Mom is getting married in 3 days. WHAT?
September 22, 2011 4:31 PM   Subscribe

My mom is getting married in 3 days to a man she's been dating for two months. She emailed me this news (not too weird, that's our main form of communication) last week and I have been in too much of a state of shock to respond. How do I respond to this? I'm still not even sure how to feel about it.

My mom divorced my step-dad when I was 12, fourteen years ago, and hasn't dated since. I am an only child. I moved out when I turned 18 and she moved about 9 hours away shortly after. She has had friendships with men she works with or goes to church with and always started getting overly attached and talking about them as if they were dating, so the rushing in is not really something new.

She met Matt around 6 months ago at church and she emailed me about him and said that she liked talking to him. We live about 9 hours apart and when she came to visit me in late July they had been dating for a week. She was giddy about it, but we spent a lot of time talking about it and when she left her plan was to sit down with her counselor so she would have a neutral third party to talk to about relationships. She was already talking about marriage that first week and I kind of talked her down. She admits that she has never had a healthy relationship in her life and doesn't really know what one looks like. I advised her to just take her time and not rush into anything because the first few months are the honeymoon period and you can't really get to know someone's bad side that fast. She agreed especially because of her relationship history and her habit of picking assholes.

I was in the middle of a ten day vacation when I got her email. Less than two weeks notice of her wedding. In her email she says that I am her maid-of-honor and goes on at length about the food and decorations.

From my perspective, she knew that I was on vacation and there was absolutely no chance of me getting more time off of work, especially on such short notice. The fact that she is talking like it's a given that I'll be there feels really delusional to me. Which would tie in with her getting married so quickly. She's been diagnosed with half of the things in the book, so I don't know how accurate any of them are, but she has had multiple psychologists/counselors/psychiatrists discuss the possibility of her being bipolar or soft bipolar. To me this feels like one of her manic periods where she has a goal in mind and realilty doesn't factor in. She has been craving companionship for a long time and I don't know if this guy is as amazing as she says or not, but knowing her, she is diving head first into the first relationship opportunity she's had regardless of how good it is.

Another factor is that they are both Christians and are waiting until marriage for sex. It's kind of hard to not think of them as being a couple of stupid horny teenagers even though they're both nearing 60. I can't help but think that's a big reason for running down the aisle so fast before they've really had time to get to know each other.

I'm also pretty hurt that she's taking such a big step with no real concern over me being there. She may be kind of out there sometimes, and I probably should have seen this coming, but I just never pictured her getting married to someone I've never met and know nothing about. It feels like a violation of the kind of relationship we've always had.

So, she wants me there or at least wants my blessing, but how I can I give her my blessing when she's given me no reason? I would like to say that I trust my mom's judgement enough to believe that this guy is her soulmate, but I just don't. If I had been able to meet him and get to know him first, I might be able to get behind it, but even then I'm not sure I would because I think getting married after 2 months is just straight up crazy. I have been rewriting emails to her in my head ever since I got the news but I'm getting nowhere. I still don't know how I even really feel about all of this so I can't even begin to put it into words to her. I don't want to hurt her, but I don't know how to tell her how I feel. It's too late to change her mind and even if I could, she's an adult and she can make her own choices.

How do I respond to this without ruining our relationship? It has already taken a big hit because this really lowered my respect for her, but I don't want to destroy it completely. Help?
posted by evilbeck to Human Relations (28 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
How do I respond to this without ruining our relationship?

"Congratulations! You have my blessing. I wish I could make it to the ceremony."
posted by ellF at 4:36 PM on September 22, 2011 [27 favorites]

ellF has your answer. I know it sucks, but your mom is 60. She can do whatever the hell she wants and damn the consequences. Your job is to support her in her decisions, however stupid you think they might be.

You know, like she did for you when you were a teenager.
posted by InsanePenguin at 4:39 PM on September 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

So, she wants me there or at least wants my blessing, but how I can I give her my blessing when she's given me no reason?

Honestly, I think the fact that she's your mom is enough reason for you to give your blessing. It's understandable why, at sixty, someone would not date longer before deciding to commit. They have less life left than a twenty or thirtysomething. I'm not saying it's wise to do this so quickly, but it's not unheard of. My father and stepmother got engaged after dating two months, and they've been married for going on thirty years.
posted by jayder at 4:39 PM on September 22, 2011 [4 favorites]

Oh dear.... well, I see why you're worried about your mom jumping into this pretty fast, but: have you met the guy? I mean, 'fast' doesn't automatically mean 'ill-advised', and he might be a nice guy who's head over heels in love with her. Give her your blessing, and wish her well.

(Anecdote: I used to work with a dude who proposed to his future wife four days after meeting her --- he said he KNEW she was the one the day he met her, but it took him four days to get to their first date..... they were married until the day he died, 34 years later, and never stopped acting like every day was still their honeymoon.)
posted by easily confused at 4:41 PM on September 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

I think you are putting a lot of stock in the capital M idea of "Marriage". Would you be as hurt if she had told you that they were moving in together and living as common-law partners?

Why wouldn't you give your blessing? What is the worst possible outcome in this situation? That they eventually get a divorce?
posted by smithsmith at 4:42 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Your Mom may be making a huge mistake. She might also have fallen madly in love with the most suitable guy in the world and be making the best decision of her life. Most likely, it's somewhere in-between, and entirely her business as to how she handles this.

They both have reached "near-60" well enough, it seems, so I'd give your Mom the benefit of the doubt, congratulate her on finding love, and take her at her word.

You may have to be her shoulder to cry on if it doesn't work out. If that happens, you should try very hard to keep "I told you so" out of your vocabulary.
posted by xingcat at 4:42 PM on September 22, 2011

Yeah, I met Fake Dad for the first time at his marriage to my mother. They had been dating for 6 months (having been set up by friends) he makes my mom happy and as she said she's over 50 she doesn't have the time to wait/waste! Maybe its not the same for you but it seemed that the second time around she knew herself and what she wanted.

Good luck and I wish you the best!
posted by saradarlin at 4:43 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

as others have said, this decision to get married does seem relatively quickly, but at 60 years old your mother has the ability to make decisions for herself. it's difficult to find someone when you are 60 or 70 years old, so some people may move quickly when they find someone that they can commit to. realistically, if this marriage fails then she will have to do what most adults do which is get a divorce and deal with it. all that you can do is support her even if you don't agree with her decision.

you can respond to her email by saying something like:
"i don't know what matt is like, but i hope he is a great guy and i hope he makes you happy. i wish you the best because you are my mother and i want nothing but the best for you."
posted by sincerely-s at 4:45 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

This is not your mom's first trip to the rodeo; give her your blessing, tell her you wish you could be at her wedding but can't get the time off work, and make an effort to spend a weekend (or at least some time) with her and her new husband when the opportunity presents itself.

Yes, this is very awkward for you and not how you might want your mom's re-marriage to unfold, but they are both adults. Give her the benefit of the doubt, share in her joy of the moment, and be there for her if things fall apart. There's not much else you can do.
posted by mosk at 4:49 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

"my feelings that you are totally rushing things aside, I wish you all the best, Mom! Love you!"
posted by Neekee at 4:52 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

My husband and I married after knowing each other for 2 months and then only dated for 2 weeks, but I know why you are worried. That said, IMHO, older people tend to get married after much shorter courtships. You are probably not wrong to worry, but there is a legitimate (if slim) chance this might not be a total disaster.

I agree you should congratulate your mom and forget about the rest.

What I mean by "forget about the rest" is "process your grief over the illusions you were holding about your relationship with your mom after your vacation and in private. This is not your mom's business, that you thought she was someone it turns out she is not, so keep to that to yourself and deal with it separate from her."

I'm sorry. I know you are worried and disappointed. But you know what? Your mom is 60 and she appears happy. She's an adult. She doesn't need mothering from you.

Also. If your mom is super caught up, it's likely she does not know you won't be able to get vacation time and get away.

Either way. You need to let her live her own life.

I hope coming to grips with your mom's autonomy goes smoothly. She's an adult. This will be OK. Even if it all goes horribly wrong, it will still be OK.
posted by jbenben at 5:04 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

If she is, indeed, bipolar and in a manic episode, then you can't really judge her personality from this. At the same time, manic episodes can be terrifying for loved ones.

I'm not sure what to say. It is always disappointing and sad to see an adult make a questionable decision, and it hurts to have your parents forget about you. Good luck.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:23 PM on September 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Personally, I'd do some background snooping to make sure he's not already married or has a criminal past and/or money issues, but not everyone is as snoopy and cynical as I am. If he's not a child molester, bigamist and/or professional con-man, what the hell? Maybe she's doing something right for herself.
posted by Ideefixe at 5:40 PM on September 22, 2011 [7 favorites]

My mom did the exact same thing. I figure she is in her 60s,already has grown kids, is already done "building a life" so she should do whatever the hell she wants. She wants a partner to have fun with in her golden years, we should all be so lucky.

Oh, that was two or three years ago It has been fine so far.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:01 PM on September 22, 2011

When sex before marriage is not a possibility, the quick marriages happen. I'd be worried too, BUT. I know a lot of people who have gone into marriages that their friends and family believed to be ill-advised. I don't know a single one who cancelled or postponed the wedding because of those concerns. Sometimes the marriages worked out all right, and sometimes they were disasters. But love, hormones, the longing for companionship, etc are powerful and if we could all keep our wits about us when they happen there would be fewer of us on the planet. Hell, I've tried to talk people out of some really dumb pairings (like, with drug-addicted jailbirds). They NEVER listen. Can't control other people, no matter how right you are.

Ultimately your mom is going to do what she wants to do. She already knows you are concerned about it. Keep your relationship strong so if she ever does need support in dealing with a breakup or other fallout, she has no reason to hesitate to turn to you.
posted by bunderful at 6:03 PM on September 22, 2011 [4 favorites]

It's your mom's wedding. If you're exaggerating that there's "no chance" of you taking more time off work - not even sick days? PErsonal time? IT's almost October), she'll have to understand that you can't be there, or can only come if the wedding is on one of your regular days off. It doesn't sound to me like she 'knows' you can't make it, or she wouldn't go into the detail. If there's a financial issue, ask her to loan you the money you'd need to attend, book a last-minute flight, whatever.

She's in love, excited, and happy and sees her life starting again in a new direction. Though it's definitely unfortunate and hard to swallow, she hasn't been thinking a lot about how you're receiving this. If you want her to understand your feelings, you can be honest with her about your reservations - call and have a conversation, or plan to meet and talk it over.

Ultimately, I understand your reservations, but this is one of those life moments where you might have to just realize your job is to love (or if not love, accept) and not to control. Your mom may be making a terrible mistake. But it's hers to make. She may also be making a move that will make her happy for the rest of her life.

I don't think ideefixe is crazy about doing some Googling to learn more about this guy. But given their age and the religious context, I'm not sure it's all that strange and surprising. I really hope it works out for them and I think the most noble and gracious thing you could do is to make every effort to be there. You'll meet the guy, get more understanding, and be present for one of the most important moments of your mom's life, no matter which way it goes. Not being there is something you'd likely regret down the road.

Whether you can there or not, plan to visit them as soon as you can. And plan to have that conversation about what this means for you and her and your relationship. Also, there are inheritance implications for you and any siblings - does this man have children? What does her will say? These are reasonable questions to ask, and after the dust settles. you can hash all this out. Meanwhile, enjoy the celebration.
posted by Miko at 6:12 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

She may be in a manic episode? Call her minister.
posted by Scram at 6:48 PM on September 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Also, I know people are saying she's your mom, but if she's as unstable as you say, she's probably inappropriately treated you like you were the mom for a long time. It's hard to shake that habit and suddenly trust her judgment and expect her to be independent.

Again, though, there's not a whole lot that you can do except hang in there and hope it doesn't go too badly.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:53 PM on September 22, 2011 [4 favorites]

Sometimes you can't stop crazy. In this case, you'll have to let crazy be crazy and probably learn the hard way. She's a grown ass woman of legal age and still has control of her faculties. You can't stop her, and you probably can't talk her out of crazy. Needy and lonely + man = GIANT WIN for her here, plus there's the rush of love going on.

Older folks can really fall into relationships just like this. The menfolk are scarce and if you find one that's remotely presentable, you have to snap him up before some other widow does, and it only gets worse the older you get. My mom was ready to instantly marry her new boyfriend, except he chickened out and bailed. (I guess I'm lucky?)
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:35 PM on September 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

I was in similar position with my mom recently. After my parents divorced many years ago, she married her second husband which lasted for about five years before their divorce. After that she married her third husband. That marriage lasted for a few years but they divorced and she spent about a decade since then single again. Then through facebook my mom and her second husband met up again and within a couple months they were remarried. Now I had a lot of strong feelings against this, remembering everything she went through the first time and the reasons they got divorced. But I kept my mouth shut and just said "congratulations". Because no matter what I think it's her life and she seems happy. All you can offer is support.
posted by fishmasta at 9:12 PM on September 22, 2011

I'd call cheap shot to jenfullmoon - sorry, but what makes you think that just because a person is a certain age they can't fall seriously in love and have the best relationship imaginable?

I'm 65 and I've always been very responsible and respectable and all that. I've been divorced for many years, did some dating, had some sex, but lived happily by myself for the last 20 years. Then, six months ago, I fell back into love with my first boyfriend - from 1958 - and I've never been happier. We've both lived long enough to have gotten past all the "baggage" that people of middle years carry with them and we both know the value of each day we have together. My children are grown, and so are my grandchildren, but I'm humbly grateful that they give me all their respect and support; I know it's good because they tease me.

I can't, for the life of me, imagine what any "child" in his/her 20's, 30's, 40's, 50's thinks gives them the right to "withhold their blessing" for a relationship that makes their mother or father happy. Even if the relationship goes sour later, like relationships of the young and middle-aged so often do - well, so what? If my daughter were to consider "withholding her blessing" from my relationship, I'd call that incredible arrogance and ignore her opinion completely. In this case, your mother's going to go ahead and get married whether you're there or not; if you can make it, fine - if not, that's okay, too. It doesn't sound to me like she's expecting you to mother her or give your blessing - she's made her own decision and I say good for her.

Why should any person expect more of someone else than they do of themselves? Believe it or not, the more years you live, the more you experience and, if you have even half a wit, the more you learn - which translates to the fact that the older person is at least as capable as the younger person to decide what matters in his own life.

The relationship is about your mother - it's not about you.
posted by aryma at 11:55 PM on September 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

I have a bipolar relative and understand your concern. My advice would be to Google the shit out of this guy, and visit them soon to get a handle on the situation and what he's like with her. Then just stand by and be supportive no matter what happens. And maybe it IS the right thing for her!
posted by Ziggy500 at 3:16 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Good point, aryma. I have just been dealing with my own crazy mom jumping into a relationship, and then both her and the dude acting totally crazy, and my mom was willing to marry the guy, abandon her home, and move to another state for the dude before she'd even seen him in person again for the first time since high school. I was thinking of it from the "crazy" angle since the OP's mom was sounding similar.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:24 AM on September 23, 2011

Tell her you love her, wish her all the best, and mean it!
posted by nickji at 1:40 PM on September 23, 2011

I understand your concern given your mother's mental health history. You should tell the minister about your mother's history. And you should check up on the guy. And that's about all you can do.

I hope it works out okay for your mom and the man, but I completely understand your concerns - a person with a known history of mental health issues who is aware of her inability (up to this man) of being in a normal relationship, is jumping into a legal agreement with a man you don't know. You are entitled to freak

Let the minister know that your mom may not be well. Do a background check on the groom. And tell your mother that you care about her happiness and, if you really can't go, at least send a sincere card.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 2:38 PM on September 23, 2011

Response by poster: Thank you everyone for your answers. It helped me clarify things a bit more in my head. The young rope-rider kind of hit home the most for me because my mom has treated me like the parent for a long, long time. I guess I didn't make that clear enough in my question. My friends don't understand our family dynamic because their parents are more "normal" than mine. I've spent the last ten or so years picking up the pieces after my mom makes bad decisions during manic episodes, depressive episodes, or medication changes and this just feels like more of the same. But I do take the point that you all made about letting her live her own life. I know I need to accept her choice, it's just difficult.

I only get 10 days of vacation a year and no paid sick time so when she informed me while I was already on vacation, she knew I couldn't take more time off. It's a 3 hour drive for me to get to an airport and then another hour drive from her nearest airport, or a 9 hour drive each way. Not that I'm sure I would want to go anyway, but she knows my work situation and is aware that I had saved up all of my time off for that trip.

Now I just need to sit down and try to accept things. Thanks again to everyone.
posted by evilbeck at 2:40 PM on September 23, 2011

Hello evilbeck, IAMMP (I Am My Mom's Parent) too. My mom got married to some guy six months after my dad died. She had been openly carousing with this guy while my dad lay on his deathbed. The whole family was invited but almost nobody came, so disgusted they were with her behavior.

Like your mom, my mom has told me, repeatedly, on several occasions, that she "needs" the love and attention of a Man to be happy. She realizes that this is very unhealthy but she doesn't care. She needs a Man. Period. Hence the marriage when my dad had barely stopped moving.

Like you, my mom basically "told" me that I'd be giving her away, to walk her down the aisle and whatnot. She "told" my 14 year old sister (who deeply loved our dad) that she was going to be her maid of honor, even while the memory of her beloved departed dad was still fresh in my her mind like a jagged wound.

In this terrible situation, I could have just chosen to not show up like everybody else (and I seriously considered this), but in the end I decided to go anyway because

1) I only lived three hours away, so distance wasn't too big of a deal
2) To support my little sister while she goes through with mom's abomination of a wedding
3) Because, lastly, it would make my mom a little happier for me to be there.

So I went. The only thing I regret is buying a new suit for the occasion. (The few family who showed up came in slacks and short-sleeve shirts. I don't blame them, in retrospect).

If my mom lived nine hours away like yours and it was impossible for me to take time off work, I would have politely informed my mom that I would be unable to make it and that I wished her the very best. I would have sent a gift or something, too. It's likely that if I had gone this route, however, that she and I would probably no longer be on speaking terms. (She also said on several occasions that if she is forced to choose between New Hubby and her kids, she will choose New Hubby without question. I believe her.) So consider that possibility as well.

If you do go, make sure that you don't negatively impact your life by doing so (e.g., buying a $500 suit or taking time of work that you can't afford). Maybe this is essentially the end of your relationship with your mother? You should be prepared for that possibility.

Anyway, good luck. Don't kill yourself trying to satisfy someone who probably can't be satisfied in this life.
posted by Avenger at 3:02 PM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Consider this, evilbeck: Should your mom have waited another year for you to get a vacation before she got married? Of course not - you wouldn't expect that. It's highly likely that they just made the decision to get married while you were already on vacation so they couldn't have made more workable arrangements to fit your plans.

Best response, I think, would be to congratulate them both, send your regrets that you simply can't get off work now but hope to see them sometime soon, and send a small gift. If I were your mother, I'd be thrilled to think you were happily letting me make my own choice about who I wish to spend the rest of my years with, showing me the respect you'd want me to show you if the tables were turned.

You're obviously a very caring, good daughter and you can be sure your mom is aware of that even though it doesn't always show.
posted by aryma at 2:19 AM on September 27, 2011

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