So I guess my mother is getting remarried... this Saturday!?
December 26, 2016 7:28 PM   Subscribe

Yesterday (i.e. Christmas) my mother called and asked us over next weekend... to attend her wedding. I've given it 24 hours and am still totally perplexed. Please help me sort through what I should do, and maybe confirm that this is kind of bizarre?

Now, let's back up a little. In July of 2015, my first/only child was born prematurely, and my dad died. Still, I run a holiday charity for homeless kids, so after recovering for a few months and generally getting my bearings as a new parent, that and the baby were what I focused on. Then, shortly after our 2015 program wrapped up (i.e. almost exactly a year ago), my mother called and told me about her boyfriend. I said something polite, and my internal reaction was along the lines of (a) well, it's not like my relationship with my dad was ever contingent upon his relationship with her and (b) it's also not like she's asking if she should date someone, she's telling me that she is dating this person, so whatever. My younger sibling was however very hurt, and so in solidarity with her (and because it's still been weird for me too), I've maintained my distance.

So now this. After being out of town/contact for weeks, my mother called all casually, invited us over next weekend, and just as I was thinking, "Wow, she's not suddenly upset with me for somehow not reaching out more about the holiday, this is great, we can see my partner's family today and do 'Christmas' with her next weekend..." she then continued, "...and by the way, we're getting married."

I don't even know what I'm feeling. Perplexed, mostly. I hadn't really told any of my friends that she was dating someone, because it's kind of hard to talk about. My partner's family may not even know. Emotionally and physically, I'm already spent, and my partner is recovering from a car accident last week plus has been grieving for his mother who also recently died, and our toddler doesn't have school because of winter break (therefore I'm basically totally responsible for her, plus working), so I'm really struggling to get my bearings here. My mother claims my sib is okay with everything, though that's not quite the sense I've gotten. Do I just show up with some kind of gift? (If so: suggestions?) That'd certainly be easiest, but honestly, I feel like I'm getting sucked back into my childhood of keeping family secrets because everything is just too not-normal to talk about. (Except now there are the boyfriend's adult kids, whom I haven't even met, and who my mother also says are supportive, which again makes me question if I'm overreacting.) On the other hand, I have read that getting remarried quickly is a thing older widowed adults who were in long-term relationships tend to do, so maybe I should just go with it. It's clearly not as if my objections would stop anything, nor do I exactly object per se? I mean, the guy seems fine, and content to not be a part of my life, which is how I want it. His presence actually seems to have taken a lot of the burden of my mother off of me, which I had been worried about since my sib moved far away and our baby/toddler is terrific grandparent bait. But even so, it's just so surprising, especially since six months ago they were both "been there, done that" about marriage and the boyfriend/fiance in particular seemed to harbor a lot of resentment about the whole institution. I was hoping if I gave it a day I'd have a better sense of what I actually want to do, but that unfortunately hasn't proven to be the case and I don't exactly have a lot of time to decide. Thoughts/advice?
posted by teremala to Human Relations (42 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If it were me, I would go, and bring a nice bottle of champagne. Your mom is an adult, and some people grieve in ways that aren't traditional.If your mom was able to find someone who loves her and wants to marry her (no matter what they previously said about marriage; we live in a different world now), that's awesome. As long as he seems fine, I think you should be supportive. And make him and your mom part of your life.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:41 PM on December 26, 2016 [54 favorites]

It's a little fast, but not ridiculous. It seems normal to feel awkward about this, but it's not shameful or a secret or something to be concerned about sharing. Most people would feel weird in your situation. Show up with a gift and smile and tell your mom you love her. Squeeze partners hand when the weirdness is strong. You don't need to give her your opinion on the speed of her marriage, and try not to consider it too much yourself.
posted by Kalmya at 7:43 PM on December 26, 2016 [8 favorites]

I'm so sorry for the loss of your dad at a hard time and for your husband's loss and accident.

That said, I'm not really sure what the issue is for you here? That your mum started dating so soon after the loss of your dad? That's she's getting married after only dating for a year? I can totally see how that might feel odd to you but I wonder what your expectations are for her. How long would have been an acceptable grieving period?

I think it's very normal for you to have feelings about it related to loyalty to your dad and it sounds like your family (mum?) isn't great at discussing them. That's hard. But from the outside her actions look maybe a bit fast but nothing too crazy.

If you're concerned about her wellbeing or about secrets you could call her and ask her what made her decide to get married and then just...listen.

Personally, I would go to the wedding with a card and small gift.
posted by warriorqueen at 7:46 PM on December 26, 2016 [30 favorites]

Definitely go. Seeing them together at this point, how they interact with his family, etc, will give you a much better sense of what's actually going on here, whereas if you don't see them, you will still be totally at sea.

More importantly, though, declining to attend someone's wedding is the kind of stuff that people remember and hold against you for a LONG time. If you have a decent relationship with your mom and you want to keep it that way, it's worth dealing with the weirdness to attend. Bring your partner, let him know you might be needing a lot of support from him if things start getting to you, and plan to have dinner in a good diner on the road back to debrief/laugh/unwind.

As far as "is this normal," a year of dating before marriage is not that out there for older people who know themselves well and know what works for them. On the other hand, getting a new family member who's occupying the role your dad had in your mom's household is going to be weird if you're not prepared for it, and it sounds like you weren't. I think a lot of what's bothering you is basically surprise and confusion, and those will wear off.
posted by ostro at 7:56 PM on December 26, 2016 [13 favorites]

I'm so sorry for the loss of your father last year and the struggles that you have gone through since then. It sounds like a lot to have managed. That said, your mother is a grown woman who has found someone that she wants to marry and who wants to marry her, congrats!! You are about to get, what I call, a Fake Dad!! Mine also came complete with 3 fully grown fake siblings too!! Given that this is a person who is never going to parent you, he's a friend and a companion for your mother and hopefully a caring grandparent for your kid. You just need him to treat your mother with kindness and love her. That's it. I'd imagine that your mom moving on so quickly is more a reflection of how much she enjoyed being married and at her age she's likely to be very aware of what she's looking for. Aside from any obvious red flags (he's abusing her, controlling her, needs immigration help or is after her money) I'd give her my best wishes and a bottle of champagne!

Privately, feel free to totally lose it at home. It's a whole complicated web of feelings, my mother's wedding day was one of the worst of my life and I spent a lot of time crying (in private). With everyone else it was total game face... it's her happy day do your best to support her and add to her joy.
posted by saradarlin at 8:07 PM on December 26, 2016 [17 favorites]

I vote to go.

I've heard that people who have been married a long time sometimes re-marry quickly after the loss of a spouse because they have difficulty being alone - never developed those skills. It's not necessarily a callous act and more an attempt to survive. No idea how true that is.

I'm sorry you're having such a rough time and I hope things get better soon.
posted by bunderful at 8:11 PM on December 26, 2016 [6 favorites]

This seems completely normal. You mother's spouse passed away a year and a half ago; not really surprising she is moving on. Even the accelerated engagement timeline isn't unusual in my experience; second marriages seem to occur faster and with less fanfare the older people are.

teremala: "Do I just show up with some kind of gift? (If so: suggestions?) That'd certainly be easiest, but honestly, I feel like I'm getting sucked back into my childhood of keeping family secrets because everything is just too not-normal to talk about."

Maybe I missed it but are you expected to keep the marriage secret? Or are you thinking you'd want to keep it secret from some people? I don't think any reasonable person is going to judge you or your mother given the timeline. I mean I don't think anyone would judge you anyways for your mother's relationships but certainly not with the outlined sequence of events. So just go to the wedding, bring a gift (a gift certificate for a spa, concert, nice dinner out or maybe a hotel stay or other experience would likely be more appreciated than a gravy boat) and be a supportive guest. Not going would create a huge amount of drama that would be worth significant inconvenience to avoid IMO.

PS: there may be some financial or insurance reason that could have been a tipping point to getting married that would explain both the change from indifference and the schedule. While there are other ways to handle things things getting married comes bundles with a bunch of legal rights that are often kind of awkward to access outside of marriage. And somethings are only obtained by marriage. EG: My father-in-law-in-law (IE: my spouse's Canadian living in Canada mother's second husband) gets American Social Security benefits derived from the handful of years my MIL spent working in the USA despite the FILIL being a Canadian living in Canada who never worked or resided in the states and never contributed to the US Social Security system. No way that happens without my MIL and FILIL being married.

Or maybe not and it is just one of those things that changed with time. Maybe they are tired of being confused for Mr. & Mrs. teremala's Mom and decided to go with the flow and make it official.
posted by Mitheral at 8:12 PM on December 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

When I was in my 20s, my 60-something year old dad called me up and said, "Hey, I'm getting married this Thursday down at the courthouse." I knew he had been dating for the previous year or two after my mom passed away, I had met his current girlfriend a few times ...and I guess it just wasn't a big deal because he's a grown-ass adult and I was happy he's happy.

So, yeah, many adults of a certain age tend to be rather decisive about getting re-married, especially the widowed. I would have loved to go to the wedding but couldn't swing it due to long distance and short notice, so I sent a very pretty bridal bouquet to his house the day before to make sure the bride to be had something nice to carry at the wedding.

I've always thought that my dad's desire to get remarried so quickly was a nice reflection of the joy he had in his relationship with my mom.
posted by jamaro at 8:12 PM on December 26, 2016 [16 favorites]

I have read that getting remarried quickly is a thing older widowed adults who were in long-term relationships tend to do, so maybe I should just go with it.

My dad called me to invite me to his wedding of a woman I didn't even know he was dating. I think older people can do this in a number of different ways. And while this may not be normative, it's definitely within the range of normal. This doesn't mean you have to show up and be like "Oh hey this is totally okay!" because it sounds like there have been a lot of ups and downs for you and for your larger family in the past few years. It's okay to not feel like it's totally right in your heart of hearts but still show up to show the flag and be supportive and say howdy to people.

I feel that these occasions can be times where people are (sometimes) their best selves and might be a good time to high five the boyfriend's kids, be like "Yeah seemed a little sudden too, anyways how about those $football huh?" and then go off and do your own thing with your own lives afterwards.

Seems like your mom may have a bit of a history of being weird about things but this doesn't sound like it's any sort of "secret" and I'm unclear from your post what that may be dredging up from your childhood? Talk to your sibling about it and show up and prepare to either stay briefly and scoot (you have every useful excuse of you want to) or maybe be surprised by the fact that it's an okay time with okay people. You have your own family and you can decide to engage as little or as much with this one as you want to.
posted by jessamyn at 8:19 PM on December 26, 2016 [4 favorites]

Wow, I can see how all of this would come as a surprise, and how you would feel overwhelmed given the turmoil you've been through in the past year. But, your mother's remarriage is not really about you, and it might even be motivated in part by her realization that you have a lot going on and she needs to establish her own emotional support network. Like some of the commenters above, I have also heard that the happier a marriage was, the quicker the widow or widower remarries. So, this relatively quick decision might be a very positive reflection on her life with your dad.

I think you should go, celebrate with them, and take a small gift. I like the suggestion of a bottle of champagne above, perhaps with the addition of a couple of champagne flutes? Or, a nice crystal flower vase would also be nice.
posted by rpfields at 8:23 PM on December 26, 2016 [4 favorites]

I'm not sure the speed definitely has to do with grief or any of that. I was living in a house with my mother when she started dating the guy she's now married to. And it went... very fast. But I think part of why it went very fast was that at her age (she's in her 60s) she wasn't even going out with anyone who didn't seem like they were going to be a good permanent fit, and both of them knew themselves well enough to know whether they suited each other.

My relationship with my mom is pretty terrible in every other respect, but the stepdad thing, a few years in, finally does feel normal. Don't assume you're going to ruin everything by being awkward, either. They're probably expecting awkward. Awkward can still be okay. If you want to offer them a wedding present of any variety, if they haven't combined households yet, you might offer to help with sorting/donating/selling stuff, because that part of the process was an absolute monster. But in general, don't treat the fact that it feels weird as a disaster. It's temporary.
posted by Sequence at 8:34 PM on December 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

Probably you all are right. Despite being an adult myself, I would have hoped for some consideration from my mother with regard to my/my sibling's potential reaction(s) to this, but oh well. Instead I'll hope that if I'm ever in the equivalent position, I'll treat my child more kindly.
posted by teremala at 8:48 PM on December 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

If I were in your shoes, I'd be feeling hurt that my parent hadn't let me in on the plan earlier and/or sought my input. Maybe that's part of it for you too. But that's no reason not to go to the wedding, be nice to the guy, and wish her the best.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:11 PM on December 26, 2016

I feel for you. I would not deal with this well. I get that dating for a year and then marrying is fine/normal but telling your kids you're getting married in a week and at this time of year? What if you couldn't make it? I guess she isn't fussed either way? I find that pretty insensitive to you.

But anyway. Go, take one of the suggested gifts and be happy and pleasant and then feel free to be all WTF??? with your supporters afterwards if that helps. It sure helped me with my dad's remarriage. Good luck and I hope things ease up for you soon.
posted by kitten magic at 9:11 PM on December 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

I would have hoped for some consideration from my mother with regard to my/my sibling's potential reaction(s) to this, but oh well

I'm not sure what kind of consideration you were looking for here. Indeed, your post is suffused with the sense that your mother is doing something wrong without actually describing any harmful behavior on her part. People are responding as if you were concerned that your mother might be being hustled or losing her faculties, because either of those concerns might be reasonable ones, but that's not what you seem to be talking about here.

Frankly, you sound like you resent her for having the audacity to continue having her own life while you have so many of your own problems, which is not a great look. It is literally incomprehensible to me that a person would consider not attending her own mother's wedding ceremony on the basis of the events you have described. There may be an element of surprise here, but there is no unkindness to you. (You literally say that you are not interested in knowing this guy better, so you can't even complain about having been excluded.) Go. Bring a gift. Attempt to get your mind around the fact that your mother is going to continue having her own thoughts and feelings without reference to your mental state for quite some time, and that most people would consider this a good thing.
posted by praemunire at 9:41 PM on December 26, 2016 [71 favorites]

Maybe she deduced that her children were going to be brats about the wedding no matter what so it didn't matter how many rules of etiquette she violated (or, just as likely, she dreaded your response and that's why she put off telling you). You say she's being unkind but distancing yourself from your recently widowed mother just because she's started dating again is not exactly nice, either.
posted by acidic at 9:46 PM on December 26, 2016 [42 favorites]

If she's getting married before New Year's, they toooooootally were like, "You know, we've been talking about getting married, but if we do it this week we can file our taxes jointly this year and save a bundle!"

My MIL remarried on a similarly accelerated post-Christmas timeline. They'd been together a while, figured they'd get married one day but seemed in no particular hurry, then at Christmas were talking about it and the taxes came up and they were like "Screw it, let's do it this week!" I barely had time to find a florist in their town who could deliver some flowers before the day (as we were not able to fly out and attend on such short notice!). We sent a little carry bouquet and a boutonniere so they'd have something a little special and frivolous and flowers were something we could manage in time for the occasion from 2000 miles away (they were very pleased); we also sent a card and a keepsake with their names and the date that arrived a while later. I imagine they don't need "stuff" so I'd find something keepsakey and sentimental and weddingy that's a nice gesture.

Older adults and second marriages are often quite a bit quicker -- they know they like being married, they know if they get along, they don't necessarily want to waste time -- and more businesslike in their celebration. It is also very often distressing for the adult children! That is a totally fine thing to feel, and would be super-normal even if you absolutely loved your mom's boyfriend and thought he was the most perfect man in the world for her! But, yeah, I think you should keep that to yourself and your partner (and maybe your sibling if you talk about that kind of thing and it wouldn't be making things weirder by talking behind your mom's back), and you should definitely go if you are able and celebrate with her. Weddings, birth rituals, and funerals are life-marker events that you should try very hard not to miss for immediate family unless there is already a permanent rift or you want a permanent rift. It's a lot easier to suffer through an awkward wedding (and get a good story out of it!) and maybe have your relationship warm up later on, than to hurt your mother by skipping it and then later try to repair that if you want to be closer.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:51 PM on December 26, 2016 [9 favorites]

You've been out of the loop because of all the stuff going on in your life, so you haven't been party to what's been going on in your mother's. For all you know she and the fella could have been talking every day for hours and know each other quite well by now. I suggest making some time before the wedding to visit or call them with the express purpose of getting to know him. It's okay to say "This is weird for me because of the recent loss of my dad, and I admit I was totally surprised by the news, but obviously it's time to get to know you since you're a part of my mom's life now. So, how did you two meet?" Proceed from there as necessary. Here's hoping no serious red flags fly!
posted by Soliloquy at 9:53 PM on December 26, 2016 [4 favorites]

You and your sibling have understandably complicated feelings about the matter. It sounds like there's a lot of background that may be coloring how you perceive her actions, which is of course totally fair.

But without the remark about family secrets, it sounds like she's in a tough spot: she's lost her husband and her children have distanced themselves from her because she started dating so quickly (and normal life events).

If it helps, think of her throwing this at you as a failed attempt of being considerate. She knows you're ambivalent, so she plays it low key. She also doesn't want a big fuss once she does decide to get married, so she puts the whole thing together on short notice. Plus, she figures this way she's not throwing it in your face constantly with the last minute plans. It comes off all wrong to you, but the good intentions motivated the behavior.

As I said, there's the background you alluded to that could understandably color your perception of her actions (which on the face of it seem like fairly normal actions). But if it helps, give her the benefit of the doubt even if it's unlikely to be true. Then go to the wedding and plaster a smile on your face.

And even if her actions are completely reasonable that doesn't mean you're not entitled to being upset*, you've had a rough go of it. Hangout soon with that sympathetic friend who is great at being your cheerleader. The one who always takes your side and lets you vent when things are sucky.

* I eloped, so I obviously regard weddings as less significant than some. But I still totally get why this is just an all around messy situation for your family.
posted by ghost phoneme at 10:26 PM on December 26, 2016 [4 favorites]

Nobody's being a brat. Good grief. I'm baffled, not vindictive, and "don't not go!" has arisen from the comments, not me actually having planned to skip it. My grandmother got remarried "suddenly" and by that everyone meant that about a decade after my step-grandfather had died, she was engaged to an old friend for about half a year before having a wedding everyone had been invited to/known about the whole time. The timeline on this is kind of overwhelming, particularly since the last I knew, my sibling was struggling badly with our dad's death, our mother knew that, and she/her boyfriend definitely didn't want to get married, so I was questioning whether my initial response of surprised/confused acceptance was perhaps a result of being so thoroughly worn down currently and if other people would have been more upset and/or allowed themselves a more honest reaction. Shoving my own feelings/needs down in favor of getting along with my mother is a pretty big theme in my life. Apparently here it's reasonably appropriate to have done so and I can carry on. I am however permitted to have these thoughts in my head, and am not going to berate myself for failing to maintain perfect internal decorum.
posted by teremala at 10:41 PM on December 26, 2016

It's sad that your sibling is still struggling with your dad's death, but that doesn't mean your mother can't move on at her own pace. You continue to sound like someone with a (perhaps unexamined) assumption that your mother ought to be subordinating her own life to the desires of her (grown) children who is now offended that this is not happening. You can of course think and feel whatever you want, but this attitude seems to have made an excellent contribution towards destroying your relationship with your mother in the past year, and if you take it to the wedding and beyond, you can expect further progress on that front. Is that what you want? I mean, maybe it is. (Most people don't complain about their new child being "grandparent bait.") Maybe there are good reasons for that which you haven't talked about here. But you should realize that that's where you're heading, and it's not your mom (at least, not based on any actions you've described to this point) who is leading the way.
posted by praemunire at 11:30 PM on December 26, 2016 [22 favorites]

It honestly really did read from your question like you were trying to decide whether or not to go, so I think that's where those responses are coming from. I was about to write one about whether or not you should, but I won't having seen your response.

That said, I feel like there is a lot going on under the surface here that is not really about the wedding/relationship, but deeper-seated stuff from your childhood. Which is understandable, and common. But it also makes this question kind of confusing. Why did you felt compelled to show solidarity with your sister by freezing your mother out? Why does it matter if your partner's family knows?

I don't know, maybe your mother was a horrible, abusive parent in ways that we don't know about, but if not I just want to ask you to cut her some slack. You and your sister are dealing with grief, but so is she. In the end, this is her decision to make and it would be a real kindness to show up, act happy for her, and then go about your life.
posted by lunasol at 11:40 PM on December 26, 2016 [10 favorites]

I'm sorry for your loss of your dad.

I'm also confused by the post. I think people are telling you to go because you ask Do I just show up with some kind of gift?, the opposite of which I thought might perhaps be to not go, not simply to express a more honest reaction.

It sounds like your relationship with your mom is complicated and distant -- and not only because of your dad's death. But this is fairly simple. I think the "comfort in - dump out" idea is a bit of an oversimplification, but still -- given that her daily life was entirely upended by his death, it makes sense to support her approach to healing and coping. Don't you want her to be happy? Her staying sad won't reduce your own grief or your sister's. And especially with respect to her wedding, I think you're called upon to put her feelings first and support her.

Having more honest communication and a more mutually supportive relationship might be a good goal, or it might not be. But given how complicated your feelings are, I don't think this week is the right time to begin discussing difficult subjects. Saying something wrong now, in the exciting run up to their wedding, could feel really unsupportive to her. Her feelings are probably heightened now, in a way that they might not have been a few months ago, and in a way that they might not be a few months from now. For now, I'd try to focus on how she must have felt to suddenly be without her husband in her daily life, and on the joy she might feel at embarking on a new marriage.

That may make a lot of emotions come up for you -- it would for me. You understandably might not have had much time to focus on your own grief, given your situation. And it's understandable to have questions about your mom's emotional process. Over the months to come, you could spend some time on this, e.g., doing some journaling or talking to a therapist. and then share a little bit of your own feelings with her.

But I'd be careful now. Your post comes across as if you're saying "I have complicated, unexplored feelings. And I want to be an ally to my sister, who I think might be upset about this. Should I tell my mom she's doing something wrong?" It's your mom's life, and just because it isn't the most comfortable decision for you doesn't mean it's wrong. I think you'd say "that's not what I meant," and I believe you, but I think the confusion in this thread is an example of why caution is needed. It's not clear what you're feeling or saying, and it's coming across as judgy.

Again, I'm sorry you're having to go through all of this, and I wish you the best in getting through the coming weekend.
posted by salvia at 12:00 AM on December 27, 2016 [11 favorites]

What is your mom's financial state like? What about her new husband's?

I also thought you sounded kinda shitty towards your mom emotionally, but I want to put that aside for more practical concerns. Is this rush to the alter legit? Are there financial or health concerns for your mom or her boyfriend? Is there a way to tell??

You say there's a change in attitude, so I believe you. My grandfather's wife's family (they were both widowed later in life and married later in life) had resentments both emotional and financial that came to a head when my grandpa and step-grandmother died in a tragic accident. I think my father and his siblings were a bit shocked. We accepted her, they did not accept him....


As they aged further, there were disagreements about money and elderly care. It didn't end well.

You can stay disconnected or get involved. There's a lot more going on here than your feelings. My impression was my grandfather loved his wife, her kids did not think so. There was animosity and threats of a lawsuit after they died. Super sad. You need more info. Try not to judge until you have more facts. As someone removed but present, I was surprised by my step-grandmother's kids after she died. She was really great to me. I didn't know her family hated my family. What a drag for this elderly couple who seemed very compatible and devoted. I found out later how hard their last years together were made by this conflict.

Don't go that route. It ended badly even though I remember them fondly as a couple. When their lives ended, the animosity of her family compounded the tragedy. So unnecessary.
posted by jbenben at 12:55 AM on December 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm not sure what kind of consideration you were looking for here.

I do. It sounds like the fiancé's grown children were privy to the plan to get married

the boyfriend's adult kids, whom I haven't even met, and who my mother also says are supportive...

but teramala wasn't. It's a bit insulting when your mother doesn't tell you she's planning to get married before she casually invites you over for the ceremony.

All that said, yes I think paste a smile on your face, go, and take a small gift. You sister should do the same.
posted by Dolley at 3:11 AM on December 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

This sounds like it's very tough for you. I have a complicated relationship with my mother, so I get that things are emotionally heavy.

However, you did say you've kept your mom at a distance this whole year she's been dating, in solidarity with your sister who was upset she was dating st all. That may be a reason your mom and her fiancé have been more open with his kids about wedding plans than they have with you and your sister.

To answer your question, I don't think it's at all bizarre for your mom to want to remarry 1.5 years after losing her husband, or that she wants to do it at New Year's (incredibly common time for weddings), or that she waited until the last minute to invite her daughter who hasn't been supportive of her relationship. I'm not at all saying you are obligated to be supportive--just that you probably shouldn't be surprised to be left out of opportunities to participate in joyful happenings if you haven't joyfully supported them.

I do think you should show up with a bottle of champagne and a nice card with a sentiment expressing whatever kind of relationship you'd like to have with them going forward. The ball is definitely in your court on this one.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 4:35 AM on December 27, 2016 [8 favorites]

I do. It sounds like the fiancé's grown children were privy to the plan to

Maybe they've been supportive of the relationship.

Teremala, I totally get how family history and grief can make things more complicate, but I would suggest that your mother is not having a relationship AT you.
posted by warriorqueen at 4:56 AM on December 27, 2016 [17 favorites]

I'm sorry you've had such a rough go of it, and for your loss. I haven't been through this, but I imagine I'd feel hurt and confused in your shoes.

That being said, have you thought about what kind of relationship you want with your mother, and whether she's capable of having it with you? It sounds like there's a lot of hurtful history influencing your emotions here, and the dynamic of showing solidarity for your sister by shutting out your mom isn't the healthiest. So I think you should carefully consider what positives your mom brings to your life and whether you want a relationship with her at all. Then do what makes sense in that context.

If you're not sure, then I'd suggest being as gracious as you possibly can right now, and then getting therapy to help you figure it out. It's made a world of difference in my life.
posted by snickerdoodle at 5:00 AM on December 27, 2016

Oh no please don't feel you have to shove your feelings down! This shit is fucking insane. It is actually insane and I say this as someone in a very similar position.

My stepmother died several months ago and my dad - despite being fucking consumed with grief at random events - started dating within months also. It was not good, it was not healthy, it is short circuiting the grieving process, and my biggest fear is that he's going to get casually remarried just because he's not used to being alone.

This is an insane timeline and it is okay to feel it is insane.
posted by corb at 5:41 AM on December 27, 2016

If the two choices are to either show support for the marriage (even if you're not 100% feeling it inside), or take the risk of alienating your mother at this stage of her life, I think I'd go for the former. At least then if the marriage does go wrong, you'll be right there in her life to help her pick up the pieces.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:47 AM on December 27, 2016

I totally get this. Coming from a difficult family, you never really know what is legitimate and what has another layer of meaning. Some people thrive on this, some just don't know anything else. Growing up with it makes you unsure of your footing in so many situations.

I would go to the wedding. The last-minute nature of the invite may be petty and weird, or it may be a hastily planned wedding. If it was petty and weird, you get to be the bigger person. If it wasn't personal, then you are there at her big day. Like someone else said, skipping a wedding is something people hold a grudge over. It's up to you if you attend the reception or stay long, but I think attending the wedding is a must.

It may also be very helpful to talk with a therapist or counselor over all the feels you're feeling. Sometimes a pro can be a big help.

Wishing you all the best.
posted by Cranialtorque at 9:00 AM on December 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

I interpreted your question about just showing up with a gift to mean do you just show up with a gift like you would if an acquaintance invited you to their surprise wedding or do you do more since it's your mother. Do you go a day early and help her get ready or something?

I think I also get what you mean about being from a family where things don't get talked about. It's like everything is like this, really, really this, until shazam! nope, things are like that and expressing surprise is frowned upon because it implies that things weren't always like that. The last thing you knew, marriage wasn't on the table. With everything you've been through, it was probably a comfort to think you had some time before your mom eventually remarried. (Which I think is totally normal and doesn't make you, or your sibling, a brat!)

Given that you don't have that time, could you shift the focus away from the remarrying part and all the feelings it brings up? I know that sounds weird when the occasion is a wedding, but hear me out. What if emotionally you focus on your mom and her journey from being widowed to finding a new love? That must have taken some strength -- to trust again, to love again, to have hope for the future after losing so much. After the year you've had, and the general dumpster fire of 2016, celebrating those things could be a pretty powerful way to start 2017. Then in the new year, make it a plan to get to know her new husband and his family. Your wedding gift could be a card with a promise to take the two of them out for a nice meal in January. And, if you can, I think offering to spend some time with her before the wedding would be nice. Maybe she'd like to get her nails done before the wedding or just have some down time with you?
posted by atropos at 9:06 AM on December 27, 2016

If your mom's fiance was anti-marriage 6 months ago, and they're rushing to do it before the New Year (after going incommunicado for a while), yeah, I would be wondering, lots, about the reasons for that flip (and without further information, probably leaning towards the idea that one or both of them is in a rough financial situation...) I'd want more information on that. But if you've pulled away from your mom, because of your own grief (and seemingly to back up your sister, which is... yeah, probably not the healthiest), it makes sense that your mom wouldn't be telling you much about what's going on (same for if she's concealing financial problems).

2nd going, staying open, and listening without judgement, for all the reasons jbenben said. (Longer term, all kinds of issues are going to come up. You will probably want to be involved or at least know about them. If your mom is doing this in large part to not be alone [after she's been left alone - you've talked a few times about how she's been a burden, an imposition, you don't want to deal with her, ok]... also would want to know about and maybe address both that and your reasons for pulling away.) Basically - there is room for this to (eventually) get ugly if you let it. Life will be easier for you if you don't. (And 2nd that this relationship isn't about you.) Take yourself out of your own perspective for a moment, and you'll have a better chance of finding out what's really going on.
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:18 AM on December 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

A big piece of info is missing for me and that is how your mother expects you to view her new husband. There has been some remarriages amongst people with grown children in my family and honestly it was mostly smooth because noone expected the grown children to view the new spouse as anything near a parental figure. In fact the relationship between grown child and parent's new spouse was more like a sibling in law than parental. There was room for everyone and there was clear understanding of who everyone's parents were.

Your mom is an adult and you are an adult and I think you should be open to her new spouse / love interest / etc as long as it doesn't come with some expectation that he is a replacement for your dad. If she thinks she's replacing your dad, that's unreasonable, though possibly coming from good intentions and maybe you in that case can have a conversation just to let her know you're happy she's found someone to live on with, but that it's ok for you and her both to see dad as irreplaceable.

The only time I would advise more skepticism is if there seems to be some money scammy element involved due to your mom having some wealth or something.
posted by WeekendJen at 12:15 PM on December 27, 2016

Your feelings and your sibling's feelings are normal. After losing your dad only a short time ago, you find out that your mother is about to marry someone else whom you don't even know. It must feel very jarring and confusing. You've had a certain relationship with and view of your mother all your life -- it's a huge adjustment to think of her getting remarried, especially when your grief hasn't had time to resolve.

You, your partner, and your child are your primary family now. And your mother's new husband is/will be her primary family. I think it may help if you try to think in these terms. It's hard now, but it will get easier. And your relationship with your mother will gradually change as well.

Your mother isn't wronging you or your sibling in any way. It would have been nice if she had broken the news in a less nonchalant way, but when people are in love they tend to focus on themselves. You might wish that she'd act in a way that wouldn't make you feel bad, but that's not really her job anymore.

You'll be getting used to the changing family roles for some time. Feel your emotions, and also try to hope for a happy relationship for your mom and her husband. You can support someone without understanding what they're doing, and without feeling happy about what it means for you. Think about what your mother must be wishing for herself, and voice those hopes to her. Tell her you're glad she's found love, and you wish her all the best. It's also okay to say that it's going to take you some time to adjust, but that's all about your feelings -- not about the two of them.
posted by wryly at 4:10 PM on December 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

Despite being an adult myself, I would have hoped for some consideration from my mother with regard to my/my sibling's potential reaction(s) to this, but oh well.

I'm really puzzled by this- you said you maintained distance from her because of the boyfriend, so why would you then expect to be kept in the loop about wedding plans? Your mom must have been hurt by your reaction to her boyfriend, and maybe she just figured you and your sibling were so unhappy about her relationship that inviting you to a wedding at the last minute was less drama for everyone.
posted by oneirodynia at 7:45 PM on December 28, 2016

I'm tempted to just leave question this alone at this point because it's clear something in the OP hit a trigger-point or three for a lot of people and I'm finding engaging with very skewed perceptions of my life to be difficult. As I said, this is a miserable time of year for me personally as well as for my chosen family, and when I originally wrote, I was exhausted and at a complete loss. However, I appreciate your responses and want to respect the time you've put into them, particularly those of you who have sent private stories. And even very outside perspectives from people who haven't necessarily experienced either side of this are always at least a little helpful as a reminder that things do look very different from over there.

For my part, this is what I know. My mother is a narcissist, and being close to her is unhealthy for me. I am sure she was lonely, and as such am glad she's found someone so she's not alone. I couldn't be that person any more. I played that role throughout my childhood and adolescence: essentially until my dad got sick and told me to go live my own life. That said, she does seem to want me in her life, even though I am not an especially good child and she rarely shows interest in me as a unique individual. I have gathered that a potential relationship with our toddler is a strong motivating factor, and I hope everyone here can understand that, given my childhood experiences, my partner and I are very leery of what that might look like. It is entirely likely that her fiance's children/their hypothetical grandchildren will be better fits, and as long as nobody feels taken advantage of, I wish them all the best. Honestly. And not just because it would make disengaging from a trying relationship easier for me, although yes, I have some selfish motivations. I thank those of you who pointed out my contributions to the distance between my mother and me, since you reminded me that that gulf was a deliberate creation and I shouldn't get distracted from my long-term goals over a simple ceremony.

For what it's worth, when I said I've maintained distance from the fiance, I meant exactly that. I've seen him almost as often as I've seen my mother, which isn't much since everyone has been busy, they've been preoccupied with their new relationship, and we don't live particularly close. He seems like a nice guy (he talked her out of voting for Trump!) and works in a field that I'd ordinarily have professional interest in networking with, but I've let it be so as to not buddy up with him when his presence in our mother's life was already hurting my sibling (which I know because she told me privately, not because she threw some fit). For his part, he really hasn't seemed interested in getting to know us either, and maybe that is a byproduct of our mother's justified opinions of us, but in any case. Things are stable. Nobody's been rude, just distant.

I still think the circumstances of this are odd, but gentle probing of the topic yielded only "we didn't see why not" so I'm content to leave it alone. Although as many of you pointed out (I hadn't quite realized on my own -- see: overwhelming project I'm still kind of reeling from), a sudden NYE wedding does indeed smack of tax considerations, that's their business. I don't understand their financial situation (large outlays of money despite my mother having quit her career in the aftermath of my dad's death), but whatever it is, it seems mutual, and I'd be unlikely to untangle it by Saturday. There are things my mother has told me about her fiance that I'd personally consider deal-breakers (all of his exes are "crazy," for example) but nothing that screams abuse or manipulation. If anything, I'd hope her much-improved behaviour around him continues, because he does seem like a decent guy and there's no reason for him or his to be hurt like I was. And yes, therapy: I'm on it. So anyway. She had dinner with me/my family tonight (he has cyclical long work shifts and doesn't really socialize when he's "on"), my sib and I are getting them a modest gift (not alcohol for reasons but something related to their shared interests), and the wedding will be whatever it is but we'll all survive.

Regarding whether it's a parent's job to tend to the emotional needs of an adult child: in trying to figure out why that point upset me so much, particularly considering that my mother has never much tended to my emotional needs (nor have I generally allowed it lately, since with her it carries the major risk of those needs being used against me), I realized that I have really not been giving myself adequate space to grieve the loss of my mother-in-law, who very much would have considered that to be her role. In the fourish years I knew her, I never quite managed to relax into being one of her ducks, but we were getting there and I miss that like hell.
posted by teremala at 9:42 PM on December 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

It sounds like you had a really fucked-up childhood, and questions posed here by people who don't specify that tend to be answered by well-meaning people who don't understand (or at least don't allow room for) those types of dynamics. Do what you need to do to take care of yourself.
posted by lazuli at 9:50 PM on December 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'm not surprised by your update; something seemed off that spoke to larger issues beneath the surface. Please look into resources for children of narcissistic mothers, and take care of yourself and your family. I wish you peace in the upcoming new year.
posted by snickerdoodle at 5:34 AM on December 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

Thanks for the update. I have a very different understanding of the situation now. It seems like you have your head wrapped around the situation. Hope the weekend goes well.
posted by salvia at 10:33 PM on December 29, 2016

Thank you for your update. Everything in your initial post makes complete sense now. I did wonder if that's what was going on, as I have had several friends with similar situations (narcissistic parent[s]) and what you wrote sounded a lot like that, but I didn't want to assume.

In that case, I would change my recommendation to act out of kindness to your mother, and say you act out of kindness to yourself, which it seems like you are doing. Really, just do whatever will make this easiest for you emotionally and try not to feel guilty about it. My friends with narcissistic parents have really struggled with the "not feeling guilty about it" part, so I know that's not easy. Narcissists are really, really good at making other people feel guilty for any perceived slights.

Good luck.
posted by lunasol at 1:26 PM on December 30, 2016

Glad you updated; I was another one who completely misread your original post.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:05 PM on January 1, 2017

« Older half a day in the Hudson Valley   |   Where Can We Get a Shih Tzu? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.