Monday, December 12, 2011

I don't even know how to title this one

Hello ESB, 

Long time reader. First time writer. In the middle of my engagement my parents' thirty year marriage has for lack of a better word has exploded like a Sponge bob pinata at a birthday party. 

The day I was wedding dress shopping with my mother, my father was on vacation in the Caribbean with his mistress of twelve years. Understandably, my mother was upset but decided for my sake that she would not divorce my father until after a wedding which is next May. I told her I would go with her to the courthouse

My father knows this. He continues to see his mistress (whose name and address I known since I was fourteen) every weekend since his vacation this summer. We know he's with her because he makes a show of it and disappears for days upon end. He's doing all this because he knows my mother wants everything to be perfect for the wedding. 

My mother is miserable and hurt. She continues to stay with my father out of concern that he will do one or all of the following if she files for divorce from him before the wedding: 

1. he will refuse to pay for my wedding out of anger at her which he offered to do from the beginning. I never asked but he has been insistent since he missed out on a large chunk of my childhood he wants to make it up to me. 

2. he will bring his mistress to the wedding and flaunt her in front of my mother (my brother has threatened to kick his ass if he does this) Personally if he wants to do this nonsense, he can go to someone else's wedding not ours

3. he will be a complete dick at the wedding and ruin everything.

Today my mother was in tears about the way my father is treating her. She doesn't know if she can make it until May and is upset that my special day will be ruined. My mother can not pay for the wedding by herself (she busted her butt putting both my brother and I through college and continues to support the household without any help from my father).

I want my mother to be happy and not have to deal with this nonsense. She wants me to have a nice family wedding and not have to deal with any of this family stuff. 

My fiance and I have been considering getting married at City Hall so that all the family tension will be over.  

What should we do? I need your wisdom



2. You do realize it takes more than a trip to the courthouse to get a divorce? Right now I'm much more concerned about your mom than your stupid wedding.

Patricia Van Der Vliet By Ellen Von Unwerth For Grey Magazine


  1. For your dear Mother's sake, and the rest of your family for that matter, you and your fiance should consider having a super intimate wedding, on the beach or in the woods or something with a nice dinner afterwards. Do you really want your wedding to be funded by your horrible Dad? It's like dirty money, your wedding will be tainted with the tears and pain of your poor Mother.

  2. lawyer lawyer lawyer. Get your mom to a lawyer. She can still wait to divorce him until after may, but she should talk to someone, like, yesterday.

    I mean, he's got the cash to pay for a fancy wedding & go to the caribbean; she's broke and paid for kids' college? They're still married--the finances don't work like that (or at least, they don't have to). And don't say she can't afford one--you can't afford NOT to have an awesome lawyer going in to a divorce. Plus, let the lawyer know both party's financial situation--he/she can figure out who can pay for what retainer.

    I'm not saying your mom has to turn into a shark. But your dad has already obvs checked out of the marriage--something shifted after that vacation. Who's to say he isn't already setting the legal gears of divorce in motion? Don't let you dear mother get fucked over--you love her too much for that.

  3. Completely agree with the comment above. It sounds like this would be a perfect opportunity to show your mother that you are indeed a grown up. Pay for your own small intimate wedding. You'll feel so much better.

  4. I second Anon 6:37 - get your mother to a lawyer asap.

    My mum's been through a messy divorce this year with lots of game-playing and believe me, a good divorce lawyer is worth every penny (or cent to you - I'm English!).

    Your mother shouldn't feel that she has to pay for your wedding if you father can't pay, that's nonsense. It's your wedding, you choose something that fits your budget, i.e. what YOU can afford, with whatever help you're ok with accepting from your families. In your shoes I reckon I'd go for a small wedding that will be a joyous celebration that you mother can enjoy and that your father can't ruin.

    If you do want your father to pay how about getting him to just give you a lump sum to cover some/most/all of it or getting him to pay for some stuff upfront? Personally though I think there will be too many emotional strings attached to his money to make it worth taking.

  5. Geeeezus. Does no one get that you should pay for your OWN wedding?? ESPECIALLY if its tearing your mother apart? Seriously, what's more important here? Let your mother get out of this terrible marriage and pay for your own damn wedding.

    I just can't get over it. Really?? You're letting your mother endure this just so you can have a stupid fancy party?

  6. @Jess: exactly what I was going to write.
    I mean you can't be seriously letting your mother stay in that marriage so you can have a fancier wedding.

  7. Don't let your mom put off her own happiness for your own! Maybe even consider postponing the wedding a little to let this all shake out. Or, frankly, have a cheapie destination wedding without your dad. What an inconsiderate jerk.

  8. what jess said. seriously, stop being selfish and just pay what you can for your own little shindig. don't let your mom suffer until may.

  9. Pretty much what everyone else said. Support your mom in finding a LAWYER and a THERAPIST, in that order. @Anon-6:37 "he's got the cash to pay for a fancy wedding & go to the caribbean; she's broke and paid for kids' college? " PREACH.

    Why would you even want to *see* your father, much less have him pay for your wedding and ATTEND?!? Cut these shenanigans off right now. Figure out a smaller wedding budget funded by you and your fiance, invite the nearest and dearest, and start drawing the line in the sand NOW. You are forming a new family. It's time to set up boundaries. Btw, my husband and I did not invite his "dad" to the wedding. Nor did we even put his name on the invites. That was us drawing our line. That asshole will not see our kids, will not be getting Christmas cards, etc; why would we invite him to the wedding?

    Lawyer, therapist, small wedding paid for by you; GO. And best to your mom. Being emotionally and physically abandoned by your spouse is no picnic, and the next few months will NOT be easy for her as she finally starts to confront and unpack the abuse she's suffered at the hands of her "husband." Be there for her. And above all, nurture your new family (aka, you and your husband's relationship).

  10. i agree with what everyone else has said. a friend, who is a social worker, once said, "see a lawyer. the first visit is just a conversation. everyone can have a conversation, right ?"

  11. Seriously - lawyer now. If your father is going on these vacations with his mistress he obviously has assets. They are still married. She could likely be legally entitled to half of those assets. As for the wedding, WHY OH WHY would you even want him there? OR to pay for it?! ICK. Seriously - my dad was supposed to fund a big chunk of my wedding but was pulling shit not even as insane as this so I cut him out of the plan and had an intimate wedding that turned out SO MUCH BETTER - especially because he wasn't there.

    I understand your mom feeling like your day is being ruined and feeling terrible about it. Tell her you WANT a small wedding and you don't want your dad there. You want her, the mother who supported you there and if that means a picnic wedding in the afternoon, you are over the moon about it.

  12. this is just terrible. i say hold off on the wedding just for a bit. if you could expect your mom to stay in a marriage that is so bad until may, then you can wait a bit to get married right?

    because even if you do have this small intimate wedding you paid for yourself, you could still have this emotional cloud over it if you try to do it in the midst of such family drama. even if your dad doesn't show and your mom does, i feel like she will still be dealing with such negativity in general, you might want to wait until things smooth over just a bit so none of this bad karma is associated with your big day!

    and then it can be YOUR big day. i dont think you mean to be selfish here. in general this should be about you, and if your dad offered to pay i dont think its so terrible to want him to do so, or to want him to be able to be there even if he is the biggest d-bag (he is your dad, maybe you'll want him around no matter how terrible he is). but it seems none of this is about you right now. and rightly so. not to mention it not being about your fiance, who is probably in a tough spot right now too. dealing with other peoples emotional drama can be exhausting, no matter how much you love them. and you don't want to be exhausted on your wedding day!

    so i say if you can hold off until at least your mom has talked to a lawyer, a therapist, and maybe your dad has woken up from his midlife crisis to see what a complete and utter jerk hes being. and if the situation is still basically the same then screw your dad. he's not worth it. go do something with family that is worth it. and forget his money.

    ps. because when people pay they also think they have some input in your wedding in general. and it sounds like he would make this a living hell for you.

  13. Second the lawyer thing. If your father is that way, he WILL do something to eff up your wedding, and you'd rather him not be there, and it not be tainted.
    A wedding is a day, marriage is LIFE. Get your mother to a better one straightaway.

  14. Even if your Mom did stay with your Dad until May, you are not going to get the happy family wedding your Mom wishes for you (and for herself). From what you described, I wouldn't be surprised if your Dad brought his girldfriend to the wedding.

    Have you put down vendor deposits or sent out Save the Dates?

  15. 1) Your mom needs a lawyer, ASAP.
    2) Your mom could probably use a bit of counseling, cuz, geez.
    3) Scale down the wedding, do the courthouse thing since you're willing to do so, and then throw a small but fun party so your mom still has a reception to revel in with you.
    4) Cut your father out of the plans completely. You really do not need that energy at your wedding.

  16. Your mom's happiness and peace of mind > your wedding.

    Get her a lawyer, get to city hall, have an amazing restaurant dinner afterwards, cut Poppa Cheater out of everything (since it seems like he's already emotionally cut out of your life years ago, that cheating f***), and call it a day.

  17. Seriously! You have your the rest of your life with your dude. It sounds like your mom has been sacrificing her entire life for you and your brother. Put her first, set her up for happiness, help her in whatever way you can, and then celebrate BOTH your new lives together with out your asshole father. If that means postponing the wedding to have a big shindig later, or get married now with only the most important and intimate celebration in a park with some sammies, champagne, and cake DO WHAT YOU GOTTA DO.

  18. You're letting yourself (and your mom) be held hostage by the wedding.

    Lawyer her up, tell your dad how you feel, figure out a way to pay for the wedding yourself or downscale it.

    Pretending you are a happy family for wedding photos is even more depressing than admitting that things suck right now.

  19. Postpone the wedding. Your mom has supported you your whole life and now you need to return the favour. Wait until things are rosier before you start thinking about the wedding - and in the meantime you can save up some cash for a shindig. Throw your mom a divorce party. She needs to feel loved and special more than you do right now after all these years of shite your dad has been giving her.

  20. get married, but do it SMALL. if i know anything about moms, they are self-sacrificing to the end and are miserable when their kids do the same for them. she wants to see you happy and married and you should give that to her, but without the shenanigans of what seems to be a horrible situation for her. spare her the humiliation, financial stress and get married in a small, peaceful and intimate way so she can see your smiling face when you marry your man. mom really live for that right there.

    oh yeah, and help her find a killer lawyer.

  21. It is really shit that this is overshadowing your happy day, but I'm with all of the above: it's your mum who has to come first right now. Either a small intimate wedding (sounds like your mum and brother are amazing and them alone would make for an incredibly special occassion), or just postpone things until your mum can show up beaming from ear to ear!

    But right now, she needs you to stop thinking about white dresses and start looking for a lawyer.

  22. Intimate wedding.

    Eff the big family drama to-do! Sooo overrated anyway.

    I'm sorry for your family. Best of luck.

  23. Hello ladies,
    I am the person who wrote to ESB. First, I have always wanted my mother to get out from the moment my father cheated. I never asked her or wanted her to stay. She on her own has stayed. I'd be damn to pick my wedding over my mother any day of the week.
    Second, I understand that this is a messed up situation, I am going through it every day. Thank you for your advice. It was well needed and welcomed.

  24. I don't understand how your mother staying married through your wedding benefits anyone other than you getting a more expensive wedding. Am I right? If this is the only benefit than the decision is easy, no? Like everyone advised--ditch your dad's dirty money and have a small intimate shin-dig in any fashion you and your honey can afford. I mean, right?

  25. Also, before you take her to a lawyer, get her to the bank. She needs to close down any joint accounts between her and your dad and get any assets she has into somewhere he can't access. (Based on your letter, I don't know if these exist, but... worth doing.)


  26. Totally understand where you are coming from, because weddings do take on a life of their own.

    But as someone with minuscule family drama (my parents already divorced & father passed on, husband's parents married 41 years with barely the occasional argument), I can tell you that it means so much more to pay for your own wedding. Husband's parents are sitting on some serious savings, and kicked in for the alcohol. But that was it. We had a large, fabulous wedding with live music and a snack truck and real flowers (bought the morning before at Whole Foods) and overall amazingness for about $12,000 (that we saved for nearly over the course of two years, on a teacher & mental health counselor's salary). We did our wedding without any debt AND without parents' help (my mother did put a little in toward the dress, as her gift).

    When you let anyone else take financial control over the wedding, you most often give up control over so many other things. We had exactly, and I do truly mean EXACTLY the wedding we wanted and didn't feel guilty about one thing.

    It doesn't make you a bad person if you want to have an awesome wedding, and I think you're clearly concerned about and very aware of your mother's feelings here. Divorces are always a minefield, ESPECIALLY if you end up being some sort of mediator as their child. If the awesome and memorable wedding is what you want, then delay it, pinch your pennies, and keep your dreams alive. I've seen a lot of people put off weddings for b.s. reasons and then never end up having them. This is a beyond legit reason for a delay of game.

    If you want to go the small, intimate route, then do that and relish in it.

    Screw anyone who questions you changing course.

    However, as I think is clear from the consensus here, the priority right now is to take care of your mother. You need to make sure she knows that, as well.

    From a fellow child of difficult separation (whose mother apologizes for every last little thing, especially the things well beyond her control), your mother is lucky that she has a daughter who is willing to stand with her through what is sure to be a complete cluster eff.

    And erase your dad from the guest list. You're both better off without him in your life.

  27. My advice would be repetitious to what has already been said. So I just want to say good luck to you and especially your mother.

  28. This sounds like a really terrible situation, for you, but also for your poor mother. I agree with what all the other posters have to say, but just think about how differently you would feel about this wedding if your dear sweet mom walks you down the aisle, you have an intimate backyard ceremony or court house wedding, and eliminate the drama that it sounds like your dad will surely bring to your special day. Having a big fat wedding is not worth all of the negative consequences, and in the crazy situation, how sure are you that your dad is going to even come through with the money? Go to a lawyer with your mom, give her your blessing to go through with the divorce ASAP, and enjoy a wedding that in the long term you will feel much better about. Good luck to both of you!

  29. How can you even entertain the thought of your dad coming to the wedding after all the havoc he's caused in your mom's life, and by extension, your life? You're not thinking clearly here! Get over the wedding, focus on your mom (lawyer, therapist, guard any assets) and tell your dad to go fuck himself.

    City Hall. With just the people you love most in the world. Host a dinner that you pay for and let your mom finally not worry about money relative to a stupid wedding.

  30. You need to have two conversations: one with you mom and one with your dad.

    You need to tell your mom that you support her in whatever decision she makes about her marriage, and that, while you're so excited about your own upcoming wedding, she's going to be mourning the end of her marriage for a while. Let her know it's okay to grieve, to make decisions and then go back on them, and to feel weird and upset. Urge her to speak to a lawyer and a therapist, and tell her that you're going to be there for her through thick and thin.

    You need to tell your dad whatever you're feeling: if you don't want him at the wedding, or his girlfriend, or any financial support at all from them, let him know. People will often try to use money to come off as the good guys ("I'm not a schmuck - look at this beautiful wedding I paid for!"), or bully their way into getting what they want ("I paid for this, so my word is law"). Set your ground rules and tell your dad firmly and as kindly as possible, and then stick with your decision.

    You will likely have to pay for your own wedding. If you feel comfortable accepting help from your dad, by all means, do it - but stick with your boundaries from the conversation. Don't rush your wedding just because your parents are in upheaval. Let some of the dust settle and see what the situation is.

  31. My dad cheated on my mum, when i was 3 years old, I am now 27. The thought of inviting her, my now stepmum to my wedding makes me ill to my stomach. (though in my case I love her, my stepmum that is).

    I just cant imagine how it would be for my mum, and her side of the family.

    Fuck the wedding, Fuck your dad. Get a divorce.

  32. Obviously your wedding is important to your mother, or she wouldn't be putting up with your dad and putting a brave face on everything. But nothing is worth putting up with that emotional abuse.

    Scale down the wedding plans, pay for it yourself and tell your dad to stay the hell away until he can apologise and act like a grownup.


  33. see. a. counselor. We don't all know every nuance of your relationship with your mom OR your dad, seeing a counselor has done wonders for me and my husband in learning how to deal with his shitty dad, and how even though his dad is horrible and aloof as a father figure my H still wants his approval. A lawyer is very important (this is coming from a law student), but mental-health is a necessity.
    also, there may be stigma around counselors - but seeing one DOES NOT MEAN THAT YOU'RE CRAZY.

    and good luck! You'll make it through!

  34. In a separate point from the above, the sense I get from what you wrote is that your mom keeps putting up with bad treatment in order to protect your relationship with your dad. What an extremely powerful message you will send her if you essentially say, "I won't preserve my relationship with my dad at your expense".

    She's used to putting herself last, and protecting you. Now you have the opportunity to show her how grateful you are for that, and return the favor. Obviously it all sucks right now, but this could be an incredible moment for you both. Your mom sounds like she needs someone in her corner to serve as an example.

    Growing up is partially about realizing how you want to be different from your parents. You can show your mom what firm resolve looks like, and your dad what it means to be compassionate. Net positive.

  35. personally, I wouldn't leave it to my brother, I would just kick the shit of of my father..... but apparently I have anger issues....

  36. also for the love of god get your mother to see a lawyer, like last month... (girl who would kick dads ass)