Dear Ms. Behaved,
I have been dating the same man for a year and recently we got engaged. I am thrilled! He makes me happy, and I can see us building a life together. He has a great career, wants a family, is loyal and treats me like gold.
The trouble is my mother. She barely tolerates him. She never invites him to family functions and goes out of her way to tell let me know it’s “family only” although she always lets my little brother bring his best friend. When I confront my mother about the hypocrisy of allowing my brother’s friend but not my boyfriend she always says, “he’s like family.”I thought maybe once we announced our engagement things would change since my boyfriend was going to become actual family. I was wrong! My father’s birthday is coming up and my mom made it clear that my fiancé is not invited. The celebration is low-key, just a group dinner at a local restaurant. What’s the big deal?
My dad and fiancé get along really well. They both love fishing and have gone on many trips together and lready act like father and son-in-law. Out of respect my fiancé took my dad to lunch and asked him permission before proposing. I cried when my father told me he couldn’t have hoped for a better man for his little girl.
After this latest insult over my dad’s birthday, I finally lost my temper and had a screaming argument with my mother. In the heat of the fight she let the real reason she doesn’t like my fiancé slip; it’s because he’s Mexican. I was devastated when she said, “I don’t want little brown grandchildren running around my house acting like gangbangers.” I love my mother but it took everything I had not to slap her! She tried to play if off as a joke but now I know the truth and she can’t take it back. I’m furious!! I left the house and haven’t spoken to her since.
I don’t want her coming to my wedding. My fiancé says we have to invite her because she will always be my mother and he doesn’t want me to have any regrets. If she can’t handle being around my fiancé, how is she going to act around his entire Mexican family? I can picture her sulking in the corner, not speaking to anyone and ruining what is supposed to be the happiest day of my life. No thanks.
I don’t know what to do. I always pictured my wedding with my mother being by my side to help me plan, and now I want nothing to do with her. She makes me sick!
-Disgusted in Texas
Oh boy. I really feel for you and am saddened that in 2012 we are dealing with this kind of crap. The good thing is, you’ve got the support of your father and that is huge. You’re mother is the one who is singled out by her own ignorance. I agree with your fiancé, and admire his willingness to be the bigger person and invite your mother to the wedding. By inviting her, you leave the ball in her court and if she wants to continue to act like an ass then that will be on her. There is an expression in Al-Anon, “Keep your side of the street clean.” Meaning, you take care of yourself, live by your own moral standards and let others take responsibility for their own decisions. If your mother wants to isolate herself with her negative, racist views then she alone has to deal with the outcome.
The first thing I would do if I were in this situation is sit down and write an e-mail to both of your parents letting them know how much you love your fiancé, and that the two of you are a package deal. Where you go, he goes. Period. You need to draw a line in the sand and stick by your guns. No exceptions. The reason I include your father in this is so that everything is out in the open. I have a sneaking suspicion that your mother has been playing both sides of the fence not letting your father fully know why she doesn’t like your man. In the future if she tries to use the “it’s only family” bullshit excuse, he’ll know the truth and will most likely override her decision.
Here’s the important part, and where you will have to follow your fiancés lead. Write the letter from a place of love. You are very angry, and rightfully so, so take some time with the letter, let your fiancé read it before sending and don’t go on the attack. All that will do is give her more excuses to justify in her mind how he is turning you against her. Speak about why you love him as you do and how happy you are. Let her know in no uncertain terms that her tactics of trying to exclude him will not be tolerated. It’s all about taking the high road and leading by example. Easy to say, tough to do.
Then go about your life. Include her in everything you do and let her decide if she wants to be left out because she would rather hang on to an ignorant idea than enjoy life with her family. If she holds firm on not letting your fiancé come to your father’s birthday dinner, then the two of you can take your Dad out on another night and have a great time. Have dinners at your house and invite the entire family. If mom chooses not to come, let her sit at home alone. And by all means invite her to the wedding. If she wants to stays in the corner and pout then let her ruin her own day. The fact that it took a year for you to find out what her real feelings were leads me to believe that she is at least smart enough to keep her stupid opinions to herself and won’t make a scene or insult your guests. You go on and have the most amazing time of your life. Only you can give her the power to drag you down. Don’t do it.
Your mother is acting, not only like a child, but a bully by trying to take control of the people around her, picking and choosing who to include and who to exclude. Take your power back in a graceful, but unwavering way. Stand firm, hold your ground and do not lower yourself to her level. When Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus, she didn’t scream, fight and claw. She simply refused to give in and with that quiet determination she made history. You can’t fight ignorance; you can only shine light on a better way.
Yelling and screaming with your mother will accomplish nothing, but living your most brilliant life and being happy with your wonderful man will. When Ellen DeGeneres came out of the closet she was raked over the coals by the media and the public, but she didn’t lash out. She continued to go about her life doing what she does best as an entertainer and look at her now. She’s loved by millions. No doubt her haters ten years ago are now loyal fans of her show, not even really understanding why they hated her in the first place. Joy is contagious and as humans we want to be included in it. People do change and I believe your mother will, too. Your fiancé sounds like a wonderful man. Thee fact that he still wants to include your mother in your wedding after she’s treated him so poorly speaks volumes about his character. I think the more she spends time with him, the more she is going to have to realize that her ideas are wrong. If not, then she loses, not you.
Jonna is here to help you over the mid-week hump every Wednesday. Send your questions about love, relationships, life, and grabbing life by the balls to email@example.com. Read more of her posts here.