DEAR AMY: My daughter was recently engaged to a wonderful young man. We love him like our own son. His mother, however, is an alcoholic. My daughter has told me that when drunk (which is apparently often, if not daily) she is verbally abusive to her three children, telling them they are worthless, calling them horrible names, etc. My daughter’s fiance has distanced himself from his mother, but now a wedding is on the horizon. He has told my daughter that he does not want his mother there. At a recent bridal shower for his sister (which my daughter attended), his mother caused a drunken scene and yelled obscenities. I totally understand my future son-in-law not wanting one of the most important days of his life ruined, and feel that it is his call to decide if he wants his mother present. How should they handle this? Should he handle it himself? Would it be horrible not to invite her? She is still with her husband (he sounds like an enabler) and has been in and out of multiple rehabs, to no avail. What is your advice?
Worried Future Mother-in-law
DEAR WORRIED: The way your daughter and her fiance should handle his mother is to try to respond with grace and compassion, while not letting her addiction run the show.
If the fiance feels strongly that his mother should not attend his wedding, then the couple should hold hands and tackle this together. They should be mindful, however, that their choice might further divide his family, as his father and siblings will be forced to make a series of choices regarding their own presence at the wedding.
It might be possible for the couple to make some very commonsense rules regarding having her at the wedding. For instance, they can tell her that if she becomes disorderly she will be escorted home immediately. A family member or friend can be asked to take on this chore — some people hire security to escort people away from their reception and see them safely home.
Understand that she has an illness that affects every person in her circle (including you). All of her children (and her husband) should attend an Al-anon support group, where they can meet and communicate with others whose lives are upended by a loved-one’s drinking.
You should do your very best not to judge or make unkind assumptions about this future in-law. Listen supportively, but detach from all of their choices.
DEAR AMY: I am a single mother of three who has been dating a single father of one for over a year. We are both 41 and financially independent. Our relationship has been great and he is nearly everything I am looking for in a partner — intelligent, witty, caring, generous and good with my boys. There is, however, a big issue. He has never been married. He was in a relationship with his child’s mother for eight years, and they lived together. Twice during the course of our relationship I have attempted to discuss where he saw this “going” — living together, marriage, etc. His response both times was vague and evasive, even bordering on hostile, although I was left with the impression that he may be open at some undesignated point in time. The term he used was when he “grows up.” Am I being unreasonable to expect a more satisfying discussion on this subject? I feel like at this point he should know one way or the other whether I am what he is looking for and, if so, he should convey that to me.
DEAR CONFUSED: The stakes are obviously different for you than for him. As the mother of three, you are focused on your family’s future, and you don’t want to spend time dating someone unless there is a serious commitment in the offing.
You know what you want. He has conveyed to you what and where he is in his own life. I suggest that you believe him when he clearly states that he is a little boy who doesn’t want a serious commitment.
If you want this type of commitment, you’ll need to find it with someone else.