#569: My parents want to bring a date to my wedding.

Miss Manners' Guide to a Surprisingly Dignified Wedding

Miss Manners is strangely silent on this topic. A grave oversight!

Captain Awkward et al,

A few years ago now, my parents informed me that they have been swingers since I was 11 years old (over 15 years ago). I feel I should mention: while I am only able to sustain one romantic/sexual relationship at a time, I embrace any lifestyle that involves informed, consenting adults. What threw me for a loop was that the family narrative that I had been telling everyone (including myself) was altered irrevocably. I’ve been in therapy, working on my feelings of anger and anxiety that have been busted loose by this revelation. While my parents love me, I don’t think they really understand how troubling this has been for me.

Since the time of my parents’ coming out, they have been involved with a woman named Myrtle. Myrtle is an otherwise single woman, who has recently adopted a baby, and about a year after that, gave birth to my half-sister. My parents have been very involved with both children, and have built and moved into a house across the street from Myrtle.

Periodically, I have sat my parents down to ask them questions, like: “What relationship do you expect me to have with these children?” and “How formal is the relationship between you guys and Myrtle?” They insist that they are not and will not be entering into anything formal with her, that if she finds someone to be monogamous with, they’ll just go back to being neighbors. Yet, it seems whenever I call they are at her house, or at swimming lessons with the kids, or just coming back from a trip together. Sometimes, I feel like I’ve lost my parents.

Last week my father informed me that I must invite Myrtle to my upcoming wedding. To be fair, I did tell him that given their financial contributions, they are entitled to a limited number of “I insist” cards, to be used judiciously. He claims she is unlikely to come. I don’t understand why they want me to invite her. I don’t really want her to be there. The space is limited, the guest list is small and only includes family and the dearest of friends.

Captain, do I play the good daughter (something I excel at) and invite her? Should I just recruit some friends to play “keep Myrtle away from me” on the big day? Should I call my parents and find out why they want me to invite someone that they deny a having a formal relationship with? Should I just say no and cope with any resulting tension? I just don’t know what to do.

Sincerely,
Trying to Get Over It

Dear Trying To Get Over It:

Congratulations on your upcoming marriage! And congratulations? on becoming part of the long tradition that says that weddings are the time when families try to spackle over all their conflict and bullshit and put a whole bunch of pressure on each other to perform in a certain way. “Wedding shenanigans” form the backbone of the Advice Industrial Complex, and I am proud to take my place in the Agony Aunt Alliance on your behalf.

You and your parents need to talk about what inviting Myrtle means to them and means to you.

Script #1: “Dad, let me be honest, it never occurred to Intended and me to invite her. I think this is a very awkward request you are making. But before we decide, we want to know why it’s so important to you.”

Make him do the work of explaining his reasoning. Your dad says she is unlikely to come. Well, then why is it so important to invite her? Because if you invite her, you’re saying “please come!” There is no “come but don’t really” kind of invitation. Lots of people don’t get invited to any given wedding and don’t get offended about it. It’s actually fucked up to give Myrtle an invitation that is not a real invitation, or force you to extend a fake invitation. See what he says, and then Script #2 might be “Intended and I are inviting only people we know well and who are close to us. If Myrtle wouldn’t come anyway, why go through the charade of including her?

Oh, and also, use the Royal Engaged “we” whenever possible. It’s not just your wedding, it’s your future spouse’s wedding, and it’s okay to invoke them when setting boundaries (as it would be okay for them to invoke you with their family!). Have your intended on the phone or in the room when you have these conversations, too, if you think it will help.

Does the rest of your family know about Myrtle and the kids, or did your parents come out only to you? Have you and future spouse actually met and interacted with Myrtle? It sounds like not so much. If that is the case, and “Myrtle” is a complex open secret kind of thing in the extended family, then here is Script #3:

Mom, Dad, if you want to introduce Myrtle and the kids to the family, why not just have a BBQ or something. I would feel more comfortable if getting to know Myrtle and her kids was not bundled up with planning my wedding.

Having a child with someone and uprooting your life to build a house next to that person sounds pretty serious to me, whether or not the relationship is “formal.” Does the extended family know your half sibling is your Dad’s child, or is it this weird secret-second-class-family thing going on? Are your parents lying or deluded when they say that they don’t really expect this relationship to last? Denying Myrtle’s importance while insisting that she be invited to a small close-family-and-friends-only wedding makes no sense.

Which leads us to Script #4: “Mom, Dad, what is this really about?”

They’ve always hedged at asking you to consider Myrtle as part of the family (Have you and your intended spouse even met her? It sounds like it’s been at least several years if the kids are going to swimming lessons?) but it sounds like they want this wedding invitation to demonstrate that she is included and accepted by you. It’s a rubber stamp on fancy paper acknowledging a relationship that doesn’t actually exist yet. If they love Myrtle and want you to know her and her children, they have some work to do in introducing you to each other and actually laying out their hopes for what will happen there rather than hedging as they have been doing.

Once they’ve laid it out, here is one way you could go:

Script #5: “Mom and Dad, if you love Myrtle and want her to be part of the family, then have a party (that is not my wedding) and tell everybody how it is. That way we can all get to know her a little bit, and she can be invited to the wedding without me having to tiptoe around the whole thing and wonder who knows what and what you and Myrtle want to tell people-‘She’s our neighbor.’ ‘She’s a friend of the family’ ‘She’s Mummy and Daddy’s Special Friend’ ‘She’s the mom of my half sister!’ – this is for YOU to figure out and address, not for me to handle with a wedding invitation.”

I don’t think it’s cool (and fortunately you don’t think it’s cool) to exclude someone your parents love from your wedding just because it’s a non-traditional relationship. If your parents were divorced and wanted to bring step-parents or partners/boyfriends/girlfriends, you’d roll with it, right? But if your parents re-married or were seeing someone seriously, they would also presumably make an effort to make sure you got to know that person. So while there is ickiness around expecting people to be secretive about non-traditional love arrangements, it’s not “society’s” disapproval that’s making the “You must invite Myrtle” thing fall apart for me.  If your parents want to facilitate an actual real connection between you and Myrtle, it sounds like they’ve had years to get the ball rolling and be emotionally honest with you instead of just “Here’s stuff about our sex life starting from when you were 11” type of honest. (I don’t know why they had to tell you the entire history, why not “Your mom and I have been exploring nonmonogamy for a while and heeeeey we met someone” not “Please re-examine everything you think you know about your childhood.” Too much information!)

A wedding is just one party. What’s their long game here? The real issue is that Myrtle and the half-sibling(s) are not a real part of your life. Your parents are pretending this is all casual and temporary and that there’s absolutely no pressure. But there is pressure: your dad is insisting that she be invited to your wedding. This is about legitimizing something about their relationship with Myrtle in the eyes of you and your family (and/or Myrtle herself, WHOSE PERSPECTIVE ON THIS I WOULD DEARLY LOVE), but they are using you and your wedding as props to do this instead of having the hard, real conversations that needed to happen long ago. Is this about you being judgmental of their lifestyle or is it about the fact that you don’t know this lady at all and it’s never seemed to matter to them much before? If they had done the work to integrate Myrtle and your half-sibling into the family, the question of inviting Myrtle would be a fait accompli. Absent that work, it’s okay for you to want a day with your parents where their focus is on you and your new spouse. “Mom, Dad, it sounds like we do need to revisit the whole question of where Myrtle and her kids will fit into my life, but this is not the time, this is not the event, this is not the way.”

I don’t want this to go to the ultimatum place, but if your parents play the “If Myrtle is invited then we won’t pay for the wedding” card, you also have the “Well, if you want me to EVER have any kind of relationship with Myrtle and the kids, this was NOT the way to go about it, fuck all y’all we’re eloping thx bye” card. Both look like losing hands, but I don’t think that’s your fault.

So, say you decide that it’s not worth fighting this and Myrtle is invited and actually comes to the wedding. What do you do?

1) Greet her briefly and accept her congratulations graciously. Consider the stock phrase, “Thank you, we’re very happy. I hope you have nice time.” Once she’s there, she’s a guest, and the ancient host-guest relationship prevails. She will eat your bread and salt, and you will not harm her lest you wish to be pursued throughout eternity by The Kindly Ones.

2) Let your parents be the one to introduce her around. She’s “a close friend of your parents'” as far as you are concerned, the rest is their news to share or not.

3) Get your friends/wedding party to be a buffer.

4) If she tries to “connect” or “talk seriously” with you at your wedding, say “Myrtle, seriously? Not the place” and move away/invoke buffer team.

5) If your parents pull some “LOOK AT US AND OUR UNCONVENTIONALNESS” show-offy stuff (Like, this *is* the first time everyone is meeting/hearing about Myrtle and your dad’s toast is to you and to the Several Loves of his Life, or there is awkward three-partner ballroom dancing) think of the incredible, amazing story it will make later. Maybe a wiggly-arms dance? 

Good luck, get married, be happy, and tell us how it all goes down if you feel comfortable doing that.

P.S. Offbeat Bride has “you’re not invited” scripts galore.

P.P.S. I can’t be the only one imagining Myrtle’s counterpoint letter, right? “My partners are insisting that I attend their daughter’s wedding, even though I am pretty sure she is not into the idea and this seems like Not The Time Or Place to meet the extended family. What do I do?

 

209 comments
  1. Admiral Backward said:

    If Myrtle bore Dad’s kid, something more than swinging is happening. It feels to me as if Mom and Dad are gearing up for an announcement — though hopefully not at the wedding.

    • JenniferP said:

      Yep. They done swung already.

      • Anothermous said:

        Haha, I wish I could “thumbs up” this comment.

    • Phospher said:

      I hope there is an announcement in the works — though not at the wedding! –because I just really hope the parents KNOW it’s more than swinging? I mean, the kid is a pretty big clue, but I was imagining Myrtle’s letter as like “I love this couple deeply, but the only thing is, they keep describing us as ‘swingers’ rather than poly and our relationship as ‘not formal’. They talk about how one day I might leave and settle down with a new partner while we revert to being neighbours. I see these people as my family and want to spend the rest of my life with them. Everything’s going to be okay, right?”

      None of which is LW’s problem, of course, except it sounds as if part of her finding it difficult to know where Myrtle and her kids should fit in her life might be because Myrtle really doesn’t have a secure place in the arrangement at all, despite having made some major, life-changing commitments.

  2. theocraticjello said:

    My first assessment over this letter was that the parents and Myrtle sound more poly than swinger to me. They’ve made a life with her, and have children with her. That’s a bit different than having your parent’s kink demonstrated at your wedding. This is obviously someone the parents love and care for if they are willing to uproot their lives to live close.

    Sometimes finding out your parents do untraditional stuff is hard. I don’t want to downplay how hard that might be for the letter writer. However, with the birth of a half sibling, this isn’t really a in-the-closet kind of thing. Also, by asking for Myrtle to be invited, it could be that as a poly family, they want Myrtle to be included to show she matters.

    I’ve seen my poly friends deal with this sticky issue with their older relatives, where their second significant other is shut out of funerals, weddings, etc. That obviously makes me biased.

    I guess I just have to ask, do you think, even if Myrtle shows up, will she cause a scene? Will she wear a nice outfit, and smile at being allowed to be there? Is it important enough to you to make sure she doesn’t show up, to possibly hurt your parents? Do your parents downplay Myrtle’s importance because of societal pressures, or possible lack of acceptance from yourself and the rest of the family?

    This is a very complicated issue.

    • JenniferP said:

      I think this is all true, but also that the parents haven’t said “Myrtle is our family, we love her, we want you to know her.” It’s all been presented to the LW as “swinging” or a passing thing that probably won’t be permanent, like if Myrtle meets someone else they’ll be just friends. Maybe the parents have been just trying to tell the LW what they think she wants to hear all this time, but is the wedding the right time to pull that bandaid off? I don’t think the LW’s discomfort is just being unaccepting of poly relationships, I think it is literally “I don’t actually know this lady, so why is my wedding THE time to make this happen and why is it being forced on me like this?” If the parents want other people to accept the poly relationship, they need to say what it really is and give others a framework for doing so. “Maybe we haven’t been as forthcoming about this as we should have, but it would mean a lot to us if you would get to know Myrtle and her kids and invite her to the wedding” vs. “You must…” would go a long way here.

      • Jenna said:

        I’m poly, and I got whiffs of the disposable secondary vibe from the parent’s saying that it was not serious. I know there’s a neighbor situation and kids involved at this point, but, some(not all, SOME) couples place far more importance on the married pair, and the third gets to be a part of it as long as it is convenient for the pair, and no longer.

        The parents may be unclear in their own heads how important Myrtle is to them, and they need to figure it out, and get their communication going. Being a Secondary and at the mercy of the primary couple’s whims can be nerve wracking and would not make me happy at all.

        Also, the family finding all about me at a wedding would not make me happy either. Any big announcement about Myrtle should be not at the wedding.

        • Beth said:

          Yeah, I had similar thoughts. As unfair as the parents are being to LW, it sounds like there’s a strong possibility they are being more unfair to Myrtle. I mean, regardless of how long a relationship is expected to be, a relationship where one partner has a child with another and they all seem involved in the kids’ lives sounds like the type of relationship where you should be introducing that person to your adult children if possible.
          And a surprise wedding “we are a family” show of force sounds pretty high pressure for Myrtle as well if she’s never met most of these people (but that may be my shyness projecting on this woman).

          • Courtney said:

            I agree. My impression is that LW barely knows Myrtle–if at all. My gut says that LW needs to talk to Myrtle directly about the wedding invite. Does she even want to be invited? It feels like the parents are manipulating both of them.

        • neverjaunty said:

          They’ve had a child with Myrtle. I think the ‘is she is isn’t she important to us’ horse is out of the barn. Either the parents are not being all that forthcoming with LW, or there’s some serious jerk behavior going on.

    • photondancer said:

      I am getting the ‘lack of acceptance on LW’s part’ vibe also. She says she embraces nonmonogamous relationships; if so, why did her parents coming out send her into such a state of anxiety that she had to go seek therapy and, by the sound of it, is still in therapy years later? Why is she so annoyed that her parents are ‘always’ over at Myrtle’s place? She’s an adult with her own life but she’s still clinging to her parents and complaining that she feels she’s lost them to this interloper. She may not be against nonmonogamous relationships in general but she seems to dislike this one. There’s something here that we’re not being told. Particularly when she closes by assuring us she excels at being a good daughter. What else have her parents forced to accept over the years?

      Her father’s attitude is similarly contradictory. His daughter _has_ to invite Myrtle, even though Myrtle probably won’t come? so is the point of it to make Myrtle feel as though LW likes and accepts her? Why is that so important when they’re just swinging? If they’re ready to announce they’re polyamorous, why not organise their own event for the purpose instead of hijacking the wedding? Are they just used to riding roughshod over their daughter and are overreacting because for once she’s showing signs of resistance? There’s something here we’re not being told either. I often get this feeling with letters to CA but rarely as strongly as with this one.

      I think LW has the right to exclude Myrtle (and anybody else) and any attempt by the parents to force her to perform a charade of acceptance, especially on her wedding day, is disgraceful. BUT I do find it curious that she never mentions her partner once. Why isn’t he involved in this? Is LW hiding her parents’ proclivities from him? The same way they’re hiding it from themselves (we’re not poly, we’re swingers!). I can see this ending very badly unless everyone sits down and has the frank discussion they’ve been avoiding.

      • JenniferP said:

        Going to therapy to sort out one’s complicated feelings is actually a good thing, not a sign of weakness or “clinging.”

      • Baytree said:

        Does it really seem that strange that someone would have conflicted feelings about a situation like this? To me it seems very similar to discovering you had a sibling you’d never been told about and never met. Suddenly your memories of family don’t mesh with reality. That would be very disconcerting.

        The fact that LW feels they are losing their parents to an outsider is… kind of normal, and not really a sign of not accepting poly relationships. After all, many people have trouble with a parent remarrying after divorce, even though they’re fine with marriage in concept. A new person in the parent’s life drastically changes the amount of time they spend with the kids, the things they talk about, and so on. It doesn’t seem odd at all that LW would feel a bit jealous of the new partner, especially since it seems like parents have never actually facilitated a relationship between LW and Myrtle.

        • duck-billed placelot said:

          LW actually discovered a sibling she had never met. That’s not an analogy, it’s what happened.

          • Baytree said:

            You are totally right.

  3. It sounds like it’s been at least several years if the kids are going to swimming lessons?

    While they should probably be called “swimming lessons” with the audible quotation marks, there are “swim classes” (I can’t help myself) for kids as young as 6 months. We took our little boy to them when he was not yet 8 months old. They’re probably more accurately called “how to not freak the hell out in the water sessions” but there you go.

    Between the internet lines is hard, but I have to say that “claims she is unlikely to come” smells to me like Dad is overstating that. The “they just want to be invited” line of thought is a strong one in the world, which perplexes me, so it’s not impossible. But when someone tries to assuage you that it’s okay to invite them because they won’t come that is kind of an explicit acknowledgment that you don’t want them there and/or there’s a well understood fact that you wouldn’t want them there.

    Which to me suggests a reasonable script/tactic companion to #1&4 above. “Dad, if the fact that she won’t come is supposed to persuade me then I feel like you understand that maybe it doesn’t make sense for her to be invited.”

    • JenniferP said:

      “Dad, if the fact that she won’t come is supposed to persuade me then I feel like you understand that maybe it doesn’t make sense for her to be invited.”

      NICELY DONE, WHITESIDE.

      I keep coming back to the fact that their daughter’s wedding is not the only possible party where big announcements/introductions could be made. Like, throw a cookout, people, rip the bandaid off, introduce the extended family to your other kid, let them all talk amongst themselves for a while, THEN have a wedding.

      • jdrives said:

        OK, right?! This was great: “…this is for YOU to figure out and address, not for me to handle with a wedding invitation.”

        It baffles me why family members use weddings as an opportunity to pull out some major life-change cannons.

        • Probably because hosting such a get-together is so costly and full of hassles. It’s so much EASIER to piggy-back.

          On Etiquettehell.com, I’ve actually seen examples of people trying to piggy-back (at the last minute) on someone else’s wedding, with a wedding of their own. As in, the bridesmaid shows up in her own wedding dress. “Teehee! Isn’t this great? A double wedding!” followed by “But they’re all MY relatives, too! Why won’t you SHAAARRRRREEEE?”

          I’m wondering if the OP has had much communication with Myrtle, herself. Give your parents a chance to respond to the scripts, by all means. However, I think that since you have a half-sibling involved here, it’s probably a good idea to speak with Myrtle and your half-sibling, no matter what your parents say in response to these scripts.

          Like it or not, the half-sibling is your blood family, and you never know how that may affect your life in the future. Best to ensure you have a good relationship with the innocent child, now. After all, what if something should happen to Myrtle and your parents? Over the course of future years, you might actually be called upon to take care of the child, as the next-of-kin.

          Had your father simply had an affair with Myrtle, conceived the child, then fixed up his relationship with his wife, but then he and his wife had acknowledged the child as an innocent product of his infidelity, and determined that he should be a part of that child’s life, we would all be praising them (especially the wife) for their maturity in a difficult situation. He’s trying to be a good parent. He’s just going about it in a very awkward manner.

          By all means, take care of this *before* the wedding, so you can know what to expect, and be prepared in case of crashing and upstaging *at* the wedding.

          Good luck, OP!

          • Zillah said:

            This advice makes me feel a little uneasy.

            One of Myrtle’s two children is indeed the OP’s half-sibling. However, referring to them as an “innocent child” implies to me that the OP is being selfish and even harming the child by not getting involved in their life. I don’t see that at all.

            For one thing, I don’t think it’s the OP’s place to push herself into her Myrtle’s household and family if no one – let alone Myrtle herself – is inviting her. For another, it doesn’t even seem like the OP’s father (and mother) and Myrtle are equal partners in raising the children – Myrtle is keeping and maintaining her own house, where the OP’s parents live elsewhere.

            And even if both of those things were different, I still don’t think the OP is obligated on any level. She is getting an adult with her own life. She is getting married. If she chooses to get involved, fine, but honestly, the extent of her involvement will still likely be pretty limited, because she has other stuff going on.

            I also have some major, major issues with your hypothetical “What if something happens to Myrtle and your parents?” If these are primarily Myrtle’s children, then presumably, Myrtle has made her own arrangements if something happens to her. The OP should not assume that she’ll be ‘next-of-kin’ unless she’s told that that’s the case.

          • Re: event piggybacking: would it be such a terrible idea to just host a dinner for whoever lives close enough, and then tell everyone else over Facebook/via the grapevine? Surely you don’t have to have a family reunion just to tell people you have a girlfriend (even if you do also have a husband/wife). The kid, ehh, maybe, but I feel like maybe you’d want people to be prepared for it when they met your child for the first time, rather than springing it on them at a barbecue? idk. I just think it would result in a lot less double-takes and awkward reactions and a lot more fun for everyone — from the parents, to the guests, to the child herself.

  4. Noah said:

    Setting aside the wedding, I think LW ought to be more sympathetic to the children in this situation. This is an unusual situation (not saying that to judge, just that it’s atypical) and the kids will face some challenges that others will not. It’s a shame that LW isn’t more interested in developing a relationship with her half-sibling. Hopefully, the unusual parentage will not result in LW giving up what could be an extremely fulfilling relationship for her and an extremely beneficial one for her sibling, who will face some similar issues that LW has.

    • JenniferP said:

      I had money on when the first “but what about the CHILDREN?” response would come in, so thanks for making me $1.00 richer!

      Maybe the LW should get to know their half sibling and maybe that would all be cool and a good idea. This question isn’t even about that, though.

      • Anothermous said:

        I’m really bothered by the “you should get to know these people!!” arguments that are coming in. The existence of the half-sibling was completely out of the LWs control or influence. That’s something her parents did on their own; that child is their responsibility, not the LWs. If she decides she wants to be a part of this kid’s life, great! I hope it’s a wonderful experience for them both. But if she decides she DOESN’T want to be a part of this kid’s life (because it’s NOT HER KID), then that is an equally valid decision and she shouldn’t be made to feel bad about it. Full siblings who grew up under the same roof at the same time don’t always have relationships as adults, and that’s not always a tragedy.

        • Dante said:

          I’m definitely on the “LW shouldn’t feel obligated to forge a relationship w/ Myrtle and relateds” bus. If LW wants to do this, great. If not, there are tried and true ways to deal with family members who are not terrible people but who, nevertheless, don’t have a very close relationship with you.

        • Agreed, LW has the right to refuse such a relationship. However, she needs to make that clear, up front, so that such a relationship is not later thrust upon her. If something should happen, such as a car accident, and both her parents and Myrtle should die, it’s very possible that the LW might have the child thrust upon her, as the next of kin, especially with the huge age difference.

          Make your choice, LW, on how you want that relationship to go, whether you want it, or not, and then take the steps that will ensure it goes the way you want. If you want a relationship, now is the time to forge it. If you want no relationship, then now is the time to make that absolutely clear, so you don’t get ambushed, later.

          That’s another conversation to have with the parents. “Have you made arrangements for my sibling, in case of the worst? If so, what are those arrangements? If not, you’d better make them now, and those arrangements had better (or not) include me. My relationship with the child is MY choice, and I don’t want surprises later.”

          Yes, it’s far-fetched, but I knew someone whose ENTIRE extended family was on a family reunion when the ferry sunk, and every last one died, so, it’s the sort of “what if” that I think about.

          • Is it legally possible to ‘thrust’ responsibility of a child on a non-parent who’s not willing to accept it? Genuine question – I have no idea how these things work in the US (and I’m not an expert on how they work in the UK), but I would have thought surely, even if all the parents die and someone does sound out LW as a possible guardian for the child (or even if Myrtle has named the LW in her will as the child’s guardian), no-one is going to force the LW to take the child if she doesn’t want to. How could it possibly be in a child’s interest to be forced to go into the care of someone who doesn’t want them?

            Also, one small point: The LW can certainly specify that she does *not* want to be the child’s guardian, if she wishes, but she can’t demand that she *is* made the child’s guardian, because that isn’t her choice to make. So the ‘those arrangements had better include me’ version of the suggested conversation would *not* be appropriate. She can offer herself as a potential guardian if she wishes, but ultimately the decision’s up to Myrtle and possibly the LW’s father.

          • You know, thinking about this one further, and from Myrtle’s perspective… it seems more and more to me to be a non-issue. Is Myrtle seriously going to have decided that the best guardian for her children, in the case of her own death, is someone whom neither she nor the children have ever met? And gone ahead with naming the LW as official guardian in the event of her death without even discussing it with her? Especially given that the first time she would have faced this question would be with her first child, who has no connection whatsoever with the LW?

            It is of course possible that Myrtle won’t even have *thought* about the ‘who gets my kids if I die?’ issue, but in that case that’s not the LW’s problem to solve for her, and… even given my complete lack of knowledge of the law, I find it frankly impossible to envisage a situation in which a totally unwilling relative is forced to accept custody of a child purely because they’re a relative, because that would be so indefensible in terms of the child’s interests. (If I’m wrong about that, let me know.)

            All things considered, I just don’t see that a ‘hey, make sure this kid doesn’t wind up with me if you guys die’ conversation is going to be necessary or accomplish anything other than potentially creating some animosity out of the situation.

          • Zillah said:

            @ Dr Sarah –

            Pretty sure it’s not. I’m also pretty sure that it would be perceived as very presumptuous if the LW went to Myrtle – a woman that she doesn’t really know – and demanded that Myrtle include the LW when writing out who would take care of her children if something happened to her. Presumably, Myrtle’s life does not revolve around the LW’s parents, and she does have other people she would trust with her children before a woman she doesn’t know.

          • I imagine that if Myrtle has ANY living relatives they’d be looked at first, because there are TWO children involved. One of whom is not related to the LW in any way at all. There certainly are people who don’t have any living relatives, but this whole “but what if!!!!” line of debate seems incredibly flimsy because for the question to even become relevant, you have to assume Myrtle is one of those relation-less people AND that she and both parents will suddenly all die at once. It’s just… really kind of a silly thing to bring up when the LW is asking “How do I deal with my parents insisting this person isn’t that important but telling me I have to invite her to my small wedding?”

      • charmed.omega said:

        Also, I’m pretty sure LW would spend zero time with the kid at the wedding, since they’ll be busy getting married ‘n stuff.

        • Exactly – totally not the time to be forging new relationships.

      • Srsly- we have no idea what Myrtle wants. Maybe she wanted to have kiddos, but doesn’t want to facilitate a relationship between her children and her partners’, children, ever. What About the Children is twice irrelevant, really.

        Also since your wedding is small, are you doing the Plus One Only For People With Serious Partners thing that some people do? Because at the moment it sounds like your parents want to invite their casual dating friend to a party where everyone else will be pretty seriously partnered up with their dates. They’re your parents, so I know they’re not, like, Second Cousin Mame with the carefree lifestyle and routine arrival of new, exciting, casual friends in her life. But still.

        I really am running Myrtle Scenarios in my head, and “being the disconnected third wheel at a party where I don’t know anyone except my dates, who will be busy since they are the parents of one of the soon to be spouses and really wrangling two kids/ talking to strangers/ listening to a DJ with mediocre taste in music/ highly talented klezmer or polka wedding band*” is my idea of a NIGHTMARE. No, no thanks, I’d like to stay home and watch Netflix. Oh goodness. What if I got hornswaggled into being in the PICTURES? Noooooooo. (tiny screams here)

        (When my sibling invited my family to visit with the intention of introducing hir Dating Person of Unconventionalness as a surprise! kind of moment… partner? Was all like, no, you aren’t going to do that, you are going to call them in a goodly ahead of time sort of way and tell them what’s up so we can all have cake and coffee and enjoy the day and not be awkward. Which is why, dear readers, now-former-Partner is and forever will be high on my list of Classiest People Around, Yes Indeed. They didn’t even make something that was about them, about them in that particular way.)

        *well, okay, polka or klezmer would be grand, but that’s cold comfort for everything else.

      • Yeah, the relationship with the children is important, but it’s a separate issue from the wedding.

        Did Dad insist on inviting them, as well, or only Myrtle?

        Awkward.

    • Eeeeka said:

      It sounds like she has tried and been brushed off. That doesn’t strike me as uninterested in developing a relationship with her sibling. Her *much younger* half-sibling.

      • Jae said:

        I agree with you. Regardless if LW wants a relationship with that new-found part of the family, her own wedding isn’t the place. Typically, a wedding couple has about 5 minutes to spend with each person on their party, if that much. Those won’t build a relationship nor would it be fair to spend that time with awkward family issues. If the family (read: all involved) want to start getting to know each other, they should arrange a family dinner, party, trip, whatnot outside, before, or after the wedding. That’s the place and time to link up and see what develops. “On her wedding” is just a way for the parties involved to come out at a place where they feel safe nobody wants to make a scene and play drama queen. And that’s just not fair.

    • Nothing in the LW’s letter struck me as unsympathetic towards the children. She mentions that she’d asked her parents what kind of relationship they want her to have with them, and it sounds like her parents responded with “it’s not a formal relationship, Myrtle might find someone else and then we’ll just be neighbors.” Her parents seem to have discouraged her from forming a relationship with her half-sister and Myrtle’s adopted child and from thinking of Myrtle as a part of the family, and on top of that the LW is still feeling pretty thrown for a loop about the whole situation. I don’t blame her for not making a huge effort to reach out to Myrtle and the kids when her parents seem to be saying she doesn’t need to, and she’s still trying to process her own new place in the family.

    • chickie said:

      Not to mention that the LW is old enough to be getting married and half-sibling sounds under-5, and while I know that does happen in “traditional”/nuclear families as well it’s a very different kind of siblingship that may resemble a distant auntie/babysitter at best.

      • Thorn said:

        Agreed. My parents divorced while I was in college, and my dad remarried a woman with a few daughters – the youngest was 10yo when I was 28. I live a couple hours away from them, so while I’m fond of my stepsisters, they are all nice people and I wish them well, our relationship is not very sibling-like at all. Especially now that they’re all adults as well, at most I see them a couple times a year.

        It’s not that there’s anything like animosity, because that absolutely isn’t the case. When I do see them we chat and laugh a bit, but there’s just not much connection between us.

      • Jane said:

        Though, just to be clear, the auntie/babysitter relationship can be EXTREMELY close. Though not necessarily sibling-like.

      • Yes, my half-sisters are 20+ years younger than I am. While I love them dearly, we certainly didn’t grow up together. I’m sort of a combination of cool aunt/big sister.

        Adding to the family oddness, my youngest sister is only 2 years older than my own daughter. My daughter is more a little sister to her aunt than I am a big sister to my half-sibling.

    • Cyberwulf said:

      I have no idea how old the LW is or how old her parents are, but I know if it suddenly came out that my dad had recently made a baby with another woman – even if my mam was totally okay with it – my reaction would be WTF?! followed by several questions. People are allowed to feel that way. People are allowed to wonder if their mother is really okay with the whole deal. They’re allowed to have that feeling of “what the hell dad” and “why the fuck would you make this even more complicated by having a baby with this woman”. What they can’t do is take it out on the child, but there’s no evidence in the letter that that’s happening.

    • Noah said:

      1. I did not say she was obligated to do anything with the child. I said she and the child might benefit, and that the child, in particular, could really use somebody in her place.

      2. This: “The existence of the half-sibling was completely out of the LWs control or influence. That’s something her parents did on their own; that child is their responsibility” is unpersuasive. We have a son. We’re going to have another child. We’re doing that on our own; it’s out of our son’s control. Is your position that it is then totally okay for him to never talk to his sibling? Obviously, the two situations are not identical, but the “she didn’t choose to have a sibling” argument gets no quarter from me.

      3. “I’m pretty sure LW would spend zero time with the kid at the wedding” – Agreed. I’m not talking about the wedding: “Setting aside the wedding…” For all I know, it’s an adult-only wedding.

      4. “This question isn’t even about that, though.” Does that make the topic off limits? Comments on these things often stray beyond the specific question. So do your answers. I have no problem that you DIDN’T address this issue, but I would see no problem if you had (or that I am).

      • Anothermous said:

        Is your son’s sibling going to be 20+ years younger then him, have never shared a home with him, and have a different mother, whom your first son has never met and/or only knows about vaguely?

        If the answer is “no” (which I suspect it is), then the parallel you’re drawing is a false one, and the situations are not, in fact, comparable at all.

        LW is an adult, with a life of her own, and she is not obligated to bend it around the fact that her dad went and knocked up another lady. If she wants to, fine, but anyone who tells her she has an obligation to is an asshole, as far as I’m concerned.

    • Noah said:

      One more thing, because I think people may be misunderstanding my original intent: I’m not criticizing the letter writer or the response. I’m merely suggesting that she might find it fulfilling to have a relationship with the child who is in a somewhat similar situation in this rigmarole as the letter writer is, and that the kid may benefit too.

      Maybe she’s already doing that. Maybe she’s not doing that because it’s too much for her. Maybe she’s not doing it because, as some of you have suggested, her parents discouraged it. (I doubt that third explanation in light of the pressure for the wedding invite for the kid’s mom, but you never know.) I only brought this up because, with a letter writer who mentions in the letter that she’s having a hard time with the situation, maybe forming a bond with the child in a similar situation would be rewarding. I don’t get why this is bothering people so much.

      • JenniferP said:

        Thanks for this clarification. Your initial comment seemed to come with a big side of guilt that was perhaps not what you intended. In my opinion, the adults need an honest reckoning before the question of sibling bonding comes up.

        • That’s pretty much the same place I’m coming from, too.

          And it just occurred to me – If the relationship between parents and Myrtle is cooling, what if they want her to come to the wedding, so that she “meet someone”?

          My own extended family is soap-opera-fodder, so these questions will come to me.

          Of course, we can’t tell anything like that from the OP. Speculation is not likely to yield concrete results.

          • Zillah said:

            If it’s a small wedding, filled with the LW’s friends, that seems kind of unlikely.

      • twomoogles said:

        It was the “I think the LW ought to…” and “it’s a shame” that came off as guilt-trippy to me. I think that’s probably why you’re getting the responses you are.

    • I think you forget that the LW IS one of the children in this situation – child of her parents. Yes, she’s now an adult, but she’s still being put in a bad situation by her parents making this about “oh we’re swingers” and not “we’re extending our family, please come meet your new half-sibling.”

    • neverjaunty said:

      You’re mixing up two things.

      None of the children involved asked for the parents and Myrtle to do this. The grown-ups in this triad (that would be LW’s parents, and Myrtle) have a responsibility to behave decently, and not to treat Myrtle’s kids as secondary or disposable or dependent in importance on how LW’s parents feel about Myrtle.

      That is completely different from whether LW should have a relationship with Myrtle’s children, which is completely up to LW.

  5. Jae said:

    You know, CA gives a very thoughtful and kind advice that is designed to help all of you to have a better relationship.

    My approach would be very different. Mom, Dad, my wedding. I issued an invitation to you and you alone. Repondez s’il-vous-plait if you are coming. Or not. My wedding is not a place for you to come out to the public as swingers, nor a time where I should walk around cringing on who is gossiping what about my family. I’ll be happy to support you if you ever want to have a coming-out party at your place, any time in the future. Thxkby.

    I think CA said it so nicely – there seems to be a tradition that every family member is always competing to make your wedding the most awkward and miserable in the world, but you know, up to you to allow it.

    For reference: My husband and I “eloped”, packed our two witnesses in a plane and married in Italy, just the four of us. There, parents, take that for being a constant nuisance 😉

    • Anothermous said:

      This is my perspective too. I am very vocal about my “my wedding my rules” ideology and I have made plenty of people angry about that. I personally don’t care. If I am going to all the trouble of planning, organizing, arranging, and paying (even with help) for a huge, complicated event, then everyone else can either sit down and shut up about it, or not attend. Putting together something like a wedding is hard freaking work. I think it’s the height of disrespect and poor manners to demand something like that out of SOMEONE ELSE’S WEDDING. Read: SOMEONE ELSE’S.

      • I think CA said it so nicely – there seems to be a tradition that every family member is always competing to make your wedding the most awkward and miserable in the world, but you know, up to you to allow it.

        Oh god yes. “I don’t like posed photographs, so we won’t be doing any” said months in advance to anyone who asked translated into being pressganged into a line of posed formal photographs and being told off for being rude (at my own wedding) when I refused.

        • Cactus said:

          Is there any good way to get out of posed photographs? Neither my fiancé nor I look good in them. I just want to tell all my guests to take as many candids as they want and then give them a web address to upload them to. Could I say I hired a photographer and then make up some story about how they came down with the flu at the last minute? I am seriously considering it, because logic ain’t working.

          • Vicki said:

            Longshot thought, but maybe have someone take just a few posed photos, because you want to get to the reception, not make your guests stand around waiting for you, and be dismayed afterwards to “discover that the camera was stolen?” Good thing you told your friends to take a lot of candids, isn’t it?

          • firecatstef said:

            We gave out disposable cameras at our wedding and had no photographer.

          • boutet said:

            My cousin left a disposable camera on every table at the reception and asked every table to fill the cameras up for them. They ended up with a whole lot of wacky pictures along with the more standard “smiles with cake” type. Very fun wedding album.
            (of course this depends on if you can trust your guests with cameras, hopefully no one thinks that upskirt shots are the ultimate in photography)

          • @ Boutet – Yeah, I had a couple friends who did that, and one of the kids invited to the wedding took like 500 photos of the tablecloths and ceilings and their fingers over the lens. They got ahold of probably 2/3 of the disposable cameras at some point or another.

          • Adrian said:

            If you’re trying to fake up excuses and worrying because “logic ain’t working,” it looks like you aren’t really looking for nice things to do with candid pictures. Or to convince your own inner doubts that it’s perfectly ok to skip the posed pictures and just have informal candid ones. If a pushy person is involved in your wedding planning, who is not listening to your “no, we’d rather not do it that way,” you have a different kind of problem.

            You don’t really NEED a logical argument for why you’d rather not have formal photography. A lot of arguments that look logical are problematic, because of how they tempt pushy (or even honestly helpful) people into arguing with you. You don’t want to spend so much money hiring a photographer? They know a wonderful one who’s very inexpensive! Or they’d be happy to hire one as a gift, so you don’t have to worry about it. You don’t think you look good in posed pictures? Oh, they think you look wonderful in them!

            Saying something like, “No. We aren’t comfortable posing for photographs and we think we’ll be a lot happier doing it this way,” sort of steers the conversation away from argument. (And towards the idea of your comfort and happiness, which I think is really important.)

  6. Dante said:

    The wedding guest list is the site of many family-harmony compromises, and it really sounds to me like there is a long-term, committed relationship between the three of them. Your parents probably want Myrtle to know that she is a real part of their family, the same way that divorced parents who remarry want their new spouses to be real parts of the family.

    This … is kind of a misguided urge, I think, but you nevertheless shouldn’t disinvite half of a committed couple (by which is meant: a married couple, or a couple who would marry if the laws in their state weren’t wrongheaded). I mean, you =can= disinvite a spouse you don’t like, but that’s a major breach of etiquette. This sounds like a committed threesome, and if your parents would marry Myrtle if poly marriages were legal, then you shouldn’t disinvite Myrtle any more than you should disinvite a new stepparent.

    If you honestly don’t like Myrtle or the idea of Myrtle, it may help to think of her in terms of being a new stepparent, with whom you have no relationship and no desire for relationship, but whom you have to invite anyway because you’re not willing to breach etiquette to that degree. How would you handle that situation? I would handle Myrtle the same way.

    • jadriver said:

      I also pick up on the thought that LW’s parents are using this big, important family gathering-type event to A) show everyone that Myrtle is important to them, and B) show Myrtle that she is important to them. And as a person currently planning her wedding, I would never dream of not inviting part of a committed couple, married or otherwise. So I agree with you there re: invitation etiquette.

      BUT BUT. LW’s parents have not even come out and admit that they are in a committed relationship with this person! Which, combined with their obvious actions to the contrary (living closeby, raising children), causes LW understandable confusion as to why they would *insist* on inviting her. I don’t think it’s fair for LW’s folks to use this momentous occasion for LW and LW’s Intended to make a statement to the contrary of the “we’re just swinging, it ain’t no thang” line they’ve been using this whole time. I think CA is on point with “If they love Myrtle and want you to know her and her children, they have some work to do in introducing you to each other.” BEFORE the wedding. And until that happens, I don’t think LW is breaching etiquette by not immediately extending an invitation to Myrtle.

      LW, best of luck to you. This is a sticky wicket and I hope it all works out smoothly. Wedding planning is enough of a pain without the extra helping of Family Drama that seems to always accompany it!

      • Erin said:

        Exactly. They haven’t even admitted (?) to the LW yet that Myrtle is their “new”/additional spouse. So from the facts, or what they present as facts, it doesn’t make sense to treat her like one right now.

        • jenfullmoon said:

          But at this point, there’s a baby involved. That kind of upgrades Myrtle to a sort-of stepmom, and definitely a family member that you’re not going to get rid of.

          Much as the parents have been hedging about this, I think they’re far more committed to Myrtle in the poly way than they have been admitting to publicly. And LW probably needs to sit them down and hash out exactly what Myrtle’s REALLY defined as, because “neighbor babymomma” isn’t quite right.

          • Dear LW’s parents,
            This is not how you relationship – poly, swing, or otherwise.

            Sincerely,
            Me

          • lengarion said:

            Yeah, but the parents can’t keep the cake while eating it.

            It’s either: LW, we’re swinging, nothing serious, no need to meet Myrtle and/or new baby.
            OR
            LW, we love Myrtle, we consider her part of our family. She should be at your wedding.

            Both would be OK. But both at the same time? I don’t think it matters what their relationship really is, as long as they don’t own up to it and tell LW.

    • If the LW’s parents were presenting Myrtle as their partner to extended family, this would be a different issue. LW’s parents presenting Myrtle as, essentially, a no-commitment fling means LW should treat Myrtle as such.

      I agree with CW that it’s LW’s parents who are sending SERIOUSLY mixed messages here.

      • piny1 said:

        Well, with a caveat. I think LW has the right to not involve herself, an obligation to give her parents a certain level of autonomy, but also an obligation to not let them mistreat Myrtle by proxy. Those mixed messages might be embarrassment or a desire for privacy, but they also might indicate a selfish attitude towards Myrtle. And, well, the wedding demand sounds kinda self-absorbed with respect to both daughter and lover.

        If their solution to polyamorous complications is to put Myrtle in an awkward and painful position, then the LW should refuse to help with that. And that might mean she has an obligation to clarify the dynamic and then make her own decisions about how best to behave respectfully towards Myrtle.

        She definitely shouldn’t be forcing her parents to make a commitment one way or the other, though – and if they say Myrtle’s just a “friend,” not a partner, then yes, she should respect that.

        • Cyberwulf said:

          The parents’ relationship with Myrtle is for the parents to sort out. I don’t think it’s on a child, even an adult one, to make sure her parents don’t emotionally mistreat a new partner.

          • Also, let’s assume that Myrtle has her own agency here and can figure out her own role in the triad. And can likewise make appropriate provisions for her children in the event that a freak accident wipes out their entire family, so that they don’t turn up as orphans on LW’s stoop a la Bleak House. And if Myrtle somehow has no other friends, no other family, and no Team Myrtle beyond the LW clan, then I still cannot think of anyone LESS suited to fill that role than her partners’ apprehensive adult daughter whom she barely knows.

            Also I n’th the advice to skip the whole phony-invitation-just-to-be-nice rigmarole; save your nice wedding stationeries for people who are actually part of you and fiancé’s life.

          • piny1 said:

            No, I don’t think she’s responsible for her parents’ behavior, but she is responsible for her own. If it seems like her parents are setting up her wedding as an ordeal for Myrtle, whatever their intentions, she can and should refuse to let them. She can’t necessarily understand what’s going on, but if it seems like they’re being jerkish and irresponsible about this, or if it seems clear to her that it’s a bad scene, or if they’re inviting someone to her wedding so that person can have a really shitty time, she should trust her feelings.

            I mean, this is an unusual situation, but there are many other contexts where family are dragged into bad relationship dynamics. And, well, “So and so is not really part of the family,” is a very common one.

          • Cyberwulf said:

            piny: That still reads like you’re making the LW responsible for her parents’ treatment of their girlfriend. Why should the LW have to read tealeaves to figure out what her parents’ motives are for wanting her to invite Myrtle and act accordingly? It’s not her problem that her parents don’t know how the proper ettiquette about bringing Myrtle into the family, or have hangups about polyamory in spite of themselves, or made a baby and are dealing/can’t deal, or whatever. It’s not fair to say the LW *should* anything when it comes to parents’ relationship with Myrtle, unless she suspects criminal acts.

          • piny1 said:

            I did not say anything about her “reading tealeaves.” I think “criminal acts” is a pretty low bar, when you think about the sheer emotional fuckery that can be perpetrated by family proxy, but that’s not relevant to this thing I didn’t advocate.

            I think she should obey her instincts around this, and if she feels like she is being used to do something unkind to this person, then she should divest. She isn’t responsible for their cruel behavior, but she shouldn’t be unkind herself if she can help it, and she should absolutely trust her own gut over anything else.

            I did not say that she was obligated to do any sleuthing or that she was responsible for their behavior. I also believe that I said she should “clarify” with her parents, as in, “communicate with her parents to achieve mutual understanding,” which strikes me as the polar opposite of “reading tealeaves.”

          • neverjaunty said:

            Nobody is telling LW to mediate in her parents’ triad. But she is certainly able to control her contribution to the dynamic.

          • Cyberwulf said:

            neverjaunty: My point is, I don’t think the LW’s actions going forward should be dependent on how she *thinks* her parents are treating someone who is a relative stranger to her and with whom she has no relationship. And I don’t think any good can come of “oh, my parents are probably being total assholes to this woman I don’t know, so I won’t invite her to teach them a lesson about this assholery that they’re probably doing perhaps.”

          • Vicki said:

            Her parents don’t “know the proper etiquette” for bringing Myrtle into the family because there isn’t settled etiquette on it, even among people whose reaction isn’t “you can’t do that!” (A lot of people’s ideas of “proper etiquette” on this fall somewhere between demanding complete silence, and recommending “this is our good friend Myrtle,” but with no room for the fact that Myrtle’s daughter is LW’s half-sister.)

            Beyond that, I think this puts us back at the Captain’s scripts, for LW to ask their parents “why is this important?” and “If you want to introduce her to the rest of the family, why not have a barbecue or something?” and perhaps something like “Thanks for explaining, that makes sense. I also want to talk to Myrtle about this, what’s her email address?”

            And I agree with your last point, neverjaunty, that it might make sense for LW to talk to their mother separately. With some care: the script here is something like “Mom, Dad’s been talking about wanting Myrtle included at my wedding. That’s a little surprising, because you don’t usually invite her and me over at the same time. I want to be sure having her at the wedding would be comfortable for you, too….That’s good to know. What level of inclusion are we talking about?”

            It’s tricky, because that sort of question can be intrusive, and/or suggest that the asker didn’t believe they had been told about the relationship. But it being LW’s parents is different from either more casual friendships, or something where she was separately close enough to both parties to already be confident of that they were both happy with the situation.

            I hope that this is us reasoning from incomplete data, and that LW has some idea of whether their mother is satisfied with the situation, however serious or committed it may be.

          • JenniferP said:

            Thanks for this.

            I am leery of any and all advice that suggests “Letter Writer, as the adult daughter/good child, it is on you to totally sort this out and make peace between your family, yourself, and Myrtle.” Stick with “Dad, Mom, what’s actually going on here?” and then disengage, disengage, disengage.

          • piny1 said:

            Teach them a lesson? Again, where are you getting this?

            Nobody is suggesting that she disinvite Myrtle to smack her parents down or take some sort of public moral stand on swinging etiquette. This has nothing to do with punishing or shaming them. I suggested that she might want to disinvite Myrtle because the situation makes her feel uncomfortable, makes her not want to give over her wedding to what she sees as bad behavior, makes her suspect that she is being asked to do something that she herself thinks is unkind based on her own instincts and feelings.

            That’s different, and I really wish you would stop losing the distinction between, “Don’t do something if you think it would hurt someone,” and, “Don’t do something because you want to work out your mommy and daddy issues during a wedding reception.” They’re really not the same!

  7. If the LW has any siblings or close cousins/aunts/family friends maybe they could help? My dad gets really excited about dating someone new and wants them to be an immediate part of the family, but my sister and I are wary because we have seen him have a whole series of very short relationships, each of which started as “the one” who he had “never felt like this before” about etc. So when he started talking about bringing his girlfriend (K) of three weeks to my sister’s (P) 21st, which was another two weeks away, as if it was automatic I was the one to talk to him. It wasn’t easy, but was easier for me than it would have been for P., and I think being that little bit distant can help.

    I know not everyone has these supports, so if LW has to bring it up, I think discussing why inviting Myrtle might make her or your parents uncomfortable could be one way to ensure he thought about asking.

    What I said to my dad was “I know that you are really excited about K. and we would really like to get to know her, but this is going to be quite a small event and there won’t be anyone there that P. has known for less than two years. I think K might feel quite uncomfortable, and I’m not sure having her and Mum meet this early is what you or K would want.”

    He was upset, but because I was framing it around his interests rather than my sister’s he was open to accepting the idea.

  8. Bina said:

    Do you really not want to get to know your half-sister and this woman who is so important to your parents? I get that it can be difficult to feel like they have a new family that doesn’t include you. Your parents definitely didn’t handle it well, and should have been more clear about what this is and how they wanted to introduce her to the family. That said, it sounds like you have been pretty hostile to the idea. You say they don’t get how much it threw you, but if you are sitting them down and asking if you are going to be required to interact with your new sister, it’s obvious you aren’t cool with it.

    Maybe they don’t have their relationship totally figured out yet. It makes sense that they wouldn’t have told you about unsettled relationships when you were 11; kids like stability. A lot of people find out new information about their parents adult lives once they are interacting as fellow adults. This does not invalidate anything about your childhood. You don’t have to like it, but you need to be able to deal with this enough now to be welcoming toward someone who is part of your parents’ lives.

    I agree that you shouldn’t be forced to invite anyone you don’t want to your wedding. But, if your wedding is big enough that your parents chipped in, you should have invited all significant others of guests automatically and, committed or not, she is clearly significant. Invite her, try to meet her beforehand if you haven’t already, and ask her and your parents how they would like you to refer to her to relatives. If they don’t want to be out about their relationship that is their prerogative, but you should not be downgrading her to “good friend” for your comfort or that of your guests.

    • Ethyl said:

      Yeah thank you for this. I’m sure the LW has lots of feelings about this but I’m totally and truly unclear on how this “invalidates” everything they thought they knew about their childhood. Having a complicated relationship with a third person doesn’t mean they loved the LW any less, and their private sex life isn’t about the LW at all. I think they are handling this suuuuuuper badly and being really weird about it and the LW maybe should try to get them to be honest about what this is about, but acting like they’re suddenly strangers who retroactively ruined your childhood is very weird too.

      • JenniferP said:

        Personally, my parents were of the “NO SEX UNTIL YOU ARE CATHOLIC-MARRIED” shamey, over-protective, judgy variety, so to hear that they had been having multiple partners the whole time would strongly affect my perception of parts of my childhood. How did they find the time? Were they doing it with people while I was asleep upstairs? Were people I met and thought were co-workers and friends actually their lovers? Do I have secret siblings? What else have they not been telling me? Why were they such hypocrites about my own sexuality? I don’t know that it would “invalidate” any parts of our relationship, but depending on what else is going on in the relationship, the Letter Writer isn’t being judgy or small-minded to be thrown by the news. On top of the way their parents have been so cage-y and noncommittal (while being actually quite commitED) about Myrtle, I can see why the Letter Writer feels like that relationship is full of quicksand. There was no good way for the parents to tell an eleven year old about what they were up to, sure. But they have not been honest about their relationship with Myrtle now that everyone is an adult. Why should she trust them?

        • Exactly. It really begs the question – what else have they lied to me about? Are there any other skeletons in the family closet, and how will they affect me?

          Swinging wouldn’t affect LW too much, if it were only that. But it’s not only that. They brought a new child into the world, they moved to be close to that child. It really does affect LW. No, they don’t love LW any less, but they are necessarily less available, with attention divided. Not to mention the possibility of inheritance.

          LW has the right to feel the way she feels, and she deserves some solid clarification from the parents. Like it or not, their decisions and actions DO affect her future.

          • Ethyl said:

            I dunno. Maybe I’m just not that close with my parents or something. But a revelation that they were poly or swingers wouldn’t cause me to assume there are other “skeletons in the closet.” Poly people aren’t serial killers, geez.

          • Iris said:

            This is in reply to Ethyl – no, poly people aren’t serial killers but I am sure that in order to follow other relationships without their child having knowledge there were a lot of lies. A lot. Probably well intentioned lies because what kid needs that level of detail? But lies nonetheless.

            When I went through a similar experience (many years ago) and found that most of the adults that I trusted throughout my childhood were telling me porkies on a regular basis that hurt, a lot. Adult me can accept their good intentions and understand why the lies were told and realise that I am still deeply beloved by these people and I have a great relationship with them. But I would be lying if I said that deep inside there isn’t a lingering sting that the people who loved me most in the world lied and lied and lied on a casual basis. I have been left with the impression that people who love you can lie easily if they think it is for your own good and that I won’t necessarily realise if those closest to me are deceiving me.

            It sounds all very melodramatic, I know, but it is nonetheless real. I regularly have the impulse to check phones, facebooks etc to make sure that those closest to me don’t have secret lives and only the knowledge that my fears are irrational and the greater fear of being the kind of revolting person that would do that hold me back.

          • Phospher said:

            My mother recently told me she has a boyfriend, and my father knows and is largely okay with it, but doesn’t want me or my siblings to know. She told me anyway, because I was living under the same roof for a while and she got to feel horrible about how often she was lying to my face. I am terribly glad she told me, it changes my view of my parents’ relationship for the better and I am happy she is happy.

            BUT, I was honestly surprised at how I felt about all the lies I’d been told. I don’t even know what the word for it is? Because “stung” or “betrayed” is much too strong, because I wasn’t upset with her and didn’t blame her, but “disorientated” isn’t quite enough. And it’s not the omission of the fact that this person was in my mother’s life, it was all the small, silly but direct lies over months that made me feel slightly dizzy, as I would, at completely unpredictable intervals, suddenly fill in a gap I hadn’t even known was there: “Oh, hey Mum, let me show you this lolcat WAIT THAT TIME YOU SAID YOU WERE GOING ON A SAILING TRIP. THERE WAS NO SAILING TRIP. THE SAILING TRIP IS A LIE!” I mean, it’s FUNNY, and it’s all fine, but the version of facts that I had WAS invalidated, because it … wasn’t valid. I’m really glad it didn’t go on longer and there were only a relatively few of these things to sort out in my head. In LW’s case, the narrative she has to rewrite – and probably cannot HELP rewriting — goes all the way back into her childhood, and is complicated by her parents’ lack of clarity with her (and possibly with Myrtle) in the present. And who knows what else is going on in LW’s life? I’m sure the great majority of her childhood was exactly as she thought it was despite this other side to her parents’ life, but I can’t blame her for needing help, and wisely seeking it, to sort that out.

        • Rose Fox said:

          A lot of the problem here is the “is this swinging or is it poly?” question. There are perfectly good ways to tell an 11-year-old that Mom and Dad have a girlfriend and she’s going to be coming around a lot, and they hope everyone gets along; it’s really not very different from a single parent telling their child that they’ve started dating. There are not so many perfectly good ways to tell an 11-year-old that Mom and Dad have friends they like to have sex with, because Mom and Dad presumably aren’t telling their kid ANYTHING about their sex lives. “We have some close friends that we like to… do… close friend things with” is about as far as you can go there.

          That said, I think they really should have mentioned it around when the LW was, oh, 18 or so, if only because in my experience queerness/kink/poly run in families and it’s always awkward to encounter relatives at a play party.

          • Solestria said:

            I’m not sure why they should have mentioned it at 18. It sounds like it became relevant when they became involve with Myrtle and she became someone they actually invested in. Before that, it would have involved sharing that they had extramarital sexual exploits, and that would have been pretty firmly both TMI, and not anyone else’s business.

          • MamaCheshire said:

            Max comment nesting, trying to reply to Solestria:

            I think the rationale behind it being a good idea to share this information with a now-legally-adult child, if the parents were part of a local “scene”, was to avoid the possibility of randomly bumping into said legally-adult child in said local scene. Which would be extremely uncomfortable for everyone even in the best case.

        • Jane said:

          Yeah, and people have weird emotional reactions to stuff.

          I felt really lost and sad when my mom told me to BUY CONDOMS when I was a freshman in college because everyone in my family had had sex before marriage and probably I would too. She had just lied by omission about it MY WHOLE GROWING-UP LIFE and always told me sex before marriage is evil and will fuck you up and people who it are bad and stupid, and to suddenly find out that all that shame was unnecessary — ugh. It just hurt.

          • Erin said:

            Uhm, why the hell would she do that? (More of a rethorical question.) You can’t take back the shaming so why not be supportive in the first place? Ugh.

          • Jane said:

            I DON’T KNOW.

            😦

        • Ethyl said:

          The parents are definitely super weird and fucked up about this. But I mean, your married catholic parents were almost definitely having sex while you were asleep upstairs anyway. I guess I don’t see the difference.

          • WT said:

            …Because the mind of thought that her parents were terrifying her with is that UNMARRIED sex is sinful and terrible? So there’s a big difference between “my Catholic-married parents are having sex with PERMISSION FROM GOD” and “UNMARRIED SEX IS TERRIBLE oh and by the way, meet Daddy’s baby with the lady next door.” (I mean obvs this actually wasn’t the situation for CA but, yeah, big difference in how that would hypothetically effect someone?)

        • Brandelle said:

          Can I just say there ARE good ways to explain poly or nonmonogamous relationships to 11 yo or children in general. I know it’s too late for the LW but I hate to perpetuate the idea that communicating with children isn’t possible.

          It’s SO possible and kids are so resilient! The only thing that matters its providing them with stable, safe environments they will thrive no matter what the relationship structures of their caregivers. 🙂

      • I don’t think the LW said it invalidates anything, though? They said: “the family narrative that I had been telling everyone (including myself) was altered irrevocably”. Altered is very different from invalidated. I’m wondering if maybe the LW’s parents told the LW that a close family friend or someone else who the LW had understood to be a platonic acquaintance had actually been romantically/sexually involved with the parents. It sounds like the parents had been keeping a lot of secrets since the LW was 11 (which was probably wise, since nonmonogamy was/still is not very widely accepted), and in coming out, they went waaaay TMI and put some things that happened in the LW’s childhood in a new light. The LW also says they’ve been in therapy to work on the feelings this created for them, so clearly they want to be more accepting. I don’t think it’s productive to get down on the LW for not being able to instantly and independently process and be overjoyed about something that would, for many people, be pretty shocking.

        • Dove said:

          “It sounds like the parents had been keeping a lot of secrets since the LW was 11 (which was probably wise, since nonmonogamy was/still is not very widely accepted), and in coming out, they went waaaay TMI and put some things that happened in the LW’s childhood in a new light.”

          That’s what it sounds like to me too – that when the whole “oh hey, we’re nonmonogamous” thing got shared with the LW, e got told a lot of stuff that was TMI and a bit much for er to handle, especially without help. But e says that e has been getting help, and that e has also been sitting down with er parents periodically to try and sort out who, precisely, Myrtle is to them and what relationship they expect er to have with her and the half-sibling.

          The parents, from what LW says, have been doing a dance of “oh, she’s no one we’re serious about…except she’s the mother of your half-sibling…and we moved to be closer to her…and we routinely go on vacations with her…and also you MUST invite her to your wedding because Reasons Which Shall Not Be Verbalized” and avoiding actually putting into words who Myrtle really is to them and how they expect LW to interact with her.

          In other words, it’s not LW who’s being weird here. It’s the parents, all the way, and I’m not calling them weird because they’re non-monogamous; I’m calling them weird because they are being Not Good at relationships in a way that requires significant effort to maintain when it would be a hell of a lot easier on everyone to just go “yes, Myrtle is important to us, we’re not exactly sure what the right word for her would be, but you should treat her like a significant other of ours and we’d like you to be an aunt or big sister to your half-sibling” or “Myrtle is important to us, but your level of involvement with her and Half-Sib is up to you”, because to me it looks like one of those two is a more accurate summation of Parents’ view than “she’s just someone we swing with”.

    • neverjaunty said:

      It’s not LW’s responsibility to sort out her parents’ mixed messages for them and figure out who she “should” invite. (Also, pretty insulting to decide for other people whether a partner is “significant” so as to be invited.) It’s pretty obvious that Myrtle is significant (they have A CHILD with her, FFS), but here they are telling LW that they’ll ditch her if need be and anyway she won’t show up at the wedding.

  9. Jenna said:

    Oh, wow.

    First, Captain, I love your advice. I really do. I’m poly, and my situation is similar to Myrtle’s, but, without any kids in the situation at all, little, or grown, or getting married. My partner and his wife don’t have kids, and neither do I. It makes things simpler for us, and I will probably never have to be the invited but not invited third(Ew! Not cool. Either invite me or not, seriously!).
    Of course the real reason that I will never be the “invited but not invited third” is that MY partners would never do that to me. Ever. In a million years. Which is one of many reasons why I love them.
    The parents need to figure out what they are doing. If this is a relationship that they intend to acknowledge, then they need to do that….somewhere other than the wedding. I would be seriously uncomfortable if I were in Myrtle’s shoes and discovered, at the wedding, that this was where everyone was hearing about me for the first time. A wedding is supposed to be about the wedding, and I don’t want to steal anyone’s thunder.

    “P.P.S. I can’t be the only one imagining Myrtle’s counterpoint letter, right? “My partners are insisting that I attend their daughter’s wedding, even though I am pretty sure she is not into the idea and this seems like Not The Time Or Place to meet the extended family. What do I do?“
    I’d love to see your answer, even though I am pretty certain my people(“none of MY friends would call me at this hour” quote from “When Harry Met Sally”) would never put me in that situation.

    • Muffin said:

      I agree with this comment so very much.

  10. Vicki said:

    This is one where it feels like my being poly is relevant.

    I am pleased by the extent to which my friends and my family of origin accept my partners I’m not married to. So I understand LW’s parents wanting that. And I really wish they were the ones who had written in, because I’d be saying things like “yes, you want your daughter, her partner, and other relatives to accept Myrtle, but take it slowly. Give them a chance to get to know her, and see that her presence isn’t a disruptive force. Don’t jump from ‘this is casual, we don’t expect her to stick around’ directly to ‘you have to invite her to your wedding.'”

    As it is, I agree with the Captain’s advice: use that script to try figure out what they’re actually looking for and why, and see if you can find a compromise that gives them at least some of it without disrupting the wedding. Lunch or dinner at her parents’ home, or her home, or a restaurant, with just her, her partner, and her parents and Myrtle would probably be a lower-stress way for LW and her partner to get to know Myrtle. That sort of event is less stress for everyone involved, which improves the chances of it going well.

    If I were in Myrtle’s shoes, I’d be thinking either “are you asking me to lie about my relationship with you?” or worrying that it only takes one less-accepting relative to make a huge fuss and start yelling at me. Even if her partners will stand up for her, who wants that at someone else’s wedding?

    • JenniferP said:

      I was hoping you’d weigh in. I don’t want this thing to be awkward and horrible for Myrtle, either! Like, start with BRUNCH and then work up to weddings.

    • Beth said:

      Yes, as I was reading this I just kept putting myself in Myrtle’s shoes and I felt sooooo uncomfortable with the whole situation. Obviously, I’ve never met this woman and don’t know what she does/doesn’t want and is/isn’t comfortable with, but the whole thing made me feel like if I were Myrtle and I knew about how my partners were presenting this to their adult daughter, I’d need to have a serious sit-down with them.
      I think the Captain’s advice will ultimately help all four of them (I guess five including the LW’s fiancee) because it will (hopefully) clarify the public face of that relationship and what sort of relationship Myrtle and the daughter can expect to have. Uncertainty makes me anxious, and I’m feeling stressed on behalf of everyone in this situation!

  11. Emily said:

    It is totally weird that LW’s parents are framing this as “Myrtle is our buddy.” They moved across the street from her! They have a child with her! She’s family and if she is interested in being treated as such, she and her children should be treated as such. But LW’s wedding is not the place for that to start.

    • Ethyl said:

      Yes, their whole thing is so weird! LW I hope you get to the bottom of their issues!

    • JetGirl said:

      Seriously. How is having a child with someone not serious? Call me a cynical old crone, but I can’t help wondering if this wasn’t an oops pregnancy, and LW’s parents were not thrilled but now making the best of it. And it’s good that they are, but the whole “not formal” thing seems so shitty to Myrtle and her kid.

      • mamacitaconpistoles said:

        Having a child with someone may not be all that serious, depending on [reasons]. But *raising* a child with someone surely is. And it sounds like that part, the raising part, is def going on.

        • JetGirl said:

          Well, exactly. So how is raising a child with someone not formal? And the idea that if Myrtle finds another relationship, Myrtle’s child’s paternity somehow stops being important is weird. How do you suddenly tell your kid, “oh we’re just neighbors now?”

          • Yeah. And what if Myrtle should marry or move away? Will they want to share custody? Or will they just shrug and let the kids go? I think not.

      • Anisoptera said:

        Yeah, the “swingers” language makes me think that the parents have perhaps not encoutered the modern concept of polyamory (even though they’re living it). So instead they’re mashing it into some 70s model of swinging that is all about having casual sex and nothing to do with long term committed relationships with more than two people.

        I suspect a lot of weirdness could come from that.

        • Solestria said:

          I wondered about that, too.

        • J. Preposterice said:

          maybe the LW should start leaving books on How To Poly in her parents’ mailbox

      • Cyberwulf said:

        That’s the vibe I’m getting, too. Somebody wasn’t minding the store carefully enough, Myrtle got pregnant, and now the parents are floundering (and maybe even in denial) about what to do and how to properly integrate Myrtle and her child(ren) into the family – or even if they should. Again, who knows what Myrtle thinks or wants?

  12. Muffin said:

    I’m surprised at how many comments so far seem to focus on the LW’s supposed desire to not know the new partner / not meet the kids / not have a relationship with partner or kids / &c., when it seems to me that the LW has expressed being perfectly fine with untraditional relationships both in general and in the specific. In fact, I see a lot of things in this letter that are sending up flags for me about the *parents’* behaviour.

    For example: Why did they feel the need to backdate their coming out? And what was that conversation *like,* such that the LW has been dealing with it in therapy? I am 100% for therapy–I use it myself, A+, would recommend–and so when I hear that someone is dealing with X thing in therapy, my first reaction is, “Huh, X thing must have been really stressful and complex.” And why did this narrative alter the original family narrative so abruptly? This smells to me of forcing the LW to keep their secret — like, “Ok, you told everyone else that this one thing was true, but now we’re going to make you complicit in our lie, which may or may not be ongoing.”

    Other flags that bug me about these parents:
    – Why is there such a vast discrepancy between what they tell the LW their relationship with Myrtle is and the way they behave with Myrtle around the LW?
    – Why are they so much more invested in Myrtle than their own child that the LW feels like they’ve “lost” their parents?
    – Why has the onus been on the LW rather than the parents to do the emotional work of establishing Myrtle’s role in their life (see where the LW says “Periodically, I have sat my parents down to ask them questions”)?
    – Why did the LW’s father say the LW “must” invite Myrtle rather than asking?
    – Why don’t we know anything about how Myrtle feels about this?

    Frankly, this stinks. I don’t think these parents are doing polyamory in an ethical, open way. While it’s true that it isn’t always safe to be out to one’s entire community, if you’re going to put your kid in the position of helping to manage that secret (which you shouldn’t, IMHO, but spilled milk), you have to be honest with your kid about what the secret actually is. If I were a betting woman, I would guess that Myrtle doesn’t have the answer to that either. It doesn’t sound like these people are good communicators, or even that they’re communicating in good faith. And if that’s the case, I think the LW is well within her rights to refuse to engage with the whole thing, on a wedding day or any other day, until the parents level about what’s actually happening.

    • Xenophile said:

      I don’t have much experience with poly relationships but it seems like LW’s parents are trying to have it both ways. From the outside, it sounds like they have a committed relationship with Myrtle and treat her and her/their children like family, but they haven’t done the emotional work of integrating her into the rest of their family. It’s like they want the privacy of being closeted with the affirmation of being out. Do they worry that LW isn’t as accepting of the situation as she says she is? Is coming as as poly harder for them than coming out as swingers? It’ll take more than one event for their adult child to get to know her, much less an event like a wedding, which is about LW and LW’s future spouse’s relationship, not the parents’ relationship! It would be great if everyone could meet Myrtle and the kids and spend time together, but they have to actually say, “This is a person who is important to us,” before they can put that expectation on others.

      • Muffin said:

        Yeah, I agree! I think this really hits the nail on the head: “It’s like they want the privacy of being closeted with the affirmation of being out.” That is *totally* the issue.

      • “From the outside, it sounds like they have a committed relationship with Myrtle and treat her and her/their children like family, but they haven’t done the emotional work of integrating her into the rest of their family.”

        Heck, yeah.

        Honestly, I feel bad both for LW, who’s being pressured into inviting someone she doesn’t know at all, and for Myrtle, whose apparent partner(s) is/are treating her as if she is variously family or a temporary fling, depending on who they’re talking to.

        Not cool.

    • Penelope Widdowson-Bonefat said:

      And what was that conversation *like,* such that the LW has been dealing with it in therapy? I am 100% for therapy–I use it myself, A+, would recommend–and so when I hear that someone is dealing with X thing in therapy, my first reaction is, “Huh, X thing must have been really stressful and complex.”

      See, and I have a different reaction; the captain recommends counseling or talking to a professional or whatever a lot, and I love that, because it suggests that there is no minimum level of distress that doesn’t warrant care and attention. I would love it if a mental-health checkup were de rigeur in our society, like dental x-rays or a skin cancer screening. Something doesn’t have to be Giant and Life-Changing and Traumatic for someone to benefit from talking to a professional trained to help people recognize their thought patterns and help take of themselves.

      There’s a joke that I think is relevant here:

      How many therapists does it take to change a light bulb? One, but the light bulb must want to change.

      People often start therapy, these days, because the alternative (i.e., continuing on as they have been) is unbearable, because they are in so much pain. Because the idea of therapy is so scary. Because therapy is for the really traumatized people. Because there is a minimum level of fucked-up to ride this ride.

      Except there isn’t. The entry ticket for therapy is wanting something in your life to change and needing help to make that happen and being willing to do the work. That’s it.

      The LW’s personal narrative of her family and herself got a rude shock. She wanted help to sort that out. Kudos to her for that.

      • Muffin said:

        Sure, absolutely kudos to LW, and I hope I didn’t come off as implying that there’s a minimum bar for therapy–I agree that people should feel empowered to go to therapy for whatever reason. I just meant to flag the fact that LW brought up still being in therapy about this, coupled with everything else in the letter, made me wonder if the parents handled that conversation in an inappropriate and/or traumatic way.

      • “Except there isn’t. The entry ticket for therapy is wanting something in your life to change and needing help to make that happen and being willing to do the work. That’s it”

        Thank you for this. I started therapy for one reason (depression and stress over a move) and it’s ended up being about something else entirely. The change I thought I wanted wasn’t actually the change I needed, but I DID need a change, and therapy is what’s helping me to make it.

    • popesuburban said:

      Yeah, the parents’ behavior sounds shady as hell. They are striking me as singularly selfish here, in that they want what they want, and it’s for Myrtle, the LW, and the half-sibling (for starters, but this list can extend to encompass the whole fam) to sort it out and deal with any fallout. They don’t seem like they are thinking about anyone else’s feelings here, and that is maybe making them not think about when they need to communicate, with whom, how much, and in which ways. I try to imagine conducting my relationships (platonic, romantic, whatever) the way LW’s parents seem to be conducting theirs, and I cringe. It is not always pleasant or easy to answer a boyfriend’s question about an open relationship partner– or vice versa– but Jesus, I suck it up and do it because I owe people the truth, and they need to know they can trust me. If someone is not ready to face the icky bits down, I get it, but that means they should probably stay the hell clear of fraught relationships like this until they are better at using their words and facing facts.

  13. Sneakys said:

    Weddings are ultimately about the bride and groom. There are certain events that really and truly about one or two people, and weddings are one of them (along with birthdays, graduations, etc). People are celebrating the union of two people. The LW should not have her special day upstaged so to speak by her parent’s coming out as poly/swingers whatever. It’s just not an appropriate venue for this, especially since her parents haven’t seem to have made an effort to include Myrtle prior to this.

    • Linden said:

      Indeed. My aunt is still annoyed that her wedding was the first event at which most members of the family got to meet me as a two-week-old baby. She said she planned on coming to my wedding wearing a wedding dress and carrying a basket of puppies. (She didn’t, of course — she was wonderful.)

  14. Anothermous said:

    Oh geeze. LW I don’t envy you in this position, and frankly I’m pretty pissed off on your behalf, heh. As stated in my comments above, I have a pretty firm view of “my wedding my rules.” Just want to make my own biases clear, here.

    I can’t read your mind or your feelings, but I can tell you that if it were me in this situation, and I capitulated to my parents’ insistence that I invite Myrtle, I would resent my parents forever. It would permanently damage my relationship with them. The reason is thus: because, if they are, in fact, holding the wedding funding over your head like a Sword of Damocles, what this represents is that they are willing to manipulate you in order to get their way. Which is fucking shitty.

    Even if they aren’t using their financial contributions as a bargaining chip, as stated above by Don Whiteside, the fact that your father was quick to reassure you that Myrtle probably wouldn’t come indicates that, on some level, he realizes that maybe Myrtle shouldn’t be there–meaning he realizes you have no good reason to invite her. Your parents clearly want her there for THEIR sake, not for yours, and considering it’s *your wedding*, that’s not okay. Again, this demonstrates that your parents are willing to try and make you do some things that make you uncomfortable for the sake of an “everything is great!” facade, but are unwilling themselves to do the uncomfortable work of actually integrating Myrtle into their extended lives in an honest way. They’re asking you to hold their bag of shit for them.

    I personally have so little tolerance for adults who are too chickenshit to do the emotional work in their own lives and try to make others–especially daughters–do it for them. (Because it’s a good daughter’s job to sacrifice her own comfort for the sake of family harmony! “Harmony” which is often, in reality, wafer-thin and fragile as blown glass anyway!) LW, I know my letter sounds harsh. This is one topic in particular that makes my rageasaurus roar in primal fury. What I mean to convey, in the end, is that a) I don’t think it’s okay for your parents to ask this of you in this manner and b) I think it’s okay for you to refuse their request, even if it makes them angry. The task of bringing Myrtle fully into their extended lives–if that is what they want–is their job to do, not yours.

    • lengarion said:

      “I personally have so little tolerance for adults who are too chickenshit to do the emotional work in their own lives and try to make others–especially daughters–do it for them. ”

      My parents tried to pressure me into inviting my Horrible Uncle to my wedding in order to keep up the “we’re all such a close family” facade.
      Thing is, I pretty openly dislike said uncle. He sure is part of their family, however, he’s not part of mine.
      While LW probably doesn’t hate Myrtle, Myrtle is (not yet) part of her family.

      Unlike other commenters, I did not get any vibe of the LW not wanting to include Myrtle. I feel that her parents are the ones dis-encouraging this from happening.

  15. Weddings are one of the few times, when, as grown ass adults, we get to get together with a bunch of other grown ass adults, get dressed up, drink and party. We recently had our first major family wedding and there was a LOT of tension around the guest list. My parents wanted to invite a lot of people that the bride and groom hardly knew.

    But here’s the thing, those people were SO psyched to see us. Like, so excited. I got so many hugs from people I haven’t seen since I was probably unable to drive. They have been hearing about us for years through our parents and were super excited 1. to see us all grown up and 2. to get drunk and party with a bunch of their old friends.

    To put it another way, my friends all have kids under 5. I only see them a few times a year, but I would be bummed to not be invited to their eventual wedding, if only because I would want to hang out with their parents.

    Obviously that doesn’t mean I’m ENTITLED to that, but I just wanted to think about this less in terms of “My parents are poly and trying to make their polyness a THING at my wedding” and more along the lines of “My parents want to include a bunch of THEIR friends at MY wedding.”

    So yes, I think all the questions about their lifestyle and how they intend to handle it at the wedding should come up. But I just wanted to float the idea that this may not be entirely about making their lifestyle at thing at all, and may mostly be about wanting to include their close friends in a big party they are helping to throw.

    • Another way of thinking about this, if I were working on a guest list for my kid’s wedding and I could only insist on a few invites. One of those insists would probably go to a person I see daily, spend a lot of time with, and have a child with. (As opposed to Bob from Accounting.)

      • Stayce said:

        Well, it sounds like her parents might not have much in the way of uncomplicated motivations. Honestly, if that’s what the parents argue, I think that’s a little disingenuous. It could be that simple, if the LW’s parents had been more clear about Myrtle’s role in their lives. As it is, I think this line of thinking is still punting the actual issues here: is Myrtle an acknowledged part of the family? Can LW embrace her and the two (!!) half-siblings as such, if she is willing? What is her place in all of this? What does all of this mean for LW’s relationship with her parents? Can we ever truly know someone (getting existential there)? And it seems like the parents are attempting to make an invite-but-not-really some kind of band-aid for the whole thing- and putting the emotional work and responsibility of that on their oldest daughter, at a major life event. Of hers. I think it’s reasonable for the LW to ask some honest questions about what is going on, and to expect a real answer.

    • hummingbear said:

      I invited several of my dad’s Random Distant Relatives – some of whom I have literally never met – to my wedding for this very reason. He’s helping to pay for it and it will be a big family reunion for him. I’m not wild about the idea of having near-strangers as part of our fairly small community of witness, but it doesn’t bug me enough to say no.

      BUT – the difference is that my reaction upon seeing these people (if they come) will be “meh, it’s kind of weird this random person is at my wedding” for five seconds and then move on. They won’t be big, hairy, walking emotional triggers causing me to freak out about my parents’ emotional dishonesty and wonder what role they will play in my life because my parents can’t be straightforward about it. It’s a very different scenario.

  16. Polychrome said:

    In terms of shifting work around, I am wondering also about Myrtle’s version and if the parents aren’t using their oldest child to do the bad guy work in a show-down about what the heck is going on in their relationship with Myrtle. i.e.,maybe Myrtle has been saying hey I’d like our child to meet your child, hey I’d like us to do some family style activities hey let’s go bit more public and the parents have said oh it’s not a good time oh our daughter is really struggling with what we have already told her oh let’s just keep things low key for a bit longer blah blah blah.

    And then the wedding comes along, and Myrtle says, “hey, now’s the time, okay? You all have been putting me off forever, either we are all part of a multi-tentacled family or we aren’t” and the parents think… HEY LET’S MAKE THIS SOMEONE ELSE’S PROBLEM. I mean maybe they are actually maybe anticipating your reaction? And relying on it? Like, you say “after much consideration, absolute noes” and then they report back to Myrtle “we tried, sad face” but then they get to have the status quo but it’s not their fault. Also they get to direct Myrtle’s ire at you and project their own selfishness on to… you.

    Sucks for you and Myrtle, though. If I am right. For you particularly. I am not trying to badmouth your parents, btw — people get really attached to modus operandi that work BEAUTIFULLY for them, without necessarily being awful people (though kind of selfish, which I guess everybody is to some degree) — but, not to stress you out with one more job before your wedding but maybe something useful would be to just end-run around your folks and go straight to Myrtle for a parents-free chat? I bet this would make your parents frightened and angry, but someone with whom they don’t want you alone in a room is, again, not an appropriate guest for them to insist on at your wedding.

    • charmed.omega said:

      This is totally the vibe I get, too. As if Myrtle has been under the impression forever that she’s an important part of the family and it’s easy for the parents to make up small reasons why she and LW haven’t met or why they haven’t come out to the family, but invited or not invited to their daughter’s wedding is really black & white and then the jig would be up.

    • Jenna said:

      I worry that this might be close to what is going on. I hope that it isn’t, though.

    • THIS. Hope not, but yes.

    • Stayce said:

      Ooh, really good observation.

    • Rose Fox said:

      Yes, all of this. I was going to suggest that LW write Myrtle a note along the lines of “My parents have asked whether Best Beloved and I will be able to invite you to the wedding, and unfortunately we can’t, but it made me realize that you and I really don’t know each other all that well and I’d like to remedy that; can we get coffee sometime?”. Classic poly solution: open a line of direct communication instead of going through a not-disinterested intermediary. And then you might learn a little more about whether Myrtle thinks she’s “just a friend”.

      • Stayce said:

        Ninja move! I like it. And I like the irony of LW demonstrating How to Relationship to her parents.

  17. Gine said:

    I’m getting the feeling that your parents are angling to use your wedding as a way to kind of slip the idea of them and Myrtle in with the rest of the paperwork, so to speak. Maybe not, or at least maybe not intentionally, but that’s definitely not fair to you, your partner, or Myrtle. The way they’ve downplayed a relationship that’s clearly quite serious also makes me think that they want everything to be easy and breezy and uncomplicated (er, too late), and I worry that they’ll play the “If you REALLY loved us, you’d let us keep avoiding all the necessary emotional work this situation involves, because, you know, it’s hard and we don’t want to.” Definitely seconding the Captain’s advice to sit them down and talk.

    • Jessica said:

      I’ve been wondering if there’s a safety/security issue here. People mentioned piggybacking onto the wedding for financial reasons above, rather than the parents holding a separate get-together specifically to introduce Myrtle to the family. But it might be more than financial. If the parents tell everyone about Myrtle in a standalone announcement/get-together/whatever, everyone else has the chance to walk out on them or react badly. If they introduce Myrtle to everyone at the wedding, there’s the chance that people won’t make as much of a scene if they disapprove because they won’t want to ruin the wedding.

      Plus, if it’s done at the wedding, it looks like the LW completely approves of the relationship and becomes an unwitting accomplice. The LW also then absorbs some of the disapproval from family members who aren’t OK with Myrtle. The parents are basically forcing the LW to be on their side, even if it means the LW then gets shut out by the disapproving family members.

      I’m not sure I’m describing that well, but I can’t think of more exact wording.

      • Polychrome said:

        This strikes me a really plausible possibility, too — especially given that the LW was both talking about “my parents” but when the question of slightly more insistence came up it was “my dad”. There was a brilliant offhand observation in a previous comment thread about how abusive folks are really good at narrating / forced teaming an account of “everybody is happy and doing great here” (sorry I can’t credit the observer). If extended friends and family are slightly to very aware of Myrtle and the child with Myrtle then the wedding might look to (somebody) (I’m thinking the dad…) like an opportunity to close off any kind of critical speculation and / or feedback with a show of “everybody is cool with this, especially those most closely involved, so who are you to have a problem with it?”. Given the kind of classic invocation of “you owe me because I paid for stuff” that is Patriarchy 101, I’m wondering if this is less “groovy poly family” than the long ongoing story of a selfish man who uses his marriage as a springboard into “swinging” (an easier world to enter partnered than as a lone dude) and force teams his (economically dependent?) wife into “we are swingers” and then uses his daughter from that marriage’s wedding (which he is partly paying for) as a springboard into “happy poly family why are you so judgey and uptight?” (an easier world to enter, in the eyes of friends and family, via a team event like a wedding than just by explaining — a route available all along but which he has apparently avoided for YEARS).

  18. We got married last summer, LW, and Let Me Tell You: There is no such thing as ‘Just Nice To Ask’ invite. People my in-laws swore black-is-white would definitely, definitely not come… Came. Some from across the country. Some from across the world.

    Some with uninvited guests.

    (My husband and I still do not speak of the uninvited guest who, annoyed at being dragged to a wedding of people he didn’t know in the middle of nowhere by his mother, wore The Passive-Aggressive Tuxedo T-Shirt Of Doom and stood in the middle of every single photograph.)

    Myrtle is a part of your parents’ lives, and whether you decide to invite her or not, LW, you need to know that invitations are not guaranteed to be turned down.

    • MamaCheshire said:

      Actually, when I was planning my wedding, YES there was a “you must invite this person who won’t actually come” situation and a bit of drama around it.

      I specifically did not send an invitation to my paternal grandmother, initially, because she was well into moderate-stage Alzheimer’s by that point, lived several hours away, and I really didn’t want her to try to come because I knew enough about how things were that I knew she would’ve either been a hazard to herself or Very Difficult for whichever other family member got put on “handle Grandma” duty.

      She had a HUGE fit about it, and my father strongly requested we send her an invitation, which I was annoyed about because I was trying to keep my list down in order not to have to buy another box. (We had a box of 50 invitations with the assumption of +1 because our site’s capacity was 100.) But I was also seriously afraid that she was going to try to come and something was going to go horribly wrong along the way. And I explained that to my father, and he reassured me that no, she wasn’t actually going to hop a train from the next state over and somehow find herself in our city but nowhere near our wedding.

      Fortunately, getting the invite placated her and she didn’t insist on actually trying to come.

  19. Polychrome said:

    sorry, one more thought — I am getting more and more convinced of my own scenario, though it could be totally wrong. I just wonder if your parents have used you in this way for a while, to keep things comfortably ambiguous with Myrtle? like, however they told you about their swinging it doesn’t seem to have put you at ease. Maybe that was (subconsciously?) intentional, because now YOUR discomfort with their swinging is a handy way to swat off attempts by Myrtle to make an honest woman of her, polyamory style (I actually should clarify here that my handle, Polychrome, doesn’t have anything to do with polyamory about which I am not an expert nor — something else I’ve been worried people might give me unearned credit for — being biracial or multiracial)

    I think this for two reasons. One, having a kid with them probably makes you loom HUGE in her life (this doesn’t make this fact your responsibility, at all, to be clear). I have a kid with someone who has two kids from a previous marriage and I can’t tell you how differently I saw those kids once they were my kid’s siblings. Like they are really powerful beings to me now because my kid will always look up to them and be influenced by them and want their love. So if your parents invoke you, I bet she backs down quickly (again, not your responsibility — just a dynamic that might be there). This could be the case even if you don’t know her kid with your parents at all — if she’s like me, she might have powerful scenarios in her head about “after we all are dead the siblings will connect and realize they have a bond”, or something like that.

    Two, I know that I myself have invoked an absent third party to evade uncomfortable claims on me — in my case, specifically my ex-husband if somebody I like wants to date me. I mean, somebody I like but not in a pants feelings way. I can say, oh, you know, it’s not you, you are great, but it would be awkward / difficult / whatever because of {situation with ex}. It’s not 100% untrue, but it is kind of cowardly diplomacy. In my case, I don’t feel too bad about it because I don’t have any obligation to date anybody I don’t want to. But your parents do have real and complicated obligations to Myrtle (and, of course, to you) so it’s not cool of them to do it, if that is in fact what they are doing.

  20. charmed.omega said:

    Am I the only one who got *severe* spidey sense that the parents are telling the two parties different things. “Oh, it’s temporary, you don’t even need to meet” vs “We love you, you’re family. Have our baby”. Not that everyone has children for the same reasons, but the parents’ behavior seems pretty weird.

    I actually disagree with the captain a little bit: you agreed to let your parents insist on inviting a few people, and it sounds like Myrtle is one of them. She’s not special to you, but regardless of the specifics of their relationship she’s someone your parents spend almost every day with and share hobbies (child raising) with.

    I recommend that you agree to invite her, and instead set some very firm ground rules:

    1. You will have a serious, sit-down talk about how Myrtle fits into their lives and your family, and they will explain why they want her at the wedding.
    2. Your parents are solely responsible for how Myrtle is introduced during the wedding.
    3. Your parents will either make a separate announcement to the rest of the family about Myrtle *very soon* and very separately from anything about your wedding or not mention it at the wedding whatsoever*

    * If you think your parents will agree not to mention anything and then make a big public announcement anyway, just don’t invite Myrtle.

    • Penelope Widdowson-Bonefat said:

      I would put money on the proposition there are two stories (at least) being told here: one to Myrtle, one to the LW, probably one to the parents by themselves, probably one to random neighbors/coworkers/grocery store clerks, whatever. And maybe a few more just to be sure that everyone is as confused and awkward as possible.

    • Stephanie said:

      Great suggestions, charmed.omega. I feel like LW, having relied upon funding and given (or “given”) her parents a few “you musts” on the invite list, really has to invite Myrtle. But that invitation shouldn’t mean that the wedding then becomes the place for everyone to reveal everyone’s true relationships. Those discussion points/rules are good for preventing a scene at the event.

      • I disagree. I think it perfectly reasonable for it not to have occurred to the LW that her parents might invite someone they keep insisting is just casual and so not-a-big-deal to them, and hence for it not to have occurred to the LW that she might want to put a no-Myrtle caveat on the free invites. It’s one thing to give your parents carte blanche to invite a few people on the ‘random work acquaintance of parents that LW has never met’ level, which just means she has a few strangers wandering around her wedding and has fewer places for people she herself wants, and another entirely to accept having her wedding used for this particular can of worms.

    • Kaluza Klein said:

      YES to all of this, especially the spidey sense thing. A lot of the issues here would be solved if LW’s parents were being less dodgy about Myrtle. Best case scenario, they’re just telling LW what she thinks they want to hear because they believe she’d be freaked out if they were honest about the seriousness of their involvement with Myrtle. More likely, they’re not being particularly fair to Myrtle and/or they themselves are confused about it. If they’re introducing her to family and insisting she come to weddings, they absolutely need to be honest about what’s going on.

      • Kaluza Klein said:

        *what THEY think SHE wants to hear. Sorry.

    • MrsMorley said:

      Yes, charmed.omega, yes. I especially like your rules 1 and 2. (Rule 3 is iffy because the parents could promise not to, and mean not to, and still, well, IT JUST HAPPENED! WE TOLD! Also because why should Myrtle shut up…)

    • boutet said:

      I think that it’s a bit more complicated for Myrtle to be the “must invite” person. Where does she sit? Seating charts at weddings are enormous headaches at the best of times. So, is Myrtle at the Parents table? Is there a Parents table or were parents at the head table? Is Myrtle at the head table? Where does Myrtle sit at the ceremony? Is she up with the parents or is she in the crowd?
      This isn’t just Myrtle as guest or not as guest, it’s Myrtle as guest or not guest or parent-level guest. Having her there in the crowd is one thing. Having her standing beside the parents at the ceremony, sitting with the parents and parent-in-laws at dinner, having her in every major picture that involves parents, that’s a lot more.
      And if the parents want her there as a crowd guest… that’s kind of weird too. Here’s our swing partner (it’s so casual) but actually she really important to us and like family but actually she doesn’t have to sit with us, maybe put her in the back with the cousins. Do they want her there with them, or just there? It’s all very confusing.

      • I was wondering this myself, until I remembered they have all the other Must Invites. If I were Myrtle and those Must Invites weren’t used to invite people I know? I’d be extra double triple nopnopnopnopnopnopeeeeeee. (Also, I am imagining the way that goes down: Other Guest to Table of Friends Myrtle Knows Through Shared Interests of the Parents: So… how do you know the Best Beloveds? I would love to know where LW’s parents come up on the Flaky-Parents-o-Meter in all of life, and not just this matter. Parents, cut your kid some slack, will you? Explain what is going on and then let kid make decisions will all the information. Sheesh.)

  21. Mary said:

    I find it quite weird that the parents want Myrtle invited and not her children? It makes sense if your wedding is very much an adults-only affair in the evening or something, and maybe if the younger child is a baby or very young and still unaware of things like this. But if the kids are around the 5-7 age or older, then one of the questions I would want to ask is not just, “what are you trying to tell me about the relationship you want me to have with Myrtle?” but also, “what are you trying to tell me about the relationship you want me to have with these children?”

    If they do want you and Myrtle to have a relationship, then it seems strange if your parents and Myrtle aren’t having clear conversations about what relationship they want the kids to have with you. It’s one thing for Myrtle to understand that it’s sensitive and might take time and that kind of thing, but I hope they’ve all decided what coherent story they want the kids to know.

  22. Captain Awkward says:
    “3) Get your friends/wedding party to be a buffer.”

    THIS. When I got married, my parents’ divorce was still pretty fresh, and there was all kinds of weird-ass family drama going on. A lot of my friends who also married in that same couple-year period had similar situations.

    So we invented a new, secret member of the wedding party: The Bride-Thug. (We found this name humorous, though I understand how other people might prefer something less violent-sounding.)

    Basically, the job of the BT was sort of like a diplomatic bouncer for the reception, answerable only to the bride (and groom, when the groom wasn’t too deep into the family drama himself). (Apologies for heterocentrism – this was back in the ’90s in the Bible Belt; of the few gay/lesbian folks I knew, none got married during this time.) For my wedding, I chose the boyfriend of one of my bridesmaids, who I had gotten to know pretty well (she later married him, and my husband served as her BT) and whose judgment I had could trust.

    Being a bridesmaids’ boyfriend, he was a face that all of the parents and other members of the wedding party was familiar with – he was her date to the rehearsal dinner, etc. – but he also had absolutely no connection to my family or my in-laws-to-be. He could offend someone and not suffer any long-term blowback from it, and I had some plausible deniability – “He did WHAT? Wow, my bridesmaid sure picked out a weirdy, eh? I suppose he thought he was being helpful somehow….”

    Luckily, none of the Bride-Thugs wound up having to defuse any drama-bombs, but I know for me, it was a huge relief knowing that there was a large-ish dude looming around, and if I gave him the nod, he would step in and, as diplomatically as possible, remove someone from the vicinity until they’d calmed down.

    • ThatHat said:

      I was a “henchwench” myself. We were worried the bride’s father, who was very much Not Invited would show. He didn’t, but we all had our orders.

  23. MrsMorley said:

    Dear LW:

    Good luck to you and your intended! Have a wonderful wedding, and a wonderful life together.

    That being said, I’m about to express an unpopular opinion.
    I think you should invite Myrtle, she gets to be one your parents’ “I insist” cards. Once you allow someone else to pay for the party, you do have to give them some say, you’ve acknowledged this. If inviting your parents’ petite amie is your only guest list problem, you’re in luck.

    But I’d like to clarify a bit.
    The Captain’s scripts are useful – after all, why do they want her to come? From what you’ve written, it’s not like they’ve been trying to include her much in the past. In fact, they’ve given you the impression it’s not a very serious relationship. No wonder you want to know what all this is about, and why it has to be at your wedding.

    Also, it seems like this is all coming from your father, and your mother hasn’t spoken about this – are your parents divorcing and is Myrtle a new step?

    If you do invite her, you really don’t have to do more than say hello. (That is, unless your parents are attempting to include her in the wedding party. That’s a whole ‘nother ball of wax, and should oh-so-well be met with a resounding NO)

    Again, best wishes. Love and joy!

    • neverjaunty said:

      “she gets to be one your parents’ “I insist” cards” – except that LW’s dad is telling LW Myrtle is “unlikely” to show up anyway and won’t explain to LW why the invitation is important. That’s what is making this weird.

      • MrsMorley said:

        It’s not clear to me from LW’s letter that she has asked why this is important.

        I agree that her father is acting strange.

  24. Brynndragon said:

    You know, I seriously wonder if parents and Myrtle are specifically in the closet to the OP because of how horribly they reacted to finding out as a kid. I know I would feel like shit if I revealed to my kid that a family friend was more than a friend after God only knows how many years of having to hide it (because that is the kind of stuff that can get your kids taken away from you in a lot of places) and they responded to it with anger and anxiety and my-world-is-falling-apart (I’m pretty sure that they knew you reacted this way at the time, 11-year-olds are not known for their skills at hiding such things). Hell, I could even see parents deciding the right thing to do from that moment on was to protect that kid as much as possible from their socially-unacceptable relationship, while testing the waters now and again to see if the kid is less distressed by it and can maybe handle what’s really going on. (BTW, I don’t think how they’ve been going about this is a *good* way to handle the situation, but it’s an understandable one.)

    That said, OP, even in that case inviting Myrtle to your wedding won’t solve the problem. As long as what your parents are saying to you (regardless of what they’re saying to themselves and Myrtle and the rest of the world) and what they’re doing re: Myrtle are so far out of alignment, there is literally not a place for her at your wedding. It’s sad that they can’t bring someone who looks a hell of a lot like a love of their lives to their daughter’s wedding, but that is the bed they’ve made for themselves over a considerable number of years. Forcing you to invite her will not fix that.

    • Cyberwulf said:

      They didn’t tell the LW when she was eleven. When they did tell her that they’re swingers/poly, they included the fact that they’ve been doing this *since* she was eleven.

    • “I know I would feel like shit if I revealed to my kid that a family friend was more than a friend after God only knows how many years of having to hide it (because that is the kind of stuff that can get your kids taken away from you in a lot of places) and they responded to it with anger and anxiety and my-world-is-falling-apart”

      I think that’s a pretty normal and expected reaction to a huge family revelation like this. Your hypothetical kid (whether young or an adult) would have to be some kind of saint to be able to jump immediately and sincerely to “I’m so happy for you” without having to work out some feelings of betrayal and having been lied to even if they understand that you haven’t done anything actually wrong.

      This situation is analogous to if you thought your parents had a happy marriage, but then one day they told you they hadn’t been happy at all, but just concealing their marriage problems from you, and now they were getting divorced. Divorce isn’t wrong, and even concealing your marriage problems from your kids isn’t wrong, but the kid’s world still really has been turned upside down and they are going to have to work through their feelings before they can arrive at a supportive place.

      • Cyberwulf said:

        Seriously. I’m a little distressed at the people who seem to be putting a “the LW should be more open-minded about poly relationships” slant on this. It’s more like “oh well now that you’re all grown up I guess I can tell you there’s a woman in my life, and we’ve been a couple since your mother and I divorced. By the way she’s coming to your wedding. Whew, now that that’s all out in the open I’m going to trundle along like everything’s normal. Why are you looking at me like that?”

  25. extinction said:

    There is a lot going on here, but the most important thing regarding LW’s question is this: IT IS YOUR WEDDING. You. You and the person you are marrying. It is not your parents’ wedding and they do NOT get a say in who “must” be invited, all the more if the guest list is already small.

    Your wedding, your day, your rules. End of discussion! If your parents can’t respect that you are uncomfortable having Myrtle there… yuck. Your wedding is about YOU, not them.

    • victoria said:

      I think that it’s not unreasonable to say that the parents have the right to invite a certain number of guests given that they are contributing financially. The LW’s position on this strikes me as pretty sane.

      The LW always has the right to scale down the wedding to one that doesn’t require any financial contribution from their parents in exchange for complete control over the guest list. But of course that comes with its own political problems.

      • mamacitaconpistoles said:

        I do think the “I insist” cards is less about *who* and more about *how many.* If the venue seats 90, the parents of the intendeds get [n] of those invites for their social obligations/desires. It’s a way of making sure the parents don’t invite the whole knitting camping hiking club, but that they have company there, too.

        But I also think an “I Insist” card comes with veto power. It just does. We maybe don’t think far enough ahead- or know that we need to think ahead- to say “I don’t trust you not to invite someone really inappropriate to this wedding.” But when A Situation arises, I think it’s okay to say “actually, no. Not [your Ambiguous Swinging Friend/ your new girlfriend even though you just moved out on Other Parent/ my abusive cousin” or just, whatever.

        If LW’s parents are so inept/manipulative/whatever as to not see alllllll the potential problems around inviting Myrtle, then veto power seems like a reasonable power to use.

        It’s not a “right the parents have” so much as it is “a courtesy the affianced extended.” Even if they payed for it.

        • boutet said:

          Yes to the veto power! My parents got to choose 6 friends (or three couples) to invite but I had 2 of their friends in mind that were for sure not coming to my wedding. They didn’t end up picking those people so it all passed quietly, but if they had been tapped then my mighty hammer of veto would have appeared.

  26. anserini said:

    I’m curious as to whether Myrtle even wants to go to the wedding, or if she knows that LW is being pressured to invite her, especially if LW’s father thinks Myrtle won’t accept the invitation.

    If it were me, I’d ask the parents for Myrtle’s email, tell her what’s going on (ask her about her wishes–it may be that she didn’t know how your parents were going about getting her an invite and needs to have a serious talk with them), mention that your wedding is going to be for close friends/family only, and say “I hope you understand why this isn’t the best circumstance for us to meet/hang out/have awkward pressured invitations”.

    If financial contributions from parents are a necessity, I might offer to arrange something smaller after the wedding to provide an environment where you can meet Myrtle, or invite her to the rehearsal dinner/reception/whatever but not wedding proper.

  27. Cat Geek said:

    I’m wondering if maybe the parents are more commited to the child than they are to Myrtle herself. Maybe they dont want a long term commited romantic relationship with Myrtle, but they are commited to raising their child with her, and moving near her is a matter of conviencence for sharing parenting duties.

    Doesn’t really change the advice that much though. If the parents want Myrtle to be treated like family, they need to be honest about the nature of the relationship and do the emotional work involved.

    • Xenophile said:

      Yeah, it just occurred to me that this could be a co-parenting relationship rather than a primarily romantic or sexual one. I know various queer people who have had biological children with friends and together they decide, ok, are you a sperm/egg donor, or are you a parent? If the latter, then everybody has a relationship with the child but not necessarily a romantic relationship with each other. So maybe Myrtle and LW’s parents really don’t have a formal romantic relationship…but that would still mean they have a formal co-parenting relationship, which they still need to clarify if they want the mother of their child to come to LW’s wedding.

      • Cat Geek said:

        “So maybe Myrtle and LW’s parents really don’t have a formal romantic relationship…but that would still mean they have a formal co-parenting relationship, which they still need to clarify if they want the mother of their child to come to LW’s wedding.”

        It’s a sticky situation largely because we don’t have good language to describe non traditional families, and poly situations require particularly good communication.

        Everyone seems to be getting hung up on the word “formal”. First, We don’t know if that’s the actual word the LWs parents used or if the LW was paraphrasing. Second, we dont know what the word “formal” means to the LW or to the parents. It could mean anything from “more than just a casual hookup” to “we are a long term committed, financially entangled, legally protected, triad”. Maybe the parents were using it more in the latter sense, and the LW is using it more in the former sense.

        • Xenophile said:

          True, and someone else pointed out that LW’s parents themselves might not have the vocabulary to describe their situation. I meant ‘formal’ to roughly mean ‘we’ve sat down and articulated everyone’s roles and responsibilities,’ but maybe LW or the parents use that word to mean ‘legally recognized’ or something. It really just underscores how unclear the communication has been between LW and her parents.

  28. Sparky said:

    I know someone who was transitioning from male to female, and was going to their daughter’s wedding planning to share that news then. Her reasoning was that travel was expensive, she couldn’t afford to make a trip just to share the news, and everyone would be in one place for the wedding, so she could tell everyone in person. She was persuaded to wait to make that announcement, and I have to say I think that was the better decision. FWIW, the whole family did come around in time to support her new post transition female self, and to accept her new partner, even her mother who was devastated at first. But I would have hated for everyone to try and take in this news on a day that was supposed to be about her daughter getting married.

    I think the LW’s wedding is also not the time to debut Myrtle, especially since the parents are being so unclear about who/what Myrtle is to them. I’d hate for Myrtle to have to explain who she is, and for the news to travel like wildfire around the wedding/reception. The parents can figure out who Myrtle is to them, and then introduce her to family and friends, possibly not all at once, and everyone can figure out how they feel about all this, especially with a baby being involved. But this can all occur not on someone else’s special day. This would be kinder to Myrtle, as well as to LW and her fiance.

  29. Bunny said:

    I’m going to suggest that IF LW decides to consider inviting Myrtle… they can and should issue a very simple, direct rule about this with the parents.

    1- Before any invite is agreed on, they need to actually tell LW what their relationship with her is for real.
    2- Before any invite is agreed on, they need to actually tell LW what relationship they would like for her to have with Myrtle and Myrtle’s kids.
    3- Before any invite is agreed on, they need to arrange a meeting between Myrtle and LW where they can actually meet and talk in person, possibly without LW’s parents being part of the conversation beyond introducing them, so they can actually find out where they both stand without the parents hovering and leading the situation.
    4- This all needs to happen before invites are posted out to the rest of the wedding party. if parents do not get this sorted before the invites are posted (and give them a date cut-off) then that is them making a choice and Myrtle will not be invited and LW will not be expected to hear another word about meeting Myrtle until after the wedding.

    Because I agree with the commentariat that it sounds like your parents are being evasive and weird about this and are possibly telling a different narrative to you than the one they tell Myrtle, and the one they tell themselves, and it isn’t fair to you or to Myrtle for them leave you both floating in the wind like this, nor is it fair to expect you to treat Myrtle like a part of the family in terms of wedding invites if they aren’t giving you and her the chance to find out what sort of familial relationship, if any, you want with each other.

  30. firecatstef said:

    LW, I don’t think that there needs to be a referendum on the nature of your parents’ relationship with Myrtle before the wedding. Myrtle has been close to your parents, in whatever capacity, for several years. It’s not unreasonable for your parents to ask that she be invited, especially if you said they got “I insists.”

    Whether you do invite her is another question. You’re frustrated that your parents don’t understand how hard their relationship choices have been, and are, for you. You might want to disinvite Myrtle in order not to feel upset at your own wedding. If so I would hope your parents and Myrtle could understand and accept that.

    If you invite her, you need to know how to introduce her. So you could ask your parents and/or Myrtle herself whether she is to be introduced as a friend, a partner, a family member, or just as Myrtle. Once you’ve introduced her to people you don’t have to do any further explaining and you can refer questions to Myrtle and your parents. The only other thing you’re required to do is accept her congratulations. Between those, it’s reasonable to ask your friends to run interference if that would help you.

    LW, it’s not up to you to fix the relationship between Myrtle and your parents, even if something skanky is going on. It’s also probably not helpful to speculate whether something skanky is going on. Poly/swinger folks sometimes have relationships that aren’t easily labeled (I’m poly and I don’t have labels for half of my relationships); if this is one of them, your parents might not have a good label for it even if they wanted to give you one. But maybe, if you haven’t already, you could ask them what they mean by “It’s not formal.” Do they mean long-term commitments, financial entanglements, emotional understandings, or what?

    They should absolutely tell you if any financial/legal entanglements are going on.

    Beyond that, they might not want to explain in detail. And they do have a right to privacy on that. If it would help you to know further details, I hope they would be open for your sake, but they don’t owe it to you, because you’re an adult and your life is separate from theirs.

    One final bit of advice: If you haven’t already got a separate line of communication with Myrtle, consider setting one up. Communicating via go-betweens causes misunderstanding and damage even if the go-betweens mean well. And if you haven’t met Myrtle, consider doing that before the wedding in a casual environment. You might feel less uncomfortable with her once you’ve met her in person, and/or might learn something helpful to your goal of accepting the changes in your family.

  31. LW, I’m not surprised you had to get counselling. When words and behaviour are so mismatched, it’s crazymaking. And worse: you’ve been entirely sensible and mature about how to handle this. You’ve sat with them and asked for clarity, but they’ve still been evasive. You’ve approached this problem better than most people would, but it hasn’t worked. To still get stuffed around after all your efforts must be very destabilising and disheartening.

    (They really aren’t managing their life choices very well).

    And now, they’re using your special occasion to make a statement. We can speculate on what that statement is, but we don’t know for sure and if you ask, you can be fairly certain they won’t tell you the truth. They never have before, why would they start now?

    So my advice would be *not* to try and use this as an opportunity for clarity, because I think you will be disappointed. The best you can do is set your own boundaries. Either give the invitation under certain conditions – for example that you get to talk to Myrtle about this first, and/or that you have a buffer at the wedding, or refuse to give the invitation, using one of the many excellent scripts above.

    My only other thought would be that a wedding gift – from you to them – might be a few books on ethical polyamory.

    Whatever you choose, I hope it’s a great day for you.

  32. Oh…..wow. Er. Spouse and I are non-monogamous in a half-assed sort of way (not poly – turns out a grey-romantic and a demisexual make for no actual poly, whodathunk?) and this letter is setting off about ten different alarm bells in my head.

    Either 1) This is not a non-monogamous swingers situation, in which case the parents seriously need to put on adult underthings of choice and tell LW about it so LW can make an actual, well-informed decision or 2) it is, in which case the parents are being kind of entitled jerks, making their kid’s wedding THE BIG DAY on which Myrtle Becomes Faaaaamily. Seriously, I cannot imagine one reason Spouse and I would want to drag any of the people we swing with to our kid’s wedding. I can’t even imagine why we’d want them to get to know the kid at all. I CERTAINLY wouldn’t categorise “have a kid with this person” as a casual swinger situation, wtf.

    If this is a poly situation – and it sure looks and walks and talks like a poly situation – the parents need to really, really really REALLY not present this to LW as a fuckbuddy situation. As it is, I’m really sorry, but I don’t think people have carte blanche rights to INSIST they bring “just a fuckbuddy” to their child’s wedding, monogamous or not, especially if the child in question then has to Umfriend them (“this is Myrtle, my parents’….um….friend…”) to all involved. Nope nope. Either Myrtle is presented to the extended family as a partner/secondary/whatever she is, BEFORE the wedding, or the parents don’t really have a call on this. From the perspective of a non-monogamous parent, this seems fairly cut-and-dried to me. IDK.

  33. Not to be pedantic…okay totally to be pedantic, but Miss Manners did in fact cover this.
    From page 447 of Miss Manners’ Guide to the Turn of the Millennium (originally published in 1983):
    “As Miss Manners’ dear grandmamma used to say to one of her younger sisters, it wasn’t that she minded her living in a ménage à trois. If Sister and her husband were both satisfied with the arrangement, and the other gentleman was, too, she supposed it was their business. But when such goings on threw off the seating arrangements at other people’s dinner parties, it became other people’s business, Miss Manners’ grandmother pointed out in a tone of voice that indicated that “other people’s” meant her own.” And again on 448 after suggesting people use their words about who is in their primary social unit, “Miss Manners does not suggest that a simple statement suffices to require any specific invitation to require any specific invitation to expand to meet changed circumstances. (Shrinking is another matter: The availability of half a couple is a partial acceptance, not an attempt to renegotiate an invitation.) General notice about stable social clusters would help hosts to plan their parties. Even Miss Manners’ great-aunt was able to make the point that an orderly group consisting of a lady, a gentleman, and an Extra Man…had its place in society.”

    So, it looks like from an etiquette standpoint you’re left with the question of whether or not this woman is part of your parents’ primary social unit – everything Captain Awkward says about settling that question, I agree with.

    • purple0 said:

      Thank you! Eventually Miss Manners does address everything, doesn’t she?

      • JenniferP said:

        I’m sorry I ever doubted. It wasn’t in the Big Book of Weddings. 🙂

      • Right down to whether or not a lady wears her hat and gloves to a social video conference. I want to be her when I grow up.

  34. Rose Fox said:

    I have been in a Myrtle-like position. I did not like it, not one little bit. It was at a funeral, not a wedding, but having to be “a friend” instead of publically mourning my beloved partner was incredibly fucking brutal.

    If I were Myrtle, and if Myrtle is even slightly more to LW’s parents than “just a friend”, I would be dreading the idea of going to this wedding.

    Lovers look like lovers no matter what they tell people–it’s very hard to hide that level of intimacy–and most of the other wedding guests who pick up on it will assume that LW’s dad is cheating on LW’s mom with Myrtle (“and it’s going on right under her nose, can you believe it?”). Since presumably LW’s wedding will include many people who know LW’s parents and will either go home and gossip or get drunk at the wedding and say something rude, that’s a giant 16-ton weight of embarrassment just WAITING to fall onto the party, and Myrtle, as the “homewrecker”, will bear the brunt of it. Good times.

    It’s generally not all that much fun to go to a wedding where you know full well you’re only there because the bride’s parents put you on the invitation list. Who’s Myrtle going to talk to? If the LW’s parents aren’t out to their friends, or if they don’t have many friends there, she’s probably only going to have them to hang out with. That exacerbates the “homewrecker” perception.

    And maybe Myrtle is a giant drama queen, but if she’s not, I can’t imagine she would enjoy having her partners first introduce her to the world as part of their family at their daughter’s wedding. If she’s any kind of decent human she’ll see that for the giant rude hijacking it is. And the more the spotlight gets put on her, the more she’ll get the stink-eye from people who know nothing about open relationships and think it’s all just cheating.

    Also, does inviting Myrtle mean inviting her kids? If so, uh, kind of awkward, where by “awkward” I mean “terrible”. Myrtle’s kids are used to LW’s parents being their parents, at least in a secondary way. They’re young. Would they really be expected to pretend that Myrtle is raising them as a single mom? Would LW’s parents really be expected to essentially disown them in public–or to parent them in public and cause a scandal at their daughter’s wedding? That all sounds incredibly awful for everyone.

    Being closeted sucks a whole lot. Being closeted at the special occasion of someone who is basically part of your family but who you can’t SAY is part of your family, and who has never recognized you as part of THEIR family, is particularly unpleasant. So I am not the slightest bit surprised at LW’s father saying “Myrtle probably won’t go”. I wouldn’t, in her shoes. I’d stay very far away.

    That said, it’s impossible to know what Myrtle wants or plans to do because LW’s father is being an intermediary (and doing a pretty poor job of it).

    I really strongly urge open lines of communication between LW and Myrtle. It’s the only way to route around the mixed messages coming from LW’s father and figure out what would be best for everyone. Maybe Myrtle really IS just a friend-with-benefits and is perfectly fine with being introduced as “my parents’ friend Myrtle”. Maybe Myrtle sees herself as the father’s girlfriend, has no idea that he refer to her as a friend, and thinks LW has been snubbing her all this time, so she plans to snub the wedding in return but still expects an invitation because she considers herself part of the family. Maybe something else entirely. The only way to find out is to ask her.

    • Vicki said:

      Lovers look like lovers no matter what they tell people, yes, but there’s also a lot of people seeing what they expect to see. If Myrtle is seated at the same table as LW’s parents, and they introduce her as “this is our good friend Myrtle,” some people will figure out that she’s dating LW’s father. But others will see that LW’s parents are getting along—they will also look like lovers—and assume that Myrtle and LW’s parents are “just friends” because most non-poly people don’t expect a three-person relationship or other forms of consensual nonmonogamy. (If someone saw just LW’s father and Myrtle in a romantic restaurant, they’d be more likely to identify the couple as lovers, because that fits a “cheating” pattern, which we are trained to spot.)

      But that’s only relevant if Myrtle and LW’s parents aren’t intending to say “this is our partner Myrtle” or “my girlfriend Myrtle, would you like to see a picture of our daughter?” or answer “so, are you single?” with “no, I’m dating these wonderful people.”

      I’ve been okay with going to an event where I met a partner’s uncle, and not being explicitly introduced as a partner, because I wasn’t there as their date and it wasn’t the sort of party where most people had dates. But if the uncle had somehow read it correctly and asked me if I was sleeping with their relative, I wasn’t going to lie about it, and my partner knew that. But this wasn’t “Vicki is meeting lots of $partner’s family,” it was “$partner’s and their spouse are hosting an event for a lot of their friends, and their uncle is also interested and going to be in town.” So not analogous as far as who to invite, relevant only in terms of what people will and won’t see. A lot of people won’t see “they’re lovers” when both of the “they” are part of different visible couples, and all of the people involved are interacting as friends. Or they won’t let themselves draw that conclusion, because the context doesn’t quite fit, for them.

  35. Rose Fox said:

    .

  36. Friendly Hipposcriff said:

    First off, I don’t think the parents are handling this well (then again, we’re getting this through the LWs filter) if they consider themselves ‘swinging’, if they bring up ‘well, maybe it won’t last’ and if they demand that Myrtle be invited.
    Then again, I can easily imagine that the LWs obvious resentment is colouring the narrative – if the parents said ‘we’re poly but decided not to date openly while you kids were small’ and ‘of course we don’t know whether it will last, but, you know, you can never be a hundred percent certain’ and ‘it would be really nice if you could invite Myrtle’ then my reaction would be different.

    Anyway. I got married last month, and my MIL asked whether we would invite someone to the wedding who wanted to come – a semi-relative on her side to the family whom I have met once and have nothing in common with. And my first reaction was ‘a stranger at my [very very small friends-and-family] wedding whom I have nothing in common with??!?’ But it meant something to my MIL for her to be there, and to our bridesmaids and the mother of our bridesmaids and I sat on my first impulse and said ‘yes, of course’. And extended the invitation to her ex-husband whom I met even more briefly and didn’t want to have at my wedding on the understanding that he would not come (he didn’t) – and, y’know, it felt like the right thing to do, because the wedding was not just about me, or about us, it was about celebrating family.

    I’d draw the line at anyone I actively dislike; at anyone who is likely to behave in a manner that makes other guests uncomfortable, but that wasn’t the case; it all went swimmingly, I had a good time, she had a good time, everybody had a good time, and the wedding was better for her presence.

    Just posting this to say that family negotiations aren’t automatically a bugle call of doooom, and that accepting a mental model of ‘family’ as ‘these people belong in it and we don’t exclude them (unless they behave like arseholes)’ isn’t dooomed, either. Inviting your semi-stepmother is awkward, but if the LWs father had divorced the LWs mother for tax reasons and officially married Myrtle, the situation would be much clearer on paper (of course you invite-) while the living arrangements might still be exactly the same as now.

  37. helbling said:

    Oooh,thought. LW, is it possible that your parents are sending you these mixed messages out of some sort of misguided good intention?

    Because, let’s say that they know you’re having a hard time adjusting to what they’ve revealed about themselves? They might have convinced themselves that if you struggle simply with the knowledge they’ve had other partners, knowing Myrtle was actually a Serious part of their lives and there to stay would make things worse. Hence the continued lines of ‘nah, she’s just temporary, won’t be around long, really, don’t worry about her’ are a code for ‘we don’t think we can tell you the seriousness of this arrangement without causing you further distress, so we’ll let you adjust to the one which we feel is ‘less impact’ fully before ramping things up’.

    Not realising, of course, that a large part of where your confusion comes from is the fact that what they’re telling you one thing, but doing something very different.

    Might it be possible to call your parents out on that? Script (I’m not great at these) might go something like ‘Mum, Dad, you keep saying that Myrtle isn’t a serious part of your lives, but you’ve moved to be with her and are helping to raise her child – which are only actions you’d take for someone who IS a serious part of your life. I find this contradiction confusing and upsetting and it’s making it far harder for me to adjust to this because I can’t work out the role I want her to play in my life because I have no idea of the true role she plays in YOURS. Clarify for me please.’

    • Solestria said:

      My read was closer to this, too; that perhaps the parents were trying to include Myrtle but also trying not to push in the face of their daughter’s obvious discomfort. Which still doesn’t make her wedding the right time to change that, however.

  38. Kitty said:

    I am reading this a bit differently. The parents seem to be saying something like “Look, beloved child, can you just forget about the sex bit that obviously has you freaked out because that isn’t why she’s important to us. Please treat her like the very part of the family that she is.”

    That she is. Yes, really, and irrevocably. Quick example: If my dad and his girlfriend had succeeded having more kids after I moved out, as they tried to do without any intention of moving in together or getting married, that would have made his girlfriend my family. I would not have had a say in that. As it is, she is still my family and I did have a say which is nice, but the thing is, with whether or not someone is family you generally don’t get one. The say you get is in the how, not the whether.

    Except if it was all secret. I did not see indication of secrets from the letter here either, or of them denying Myrtle’s importance in any way. Granted, we did not get much info on the actual conversations had, but it seems to me the parents has been doing work of bringing together the daughter and the girlfriend, but not pushing it as the daughter obviously needs some space from all this? The insistance on no further formalising read to me like a “we are where we want to be with this, so just relax, no further shocks are upcoming”.

    Which is a reassurance I would need in the position of the letter writer too, I suspect.

    So, different readings possible. Not enough info.

    • Phospher said:

      Except they are telling her they could all just revert to being “neighbours” at any time, which is the opposite of saying “please understand that Myrtle is irrecovably famiily.” They seem to be stressing that it’s TOTALLY revokable! It may be that this is a fiction created with the aim of easing the LW into the truth gently, but the upshot is still that the combination of words and actions here amounts to “This person is not that important to us, except also extremely important, and she’s not family, but she is, and your relationship with the kids is *handwave* and that’s everything okay thanks glad we’re on the same page here see you at the wedding.”

  39. Esti said:

    I think there are a lot of good comments here about how the LW can sit down with her parents and try to sort out what place Myrtle has in their lives and whether/how to interact with her going forward. But that, IMO, is totally separate from and should have nothing to do with the LW’s wedding.

    Weddings are not the time to work through weird family dynamics and uncomfortableness. LW’s parents have failed, despite multiple attempts from the LW, to work out how they want to present Myrtle to the LW (and presumably to other people) and to ask for any type of relationship between the LW and Myrtle. If going forward they want to do so, that’s fine — but it’s the height of selfishness to expect that to BEGIN at LW’s wedding. That day is about LW and partner, not about doing emotional work with LW’s parent’s maybe-partner-maybe-fuckbuddy.

    As for the invites: yes, LW promised her parents they could insist on a few people. That doesn’t mean LW can’t veto specific people who will create tension and unpleasantness (even if it’s not their fault). It sounds like LW has found this whole situation with Myrtle very stressful and upsetting (presumably in part because parents refuse to make clear what the hell the situation even is). If 2 years ago parents had said “this is our partner, please try to accept her”, then I would think an invitation was necessary. But since they didn’t do that emotional work up front, I really don’t think LW is obligated the same way. This isn’t rejecting parents’ established partner, because that establishing still hasn’t happened. In which case, LW’s entitled to veto ANYONE who will make the wedding uncomfortable for the people it’s actually about.

  40. Lily said:

    as poly person with poly parents who came out to me when I was a teenager – I’d suggest:

    – if your parents tell you that have a committed relationship with Myrtle, invite her (as the “inviting alway the partner”-rule for weddings says), but insist that they tell the family about 4 weeks before your wedding (per mail, calling, whatever). So the relatives have a chance for getting over the news, call them, ask their questions, etc.

    *Everyone planning a coming out should do that several weeks before a big event, at least if the big event isn’t about them.*

    In this case, meet Myrtle once for coffee so that you get to know her before the wedding.

    – if your parents don’t have a committed relationship with Myrtle (or at least tell you that this isn’t the case), why should you invite her?

    • Hmmm. I suspect that if the LW’s parents drop this bombshell on people four weeks before the wedding, then the reaction of a lot of people won’t be ‘OK, let’s call up with our questions now so that we can get all that out of the way before the wedding’, but ‘Wow, we *totally* need to ask them about that when we see them at the wedding in a few weeks!’ and, even for the ones who are polite enough not to ask, there is still going to be a lot of under-the-surface weirdness there when people meet the LW’s parents for the first time after the announcement/Myrtle for the first time ever, which will contribute further to the general uncomfortableness level at the wedding.

      So… I agree with the general idea that getting the ‘let’s get this situation out in the open’ long enough before the wedding for it to have settled down by the time the wedding comes around is a possible option here, but, logistically, I don’t think four weeks before is going to do it.

      • Lily said:

        yeah, you’re right. As soon as possible but at least several weeks before the wedding.

    • Aside from the fact that I think four weeks is too little (Dr. Sarah said why better than I could), this advice is spot-on, from the perspective of a non-monogamous parent. These parents seem weirdly determined to keep their daughter and Myrtle apart – if so, then they don’t really get to EXCEPT THIS ONCE at LW, do they?

  41. AMM said:

    I see a lot of people asking and speculating about how Myrtle sees this.

    Why can’t LW simply call Myrtle up and arrange to meet with her, one-on-one? She doesn’t need anybody’s permission to do this, and she might get some of the clarity that her parents are resolutely refusing to give her. Even if Myrtle refuses to meet with LW, or indicates she hates LW, it would be more than she knows now. On the other hand, they might hit it off and become friends and allies. (Boy, would _that_ upset the applecart!)

    LW needs to be prepared for the possibility that things might explode. But that’s a possibility even if she tries to be a Good Girl and go along with whatever murky nonsense her parents are asking her to do. Personally, I’m the kind of person that believes there’s no truth that is worse than knowing there’s something going on but not knowing what, but that’s just me.

    • J. Preposterice said:

      I’ve been wondering this, too. In general I’m wary of “why doesn’t X just…” type of solutions, but in this case I do think it’s something to be considered, given that the LW’s parents seem to be the king and queen of confusingcommunicationland.

      • AMM said:

        I’m sorry if I came across as telling LW what to do. It is entirely her choice and her decision, and she might have excellent reasons not to contact Myrtle directly, which she is under no obligation to tell any of us.

        Where I was coming from was that so many commentors were speculating about what Myrtle thought or felt, but I didn’t see any comments that explicitly mentioned the (to me obvious) option of contacting her directly. (It’s entirely possible that I missed something, though.)

    • Bunny said:

      I suppose one factor might be in how easy that is for LW to manage. I can’t actually tell from the letter, but I infer from the other stuff, that LW might never have actually met Myrtle even in passing, and might not have any way to contact her except turning up outside her house unannounced, which would be potentially a cause of drama rather than a solution, depending on how people took it.

  42. wendykh said:

    Also I hate to say this, but I always find it odd when people are Very Concerned all the focus be on them at their wedding. I mean yes, let’s not have a circus up at the altar. But during the reception, absolutely NO ONE is going to be talking about the couple, or the wedding itself, other than to bitch about the food and bar, unless they are with the actual couple. Everyone else, absolutely every other soul, will be playing catch up and it’s more like a reunion than anything else. I’m not trying to be a killjoy or say “get over yourself” I’m saying that everyone is going to whisper about SOMETHING anyway. And, unless Dad is making out with Myrtle, or Dadyrtlette looks like Dad/LW’s twin, no one is going to think “oh this must be a threesome.” They’ll think it’s mom and dad’s neighbour LW knows and invited.

    All this is null and void if they plan to “come out” there.

    I also am in the camp who thinks they are playing it cool to “protect” LW.

  43. wendykh said:

    ARGH I hate it when a comment gets eaten..

    I initially said I think this is creating way way way too much drama for LW and for once I actually totally completely disagree with the Captain.

    The parents asked for an invite, which they are presumably due.
    They get one.

    Unless you know they’re going to be Crazy Swingers and come out all FREE LOVE at the wedding, there’s just no reason to say no. What other people think or what the relationship is, is really absolutely none of LW’s business. It doesn’t matter what others say or what the gossip is. It’s really entirely completely irrelevant, unless Myrtle has done something personally offensive to LW. Sleeping with one’s parents consensually is not justifiably offensive, sorry.

    Way too much head space given to this, and an excessive amount of unnecessary drama surrounding this issue specifically. There are lots and lots of things people don’t know about their parents (you too will discover this LW if you ever become a parent one day). The narrative isn’t changed at all. Your parents loved each other, loved you, and had sex. What kind of sex they had how and with who, isn’t relevant to the narrative. I’m sorry your therapist isn’t helping you realize this and instead is making money off discussing feelings without really sussing them out.

    • Felicity said:

      Er, wendykh, I think you’re being pretty dismissive of the LW’s pretty valid concerns here. She didn’t write to CA asking about her feelings about her parents’ swinging past — which, btw, you seem to skate close to saying she shouldn’t have feelings about, which is not terribly cool. She wrote asking about how to handle inviting or not inviting this woman to her wedding. Which is an etiquette and interpersonal question. Her wedding isn’t a general admission event, to which she can just issue one more anonymous ticket. It matters that she knows who this woman is within the framework of other people — for introductions, for questions, for seating arrangements. Weddings are highly social — I’d even say, highly societal events. It matters how people fit and relate to each other. Which has zip to do with her prying into what they’re doing in the bedroom — it’s explicitly about what is happening in the dining room/ball room.

    • JenniferP said:

      Wendykh, given the excessive use of “drama” as a synonym for “feelings” in your comments, be glad they stayed (and will forever stay) eaten. So sorry (not sorry) you can’t stay.

  44. Geranium said:

    Is anybody else getting weird vibes that the parents might be using LW’s wedding invite to pressure *Myrtle* ?
    I’m thinking, maybe the parents keep saying “it’s casual” because those are the terms that Myrtle has set, but they actually want to renegotiate those terms. That might also explain why the father says “oh she won’t come”: if she wants to keep it casual, then she’s unlikely to come; but the invitation gives the parents something to wave around saying “see, you must be more than casual already or you wouldn’t be invited to our daughter’s wedding!”

    Of course this is all hypothetical/imaginary, and talking to Myrtle directly, in addition to the proposed scripts, is probably a good idea. I would also certainly include the seating chart question in the convo with the parents.

    I’m interested in whether the parents *really* “don’t understand how troubling this has been” for LW, or whether, actually, they just don’t give a damn about how LW feels about it. (Full disclosure: my personal experience has been with parents who don’t give a damn how I feel, because everything is always all about them.)

    If they really don’t understand, it might be worth trying to say something like, “I don’t think you really understand how troubling this has been for me. Even if you can’t understand it, can you take my word for it that I find your relationship with Myrtle really upsetting? Having taken my word for it… do you still, really, want me to invite someone to my wedding that it upsets me to be around? Is her presence at your daughter’s wedding really more important to you than your daughter feeling comfortable and happy at her own wedding?”

    Unfortunately, that starts looking like it could veer into ultimatum land, and you probably don’t really want to go there.

    (Also unfortunately, the wording of that question cues the expected answer, and parents who are sufficiently self-absorbed as to NOT actually care about their daughter’s feelings at her own wedding will also probably lie about it. :bb)

    A wedding is an odd thing, in our culture; it’s *both* supposedly about the bride&groom, *and* is always actually about the relationship between families too. You are in a tough spot and I’m sorry your parents have handled this whole thing so shittily.

    Best of luck with the awkward situation, however you decide to work it. But more importantly, best wishes to you and your affianced for all the love and laughter and happiness for all the years that will come *after* the wedding day, whatever its level of comfort or discomfort.

  45. Bonelady said:

    I haven’t read all the comments, so if someone has already said this, sorry… My take is the opposite of Geranium’s – I wonder if Myrtle has asked for some sort of validation from the parents. Perhaps Myrtle wants some sort of formal commitment from the parents and has decided that being invited to LW’s wedding is it. That could be why Dad says she won’t come – all she wants is the gesture to indicate that they are admitting to a commitment to the rest of their family. It sounded to me as though the parents were avoiding indicating any kind of formal commitment to Myrtle and the children. Yes, they moved to be close to them and yes they are spending time with them. But that could be passed over/.or explained under friendship. Possibly Myrtle wants more and this is how she has chosen to request it. I would argue that despite what Dad says, however, if this is why the invitation was requested, she probably will come and might expect to be introduced as something more than a neighbor.

    I think the Captain is right to suggest that LW find out more about why this invitation to her wedding is being requested, and I also agree with AMM’s suggestion that if LW can’t get sense out of her parents, she ask Myrtle herself. That way she will know if there are mines underfoot and can decide if she wants to deal with them at her wedding.

  46. Twitchy said:

    I don’t know, man. You gave your parents “I insist” cards, and they used one on someone who’s very important to them. As far as they’re concerned, Myrtle is closest family and dearest friend.

    It’s not wrong to pin them down on what kind of relationship they want you to have with Myrtle, and it’s not wrong to extract a promise that they won’t use your wedding for an announcement that should have its own occasion, but I don’t get the impression they even know how you feel about Myrtle. Have you told them you felt rattled and betrayed when they told you about their swinging? Have you told them you feel like she’s taken them away from you? If not, they probably think of her as an awesome person and don’t know why anyone wouldn’t want her at their wedding.

    • Bunny said:

      I dunno, I guess I always assume that “yes of course you can have some ‘I insist’ cards” or “Yes you can have a limited number of invites you get to insist on” comes with an unspoken rule of “but you will not use this to be a dick”.

      I know if I told my parents they could +1 someone to my wedding I’d be really pissed off, and would veto their veto, if they used that +1 offer to invite stepdad’s brother X, for Reasons that they would be fully aware of. Because they’d be taking advantage of the offer unfairly.

      It’s like… when you’re a kid babysitting for a neighbour, and they leave a note mentioning that there’s food in the fridge and to help yourself, that doesn’t give you the right to eat everything they have in the house. If you do, you shouldn’t be surprised if they don’t ask you to babysit for them ever again.

      • boutet said:

        Absolutely.

  47. neverjaunty said:

    LW, have you spoken to your mom about this? Maybe I am reading too much into the situation, but I wonder strongly if both your parents are on the same page about Myrtle’s status – particularly given that Dad is the father of your half-sibling, and there might be a little tension as to Myrtle’s status given that.

  48. DameB said:

    LW, I have nothing thoughtful to add other than I’m sorry this has become such a head- and heart-ache for you. My folks and my in-laws made my wedding overly dramatic and complex and weird, too. (Totally different way, though.)

    Thanks to the drama, I also had to re-examine family narratives I’d been telling myself my whole life and it was frigging exhausting and complicated. Like one of those illusions where your whole damned life you thought you were looking at a birdbath and now your realize it’s also two faces. That sucks. I’m sorry. Jedi hugs if you want them.

  49. shiloh911 said:

    My own wedding had a poly drama bomb that nearly exploded involving my FIL and his partner. Husband and I decided to invite partner all on our own (there was no awkward pressure like in this situation). She was a super nice lady and we had been introduced and had started getting to know each other. She accepted the invitation and was very happy about being invited.

    However, I did not know my in-laws were not out to the rest of their family. MIL’s sister found out somehow and had a hissy fit about partner being invited, which resulted in sister’s husband quietly emailing me to ask that sister and partner not be seated at the same table. Then MIL decided that partner could come as long as she was only FIL’s “good friend.” Ultimately, partner decided she was not okay with this and bowed out at the last minute (all while apologizing profusely to me and offering to pay for the wasted food–which I told her was completely unnecessary because it wasn’t her fault other people were being jerks).

    I offer my personal anecdote to caution that if Myrtle is invited and LW’s parents are not out to the world (which it sounds like maybe they aren’t) drama could easily result if other family finds out. I second all of the comments that say if LW concedes to this invitation, LW needs to have a very serious conversation with the parents about how this is going to be handled, and that it should NOT be handled at the wedding itself.

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