I have a great stepdad, and a pretty not good dad. My dad has been in my life the entirety of it, so he’s not an absentee dad- but he’s controlling, emotionally abusive, financially manipulative (he’s a millionaire, and uses that to try to exact control over you) and just pretty cruel in general. He is married to a woman who hates me and my siblings, and they have both been honest with us about this since we were kids and they got married. They both think we haven’t tried hard enough to get her to like her or to “earn” our way into being part of their family, which we currently don’t deserve (his words.) I have tried to keep him in my life as much as possible and do what I can to prove to him I’m a good person, and always have.But he’s been pretty consistent in his vocal belief I’m not a good person, and never will be.
Now I’m an adult and I take nothing from him, and pay my own way 100% of the time. I wanted him to see what I wanted was the relationship, not the money. When I got engaged, he offered to help with the wedding, which I should have just said no to. But I was seduced by the idea we could all be a family and do this big day together, and as dumb as it is, I love my dad. Of course, by two weeks after our engagement, things had devolved. My dad, and then his wife had called to insult me and my mother (whom my dad still hates, almost two decades later) and call me names etc. My dad was apparently in the room and let her do it. We haven’t spoken since. That was 3 months ago.
I don’t want his money. I just wanted him to be a good dad. The shitty part is, I LOVE my dad! I wanted him to be a part of it and walk me down the aisle and be my dad. But I don’t think he can be. My stepdad is a good dad and always has been. I want him to walk me down the aisle, but I know this will break my dad’s heart. And frankly, now that my dad can’t show off his money, which he loves to do, and the event won’t be about him, I don’t even know that he’ll come.
My fiancé hates him and doesn’t want to invite him. I don’t want to invite my dad’s wife, but know I will have to if I even want a chance to have my dad there. Which I’m not sure if I want, either, to be honest.
How do I even begin to decide how to handle this? to be fair to my dad, my fiance, and my stepdad all at once? And most of all, to keep our wedding the happy day it’s meant to be, and not the Divorced Family Dysfunction Hour?!
PS- Yes, I do have a therapist. Specializing in family conflict. And a great support network.
Dig if you will, a picture.
- You, your fiancé, his parents, your mom & stepdad, and assorted siblings, grandparents. Max: 10 people? 20? Only people you both actually want & only people who are nice to you invited?
- Alternately, plan the entire wedding without communicating with your Dad and Stepmom. Do not take any money for them, consult them on nothing, include them in no part of the official family/wedding party calculus. Ask them to save no dates. If you do decide to invite them, send them an invitation the way you would anyone else and see what they do. Until an invitation comes, they should wonder if there is even still going to be a wedding. Until you get an RSVP, give yourself permission to stop thinking about them.
- One obvious answer is, “Eloping is a thing people do.” It sounds like you don’t want to do that, and you shouldn’t have to do that if you don’t want to, so instead really think about what traditions really matter to you and which are just there as filler “what you’re supposed to do” stuff. For instance, maybe nobody walks anybody down the aisle. Just skip that entire question and let everyone save face.
- Any time you fuck with tradition you will get pushback from somebody that whatever it is is a necessary part of a wedding. “What do you MEAN you won’t have your DAD walk you down the aisle are you SOME KIND OF A MONSTER who EATS PUPPIES?” Be ready with “Huh, we’ll think about it” and other noncommittal phrases. Get yourself to Offbeat Bride if you haven’t already. Support abounds.
- Scripts, should you need them:
- “We’re eloping.” Better yet: “We eloped!“
- “We’ve having a tiny, tiny wedding with just a few people who are very close to us.”
- “Dad, we’ve got everything handled. Just come and enjoy yourself as a guest.”
- “Dad, I can’t really listen to this right now. If you hate Mom so much you can’t behave yourself for one day, don’t come.”
- Reminder: People who call you to scream at you deserve to be hung up on, or for you to put the phone down and wander away.
- “I’ll miss you, but not so much that I want to put up with xxx.”
- “Dad, we tried to include you in scheduling, but I lost patience for the screaming. I hope you can make it, but I have no energy to fight about it.”
- “Dad, I’ve really tried to keep you in my life, but the 80th time you told me I’m not a good person and I never will be I sorta stopped caring about your opinions.”
I realize I’m constructing a fantasy here and that it’s easy when it’s not my family. I hope you get the wedding that you want to. Most of all, I hope you can release yourself from the notion that you have to somehow fix all of this with a party. You didn’t make this bitter history between your folks, you’re not making your dad act like a selfish baby, you don’t have to keep auditioning for his approval or use this event to prove something to him. There is no fixing the situation because you don’t have control over the person who is being a jerk. You can choose how much and when to engage, to a certain extent, but that’s all you can really do. I’m glad you have a therapist on your team and I hope your wedding rocks.