Is it Fair That I Have to Give Up My Dream Wedding for Her?

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Reader’s Question

I’m having issues with my mother. She has always been controlling and manipulative. Before, I used to do whatever she asked, even when I moved to another country to study for three years. Now I’m 21 years old and I’m getting married next summer. Since I moved back to my country I still live with my parents. We have had a very tense relationship in the past few years. She’s always trying to tell me what to do, and after I trust her by telling her things about my life and ask her for advice (because she’s my MOTHER) she goes and tells everyone about it, or threatens me with telling my dad that I’m having sex with my future husband. I just can’t handle this situation anymore. On the other hand, my dad is all about the money, and now that I’m getting married he’s always reminding me he’s the one giving the money for the wedding, and my mom says she has to do everything her own way because the wedding is not mine because I’m not paying for it. The situation has been so cruel and traumatic for me that I decided I’m not making my dream wedding anymore. This part of my life is supposed to be a moment of happiness and joy, but with my mom trying to control me and making me wear the dress she wants because “she’s the one paying” I’m living a nightmare instead of a dream. When she gets mad for any reason she takes whatever I love the most and says something hurtful; right now, she’s now disrespecting my fiance, and that I can’t allow!

Now, I asked myself… Is it fair that I have to give up my dreams for her? I always dreamed about my wedding, and now I can’t have mine because everything has to be the way she wants? Didn’t she have her wedding already? Why does she have to make my wedding about her?

I really need help. I have thought so many times about running away. I have been depressed before as a result of this family issue, but now it’s the worst it has ever been because I’m trying to deal with it EVERY SINGLE DAY. What should I do?

PS: I’m not the only one having issues with my mom. All my brothers, father, grandmother, uncle and friends have problems with her, but with me she’s worse than with everybody else, and everyone notices it!

Psychologist’s Reply

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Listen to this very carefully: congratulations on your upcoming marriage. Notice that I am not congratulating you for your upcoming wedding. Clearly, you need help grieving the loss of your dream wedding, not congratulations for it. I urge you now to focus on the great that is coming instead of the relatively little that is lost. You are gaining a marriage with a man whom you have already chosen over your parents. You are choosing a life for yourself as a member of a couple that defends itself and each other and relies on each other. Very soon, you will not be living with your parents, but will have your own home with your husband. You are losing a much-anticipated day that has lived in your dreams but will never see the light of day. I urge you to keep that in mind and be the wife that you wish to become. This will help you grieve the loss of your dream.

You ask, is it fair that I give up my dreams for her? I reflect with you on the human condition; fair has nothing to do with it. This is the family you were born into. This is the culture you were born into. Also we should say, the importance of the wedding dream is another part of that cultural core which I think is over-rated except in one regard: a wedding is a rite-of-passage that changes you. For you, this rite sounds more like a trial by fire, but it is a passage nonetheless.

As I wrote in Of Sound Mind to Marry [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK], especially in the longest chapter ‘Marrying the In-Laws’, dealing with your families-of-origin can be the biggest challenge to the success of your marriage. Your marriage will succeed or not depending on how you and your husband rise to the challenge. It is not the challenge itself that determines your future success, but how you congeal as a couple to deal with it. The wedding is the initiation of the family to this new social order. You are placing your marriage above all other relationships, and that is hard on those other relationships. That is an adjustment that is difficult for your parents. They are struggling with losing you and are trying to hold onto you with whatever dwindling power and authority they have. In fact, they are losing you. They are losing the little girl of their own past and dreams, and they resist grieving that loss. For a parent, we always talk about how your child’s marriage is a measure of your success. You have successfully launched your child into adulthood. But her marriage also symbolizes the end of a phase of your life, a phase that you may not wish to see end. In desperation, parents sometimes miss the point that their role is to help the emergence of a new couple. They cling instead to imagined power and time gone by and risk alienating you in the process.

As a couple, you need to decide how you are going to relate to your parents and his. You could run away as you say, but is that the strategy you wish to use throughout your married life, to run away from conflicts and people who try to force their will on you? And is that a decision you feel you should make alone, without your husband’s input? This wedding, although far from your ideal, is a crucible for your marriage. Use it to decide what kind of relationship you want with yourselves and others. Acknowledge that your solitary dreams must change in a shared reality. And then, with your husband, present a United Front to your parents. Make the conversation about your relationship, not the wedding. If the dream is already lost, then you may not want the expense. Management of the wedding itself gets complicated, and I doubt you need advice from me to navigate it. I simply urge you to consult with your husband, decide what is important to you and what is not, and then be the couple that faces the world together. Hopefully, the world will smile on you. When it presents you instead with adversity, you will have confidence because you have already faced this adversity together.

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