Q: Dear APW,
When my partner was still young, his father had a very long affair, after which he left my partner’s mom and married the mistress. This was about 18 years ago. His dad and new wife have two kids, and his mom and new husband had a kid too. All of the kids are in their teens now, so none of this is new.
Now that we are working on guests, his mother has told him that she does not want the stepmom to be there. She says that she has cried over it. She is okay with the dad and his kids being there, but does not want stepmom to be present.
This does not feel okay to me. We go to his dad and stepmom’s place all the time. She dotes on me, and on my fiancx too. We hang out with his siblings on that side all the time. We are incredibly involved with both sides of the family.
This is the kind of thing that would fracture our relationship with the dad and stepmom. It would be horribly offensive to not invite stepmom, but my fiancx is still so caught up in what happened 18 years ago that he is taking his mom’s side on this. I have already promised to make sure that they are on opposite sides of the venue from each other. His mom and stepdad would sit on my side next to my mom, because they are close, and his dad and stepmom would sit on his side for the ceremony.
I’m not trying to be callous about their situation; it caused a lot of pain for my fiancx and his mom to go through that, and that pain and hurt still lingers today, but we cannot not have stepmom there.
So I guess my question is: how do we have the conversation with mama to make sure she understands that we will be inviting stepmom, and to try to hurt as few feelings as possible?
A: Dear Anonymous,
I’m surprised to see that you consider the matter already decided, seemingly making the decision to invite stepmom unilaterally, done deal, the end.
Yeah! I totally see your side of this, and you’re right that some close relationships may be permanently altered by excluding stepmom. Besides even the points you made, it sucks that so much hurt and ire is pinned to “the other woman,” when dad made his choices, too. He’s the root of the betrayal. But it sounds like he gets a pass and an invite, which isn’t totally fair. And what does this mean for the nearly-grown kids? And on and on and on. Point is, yeah: I get what you’re saying, I think your points are totally valid (and then some).
But ultimately, it’s not your call. At least, not yours alone.
You have a say in it, but not the only say. Your partner has very real, very valid feelings about his family and how he relates to them, which relationships he’d like to preserve and which he’s okay to add some distance to. He was there when it all went down and perhaps saw some things you did not. And as you mentioned, he was personally impacted by the choices these grown adults made all those years ago.
Perhaps he doesn’t realize that this will create some problems between he and dad (I mean frankly, dad might not even come to the wedding). Perhaps he doesn’t see that this thing happened many years ago and stepmom is no longer just a “mistress” but is now an active member of the family. These are all things you can advise him on. You can help him weigh the pros and cons. But you can’t make the call all by yourself. This is definitely a joint decision situation, and even then, more his than yours.
If your partner decides you’re right, his dad and stepmom are important to him and need to be there, then yes, have a conversation with mom. Ask her what will make her feel most secure at the wedding. It sounds like you’ve already considered making sure they don’t bump into each other. She might also be concerned that stepmom will get equal billing, a mention in the program, a special mother/son dance. Who knows! You don’t until you ask.
But before you have that conversation with mom, make sure you’re on the same page with your partner.