Thursday, June 4, 2009

The universe does not accept returns on family members

Five years ago this January, my parents decided to divorce. Suffice it to say that the divorce was not amicable (there was Another Woman involved), and although my parents have tried hard to get along better in recent years, there are a lot of residual resentments and hurt feelings hiding just below the surface.

The wedding, as weddings do, has brought those resentments to the forefront. My dad threw a hissy fit over two guests my mom wanted to invite; they used to be his friends too but he feels they “betrayed” him during the divorce. When I saw that our invitations designer had ignored my instructions and put my mother's name on the return address of the envelopes, I was briefly terrified that my father would somehow see that as a slight. My brother is appalled that we’re inviting The Other Woman (whom he hates). My mom is mostly low-key and supportive, but has hinted that she wants to make sure there are posed photos that don’t involve my dad, since she doesn’t want to frame any photos that include him.

I’m a bit jealous of Econo Boy’s family, truth be told – his parents are still happily married and are wonderful together. No demands for separate photos there. But I think I’m finally at peace with the reality of my family situation. When my parental drama pops up, I try not to let myself get upset or obsess about how I think things “should” be in an ideal world. Do I wish that my parents got along well enough to agree on a guest list and pose for photos without arguments and accusations of favoritism? Of course. But that’s not going to happen, unless I drug them up with Valium or trade them in for better parents (which I’m told is not an option). They are the only parents I’ve got, and they’re not perfect but I love them. So my only option is to call them on the bullshit when I can, smile through a slightly longer photo list, accept that there’s going to be some tension, and try not to let it ruin the day.

Another one of my coping strategies has been, strangely enough, the bridal party. In retrospect I’m not that attached to the idea of dressing my pals in identical outfits and I probably could have gone another way. But I want my friends there in the dressing room to hug me if my family stresses me out, and as protective covering – somehow I feel like their presence will help dissuade my parents from throwing their drama on me (in my family, you Do Not Make a Scene In Front of Strangers). They’re sort of like emotional bodyguards, clad in navy and carrying bouquets.

I know for a fact that I’m not the only one with less than perfect parents. So how do you guys cope?


Anonymous said...

Oh hon, I am so sorry you have to deal with this! I get jealous of the mister's mostly functional family too, but you are right that the sanest thing to do is accept the lots that we are given. I don't know the answer to the "how do you cope" question because I don't think I've been that great at it, although I do think that the public consciousness raising that are all these smart lady blogs has helped A LOT. Also my non-bridal party have taken it upon themselves to be my bodyguards too, and I love them for it.

I don't know how your parents are, but the one ray of hope I have is that my parents are hopelessly polite, so given that the mister's family will be around the whole day, they would never go crazy around them, and thus I trust that they will behave. I am basically going to avoid spending alone time with them in the lead up to the wedding, as that's when the shit tends to hit the fan.

You can do this! Just try to remember that much as you have to negotiate all the weirdness, it's not on you.

Abbie said...

Oh my goodness... it's like you're repeating my story (without the other woman). I've been struggling with the ups and downs of having two families just on my side of the wedding and hate how awkward it has become. J's situation is similar to Econo Boy's. Hang in there! Fingers crossed that everyone behaves on wedding day!!

LPC said...

Just remember that while you can't mandate how your parents behave towards eachother, you can make request as to how they behave towards you. If you want polite, they should do polite. If you want direct, they should do direct. It's the least they can do as grownups.

Sweet T said...

ah- two standby wines for me too! Goats do Roam is great- one of the most consistent South African wines available widely in the US (along wit Mulderbosch).

The Pacific Rim Riesling's been off my list since last year. I heard Bonny Doon sold partially or entirely, and as such don't know how their wines will do in the long run :( bummer, because it's been one of my standby labels for a long while. dry Rieslings- I've been experimenting with different ones lately too. Haven't popped open the Ste. Michelle Riesling (NorCal) but I've heard good things. Maybe try that?

Sweet T said...

ugh- wrong post. I was going to also say in response to THIS post-- sorry to hear about your troubles, I know exactly where you're coming from. Seriously, if you can, lay down the law on acceptable/unacceptable public wedding behavior. Its only fair that they be civil to one another at your wedding, at least the best they can manage!

Bride in Exile said...

Thanks for all of the support, guys! Fortunately, my parents do civil in public extremely well -- less than three months after they split up, they managed to be perfectly polite to each other at my senior piano recital. What they do less well at is leaving "the kids" out of it when they're frustrated or mad at each other. My big fear is that one of them will rush into my dressing room or pin me down during the reception and demand that I deal with whatever the other one is doing that's making them upset. I think they are both loving and sensible enough to not make the wedding day about them and their divorce, but I know it will be hard for my mom to see my dad there with The Other Woman, and hard for my dad to face a lot of people who are still pretty darn mad at him (i.e. my mother's family).

On a more fun note -- Sweet T, I'll have to try the St. Michelle! I didn't realize Bonny Doon had been sold. That could definitely explain the big drop in quality we suffered with this bottle of Pacific Rim. Bummer.

class-factotum said...

Oh I am sorry to hear about this situation and the potential drama. My husband's stepdaughter got married last summer. M had asked Chris to walk her down the aisle a year before the wedding.

I (who is not The Other Woman -- I met Chris five years after he and M's mother split) did not meet M until last spring. I wanted to hear all about her wedding plans, but she was reluctant to talk. I told her that I suspected her mother probably would not be happy if I were at the wedding and that I did not expect to be invited, but I still wanted to hear all about it.

My husband and I thought we had the perfect solution -- he would attend without me -- but then M's mother told M that she didn't want Chris there! Chris had raised M and her sister since they were ten, had put them through college, etc (their dad never paid child support) and as I mentioned, M wanted Chris to walk her down the aisle. But M's mother pitched a fit and it was easier for M to submit than to fight.

I don't mind not going myself, but M's mother can forget any extension on the alimony, etc, based on the way she treated Chris. That was just mean. (OK, I have no interest in extending her alimony anyhow. I would rather fund our retirement. But still.)

PS The way I got through my wedding drama with outlaws who hate me and were drunk every night is with lots of drugs.