The Washington Post

Mean mother of the bride is divorced from reality

- Carolyn Hax Write to Carolyn Hax at tellme@washpost.com. Get her column delivered to your inbox each morning at http://wapo.st/gethax. Join the discussion live at noon Fridays at washington­post.com/livechats.

Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

My mom has verbally and emotionall­y abused me since childhood. She has been in and out of mental health treatment, but never sticks around long when therapists or doctors start saying things she doesn’t want to hear (a.k.a. the truth). I have worked hard to be financiall­y independen­t, live far away, and set boundaries I can live with so that I can still have a relationsh­ip with my dad, whom I am very close to.

Long story short: I got engaged, my mom fought my fiance and me at every step of planning our wedding (no bridal shower — gasp! no registry — how could you?!, etc.) then the pandemic happened, we scrapped all those plans, and are throwing together an even more intimate gathering in my parents’ backyard.

I just told my family I plan to have only my dad walk me down the aisle, rather than both parents. My mom threatened to sabotage our entire wedding, end her own marriage to my father if he goes along with it, and through my sister — whom we’ve taken to calling the hostage negotiator — issued a set of demands. Chief among those demands is for us to acknowledg­e that my mother feels “totally unloved, disrespect­ed, unimportan­t, and unaccepted” and we should supply options for how to make her feel special and celebrated

. . . at my wedding.

Any suggestion­s for handling that? We’d cancel the whole thing if it weren’t so important to have my dad there.

— Bride

Bride: I’m glad you’re not canceling the whole thing.

The way to handle this is to ignore it. Calmly and utterly. And to continue with your plans as if you have not been issued demands.

Your dad walks you down the aisle as planned, if he agrees to that. If your mom makes a scene, then have a designated person or two on standby to usher her away from the ceremony.

If your sister presses you to respond to your mother’s demands, then say thanks, you’re all set. As in, proceeding as planned. Whatever hell your mom unleashes on her for your actions is for your sister to manage, since she assumed the messenger risk — which she could have turned down. (Peacekeepi­ng children of abusers, please give yourselves the gift of therapy.)

I am sorry for everyone, Mom included, that she hasn’t followed through with adequate treatment. This sentiment can coexist with your having your own wedding on your own terms.

Also coexisting: that your whole family sounds overdue to stop enabling your mom and that you can do only your part.

Congratula­tions to you and your fiance.

Readers’ thoughts:

I also had a very strained relationsh­ip with my mom. For years my brother played hostage negotiator — or at least tried. I refuse to negotiate with terrorists. Finally, he started telling mom he wasn’t going to be in the middle — and stuck his ground. His and my relationsh­ip got so much better without the albatross of my mom in the middle. So give your sister the freedom to disengage.

You might explore in therapy why you are so attached to Dad. He may not be as obvious as Mom in his unwellness, but he picked her and continues to do so. He could come to you for a courthouse wedding.

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 ?? NICK GALIFIANAK­IS FOR THE WASHINGTON POST ??
NICK GALIFIANAK­IS FOR THE WASHINGTON POST

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