A reader writes:
“If this were the radio, I’d be the “long time, first time” guy calling in… Thanks for your help with questions from others so far.
“Okay, my fiancee has this ex-boyfriend whom she dated for 5+ years. She grew pretty close to his Mother and while I don’t have any hard feelings towards her, he’s a different story. My fiancee had to file a restraining order against this guy for stalking a while back so anything that has to do with him just makes me go crazy.
“I was looking over the guest list for our upcoming wedding, and there is his Mother and even the guys brother on the damn list. When I told her no way no how, it turned into a huge fight. So tell me Mr. Expert: Am I being an asshole by demanding that his family members not be invited?”
Ahhhh yes, irrational hatred. I know it well.
I’m from Houston. My favorite team is the Houston Rockets. In 1992, when I was young and impressionable, the Rockets lost a hard-fought, bitter playoff series to the Seattle Sonics. My hatred of the Sonics was born.
But I didn’t just hate the “Sonics,” I hated every player on that team including Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton, and then I hated those players’ new teams when they were traded. I hated their coach, George Karl, and I hated John Lithgow because he looked like George Karl. I hated the city of Seattle. I hated Seattle coffee. I hated grunge music. I hated Bill Gates because the Microsoft headquarters was near Seattle. I hated Sleepless in Seattle (for different reasons: that movie just sucks) and I hated Singles.
And then it turns out that the woman of my dreams, the girl I fell in love with… was from Seattle. Just kidding. I never met Seattle Girl and this advice has careened wildly off course.
[Clears throat.] What does this have to do with you? Hopefully, nothing. There are two different scenarios here, and only you know which one we’re dealing with:
Scenario 1) Your hatred of this dude’s family is as silly and irrational as my hatred of the Sonics.
Scenario 2) You have legitimate grounds to be upset with them, and/or you can’t get past the first issue without considerable (and genuine) emotional anguish.
When we read the start of your email, we guessed that your fiancée invited the ex-boyfriend, and then we would advise, without equivocation, that you should banish the motherfu#ker. You have every reason to hate this dude. He has no business at your wedding. But… his mother? Really? You say yourself that you don’t have any hard feelings for her. At the actual wedding itself, you won’t really talk to her and will barely even see her–you have 100+ more appealing guests. Is it really that big a deal?
So first decide how big a deal this is. Remember, the mother and brother didn’t stalk your fiancée, they didn’t date her, they didn’t sleep with her. All they have is guilt-by-association.
But if, after putting everything in perspective, you still feel deeply, genuinely uncomfortable about their presence at your wedding, if your blood will boil when saying your vows, if you will stare at them in hatred while twirling your bride in the first dance, if you want to stab them with the knife you use to cut the wedding cake… then yes, don’t let this devour your wedding, you’re within your rights to make it an issue.
When the shoe is on the other foot–when grooms tell us that their fiancées want them to un-invite such-and-such for whatever reasons–we’re the first ones to tell them to punt, to compromise, to “side with the bride.” So it’s only fair that your fiancée should do the same for you. Unless the douchebag-ex-boyfriend’s mother is a Surrogate Mom (for your bride) and a cornerstone figure in her life, what do they mean to her? In other words, if she’s only inviting them out of politeness, why put you through the wringer?
Change your tactics. Don’t “demand” that they be stripped from the roster, but clearly convey how this makes you feel, and let her know if that there was someone on your half of the list that filled her with dread, you would take her side and that’s that.
Or…. If you realize that, after all, your hatred for the douchebag ex-boyfriend has nothing to do with his family, maybe you can ignore the whole mess and move on.
A couple of years ago a buddy moved to Seattle. I visited. Cool town. Who knew?