HI, CAROLYN: After a long marriage, the last dozen years of which lacked any true partnership, my ex-wife and I divorced two years ago. Although we had lived apart for years, the divorce was surprisingly acrimonious. I'm not sure what my ex-wife told everyone, but my adult children wouldn't talk to me for months, my brothers have never invited me for holidays — but invited my ex-wife and her boyfriend — and friends of 40 years have completely cut off contact without telling me why or hearing "my side." I've reestablished relationships with my adult children, but they still treat me as if I'm to blame for the divorce and spend significantly more time with their mother than with me. My daughter will marry next summer. I'm happy for her. While my daughter would like me to walk her down the aisle, I have not been included in any of the planning. I asked what their expectations were for financing the wedding and my daughter said it would be nice if I contributed. I also asked about the guest list, and mentioned that I would find it very hurtful and awkward if three couples — former longtime friends of mine who have treated me exceptionally poorly — are invited and attend. I asked her not to invite them. I have learned that she has invited them. Any suggestions on how to handle this situation? I don't think I can pay for this, go, and grin and bear it.
ANONYMOUS: I could have done a lot more to help you if you had asked me before you put in your special guest-list request.
I understand that you're in the doghouse; that, whether you were sent there fairly or not, you were utterly blindsided by it; that you're doing your best just to take your banishment bravely and carry on. I hear you.
But no matter the specifics of how you got there: When you're in the doghouse, you don't order room service.
That's basically what you did when you tried to tell your daughter whom to cross off her guest list.
Again, it could be entirely unfair that people turned on you, and your ex-wife may well have fabricated horrible things to turn everybody against you. But the fact remains that your relationship with your daughter is — quite clearly, yes? — precarious enough that she could be one bad conversation away from changing her mind on including you at all.
So this was not the time to make demands of her, of any degree of validity. Your role was to decide you could, in good conscience, play the role your daughter asked you to play — or decide you couldn't. Period. No substitutions.
That's still your role, actually. But you complicated it by making a demand before thinking through how you'd respond if it was denied. Before, your choice was either to suck it up and deal with whoever the bride put on the guest list, or boycott at the risk of losing your daughter (again). Now your choice is to go with the full knowledge that your daughter included people you asked her not to, or boycott at the risk of losing your daughter (again). The same choice, only harder.
Before I go — aren't your brothers the ones to ask why people sided against you?