Q: I’m twenty-five and in the midst of a long engagement to my college sweetheart, a wonderful man who’s been through a lot. His dad and stepmom are supportive and loving, but his birth mother (who won custody of him for most of his life and formative years) is less than. She is manipulative, passive aggressive, starts drama, and plays the victim. She badmouths my fiancé’s dad and stepmom regularly. During his childhood, these personality traits amounted to emotional abuse for him. The long-term impact of her actions is something we’ve been working through for the four years we’ve been together.
My fiancé isn’t in regular contact with his mother, and there was a period of a couple years where they didn’t speak. I’ve met her once. I don’t want to invite this woman to our wedding, and although I probably shouldn’t have, I’ve voiced this opinion to my fiancé. He hasn’t told me whether he’s inclined to invite her or not yet. We still have a lot of time to finish up the guest list, but my question is this: Do I have a say in whether or not she should be invited? Or is that a decision I really need to leave up to my fiancé since it’s his mother? I have a feeling it’s the latter, but I’m sure if she came she would just be a really negative and possibly disruptive presence. I want to protect him and our wedding, but it is his mom.
A: Dear Anonymous,
You’re right. It’s his mom, it’s his call.
But, that doesn’t mean your opinion doesn’t count. You sound regretful about letting him know how you feel, and I don’t think you should be at all.
When you’re in a marriage, it’s important that both folks carry on with their individual interests, their personal relationships, all of that. But one of the awesome benefits to being married is having that second set of eyes and ears that you trust. All of this awful stuff has happened to him, but now he’s got you to watch his back! Right now, that means saying, “Hey, I’m worried involving your mom will spell a lot of hurt for you.”
Just be sure to make it clear that you’re looking out for him, not yourself. If I had to guess, you probably dislike his mom (and who wouldn’t, based on what you’re saying up there). But like you also mentioned above, you really want to protect him. You’re not just acting out of that dislike, but out of concern for him. If that’s what it’s about, make sure he knows it, so worries about, “My partner hates my mom,” don’t cloud the issue and add to the drama. Picture standing on his side, rather than standing in between him and his mom. That’s where you want to position yourself.
As with everything else, this problem isn’t just about the wedding. You’ll be handling this for a good long time. What will your dynamic be moving forward? What will you say when she wants help moving or is very ill or somehow needs your partner and he has to decide how much he’s willing to be involved? Starting now, set a precedent for sharing how you feel, but also letting him know that you’re concerned for him and will support him.
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