This week, the Wedding Maven tackles an island wedding that sounds like anything but a tropical paradise.
Dear Wedding Maven,
My 30-year-old son is getting married in May. He and his girlfriend have decided to do a destination wedding in the Virgin Islands. They have invited the girl’s family, me and my longtime significant other, the maid of honor, best man, and my son’s biological dad and girlfriend. He is housing all of us in one home in St. John.
My son’s biological father has not participated in his life or upbringing. When my son was four, his father kidnapped him and abused him during the time he had him. He has attempted to kill us both on many occasions and has a history of violence.
I am offended that I have to share this rite of passage with a non-existent parent who is violent, terse, belligerent and offensive. I feel like my son has lost sight of all the effort and sacrifice I have made to care for him, get him grown, help with the down payment on a home, cars, a college education, tons of illnesses, mounds of homework time, etc. Now I not only have to share this event with a man who voluntarily chose not to participate in my son’s life, but I even have to spend seven days in the same home, on the same small island with him!
Although I first gave in to my son, I finally put my foot down and told my son the ONLY concession I would make was to allow his father to come to the wedding, stay two days and then leave the residence, so that I could enjoy the occasion. My son and his bride-to-be took this to be an ultimatum, which it was.
The biological father now says that I screwed up his vacation plans and he will not attend. Do I let this attempted murderer come to the wedding and grab some of the joy and glory of a son he dumped 26 years ago?
I can tell that you’re upset, but your letter reminds me of a joke: an old couple in a restaurant is asked how they liked their meal. The husband says “The food was horrible.” “Yes,” says the wife, “and there wasn’t enough of it!” Is the problem that your ex is a horrible person, or that this horrible person wasn’t around enough?
I cleaned up your letter a little for clarity, but I’m still confused. You say your son was kidnapped and abused and that his father tried to murder him. Does your son know this? In your original letter you mention several times how violent your ex is, but nowhere do you say that you’re afraid to be on the island with him. In fact, you’re willing to do so, but only for two days. What you say you object to is sharing the “glory” of your son’s wedding with an absentee father.
My guess is that your son is also upset and confused, and that this same situation is going to come up again. I think you need to clarify for yourself why you’re upset. If you’re scared for the safety of yourself or your son, then you need to explain that to your son. Try to make this conversation as factual and unemotional as possible.
On the other hand, if what’s upsetting you is that your son wants his deadbeat father in his life, then you need to get over it. If you keep trying to force him to choose between you and his father, you may find yourself surprised at the choice.
If you are genuinely afraid of your ex, then you should avoid him, even if it means missing out on a few family moments. It’s not fair, but your safety is more important than fairness.