Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Dear ESB: Do I take the money from my former step dad?

My former step dad (father of my younger bro & sis, estranged) has been trying to make amends with my mom who has harbored years of resentment towards him due to child support non-payments and such, my extremely hard-headed stubborn sister (and moh) who has harbored years of resentment towards him due to abandonment issues, and my easy going affable brother.

I think he made some headway with my mom and brother but my sister refuses to talk to him. Since you are very astute you know I am getting married and while I don't agree with his actions of the past I tend to overthink things and see my wedding as not only a celebration of my dude and I declaring our love and commitment with our nearest and dearest, but also as an opportunity to reunite my hugely complicated family and maybe get past some disagreements and estrangements thru communal celebrating and crab cake eating.

I'm not delusional, I know that that's a tall order and I won't feel that my wedding has failed if that doesn't happen, but I've seen it happen before and I think my family is ripe for some Lifetime worthy hugfests.

Having said that, when this father type found out I was getting married, he called me and sent me a check. A pretty big check. Like, a third of our low-budge So-Cal DIY self-funded wedding budget's worth.

So. I was planning on inviting him anyway until my sister responded with a chinook of chilliness.

Do I:
a) take the money and send him pictures which he told me was enough being fully aware of how my sister feels about him and the situation
b) send the check back out of principal
c) try and convince my sister to at least listen to him try to make amends?*

* there is a distinct chance this will not happen. Seriously, my sister is the most stubborn person I have ever met.

ps i forgot option d) invite him and make her suck it up.


d) Invite him and make her suck it up. I couldn't have said it better myself.

It's your wedding. And whether or not this man is your father by blood, he had a hand in raising you.

p.s. You probably shouldn't say anything to your sister about that hugfest you're hoping for. Just get em all there and see what happens.

(Photography by Keiron O'Connor for Jalouse via tobaccoandleather via Le Fashion)


  1. Agreed. Weddings require lots of money, so I'd accept. Especially since it was sent with what sounds like no strings attached.

    And invite him and hope for that hugfest (but agreed - don't tell her that.) Seat them far apart. If there are more than 20 people at the wedding, she doesn't even have to talk to him. Sounds like a great start to a Lifetime show.

  2. d. all the way, D.

    she'll live.

  3. A similar situation happened at a wedding I just attended. Her younger brother's estranged father (who I was told he hates) was hired to play in the band at her reception. I'm sure there was tension but there was no obvious drama during the reception that I could tell. I would invite him and tell him to keep his distance unless your sister makes the first move. Good luck!

  4. If you want him there, for you, invite him. If you are reaaaaaally hoping for the hugfest, go ahead and be hopeful but also prepare for disappointment. Weddings do not erase years of resentment.

    re: the money situation (which seems kind of separate from the invite situation). Don't let yourself get overwhelmed by the thought of the money before you rationally consider it. Taking money can be a total non-issue or a huge deal, depending on the people, and only you know how it is between you and your stepdad.

    Lots of money comes with strings attached, and you better be prepared to accept those strings before you cash a check.

  5. i would feel weird about the money. depends.

    invite him. give adults the chance to act like adults- but don't be disappointed if they (in this situation, your sister) don't.

  6. Yup. When/if she throws a hissy, you can tell her she can not invite him to her own wedding.

    Oh, and if sis doesn't know about the money yet, I wouldn't tell her. A few issues regarding money are some of the many reasons why I effing HATE my ex step dad, and I could see if I were in her position how someone taking a check might seem like getting bought. She may also end up feeling a bit of resentment towards you for getting his generosity now, instead of her receiving it as a child when it was legally mandated.

  7. Let me add to the chorus: D D D D D

    I also agree that if you haven't already told her, I wouldn't share the bit about the $$, for all the reasons Melissa mentioned.

    Your sister's resentment towards your (step)father have to do with $$, so this is (understandably) likely to be a minefield of an issue for her. Tread carefully.

  8. Amen! No matter what petty disputes arise during the planning, I highly doubt they would risk missing your wedding just to save themselves from being the tiniest bit uncomfortable.

    Take it from a girl who has the most complicated family in the history of family.... and had BOTH her fathers walk her down the aisle, despite having my birth father tell me that he would not share the spotlight and having my birth mother tell me she wouldn't come if my step dad wasn't a part of it. In the end, they all came, they smiled, they celebrated. And life went on the same as it did before. :)

  9. invite him.
    hope for nothing but him knowing that you are thankful.
    enjoy your wedding.

    my bro and dad aren't on the best of terms, but i want them both there. they're going to have to deal with each other for just a little bit for me and that's fine.

  10. D.

    But warn him about your sister, your sister about him, and your other family members.

    Thankfully my and BCB's families have been sucking up their differences in the past couple of years, but at one point it looked like:
    - my parents would need to be kept apart;
    - BCB's parents would need to be kept apart;
    - BCB's sister (and her partner) would need to be kept separate from her mother and her grandmother.

    Eesh. Not cool. Thankfully the sister and the mother are no longer estranged. And everyone else is learning tobe civil.

  11. Your wedding is 100% what you want it to be. While you can't force the "hug-fest" you can throw all the pieces in the air and hope they land in the right places. And you can absolutely tell your sister to suck it up. I'd take the check if it will improve your big day, and invite all of the people who are important to you, regardless of how they feel about each other. Also, I hate to say it but you absolutely cannot accept the money if you aren't going to have him there, and if you send the check back there is a big chance you won't have him in your life altogether... That kind of rejection would sting. He can't right past wrongs but he can do this nice thing for you... so I say let him.

  12. i am going to lose the popularity contest for saying this, BUT ... i think you should turn down the money.

    money makes me nervous. always has. with a windfall like this, check your weather vane and see where the fuck it's coming from. doesn't it make you feel just a little bit icky that he's trying to buy your mom & sister's affection by paying for a chunk of your wedding ?

    but like i said, money makes me nervous. also, i have a fucked up relationship with my dad, so who knows, i'm probably full of shit.

  13. Yeah, the money makes me a little uncomfortable as well. Definitely think it over and decide if it's worth cashing and possibly having it loom over your head for years to come.

  14. Inviting him:
    I do think you should invite him. Make it clear that you want him there but that he shouldn't push your sister that day - its not the time or the place. Ask your sister to please cope with him being there and to at least be polite.

    Keeping the money or not:
    I'm sure he is mostly giving you the $$$ because you're you, but hes got to at least have the thought in the back of his head that maybe it will help his image with your siblings and mom... Thats a lot of baggage to attach to what should be a happy occasion celebrating family.
    I say send it back. Thank him PROFUSELY. But say it was just too much, and while you really appreciate his generosity that you can't keep it.
    (btw I recently got married so I understand budget issues and how any windfall of money looks good. But keeping it has a good amount of potential to hurt your sister.)
    Who knows, maybe he'll tone the check down to something that isn't large enough to cause resentment with your sister.

    If you do keep the money
    I DON'T agree with the advice saying to keep the money and not tell your sister. She already has trust issues with her father, do you want her to have them with you too? Because thats most likely what you're going to get if you keep the $ and don't tell her.

    Whatever you decide to do, handle the situation with this in mind: The wedding is only one day. She's your sister for life.