My partner and I are getting married this summer. It is a small wedding, and I have invited my mum and siblings. However, most of my family members are not supportive of my relationship, probably because we are both women. I didn’t expect coming out to be easy or welcomed, but I never imagined that the fallout would last this long. My mum has consistently treated my sexuality as a problem and has often been very cold towards my partner.
When I told my family that we were engaged, my mum and one sibling reacted with, at best, resignation (my other sibling was more supportive). Despite all this, I wanted to invite my closest family to our wedding. However, I’m no longer sure if this was the right decision. At no point have my mum and siblings offered congratulations or expressed positive feelings about it.
My partner and I are worried about how they might behave at the wedding, but I am concerned that disinviting them would be seen as aggressive. Given their reaction and the history of their behaviour towards us, a big part of me regrets inviting them in the first place.
There is a dynamic within my family that other members can express their emotions, but I am expected to be “the reasonable one” and accept that this is just the way they behave. My experience of trying to express a boundary, however I do so, is that I end up being portrayed as unreasonable and aggressive.
I feel torn: I don’t want to deepen the rift that exists, but at the same time I don’t want their behaviour to ruin our wedding.
I’m so sorry that your mother and sibling have let you down so badly. At no point have they really thought about you, and that must hurt.
Psychotherapist Henry Adeane (psychotherapy.org.uk) thought it sounded as though, after years of repeatedly being disrespected, you probably want to take the path of least resistance. “But,” he said, “it’s clear that doing nothing isn’t an option. You don’t want to have a ghastly buildup to the wedding, and even if your mother and sibling are ‘well-behaved’, that might still mean being aloof.”
And you don’t need that. You need to feel as if you are in control of your own wedding.
So how to disinvite without causing a row? Adeane suggested inviting your mum and the difficult sibling to a meal, “somewhere neutral. Be kind and gentle but firm, and say something such as, ‘I don’t think you want to be at the wedding, and I don’t want you to be there if you’re not comfortable with my relationship and marriage.’”
This might fill you with horror because, as you said, you are used to making it OK for others while not really expressing how you feel. However, being assertive doesn’t mean being aggressive; it is perfectly OK to state the way you feel in a calm way, and let the response to that be the other person’s responsibility.
The way they respond, Adeane said, should give you a good idea as to whether to rescind the invitation or go ahead with it. Considering their response within the context of their past behaviour will help: “Are they both usually very adept at pretending to be on your side, but very quickly proving they are not, or are they usually quite true to their word?” Also, if they kick up a big fuss, you have a pretty good indication of their intentions.
Furthermore, Adeane suggested looking at the way you respond to what they say: if you feel peaceful and as if you’ve cleared the air, then possibly this is a goer. But if you feel tense and wrongfooted, then it’s best if you disinvite them. And, remember, it’s fine to take a day or two after the meeting to think about the way you feel and decide what to do.
If this is the end of your relationship with your mum/sibling, it won’t be your fault, but theirs. You can’t keep bending over backwards to make things OK for them while they continue their bigoted behaviour. Because where does it end?
However hard it is, by having this conversation, you will know you gave them a chance to think about their behaviour and do the right thing for you – your wedding is you and your partner’s day, after all. And by doing it this way, you will hopefully have a more peaceful run-up to it. It also signals the behaviour you’ll be prepared to accept in the future.
Every week Annalisa Barbieri addresses a family-related problem sent in by a reader. If you would like advice from Annalisa on a family matter, please send your problem to [email protected]. Annalisa regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence. Submissions are subject to our terms and conditions: see gu.com/letters-terms.
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