Q: Dear APW,
I did not invite my aunt to my wedding. She used to be one of the most important people in my life when I was younger, but ever since her husband died several years ago, she kind of lost her mind. I could deal with that.
What I can’t deal with is her horrible politics. She didn’t just vote for Trump—she actively campaigned for him in our swing state. She’s also accused my parents of brainwashing me against her and insinuated that I am a paid protestor for George Soros. We haven’t spoken in several years.
I invited her college-aged children to my wedding, but let them know up front that I had decided not to invite their mother for reasons that I would be willing to discuss with them if they wanted. Neither asked and both politely declined to attend due to prior engagements. Completely understandably, they told her about it.
My aunt proceeded to call her father/my grandfather crying, accusing me of inviting her children via an ultimatum and refusing to explain why I had not invited her. He immediately took her side and emailed me (and my dad, his son) to express his disappointment. When I clarified that I was completely willing to discuss the reasons why I did not want her at my wedding, he responded that I should forgive her for whatever she had done, not “take revenge” by not inviting her, and that if I didn’t, he would have to “leave the situation” and not attend the wedding.
Although she supports my decision, my mom thinks it’s more important not to let this become something that tears the family apart. However, my dad has made it clear that my reasons are legitimate and if my grandfather decides not to come, that’s his choice. My partner is completely supportive of whatever I decide. Problem is, I have no idea what to do.
The worst part is, if my aunt had bothered to reach out and apologize, I probably would have caved. I know that’s not the strongest position, but I’ve got a lot of my mom in me.
I’m so torn up over this. I don’t think that my aunt would get in a fight with anyone at the wedding if I gave in and invited her, but I also think it’s fair to hold her accountable for her unkindness and fascist politics. All of my friends are queer and my partner is Jewish, and I genuinely don’t want her anywhere near them, even if she would behave! But I don’t want to create a rift to last the ages, either.
A: Dear ANTIFAmily Drama,
You mention that you’re trying to “hold her accountable.” There are consequences for holding really awful views. People don’t like to be around you, you’ll be excluded from events where your viewpoint may impact the folx in attendance. But notice, those consequences are natural, not contrived. Before you try to weigh whether or not to invite her, remove your self-imposed pressure to teach her a lesson. It’s not your job. But more importantly, it’s not a lesson she’ll learn from a lost wedding invite (as you’ve already seen, in her mind, she’s just the victim and you’re the bully).
Once you relieve yourself of the responsibility of being morality police, it might be easier to weigh the rest of the stuff you mention. She’s said hurtful (and honestly, anti-Semitic) stuff about you. Do you want to be around her? She supports policies that may cause harm to people you love. Do you want them to be around her? How do those concerns hang in tension with keeping things smooth in the family? But “the family” meaning just in general. Don’t worry about your grandpa; someone who jumps to take sides without knowing the full story isn’t a person to hinge a decision on.
If looking at it that way that doesn’t make it any clearer cut, I’d try to flip this into the teachable moment you were initially shooting for. Call your aunt. Say, “Hey, I heard you were upset that I didn’t invite you to the wedding. Honestly, there will be good friends there who would be hurt knowing you support policies that put them at risk. I’m really worried about it.” See what she has to say. Yes, sure, she might still pretend you’re the bully and she’s the victim. But at least she’ll know where you stand and why. Plus, I’m guessing how that conversation goes will make the decision for you.