Christmas wedding set to cause family rift

Dr Tanya Byron

My husband's daughter from his first marriage has suddenly announced that she will marry just five days before Christmas. We run a business that is very busy during this period. This, coupled with the fact that the wedding is 400 miles away, means that we cannot attend.

There has been very little contact between my husband and his daughter since her mother died, although she and her fiance stayed with us when they were considering venues in our area. He understands that it is her special day, but is he is dreadfully upset.

We are blissfully happy in our marriage and I feel that she resents this and only just about tolerates me. My husband has already told her that we cannot attend and explained all the reasons. What do you think? Jill

I can understand why your husband would feel upset but I am at a loss as to why he should expect his needs to be paramount in her decision.

The first thing to work out is whether his daughter's behaviour is a premeditated attempt to make it as difficult as possible for the pair of you to attend her wedding. Perhaps, after all their searching, she and her fiance simply decided that a Christmas wedding at the venue they have chosen would be perfect.

While her actions may feel like they come from the former position, that is, she is very purposefully rejecting you both, particularly her father, it is just as likely that they are more to do with her choice. That is entirely her prerogative.

Weddings (and other significant events in the life of families) often stir up feelings at some point -- even in the most robust and well-functioning of families. Given that the previous relationship between your husband and his daughter was not close why should there be an expectation that his (and your) needs are prioritised?

This event shows that there needs to be some work on the father-daughter relationship in order for it to reach a place that is close and spontaneous. And while this may seem harsh, perhaps this process starts with your husband finding a way to attend his daughter's wedding -- with or without you. This would clearly signal to his daughter that she is a priority for him, however busy life and business are, and may begin the journey to a better and more loving relationship.

I do appreciate all you say about the business, but I wonder if you could see a way to hold the reins for a couple of days (with friends or family drafted in) in order to smooth the way for father and daughter to be together.

Children of separated parents will often throw out challenges to test love and commitment -- particularly to those parents with whom they had the least contact after the separation. Adult children will also do this, consciously or unconsciously, as a way of testing the relationship in a "will you be there for me" kind of way.

You do not say how things were when they stayed with you during their search for possible venues. Was the atmosphere warm and convivial? It sounds as if there wasn't a huge amount of spontaneity between father and daughter and it might be that this played into any decisions made about venues.

Again, I do not wish to seem harshly dismissive of your feelings in this matter. I have no doubt that this has upset you both. However, I urge you to be less reactive and more reflective.

I do believe that if there is a way that your husband can go to the wedding -- even if you remain at home -- his actions would speak volumes and create the framework for a more positive relationship that clearly needs time and attention invested on both sides.