Question: My kids are 17 (g), 20 (g) and 22 (g) his (all boys) are 17, 24, and 26. Before we moved in together 3 yrs ago I was pretty much of a pushover. I held the line on important issues like substance abuse, sex, school, curfews, obeying the law but everything else was anarchy.
I spent all my non-working hours doing all the household chores (kids never helped and rarely cleaned up after themselves) and catering to the kids. All three of my kids were constantly rude and disrespectful to me and I let it go because I was so drained with dealing with raising three kids, working fulltime and having all the household responsibilities.
Once we moved in together my fiance really helped me set and stick to firm limits. My kids really resent this. On top of that, he can’t stand my oldest and youngest (middle one moved in with Dad when we moved in together) because of their bad behavior and complete disrespect for me. He’s yelled at each of them for defying me (along the lines of “Do what Mom tells you to do!”). At this point he and my kids don’t speak. My 17 yr old moved in with her dad once we announced our engagement because she “hates him so much”. Dad has no rules or limits and she can run wild, which probably has a lot to do with it.
His kids have more or less accepted me–the older two don’t live at home so it’s not an issue. His youngest didn’t seem to have an issue with me…until we started talking about marriage.
We are planning a wedding for the end of September. I know we absolutely should involve the children, and all are invited to participate. My son does want to give me away, but he won’t even try on his suit to see if it fits and get it altered. My 17 yr old rarely speaks to me. When I told her about the wedding she called it “the marriage of the two Lucifers”-and I am going to use the meaning of Lucifer (giver of light) for my theme as a result. She announced she wasn’t going, then yesterday called and said she’d be in the wedding if I bought her a pretty dress.
Next we have 17 yr old stepson who has disappeared to his mom’s house since the announcement (parents have 50/50 custody and until that stepson was always over here-I’ve barely seen him since his mom found out and I know she is saying things behind our backs).
With all of this going on — HELP! I know we are supposed to involve the kids in the wedding and I would love to have all six participate, but with all the animosity I don’t know how! I’ve read so much here about family vows, unity candles, etc, etc but I’d feel ridiculous and hypocritical doing any of these things because it would be fake on everyone’s part except mine. My plan at the moment is for my son to give me away and my two daughters to be bridesmaids, and I suppose the stepsons will be groomsmen but I am going to feel ridiculous in my wedding dress taking vows and saying romantic things in front of at least three people, perhaps more, who would gladly kill both of us and spit on our bodies.
What’s the right thing to do, and how can I not let this spoil our wedding?
Yvonne Kelly, MSW, RSW, Certified Stepfamily Counsellor and Coach, Co-Founder and Director of the Step and Blended Family Institute
This is an incredibly complex situation, not unlike the formation of many blended families that include various older children. I’m not convinced that any role or task you ask them to perform in the wedding is going to ensure a pleasant outcome. And even if you found the perfect symbolic involvement, it isn’t going to change the dynamics that are at play here and that will follow you into your marriage. So I will suggest two things at minimum. Unless sometihng changes drastically on the part of at least 3 of the young people involved, you can expect a real challenge in your married life together so doing some pre-remarital counselling for blended families will at least prepare the two of you a bit better for what lies ahead and may salvage your relationship even if it doesn’t help your vaious children accept the union. And number two, as you’re planning on having the wedding quite shortly, you may just want to accept the fact that they don’t accept this, offer them the opportunity to participate or not anyway, and then just proceed with your plans without any unrealistic expectations of how this is going to feel like a “family wedding.” This is not a coming together of two families in the sense that the children are accepting of it, and even though some of that may come in time, you have to recognize that they are not on the same emotional timetable as you and your partner, and may never be.
The other option you have of course is to carry on with your plans and then maybe have a private ceremony for just the two of you, perhaps when you have your honeymoon as this you could count on as being more meaningful and less unpredictable experience.
Bottomline, there are even bigger issues here than how the ceremony should look and I agree, that even though they may participate in different ways, it doesn’t mean they support this right now and that is their choice. You only have so much control and one thing you can’t control is how other people feel about this choice you are making. Life will not be easy under these circumstances as you well know by now, so the most important thing I will suggest is seeking out more information and perhaps counselling to prepare the two of you at least for what lies ahead. Best of luck!
Alyssa Johnson, The Smart Way to Re-Do Your “I Do”
It sounds like you have a bit of a mess on your hands! First and foremost I think both of you need to decide what you want as far as your relationship with your children.
Your children are making it clear that they are NOT ok with this marriage. Are you both ok with losing your relationship with children in order to proceed with this marriage? I won’t say that this is a definite, but you both need to be prepared for it as a possibility.
If you both wish to proceed with the wedding, I’d encourage you to view it as your (the couple) day. If you worry that your children will ruin it, then don’t go out of your way to have them there.
I think the less stress you have on the actual day, the better. That requires doing some hard work now in laying down some guidelines. For example, you could tell your kids that you’d like them to be there, but they do not have to be. If they agree to be there and be a part of the wedding, then deadlines should be in place. For instance, your son could be told he has until X date to be fitted for the suit and if he hasn’t done it by then, you will assume he doesn’t wish to participate in the wedding.
By doing this, you won’t be fretting the night before the ceremony. You’ve made it real clear what the expectation is and let your kids decide to follow through or not.
I hope that helps and wish you the very best!
Thank you both for your answers. That begs the question though–how do I know the difference between being assertive and having the right to have my own life and choose my own mate vs being selfish and putting my love life ahead of my children? I intentionally don’t say “best interests” because we have made a good home for the children–but they don’t like rules & limits, and have a dad that doesn’t believe in them.