Q: I am newly engaged. So far things are going smoothly, but there is one issue I have to address, and it is super icky and awkward. Basically, I have a second cousin who I grew up with and is around the same age as me, and I always thought she would be one of my bridesmaids if I ever got married. Last Christmas, her boyfriend of five-plus years groped me (down there… yeah) while hugging me goodbye. I was a little drunk, and he was trashed, and I didn’t say anything about it for a few months because I was so shocked. I did have some long conversations with my cousin about it after, and pretty much everyone in my family knows about what happened to some extent, because I have not stopped discussing it with them. This guy has been a creep from the first day I met him, when he put his hand on my thigh. He has done this with several other women in our family, and my cousin has chalked it up to “cultural differences.” I told her that it is unacceptable and that he crossed a line. I told her that if it were up to me, he would not be present at any family functions (well actually, I would prefer she break up with this guy). We agreed that if he did come, he is not to talk to me, and she already has broken this agreement by forcing him over to say hi to me. My fiancé also does not want him there, as well as my parents and siblings.
My question: I do want to invite my cousin, despite her terrible judgment and questionable behavior, but how do I not invite her boyfriend? Do I have to have another a conversation? Do I give her a plus one, but say bring a friend? There is no way I am inviting someone who sexually assaulted me, and creeps on other women, to my wedding.
A: Dear WTFC,
You’ve been really strong in this super difficult situation. You told folks what happened, which is hard to do. You let your cousin know, which can be even harder. And you’ve established some great boundaries. You’re amazing. And yes, the next step would definitely be to exclude him from your wedding. I cosign that decision completely. I think we’ll all agree, “No known sexual predators at the wedding,” is a great rule.
There is no “cultural difference” that would excuse this. If anything, it’s entirely normal for our culture to rationalize it, explain it away, ignore it. If your cousin continues to do that, there’s not too much you can do about it on her behalf. I wish she would break up with him, too. But it’s really telling that this is so expected that your cousin is willing to settle for it in a partner. It makes me angry and heartbroken and frustrated all at the same time.
Invite your cousin to the wedding, but let her know up front that he isn’t invited. No need to give her a plus-one. She’s family; she’ll know plenty of people there. You could just send an invitation without his name on it, but I have a feeling they’ll choose not to understand that he wasn’t invited. So I would call to explicitly say, “Hey, by the way, he’s not invited.” She already knows why, but you can break it down one more time for her, if necessary. It won’t be a fun conversation, but it sounds like you’ve gotten used to having some difficult ones. I hope she chooses to come.
But I also hope he chooses not to. Since we know he’s got a thing for ignoring boundaries (and she sometimes is complicit), I’d just be braced for him potentially crashing the wedding. One good way to handle this is to confide in someone you trust so that, if he does show up, they can keep a sharp eye and escort him out. It sucks that not only did you endure this, not only was it on you to call it out and let everyone know, but it’s also on you to worry about keeping him away from the wedding. So loop your family, your friends, your support network in on this. Not just to make sure he doesn’t enter the door (that, too), but to make sure you’re not alone in facing this mess, in general.
Other than that, go on, girl. You don’t need me; you’re doing a great job. If anything, maybe you need someone to say, “This is the right decision,” (because it can be hard!) so, hey. This is the right decision.