At the rehearsal dinner for my son’s wedding, he wanted the fathers, including his stepfather (my husband), to do the speeches and toasts. My husband was going to give the welcome but doesn’t know my son well and suggested that I give that speech instead. My son was strongly against this, then changed his mind at the last minute. At the wedding, we were to be seated with my ex-husband, whom we do not get along with. My son would not change the seating, and we wound up sitting in the back. I’ve been hurt by my son many times. I understand the wedding is not about me, but I feel as if he doesn’t respect me, or my husband. Am I making too big a deal about this?
C.T. / Boston
Oh, honey. Your son regularly hurts and disrespects you and your husband. How can you not make a big deal out of that?
This is why context is important. Wedding slights are rarely worth getting upset about on their own. Weddings are complicated. They’re a one-performance-only production in which the stars are also the stage managers, directors, and producers. Details get overlooked, and a “detail” to the stressed-out bride or groom may be “the entire point of the ceremony” to a family member or attendant. Feelings get scuffed. These are the times when it’s beneficial to take a deep breath and remember that it’s not about you.
But this? Isn’t that. The way you were treated at the wedding is part of an ongoing pattern that you are right to be distressed over.
That’s all you asked, but of course I can’t just leave you with that, now can I? I’m so sorry your relationship with your son is like this. I hope you can find a way to accept it and protect yourself, because all I can think about right now is how, if your son and his wife have children, they will use those grandbabies to tear your heart out. Maybe a therapist or a support group, even an online one, would be helpful. Stop striving for your son’s approval or hoping that correct behavior on your part will change his behavior. And know that you are not alone.
Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.Ever wonder if it’s you or them? Miss Conduct can clear that up for you. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.