May 15, 1997
For some brides-to-be, family relationships will never become fairy tale "happily-ever-afters..."
No Fairy Tale Wedding
I am 32 years old and getting married this summer. Ever since my mother passed away four years ago, my family has been a mess. I am the only girl of four children and the youngest by many years. My father is quite old, ill and estranged from my brothers because my mother had always kept the peace in our family. Without her, practically no one is speaking.
I was extremely close to my mother and maintain contact with all my brothers and my father. Although I wish I could do what my mother did, I can't. It must have been a full-time job.
The problem is my wedding. Some of the brothers won't come if one or another of the others is coming. Two won't come if my father is there. My father said that he'll come, but he refuses to speak to any of his sons, their wives or even their children. I am trying and failing to make peace, and spending a lot of my pre-wedding time in tears, frustrated and at my wit's end. I don't know what to do.
My fiancé's family is wonderful, welcoming and loving. My own is a disaster. I feel humiliated about my so-called family, and I am, at this point, dreading my own wedding. Any suggestions?
You could be Weepy, Sneezy, Grumpy, Bashful or even Dopey, but yours is not likely to metamorphose into any fairy tale family, so why don't you just give it up?
Send a note to each of your warring family members that reads something like this: Dear _______, I have officially ceased all attempts at keeping the peace because I am not Mother. If you wish to honor her memory by helping to make my wedding day festive and meaningful, I invite you to attend. If, however, you cannot behave as adults, please stay home so that I can celebrate with my new family. Please give me a definitive answer regarding your attendance by _________.
May your strong position reward you with an exquisite wedding day and fine family -- one way or another.
I am an adult child of recently divorced parents. My father says that he'd been unhappy for years but was waiting until the children left for college. Although I understand what he (or they) was trying to do for us by waiting, I would like to say that it is still a shock to children, even when they are in their 20s, as we are.
This past Passover was a nightmare. My sister and I had to choose whose Seder to attend the first night. We ended up each going to one parent's home. It was an awful night for us both. My father's girlfriend and her young children made me feel like a stranger. My father was no longer anything like the man who raised me.
My mother is alone in a small condo (they sold the house in the divorce), bitter and depressed. Our family is destroyed, and the holidays now are nothing but reminders of what we no longer are.
Don't good parents protect their children from such experiences? Do you think it's right for our parents to make us choose between them? Shouldn't they have planned Passover so that we were not in a position to choose?
Confused and Hurt
Dear Confused and Hurt,
It is a shame that so many divorcing parents make the mistake of thinking it is always easier on adult children than on small ones. It is also a shame that engaged people, when they are getting married, can't have a magical glimpse into the future at the shattering effects of their own potential divorce.
Sadly, we have no such magical glimpse into the future, and the divorce rate doesn't seem to be abating much. It is unfortunate that your Passover was painful for you and that you have many holidays and social events ahead which will be inexorably changed.
So now that we've sufficiently bemoaned what isn't, let's take a hard look at what is. Whether it's right or wrong for your parents to have done what they did, or how or when they did it, it's a done deal. It's over and is high time for you to accept these facts: 1) Your parents are divorced, and your family has permanently changed. 2) They can neither shield you nor prevent your suffering. 3) You and your sister are adults and must learn to make decisions about each step that lies ahead so that you can make the best of your family.
Instead of wallowing in your family's tragedy, use this time of difficult transition to redefine and renew each of your relationships with family members, and to learn a great deal about your future marriage and parenting choices. Now that you've discovered that some of the rungs of the ladder of growing up will break, may your ascent be smoother.
A Single Mission
Whenever I go to Jewish singles events, the women are always standing in groups, which makes it difficult to approach any particular woman. Any suggestions?
You could bring a megaphone and shout out, "Hey you...yeah, you, with the lime-green mini and the harem." Or you could shoot a paper airplane with your name, number and message scrawled inside. After your mark has been hit by your little reconnaissance aircraft, and as she scans the room for the culprit, wave at her and do a charade of opening a paper airplane and reading.
Or you could approach and say what's on your mind. If she is not interested, at least some of the others will appreciate your moxie, and, hey, who knows? Later, you might get hit by a paper airplane with somebody's number inside.
All letters to Dear Deborah require a name, address and telephone number for purposes of verification. Names will, of course, be withheld upon request. Our readers should know that when names are used in a letter, they are fictitious.
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Deborah Berger-Reiss is a West Los Angeles psychotherapist.
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