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Planning Retirement Online

Relationships 74    

                             June 2008

Maggi Stamp, LaterLife's Relationship Counsellor

Every month Maggi Stamp, a qualified and experienced relationship counsellor for Relate and in private practice, writes about some of the emotional challenges we meet in later life.

For reasons of confidentiality Maggi never writes about a particular person's problems unless you have sent one in to be answered, but all her examples are based on problems raised by clients, family and friends over the years.  

You can write to Maggi at for her to respond in the column.


Wedding Plans

My only son is 22 and his girlfriend 20. They are getting married in November. I had a serious disagreement with my son's girlfriend. I am divorced and although my son has been estranged from his dad he wants him to come to the wedding. That is ok with me and I have always tried to put my feelings aside for my son's sake.

I called his dad and told him of the pending marriage and that he would be getting an invite to the rehearsal dinner and wedding. When the girlfriend found out she flipped and got very nasty because I’d called him. She said I meddled in their business. I tried to apologise but her anger escalated and said things that hurt me very badly.

So now I am not going to the wedding and not doing the rehearsal dinner. My son won’t talk to me and the whole thing is a mess.

I don't know what to do. I think I should do nothing and hope that my son will talk to me again.

How easy it is for emotions to run high in this kind of situation. It sounds like your son has done a lot of ‘sorting out’ and maturing in his preparation for marriage. Inviting his estranged Dad to the wedding is an olive branch, what a very sensitive way to offer it. It was such a nice gesture on your part too, to prepare a rehearsal dinner for everyone, including your former husband. You have indeed tried hard to put your son’s feelings at the forefront of your decisions and put your own to one side for this.

However, I wonder if you have unwittingly stolen their news and their surprise by calling your ex, telling him to expect an invitation to the wedding and the preceding dinner, and taken them by surprise - when they wanted it to be generated by them when they invited him.

Your son and his fianc?are still very young and understandably excited about their wedding. As I’m sure you’ll be aware, a wedding can be the source of a great deal of stress and family tensions and when things don’t go quite how the engaged couple planned their feelings can run away with them. Their emotions will be running high and in that state it is easy to fly off the handle if something happens differently.

I’m not clear if it was they or you who decided you would no longer be involved at all but in the grand scale of things that is less relevant. What does matter is that the whole family need to be united on such an important occasion, letting go of all animosity to wish the young couple well on the beginning of their life together is the aim.

Perhaps you could find it in your heart to once again put your son’s feelings before your own and make a few calls. First call your ex as you sound as though you still have reasonable quality of contact with him. Explain what happened and ask if he would be able to minimise your perceived faux pas by letting your son and fianc?know that no matter who told him of the invitation, the best thing is that he has been invited and that he is really happy and excited to be involved. This isn’t something you can say; it has to come from him. If he isn’t willing or able to do this, let it go and concentrate on the next - and more important step - from your point of view.

That next step is to take a leaf out of your son’s book. Offer the olive branch and ask to see them or speak with them on the phone. If this isn’t possible then write to them both saying you can see how what you did - out of sheer delight and excitement - could be misinterpreted as interfering, but that was definitely not your intention. Tell them how important their wedding and marriage is to you, to see them happy and ready to settle down together and how proud you are of your son. Reassure them, for your son’s sake, that this altercation is not a sign that you will become the busy-body mother-in-law; every woman’s fear but seldom true. Make it clear you will do anything in your power to heal the rift and help make their day special, as it will be, in so many ways.

Your son’s wedding will mark not only their union, but a vital reunion with his Dad and a celebration of all that is good about family; no matter what components make it up. Try really hard to let the argument go and offer make a new start with your soon to be daughter-in-law. She could be hiding behind her anger, if it were to disappear she would be mortified at having said awful things to you. So be the understanding parent and peacemaker, save her embarrassment, observing how nerve-wracking the pre-wedding build up can be. Say you will be delighted if you can all recover from this stumble and get back on track. Make it clear that you would be happy to put on the rehearsal dinner if they still would like that. If they have already made other arrangements, accept gracefully and go with their plans – for their day. Who knows, they could change their minds, November is a long way off.

You can write to Maggi at for her to respond in the column.
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