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BEL MOONEY: How do we solve bitter rift over daughter’s wedding?

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Dear Bel,

Just before lockdown our daughter met her (now) fiance. I was delighted. Lockdown made them move in quickly and we didn’t meet him until afterwards. First impressions were good; he seemed nice and fitted well into our family. But since then he hasn’t made much effort.

He’s moody, rarely changes his clothes and has regained all the weight he’d lost. Our daughter told us he has ‘issues with food’ and she was trying to help him. My impression is that he is both needy and controlling. But our daughter worships the ground he walks on.

We were on FaceTime with her and (unknown to us) he was listening. My husband asked innocently if her boyfriend was seeking help for his food issues — thinking this was bothering her. We heard the sound of banging, which got worse, then the ‘invisible’ boyfriend yelled at us. My daughter had to go off to pacify him. No apology has ever been given for his behaviour.

They’re paying for their wedding themselves. Our daughter came home alone for a few days and showed me a table plan her fiance had drawn up. I searched for her brother and his fiancee’s names — and eventually found them, with two friends of ours, on the last table! I pointed out that her brother should not be so far down the seating plan. We are going to our daughter’s wedding with no one really on ‘our side’ to support us. We would like more of our friends included.

When I asked this on FaceTime she got defensive, then cried. She doesn’t get why we need support on her special day. Her lack of empathy is astounding. We are only asking them to include six more of our friends. When they drew up the guest list we were not consulted.

So many other things have hurt us. When we tell her, she throws it back on us that she is hurt too but can’t tell us what we have done to hurt her.

We don’t recognise the woman our daughter has become. It’s got so bad I almost want to cut contact with her. No answer from her about us inviting a few friends. I dread going to a wedding where we feel like strangers instead of the bride’s proud mum and dad. We feel very pushed out.

She even told her dad he didn’t need to make a speech if he chose. My husband is as depressed as me. Your wise counsel is needed.

ISLA

This week Bel speaks to a mother who wants help solving a bitter rift over her daughter’s wedding

As so often, this is just a small part of a letter that would have filled two whole pages of this newspaper. Your original was quite rambling (you apologise for digressions) and complicated. What I have left here is the nitty-gritty — one of those wedding problems I dislike.

Thought of the day 

Why does no one hear unsaid words?

Why isn’t anyone interested enough to ask more?

To care enough to wonder if what you say

Is different to how things are.

From ‘We Are the Winter People’ by Jenny Rowbury. (profoundly disabled poet — see jkrowbory.co.uk)

Nevertheless, it all matters very much — because future family harmony depends on it. And I will be blunt (as you want me to be) and tell you that I think you need to step back from this state of high indignation.

Yes, it’s understandable that you wish you had an ‘allowance’ of more guests. And, given that you have a history of feeling isolated within your own family, to the extent of cutting off all contact with your siblings, it’s clear you are a vulnerable individual who is (perhaps) quick to see hurt and take it to heart.

Many parents will have reservations about the people their offspring choose to marry, and so your criticisms are normal in that context.

But, reading between the lines, I suspect you have never really liked this man, nor found it easy to be fair to him. You are quick to enumerate his faults when it would be sensible to try to understand why she loves him.

To be honest, if he does have a problem with food and is struggling with weight, it is very unwise of you to mention it at all.

No matter how much I sympathise with your frustration over the guest list (and I really do), I have to advise you to put up with it.

What’s the alternative? Either be bravely silent — or make things much worse.

It shocks me that you say you ‘almost want to cut contact’. Do you really want to make yourselves more unhappy than you already are?

In any case, why do two adults need ‘support’ at a wedding, where you will also have your son, his fiancee and two friends? Why can’t you mingle and get to know the other side?

It may be unfair that the groom has more guests, but in your place I would take some deep breaths, control that ‘hurt’ (as she must control hers) and vow to put on an Oscar-worthy performance of benevolence. I’m truly sorry for how you feel. But I counsel you gently to remember that this wedding is not about you, and be happy for your daughter.

My partner’s ex just won’t move on 

Dear Bel,

I’m in a difficult situation and struggling. Over two years ago I met someone and ‘knew’. His marriage was over, he said, and his wife had moved out. Weeks before their divorce was finalised, his ex turned up back in the marital home. Now, his daughters say he can’t see his adored grandchildren if he leaves.

His ex has come back out of fear of living alone. I know he loves me — he’s my rock. I’ve never known either the laughter or the peace we have together. I’m in my 50s and have never experienced this sense of fulfilment with someone. My heart doesn’t want to lose him.

We meet up when we can. But it’s complicated and I’m not sure I can bear it. I’m capable of walking away as I’ve made strong decisions in my life — like telling my children’s father to leave when they were babies, without support, a job or home.

I know I am stronger than him, but in this situation I am powerless. His wife may rediscover the courage to leave — or not. He may get the courage to stand up to them all — or may not. All I can do is accept the situation or walk away.

Yesterday we had seven hours together and it was wonderful. He’s texted to say he can’t wait to see me again. Our feelings are getting stronger, but I can’t cope with uncertainty.

I also wonder how would I feel, meeting the daughters, knowing they used their own children as pawns. While I may forgive, I don’t think I will forget or respect them. How can I feel positive?

My hope is that he will stand up to them all, but he hasn’t said he will.

KATE

You say you ‘can’t cope with uncertainty’ but, of course, the truth is you can. Most of us are capable of bearing burdens greater than we know, depending on the likely outcome. In fact, all of us must live with the not knowing, since the greatest uncertainty is when the hour of our death will come.

Since you are so proud of your own strength I’d have thought it possible to continue to be brave for the sake of the man you love.

Vividly, convincingly, you describe your feelings. You were not the catalyst for the end of his marriage, but it’s possible that the awareness of his happiness with a new woman might have been the catalyst for his wife’s change of heart.

   

More from Bel Mooney for the Daily Mail…

Your original letter (over twice as long as this) is repetitive of your feelings and frustrations, but gives precious little information about your man and his family. I’m surprised you don’t even know his ex-wife’s name (‘he called her dragon once and that’s it’) nor do you tell me how many adored grandchildren he has.

I hope you do actually know. You have, after all, only known him ‘over two years’, which surely takes you back into lockdown? How much quality time have you been able to have?

Like you, I believe his daughters are wrong to hold access to the grandchildren over his head as a threat. I imagine they were upset when their parents split, then had their hopes raised when their mother moved back, so now feel panicky at the prospect of it starting all over again.

Such feelings might be understandable but using children as a weapon is not. However, if the day ever comes when you and your man can be together you will have to be the better person — and forgive them, for the sake of your love. That can also be achieved with a will.

What are your choices? In your 50s, are you likely to meet another great love? You could take the risk and ditch your man, embroiled as he is in a situation he must hate. Or you could give him time to talk to his wife, confide the truth about his marriage to his daughters and consider the price he is willing to pay to be with you.

In the meantime you can be his haven, let him leave things at your place, and bring your vaunted strength into play while you live your life and hope he comes to live it with you.

Women have waited for years while their men went to war. If your love is strong, can’t you be kind and give him the gift of loving patience?

And finally… Deborah’s bravery was inspirational 

We have many reasons to be grateful for the brave, vivacious honesty of the late Dame Deborah James, but I’ll isolate just one — her extraordinary radiance forced countless people to think about death.

Contact Bel 

Bel answers readers’ questions on emotional and relationship problems each week.

Write to Bel Mooney, Daily Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT, or email bel.mooney@dailymail.co.uk.

Names are changed to protect identities. 

Bel reads all letters but regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

Facing her own end of life — helped at home by palliative care specialists — Dame Deborah proved that it is indeed possible to have what our forebears called ‘a good death’. Her beautiful face and encouraging words will stay with me for ever. She wanted to inspire awareness and action — and it’s always needed.

Writing about bereavement since 1976, I know how vital it is for all of us to think about death to live better. Yet people are terrified, aren’t they?

That’s presumably why so many cross the road to avoid talking to someone they know is grieving.

It is so sad. But it’s not entirely surprising to hear the Sue Ryder charity (which provides essential palliative and bereavement support) is facing the worst recruitment challenge in 65 years.

Now celebrity supporters have joined forces with Sue Ryder nurses, patients currently receiving care and loved ones of past patients to launch the ‘We are Sue Ryder’ campaign.

It aims to raise awareness of the critical recruitment need for palliative care nurses across the UK. You can watch the moving campaign video here.

Watching Sue Ryder staff, ambassadors, patients, and families talk to the camera sharing heartfelt lines in verse (written by my daughter, Daily Mail contributor Kitty Dimbleby) brought tears to my eyes yet me made feel uplifted.

If you can’t consider training, you might know someone who could make this their vocation — with care and skill to transform life and death.

Some of the most inspiring people I’ve met are those who work with the old and sick. They are brilliant and noble ‘influencers’ — like Dame Deborah.

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