Q: Due to a very long list of reasons (including but not limited to manipulation and childhood abuse), I no longer have a relationship with my mother. This is a fairly recent development, one that has come from extensive therapy and personal growth, and I am secure in my decision. However, tons of people—from my fiancé’s grandmother to our prospective photographer—want to know how excited she is and, when I tell them she won’t be attending the wedding, they want to know why. Every time I think I’ve answered the last question I’ll get on the subject, people ask more because the idea of the “mother of the bride” is such a staple of most weddings.
It’s a decision I’ve made and I feel strong in it, but it is still painful for me to discuss and, frankly, not everybody’s business. How can I tactfully answer these questions?
A: I’m so sorry. This is already a hard situation, and then folks’ well-meaning questions really don’t help.
It sounds maybe a bit obvious, but when people ask about something you don’t want to discuss, you can outright say, “I’m not interested in talking about it.” I know, I know. You haven’t done this yet because you think your first answer will maybe be your last, but then they just keep going. So as soon as you get that first, “Is mom excited?!” Say, “Oh, she’s not coming. It’s pretty complicated, and I don’t really feel like discussing it.”
In this situation, as painful as the questions are, I guarantee no one is trying to be rude. They just stumbled onto a landmine they completely didn’t expect. But once you make that, “Let’s not talk about it,” request, if they keep pressing, they are being rude. Which gives you license to be more firm.
It is so, so great that you’re establishing boundaries that you feel good about. But you’re right that not everyone has license to poke and prod at them. Shut it down.