Father of the Bride?

My father is breaking my heart.

Every single time that I have cried about the wedding has been because of him. Historically, my father and I don’t have a great relationship, but I really allowed myself to believe in the last few years we had made some strides. Maybe we had. But that’s all undone now.

My parents divorced when I was in high school. I don’t remember a time in my life where they weren’t fighting, honestly. What I do remember clearly was how trapped in the middle I felt. My mother and I had always been close, and my father used that fact to pounce on me for information. He was convinced my mother had been unfaithful in their marriage because, well, he had been. I hated being caught up in it all and when their marriage finally dissolved I was relieved, as were my siblings.

My mom moved away from where we grew up, and I eventually moved to join her. My siblings alternated years for a while and then ultimately moved in with my mother as well.  Several years later, my father relocated closer to us as well. It seemed like he was beginning to make an effort.

I have always been hungry for a positive relationship with my dad. A born people-pleaser, I always believed that I was partly to blame for his lack of interest in me. I worked hard to establish a respectable career for myself. I’ve never so much as gotten a speeding ticket or paid a credit card late. I hate letting people down. Which is why, when occasionally my father needed help from me, financially or otherwise, I took the opportunity to show him what a great kid I could be. Even if I didn’t have the money or time to give.

A few years ago, my father had a child with another woman who already had two adult kids of her own. It was a surprise to us all, but we were excited. I had high hopes that the child might bring us closer. I was good with kids. I was the oldest and most capable. The baby was born my senior year of college and was very early. It was a very scary time. I was afraid I might hurt the baby or get the baby sick, both of which would be awful. At least those were my excuses most of the time. The truth was, I was waiting for my father to invite me in. The woman and her daughters spent a lot of time with the baby. My siblings and I felt pushed out. We didn’t know what to do. We’re probably as much to blame as he is there, but none of us felt like we could just invite ourselves over and play with our newest little sibling. And it sucked—it really, really did. As time passed, the woman’s adult children asserted their ownership over the baby and it really didn’t seem like there was a place for us at all. We felt more like cousins, occasional visitors, than siblings. We still do.  None of my siblings will be in my wedding party. We’re not having any children and my adult siblings will have other roles. That’s important to know for later.

The point in all of this is that my father moved on and built a second life for himself. I’m happy that he did. At the end of the day, I want good things for all my family no matter what. However, the caveat to that is that I have to watch my father behave very differently with this new family than he ever did with us. We grew up extremely poor. My father worked swing shifts. There wasn’t a lot of time for us. My father was a strict enforcer. He lost his temper more than one time. There were bruises that had to be explained and cover stories that had to be shared. I don’t bring this up to paint him as a bad guy—he had his moments like anyone else—but when he had his moments they left scars, even if only emotional.

After watching my dad turn a corner with my new little sibling I hoped he had grown. That he would treat us all differently and better. I wanted to believe he could change. I never ask my dad for anything. Not money, not time, nothing. I held my requests in the hope of cashing them in on my wedding day. I wanted to be perfect so that I could have the father/daughter moments I’d always dreamed of.

At first his involvement started out as apathetic. I asked him to select a father/daughter song to dance to. I wanted to be surprised and I was hoping to be touched by his choice. I was hoping to have some fairy-tale moment where song lyrics would suddenly reveal to me that my father has truly loved me all along and that he simply didn’t know how to express it. He wouldn’t do it. He could not be bothered to choose a song. In fact, he started getting agitated every time I talked about the wedding. I asked him politely early on if he would be contributing anything toward the wedding, anticipating he would say he couldn’t. That was fine. We had planned on doing it on our own anyway. Instead, he ignored the question. I dropped it. I didn’t want him to feel bad and it wasn’t that big of a deal. Still, watching him be excited and contribute financially to all of my little siblings’ activities felt like salt in the wound. Add in the fact that my father has established a very positive relationship with his girlfriend’s adult daughters and I feel sick. They go out on “dates.” They watch movies together, they get dinner together. And it is constantly rubbed in my face via social media. Ask my when the last time my dad took me out to dinner (or even let me take him out)—the answer is simply it hasn’t happened since my birthday two years ago. I have worked so hard to forgive these things, to let them go. But can you ever truly forget them?

Then, months down the road in wedding planning, he and his girlfriend blew up about the fact that my little sibling wasn’t in the wedding. I explained that we weren’t having family in the party or children at all in the wedding specifically. Not good enough. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but if you’re not chipping in to help, I don’t think you should have much pull. I was calm, but the anger and resentment from their side lasted. It is heartbreaking to me that a father who has never had my back and that has never been there for me would throw such a fit on behalf of his other child. He didn’t even try to see my rationale. If I wasn’t having my other siblings in the wedding (which my dad had no problem with even though they’re his kids too, by the way), why would I have the little one??? After that blow up he stopped welcoming us over, his girlfriend got into a verbal spat with my mom (who called because she was sick of watching her daughter fall apart and wanted to encourage us to resolve  it all) in which she called me a liar and said I was cruel to her (the possessives are her words) child. I assure you, hive, I have never been cruel. Aloof and distant, perhaps, but never anything else. I tried to deal with her statements but she blew me off. I tried to explain everything to my father, and he yelled over me and refused to try to understand. In his mind, he just can’t see it.

It is now only a few months until my wedding and I haven’t spoken to my father in person since June. We have exchanged one text since then. My fiancé has tried to talk to my dad, but he got the runaround I knew he would. The details are gory and unnecessary. All I will say is that I have cried more in the last four months than I have in my life. I am devastated. I am crushed and I feel fatherless.

The sick thing is, sometimes when people talk about not having a father in their lives I envy them. At least they know where they stand, as awful as it may be. At least they can make decisions for themselves without guilt or worrying about the way it will look to the world because the world already knows that father has blown his chances. My father, to the outside world, looks great. He’s good to his kid, he’s funny and nice, and everyone loves him. It’s easy to love the surface.

So I need help”¦ Do I include him in my day? Do I let him walk me down the aisle? Do I dance with him? Even though doing all of that will feel like a lie, purely for show. Or do I make a statement? Do I go it alone, or with my mom, or brothers? How do I move past this? Is there any hope for us?

~~~

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  1. Guest Icon Guest
    Future Mrs. H, Guest @ 7:59 pm

    First let me say that my heart breaks for you. It was so sad to read this and know other Brides face tough choices like I have. My situation is somewhat different, but in some ways the same.
    My father has always been in my life, but is difficult to get along with at times. Two years ago we had a falling out, and by my choice we stopped speaking. Then I met the man of my dreams. My father lives a distance away and came for a visit. I tried to patch things up and took my fiance to meet him. It went ok, but our relationship is very strained and we really don’t talk. I am in my 40′s and this is not my first wedding so I decided to walk down the isle solo. There will be no parent dances as my fiance’s parents have both passed.
    I struggled and cried about sending my father an invite. I don’t want to hurt him, but honestly don’t want him there. There is usually drama of some sort, and everyone will be tense. I consulted my pastor, who advised to invite him so I have no regrets and then pray like crazy that he rsvps no. That is what I did and he rsvped no. Now we can all relax and have a good time and I will have no regrets.
    Seek some advise from your fiance and a professional that is not involved. If you are a christian then pray and leave it in god’s hands as I did. Unfortunatly no one can give you an answer as to what to do, you will need to figure out what will bring you the most peace. This is your and your finace’s day, enjoy it!
    Best of luck to you! I will pray for you.

  2. Guest Icon Guest
    Helen, Guest @ 1:00 am

    Hello.
    First let me say how sorry I am you are going through this. I have a similarly difficult relationship with my mother and I know how stressful it is in the build up to your wedding. But it helped me to know I wasn’t the only one who had the issues I did, so I hope it helps you too. You are not the only one with a difficult father or parent, it is not your fault and no one is judging you. The only person who will judge you on the decision you make about your father (and girlfriend and her children) are them! And when you realise that, it’s an easier pill to swallow.

    If he isn’t talking to you at the moment then you have two choices. Leave it that way, or try to send some kind of olive branch. I imagine you really don’t want to leave it. akthough other people may say ‘he deserves it’ or ‘he can’t upset you if he’s not there’, that’s not the case at all and i get that. But if you do reach out, make sure that olive branch is something that does not compromise your position. I know how important it seems that your wedding is a fairy tale affair and all the bad things in life somehow get magically solved, but that isn’t going to happen. The best you can do is minimise the problem for that day.

    If I were you I would write him and her a letter saying you would still really like them to come, but that unfortunately there is no role for her child and you hope they understand that. Perhaps you can offer the child something else? a special picture with the bride? it’s a token, and everyone will know it, but no great loss if they take it or don’t. if you still want to dance with him, then say that. if you want him to do a speech, then say that too. but whatever you say, make sure its because you actually want those things for what they are. Don’t kid yourself that he’s going to magically become the father you’ve always wanted, or reveal some deep dark secret that proves he wasn’t the father you knew him to be (failings and all). as happy and wonderful as weddings are, they are not magic. As for him walking you down the aisle. That decision was pretty easy for me. I simply chose to make that walk that by myself. My husband asked me to marry him and I said yes. No permission sought, no permission granted. So I didn’t feel I needed an escort. I told my mother this and she never commented on it. If she was upset, she didn’t say and I know it was the right decision. I remembered the most important thing and that is that this wedding was for me and my husband. No one would remember it like we would so we had to do it how we wanted it.

    One last thing. Some people will tell you that on the day you won’t care about the little things. To a certain point that’s true but for things which will come up in the future (in disagreements and arguments, used as ammunition against you) that is not true. I minimised the future ‘pay back’ in everything to do with my mother and sister but without compromising my or my husband’s day.

    I hope some of this helps. And please don’t lose sight of the fact that this is going to be a totally FABTASTIC day. It may seem like all this stuff with your father has the potential to ruin it, but I assure you. It won’t. Have a great time.

    H xxx

  3. Guest Icon Guest
    Carrie, Guest @ 5:26 pm

    No to the aisle-walk. Invite him as a guest. The high road is a good thing. I’ve learned the hard way not to be too strict on wedding invitations (or disinvitations). If he asks you to dance, do it briefly. Then beacon others to join in. And switch to your husband. (You COULD kindly ask him not to attend the reception (just the ceremony) as there has been too much pain in your relationship. That’s a win-win. He’s there, but he’s not.)

    Realize that he is a very, very selfish, immature person, and it’s his own limitation. Try to put that thought in a box with a lid on it, and don’t let it hurt you. Think of his actions as those of a child. A two year old’s tantrum cannot hurt an adult. It’s pure childishness. The folly falls by its own demise. One thing: HIS ignorance and ugliness are NO reflection of YOU or his potential love for you. It’s like he’s too out of it to even open up his eyes and see you. Truly. This has not a THING to do with you. Yes, he is your human father, and there was a day when he was in touch with that adoration. I promise. And there will be a day when he returns to it, here or hereafter. Let a piece of your heart forgive him. But act in a practical manner to protect yourself. In the mean time, know that your true Father in heaven is watching you and dancing with you. And you probably have a wonderful father-in-law.

    On the subject of children: They’re so pretty at weddings. Have one. Why NOT have his little girl in the ceremony. It would be like having a piece of your Dad to satisfy that little romantic notion of yours. Only this little girl can’t possibly hurt you, she’s a baby. She’ll be a sweet, fresh memory. There would be no resentment from the family. In fact, Dad and his little daughter could be there for the ceremony and graciously be on their way after that. Then you live it up at the reception with everyone else!

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