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cathy, Mental Health Professional
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 1436
Experience:  MS., MS.Ed., 30 years clinical and administrative experience in psychiatry and mental health
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My childrens father has been absent from their lives for the

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My childrens father has been absent from their lives for the past 22 years.The past was full of conflict devisiveness, emotional abuse and alienation. They are now 42 and 43 years old. The father without explaination returned and contacted both. One opened the door and is open to revisiting the relationship the other is not. The one opeing the door is getting married for the 2nd time in one month and invited the Dad to the wedding after all plans had been set and invites made. This has caused the type of crisis and splitting dy\namics that occurred the first 22 years of their lives. The wedding p[lans are now stressed to the max, commuication has all but come to a halt. Although I the mother will attend the wedding the other sibling may not to avoid contact with the returning parent. Might there be a win/win to this solution?

Hi and thanks for writing JA

I am sorry to hear your story and yes there is a win win to this situation and yet I have a strong feeling you are not going to like the response so I have to ask you if you really want the expert answer on this or instead, can I say something to you just to comfort you in such an awkward situation?

You see I can give you both responses but I want to be very clear that the expert response is really not the one you wish to hear. And yes, not only do I know this after thirty of years of hearing this story so many times in my own practice, but I have actually lived through this same scenario in my personal life. I know exactly how upsetting this can be and I know how unnerved you must be.

Let me which direction you wish to go in on this and I am happy to help you as best I can.

Warm regards ***** ***** tough post,


Customer: replied 7 years ago.

I want a win win for the couple getting married as it is their decision. I believe the other sibling will not attend if the father attends and This will be very uncomfortable to all in attendance other than the father.

The couple has even spoke of canceling the reception at this late date if necessary to Stop the insanity. I can not see the road to least resistance in view, which is why I wrtoe to you. The dynamics in the family are historically poor but certainly improved during the father's absense, of course it feels like we have just slid backward 22 years as everyone is just immobilized.

I am glad you are putting the couples wishes first. This is your child's day and what loving parents do is exactly what you are doing. They put their needs and wants last and they put their children's needs first.

Your other child is not capable of being so selfless and should be allowed to boycott the wedding if he or she wishes. There is not a thing you can do about this, except what you are doing, and that is by attending the wedding and refraining from contributing to the bad mouthing and negativity you are behaving in a rational, adult and loving manner. Your family and friends will lionize you for this behavior. You are taking the high road and this means you are above the nonsense.

The one point I will disagree with you on is this, you say:

This will be very uncomfortable to all in attendance other than the father.

I know there are many petty people in the world but the fact is that you are going to be pleasantly surprised to find that most people will behave well. Most people will not be uncomfortable in the least and in fact will be relieved if the sibling stays away. It matters not how small minded your family members might be, they will behave well. No one wants to publicly show themselves as unevolved so if your childs father attends they will behave.

I know you think you are immobilized but by setting the example that you are, by showing all that your child is the most important person on their wedding day you will set the tone for the event. This is not only a true sign of your mental health and rational ability it is something we used to call class and manners.

Two illustrations to support your good behavior.

One is that of the late Jackie Kennedy whose father Jack Bouvier was not wanted by her mother at her wedding. Jackie insisted and while Mr. Bouvier was too drunk to attend Jackies mother, Janet Auchincloss was seen as gracious and extremely loving for allowing "nothing to spoil" her daughters big day.

The second illustration comes from a young woman I counseled many years ago. Her father had not been in her life for 20 years and when she married she had recently reconciled with him. Her mother, so distraught and clearly just so selfish, threatened suicide if her daughter went ahead with her plans. My poor client was two weeks away from her wedding, miserable and begging her fiance to elope. Naturally she loved both her parents and had removed herself from their disputes because she was one very brave and mature young lady. She came to see me immobilized, distraught and in a great deal of pain on what should have been the best time in her young life. At the end of the session she felt better and she went home, called her mother and said:

Look Mom, I would hate it if you did try to commit suicide and I would really miss you if you were not at my wedding, but I am going ahead with my plans as they are and thats the way it is going to be. Her mother did come around and she did not misbehave. Years later when she was many years out of therapy that young bride called me after her mother had died and in one of their last talks together, she told her mother that she forgave her for being such a jerk to her before her wedding. Her mother, dying, remarked, you are right, it was pretty jerky of me to let my past hurts interfere with your happiness.

Thank you for not doing this very same thing.

Thank you being loving your child unconditionally and being selfless enough to put her needs and wishes first.

You set the bar now let the rest of the family follow. If they meet the standard you are setting so be it, and if not, well at least you have a child who will be parented by both her parents as she deserves.

I admire your class and selfless love for your child and I appreciate it that I did not have to tell you to behave better as clearly you had already chosen the high road on this.

Have a great time. Dance up a storm and celebrate.

You are a parent many could learn from.

Warm regards,


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