Make us your home page

Dad could come to wedding, but at what cost? Do the math

Do the math: Choose option that costs the least emotionally

Q: Father is elderly and in poor health. He has been verbally abusive to me my entire life as well as a control freak. After getting into yet another argument on the phone, we're not speaking.

I'm getting married and seriously not feeling him at my wedding since he will inevitably turn it into his day; he has a perverse need for attention that has disrupted major milestones and events in my family, including my mother's funeral. Am I being too rigid about this? He's so negative about everything I do, I can't take it anymore — especially on my wedding day.


A: Then don't. I won't give you lines about "your day" or "you deserve the wedding of your dreams," etc., because I just ate. Plus, a wedding-based sense of entitlement only distracts from what matters and opens you to regrets down the road. What matters is what you need to satisfy this goal: Take care of yourself.

One of the most crucial roles a parent plays is of protector — yet children of abusers need protection from parents. All these kids, to some degree, are forced to protect themselves.

Once your father gave you the job of watching your own back, you earned the right to keep it. That means you're free to go into any event involving your dad, no matter how significant, with an eye to what's best for you. Guilt-free.

So. The question becomes, what's best for you? Or, if it's useful to think of it this way, which choice is least likely to ripen into lasting regret?

It's not a black-and-white choice. But you know your nature, and his. You know how he'll likely respond if excluded (or not); you know whether this response scares you (or not); you know how it feels both to indulge him and to deny him; you know whether unfinished business tends to haunt you (or not). So, you have an idea which choice will have the lowest emotional cost to you. And that's the one I advise you to make.

Suggest visiting 'old friend' stay in a hotel, and tell her why

Q: I live abroad, in a city that is well-known for its nightlife and narcotics. My husband was deeply involved in that scene "back home"; part of why we moved away was to give him a chance to start over. He's made a sincere effort to change and has made some progress, but it's a long, complicated process.

Now, an "old friend" of ours (more of an acquaintance) is thinking of coming here on her globe-trotting journey, and I have no doubt the "nightlife and narcotics" are a major attraction for her. Do we offer her a place to stay, or do we avoid temptation and have her stay somewhere else? I worry that if she were to stay here, she'd drag him into some sort of trouble, but I know I can't build walls around my husband and he has to learn self-control. If it matters, she was more my acquaintance than his, so it's really up to me to respond.

An Expat in Party Town

A: Tell your friend you and your husband are trying to break away from the club scene; no need to single him out. Then, say you're asking would-be houseguests to stay in hotels, to minimize temptation; you hope she understands. TMI? Maybe. But there's no shame in being tempted or in fighting it, so who cares if this acquaintance knows?

Dad could come to wedding, but at what cost? Do the math 03/03/12 [Last modified: Saturday, March 3, 2012 3:31am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Washington Post Writers Group.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours