The Washington Post
A divorced mom is unsettled over son’s upcoming wedding
Adapted from an online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: My son is engaged to a woman I don’t know very well. He asked whether I wanted to contribute to the wedding. I said no — I paid for a third of his college, per our divorce decree, and feel adults old enough to be married are old enough to pay for their own weddings.
Last weekend, his fiancee’s parents, also divorced, hosted a dinner so all the parents could meet. They discussed having a rehearsal dinner, a wedding, and a brunch the following day. Parents are paying for most or all of this.
I am bothered by a few things. To start, I thought a wedding was meant to be a few hours, not a few days. I also feel my ex’s new wife is assuming a role as mother of the groom, calling all the shots for the rehearsal dinner. It was also clear she socializes with my son’s fiancee. Her children are in the wedding party, and I overheard people calling them the groom’s brother and sister. The fiancee and her parents have a much warmer relationship with my ex. If they knew his infidelity broke our marriage, I wonder what they would think of him.
I do wish the couple all the luck in the world, but I dread the wedding. How do I deal with these unsettled feelings? — Bothered
Bothered: Everything you named is a byproduct, at this point, of holding yourself (or your money) apart from the action.
That means you can change it. But it also means ditching all the “should” before you poison yourself with the anger you hold for your ex, and watch your son’s joy pass you by.
The first “should” to go: "[M]eant to be a few hours.” A wedding is what the couple wants and can finance. Mentally repeat till it sticks: “I am so happy for them.” Plus, couples often want to provide more than “a few hours” of hospitality for out-of-town guests.
Next: Old enough to marry/ pay. Great! Absolutely valid opinion, so by all means do live by it. Or pivot and pitch in. Others can live by their different, also valid opinions. Your son apparently took your “no” for an answer graciously. Great stuff.
Next: The fiancee and your ex’s new wife. That stings for you, no doubt — but it’s great for the couple. Warmth is good. So now you have a choice — remain stung or bring more warmth. “Luck” is so arm’s-length.
Next: The infidelity grudge. It was awful, I’m sorry, and broke up your family. It also isn’t binding on these other families. They’re meeting you all in this moment, free to make their own judgments and connections. A clean(er) slate could serve you, too.
Feeding your sense of what “should” happen keeps you out of step with what’s actually happening. Please give yourself a hard shake, like an Etch A Sketch, and try approaching this wedding clean.
• My mom was cash-strapped and very self-conscious, so I didn’t ask for any money. Instead I asked her to help me find a dress. Answer: no. I asked her to help me decide on flowers. Answer: no. She spent most of the reception sitting apart on the patio. It’s a sad memory. I wanted her to be part of the day, but her guilt over not being able to contribute financially made her feel undeserving.
• I might suggest therapy. It sounds as if you’re dealing with a lot of unresolved anger and a sense of betrayal over the end of your marriage, understandably.
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