Dear Annie: I am feeling so conflicted. My niece, “Melanie,” is getting married in June. Melanie is paying for her own wedding, with a little from her mom. She’s 31 now and was 5 when her parents (my brother and his wife) divorced.
Long story short, things are acrimonious between Melanie and her dad, and she’s decided not to invite him to the wedding. Her dad’s children from another marriage, her half-sister (who she hasn’t met yet) and half-brother, are not invited either. She says that it would be awkward for them to be there without their father, and they are not old enough to drive. Everyone else on our side of the family is invited.
I agree with her that my brother would not just drop his kids off and leave; he would make a scene. I get both sides, but hate that I am in between. My brother does not know he will not be invited. She just isn’t telling him. He asks me, “Did you get an invite?” Luckily, I have not yet, so I haven’t had to lie. Am I wrong that she has the right not to invite him, but she needs to call and tell him?
— In Between
Dear In Between: You’re not wrong, but that’s beside the point. Your niece is going to make her own decisions, and that’s the long and short of it. I know that you want to help, but often when we find ourselves trying to mediate disagreements between two loved ones, we end up playing a role in the drama ourselves. It’s time for you to bow out.
Dear Annie: I am writing in response to the letter from Parental Pawn, whose controlling parents were insisting the writer go to graduate school. In general, people tend to resist change. Have you read about abused wives who refuse to leave? We seem to have an innate fear of the unknown.
Here is my point: I have observed, many times, people finally managing to free themselves from abusive situations only to do things, consciously or unconsciously, that send them back into the situation they were familiar with, even if that situation was extremely uncomfortable. For example, habitual tardiness or other things that cause them to lose the job that allows them financial independence. The writer mentions having heard that graduate school will be virtually impossible to succeed at if you’re not fully committed. I would like to warn the writer, once he or she does manage to achieve independence, to be fully committed to being independent. Please keep your guard up against behaviors that would necessitate returning to the parents’ control. And believe me, the parents will use every trick in the book to try to make sure they don’t lose control of their child, never mind that the child is actually an adult.
— Retired Social Worker
Dear Retired Social Worker: I’m printing your letter because your professional insights are on the mark. Too often we bring the traps of our past with us, whether we want to or not. Therapy offers a place where we can leave them behind.