Wedding Woes

Start by stopping the monthly phone call.

Dear Prudence,
I got married six months ago. My relationship with my family is at best distant—we don’t have a lot in common and there were several incidents of what I’ve been told most people would call abuse (but I’m not there yet, mentally speaking). My dad is a racist, sexist creep. I’ve managed to get him to tone it down around me enough that I can handle a monthly phone call, but that’s my limit. I really didn’t want him to walk me down the aisle, but by the end of the engagement, I was so burned out on decision-making that I just didn’t have the strength for that conversation, with him or any of my many relatives who would have demanded an explanation.

His behavior was horrible. He was so drunk at the rehearsal that I had to hold him up as we walked down the aisle, and he made jokes about disrupting the ceremony to object. (This wasn’t part of the ceremony, because we’re not in a Brontë novel.) He pulled my maid of honor into a conversation about all the women he could have brought to the wedding. He snuck a bottle of liquor into our unlimited beer-and-wine reception, which the venue fined me for. He made passes at my husband’s aunt, one of my bridesmaids, my cousin’s fiancée, the DJ, and one of my good friends. He almost got in a fight with venue security when he tried to leave with an open beer. The list just goes on and on. The wedding was big enough that I don’t think most people knew the extent, but I regret that I didn’t have more plans for “handling” him.

His abysmal behavior has really soured my memories of the day. I have been unable to sit down with my husband and select photos for our album, because I get so angry at my father, but I’m so much angrier at myself. I had distanced myself enough from him that I didn’t know the extent of his problem with alcohol, but I feel foolish for thinking it might have improved. I put my friends in a position where they were harassed. Letting him walk me down the aisle feels like an endorsement of his values, and I am so, so disappointed in myself for doing the easy thing instead of having some difficult conversations. I find myself unable to sit through my monthly phone call with my dad, and my brother is going through a medical crisis that involves much more contact with family than I’m used to. Prudie, how do I move on from my father’s bad behavior at my wedding without punching him in the face?

—Angry, Just Angry

Re: Start by stopping the monthly phone call.

  • edited October 2017
    Stop talking to him.
    Seek counseling.

    Edit: him = dad
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  • Is the only way to communicate about your brother's crisis via your dad? If so, then only talk to him about that when it's absolutely necessary. Once your brother's crisis is over, I would just let this relationship die the natural death it's headed for anyway.

    I always have such a hard time understanding why people won't cut toxic people out of their lives. Just do it and feel what emotional freedom feels like...
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  • I think the most important thing the LW should do is "forgive" herself.  Sure, hindsight is 20/20.  But she is not responsible for her father's behavior at her wedding.  That she allowed her father to walk her down the aisle is also not an endorsement of his behavior.  Nobody else thinks that.

    Perhaps some counseling sessions would help.

    In the meantime, I would only be in touch with my dad as little as possible.  I realize the brother's medical problems are compounding this, but maybe there are other parties she could be in touch with about that instead.  Or at least for some things.

    Bottom line, the LW can define and set parameters for the contact she wants with her dad.  If she comes to the conclusion she wants no contact with him, she needs to know that's okay.  And allow herself to do that with no guilt.

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