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My parents are divorced. One parent refuses to show up if the other brings their significant other. Help!
What may be going on: If a parent is threatening to boycot your wedding if the other parent brings a date, they are putting you in an ugly triangle. They are putting you into a conflict that you didn't create and you don't own. Their own emotions are running so high they feel it's worth threats to get their way. Perhaps they are still processing the divorce, or hate the new relationship, or don't want to feel embarrased having to deal with the new person. But you are not likely to get the "why" underneath the threat.
What usually doesn't happen, but should: A threat to boycot your wedding if YOU don't do what they want needs to be immediately turned back on the person doing the threatening. But usually that doesn't happen. Instead, great drama unfolds involving a lot of anger, emails, phone calls, and likely tears. A huge amount of emotional energy is wasted and all power is give to the parent doing the threatening.
What should happen is to immediately deny the parent the ability to control you, your guest list, or your wedding. Our advice is simple and we give an example quote:
"Mom, I love you, and I love Dad. We are inviting the people we love and we hope you show up. But if you chose not to show up, that is YOUR decision and we will be very sad. I hope you chose to come. It will mean a lot to me."
What you do is flip the threat back on them in a calm way, reminding them it is THEIR choice to uninvite themselves and you are not going to let them control you. You move forward, assuming they show up, as they most always do. And if they don't, you will not have wasted the rest of your wedding planning letting yourself get caught up in the dilemma on what to do, who to invite, and letting them get the best of you.
How to avoid potential drama: If you know it is a sore spot, you may want to prevent the emotion and vulnerability of the parent who feels most threatened. There are endless creative possibilities but navigating the possibilities can be tricky so he doesn't feel defensive.
Talking with both parents about what they want in regards to dealing with each other will help release some tension. It may be that if your dad knows he doesn't have to be anywhere near his ex and the boyfriend/new husband, he will feel fine. You can strategize on wedding photos, seating at the ceremony and reception. Similarly if the single parent goes through relationships every 2 weeks, it will be helpful to address the reality. You may just want to come to peace with having someone at your wedding you've never met and barely knows your parent (but is the latest fling.) And maybe you want to let the other parent know this possibility may arise and say you're not going to force some mandatory time that dad has to be dating the latest girlfriend before she is invited. If mom is aware she may be meeting the latest fling of her ex, well ahead of the the wedding day, she will be more likely to be gracious than if it is sprung on her at the last minute.
What not to say : Do not beg, plead, or let yourself be taken for a ride. If the threat involves removing financial contributions, then you need to drastically readjust your wedding plans and take them for their word. By not letting yourself be taken under their control, you will actually gain MORE control, even if it means some drastic changes to your wedding plans. It won't be easy, or fun, and it will be hard not to build massive resentment. But when met with irrational threats, you can't do anything but rationally plan a new course, or avoid getting pulled into the "what if" games.
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