I told my mom the wedding is off, but it isn't. Help?
June 26, 2017 7:47 AM   Subscribe

My mother repeatedly insisted my upcoming wedding is a mistake. I lied and told her I'm postponing it. She's happy now, but won't be when she finds out I got married and invited everyone but her. Please help me navigate this situation (details inside).

I'm getting married later this year to a wonderful person. We announced our engagement last year to widespread excitement and congratulations. I'm thrilled. My partner is thrilled. Even the stress of dealing with different guests' and parents' needs and expectations has made us more confident that we make a great, supportive team who communicate and compromise exceptionally well.

My mother initially seemed supportive, but a few months ago, at the end of a short visit with us, she asked me and my partner to please explain to her why we were getting married instead of simply continuing to live together. Despite insisting "I'm not trying to make trouble" and "I don't believe in marriage myself, so I'm just curious why you're doing this," she repeatedly insinuated that my partner didn't want to marry me, which my partner swiftly corrected. Later, I pulled her aside and told her privately that this line of conversation was inappropriate and hurtful. She then told me that she thinks I'm making a huge mistake, that my partner and I obviously don't love each other, and that we're a bad fit long-term. She based this conclusion on a few observations:

1. We "don't act like we're in love." Partner and I don't really engage in PDA or cutesiness around others, though we do plenty of that behind closed doors. I explained this to her; she dismissed it as being beside the point.
2. We did not express an appropriate level of enthusiasm about our small, low-frills wedding. (See #1, plus both being introverts who dislike the spotlight.)
3. We were "mean" and "disrespectful" to each other, meaning we are direct communicators who tell each other when we're frustrated or need something specific from the other. There's definitely some Ask vs. Guess Culture stuff at play here, as well as projection from my mom's past relationships. All my explanations of how my partner and I communicate, as well as numerous recent examples of how we support each other, were dismissed.

(For perspective, the close friends & other family we've told about this situation have been shocked and indignant on our behalf. Please assume that my relationship is actually great and my mother's reaction is based on her own baggage.)

My mom's relationship with her own mother was codependent, and she's reacted poorly in the past to several of my major life milestones (leaving for college, moving out post-college, etc.), in ways that strained our relationship for several years. When she's acted inappropriately in the past, she's insisted I should forgive her not because she's sorry for her actions, but because "we're family" and "I only did this because I love you and want you to be happy." To this day, she doesn't understand why some of the things she's done are hurtful and wrong. We have a relationship because I've chosen to forgive her anyway.

Additionally, her past experiences cause her to regularly view romantic relationships (not just mine) in the worst possible light. Her parents' marriage was emotionally and physically abusive, and her marriage and other long-term relationship were both dysfunctional, so she hasn't seen loving couples engaging in constructive disagreement up close. She doesn't know how to argue constructively, period, and she tends to view directness as aggression. (I had to learn those skills on my own, as an adult.) I've learned to stay calm, set clear boundaries with her, and force her to tell me specifically what she wants from me when she's upset, and that's improved our relationship. But what I want right now is for her to believe that my marriage is a good thing, and she has given me very little evidence that she can or will do that.

To spare myself months of having the same argument with her, I decided to lie and tell her my partner and I have postponed our wedding indefinitely. She was immediately relieved and told me I'd made a good decision. This made me even more angry and hurt, but I kept up a facade of calm which I've maintained ever since. (I recognize this isn't healthy or constructive, but the stress of being told repeatedly that my happiest relationship is problematic was making me physically ill.)

It's been several weeks since I lied to my mom. A lot of my initial anger at her has subsided, and I've tried to think through whether there's a way to re-invite my mom to the wedding that doesn't jeopardize my own ability to enjoy the day. I don't plan to lie to her for my entire married life, and I know she'll be hurt to be excluded from something this momentous, especially since we're inviting other family and friends. I feel sad and guilty about deceiving her. However, I don't trust that she won't try to talk me out of getting married at the last minute, or ask other guests if they think this is a good idea, or do something else inappropriate and hurtful.

My partner and I are having a very small wedding, so there isn't a way to set up a committee to keep her at bay until after the ceremony, which would otherwise be my strategy. Is there another strategy I'm not thinking of? If your marriage stirred up similar problems with your parents, how did you handle them?

Please assume that I'm seeking therapy on how to process my emotions around this situation, and that my partner and I have Good Compelling Reasons for not eloping with just the two of us. Thank you!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (43 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know, maybe hearing "mom, I got married, and I had to do it without telling you since you were so unsupportive. I'm happy, Phil's happy, and if you want to be part of our life and know your grandchildren, you'd better get happy too" might bring home to her just how alienating her behavior has been.

(I think it's a parent's duty to warn a kid of legitimately bad prospects - like "this guy is cruel" or "this guy is unemployable" - but your mom sounds like she's looking out for her own issues, not yours.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:58 AM on June 26, 2017 [33 favorites]

You know that you're under no obligation to ensure that others approve of your relationship. You mention that you favor directness, and this is an opportunity to be direct with a mother who you describe as coming with some problems but who you still love. She doesn't sound like a narcissist or someone you wish to cut off contact with. She was direct with you when you pulled her aside. You can be direct in return and expect nothing beyond an honest baseline to move forward from.

A lot of my initial anger at her has subsided, and I've tried to think through whether there's a way to re-invite my mom to the wedding that doesn't jeopardize my own ability to enjoy the day. I don't plan to lie to her for my entire married life, and I know she'll be hurt to be excluded from something this momentous, especially since we're inviting other family and friends. I feel sad and guilty about deceiving her. However, I don't trust that she won't try to talk me out of getting married at the last minute, or ask other guests if they think this is a good idea, or do something else inappropriate and hurtful.

I think this text right here is something that a direct person would respond to. Maybe more directly than is comfortable, but it sounds like that is something you'd prefer over ambiguity and doubt.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 8:01 AM on June 26, 2017 [4 favorites]

Is there something else going on? My Mom was really bitchy when I got married; turns out her marriage to my stepfather was tanking, and she was depressed and pissed.

My Mom was probably bipolar, definitely alcoholic, and had a serious mean streak. I've written on ask.me about how I coped with her over time. In your case, I'd email, write a letter, or call, whichever is best for you, and let her know that you are getting married, that you will invite her if she chooses to be civil, will not invite her otherwise, and should she be invited to your wedding, she will be required to leave if she is uncivil. Don't tie yourselves in knots trying to please her; it won't work and you'll still be tied in knots.

Mazel tov.
posted by theora55 at 8:06 AM on June 26, 2017 [13 favorites]

You should invite your mom. Her problems are her own, but lying your way out of her knowing there's a wedding is you creating a new shared problem.

You can (and should!) tell her to kindly STFU or not be invited, but I think lying about getting married altogether is just shitty and passive aggressive and lays the groundwork for extending this rift ad nauseum.

And to be clear, you should absolutely uninvite her if she can't behave, but it should be explicit.
posted by so fucking future at 8:07 AM on June 26, 2017 [69 favorites]

This sounds very hard, and I'm glad you've been able to figure out strategies for building a successful relationship without having your mom as a model.

I think it would be straightforward to maintain the original lie if that makes things easier: just say that the wedding is "back on" and you hadn't cancelled all the stuff yet. I don't know whether maintaining the lie is easier than just telling her you lied in the first place. Whether that means you invite her or not is up to you.

I think that late afternoon dreaming hotel also has it right, and it's perfectly reasonable to say to your mom that you want her to be at the wedding, but only if she ceases questioning whether it's a good idea, full stop. If she reacts badly to that, you can just tell her she shouldn't come.

It kind of sounds like you don't want to just lie about whether the wedding happened, and I think the longer this goes on the harder it's going to be.
posted by dismas at 8:09 AM on June 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

So, are you telling all these friends and family to keep it a secret from your mother? That seems unfair. And unlikely to remain a secret. I really don't understand why you would tell her that you've postponed it when the more direct and, frankly, easier thing to do is tell her to knock it off and she's not welcome to share her opinions on your relationship any longer.

My husband's mother almost got disinvited from our wedding after some egregious boundary-stepping and drama-making. We informed his father that if she couldn't control herself that we were at the last straw and she would be disinvited. Presumably he reigned her in because that was the end of that and when she showed up at the wedding she did great. It was all about her issues and had nothing to do with us but it was pretty stressful.

She is also a lady who almost pushes you into lying to her because she can be so overbearing, dramatic and relentless. You find yourself making up lies just to get past her. It's maddening and for the most part, I've escaped that but there were a few times where I had to be very direct with her and while it was uncomfortable, ultimately the boundary was created and it was helpful.

If you want to back-peddle out of this and go around your mother, I suggest you and your fiance get court-married and then inform your mother. "Hi mom, we got married today! And we are having a ceremony and celebration on X date, as we had previously planned. Hope to see you there!"
posted by amanda at 8:11 AM on June 26, 2017 [16 favorites]

So, your mother routinely sabotages your milestone events, every single time you move toward independence and self-sufficiency. She does this by trying to convince you that your judgment is poor and that other people don't like you. She rejects all provided evidence to the contrary and acts like you're not capable of determining the truth of a situation.

Go forth, get married, and enjoy your life together. Do not feel sad or guilty for being an independent adult in a loving relationship with a life partner. These are things that normal people celebrate and encourage.

I wouldn't necessarily say to invite your mother, on the chance that she would continue to show her displeasure by sabotaging the event itself. If you think there's a chance she might do that, don't invite her.

Be advised that you are not responsible for proving to an uninvolved, adult third party that your relationship is healthy. That is not your job or duty. Your mother clearly has issues, but they are *her* issues, not yours. Do not waste your energy trying to fix her or make her see the light. You have a wedding to plan and umpteen better things to do than to play armchair therapist.
posted by Autumnheart at 8:13 AM on June 26, 2017 [22 favorites]

My mom was a super pill around my wedding I think because she was upset she was losing her daughter, but she did calm down after, so maybe that can happen for you once it's a done deal. Unless and until then, if you decide to re-engage on this topic, keep it to a three-phrase mantra. It tended to take the wind out of my mom's sails to realize she was being managed. "I'm excited to celebrate my wedding. I love Bob. Let's talk about X." (Mine was "I am so happy we were able to invite your entire family to the wedding. There are no more seats at the chapel for more invites. I'm excited you will be there to celebrate with me.") If the mantra doesn't work, end the conversation and let her work her feelings out on her own time. It may take some training.
posted by *s at 8:14 AM on June 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

Don't lie, own it: Tell her you're freezing her out. Optional: Tell her why.
posted by whuppy at 8:20 AM on June 26, 2017 [17 favorites]

I would suggest you unpack whether you really want to have a relationship with your mother in the future. You don't have to. You get to choose.

If you don't want to, get married without her and let the chips fall where they may. As long as you feel physically safe doing this; if not, you may need to get some protective/support infrastructure in place first.

If you want to draw a firm line in the sand that the relationship in the future will have boundaries and you'll do what you have to do to defend them, let this be the first boundary. Either get married without her, or tell her the wedding is back on and you will have her removed by the security you're hiring for this purpose if she attempts to spoil the day. Mean that and hire someone just to watch her ass and the gift table, if you don't have to for local venue/alcohol requirements already.

Or you tell her the wedding is back on, or if you want to be real honest tell her you told her it was off because you couldn't take her shit anymore, but that doing this is really unfair to everyone else invited so you lied, wedding is when it always was, and you will not have any further conversations about what a terrible mistake you are making. Do not make this offer unless you intend to follow through every time for the rest of your life forever: hang up the phone, walk away, have her removed, whatever the situation may be.

But you do not get to make her believe anything. She's a human being, it's her right to believe whatever she wants no matter how fucked up it is. All you get to do is expect her to behave, not believe.

There's no option here that forces her to be happy about you getting married, or defuses her need to do this to hurt you or just generally be destructive if she is compelled to do so. Something is wrong with her. It is not in your power to fix. You are the only person you get to control in this situation, and to some limited extent the vendors you hire for the wedding. There is no magic that makes her do what you want, or do the right thing. You know who she is, you will have to work with that.

And if you can't, it may be that a life without her in it is the only way for you to maintain your own mental health and remove her as an influence on your marriage, and children if you have them. Sometimes you have to burn a bridge.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:24 AM on June 26, 2017 [16 favorites]

You are not defusing the bomb, here, if you lie about it; you're just putting it off in such a way that it's likely to explode in a less predictable way and with more collateral damage. I am saying this as someone who's had to navigate a lot of parental minefields myself--blow it up now, when you know when it's going to blow up and you aren't forcing any other family members to get within range of the blast. You don't have to invite her, you don't have to be nice about doing this, you don't have to spare her feelings. You just need to have the fight and get it over with. Let how that goes dictate whether you feel comfortable letting her come or not.
posted by Sequence at 8:26 AM on June 26, 2017 [22 favorites]

"Mom, I am still getting married as planned. The reason I told you that it was postponed is that your negativity and questions were making me distressed and because you were not listening to me. Because I love you, I wanted to give you another chance to earn my honesty and trust. You are wrong, you are acting irrational, and you are harming our relationship. I love you and I would like for you to be there. But if you say a single thing about my partner, our relationship, or our upcoming marriage - to me or to anyone else - then I will be forced not to invite you. I am not negotiating on this."

Full stop. Or, just decide now that you don't want her to be there, and alter accordingly. Only invite her if you actually want her to be there. You can still tell her that it's going on and that she isn't invited.

"But what I want right now is for her to believe that my marriage is a good thing." - Is a hard, hard thing and I'm glad you're getting counseling, because it's not something she's going to give you. Not right now, and maybe not ever depending on how long she wants to be spiteful. Her approval, in the long term, doesn't matter - you know it, you know that your marriage is a good thing, everyone else knows it - but that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt. Take care of yourself and your partner.
posted by theweasel at 8:31 AM on June 26, 2017 [55 favorites]

To spare myself months of having the same argument with her, I decided to lie and tell her my partner and I have postponed our wedding indefinitely.

It really seems to me that this whole thing has sprung from your inability or unwillingness to draw and enforce boundaries. The options were not "lie to your mother about cancelling your wedding or listen to months of complaining." The options were:

1/ She stops being negative and attends
2/ She doesn't stop being negative and does not attend

This requires you to change your behaviour. It requires you to articulate the boundaries, and to hang up the phone or delete emails or leave the room when she breaks them.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:42 AM on June 26, 2017 [23 favorites]

I just want to tell you, I had a small wedding and I didn't invite my mother. I didn't tell her about it. Everyone invited knew she wasn't wanted and shouldn't be told about it. And it was exactly the right choice.

The difference between you and me is that I had already cut off contact with my mother. If you want to maintain your relationship with her, things might be different for you. But, just know, you don't have to invite her out of guilt or worries. If you don't want her there, don't have her there.
posted by meese at 8:43 AM on June 26, 2017 [5 favorites]

You just need to have the fight and get it over with.

Agreed. Lying about it gives her a legitimate gripe. Diffuse it on your own timing with 'I panicked and made a poor decision and for that I'm sorry'. You need to diffuse the lie in order to concentrate on the main point: 'We are getting married, and you can either be happy for us and be there, or continue as you've been doing, and not be part of our lives -- it's up to you.'
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:50 AM on June 26, 2017 [6 favorites]

If you decide you want your mother at the wedding, it might be kinder to invite her at the very last minute (up to you if you want to provide/make sure she has something good to wear). You could even have her hold the time open for some unspecified activity or party with you.

You know better than me how late to wait, or whether this would result in a Terrible Scene or her just accepting what's happening because it's too late to do something about it, though.

This idea isn't coming from a place of just trying to "trick" her into being forced to accept what you're doing. Rather, her reaction made me think that she was freaking out because of her own fears, and the long lead-up and anticipation of the wedding was giving those fears time to build and build until they became intolerable to her.

Alternatively, if you want to go the extra five miles for her (maybe you love her), a counseling session or several, with her, to talk about this whole thing -- you can give it whatever title you want, "whether marriage is actually a good idea" or "to help me understand where you're coming from" -- could end up making the rest of your lives a lot more beautiful.
posted by amtho at 8:58 AM on June 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I think I would come clean that the wedding is still on, that you told her that it wasn't because you did not want to continue to have to defend your decision, BUT that being re-included she needs to back off with her judgment and that you will not hesitate to uninvite her if she continues to be unsupportive.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:02 AM on June 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

But what I want right now is for her to believe that my marriage is a good thing

I think you need to let go of this want. It will be hard and you are 100% in the right, which is small comfort when your mother is behaving like a child.

If you want her at the wedding (which, personally, given the information you have provided, I would not), I believe it will be best for you to come completely clean right now. "Mom, your unrelenting judgement about my marriage made me feel backed into a corner. I am an adult and I do not need your permission or your blessing to get married. I felt that, at the time, in order to regain some control over the situation, lying to you about postponing the wedding was my only choice. I see now that doing that was wrong, as I never had nor do I have any intention of postponing or canceling my wedding. I would like you to be there on my wedding day but only if you agree to stop trying to convince me that marrying John is a bad idea. This is your one and only chance to be present on my wedding day. I will rescind the invitation if you cannot keep your opinions about my relationship to yourself."

And then you have to 100% follow through. If she tells you just one time that you're making a mistake, she doesn't get to come to the wedding. Full stop.

After your wedding, you will probably have to sit her down and tell her that the condition for her to remain a part of your life is that she absolutely cannot criticize or second guess your marriage. Ever. Because otherwise, I'll bet you anything that she will constantly bring up what a bad decision you made.

And I'll just say this one time: you do not have to have a relationship with your mother. It is lovely that you want to, and I'm sure she has many good qualities and that she loves you. But if, at any time, the relationship becomes just too much for you to handle, you are allowed to sever it.
posted by cooker girl at 9:11 AM on June 26, 2017 [13 favorites]

I think your course of action here really depends on what kind of relationship you want to have with your mother going forward and what relationship you want her to have with her grandkids (should you and your soon-to-be husband want kids). When your mom finds out about the wedding and the lie, because she most definitely will, it will be a huge wound that may never heal. It will be a giant chip on her shoulder. It will be a cudgel that she will use over and over and over and over again to guilt trip, manipulate, and otherwise mess things up.

If you want to have any kind of functional relationship with your mother going forward, then I think you need to back out of this lie (with another white lie or the full truth) and then let her know what conditions you are setting for her attendance at the wedding. But like others have said, it's okay to have little to no relationship with your mother if you want. Your decision needs to be based on your needs and your hopes for the present and the future.

So on to your questions about strategy.

You absolutely do not need to have any conversations with your mother about any of your wedding plans over the next few months. Let her know she's invited to attend, but you will not be discussing those plans in any way with her. If she calls and tries to talk about your plans, just let her know that those things are taken care of and move on to other topics. If she persists, simply let her know that you will no longer be taking her calls or responding to emails, until after the wedding as you are too busy and her calls are a distraction.

Is there another family member your mom trusts? Would they be willing to be part of this conversation? Perhaps hearing from another person, who is family, that they are in support of this relationship AND that they will be backing you up throughout the planning and wedding, might get your mother to at least bite her tongue for the next few months.

And, while you can't assign a committee to monitor you mother, you could perhaps get her a chaperone. One who would be willing to be strict with your mother and take her aside if she starts to get out of line.

You could also prep all friends and family in the know to respond to your mother's complaints with a, "We're super excited for Mrs. & Mr. Anonymous and are here to celebrate!" and then have them walk away. If everyone very clearly rejects that kind of behavior you mom is likely to stop quickly.
posted by brookeb at 9:24 AM on June 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you think you might want to have a relationship with your mother ever, do not lie and get married without telling her. That is the sort of thing relationships never recover from. Tell her the truth, that you felt forced to lie. You've gotten lots of good advice on scripts for that. Yes, tell her that if she keeps this up, she's not invited, but don't just get married without her knowledge. That is the nuclear option.

Also, here's something that's really helped me deal with a dispute with a family member. When she gives you reasons and you give her reasons, it might seem like this is an argument based on logic, but it's not. This is about emotions. So there's no point in telling her why she's wrong about your relationship. You might have ironclad reasons that it's great for you to get married - she's not going to be able to hear it. So you really need to just tell her that the subject is not up for discussion. If she keeps talking, leave the room. It might take a while, but she will get the picture. To borrow from The Gift of Fear, if you get drawn in the 35th time she brings it up, you've taught her that she needs to bring it up 35 times. You have to be absolute about it.
posted by FencingGal at 9:34 AM on June 26, 2017 [9 favorites]

I think the lie was a mistake, and you need to walk it backwards rather than carry it forward.

I think it will only compound existing problems, and it is inconsistent with who you have shaped yourself to be and want to be. I think it opens doors to behavior that you don't want to regress to or sink to in your relationship with your mother. I think your only choice here is to set some clear, hard boundaries, and enforce them, with some of the verbiage already provided here (I like the paragraph from theweasel).

I totally understand how it seemed like a good solution and put a temporary lid on the problem, but I would guess you know it's deep down that it's not good, and that's why you posted. What advice would you give here, if you read someone else posting this same problem?
posted by Dashy at 9:35 AM on June 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

Say this:

Mom, the wedding is back on, and it's going to happen with or without you. I need you to stop being negative about it. If you can do that, you are welcome to attend. If you choose not to respect that, you are not welcome.

Repeat as necessary. And you WILL have to repeat it, so pick the phrasing that feels right to you. Practice in front of a mirror, or with your partner.
posted by raisingsand at 9:46 AM on June 26, 2017 [19 favorites]

I've tried to think through whether there's a way to re-invite my mom to the wedding that doesn't jeopardize my own ability to enjoy the day.

Sure there is. Call her from the venue, half an hour before you exchange vows. That way she arrives all flustered and discombobulated while you get on with the wedding, she can't try to stop the thing without looking kind of mad to the assembled multitude, and she can't give you a hard time later for getting married without her because you didn't.

Yeah, the lie was possibly not the best strategic option but it's done now. She's going to be pissed about being lied to, that's inevitable; so you might as well get all the mileage out of it you can before the reveal has to happen. Go to war with the army you have, not the one you wish you had.
posted by flabdablet at 9:46 AM on June 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

what I want right now is for her to believe that my marriage is a good thing

Not gonna happen before the wedding. No way, no how. Spend the time between now and the wedding getting OK with that, then give her the twenty years it will take for her mind to change.
posted by flabdablet at 9:51 AM on June 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

I don't have any direct advice, but I'm not sure that I could give it even if I did.

My first question would be, are you okay with your mother not attending the wedding? The fallout from that would be, I imagine, substantial, so you have to make that call.

I'm assuming, however, that you are not okay with that and that you want to have your mother at the wedding. If so, you need to be specific about expectations and, perhaps, have someone at the wedding who is the designated mother wrangler (perhaps more than one). You need to tell her that the wedding is for people who can be supportive. Period. If she is there, she is happy for you. If she can't be happy for you, she can stay away.

She'll probably try to "explain" her position, so you need to be prepared to nip that in the bud. If she says "But I just want to make sure that you have thought it throu...", you interrupt with "No. You aren't listening to me. If you attend you will be supportive. If you can't be supportive you are not coming. Yes/no, will you be supportive." "But I" "Yes or no". Take charge of the conversation.

You hold all the cards here. Ultimately, it is your decision whether or not she attends. She has no power to dictate terms.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 10:02 AM on June 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

I agree with others (and you, OP, I think) that the lie was a mistake. I would try to walk that back, just by straightforwardly describing why you did it (you did an excellent job in your post, so you could use that for notes).

After you do that, you have a choice to make. Based on her past actions, I think you're well-justified in not inviting her to your wedding.

However, if you did want to invite her, I would walk a middle ground. Send her an invitation, just like you would your distant Aunt Dot. And, just like Aunt Dot, don't talk to her about the details of planning the wedding. She can come and bask in the love (or not), but her behavior to date has disqualified her from any further wedding discussions before the wedding.
posted by Betelgeuse at 10:04 AM on June 26, 2017

I suspect that admitting you lied to her will cause her to go into a full-on narcissistic rage and hold it against you for literally ever. So yes, while admitting you lied is what you would do in a 100% fair world where you always choose the unambiguously most morally right and clean thing to do, I think it is completely and totally fair to just tell her "the wedding is back on" and leave it at that.

I mean, the danger with the first option is that she holds it against you that you lied to her forever. The danger with the second option is that she thinks more poorly of your relationship. She already thinks poorly of your relationship. Legitimately believing you took a break and then worked things out isn't exactly going to sink her opinion of your relationship, because it's already through the floor, so who cares? There's not a lot to lose there. She'll get it over it the longer you are happily together.

I also really, really like the option of telling her you already got legally married (whether or not that is true.) She's still in the bargaining, denial phase and it sounds like she could very well stay there right up to the actual wedding day- and even try to interfere. This short circuits her and puts her straight into the "sadness and acceptance" phase. By the time the wedding comes around she will have worked through most of her shit because she has no choice.

I do not believe in "doing the right thing" and being sweet and honest and moral and just and rational and all that crap with people like your mom. If you felt compelled to hide your wedding because she's being such a terrible creep, that's outside the realm of "normal people rules." She has forfeited the right to "normal mom consideration." Many people seem to be giving advice based on their view of her as a temporarily distraught mom who is really a good and rational person deep down. I do not think that is an accurate view of your mom. She sounds like she could very well have a personality disorder, or otherwise be deeply and for the long-term messed up. In that case, I completely condone lying to spare yourself because playing fair is just a losing game with people like that.
posted by stockpuppet at 10:48 AM on June 26, 2017 [22 favorites]

Pretending the wedding was off and then on again might reinforce Mom's beliefs that relationships are inherently unstable.

Just another factor to consider.

Also, if she believes relationships are inherently unstable, then she might be even more afraid about her relationship to her daughter. Demonstrating that stable relationships are real might help her calm down -- but probably only over the very long term. It would be unlikely to benefit the current situation.
posted by amtho at 10:57 AM on June 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

Whew. My mom started planning her dream wedding when my husband (then fiancee) and I got fed up and eloped (18 years ago). I have since (in the last 4 months) gone no contact with my parents and am finally living for myself for the first time in 46 years. Don't make the mistake I did. Whatever you do, do it because it's what you (and your partner) want. Really want. If you don't want her there, tell her that it's on but her behavior has been atrocious and she's uninvited. If you do want her there, invite her, but know that she absolutely will not change between now and then and you are going to have to change your expectations of her.

Whatever you decide, congratulations on your upcoming nuptials!!!
posted by Sophie1 at 11:01 AM on June 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

Others have made really good points about considering what you want your relationship to look like with your mom in the future. I'd add that having a wedding that friends and family attended, and know that she was excluded from, will humiliate her. Of course it's your right to do that, but something to consider.
posted by lalex at 11:03 AM on June 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

Also, if you ever have any questions, feel free to memail me.
posted by Sophie1 at 11:03 AM on June 26, 2017

You listed three things she said -- reasons why she thought you shouldn't be getting married. Her specific objections are irrelevant because they have nothing to do with you and because her opinion doesn't matter at all. You need to consider her objections as just neutral information that you can completely disregard. Its not appropriate for you to try to convince her that's she's wrong, not only because that's impossible but also because she'd entitled to think whatever small-minded things she wants, and she's entitled to WANT to control you even when it's unrealistic. You and your partner are entitled to refuse to discuss any kind of thing with her. It sounds simple, but it's not easy at first. You can say straight out that you're not going to engage in conversations in which she's critical of you, and when she tries to say negative or controlling things, you say, "I'm not having that conversation" and change the subject, hang up the phone, or leave. It takes practice, but it's the right thing to do and it'll get easier. You have power because you control access -- she can be part of your life only to the extent that you allow it. She can communicate with you only about things you're willing to talk about with her.

You're getting married. This means that you and your partner are becoming each other's primary family. Your first loyalty is to each other. In your minds and in life, you and your partner are already a team and you need to think, speak, and act as a team in dealing with your families of origin. It can be very powerful to say, "Partner and I have decided to do X. We feel it's the right choice for us." It can make you two feel stronger, and it sends a message to other family members that they're not members of your new primary family.

Now, about your having told her that you're postponing the wedding. I think it's best to avoid more lying, because the lie is just a way to avoid imposing boundaries. Also, it's not right to expect other people to join in the lie and not mention anything about wedding stuff. You don't have to give her any specifics if you don't want to...but don't tell any more lies. If you decide to let her know anything, just say it as fact. Don't argue or object to the content of whatever she says.

The boundaries you make are for you. "Mom, if you _______, then I will ______." You're not trying to control her thoughts and words; you're just stating what you plan to do. You can tell her that she can come to your wedding only if she can act positive and wish you well -- it's her choice. And of course, you can take away access afterwards if she disregards your request.
posted by wryly at 11:19 AM on June 26, 2017

First,I'm with the folk who are saying, tell her but if she has anything more to say that's negative, she's not invited.
Second, be prepared, I have a feeling that after you're married, she'll be on the, "I told you so" train if she hears or sees the teeniest negative thing about your marriage.
My Mother did not want me to get married. To her, the guy I was dating was beneath my station. We eloped anyway. I then spent my married life making sure I wasn't going to be told, "I told you so". It was to the point that I waited until my mother passed before I got divorced.
posted by PJMoore at 12:25 PM on June 26, 2017

Hi there.

When you grow up with a mum with the kind of dysfunctional thinking/related that you've described, you usually end up with what's called in the children of narcissistic parents community as "fleas." Fleas are habits that you have in your thinking and interacting that are themselves dysfunctional.

You've fallen into a huge one here which is -- your mum had an opinion you didn't like (I agree with you! It's a really annoying and awful one!), and rather than dealing with it straight up ("Mum, I am getting married. This is not open for discussion any more. I would like your support and to have you at my wedding. But if I don't have it, then I'll have to ask you not to attend") you lied about your wedding.

So yes, mistake.

You did that because:

To spare myself months of having the same argument with her (1), I decided to lie and tell her my partner and I have postponed our wedding indefinitely. She was immediately relieved and told me I'd made a good decision. This made me even more angry and hurt, but I kept up a facade of calm which I've maintained ever since. (I recognize this isn't healthy or constructive, but the stress of being told repeatedly that my happiest relationship is problematic was making me physically ill.)

It's been several weeks since I lied to my mom. A lot of my initial anger at her has subsided, and I've tried to think through whether there's a way to re-invite my mom to the wedding that doesn't jeopardize my own ability to enjoy the day. I don't plan to lie to her for my entire married life, and I know she'll be hurt to be excluded (2) from something this momentous, especially since we're inviting other family and friends. I feel sad and guilty about deceiving her. However, I don't trust that she won't try to talk me out of getting married at the last minute, or ask other guests if they think this is a good idea, or do something else inappropriate and hurtful. (3)

1. You never had to have the same argument with her. I realize that from your past this is kind of unfathomable, but you two do not have to agree! You can just end the conversation, "Mum, this isn't up for discussion. I have to go now. Bye."

2. If you don't want her at your wedding, exclude her. She will be hurt. Part of getting over a narcissistic or self-focused parent is to realize that it is not the end of the universe to have bad feelings.

3. She might do any of those things, so you need a response. My go to is "Oh, mom," or with other people "My mom." That's all, it's all in the tone. I do not need to discuss my crazy mother's crazy actions or explain them to others much because they are hers, not mine. CAN she talk you out of getting married? Obviously not, plus you are not discussing it with her again. Can she say weird things to your guests? Well...if she does, sucks for her but what's the reason that they would believe her?

Hang in there you can do this. I'd tell her the wedding's back on. Don't lie any more. If someone asks you if it was off just say it was a communication issue.
posted by warriorqueen at 12:27 PM on June 26, 2017 [17 favorites]

"Mom, I love you, but I feel like I had to lie to you because you've been negative about our relationship. Lying was a mistake, and I apologize."

"I have listened to, noted and do not agree with your objections. I wish you felt better about relationships in general, but I will no longer tolerate negativity about my relationship. If you don't believe in marriage, that's your right, but it has nothing to do with me. "

"You are welcome to come, but you are not welcome to criticize or otherwise sabotage my wedding or my relationship with the person I love. If that continues, you will no longer be invited."

"You are welcome to stay home as well. That's your choice. Again, I love you and want you to be there as your best self."
posted by cnc at 1:27 PM on June 26, 2017 [4 favorites]

we decided to marry quite soon after our engagement. and while it was 99% love and support from our families etc, one of em just flipped. because it was too soon for them etc. etc. (dood. and we were gonna pay for their hotel and chow and all, we just wanted the squad there. they all mean the world to us.) and it went from hella exciting to projectileshitfansituation for a little.

we went on to get married, tho. and no, they didnt show. on the day i was somewhat relieved, but looking back, i really wish they wouldve come.

i would invite your mom like a week before the thing. (or however much time she needs to get a flight or whatever) .. cuz i now understand that thing about weddings also ending up being small funerals for some relationships.
posted by speakeasy at 4:04 PM on June 26, 2017

For what it's worth, I think it's important that you tell her you lied because she was causing you so much PAIN (use that word) but that your beloved convinced you to tell her the truth to relieve you both (you and your mom) of potential pain.

If you don't tell her the truth now, she'll always hold over your head the idea that you weren't so devoted to the idea of getting married, and if you fib and say that your beloved convinced you to come clean, that forces her to be on the same side as your partner, which will be a confusing place for her to be.

If you were prepared to walk away from your mother forever, then I'd say the lie was fine, but that's not what you want, it seems. So you have to be both honest and forceful, giving her the opportunity to either be on your team or silent, with no other options.

If she's willing to make you miserable about getting married, there's too much of a chance she'll spend the rest of her life making you miserable about BEING married. Setting the boundaries now, and telling her she has the opportunity to be supportive or silent, gives her a choice, but gives you control over your own life.

I wish you a happy marriage where only you and your spouse are in charge of the joy you allow in, and where nobody is given access to take your joy from you.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 4:18 PM on June 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

So I lied by omission when I got married. I eloped and didn't tell my parents (because I was afraid of my dad) and 6 months later when to where my honey lived and came back and announced we were married. That was weird and awkward because I insisted that my new husband lie to his parents as well and because I lived a lie for years and years because I grew up in a scary crazy alcoholic household that was chaotic yadda yadda. Eventually I had many years of therapy and, even better (in my case), several years of Al-Anon to teach me about boundaries.

But what I want right now is for her to believe that my marriage is a good thing

As others have noted, you can want that but you aren't in charge of getting that. It's good to be aware of that because as a newly married person you will find yourself wanting your new spouse, any children you have, other relatives, total strangers, etc. to believe what you will believe. Which may never happen or happen only rarely. What you can be in charge of is negotiating appropriate behaviour by setting appropriate boundaries. In the end, it doesn't matter what your mother believes if she can come to the wedding and act supportive and loving. That's her job and if she can do it, welcome her to the event. If she can't, let her know there are consequences and stick to them. And if, like me, you are too cowed to have that conversation or don't have the chops yet, then don't tell her until it's all over. You have to walk before you can run. If it's just too hard to deal with her, don't deal with her. You know your mom better than we Internet strangers. Good luck and happy soon-to-be wedded!
posted by Bella Donna at 5:30 PM on June 26, 2017

Elope. Have a party a few months down the line.
posted by AugustWest at 6:54 PM on June 26, 2017

I am reeling from how closely what you wrote matches my own experience with my mother and my wedding. In my case, she has borderline personality disorder; I don't know about your case, but it sounds like you are already very aware of where her warped opinions are coming from.

It sounds to me like your mom is getting exactly what she wants right now - your (almost undivided) attention. I mean, you are thinking about this a lot, right? And walking on eggshells to please her? And once you tell her the wedding in on, you're going to be completely managing her feelings for her surrounding her doubts, her potential loss of enmeshment with you, etc. You see how she has you right where she wants you either way? And not maliciously, probably, but because she has this personality dysfunction. I don't doubt that she loves you and is concerned. The problem is that she invented the reason to be concerned.

My mom has never gotten over being angry at me for getting married. That's really what it is about, although that truth is hidden in her statements that I didn't give her enough of a role in the planning or the wedding itself, that I was "grouchy" with her (unforgivable!), that I didn't exclude the people she wanted excluded, that I didn't give a toast to her amazing parenting, etc. A decade later. No matter how much I catered to her, she honestly would not have been satisfied because at the end of the day, I was deserting her.

Lots of good advice above about how to deal with the wedding. I would just add that you should keep perspective about the deeper truth here, and not knock yourself out trying to please an unpleasable person in an already stressful situation. Time to practice putting yourself first! It's hard not to care how mad she is, I know. I know. Best wishes to you and congratulations on your upcoming marriage!
posted by Knowyournuts at 6:57 PM on June 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

But what I want right now is for her to believe that my marriage is a good thing

Aw, hell, friend. I hear you. I eloped with my partner without telling my mother exactly when or where specifically so that she couldn't object too hard, in fact. I told her it was happening before the fact, and I asked her to be happy for me, and she spent months doing every damned thing she could think of before and after the wedding to drive a wedge between us because--hell if I know, but my spouse became a convenient target to blame for all of our interpersonal problems.

After the fact, I called and told her, and she continued to try to talk me out of it. For three. fucking. years. Actually, the last time I spoke to her she tried to tell me that my increased post-election anxiety was maybe my partners' fault somehow, because perhaps we were setting each other off in some way? Never mind that this was a month after a large section of my extended family had repudiated me, or that the political changes threaten me on a number of fronts; somehow it's just that my partner is magically causing all my distress to arise out of thin air.

I know exactly why you lied here, because goddamn that shit is exhausting and telling her what she wants to hear gives you a sorely needed reprieve--but it just gives her more ammunition to play the victim or guilt you further, and you sound pretty guilty already. Not that, honestly, you should feel guilty--but I think you already feel that way. Lying to her also tells her that if she just digs in hard enough, maybe she can make you make the decisions she wants about your life instead of supporting your own choices. It's a bad lesson to let her learn.

Personally, I would tell her that I had lied the other day because her behavior had gotten so out of control and I was angry at her, and I didn't know how else to respond to her absurd attempts to talk me out of a decision that was not hers to make. I would also tell her she was not necessarily currently invited and that any invitations were contingent on her behavior in the future, and that the topic of my spouse was officially and forever Off Limits To Her. I had some limited success by instituting a "you criticize my partner and I will hang up" rule, and instituting short periods of no contact in response to her trying to control the response I took.

Here is a thing that concerns me, past the point of the wedding itself: do you sincerely believe she is going to tell you that your marriage is a good thing if she is behaving this badly about the wedding? My mother continued digging up every barb that she could to make me doubt my spouse, ranging from the frankly hilarious (did you know that your same-sex Canadian spouse is totally using you for a US green card, even though your relationship started before it was legal for you to sponsor them?) to the horrifying (hey, did you know that your partner used to do kink stuff? the horror*).

Being legally married, or married in the eyes of your community, is not necessarily going to convince her. Even if you get through the wedding without her behaving poorly, this doesn't mean that she will accept your marriage once the deed is done. I think you need to think beyond the wedding itself and plan: if she does not stop trying to drive your partner away, what do you plan to do about it? Is that physical sickness worth the price of staying in contact with her? (It wasn't for me. I told you, I know the physically sick thing. Me, I stopped eating when it got particularly bad.)

It may be worth telling her explicitly that if she makes you choose between your partner and your spouse, she may not like the outcome of that choice. Who knows? But she is not going to validate you any time soon, and you have to let go of the hope and belief that she will. Maybe I will be very wrong and she will do the right thing and come around. But you should try to let go of that hope anyway. All it's doing right now is giving her one more string to make you dance with.

Let it go, interact with her as she is interacting with you in the moment, and treat her with the kind of honest, firm boundary setting that you would any other adult with inexplicably poor social skills that you have to interact with. No matter how good she is in other contexts, that's the only thing that will work right now while she is reacting to her own anxiety and ignoring your needs, desires, and feelings in the process.

*I did know this, and I gave zero shits about it.
posted by sciatrix at 8:34 PM on June 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

I did not invite my father to my wedding. I got blissfully married without him there, didn't worry about it after he didn't show as planned and don't regret it even a tiny bit.

However, I have no relationship with my father now. It was clear to all of my family members that his presence would mean police presence and the wedding would not continue until he left the premises . I played no games and was ruthless about it regardless about their opinions. There were family members I did not invite who I did not feel could live up to this standard.

It was the best for me, but the dynamics feel a little more clear cut (my father never knew about the wedding for one) the family, members I invited.

I believe it was effective for the following reasons:

I made clear my expectations for my day and consequences
for trying to stop it. (I will call the police on uninvited trespassors)

I communicated with all guests what I expected for them to maintain a relationship with me at my wedding.

I also did take some calculated losses in messy dynamics by not inviting some people I couldn't trust which is upsetting but I was okay with.

I kept to my word and meant what I said.

Therapy , therapy, therapy for my own sanity.

Another tactic I also used were decreasing the amount of time everyone knew about thing.

I put lots if thought into this, and I put it into motion the way I wanted from the beginning.

I think you should do some should searching, figure out what you want, make your decisions and boundaries and go from there . Changing your mind and whim moves are going to add drama to something that's already emotionally going to be difficult for you because you don't have your mom's support.
posted by AlexiaSky at 4:36 AM on June 27, 2017

You can (and should!) tell her to kindly STFU or not be invited, but I think lying about getting married altogether is just shitty and passive aggressive and lays the groundwork for extending this rift ad nauseum.

And to be clear, you should absolutely uninvite her if she can't behave, but it should be explicit.
posted by so fucking future at 12:07 AM on June 27 [70 favorites +] [!]

I...don't really talk with some of my relatives anymore, but they know exactly why, and more importantly, I don't have much lingering regret. They know what they did. They know how they can improve it.

"Because we're family" is meaningless, up there in logical consistency with monarchy and aristocracy. The state, complete strangers, were the ones who stopped my father's foray into corporeal punishment. It was never life-threatening (one bloody nose + spankings), but by god if that wasn't a powerful example at a formative age. The lesson I took away was to apply one standard to relatives, friends, lovers, and strangers, and be as explicit as you can about it, and if there must be "penalties", make them clear and understood, lest I one day give my own son a bloody nose. If it ever happens, it will be in self-defense, and never, I pray, misdirected anger.
posted by saysthis at 9:02 PM on June 27, 2017

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