Past and Future Parents
By Wedding Maven,
Published Sep 10, 2009
This week featured columnist Marta Block deals with a distant mom and in-laws who are a little too involved.
Dear Wedding Maven,
I am planning on walking down the aisle by myself at my wedding. I haven’t seen my father since I was a little girl and my mother is an addict who drops in and out of my life randomly.
My future in-laws think walking myself down the aisle is a horrible idea. They keep bringing it up and suggesting relatives of theirs who could walk with me. They make me feel like somehow my lack of parents is my fault. The other night at dinner my f-f-i-l said “I’d really like to meet your mother before the wedding.” He knows she’s an addict who has been in and out of my life since I turned 18. Can he really be this clueless? I said, “That would be nice. I’ll let you know if she calls me.”
Lately, instead of being excited about my wedding I’m just dreading the “walk of shame” down the aisle by myself. I’ll be showing everyone how much my family doesn’t love me.
I’ve spent my whole life being ashamed of my family. I thought I was over it, but now my in-laws are making me feel ashamed all over again.
Ashamed and Alone
Yes, your in-laws can be that clueless. They honestly may not understand that your mother is addicted to drugs. They may assume your complaints about her are normal 20-something drama.
You may also be misreading some of their concern. When they offer up random relatives to escort you, they may be trying to prevent you from tripping over your dress and falling flat on your face. Or it might be their rather clumsy attempt to let you know they consider you part of their family.
Or they may be worried that their son is about to marry into a family of unstable, unreliable drug addicts. Even if you’ve done this before, you and your fiancé should sit down with them and explain the situation. Explain that one of the things you love about your fiancé is how loving and stable his family life is, and that this is the sort of family the two of you wish to create. Give the in-laws a chance to ask you questions. After answering the questions as best you can, tell them that the subject is very painful for you, and you would appreciate it if they would consider it closed.
As to the wedding itself, if you want to walk down the aisle by yourself, go for it. Other options would be for you and your fiancé to walk down together, for your best friend/maid of honor to walk with you, or for you to walk with anyone you trust to keep you standing upright the moment that you realize that you haven’t eaten since yesterday, your shoes are a size too small, and people are staring at you.
Navigating the differences between families is something all newly married couples have to do; your situation is just a little more extreme than others. I know it’s an advice column cliché, but if you haven’t already done so, you might want to contact al-anon, or another support group for children of addicts. Your wedding is just one in a line of family events that might stir up old feelings of shame and sadness. It couldn’t hurt to get some help dealing with those feelings.
Good luck to you.
Got a burning bridal question? E-mail the Wedding Maven at firstname.lastname@example.org.