"Helping people who help people"

So I’m reading in a bridal magazine and hoping the answer isn’t what I think it’s going to be… and it is:

“My father has never taken responsibility for me, except when it was convenient for him. Even though I know he loves me, he breaks all his promises. He won’t be walking me down the aisle, but now I’m questioning whether I should invite him at all for fear of his ruining my special day. Part of me says, Why should I invite him? He’s never been there for me. But he is my father. What do I do?

If you don’t feel comfortable inviting him, you shouldn’t feel pressure to do it. “You don’t have to invite him just because he’s your father,” says long-time family therapist….”

It makes me so sad that our culture has decided the wedding day is not about family, but about the bride, groom and whatever their immediate emotions are and current relationships. Sometimes family really sucks. Sometimes our parents really disapoint us. But unless they are abusive, and even then, it should be a HUGE, rare deal to uninvite a parent to your wedding.

The problems with not inviting the dad are many:
1 – is the JOY you get at not having him there greater than the pain and agony he’ll experience for the rest of his entire LIFE at you not letting him show up for your big day?
2 – he’s the reason you exist, he’s got his issues, but what happens if and when you reconcile with him? How much regret will you experience having to tell your future children that “mommy was mad at granddaddy and told him he couldn’t come?” And better still, how will that not teach your own children that parenthood is not a permanent thing but based on the whim of the child as to whether a parent should be involved in one of the largest days of your life.
3 – you aren’t just hurting dad but your siblings, your family and even your spouse for not letting this man experience the joy of seeing you, and the joy of HIS loved ones participating in your big day, together, as a big family.
4 – cut offs take two to tango. Are you sure you really want to play the game? Are you sure you won’t have a single regret should he pass away suddenly, or should you come to peace with his irresponsible ways?

And a note on family therapy. The world of family therapy involves being trained in “family systems”, a model similar to a biological model whereby everything is interrelated and interconnected. If you work on one spouse, that will have ripple effects on the other spouse, the relationship and extended family. But one thing family therapists are told NOT to be is pro-family. They are trained in supposed “values-neutral” approaches to problems whereby what is going to make an individual the happiest is the best solution – regardless of the short term, long term, personal or family “costs” to the decision. You can read a lot more on my father and co-founder of The First Dance, Bill’s website at http://www.drbilldoherty.org

So what would I say to that bride? You love him. He loves you. He’s not perfect, nor are you. Do you really think it’s worth giving back to him what he gave you to – emotional distancing and avoidance? Do you really wish that pain on him or do you see a new way to go about life – one filled with forgiveness, or at the very least, one-day-forgiveness for such an important day of your life. Afterall, what are you going to tell your kids some day and what will it teach them about the parent/child relationship? That it’s voluntary and if they’re mad at you some day you will be uninvited to their weddings?


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