BPD mother-in-law to be ...
September 20, 2007 1:09 PM   Subscribe

Planning a wedding. The twist? The bride-to-be's mother has BPD.

I and my girlfriend are in the very early stages of planning a wedding. We haven't as of yet announced our engagement to anyone. The problem is my GF's mother, an undiagnosed, untreated Borderline Personality Disorder (and yes, we're certain). So far, its putting a serious crimp in our discussions of what we want (which is a small but friendly affair), knowing that whatever we choose could lead to the metaphorical terrorist at the back of the bus blowing up the whole thing. We've discussed not having a wedding at all, but feel like we don't want her to control our lives to that extent. Has anyone out there dealt with something like this, and can you offer tips, warnings, caveats?

(we own most of the books on BPD and have read the metafilter threads on same)
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Who's paying for the wedding?
posted by xo at 1:12 PM on September 20, 2007

I can't offer much except to remember that it's YOUR wedding, not HER wedding. You may need to remind her of that fact.
posted by gnutron at 1:19 PM on September 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Your method of paying for the wedding is going to have a large part in determining which circle of hell your planning will end up in. If it's your girlfriend's parents . . . Well. That will make things extra-difficult, since often the engaged and their paying parents have enough trouble negotiating what will be in weddings without one parent having an attack of the crazies.

If her mother is not involved in the money issue at all, the best you can probably do is explain to her firmly how the wedding will be and not try to argue.
posted by Anonymous at 1:23 PM on September 20, 2007

BPD mom or not, there are a couple of different philosophies about weddings. One is that it is "for" the couple, and they get to do whatever they want. The other is that it is "for" the guests, and making them happy is the priority. You and your GF will have to figure out which philosophy works for you. If it's the former, you gain a lot more leverage/understanding by paying for it yourselves. If it's the latter, there's a lot more negotiation, but the parents may chip in more, since their guests are your guests.

The other factor in your situation will be your GF's relationship to her mother. I think you can expect that whatever dynamic they currently have (as evidenced in planning anything from birthdays to holidays to visits) will be the same dynamic in force as you plan the wedding. If your GF tends to try to please her mother, it'll be difficult to get her to suddenly change tacks.
posted by xo at 1:30 PM on September 20, 2007

Just do not let her pay for it. Period.

If you accept her money, than you've let her in, and you've brought whatever hell transpires on yourself.

Pay for it, plan it, and execute it yourselves, so that she is just a guest -- an honored guest, but a guest nonetheless -- and at least then you'll have a leg to stand on when you need to respond to criticism.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:32 PM on September 20, 2007 [2 favorites]

Essential reading.
posted by rhizome at 1:44 PM on September 20, 2007

Pay for it yourselves. The pro of getting your eager little hands on some of mommy 'n daddy's cash isn't worth the fact that spending other peoples' money means that you have to factor them in. It's just not.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 1:47 PM on September 20, 2007

Perhaps you can have a party that really is a surprise wedding. Then your future mother-in-law may blow up, but it'd likely be after the wedding.
posted by Monday at 1:51 PM on September 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

Not to derail but you do realize that the wedding is the first of your worries if your wife intends to keep her mother in your future life. Vacations, visitation, kids, etc. will all be potential land mines if she is as sensitive as you depict. I wholeheartedly recommend that you discuss these things with your bride-to-be so that you two are on the same page.

Oh and congrats!
posted by mmascolino at 2:21 PM on September 20, 2007

Best answer: First of all, congratulations!

I went through a very similar situation to yours when I got married (five years ago). My mother has a raft of undiagnosed mental health issues: BPD certainly fits aspects of her behaviour pretty well.

xo mentions above two philosophies on planning your wedding. I'd respectfully argue that one guest, no matter who they are, shouldn't be allowed to affect every other guest's day, whether you're thinking of yourselves or not.

For us, we agonised for a long time about whether to invite her at all (there was absolutely no question of her being financially involved) - she hasn't been part of my life in any meaningful way for about 15 years now (that's a whole other thread's-worth of discussion, though). Eventually we decided to invite her - in hindsight I don't regret the decision even though it did make the day a great deal more stressful - the possibility of an explosion was in the back of my mind the whole time.

Our number one contingency plan, just in case of an outburst: embarrassing as it might be (unless they already know), I'd suggest letting a few trusted friends know about the situation (best man, ushers, [adult] bridesmaids) - they'll probably think you're making a fuss about nothing, but it was essential for our peace of mind. We told them, in no uncertain terms, that if there was any possibility of a scene, she was to be escorted from the building. No negotiation, just get her out.

mmascolino makes valid point - this is only the beginning. Now that we're starting to think about start a family of our own, the land mines are lining up very nicely thankyou.

Email's in the profile if you want to chat more.
posted by dogsbody at 5:41 PM on September 20, 2007

Best answer: Congratulations on your engagement!

My mom is BPD (undiagnosed) and was a holy terror during the time of my wedding and seemed preoccupied with creating drama. She no-showed at the bridal shower. She no-showed at the reception hall the morning of the wedding, when everybody met to decorate. She threw a temper tantrum when we declined to pay for her and my dad to stay the night at the historic mansion where our ceremony was held (they live in the town where we got married). She never offered to help with anything and sat like a surly queen while the other women (and men) in our families scurried around helping with everything during the rehearsal dinner, set up and reception. She had a complete, hysterical, verbally abusive breakdown over the phone when I confronted her about not showing up for my bridal shower. Then, during the wedding reception, every time I encountered her, she had some horrible, negative thing to say about other people in attendance. There is so much more that I could rant about...but I will stop there.

Here is what I learned:

-Expect absolutely nothing out of her.
-Do not ask her to do anything.
-Do not ask her to pay for anything.
-Do not disclose to her if and how other family members are helping financially with the wedding.
-Anticipate that she is going to freak out.
-Do not let yourself be controlled by her behavior.
-Be careful about complaining about her to your family (future in-laws) because they will start treating her differently and she will notice.
-Be nice to her, but keep your boundaries and stay positive.

Good luck!
posted by pluckysparrow at 9:03 PM on September 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

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