I just want to make my own choices!
August 20, 2010 4:41 PM   Subscribe

Atheist and (closet) atheist couple. Parents want a catholic wedding and lots more hassle from us.

I got married about a year ago in a very simple ceremony in North America. My parents came over and that was it, pretty small but lovely.

I was raised crazy catholic (one of my sisters is a nun), and as some of you may have experienced, my religious freedom is completely annulled by my family's sense of (conditional)love, loyalty and affection.

I am, however, an atheist, and the only person who knows this is my husband, who, in turn, is one too (and my parents know it).

My parents are now organizing a catholic ceremony for us in their country, like a re-make of our wedding, and this is making me uncomfortable. At first, I thought I would experience it from a National Geographic point of view (like an anthropologist), but it’s really starting to feel like hypocrisy now. Moreover, I’m having a hard time asking my husband to go through with this, because he feels like he’s betraying his values (he’s an atheist with very strong antitheist sentiments, since his family was displaced in a religion related conflict - I am not antitheist at all, FWIW)

I feel very overwhelmed. My parent’s house is a matriarchy, and mom is a very, very domineering sort of person, who has bouts of violence and simply has to have things her way. I love her and I’m scared of her at the same time. She’s harassing me with details (favors, flowers, etc) I don’t care about, and besides the charade feeling, I am utterly stressed that now I have to go through a huge party (we are a very antisocial, thrifty couple), and even worse, spend a considerable amount of money that we would prefer to save; just to please her expectations (she wants us to pay for a photographer, tickets overseas, and some shopping). I feel like they are imposing on my husband, blackmailing me, and I feel emotionally and economically invaded.

What would be the grown-up thing to do? I love mom dearly, and I don’t want to hurt her, or my sisters and dad. But this is a lot of pain for something that will give us no pleasure. Should I talk to her and risk her anger? Shoud I talk to my dad first? We already paid for the plane tickets. Should I just suck it up?

Your opinions are welcome.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (44 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'm much more the "go along with family" type for this kind of thing (and I'm Catholic to boot), but I think you should stand up and say no. This is a HUGE imposition on you, you are grown-ups, and you have a right to say no.

A more compromising answer would be to say, "Mom, we don't want to redo the wedding, it feels false, we're already married, but we'd be happy to have a reception" ... but then you'd still have to deal with the stress of the reception. If that would work, maybe do that.

But just from the tone of your post, and appreciating how much you love and value your family, I think for your own sanity you've got to say no. If you're looking for permission to say no, you have my permission.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:49 PM on August 20, 2010 [8 favorites]

How much longer are you going to let your mother control? You have to drawn the line somewhere.
posted by Lobster Garden at 4:56 PM on August 20, 2010 [6 favorites]

control you*
posted by Lobster Garden at 4:56 PM on August 20, 2010

Tell your mother no. This ceremony would be not only pointless but possibly harmful to both your self-esteem and your relationship.

mom is a very, very domineering sort of person, who has bouts of violence and simply has to have things her way.

This is a bad, bad reason to give in. You're a grown-up now, you've moved out and established your own household, and you are living your own life. You need to stand up to her, as lovingly as you can manage, and take whatever flak she gives you (though not if it extends to violence—that's completely unacceptable, and you should walk out if she tries it). Good luck!
posted by languagehat at 4:56 PM on August 20, 2010 [13 favorites]

I thought that you couldn't have a 'church wedding' unless both people were in the Catholic Church? Even if your family thinks you are, they know he isn't, and I wouldn't think the priest would go through with it. Or has that rule changed? (I know my dad had to convert for the sake of having a Catholic ceremony)

Other than the plane tickets, has anything else actually been bought/booked? The more that's sunk into this the harder it is for you to back out.

Ultimately it's your life and your marriage. You are under no obligation to do it again. Especially in a country you don't live in for a religion you don't have and spending money you don't need to. And if you decide to do it for the sake of family harmony, at least set a very very tiny budget and stick to it at all costs. She can't spend your money. (Alternately, if the idea of the ceremony is that you have a reception with family from your mother's country who couldn't come to your actual marriage you could compromise with a modest party and no ceremony?)
posted by Caravantea at 4:57 PM on August 20, 2010

Oh hell no. You already paid for plane tickets? So what? You'll be paying so much more dearly if you go along with this. For the rest of your lives.
posted by sageleaf at 4:58 PM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

You're well within your rights to say no on grounds of both respect for your husband and respect for your wallet.
Maybe you can spin the no as an economic decision, saying that you are saving for a house or something else that your parents would approve of. But you don't have to put yourself into a bargaining position - just say that this is currently beyond your means and additionally it is making your husband uncomfortable, and you don't to make his major introduction to your family a situation in which he is not comfortable.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 4:59 PM on August 20, 2010

I was all set to tell you to just go along with it until you mentioned you'd be footing some pretty expensive stuff. Just don't do it. Yeah, maybe a nice little reception/party would be alright - and might appease your family.
posted by Sassyfras at 5:00 PM on August 20, 2010

I agree that you should say no to this for your own sanity.

If you decide you can't, however, maybe you can explain to your mother that as far as you're concerned, you're already married, so this second wedding is just for her. To that end, you don't want to be asked to make any decisions or contribute a cent. (In the documentary Inlaws & Outlaws, one of the couples wanted to elope but her parents were horrified, so they made this compromise and it seemed to satisfy both parties.)
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 5:01 PM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Hello, are you my wife? Because you're describing pretty much exactly what happened to us. We called it "Wedding 2: The Return." They made her wear a dress and everything. I looked pretty damn silly in khakis.

The good news was ... we didn't pay for it. So, sucking it up and taking one for the team wasn't too bad.

Normally, I'd recommend doing exactly that -- get along to go along -- but you're saying you're on the hook for an outlay of several thousand dollars.

Deal. Breaker.

What would be the grown-up thing to do?

Negotiate in good faith with blunt terms.

"OK, Mom, let's get down to brass tacks. You want A, B and C, right?"
"Yes. A, B and C or I start screaming bloody murder."
"Gotcha. Now, A costs N-dollars, and B costs N-dollars and C costs N-dollars. I can afford none of this. So, A, B and C are off the table."
"It can't be."
"It is."
"But can't you...?"
"But couldn't we...?"
"Unless 'couldn't we' involves someone else opening a checkbook, no."
"But you're valuing money more than your family!"
"I'm valuing things XYZ. These include (insert personal goals here -- grad school? children? start a business?)."

The last bit is key. You have no negotiation leverage without a clear alternative. You can't say, "I'm not spending on X," without enumerating what you will spend money on.

I think that's where people really fall down in family-style negotiations -- failure to spell out the other side of the argument very well. You can't say you're "thrifty" without explaining why you're thrifty.

"I'm going to medical school" is pretty damn admirable.

But without getting that part of the message, Mom will be free to imagine you horking down caviar while sitting on a pile of cash getting a footrub from Satan.

He's got a good technique, the Prince of Darkness. He don't be ticklin' or nothin'.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:03 PM on August 20, 2010 [22 favorites]

If your parents know your husband is an atheist and are asking for a religious service, they are crossing a boundary and this is where you draw the bright line. This is a question of respect for your husband. If you need to, put it in terms of 'leaving your parents and cleaving unto your spouse'--it's what the Bible says to do, after all, and even though you don't believe it yourself I see nothing wrong with using language that might be familiar to your mother (and harder to argue against).

You and your husband have chosen to create a new family, and that comes first. You must raise this with your parents.

First and foremost, be true to yourself. Always.
posted by ambrosia at 5:08 PM on August 20, 2010 [3 favorites]

Instead of a full blown wedding, can you compromise with something like a private blessing from the priest, to please your parents, and then a nice party?
posted by padraigin at 5:10 PM on August 20, 2010

what's your mom's motive? Is it to show you off and socialize?

if so compromise with a reception.
posted by k8t at 5:19 PM on August 20, 2010

What is your mother trying to achieve by doing this?

1. Is it that she doesn't actually consider you to be properly married because it wasn't done in a catholic church? Which could be a problem - I don't think you can have two weddings! Also, my understanding is also that you can't get married in a catholic church unless both of you at least profess to be catholic - sounds like even if you may be willing to go along with that, it sounds like your husband won't be.

So if it's an actual wedding ceremony in the church, I agree with the posters above that recommend saying no. It sounds as though doing that will be tough, possibly very tough. But it also sounds like something you have to do, for your own sake and for your husband.

2. Or is it that she's upset that a lot of family couldn't make it to the original wedding, so wants to organise something (not necessarily a church ceremony, maybe just a reception) to enable them to celebrate your marriage with you?

If it's just a reception not a ceremony, then maybe that's okay for you and your husband - but even then, you probably need to be firm about the financial committments you're being asked to make - and say no where required.

3. Aside from the religious and family stuff, it may just be a classic case of a mother wanting to organise a wedding - your sister is a nun, and you organised your own wedding, so she might just be feeling that she missed out (our parents' generation were used to their parents organising their weddings, but our generation tend to organise our own - so her generation have missed out!). So a reception as above might make her feel better.

Would it be helpful to speak to your dad (or even your sister - nuns can be more understanding than mothers!) first, to find out where your mother is coming from with this, and to explain your position and ask for advice about broaching this with your mother? But ultimately I think you need to be the one to speak to your mother and tell her your decision.

Good luck.
posted by finding.perdita at 5:28 PM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

You can get married in a Catholic Church if only one party is Catholic (at least in North America; 75% of my pre-Cana class was Catholic/non Catholic); but the Catholic Church also recognizes civil ceremonies as valid marriages. You can have a sacramental dealie done after the civil wedding, but it isn't necessary.

I think this is less about any concerns about the validity of the marriage and more about mom's ideas of what the wedding "ought to be like."
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:37 PM on August 20, 2010

A second, religious wedding? No, you can't do that and face yourself (and your husband!) in the morning. Given the family dynamic, however, I would counter-propose a non-religious, celebratory reception. There's probably no way she will agree to that, but it's an acceptable middle ground that will still permit your folks to express their joy at your union to their friends and other relatives.

Also, as I'm sure you are aware, there are long term implications to caving in to your mom's demands. Should you have kids, will your mom expect them to be raised in the Church? Because that's more or less the point of a wedding in the religion, right? It isn't about you, it's about a) your parents' reputation/standing in their community, and b) laying the appropriate groundwork for your potential offspring/their future grandchildren.

If you have this argument now, it will be easier when you have the next one down the road. If you cave in now, I think you are setting yourself up for a lot more trouble in the future.
posted by mosk at 5:39 PM on August 20, 2010

We already paid for the plane tickets.

Sunk cost!

Don't do it. You already explained why, better than any of us could. "this is a lot of pain for something that will give us no pleasure." Nothing more needs to be said.

Agreeing to do something for someone because that person has "bouts of violence" is a terrible, terrible thing to do.
posted by Jaltcoh at 5:39 PM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Hi. I'm the agnostic spouse of a man who comes from a crazy catholic family (Stations of the Cross every Friday, brother is a priest, it took years for me to convince him that Thanksgiving was not a holy day...).

Please, honor your husband's feelings. You don't have the money. Neither you nor your husband has the heart for this. It is OK to say no.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 5:41 PM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Two thoughts. One, if there were no costs other than plane ticket to visit, I would say go through with it, but you and your husband come up with some secret sign to give each other to let each other know this is so painful and as an inside joke between you two. Sort of like you cross your fingers so it doesn't count.

On the other hand, If I were your husband, I would offer (insist?) to be the "bad guy" here. Take whatever heat given but be the reason why this so should not work. "Mom, you need to sit down. DH is an atheist as you know and he is refusing to participate as it is hypocritical. He wants to talk to the priest to tell him that too. He also refuses to spend the money on this because we have little and this to him is a sham. I cannot for the life of me ruin my marriage so that I can get married. Maybe over time I can convince DH, but he is not ready yet. If you just want to have a local party for your friends and have a priest say a blessing over our marriage as a toast, I think I can get him to go along."
posted by JohnnyGunn at 5:48 PM on August 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

What would be the grown-up thing to do?

An adult doesn't act like a child just because her mother treats her like one. Moreover, an adult with a husband makes decisions with him rather than following along with what her mom demands and asking her husband to do the same. If you and your husband don't want to have a religious ceremony, and you don't want to spend the money your mom is asking you to spend, say no. "Mom, there's going to be a change of plans. [Husband] and I have decided we don't want this ceremony. We're willing to [whatever you're willing to do--use the tickets to visit? arrange for a big family portrait session?], but we want you to stop planning this ceremony because it's not something we're comfortable participating in."

It's really hard to set limits with controlling parents, and it's really hard to assert yourself as an adult with parents who refuse to acknowledge that you're no longer under their authority. But it's important. Mosk makes a very good point about the future you set up for yourselves and reinforce if you go along with this despite your strong feelings about it. It's one thing to attend mass with your family on the occasional holiday, and quite another to directly participate in a religious ceremony in honor of your marriage.
posted by Meg_Murry at 5:56 PM on August 20, 2010 [14 favorites]

Also--regarding your heading, "I just want to make my own choices": you can make your own choices. You will have to deal with the fact that some of them will make your mother unhappy. It's awkward, and it'd be nice if there were a way to both make independent adult choices and never disappoint or anger or sadden your parents, but that's not always possible.
posted by Meg_Murry at 6:05 PM on August 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm an atheist, but I was sort of going along with the "Ah, to hell with it, go along with the ceremony" thing because, geez, it wouldn't be the first time we did something we didn't like to keep our mothers happy. However:

I am utterly stressed that now I have to go through a huge party (we are a very antisocial, thrifty couple), and even worse, spend a considerable amount of money that we would prefer to save; just to please her expectations (she wants us to pay for a photographer, tickets overseas, and some shopping).

You say no. No, you can't afford it. En. Oh. Forget it. Not going to happen. Sorry mum, can't do it. If this is absolutely important for your mother then she can pay for everything (then you are back to trying to convince hubby). But you can't afford it and you should not feel obligated to pay for a ceremony you don't want.

Say no. Your mother is overbearing and dominant? It's time to take a page from her playbook and stand up to her.

Let's say she says that she'll pay for everything. Then you get the name of the priest and you and your sweetie call the priest up and explain that Mr. Anonymous is an atheist/agnostic and that you are doing this to keep peace in the family. You want a "God-lite" ceremony. Perhaps it can be heavy on the ritual and history and not so much on the actual religiony bits.

But stand your ground on not paying for it. Show some of the pain-in-the-ass my-way-or-the-highway attitude that dear old mum is so good at.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 6:09 PM on August 20, 2010 [3 favorites]

In my college course on Marriage & the Family (back in the 70s) they told us that the three important things to get right in a marriage, in ***decreasing*** order of importance are:
- family
- money
- sex
Religion isn't even on the list (and I went to a Catholic college, hmmm).

So my advice is that you must stand your ground on the two most important things to defend your marriage. You of course want to do it in an intelligent and adult manner (plenty of good advice above) and so some small elements of compromise and tact may be involved, but bottom line is that you must defend and strengthen your marriage.
posted by forthright at 6:12 PM on August 20, 2010

This is when Mom gets to learn that you're a grownup. No, you won't have a sham wedding. Mom can yell all she wants but you are already married. You need to put your foot down and tell her that she doesn't control you any more, and temper tantrums won't change that.

Time to set your boundaries and stick to them - there are lots of questions on AskMe about setting boundaries which might be helpful for you to read. Expect pushback but stand your ground. You are retraining your mother to see you as an independent adult, and it will take time. It will be unpleasant for you, possibly really unpleasant, but it's far better than giving in. The longer you concede to her demands, the harder it will be to assert your independence.

She'll probably pull some guilt trips too, but don't cave. She needs to see that guilt-tripping won't get her the results she wants - remember, you're training her. Eventually, she'll have to accept the New Way It Is, and you'll have a better relationship with her. Just prepare for a rocky few months or years until she understands that she's not the boss of you any more. Good luck!
posted by Quietgal at 6:30 PM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

I feel very overwhelmed. My parent’s house is a matriarchy, and mom is a very, very domineering sort of person, who has bouts of violence and simply has to have things her way. I love her and I’m scared of her at the same time.

You have a deeper problem here. Forget about the damn wedding, it's only important because you're conditioned to think it's important. Weddings are really big parties for the families and friends, anyway.

Think forward a few years to when you have children, Your mother is interfering in how you raise them, and you're having a nervous breakdown because you can't say no to her. How far would she go? How much would she bully you?

If you think it might help to talk to someone who's been there, feel free to MeFiMail me.
posted by Leon at 6:34 PM on August 20, 2010 [4 favorites]

Listen to Leon. I've been there, too. If you mean to stay married, you need to stick up for yourself.
posted by Anitanola at 6:49 PM on August 20, 2010

Don't negotiate with (emotional) terrorists.

That feeling? Of being compelled to do things that are harmful to you, because someone else demands it? That is something you choose to feel. You can stop your participation in this at any time. It's really that simple. Best of luck.
posted by danny the boy at 6:54 PM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Look, I'm a Mormon with Unitarian Universalist relatives and family in multiple countries. If I ever get married I expect the whole thing will involve more appeasement than was experienced throughout the entire 1930s. The religious bit will be the "real" wedding, and my primary goal will be to not piss off my parents. And you have my permission to say "no" here. In fact, you have my recommendation. This thing your mother wants isn't for your sake or God's, and even if it was, it won't work unless you want it to and you don't. Just say no. And I'm nthing the boundary setting practice for god measure.
posted by SMPA at 6:54 PM on August 20, 2010

Don't go to the wedding, tell your mother you aren't coming, and go on a nice mini-honeymoon with the plane tickets you already bought.
posted by wayland at 7:00 PM on August 20, 2010 [5 favorites]

This is a good opportunity for you and your spouse to prove to yourselves that together you are a fortress. You don't need anyone making decisions for you. You rely on -- and are responsible to -- each other.

Tell your mother to suck it up.
posted by klanawa at 7:09 PM on August 20, 2010

Disclosure: I'm fairly religious. I'm of the "if a religious ceremony matters a lot to your (or your partner's) parents, and you aren't into it, just go along with it and don't make a fuss," school of thought: because it matters a lot to them, so you might as well do that instead of trying to make a "public statement" to your/his/her family about how you don't believe in church weddings. Are you the only other sibling, the only person who will ever be married among your mother's children? Or even the only daughter? I can understand how your mom and the rest of the family would want/expect a church wedding, and I'd be inclined to favor the, "hey, it means a lot to them, let's do it," scenario.

However, the fact that your mom wants you to sink a heck of a lot of money into something that you don't even want is a huge red flag here. Seriously, if your mom really wants something, you shouldn't have to pay a lot of extra money for it. Plus, there's the domineering factor: a church wedding seems less of a "go along to get along" kind of thing and more of a representation of a power struggle. At the least, I'd say you should have your mom pick up the tab for all of those expenses she's trying to dump on you. But if you decided that this was going to be the point where you put your foot down and tell your mom you're not doing this because that's what you want, in part because you need to draw boundaries right here and now for the sake of your marriage, it would be totally understandable.
posted by deanc at 7:10 PM on August 20, 2010

My mother was a control freak, although not violent thankfully. But she was really really REALLY good at making me do stuff I didn't want to do. I'd been conditioned, the same way you have, to do what she wanted because she made your life a misery if you didn't.

One day I'd had enough. She told me that I needed a haircut and she was going to make an appointment with her hairdresser, and I kid you not, she said she was going to stand behind the chair and tell them how to cut it. I was in my 30's, a mother of 2 kids, and I wasn't allowed to have a hairstyle of my own choosing?!?

Soon after, an argument eventuated. I told her she was a control freak, I was a 30-something year old adult, and I was sick of living my life the way she wanted me to live it. She didn't take it well.

We didn't speak for 3 months (but she still had access to my children, her grandchildren).

Eventually, the ice broke. We gradually rebuilt our relationship. Every now and then she gets above herself, planning something (like my birthday present of a meal that gluten-intolerant I couldn't eat) without bothering to check with me first. I'd learned to say, 'no, that doesn't suit us because of such-and-such reason'. Now I'm at the stage where I can simply say 'no, I don't want to', and that's it.

She finally understands that I'm a grown woman, equivalent in decision-making status to her, and I won't be pushed around and told what to do.

My mother and I are good friends now. We choose to spend our time together instead of me feeling compelled to, because I'm no longer frightened of her reactions, and she no longer thinks she has the right to rule me.

Tl;dr. It's going to be hard, but you MUST stand up to her now. It will make the rest of your life a hell of a lot more pleasant.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 7:11 PM on August 20, 2010 [4 favorites]

I was raised crazy catholic (one of my sisters is a nun), and as some of you may have experienced, my religious freedom is completely annulled by my family's sense of (conditional)love, loyalty and affection.... I am, however, an atheist - I am not antitheist at all, FWIW

The religious issues strike me as orthogonal to the issue of independence and the wedding. Even people who remain within the faith they grew up in often have to negotiate what it means to them personally rather than what it means to their parents.... as you do with everything else.

This kind of renegotiation to personal values and independence is a difficult transition -- both of the feelings you describe of loyalty to and affection for your family and of a desire for personal boundaries are worthy ones. You need to find a way to balance the tension between the two. I don't know what your precise solution is going to be, but I think that staking it out over something as significant as a wedding might be actually easier than doing it over something small. And I think that you should definitely find some way to strongly express the love you clearly have for your family, but let it be something other than a charade.

Because while marriage is always in some sense about family, it is ultimately your marriage more than it is anything else, if for no other reason that no one else (other than your spouse!) will live inside of it the way you do. You should let what you want guide your choices.
posted by weston at 7:36 PM on August 20, 2010

Which outcome would you prefer:

a) your mother resents you for being true to yourself.

b) your husband resents you for being untrue to yourself.

Not that either of these is guaranteed to happen, but these are the worst-case scenarios that could result from your choice. Which one would you rather deal with for the rest of your life?

Hint: When you're celebrating your 50th wedding anniversary, I doubt you'll say "I'm so glad I caved in!"
posted by Tehhund at 7:59 PM on August 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

Are you two planning to have kids? If so, just playing along with the religious ceremony now is just kicking the can down the road in terms of battling your mother/family on religious choices, because I imagine something like this will come up when you have kids and it's time for them to be baptized.

I'm Catholic, although philosophically agnostic which allows me to understand and appreciate my husband's agnostic atheism. We had the Catholic ceremony for our wedding, and that worked out fine - we selected readings from the options presented that fit what we wanted to say at our wedding and weren't as worshipful as other Catholic weddings I've been to. But with that milestone behind us, we're still talking about how my mom will deal with future grandkids. We want them to be raised in an intellectual household that is comfortable discussing the philosophy of religion (at an age-appropriate level), and how exactly we manage that is still a discussion among us. But if religion is entirely off the table for you and future kids, it might make sense to make that known now rather than fight that battle later. If your mom is anything like my mom, she may see your Catholic wedding as the foundation for a Catholic family.
posted by Terriniski at 8:05 PM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you don't believe in the God, you shouldn't participate in the sacrament. That's the argument I make at the obligatory Christmas midnight mass when I refuse to take communion. My mom doesn't really like that, but it's held so far. I'll attend mass, because they want me there, but I won't participate in sacraments, out of respect for their beliefs.
I assume that there's a social component to what your mom wants here. I ran off to Vegas to get hitched, so I never had the big event, either. I'm tremendously thankful for that.
A second consideration: what happens when you have a kid? Is a baptism in the future? Communion?
I say stop that nonsense before it starts.
posted by Gilbert at 8:16 PM on August 20, 2010

This is emotional blackmail and you already know that. Tell your parents no. If they'd like to pay for a party then maybe begrudge them that if it helps you feel better, but you and your husband are both adults. You are a family together now and I don't intend to be mean by saying this, but you need to grow a spine and stand up to your parents on this.

Before your mom is doing something else, like secretly baptizing your children.

It will never end if you don't put your foot down.
posted by cmgonzalez at 8:32 PM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Can you talk to the priest, even over the phone? If you explain the situation to him, he may be able to help you explain that this is a BAD IDEA to your mother.
posted by kaudio at 8:52 PM on August 20, 2010

Your mother is not a partner to your marriage. Do you want her to think it's something her to manage?

Getting married means that you stick with your spouse, even over your mom. You have to start thinking about your family now; the one that you chose.
posted by spaltavian at 12:12 AM on August 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I can't help wondering whether this is arising partly out of the fact that your mom knows your husband is an atheist, but doesn't know that you are too. Perhaps she wants you to do this, and even spend money on it, as a way of reassuring her that you are still Catholic? I'm sure that you're hiding your atheism in hopes of avoiding open conflict, but it's not really working. The conflict is just moving to other areas. Right now it's the wedding, then it'll be baptism, etc., etc. I think your closetedness is going to have to end unless you want similar frictions to plague you indefinitely.

The primary issue is that you're in a position where you have to decide who's in control of your life. The ability to make your own choices is absolutely inseparable from your ability to tolerate other people's unhappiness with you. This can be especially difficult when you're facing conflict with someone you love. In such situations, I find it helpful to remember that my feelings are just as important as anyone else's. As long as I can see that the other person genuinely regards my feelings as important, I strive for understanding and compromise. But, coercion, violence and domination are behaviors of someone who's lost sight of me and is only thinking about themselves. When I see that, I give myself license to allow someone I love to make themselves unhappy in my name.
posted by jon1270 at 5:05 AM on August 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I wish you had asked us this question before buying plane tickets. However, planes tickets are sometimes partially or wholly refundable. Check the terms of sale. In any event, if you go through with this unwanted second wedding, you will have even higher costs, so you can just consider yourself to be cutting your losses by not going.

Parents are used to controlling the lives of their children. Up to a certain age that is necessary, since young children are not competent to control their own lives. However, it should not become a lifelong habit. At some point you have to become an adult, and that point has arrived. You are already married, and you do not need or want a second marriage, particularly one which imposes a religion upon you that you don't believe in. If it was just a matter of going over to visit your parents and giving them and their friends an opportunity to celebrate your wedding, in the form of an entirely non-religious party, that is not a bad thing to do (particularly since you already have the plane tickets) provided that your parents are covering the costs of that party. Otherwise it is a ridiculous imposition upon you. It may not be too late to re-negotiate the terms of your visit, but since your mother sounds like a very stubborn person who insists on having things her way, chances are she will not make any compromises, and you will just have to cancel the trip.

Your mother may become very irrational about this, but that really is no reason to give in to her. Even if this ruins the relationship that you have with her, that would be entirely her fault, not yours. Don't surrender to her craziness.
posted by grizzled at 6:50 AM on August 21, 2010

It's interesting that none of the comments have mentioned this line about the husband:

"[H]e’s an atheist with very strong antitheist sentiments, since his family was displaced in a religion related conflict[...]"

Are you serious?! It may not be a question of being adults and white-knuckling it through something unpleasant - it sounds like an anathema to the guy. My advice is to invest in your relationship over appeasement to your (abusive?) mother.
posted by symbebekos at 11:33 AM on August 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'd say "I'm sorry that this may be hurtful for you mom, but no. We already are married. There will be no ceremony to please you. I'm not asking you to agree with my beliefs but you must learn to respect them if you expect me to respect yours."
posted by 2oh1 at 10:17 PM on August 22, 2010

Option 1: semi-withdraw
to be perfectly honest I would be dishonest in this case. I come from a very similar Irish Catholic background and faced a few similar challenges. Because it's half-2way done I'm going to suggest a way to half-way undo it.
(If you go through completelywith this now, it continues with the baptism first holy communion, confirmation of the kids etc., etc.,)

On the expenses side I would have a financial crisis that makes it impossible to shell out anything other than has been shelled out so far requiring a much smaller reception/event back home. More importantly that would not be something that happened to your partner so they can't play the blame game. So let's say you needed urgent surgery that wasn't covered by your medical plan which costs XXXXX thousands that's all that much you can't spend on the wedding. So sorry Mum we can fly in but that's it so not to embarass me can we casel this way back. People from this kind of backgrund tend to be very protective so they will probably step in to help you finacially and at least that expenses is of your back.

Option 2: total withdraw
However, you need to think about what up to now has been unthinkable. Just facing her down. It's horrible to contemplate because you have been brainwashed your entire life that you simply must do as she says. But the brainwashing can be countered by the love you share with your partner. You need to see that this upbringing was partly abusive and you are feeding the abuser's power trip by keeping up the charade that you're happy to do this. No matter how much she loved and nutured you she also saw you as chattel or property having very little value outside what you reflected back or contributed back to the family. She also likely sufferw from the notion that you're earning (or he's earning) big bucks in the USA and that is "family money" basically that she has a "claim" on it for precisely this kind of event. (
My mother spend 1/4 of my wedding savings on unrelated changes to her house so it would look good for the wedding because I had to have her as a signatory on the account while I was abroad. She did not think this was wrong as I would leave on the morning from the family house for tradition's sake)
one important fact when dealing with a domineering mother figure like this, she doesn't stop, she only gets worse with age. She wants to be Queen Bee and show everyone how much control she can still exert even from afar to ensure you "do the right thing" and "marry properly" not that hole in the wall little event that happened last year which she will have convinced everyone back home this "atheist!" foisted on her little darling. The disrespect implicit in her actions so far should make you angry and protective of your life partner. You can actually stop taking phone calls. You can refuse to open letters once you say we're not happy with a full blown ceremony. Maybe have a simple blessing, the priest may play ball but he also may be in her back pocket if my experience is anything to go by.
Getting other members of your family on board, creating stronger links with other siblings away from the obligatory family events that she manages is vital for the future. Are there other members of your family you can create strategic links to, who either are very sympathetic to you or also do things just to placate her and may be willing to help?
posted by Wilder at 5:16 AM on August 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

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