny bit.

          • Violet

            Not for me either. It just… doesn’t have to be this hard. I know relationships are hard. But this hard? It doesn’t have to be.

          • La’Marisa-Andrea

            No.

      • emmers

        Yea, this is my thought too. If my brother were getting married, and his fiancé specifically requested that I be excluded, I might not say much, but I’d carry that for years. It would hurt a lot, regardless of the reason.

    • AtHomeInWA

      Hello LW,

      I have also been in judged (in real life!) for a snippet of my/our life. I feel you.

      Having had my own uninformed but well-meaning bystander send me worried texts that I was in an emotionally abusive relationship after my partner got stressed out and frustrated and called quits on an event that we both knew was going to be frustrating and hard on him and play into every insecurity he has but he agreed to go to because he loves me and wants to make me happy (damn dance classes anyway) I. Feel. You.

      I wonder if there is a third road. He wants to be truly present and not feel on guard during the wedding. You want (presumably? you haven’t actually specified) your parents at your wedding. Both are perfectly reasonable goals. You’re already willing to ask your parents not to come. Could you work out a way that your parents don’t interact with him? You get ready with your parents, maybe do a first look with them, have a quiet moment planned with them, but then explain to them the issue and seat them way far away from the two of you or ask them to not participate in certain parts of the event?

      I’m training as a mediator and we talk a lot about “interests” verses “positions.” The positions “I want my parents at my wedding” and “I don’t” are hard to resolve. But wanting people you love at your wedding and wanting freedom at your wedding, those two interests give you some room to come to a creative solution that could work for everyone. Especially since your parents sound like they’d be willing to work with the two of you to make it work.

      In any case, I’m glad you’re still working on it. Best wishes to you both.

      • Oy Vey

        Thank you. I’m in tears of relief at my desk now. This is very helpful, constructive advice.

        • Jess

          Hey Oy Vey, I’m sorry it probably feels like a lot of strangers are making snap judgments about your personal life right now. You’re right, its so hard to understand the nuances of the whole story with just an online snippet. I really hope you guys work this out, AtHomeinWa got me thinking, perhaps yall should bring this up with a mediator or his/your therapist(s)? Whatever happens I hope it works out for yall. Dealing with childhood stuff that bleeds over into adulthood is so hard. Please understand that everyone here is speaking out of concern based on limited knowledge. At the end of the day APW is a community that wants the best for and genuinely cares about its members. I wish you both all the best.

    • Amy March

      See, I think that’s the thing about asking for advice from people who don’t know you- they’re always going to be working from a snippet of your life. Which means they may be entirely wrong, because it’s hard to tell your story in a snippet in a way that conveys what is actually happening. And it also means they may be right, because you’re telling the story to yourself the way you want to hear it, and they come at it without that baggage.

      • Alexandra

        Yeah…also if you don’t want advice from strangers on the internet who don’t know you, don’t write an advice-seeking letter to a wedding blog. APW is more nuanced than the forums at The Knot, but we are still by definition strangers on the internet.

        • Violet

          I know part of her defense is that we, as an internet horde, would not have responded so viscerally if we’d read the letter in its original. But frankly, the unedited version does nothing to change what he did, and the fact that they both thought what he did was okay and were considering how to make his unreasonable request happen. Commenters not having all the information is an obvious fact of a forum like this, whether the letter is edited or not. So you either sign up for that reality or you don’t.

          • Alexandra

            The unedited version portrays him exactly as offensively as the original. It just has more rationalization on her part, which is more troubling. I’ve read them both several times. I’ve said this downthread, but what I’m wondering about is–ok, so we internet strangers “don’t get it” because we don’t have the full context, so how do the people in your life who DO have the full context see this relationship/scenario?

          • Violet

            Yes, good idea. If we are so off-base because of the limitations of the forum, what do LW’s friends say about it? Or is she avoiding asking them because she knows they will be worried for her and start telling her the things she doesn’t want to hear, the exact things we’re telling her?
            They’ve known each other 15 years. That is a LONG time. Been together for seven. I can see how terrifying it might be to actually consider that this person should not be in her life. I think that feeling could be very powerful, and could override a lot of good judgment. I’m really concerned for LW.

          • saywhatnow

            Agreed, but I’m more concerned – as Alexandra says – about OP’s belief that the added facts would change our understanding and explain away the situation as totally logical. There’s a sort of backwards reasoning process there: take the conclusion (in this case, the ultimatum) as a given without critically examining its validity, and fill in the evidence that (seems to) support it.

    • savannnah

      By this request though, he is ‘taking it out on you’- this will deeply affect your relationship with your parents.

    • Nell

      I have empathy for your bf’s pain.

      One of the *hardest* things for me to deal with in my relationship is that while I have spent years constructing very sturdy boundaries with my family, my wife doesn’t feel the need to have the same boundaries with hers. They make me uncomfortable sometimes, and I often want her to feel the way I do — that the very best way to handle this discomfort is to put up walls.

      It’s HARD, but I’m working on understanding that we don’t have to relate to her folks the way we relate to mine. Also, that someone else’s parents that you meet as a grown up can’t possibly put the same zap on your head that your own parents do in your childhood.

      • Oy Vey

        THANK YOU!! for vocalizing so well what I could not.

        That second paragraph is exactly the dilemma, except I’m your wife (I talk to my mom at least 3 times a week, my dad at least once per week and my mom and I text everyday).

        And my parents are aware of his issues and are helping to work to make him comfortable, slowly.

        • Nell

          Honestly, some of this is just TIME. If you’ve had trust broken over and over, then you’re going to sit very politely at the dinner table waiting for the other shoe to drop.

          Also. . . letting him off the hook for fitting in with Leave It to Beaver might help, too. I had a total revelation when I finally felt free to argue with my in laws about politics. We are 100% completely opposed, but knowing that I wouldn’t lose my wife or my in laws if I spoke my mind made an enormous difference.

          • Oy Vey

            I do let him off the hook (after getting back from dinner with my mom and sister a couple weeks ago, he fretted about saying “fuck” twice and I told him to calm down, it’s no big deal. No one cared. It’s fine, and it’s true) — he’s the one who feels like he’s on it.

            Hopefully after enough exposure, like you said, he’ll feel comfortable.

            Really, I’m RELIEVED you get this. That someone here does.

          • Rowany

            This is how I view it. He asked you to marry him as a show of how much he loves you and is committed to you. But because he is so estranged/damaged from his family, he doesn’t yet get how marriage is not just forming a baby family, but becoming part of each other’s families as well. I think it’s totally OK to be engaged as a statement of your commitment to each other, but recognize that you’re both not quite ready to be married yet.

            He needs to learn to be more comfortable around your family and have better tools to deal with the ramifications of his abuse, and personally I think you need to learn some more tools to recognize your needs and stand up for them. His past does not mean that his needs outweigh yours. Considering how close you are with your parents it’s concerning how quickly you were OK with the idea of excluding them for your wedding. “You can’t set yourself on fire to keep him warm”. When you two reach that point, your wedding day will be even more meaningful because the presence of your family there will be an obvious and loving testament to how far you both have come.

          • AtHomeInWA

            *snaps*

          • Megan

            When you two reach that point, your wedding day will be even more meaningful because the presence of your family there will be an obvious and loving testament to how far you both have come.
            YESSSSS

          • Yes. You’ll probably both be ready to be married when he’s finally comfortable having your parents at the wedding.

      • AtHomeInWA

        Ditto with my him. His family isn’t in the picture and he isn’t quite sure what to do with mine. He wants to love them, but he’s not sure how. He wants to make sure I get my time with them, but he’s not sure how he fits into that. He has never had a relationship from which to learn how to navigate this new one. And the fact that I’m so close with both probably doesn’t help, because the stakes are now even higher.

        • Violet

          All of this is so understandable. But from that situation to not inviting parents to the wedding is the leap where I’m getting stuck.

          • AtHomeInWA

            Agreed. And my him wouldn’t ever make that request because 1) he loves them 2) I love them 3) he loves me. But I can at my most sympathetic understand how that fear could manifest in “they can’t come.” I don’t think “they can’t come” is an acceptable solution, but I can see it as a starting point for figuring out what could be.

          • Violet

            I guess what has me worried for LW is she (at least in the letter) wasn’t treating it as a starting point. She was asking how to break the news to her family. Even if since then she and her boyfriend have realized it’s not a good idea, the fact that she entertained this as a possibility is chilling to me. I’m worried for her, but I don’t think she’s in a place where she can see that people are worried because what’s being presented is scary, and not because we aren’t sympathetic/don’t understand the whole story. Sometimes there just isn’t any amount of information that will justify someone’s actions.

          • AtHomeInWA

            Agreed. And explain and justify are two different things too. You can explain why someone does something but that doesn’t mean their actions are acceptable or justified.

          • Violet

            Yes, this!

        • Oy Vey

          yepyepyep.

          all this.

      • Kalë

        Same for me here – I have a difficult relationship with my parents, specifically my dad, while my partner has a loving, close-knit, supportive family. I can understand in some respects where LW’s boyfriend might be coming from – when your own relationship with your parents is strained at best, others’ closeness can seem overwhelming or outright weird. That being said, I don’t see how excluding LW’s parents is the only solution – I find that incredibly alarming, even from my perspective as someone with a difficult parental relationship.

    • KK

      I’m sorry you feel attacked, as Liz said, we are just strangers on the internet who wanted you to stop and ask yourself some questions because we saw a concerning side to this situation.
      With the extra information you provided, I still don’t understand the specific exclusion of your parents. It would make sense to me if he said he’s not comfortable having a wedding at all because weddings come with a lot of expectations (they certainly do!) and he’s uncomfortable with that pressure. Or maybe he would ask for a wedding with only close mutual friends? But looking in from the outside, the specific exclusion of your parents in particular feels more like an attack on you and your relationship with your parents than him trying to deal with a very tough situation.
      But you don’t have to convince me that it makes sense. I am glad to hear you are working through this via long conversations, the two of you know best where this ultimatum came from, we internet strangers do not, and I hope you can work out a solution. I hope you can celebrate your love for this man at a wedding attended by your family and friends, if that is what you want, because it’s a powerful experience. But that’s not the only way to get married, as I’m sure you’ve seen with APW-featured elopements etc!

    • emilyofnewmoon

      I’m sorry everyone piled on. I am very empathetic to someone with an abusive family, and it sounds like your boyfriend was put through the wringer through no fault of his own. But even with this new information, it sounds like there is a lot going on. How does he handle it at work when he has to do something he doesn’t like? What are everyday stressors like? For better or worse, he still must find a way to be in the world. If the larger issue is that he doesn’t want to get married right now, then that almost seems better to me–his therapy can continue in a more clear direction, and you can be a part of it. But someone who can’t handle a few hours of discomfort, either alone or for his fiancee’s sake, does not sound like someone to attach to, permanently, without a big shift in behavior and perspective.

    • Lawyerette510

      The one question I had as I was reading through this was “Is he saying he would like to elope and have it be just the two of you, or perhaps the two of you and a witness or two for the actual marriage ceremony, then have a celebration later? or is he saying that he wants to have the wedding and a celebration and invite loved ones but not your family?” I couldn’t tell from your letter, so I feel like I can’t give advice without understanding what you and he are thinking.

      You are there and you know the larger situation, but I’d happily give advice on how to navigate either of those alternatives, if you’re still looking for input.

      • Oy Vey

        Yes, thank you. As long as the answer isn’t “he’s abusive, get out,” I’m looking for input.

        Also deleted from the letter is the fact that we were going to have a small wedding, bordering on elopement.

        He would ask his two family members he still talks to to be his witness and I would have my sister and my cousin (my best friends) be mine. Then I asked, “Well what about my parents?” and he said he didn’t want them there during the ceremony/on that day.

        Thanks for your question. Would love to hear what you had to say.

        • Eenie

          I think it really depends on what you want AND what your parents think of that elopement. My parents told me they were fine with an elopement. Lots and lots of people find it very hurtful. If you know and/or don’t care if your parents are hurt by an elopement, this seems like a good solution as long as it’s something you want too. But I still think it’s a good idea to put the breaks on and see if he can get to a point where inviting your parents is on the table.

        • anon

          I don’t understand why, if the issue is family pressure and expectations, he is ok with your sister and cousin but not your parents. Your sister is family; presumably she too falls into the “I have to behave like a grownup and it triggers me” issue.

        • KK

          It sounds like elopement might be a good solution, as long as it’s something you are open to. The stress of wedding planning, managing families and expectations, and being the center of attention makes a lot of couples consider elopement and there is nothing wrong with that!
          As Eenie points out though, as you work through the decision of if it’s the right solution, part of the discussion should be the acknowledgment that eloping may hurt your parents’ feelings and it may affect your relationship them. Also, if you have always had a dream of a bigger wedding surrounded by all your friends and family, you should be given the space to mourn the loss of that and be disappointed.

          From your full letter, it sounds like he really wants the ceremony to be private, so that it can reflect only what the two of you want, not any external expectations. And then after that, he’d be open to a bigger more inclusive celebration. So I could see the following: a very small private ceremony, with just a couple witnesses like he suggested, which is the official wedding. Then have the 30-person wedding you imagined, and see if he’d be open to compromising and having another ceremony that would be witnessed by all? The two of you would still have your private ceremony, but your family and friends would also get the experience of supporting you in starting your marriage. Whether that happens after the honeymoon or before is another decision – I think it might feel more ‘authentic’ to your family if the 30-person celebration was also before your honeymoon, but that’s getting into smaller details.
          Good luck!

        • Rebekah

          It’s hard for me to read about his response to having your parents attend your wedding and not feel some pain in my heart. Obviously I don’t know what your relationship is with them, but so far it doesn’t sound bad. I can’t imagine the pain I’d feel if my SO told me he didn’t want my parents, whom I love, adore, and trust with almost every part of me, to attend a ceremony that solidified my commitment to him. I’ve read your other comments and I’m glad you are both continuing to discuss this, but it just straight up sucks that he would ask you to exclude them, even if it IS bordering on an elopement.

        • Ella

          The context that you were thinking about a 4-guest wedding changes this so much!! I, like most people here, was shocked that you would not invite your parents to a wedding. I read “small” as maybe ~30 people. But if you’re all at one table, it means no time away from any of the guests the whole event. I mean, it doesn’t mean he just gets to say no to your parents being there, but it definitely makes the request seem less absurd. Good to hear you’re working through it.

        • Lawyerette510

          I’ve been thinking on this, and in some ways it’s analogous to something my sister and her finance went through recently. For a myriad of reasons not necessarily related to the fiance’s parents, my sister really wanted to have a quasi-elopement with her, her fiance, and the siblings from both sides, with no parents from either side. She really really wanted this, but her fiance knew his parents well enough to know that having an elopement where his siblings were there and his parents were not would be really heart-breaking to his parents and damaging to both he and my sister’s relationship with them. He thought it would be less hurtful to have a full elopement, or an elopement with a friend or two from each of them, but my sister really wanted some family there.

          So, they slowed the roll on planning the wedding and really spent some time talking through the things around the guest list, and finally decided on a smaller, but not too small, wedding where there could be (emotional) buffers etc in place for the issues she was concerned about related to parents (more our parents than her fiance’s parents). This way it could be a wedding that met both of their needs and desires, instead of being driven primarily by her’s alone.

          I think if you put yourself in your parents’ place of a wedding that is witnessed by family members, but not by them, it’s going to be really difficult for them to take that. Likely they will recover from it, but it will be hurtful for them to know that he had the (only?) two members of his family he is close to there and you had part of the family they created (your sister) there but excluded them, and understandably so. All of that said, you know your parents and maybe for them they won’t be that hurt by it and it won’t be a set back to their relationship with you and him.

          The good news is, deciding you want to be married/ being engaged does not need to be contingent on what your wedding itself will look like. The great thing about engagement is it’s a time to talk through not only what your wedding will look like but also what your marriage will look like. It sounds like the two of you are doing a lot of that right now and that includes working together and separately for him to have the tools to continue moving forward from the trauma of his family of origin and feel comfortable with your family of origin so that you two can build a family together that is right for both of you. Your wedding is where you start building that family and making that commitment, so it should be right for the two of you and ideally not significantly damage the relationships one or both of you will need to lean on to buoy your new baby family that you will build together.

          You’ll figure out what is right for the two of you. It might not be easy, but you have talked about the work y’all are doing to do that, so you’re off to a good start.

          • TheOtherLiz

            The only thing I’d like to add to Lawyerette’s advice, where she says that getting engaged “doesn’t need to be contingent on what your wedding itself will look like” is this: once you announce your engagement, the comments, opinions, and people who assume they’re invited will all start to roll in. So, I suggest you two work through this before going public with a possible engagement. I’ll echo the premarital counseling suggestions too – the session that my husband and I spent talking about our families went on for more than 2 hours and we left still talking! And we’re still talking. We made decisions together about where to draw the line with our parents, how to interact with them, and it was a work in progress the whole time. But having decided as a team what to do before speaking to either of our families was critical.

    • LJ

      Obviously this is relevant information that would have changed some people’s knee jerk reactions. That’s good that he is seeing a counselor, but maybe you should both see one together for a period to sort this stuff out. Controlling someone else’s social contacts is Not Okay. Good for him for seeking help, if he’s still exhibiting that kind of very unhealthy behavior then I very much doubt that he is ready to be involved in a wedding or large family gathering. Know that most people’s responses here of “DTMFA” or similar are based on a revised letter that says “my bf is unreasonably controlling so how do I accommodate him?”…. that is apparently not the case in real life so hopefully you can get some more comprehensive advice now. It sounds like you’re in a tough situation and I wouldn’t be able to stay with someone who is doing what he is doing and behaving like that. To me, people need to sort their shit out independently and then seek out a relationship bit by bit. Being in a relationship with someone going through this sounds intense and hellish. You’ve got a way better attitude than me about it.
      I wish you the best.

    • toomanybooks

      Would you be open to posting the original letter you wrote here (obviously barring anything that may have been cut out because it was an identifying detail, like names, if that was a thing)? Do you think that would clear things up for us?

      • Oy Vey

        Honestly, at this point, I’m too emotionally drained from having to read that my really good, genuine, caring partner, who doesn’t ask me for anything like this EVER is emotionally abusive and that I’m snowed and need to GTFO to really post the whole thing, but relevant details that were missing include:

        the abuse (and check out Nell’s initial comment below where she explains the types of conflicts that she and her wife have re: growing up in different families; she explains it perfectly)

        AND we had compromised from dinner party vibe to small wedding, bordering on elopement (he wanted to just elope, I said no). He would ask his two family members he still talks to to be his witness and I would have my sister and my cousin (my best friends) be mine. Then I asked, “Well what about my parents?” and he said he didn’t want them there during the ceremony/on that day.

        • stephanie

          Hey LW: I am sending you an email. XO

      • stephanie

        In the interest of total transparency and making sure we didn’t do anything on our end (we edit these for tone and clarity, but try to make sure we don’t change intent), I can share it:

        “Dear Team Practical,

        My boyfriend and I have known each other for 15 years, been dating for 7, and living together for 4. Our relationship is strong and ring or no ring, I’m as certain as I can be that we’ll grow old together.

        I would really like to be married one day, but he’s driving the cart on this one. Suffice to say, he has a lot of FEELINGS about marriage that come from growing up in a broken home and his current estrangement from 90% of his family. I grew up in a great home with a loving family and minimal dysfunction.

        Lately, to my excitement, my boyfriend came to me and said he’s feeling ready to get married. We have decided we both would want the wedding to be a small one, with a dinner party vibe. However, when it comes to the guest list, that’s where we have a BIG dispute.

        See, my boyfriend has said that having my parents at the wedding would be a dealbreaker for him. He says that he enjoys spending time with my parents when we go out to dinner with them, but long periods of time (during the holidays) feel like torture to him, not because of anything about my parents (they love him and already treat him like family), but because he says he feels like he has to constantly be on his guard regarding what he says around them.

        It’s kind of hard to explain, but my family was very Leave it To Beaver (without the insidious misogyny) and my boyfriend’s family was more Shameless. Despite the massive dysfunction, he was basically able to express himself however he wanted, curse, and speak freely about sex and drugs. I got in trouble for cursing, my parents disparage marijuana on the regular (he and I live in a state where it’s been decriminalized), and they kind of act like sex doesn’t exist. I understand how uncomfortable it is to have to censor yourself and I also understand that asking him to be extremely uncomfortable on his wedding day is not okay.

        I understand that this is his ultimatum – get married without parents present, or don’t get married at all. He’s not budging and there’s no room for negotiation. He’s perfectly okay never getting married, so the proverbial ball’s in my court.

        While I am interested in having a 30-person wedding (all my family and a few close friends), he wants the wedding to be as small as possible. His guest list includes my sister and cousin (my two best friends) and his uncle and cousin (the two family members he’s close to), but that’s it.

        Other than that, though, he’s made a lot of concessions. He’s not religious, but is happy to get a ketubah and rabbi. He hates having his picture taken, but for me, he would throw down on a photographer. He even said that he’d be happy to have a party that included our friends and my tight knit family sometime after the honeymoon. He just doesn’t want the stress it would bring him to have my parents physically there on our wedding day.

        So, my question – how do I tell my parents they aren’t invited to my wedding? I love them dearly and we are VERY close. It breaks my heart to think about it – not because of any walking down the aisle moments, but the simple fact that they weren’t there would be really sad.

        I know I could blame it on my boyfriend and the BS that comes along with “if one set of parents were invited, and the other wasn’t…” especially considering how emotionally manipulative and abusive his family can be, but I know the simple fact that they aren’t invited will hurt them.

        Or, do I avoid the issue by putting a kibosh on the wedding altogether? Neither of us have told anyone about our engagement, so there won’t be any backtracking necessary.

        Either way, my parents won’t attend a wedding, but this way will hurt everyone less. Except I’d still like to get married…

        Help!

        -Oy vey”

    • Sara

      My heart breaks for you Oy Vey because this is a hard position. But regardless of his background/reasoning/wishes, if you have a wedding and do not invite your loving, close-knit parents, you are permanently damaging that relationship. If you want to be married above all else, elope with zero participants. If you have 30 people and your parents are explicitly excluded, he will be seen as the bad guy in their eyes forever. You don’t want that. You say its just about the day, but one day will have ripples on your forever.

    • Kalë

      While my initial comment still stands from my perspective (as in, if my boyfriend ever told me “no family” on our wedding day, I would #bye so fast he wouldn’t even see put my shoes on), I can absolutely sympathize with how you must feel – like your relationship is under attack. I think many of the other readers here had similar reactions – if something like this happened to them or one of their friends, it would cause them to deeply reconsider the relationship, rather than try to reconsider their vision of their wedding day. I would still like to urge you to do both – not just the latter! – albeit in a much kinder, gentler way than I indicated before. Be good to yourself first, LW.

    • Cellistec

      Thanks for commenting (and writing in the first place), LW. It’s easy to forget that APW doesn’t make up these letters…real people write them based on real life dilemmas. This sounds like a really hard situation and I’m sorry you have to deal with it.

    • AmandaBee

      Sorry, dude, but imagine if someone you loved and raised said: “Hey, thanks for giving me life but I don’t want you at my wedding because my fiance likes cussing.”

      Because you’r asking about a polite way to say that and…there just isn’t. Excluding them will cause irreparable damage, because you’re indicating that their feelings and their relationship with you aren’t important. And if your boyfriend can’t handle being around them at a wedding, what’s he going to do if you have kids? Will they be able to take your kids – what if they make the kids not cuss?

      Weddings aren’t just a day. What you negotiate for your wedding says a lot about how you intend to live your life together. What your BF is saying is that your family can’t be a part of that.

      And translating his problems into ultimatums about your family relationships absolutely IS taking them out on you, sorry. Past abuse doesn’t excuse self-centeredness, and there’s nothing here that indicates that your feelings are being considered.

      • raccooncity

        I totally agree with this, which weirdly is because I actually do think that weddings are ‘just a day’. I had a nice day, and apparently “got married” on that day. To me, I had been very committed to someone and planned and made a life with them for years beforehand, and why would one day really be important when in my mind I’d been married for six years.

        BUT I was absolutely floored by how important it was to all the parents involved. They all loved my spouse/me before, and knew that we were in it for the vv long term, but wow…couldn’t have predicted how much that one day meant to them. It was some weird culmination of their dreams for us as children. I felt annoyed in some ways by just how important it was, but I accepted it, and once I realized this, I knew that I had to respect their participation at least a little. There were lines drawn where it mattered to me, but also lines erased where it mattered to them more. My dad walked me down the aisle. Parents’ friends were invited. Gifts came from people who only knew us as babies. It was the weirdest thing, but it was ok. And I now have experienced just how much one day can mean to the people who kept us alive through childhood to become the adults we are.

        • Lizzie

          Just chiming in to say yes yes yes to how annoying and WEIRD it was to see our parents get so frickin thirsty for OUR (not their!) wedding day. So bizarre. And yep, made me feel so irritated and uncomfortable at times. But, ultimately, same as you, I realized that just accepting it (while still drawing boundaries when needed!) was the best, and kindest, way to go. Look, maybe if/when I have a kid getting married, I’ll be thirsty af for reasons that will make sense to my mama self… :)

          • raccooncity

            Described it perfectly.

        • Alexandra

          Dude, do you have kids yet? I didn’t get it until I had kids of my own. When I think about my son and daughter walking down the aisle I fall apart with joy. Daughter isn’t even born yet. I’m a teacher and have to go to graduation every year–ever since my son was born I dissolve into a puddle of tears every time during the part where the kids hug their parents.

          You just love the little buggers to pieces and freak out with happiness when they so much as put their shoes away unprompted. Watching them grow up, achieve milestones, mature, form relationships of their own, bring new, unexpected people and love into your own life–it’s the whole point. You have to have good emotional boundaries and be healthy about it, of course, but oh man, one’s own kid’s wedding has got to be one of the happiest experiences of one’s life. As long as my kids pick good people, I think I’ll almost definitely have a happier day at my kids’ weddings than I did at my own.

          • Sarah

            Yes, my kid is 7 months old and I already think about how sad I’ll be if I’m not an important part of his life when he’s grown up. I realized this when my husband suggested we limit time with my parents (something I’ve agreed on before, not at all unreasonable suggestions from him) and my visceral reaction was “nooo….what if baby A does that to us someday?!”

          • mooncaf276

            Absolutely agree with this sentiment. Off topic, but I think the *real* parental test is if your children either decide never to marry at all, or perhaps marry at a very nontraditional age (either very young or past middle age). That can take a lot of biting your tongue, imo.

        • TheOtherLiz

          You’ve really hit on something important that I realized too: man, was my wedding crazy important to my parents. I really didn’t see it coming. They had so many opinions and felt them with all of their feelings. It was a really important practice round for life together, a project we worked on where my husband learned to communicate with and work on things with both me and my parents. I’m sure it laid the foundation for them being grandparents in the future.

    • La’Marisa-Andrea

      I think you need to seek professional help outside of the presence of this man and specifically, what is and is not abusive and problematic. I’m extremely concerned that even now, you’re trying to explain and justify something that was presented to you as 1) an ultimatum and 2) a really shitty request. While your wedding day is one DAY, it’s an important day for both of you and your families. Demanding that you cut your parents out of this day for the stated reasons is beyond ridiculous. That you are considering doing that is extremely concerning. Others may sugarcoat their response for you. I will not. I tell it like it is. Neither of you sound like you have any business together. Good luck. I hope you both get it together and are able to move forward in relationships in a healthy way.

      • Sarah M

        PLEASE. This. We’re internet strangers and only working from a tidbit, but a counselor who you can talk to and actually have a dialogue with is so much more valuable than internet advice. Maybe we’re responding based on our own biases/experiences and don’t actually know the full dynamic of your relationship. Or maybe the red flags we see are legitimate but difficult to process from internet strangers. If you fully explain your dynamic and relationship to a counselor and they still say “that doesn’t change that X is a red flag for an unhealthy relationship”, that’s something you should think long and hard about.
        However, I think it doesn’t automatically mean you end the relationship, but it gives you a starting place to establish a healthy relationship that fulfills BOTH you and your partner if that’s a path you want to take. And a counselor can keep you accountable with working towards that progress instead of letting you make excuses for your partner’s behavior (hypothetically – not saying your fiancé is for sure going to do this.) It’s easy to forget how many times your partner has made excuses for not putting in the work to become emotionally healthy because you love him and want this to work, but a counselor will point out to you, “this is the 8th time he’s made excuses and gotten upset at you for expecting him to follow through on this promise to work on your relationship. Would you do this to your partner? Do you believe someone who truly loves you would continue to put themselves ahead of you and your emotional needs?”

        • La’Marisa-Andrea

          I get what you’re saying but I’m never going to tell someone

      • CMT

        “I tell it like it is” doesn’t have to mean being a jerk, though. Especially when you know the LW is feeling attacked and defensive.

        • La’Marisa-Andrea

          Where was I jerk?

          • CMT

            Well, you did call LW’s boyfriend an asshole, which is definitely not the best way to give advice.

          • La’Marisa-Andrea

            He is an asshole and I wasn’t the only person to say this man is a jerk. I see you tone policing elsewhere. Not here for it.

    • AnonyMouse

      Hi OP!
      First of all, *HUGS*, it sounds like you’re in a difficult situation and clearly there are some strong reactions here from readers that may be hard to read, so first of all, I wanted to send you a lot of internet hugs!

      Some thoughts for you (take them or leave them as you please!)
      1) It seems that you’re a really considerate and thoughtful person. I just wanted to remind you that marriage is about compromise and working together as a team to a greater whole. If your BF doesn’t want your parents there, and you do, the answer shouldn’t be “my way or your way” — it’s “how do we make our way together”? Remember that you can have feelings too, and that even though your BF may have more issues he’s working through, that doesn’t mean your needs are lesser. Maybe that means your parents agree to not hover around you two during the ceremony/reception, and you have some alone time with your parents while getting ready. Maybe it means that you set up time for just you and your man to hide away from everyone else, so he has a space to feel himself and soak up being married! Whatever it is though, I urge you to move away from anything that looks like an ultimatum, and agree on working together to a solution that works for both of you (which may entail some sacrifice on each side).

      2) If your parents like him or at least are understanding, can you recruit them to help you out in the interim? Not just for the wedding but for your BF’s long term relationship with them. Because of his past, maybe he needs to hear your parents to more explicitly provide language of acceptance. Maybe it would help for your parents to say, for example, “Oh, that’s not our cup of tea, but I’m glad to hear your perspective” or whatever language that can communicate, “hey, we can have different language and life views but that’s okay”. Obviously this will take time and may be beyond what your parents are comfortable with.

      3) Maybe take a step back and talk about what a wedding means to him- I’m curious as to why he specifically has this request for the wedding day but not the reception. Maybe it’d help you to understand more what the wedding day means to him, and having that broader conversation may help find ways to compromise that you can’t see when you’re having the black and white “parents or not” conversation.

      4) Good for him for going to therapy. Consider going together on the marriage topic in particular,especially if you get stuck like this again as conversations continue.

      5) There are a lot of feelings here on APW. We don’t know what’s going on in your life. Consider what’s been said, take what’s helpful to you, and leave what’s not helpful to you! We all wish you well. That part I’m pretty sure of.

    • spinning2heads

      In light of this, I find myself wondering…is he estranged from his parents? If so, could the issue not be your parents and their stuffed-shirt attitudes, but actually his longing for supportive parents of his own? Perhaps one reason he is so upset after experiences with your family is that he sees in it some things his family so painfully failed to provide for him. Maybe he’s hoping not to be reminded of that pain on his wedding day.

      I realize this is armchair psychology, but enough other people have explained why there is worry that your bf is being manipulative that I think you’ve got enough info to assess that for yourself. And if it isn’t that he’s being controlling, the question then is: what’s the emotional reality behind the request? From my experiences of estranged family, it might just be what I guessed. This might be a job for a therapist, but you can also ask this question yourself.

      As almost a side note: If my guess is right, banning your parents won’t be the cure. The absence of the family he wants there won’t be helped by another absence. But he may not have learned yet that another hole doesn’t fill a hole.

      • Oy Vey

        I think this is part of it. He is estranged from his parents. Thanks for your armchair psychology. :)

        • spinning2heads

          I’m glad it was helpful! And I hope your conversations bring clarity and healing.

      • Whitney S.

        I was really thinking this, too. And you’re right: avoiding and running away and hiding behind walls as high as The Great Wall maintains the damage that was done to him. But now is the time to know better and do better. He did nothing to deserve his shitty childhood. BUT. he’s an adult now with choices and whose behaviors will be very much so be affecting his relationship with you and your family. As long as he’s making steps and responding to reasonable boundaries, you guys will be able to work through this. But if he digs in… You got some serious thinking to do…

    • Meaghan

      I’m genuinely curious as to who he *does* approve to be at your wedding? Is this a blanket ban on your entire family? Are the 25% of his family he’s not estranged from invited? Is this a friends only suggestion?

      I’m not going to delve into broader issues your relationship might have because a) you’ve stated that APW didn’t publish your full letter and b) the rest of the commentors are doing that for you, but maybe another third road is to consider having a private ceremony with just you two, and a party after. My husband and I did this in part because he’s quite introverted and didn’t feel comfortable standing up in front of everyone we know and baring his soul (and partly also because we’re lazy and cheap, ha).

    • anon

      Not sure if you’ll see this, but I haven’t seen too many people offer a slightly different viewpoint: Have you expressed to him that it’s okay to be himself around your parents? Honestly, I’m not put off by the fact that he can’t handle foul language for ‘a few hours,’ I’m put off by the fact that he feels like he has to. It’s his wedding day. He’s an adult. Your parents are adults. He shouldn’t have to feel like he has to be some grayed-out version of himself. They need to learn to deal with it because that’s life.

  • Natasha Romanova

    Nope, nope, nope. This is a fucked up request on his behalf if your parents are as described – maybe stricter then his, but still loving (and not abusive). What kind of person can think it’s okay to ask something like this of a person they supposedly love?

    Giving into this request would set up an unhealthy precedent in your relationship. Please don’t do it, and seriously reconsider your relationship with him.

  • emmers

    I feel like another option, if you decide you really want to get married to him, is to elope (I.e. just you two & no family or friends). That may still hurt your parents, but less than if it’s just them who are obviously excluded.

    • I agree. This feels like the option that would hurt the least amount of feelings.

      • Cellistec

        Also agree. Thinking back to the APW discussion on elopement and how it both hurts feelings and spares them, it does sound like eloping would get around the parent-invitation dilemma most gracefully.

        (I mean, there’s also the DMTFA argument, which I’m not 100% on board with, but if you ignore than for the moment, elopement is a decent option.)

    • LJ

      This with a side helping of “seek relationship counseling”….

  • I read the headline thinking that the parents were abusers, manipulative, talked shit on the fiance, murrderers maybe…but you’re telling me the reason is because they’re Leave it to Beaver and that makes him UNCOMFORTABLE?! I don’t think I can lift my jaw off the floor at the insanity of his demand. Echo everything the writer said–what does that mean for the rest of your life? He can’t be inconvenienced enough for six hours to make you happy??? Your parents have done nothing wrong except ask for respect. They don’t deserve to be treated this way and I really think a follow up is necessary to figure out what makes this guy so worthy…

    • sofar

      Yeah, I was thinking, “Wow I can’t wait to hear what the parents did to this guy.” And then I read the column and was like, “So … they’re like … a lot of other parents?”

      • toomanybooks

        Yeah, that’s the thing. I wouldn’t behave “uncensored” around my parents or anyone else’s. That doesn’t make them Leave it to Beaver parents. That makes us all regular people.

  • Sarah M

    Dear LW,
    Please, please, PLEASE have a long talk (maybe multiple long talks) with a licensed counselor with expertise in relationships before making a decision about this. It’s easy to write off the advice of internet strangers when you feel like they’re attacking your relationship and you don’t have a chance to counter what they’re saying, but there are enough red flags in your message that I would implore you to speak with a counselor about healthy relationships and what this ultimatum means for your relationship with your fiancé. I don’t know you and I only know what you’ve told me about him (which doesn’t look great), so I think the best course of action would be to engage in a dialogue with a professional who can address these issues with you in a non-judgmental way. And if your fiancé balks at you talking to a licensed mental health professional about this, that should be another sign that he’s putting his own needs and selfish desires over what is truly best for YOU. And you need to think long and hard about if that’s the kind of man you want to commit yourself to for the rest of your life. If he doesn’t want you to see a counselor, I’d hazard a guess it’s because he knows what he’s doing isn’t fair to you and doesn’t want anyone pointing it out to you.

    • AtHomeInWA

      I push back. I think ultimatums often come out after a lot of careful thinking on what you want and what you think you need to achieve those goals. It is easy to say “it’s me or the cat” when “the cat can’t be in the bedroom, we need a hypoallergenic vacuum, and I’ll get allergy meds from my doctor” would also work.

      Rather than assume he means the ultimatum, maybe this is the only way he thinks he can achieve the goal. Talk about the goal. There are lots of ways to skin a cat, scale a mountain, or avoid your in-laws.

      • Annie

        But if the goal itself is unreasonable and untenable for a healthy marriage? That’s really the crux of the issue. Avoiding the (loving, well-meaning, supportive, beloved) in-laws at the wedding feels like a bandaid on a gaping wound at best and an isolating, unfair precedent at worst.

        • AmandaBee

          Right? I’m surprised we’re even talking about this being a goal. My in-laws drive me nuts sometimes, but if I tried to make it a goal to not spend time with them, that’d be an incredibly selfish thing to do. They aren’t abusive or hurtful people, so trying to manipulate your way into excluding them from your wedding is completely inexcusable.

      • AmandaBee

        Alternatively, ultimatums come from a place of “I want this thing in my gut and this is how I can force someone into going along with it”. An ultimatum is, at it’s core, saying that you want a thing and won’t budge on it regardless of how your partner feels or how much it may harm them/others. Typically, they aren’t a good thing to resort to in a healthy relationship unless there are very strong moral values or essential boundaries at play.

  • penkwin

    I was ready to hear a potentially good reason for wanting to exclude her parents (ie: they are racist toward his ethnic group and said something horrible, or something) but it seems they have been perfectly welcoming and accommodating. It seems like this guy doesn’t care enough about the writer’s feelings or relationship with her family… To the writer: Please don’t marry this guy. I know it’s hard when you want to solidify your relationship, and he may seem great in other ways, but this is a really huge red flag, and it’s not ok or reasonable for him to ask you to cut your parents out, especially when you’ve stated you are so close with them, and they have been nothing but kind to him. He seems incredibly selfish, and isn’t prioritizing your needs at all. Instead of planning a wedding, please look into counseling, or don’t because I’m quite certain you can do better. You deserve someone who will enhance your life, not strip parts of it away.

    • Her Lindsayship

      Upvoting that last sentence so hard. LW, there are a lot of harsh reactions here because some people have been through similar relationships and want so much to help you. I couldn’t see my manipulative ex for what he was until probably six months or a year after we broke up. I loved him, he was kind in many ways and had a rough upbringing that drew sympathy from me as well. He wasn’t an evil person, and I hope he’s out there living a healthier life now. But he was subtly trying to remove me from the people I love most in the world, and I still shudder to think what my life would be like now if he had succeeded.

      • Sarah M

        THIS. Both penkwin’s last sentence and your comment. Especially if LW’s fiancé grew up in an emotionally abusive home, he may not know how to have healthy disagreements or how to compromise with people he loves. That doesn’t make him a bad/evil person, but it is a solid reason to take a step back and evaluate if this is really the relationship you want. You’re not obligated to help someone learn how to be emotionally healthy. You shouldn’t sacrifice pieces of your soul to try to patch up someone else’s. And it can be hard to understand how harmful that dynamic can be for you until you live through it. Maybe LW’s fiancé needs to spend some time in counseling unpacking his trauma and learning healthy coping/relationship stuff (or spend more time doing that if he’s already doing it). But LW is NOT obligated to wait for him to work all of this out if it’s negatively affecting her own mental and emotional health.

        • BSM

          And I want to reiterate what some have brought up already: completely avoiding non-threatening, normal interactions (like those with LW’s parents) is not a healthy coping strategy.

  • Lizzie G

    Obviously I’m just another stranger on the internet, but as a person who has been in a relationship with an emotionally manipulative person in the past, this wreaks of controlling behavior and as if your fiance holds a lot more power in this relationship than you do by the way you are making justifications for his behavior. It sounds like you are very close with your family. Is this guy’s need to be able to swear for a small period of a day enough to perhaps completely change the nature of your relationship with them in the future? It sounds like you think he’s being generous and accommodating with the things he’s agreed to allow at your wedding but what it sounds like from an outside perspective is that he is giving you small trivial bits when he needs to, to make it seem like he’s taking your feelings into account. (sounds manipulative right?) Think ahead to your future. What do you see? What do you actually hope for and need in a partner? Sure, in all relationships, things are not smooth sailing, but compromising is key, and this guy is not even giving you the respect to talk about it. And we’re not talking about something trivial like “I don’t want to have a wedding party, or I don’t want party favors,” he’s telling you that your family must be barred from something that deeply affects you and your future. Also, when have ultimatums EVER worked? It doesn’t sound like you are putting yourself first in this scenario or even thinking about yourself, and you deserve just as much of a say as your fiance does. Your thoughts and feelings here are so important and he fact that he has said this is a deal breaker if you even disagree says so much. It sounds like he’s scared of letting you have a voice in this relationship. You come from your family, and if you’re happy with them, he should get over it and suck it up, because that’s what partners do. I truly hope you reflect deeply before making any serious decisions.

  • Sheri

    Boyfriend needs to go bye-bye. Period.

  • toomanybooks

    BOUNCE

  • LJ

    Red Flag for future abusive behavior. This is an unreasonable and emotionally manipulative request.

  • Mrrpaderp

    LW’s fiance does not want to get married. It’s all over LW’s post. The letter opens with, “my boyfriend came to me and said he’s feeling ready to get married” – not my boyfriend proposed, but he informed me that he is ready to get married, so now we can. It sounds like LW has been waiting for this for a while, and has allowed the excitement of this guy FINALLY being ready to overshadow everything else. LW also says later in the letter that he’s perfectly fine never getting married. Ok, then why is he marrying you?

    Answer: he’s not. LW’s “fiance” has put this huge condition on the wedding because he doesn’t want to get married but he’s too cowardly to tell LW. He’s forcing LW to back down and be content with never getting married. If LW concedes that they can get married without her parents there, this guy will come up with some other excuse. Moral of the story: don’t marry someone who doesn’t want to marry you. You deserve someone who’s as excited about you as you are about them.

    • CharlotteJ

      Agree 100%. Especially with that last sentence.

    • CMT

      I disagree with your first paragraph and I think it’s too nitpicky. I don’t know how you extrapolate “BF doesn’t want to get married” out of him saying he’s ready vs. a “real” proposal.

      • Mrrpaderp

        It has nothing to do with a proposal. She’s been waiting for this for a long time and he’s finally said that he’s there too, but then you read the rest of the letter and he’s clearly not actually where she is. She flat out says “He’s perfectly okay never getting married.” You’ve got to look at what he’s saying vs. what he’s doing. He says, OK let’s do this, but I’m going to put this huge, clearly-not-cool-for-you condition on it and I’m going to refuse to talk about it or compromise or see your position or really give you a good explanation of why I feel the way I do.

        • Violet

          I agree with you that regardless of who proposes, or how many years in the relationship it takes for both people to want to get married, they should equally WANT to get married. LW pretty clearly describes him as being willing to take it (marriage) or leave it, and LW knows that. Versus she really wants to get married. So I think she’s willing to do anything to make sure he doesn’t reconsider and choose “leave it,” especially after seven years together. I get this feeling LW is worried that since he’s already conceding on marrying at all, she now kind of owes him and has to accommodate him in terms of how the wedding unfolds. It feels like the finish line is within reach, and it looks like she’s willing to throw even her relationship with her own parents overboard for that.

      • Yeah, first paragraph is a bit judge-y and extrapolates a bit much, but I think there is something to be said for when he gives you an ultimatum he knows you won’t take, in order to get what he wants and make it seem like you chose. Seems a bit manipulative and reallllly needs an impartial counselor.

    • La’Marisa-Andrea

      I thought about this awhile and taking into account the unedited version and later comments, I think there may be some truth to this. This seems like an odd roadblock to put in the way of getting married.

  • sshintaku

    My parents are very conservative, very religious, etc. I myself often change the topics I discuss or the way in which I speak to accomdate my parents. My husband came from a household who is completely different, and he was initially very uncomfortable around my family. BUT, because he loves me and respects my familial ties, he learned how to navigate my family and now actually enjoys them. It would be 100% a deal breaker if he refused to ever be around my family, or had dared to try exclude them from my wedding day.

  • Julia

    This sounds like someone who is either a) a person not ready to get married and doesn’t want the pressure of saying that is covering it with a very unreasonable request, or b) a very controlling person who know what would hurt you the most. If you are having a “dinner party vibe” and he’s OK with having dinner with your parents, those things don’t compete with each other. Either he is fine with your family or he isn’t. So either he wants to put the “let’s get married” ball back in your court OR he is really testing the waters in how much you’re willing to cut yourself off from your family. Clearly not inviting your parents to your wedding is about the most hurtful thing you can do to parents you are very close to. He has to know that. I don’t know what he’s after, but I can promise you that it isn’t really that he is saying it is. HUGE red flags that need to be way more carefully examined with a close friend or a counselor.

  • sofar

    As others have pointed out, his request is controlling. And it’s also immature.

    My husband’s family has made me feel uncomfortable many times (although they’d argue they’ve done nothing wrong). I have spent nights crying in the spare room after some things his mom has said about my appearance. And I’ve sat boiling with rage at their church, where the priest preaches hate (about gay people, for example). I near bit my tongue off one recent dinner, when my husband’s dad announced he supported Donald Trump. But overall, they are good to me (my husband’s dad fixes my car, his mom always hands us wads of cash so we can go out to a nice dinner, and they take us on fun vacations).

    Regardless, they are my husband’s PARENTS. So I put on my grown-up pants. I gently change the subject when I discussions get awkward, I go to church when I stay in their home and tune out the priest, I drink my wine in silence at dinner and donate to the Hilary campaign when I get home. And OBVIOUSLY they were at our wedding. Is this even a question? How is this an actual QUESTION?

    • “My in-laws were both AMAZING the day of. We barely got a chance to speak,”
      That, I think, is a common experience for all. You really won’t be having much time to interact personally with people on any deep level.

    • Nell

      Yes!!!! I think on APW, we talk about the ways that the WIC and television train us to think that everything about a wedding has to be *perfect.* But I think that there is also this trope that weddings are filled with capital-D Drama, and that every conflict you’ve ever had is going to resurface on the day. But that’s not usually how it goes! It’s some blend of “Hey can you believe grandpa said that really inappropriate thing while drunk?” and “Wow, can you believe Mom is getting along with Aunt Cindy for once!”

  • savannnah

    I’m having feelings about two issues brought up in the original letter and subsequent LW comments. The first is around the concept of self-care or self-care mode. The LW seems to equate shutting down or avoidance as self-care mode, which is pretty off from what my concept of self care is- curious to hear more about that or what that looks like.
    The second is the idea of the fiance being comfortable above the needs of LW (like having her loving parents at her wedding) I am uncomfortable around both sets of my future in-laws, pretty constantly. I’ve known them for many year and don’t really every let my guard down and more importantly I don’t have the expectation that I ever will. Their son is my people but they are very much not in many many ways. I will be completely a nervous wreak in two weeks when my parents and fiance fly out to meet all 4 parents in my fiance’s home state for 5 days. I will not be comfortable until the trip ends and I will be back in NY. But I’d never in my life think it wasn’t important to everyone in that group to meet- and I would not put my need for comfort above my partners relationship with his parents, or my relationship with them for that matter.

    • z

      Yes– what is self-care mode? I love the idea, but I’m concerned that it’s a euphemism for treating others badly.

  • Alyssa Andrews

    As someone who identifies with the differences in families (mine is the straight-laced one, his the one we can be more “open” about sex and drugs with) and as someone who is also extremely close to my family, if my fiance EVER made this sort of request, it would be a dealbreaker, no question.

  • Loran

    I think this speaks to a much larger issue, and while I agree it is unreasonable for your fiance to ban your parents when it is not in your best interests, I wonder if there’s actually a need for any of this drama. Just because your parents raised you in more reserved environment, doesn’t mean they necessarily demand this behaviour to be replicated by others, or, perhaps, even by you as an adult. I wasn’t allowed to curse as a child, but sometime through University I began swearing (accidentally) in conversations with my parents (with whom I am very close). My Dad and I now cuss up a storm and it’s all totally fine. Have you talked about the decorum expectations with your parents? Is there really a need to stifle your fiance at all? Even if they are uncomfortable with that kind of relaxed attitude to what they may perceive as taboo topics and language, do you really want to marry someone that your parents haven’t met? And don’t seem likely to meet in the future, as he seems to be set in hiding those parts of himself from them?

    • Eenie

      I think the LW has said it is hard to explain, but she cannot change how her bf feels around her parents. This may have nothing to do with her parents’ explicit/implicit expectations, but how her bf feels in their presence.

      • Violet

        Exactly. I’m not sure there’s a lot of logic to his reaction to her parents. It does not sound like a typical separation/individuation process that has simply yet to unfurl. Bu I agree with Loran that LW’s parents likely do not even know the “real” him at all, because he’s been hiding. And maybe he’s not hiding his true self “intentionally” but with the indicators of emotional manipulation, I find it even more frightening that they don’t know the guy their daughter so wants to marry. Like, at all.

        • Eenie

          I agree, but Loran’s comment seemed very dismissive of this “drama”. My in laws haven’t met the real me, because we have very fundamental differences, and I like keeping a civil relationship with them.

          • Violet

            Yes, it can be the mature and healthy choice to just kinda lay low around your ILs for the sake of your partner. Totally.

          • Loran

            Ooh, good point. I did not mean to be dismissive, just questioning whether there’s an actual need for him to hide these parts of himself.

      • Loran

        Lol, fair. My totally inexpert, knee-jerk reaction to that is “Well, then the answer is to spend more time together, not less.” And to talk about expectations and what makes people uncomfortable. Find the compromises and common ground. Get to know one another in an honest way. After all, she loves them, she loves him. If nothing else, they have that in common.

        • Eenie

          Yup. Time. I think it’ll just take some time.

  • I think this whole conversation is a reminder about how important families are in romantic relationships and how challenging family dynamics can be, when you’re figuring them out with your partner. It’s probably on par with differing religious beliefs or vastly diverging life goals: If you’re not on the same page about how you view family, there’s going to be a lot to work out.

    • Alexandra

      Yep. And people don’t really think about it. Prior to being married, it’s easier to compartmentalize your romantic relationship because it exists in a little box and the two respective families don’t know if it’s for real, so they just keep it at arm’s length and let the two of you figure it out.

      But once you get married, game on, you are now a member of a new family. I couldn’t really appreciate the dynamics of that until it happened to me. It takes some imagination. Luckily for me, I’m the one who married up–my in-laws are way easier to be around than my crazy mom. My poor husband sucks it up and is awesome about dealing with her graciously, though. And OMG it’s so nice to have somebody to share incredulous looks with after my whole life of wondering if I’m the crazy one. Nope, she’s nuts. Husband has confirmed.

  • Her Lindsayship

    “I understand that this is his ultimatum—get married without my parents present, or don’t get married at all. He’s not budging, and there’s no room for negotiation. He’s perfectly okay never getting married, so the proverbial ball’s in my court.”

    I hope this isn’t what he said to you because that sounds… really shitty. It stung just reading it. ‘Let’s get married but only under these conditions, otherwise I’m perfectly content with never marrying you.’ OUCH. Since you say you’re putting off the wedding and having some long talks, one conversation that would be good to have is about what marriage means to you. Why do you want to get married if you’re also both okay with never getting married? What will change about your relationship or your commitment to each other? Is it just basically making it public/official? Because that’s why parents are usually part of it.

  • Lindsay

    oh my goodness. dear, dear “oy vey”: you don’t have to be with someone who makes you feel as if you can’t ask for what you want. your “except i’d really like to get married…” just breaks my heart. the fact that your boyfriend is giving you an ultimatum at all, for anything, is controlling and that is not okay. i really feel for you, this conflict must be so difficult to navigate.

    • Lindsay

      I’ve read through more of the comments and it’s re-framed my thinking a bit. LW, i can empathize with your boyfriend reacting this way because of the abuse he experienced from his family. and lots of times, people who have experienced abuse reenact it on others. my stepmom did this to my dad. but that still doesn’t make this sort of controlling ultimatum okay, and you can empathize with someone’s struggle without excusing their behavior. i hope you guys are able to find an agreement without ostracizing your family.

      • Violet

        “you can empathize with someone’s struggle without excusing their behavior”
        THIS

  • Anon

    Hi LW, I don’t know if you’ll read all these responses, but I just wanted to chime in with a slightly different viewpoint. My husband has a very fraught relationship with his mother – growing up she was (and still is) a high-functioning alcoholic with controlling and manipulative tendencies. That sentence sounds awful but she is actually not a terrible person, but my point is, I understand the partner-comes-from-an-abusive background (though probably not to the same degree) that your partner has. Needless to say, my MIL is not my favorite person to be around, and I often selfishly wish we didn’t ever have to spend any holidays around her, or take any vacations with her, etc. I TOTALLY understand where your bf is coming from and the inability to be comfortable around someone else’s parents. That being said, I would never act on those feelings and try to avoid or make my husband avoid his mom, and the reason is because my brother married a woman who, while still inviting my parents/family to the wedding, cut off our entire side of the family shortly thereafter. My parents have two granddaughters now that they do not get to see whatsoever, and the pain of “losing” their son (my brother), is something I don’t think they’ll ever get over. They no longer talk about him or anything because it makes them super sad. This is obviously pretty extreme, and I’m not saying that your bf will eventually try to cut off your parents entirely, but exclusions like the one he’s demanding have far-reaching and sometimes irreversible impacts on relationships. I truly feel like the only answer for you is to try to talk to your bf and explain this and hope he has some empathy for your parents, or elope with JUST the two of you. I know firsthand the pain of having a close family member’s spouse exclude and dislike you, and it is honestly something i would never wish on anyone, least of all the family members of someone I love.

  • AmandaBee

    Girl, no. Are you really going to ruin your relationship with your parents so that some jerk doesn’t have to act polite for a couple of hours? Because that’s what you’re talking about doing. There’s no way to break it to your parents nicely, because what you’re talking about doing is terribly hurtful…and also really concerning. I have to wonder how controlling and abusive this partner must be for you even to consider it, because it sounds like you care for your family and yet you’re talking about cutting them out of your life (which is, essentially what not inviting them to the wedding would do) so that you can be with a person who clearly is only thinking of himself.

    The basic question here isn’t how to tell your parents. The question is do you really want to be with a person who’d ask you to break off a relationship with your parents because he doesn’t want to be a considerate person? Seems like there’s an obvious answer to me. But if it isn’t obvious to you, and the words of a bunch of internet strangers won’t sway you, I’d just ask you to please PLEASE speak to a professional counselor about this.

  • NOPE. One big nope to this dude’s bullshit.

    In-laws aren’t abusive? You can get over it for 4 hours for your wedding.

  • La’Marisa-Andrea

    “So my question is, how do I tell my parents they aren’t invited to my wedding?”

    This is utter bullshit. You don’t. If marrying you hinges on your totally nice, respectful parents not being present, you find yourself a new fucking boyfriend. Fuck him.

  • Amber

    I am not a fan of my husband’s dad. He says sexist and racist things. He actively dismisses the things I say and hugely gets on my nerves. Within a few minutes of being around him I am agitated and annoyed.

    Despite this, I have shared a home with them on vacation. For a week! I have traveled with them and stayed at their home, always frustrated and annoyed.

    Even though he’s a sexist racist, I would never ask my husband to not invite his dad to our wedding, an important party, whatever. (They live on another continent, so I’m clear most of the time.)

    The fiance has to not cuss only in the parents’ vicinity? BFD, this is the writer’s wedding day too!

    • Amber

      Maybe he’s trying to “pull a Trump”? He doesn’t actually want to get married, so he’s trying to make the idea/conditions so awful she won’t possibly go through with it?

  • Heather

    I’m sure that he’s a great partner for you. I hope that through time, discussion and compromise you can get to a place where both of you are satisfied to some degree.

  • Saxyrunner

    After seeing LWs comments below, this seems like an elopment situation. If anyone is invited and LW’s parents aren’t I think it’ll be very hurtful. If the close, loving parents can’t be there it isn’t fair to have anyone there.

  • Erica G

    Dear OP,
    RUN GIRL, RUN!

    Get the hell out of there… I have so many bad vibes from reading your letter. It sounds like your family are lovely and have every right to be involved in your wedding, and you want them there. So he is the problem, and he seems like potentially a very big problem for you and your well being in the future.

  • NW

    Liz nailed it as usual. LW needs to make a tough decision.

  • Whitney S.

    Hello LW. I hope you are still reading. So I reread the unedited version to try to really understand what you are asking. So what I read is
    1. Should we get married or just stay together?
    2. If we get married how should we do it? Small? Super small? Elope??
    3. How do I tell my parents if I decide to go along with the ultimatum?

    1. This one is only one you can answer. There are lots of good reasons for and against. I think regardless of what you decide, don’t settle. If getting married is important, then stick to what you need.
    2. This one I think you should either elope or do the 30 person one. As someone who did a set up similar to what your person would like, once you have people there, you might as well include your nearest and dearest. I would go back and bump up our 4 person invites to more like 20 to include all the people I love. And we had a similar reason as your person does for having such a small wedding. Guess what? Those hot mess folks still cause problems. So don’t let them or your anxiety about them dictate what you do. Weddings are the perfect pivot point to start this.
    3. The reason that this got such a big reaction is because this right here is also going to be a HOT MESS. How do you tell your parents they can’t come to the wedding and for it to go well? It just doesn’t. Period. Even if you had the most abusive shitty parents, they would still be crushed. The thing is that you wouldn’t care because they are terrible. This will hurt them terribly which is going to really hurt you too. And that is exactly what I would tell your person. That you can’t because the three things you need to get married are my loved ones, a rabbi, and you. We can figure out ways to minimize the anxiety and make this painless, but you don’t want to damage your relationship with your parents or the blooming relationship btw him and your parents.

    As someone who is now married to someone whose family tree is gnarled with abuse, you are not crazy. He is letting his anxiety and fear get the best of him. He has to push through. He has to face his wedding day with the realization that his parents aren’t there. He’s gotta do the work. And he might as well start now. The longer he balks when all these things come up, the harder it will be for him to do better. You can’t do the work for him. Give him the space and support and don’t lower your standards

    • Oy Vey

      Thank you. You nailed exactly what I was intending to ask and your advice and perspective is very helpful to me.

      I really am printing out this comment. This is the type of advice I wrote looking for – just how to handle his anxiety/what to do. soso grateful.

      It’s only that I didn’t articulate myself particularly well (and didn’t know how to phrase what I was asking).

      • Whitney S.

        I think once you really talk to him explaining that while you understand that having your parents there is a must…the proof is in the pudding. Him struggling but problem solving with you because he loves you and knows that he can feel awkward to help you feel happy and loved… You’re good to go. If he refuses, tells you that you are unreasonable, holds hostage getting married… You might wanna consider being done.

        You’ve got this. Take a breath. Decide what you need. Express it and stick with it. Then give him a chance to rise to the occasion.

      • honeycomehome

        Coming in a day late and reading so many reactions has left me with the impression that all family dynamics and abusive history aside, I think your boyfriend is really struggling with anxiety. The fact that he obsesses over saying “fuck” twice in front of your mom and sister and spends entire dinners swamped with anxiety that is so uncomfortable he can’t imagine having it there on the day he gets married is almost textbook severe anxiety.

        And here’s the thing: he needs to work on that before you get married. Not just because you can’t spend your life worrying about it and always making concessions to what is a treatable disorder (and you can’t and still have a healthy marriage), but also because if he does work on it, one day in 5 or 10 or 15 years he’ll come to you and say, “I’m so sorry my anxiety prevented your parents from being at our wedding.” And you’ll BOTH feel regret and sadness and maybe some resentfulness.

        I think a lot of the commenters are right. This kind of behavior sends up red flags for controlling and isolating behavior. Abuse often comes this way: from otherwise wonderful, caring people who let their demons (alcoholism, untreated mental illness, etc) take over their lives/personalities. Your boyfriend isn’t a bad person. He deserves love. You’re not wrong to love him. But you are at a crossroads and you need to advocate for yourself and a healthy relationship, and that means serious mental health treatment and standing firm that in your life your parents being at your wedding is more important than accommodating (instead of treating) his anxiety.

  • Keakealani

    You know, I’ve kind of been in your boyfriend’s position. I’ve never made a major ultimatum, but we’ve had to have some serious talks about limiting my interaction with in-laws because of the level of discomfort I am in being around them (they are serious racists, for one, and have openly disparaged my heritage roots in my presence).

    That said, what the hell? Unless you parents are serial killers or abusive, you don’t just not invite them to your wedding. You can certainly set boundaries, but parents belong at weddings, unless you want to truly elope (which also might be a solution here).

    This really needs a compromise from both sides. I actually will side with your boyfriend a tiny bit here, which is that if they really “love him like family”, then they’ll do their best to make him feel loved and comfortable and not disparaged. Your boyfriend and parents are all adults and they can all probably do to meet in the middle a little bit.

    So, for example, maybe the compromise is that you hold an earlier wedding/reception with your parents that is “rated G”/family-friendly, and then hold an after-party with friends where you can let loose. Or maybe the compromise is that the parents come, but your boyfriend has to converse with them as little as possible (and I’m gonna be real, you don’t really have long conversations at your own wedding ever, so this shouldn’t be a problem). Maybe you can arrange for a couple of authentic expressions where your parents just close their ears or leave the room. Or maybe they just agree that they’ll smile and nod and keep disparaging comments to themselves for the day.

    Look. Like I said, I do get setting boundaries and feeling really uncomfortable because you have to change your behavior and outlook around someone. But I agree with the original post that being unwilling to compromise now doesn’t help anyone in the future. Ultimately, you are going to have to interact with your in-laws. You’re also going to have to watch your language around young children and attend meetings with people you don’t like. If your boyfriend isn’t willing to ever confront those difficult situations, he needs to grow up.

  • JAS

    Your boyfriend may “feel” that he’s ready to be married, but he is NOT ready to be married. Like everyone else has said, talk a lot, go to therapy, support each other, try to have as many open and giving and loving experiences with your close-knit family and him as possible so he can see and model a relationship with them after yours. THEN get married. When he’s comfortable, and you’re comfortable, and you guys can do it TOGETHER. If you’re going to be together until you’re old and grey and infirm, what’s another couple of years to get it right, instead of trying to push a square peg in a round hole and hurting people’s feelings in the process? Don’t dump him. But don’t marry him right now, either. Also, hugs.

    • Hannah

      Thanks for these words! They’re helping me formulate some advice for a friend who’s feeling stuck in her relationship at the moment.

  • JAS

    Oh, one more thing. By putting so much pressure on himself to be what he thinks your parents expect him to be (a not-swearing, something other than he actually is) instead of just being who he is, he’s depriving them of their agency to know, understand, and accept him for the person he truly is. And that’s not a healthy relationship to have–important for someone who has had just awful experiences in relationships.

    • Hannah

      Yes! The parents deserve the benefit of the doubt here. They may not appreciate foul language or sexual frankness in their faces all the time, but they might be willing to get used to the occasional off-color joke or edgy comment. Just because they haven’t done it before doesn’t mean they can’t evolve. This couple should honor them with the opportunity.

  • Sara Ashley

    Do not walk run for the door. Now! This is the sign of an abusive controlling partner not somebody who loves you. In fact the first warning sign is these type of people will try to destroy any relationships you have with family or friends. And this would do it with your parents. I don’t care what ” concessions” or “compromises” he claims he’s made for you because that’s not what he did. What he has done isn’t any kind of a sacrifice at all. It’s what you normally do when you’re in a relationship so Mr. Spoiled Brat hasn’t done you one single favor. You have by putting up with his stupid. If he can’t behave himself for six hours he’s also not mature or responsible enough to be married. And definitely not to have kids. Curb him before he ruins your life. And I say this as the foul mouthed, non-religious social rebel of the relationship. Who sits politely and quitely in the pew when we have to go to church for family functions and who curbs herself around his family.

  • z

    Well, I don’t think this is really about just not getting to curse for a few hours. It seems that he feels profoundly uncomfortable around her parents in much deeper and more important ways. That’s ok. I respect it. It’s really, really tough to blend into a socioeconomically and culturally different family without feeling judged and bewildered, even without a complicated family of origin.

    But the idea of a wedding day as a day when anyone feels totally comfortable to be their real true self? Ha! Come on. Hardly anyone gets that. I didn’t talk like I normally do. I DEFINITELY didn’t dance like I normally do, not in front of my grandma, no ma’am. My husband’s uncle was supposed to give a toast at the reception and he gave an outright PRAYER instead, in which he prayed that the Lord would touch my heart and teach me to respect my husband’s manhood and also change my name. But I managed to keep my bearings. It was a wonderful wedding and I was happy as can be, and these things don’t bother me too much because I understand that my husband loves his family and it’s part of the deal.

    The point is, the expectation that this guy has of a wedding as a day when he feels very comfortable to be himself, is just not something a lot of people have. A wedding day isn’t a vacation to a world where everything is perfect. It’s a day when you work your butt off, endure all kinds of crazy crap, and hopefully come out saying it was all worthwhile. He doesn’t have a realistic expectation here.

    • z

      And besides, the LW is going to be uncomfortable if her parents are not there. So it’s not like he’s offering her the same comfortable wedding experience that he wants for himself.

      I’m glad you’ve put off the wedding, LW. You and him have a lot to work through here. If marriage is important to you, I hope you end up with someone who wants to marry you. Not someone who would pass up a lifetime of marriage over a few hours of even profound discomfort.

    • Lisa

      Um, excuse me??!?! Your uncle prayed for you to “respect [your] husband’s manhood and change [your] name.” Ah, helllll noooo. I’m not confrontational, but with the amount of alcohol I drank at my own wedding, I don’t know how I would have handled that.

      • Sarah

        You should have told him you planned on respecting the manhood later that night ;)

  • z

    The more I think about this the more questions I have. I get that it’s hard to avoid the occasional f-bomb if you’re used to it. Habits of speech are tough to break. But the talking about sex? I mean, who wants to talk about sex and drugs with their in-laws? Why would that even come up, and why is it important to him to be able to do it?

    • Violet

      I’m still really confused, too. He grew up in a “rock and roll” household, yet what he most fears now is being criticized for having a foul mouth, because it reminds him of his upbringing and being criticized. But it sounds like his upbringing totally condoned cursing and allowed him to say whatever he wanted. So, why does Leave It to Beaver family judging him in any way trigger his family of origin’s judgment of him? Confused.

  • Zeth

    I have to give full marks for this response (I feel less charitable towards the gentleman in question, but like you said, Liz, I’m a stranger on the internet). You gave the issue due consideration from all angles.

    My two cents is that it’s time to make an ultimatum in return and some potential tough choices. My family is also more “Leave it to Beaver” than that of my (new) husband, but neither of us could imagine the day without them.

    I’m sorry you’re in this position. Good luck.

  • Ella

    My partner has had to curb how comfortable he is making references to sex when he’s around my parents. Sometimes he still says things without thinking them through and everyone feels super awkward. But because they know and love him, they forgive him and the awkward moment passes. In a loving and healthy relationship, a partner will try to take the edge of behaviour that others find offensive, and the offended will read the behaviour in the context of the relationship and know that no offence was meant. This issue shouldn’t be a my-parents-can’t-come-to-my-wedding level issue.

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  • Alexandra

    Been following this all day. You know what I’m really curious about? How Oy Vey’s parents feel about the boyfriend. And how her friends feel about him. They’ve been together for a long time–long live-in relationships are de facto married in terms of how people interact with them socially. How’s the ride been so far? We know a lot about how boyfriend feels about parents. Not so much the other side of the equation.

    I have a feeling if you asked them you might get an earful.

    • Alexandra

      Replying to my own post, which is kinda gauche, I guess. But I started thinking about this scenario again, read Oy Vey’s letter again, and read all the comments. There’s something about trying to see something from all the angles that appeals to me. This is like literature. What are we missing? We’ve got a first person subjective narrative, so there’s an inherently unreliable narrator. What other perspectives might be here?

      Ok, so the vast majority of us would never be in a relationship like this, at least as it’s described here. Never mind the “no parents at the wedding” detail. There’s lots of other stuff to eye-roll at, too. Most people don’t feel like dealing with a partner’s baggage to the point where agreeing to wedding “concessions”–you know, big, huge compromises like…having a photographer? Hiring an officiant? Getting married at all after 7+ years of being together? are viewed as big wins.

      But let’s say you’re a slightly different kinda gal. You want to be married, I guess, but you’re introverted? Non-traditional? You never dreamed of even a conventional, basic low-key wedding (but the letter implies you kinda are dreaming of that, but whatever). You’re happy in your slightly quirky, unconventional long-term relationship, and everybody, including your parents, has known the two of you as a couple for years. You just want to tie the knot as a way of making official what has already been your reality and the reality of everyone around you for a big chunk of your life.

      Boyfriend can’t deal with even a low-key wedding, so what do you do?

      Yeah, you elope. Courthouse wedding. And I wouldn’t invite a single soul. All your friends and family are used to you guys as a couple, and they must know your boyfriend’s issues by now. It’s not going to surprise anyone. I don’t think they’re going to be thrilled about it–particularly your parents–but they will probably chalk it up to “that’s just how they are” and grin and bear it.

      Mentally, I’d get into the mindset of it being my choice to elope to avoid the drama, expense, and complications of a wedding. Those are pretty good reasons to elope, and they would make it easier to withstand the judgment and disappointment of others (cuz elopements tend to cause judgment and disappointment) than doing it because of boyfriend’s family of origin baggage.

      If you can do the mental gymnastics to get to a point where “this is my choice, I never really wanted a real wedding with my parents there, weddings aren’t a big deal to me, I just want to be married whatevs”, then that’s what you do.

      Most of us have learned that when we have to do extreme mental gymnastics to be ok with relationship decisions, it’s problematic. Everybody’s already said that, though (I have two or three abusive relationships under my belt, myself, and remember how much I hated a friend who sat down with me in the middle of my worst one to tell it to me straight). If we’re all just misunderstanding you, then never mind.

      TL;DR: if you’re not going to invite your parents (with whom you have a good relationship), you can’t invite anyone. Any other wedding is going to be a nightmare of hurt feelings, the implications of which will live on for years.

  • Thriftypenny

    Okay….the nicest way I can say this is at best this man is no where near ready to be married. If like you said below he is working through his own shit in counselling- that’s a good step.

    You also need to look after you and your needs. You are not responsible for saving this man. It is not your job to give him all the love and unconditional support that he did not receive as a child. This man is not looking out for your needs. He is making demands and ultimatums that will hurt you and the people you care about.

    He needs time and space to sort out his shit and you need to look after your own needs/wellbeing. Take a break from this man. Things will get clearer if you can get some headspace.

  • laddibugg

    Did I miss something that said LW’s folks can’t stand the fiance? Or where they’ve even just made numerous severely judgmental comments about him and his behavior?
    THESE. ARE. YOUR. PARENTS. I don’t see the LW as having issues with them, or even the partner having specific issues. These are the people that raised you, and who you I assume still like and love. And you’re choosing some person you’ve known for considerably less time over them for very specious reasons? (yes, I know there are situations where this is a perfectly understandable response, but based on the letter, this isn’t one to me)

    “He’s perfectly okay never getting married, so the proverbial ball’s in my court.”
    Oh. Nah, he probably doesn’t want to and thinks this lets him not make the decision.

  • sededed

    Can I ask a question, OP (if you are still listening)? You’ve stated this is a one-off request and that he attends birthdays and holidays with them just fine.

    But the reason your BF’s emotional needs are heightened around your wedding is because of its emotional significance. How do you *know* that once you are married, these activities won’t also be emotionally heightened too? Your first holiday as a married couple, your first home as a married couple, your children’s this or that. Every one of these events could quickly become an instance in which your parents are not allowed to participate.

    Would you still marry him if you knew that your parents may be exiled from your life by his emotional needs? I wouldn’t and you sound closer to your parents than I am.

  • macaroni

    YIKES. I would nope out of there so quick the dust wouldn’t even have a chance to settle. I’m also very tight with my family, and I can’t imagine what my wedding would have been like without them there. I’m lucky in that I love my in-laws very much, and enjoy spending time with them, and my husband says the same about my parents. But I have friends who can’t STAND their in-laws, but deal with it like adults because they’re their spouse’s parents. THEIR PARENTS. This guy sounds like a jerk. Sorry, letter writer. :(

  • Meg

    He needs to grow up

  • Gina

    This has controlling emotional abuser written all over it. And the fact that LW justifies this behavior and accepts it is really concerning. Your parents sound like caring, wonderful people who have welcomed your boyfriend into the family circle without regard to his differences. Please don’t do this to them. They don’t deserve it.

    • laddibugg

      And the length of time you’ve been together doesn’t matter. 1.5 years or 15 years….

  • raccooncity

    I know this isn’t on the table at the moment, but alternative option that my husband and I reluctantly went with after realizing we didn’t want to be face-to-face with family drama on the day of?

    Huge (relatively speaking) wedding.

    We originally planned to have 25 people, but the smallness and having to be intimately WITH people the whole time was too hard to imagine. For different reasons than OP though – mostly adult child of divorce stuff. We love our parents and would never want to hurt any of them by not inviting them, so we were like “well, let’s dilute the problem by throwing in 60 more people.

    We had a less fancy wedding than planned and in a different location, but it worked like a charm and everyone felt included while I didn’t need to see any of the drama that went down because there were just too many people there. We lost the forest by adding a bunch more trees, basically.

    • spinning2heads

      That is BRILLIANT

    • Oy Vey

      this is really brilliant. Thanks!

      • saywhatnow

        OP, I’m glad you’re still reading and responding (I hope you still are today). It’s clear that you felt attacked yesterday, and I can see how that would be painful. I also got the sense that you were frustrated because you specifically wanted answers to Issue A (namely, how to solve the parents dilemma), and everyone kept responding to Issue B, which is your BF’s approach to the wedding.

        You’ve mentioned that since commenters are focusing on B and not A, they must need more facts to understand why B isn’t, in fact, an issue at all; that only A matters. But as others above, I have to say that the added facts don’t change the situation; they don’t make B go away.

        You’re clearly feeling defensive, and maybe that’s getting in the way of seeing others’ perspectives – why B really, truly, matters.

        I’m really struck by the fact that, both in the letter (both versions) and the comments, you don’t say much about what you want. You mention that you’d like your parents there, but you also want to know how to accommodate your BF’s wishes. So I sincerely want to ask you: where are YOU in all this? What do YOU want? What makes you so willing to acquiesce to his request? People have said you’d hurt your parents, but wouldn’t it also hurt you? What do you think would be the long-term effects on you of cutting out your parents? Are you thinking about your feelings? Engaging with them? Please know that your own feelings are NOT less valid or important than your BF’s, not even bc he was abused.

        I can see how hard this all is, and you feel like we don’t get it. But perhaps we see something from the outside that you don’t see so clearly on the inside. Because it doesn’t matter how many facts are added to the story: your partner making this ultimatum (<– note this – it's an ultimatum! One in which you have no real choice or agency!!!) is Just Not Okay. His issues becoming your problem to handle, even as you squash your own desires and feelings, is not healthy. He may be a good person, but his approach to you was fucked up. I really hope you can reflect more on this, and appreciate why 200 opinions are all of a voice on this matter.

    • Jenn

      We are doing something similar to this. My fiance’s mom and stepmom basically can’t be in the same room together without someone getting offended. So instead of having a tiny wedding (like my introverted partner would’ve preferred), we’re having 80 people. Hopefully now the mom and stepmom have their own people to hang out with!

  • Poeticplatypus

    I get that APW has to edit letters or articles for space, shouldn’t the edited letter still reflect the message of the original message. After reading the unedited letter it changed my point of view.

    • Alexandra

      It didn’t change mine. If anything, the mental gymnastics and rationalizing of the unedited letter raised bigger red flags.

      • saywhatnow

        I agree with you so much on that point: not just the unedited letter, but the exchanges here, demonstrate ever more contorted attempts at rationalizing as reasonable an attitude that just isn’t.

    • Violet

      To use an analogy, the edited letter was like someone punching me in the mouth. And then the original, unedited version is the person who just punched me adding, “I had a really bad day! I’m not normally like this!” It in no way excuses them punching me. Not at all.

      • Amy March

        Yeah it changed my opinion not at all. I thought it was lightly edited and pretty in tune with the original. Excuses or not, I find the request completely unreasonable and controlling.

      • saywhatnow

        Precisely. The added facts didn’t change the underlying issues one bit, and not because strangers on the internet don’t understand.

    • Liz

      I edited the letter, so I’m interested to hear what specifically changed your perspective.

      • Poeticplatypus

        If the part about a small wedding or eloping would have been included my response would have been to just elope the 2 of them and call it a day.

        • Liz

          Ah see, I see that as avoiding the problem instead of solving it. “Just elope!” still means she’s sacrificing what she wants for what makes him most comfortable.

  • doubleengine

    This sounds an awful lot like the beginning of an emotionally abusive relationship. Please take a hard look at the response above from APW and try really, really hard to see it without a defensive lens. If I could have gotten advice like this when I was younger, and actually heard it, I would have saved myself a whole bunch of years of being miserable / saved a lot of money on therapy.

    • clarkesara

      I was thinking the same thing. My abusive boyfriend from college was a lot like the guy mentioned here, down to the thing where he pretends he’s actually being very generous by making all these “concessions”. If planning your wedding is a tense negotiation where one person is “conceding” to doing a bunch of stuff they don’t want to do (or worse, framing wedding talk this way, as if everything one party wants requires massive sacrifice on the other’s part whether that’s the case or not), this relationship isn’t meant to be.

      My fiance and I don’t see eye to eye on certain wedding-adjacent things, but we work it out together, remembering that we love each other and are on the same team. I don’t see my agreement to keep the ceremony short and simple as a “concession” that requires and equal and opposite compensation on his part. I’m not buying a car, I’m marrying the man I love.

      • doubleengine

        Exactly! Compromise and concession are two VERY, VERY different things. This whole story really hit home for me. I really hope the OP does not marry this man.

  • clarkesara

    I can be socially awkward, and while I like my future in-laws a lot, spending a lot of time with my fiance’s family can sometimes feel draining. I feel like I have to be “on” constantly with them. And even with all that, I wouldn’t DREAM of getting married without his family there.

    A wedding is kind of a social performance, anyway. The whole day is going to require a lot of small talk, and smiling even though my dress is itchy, and drinking enough champagne but not so much that I swear in front of my grandparents, etc.

    This just… doesn’t make any sense. “I don’t want your parents dropping by any old time because I need privacy and down time”? Sure! That sounds like something I would say. I don’t want your parents at what will be a highly social and public-facing event where we will be on our best behavior anyway? What?

  • Hey Oy Vey,

    This is kinda long. Feel free not to read!!

    What a difficult situation. I’m so sorry – the original scenario sounds heartbreaking, and I can’t imagine what it would be like to have a load of people pretty unanimously tell me that my relationship was abusive either – that is also heartbreaking. I think that was really brave of you to show him these comments and have a conversation with him about them. I’m also so sorry about his childhood – that really sucks.

    You did not ask us for advice about whether to be with your man or not – you’ve been with him for a long time and are sure about it. I think it is clear what you are asking for advice about, and I’m glad you have found it helpful that some people have given you that kind of advice in the comments. I think we responded the way we did because although you weren’t asking for advice about your relationship, the way it came across sounded scary to some of us – me included.

    I thought it might be helpful to tell you specifically what some of the “red flags” were, because just generally saying “wow, red flags!” isn’t necessarily that helpful, when we’re talking about someone you know, love, have been with for years, does not remind you of your previously abusive relationship, and whose perspective you understand much better than we do. That way you can consider those things specifically and decide what your take on them is which I’m sure you’re capable of doing. It’s great that you’ve got a good support network (your parents sound FAB) and I’m glad to hear they like your dude too.

    Here are the things that felt like red flags to me – and I have to say that the unedited letter does not make me feel any better about them:

    – You said “asking him to be extremely uncomfortable on his wedding day is not okay.” I get that, but I would also say that asking you to be extremely uncomfortable is not okay, and asking your parents not to be there (sounds like) it is making you extremely uncomfortable. That imbalance does not seem right for a healthy, long-term relationship.

    – It sounds like there is something about your parents that triggers your man, even though they are being loving and accommodating. Totally understandable – not his fault, not their fault – totally tragic because of his childhood. But how he is dealing with this right now is saying that he can’t be around them on his wedding day. One thing that concerns me about that is what happens when it is not your parents making him uncomfortable but YOU making him uncomfortable. I’m sure you would not do that by choice, but over the course of a lifetime together? In marriage? Probably gonna happen. Does he then say that he can’t be around you. That it is not fair for him to be extremely uncomfortable in his own home? Again, I don’t blame him for this. I would just see it as a red flag that he might not be ready?

    – For me, laying down ultimatums is usually not a good tactic and can be a very controlling way of behaving. We probably all do it in the heat of the moment, but I guess I see part of a healthy relationship as being able to say “Sorry I tried to control you in the heat of the moment last night. That was crappy behaviour. I love you and I want to work as a team…so how do we move forward?” Maybe he is doing this? I don’t know.

    – Is it possible (again, not his fault) that some of his ways of dealing with the situation and reacting are learned behaviours from the environment he grew up in? Thus, we are just seeing the behaviours and they are abusive, but not because he is a jerk or a bad person or because he doesn’t love you but because there are still some areas where we defaults to those behaviours because that’s all he knows about how to deal with the fear (or whatever else) is getting triggered in him? If this is the case, although it is not his fault, he is the only person who can take responsibility for changing that – and that is a long, hard journey. Sadly your love, acceptance and understanding can’t change it – no matter how much you accommodate. It sounds like he’s already done much emotional work and healing, but it does sound – to a stranger – like abusive patterns of behaviour are still rearing their ugly head, without him intending that.

    – I could be misreading this, but the paragraph about “but he is making concessions in other ways…” made me feel uncomfortable for reasons others have mentioned. For me personally, when I have to explain to others “oh this person seems this way but you don’t understand him like I do…” or “it’s because of this thing you didn’t know about him…” or “in these other areas, he’s really great!” that is a red flag. In this whole scenario, it feels like the burden of responsibility for resolving the situation is resting way too heavily on your shoulders. It’s great to hear in some of your responses that you are working towards being more of a team in dealing with it.

    I really don’t want to pile on, but those are a few of the things that stood out to me. But you know the situation, know yourself, know your family and know your man! I’m sure you know what the real issues are.

    A bit of a wild card, advice-wise. Your parents sound amazing. If you had a heart-to-heart with them (who know and love him) and were like “It’s totally not your fault, but this is how he feels, and these are the reasons why, and this is what he is saying…what should I do?” maybe you all could come up with some creative solutions together?

    I so hope you both find happiness.

  • SmileyT

    I was going to write a long post. But in reality, the choice is clear. YOU. NEED. TO. DUMP. HIM.

    You will have a much happier life without a controlling, abusive jerk

  • Melissa A

    Anyone else wonder if LW’s fiance is actually looking for a way out of the wedding? Maybe he doesn’t actually expect LW to ever in a million years agree to such a demand and is just because a coward.

    Alternatively, he is setting her up for a lonely life of isolation and abuse. It’s a lot easier to control someone who doesn’t have her own support system in place. Expecting her to sacrifice family for him seems like a massive leap in this direction.

    Girl, run for the fucking hills.

  • Raissomat

    My in-law are alcoholics, at times very mean ( only to me) and my mother in law even made a scene the night before the wedding and broke my heart.
    Still, I’d NEVER EVER EVER ask my husband to not invite them to the wedding, they gave him life, brought him up to the man he is, and love him dearly!!
    They drank a little too much, made inappropriate comments, and danced alone, but they also cried when I promised my love to their son.

  • harlequin13

    I’ve been in an emotionally abusive relationship, and I’m very concerned that this is where you might be headed. It’s important to make compromises in any relationship, and there’s no reason that one person might trump another in terms of spending time with people.

    It is absolutely vital that we, as adults, interact with other people as adults, and this can be really uncomfortable with parents and parental figures. However, it is imperative that this shift occurs and that it is something that you decide irrespective of your partner(s), because you are a realy adult person! Who does mundane things, like pay bills and work and replace lightbulbs, and who does complicated things that might be erotic, political, provocative, and visceral. I never look forward to having these conversations with people in my own life, but it’s something that I will never flinch from doing, because I am not nine, or fifteen, anymore.

    Before my abusive ex and I split, I had a moment of clarity where I realized that rest of my life was going to be this unending cycle of unpleasantness and I would always bear this crushing responsibility for all of it, and I decided that was not a workable proposition. I hope that you will think about how things will play out in the long term (holidays? children? coworkers and friends?) and make a wise decision based on that. Deal-breakers are tricky things to articulate, since we often want to avoid conflict, but you must always place yourself first. Anything that really significantly compromises who YOU are, as a person working to be truly good, is an automatic deal breaker, and your parents sound like they are not compromising you. Perhaps stifling you a big, but, see above paragraph. I hope things work out for you and you avoid traveling down the rabbit hole that I fell into.

  • E

    I’m going to just add one more to what I’m sure is a LONG list of ‘dump the jerkface as soon as possible!’ comments. I’m sure there are some situations in which requesting your partner’s parents not be present at your wedding is reasonable (they’re abusive to you or your partner, or reject your relationship in fundamental ways, are violent criminals, et c), but having to not make fart jokes or whatever bullshit he’s suggesting is just garbage. This is a GIANT red flag and the OP should RUN as fast as she can away from this jerk

  • hell0lucky

    Your fiance seems like an ass and controlling and clearly doesn’t understand social norms or how much this is upsetting you and for all of those reasons I wouldn’t marry him….but I’m not marrying him and I want to offer a potential solution.

    You could just set aside a portion of your wedding where your fiance feels is able to express himself freely and curse and whatever else and basically not be on guard. This would mean at some point in the day your parents (and to be fair his parents and all the other older folk) would exit – and this doesn’t have to be a big deal. On some level Kate and Wills did this when the Queen left London and wasn’t at the Buckingham Palace evening dinner reception so that people could let their hair down.

    Of course you’ve probably all gotten this planned so this suggestion comes too late, but you could have an afternoon ceremony followed by a more formal meal where speeches etc. happen. This would be the end of the formal proceedings and then the younger people would ideally move on to a different venue where a casual dance party could happen. Just a thought.

  • Jessy

    If your parents love him like you say then they will accept him as he is. If he loves you so much to marry you then he shouldn’t tell you not to have your family there- you’ll regret that. The wedding isn’t just about him hence it’s not his sweet 16 the wedding is for both of you. He should just be himself and they should just deal with it. But that doesn’t need mean that he should be vulgar either. It’s a wedding not a rave, and our wedding was a wild party with plenty of Christians who at first seemed taken aback and before long were enjoying themselves too. If anyone in this equation can’t loosen up then something’s wrong. You love your family-don’t do something like that to yourself!

  • Deus Vult

    What a cunt, don’t marry that scumbag.
    What dipshit can’t handle not talking about doin drugs and having sex?!
    This is a toxic relationship if he can’t handle invitin the people reasonable for you being born…

    I really hope this didn’t work out.