Tell Me About It: I can’t have them at our wedding, but the ramifications will be permanent
PROBLEM: The question sounds a bit overboard, but how do we disinvite my future husband’s family from our wedding?
We are currently not on speaking terms with my fiance’s siblings. To be honest, this has been a relief as it brought a bit of peace into our lives. But now that our wedding is coming up in the summer (whatever Covid may bring), we are in the difficult position of not wanting them to attend. And we have had a few good indicators that neither do they.
Their parents died over a decade ago (in separate incidents). The siblings are now all in their 40s, with good careers, houses and cars. Basically, financially sound and with a good network of friends and family, so they are not isolated.
My fiance lost all his money since the parents passed away, trying to keep the farm afloat. It’s been in negative equity for many years, through little fault of his own. He lived alone and worked alone all through his 30s. His siblings spent those years attacking him for “squandering” his money, as he had to ask them for bailouts periodically.
I’m a pragmatic person. Since we met, I’ve reversed the debt of the farm, taught him new financial habits, and given him confidence to make the decisions that his siblings intimidated him out of making. He wishes to go to university, retrain in something he loves, and start afresh. This has caused fury and some despicable behaviour from his siblings. Right now, they have a measure of legal control over the house. We are trying to trade that for land for them to build houses, but the conversation has stopped.
It’s all pretty ridiculous in one way, but they are utterly convinced that what they are doing to him is what their parents would have wanted – to continue to lie about the debt and pretend that everything on the farm is grand.
Now the latest gossip to reach our ears is that my fiance is “violent”. I’ve had enough. I can’t have them at our wedding, but the ramifications will be permanent.
And then there’s the larger family to communicate this with.
ADVICE: It sounds as though you have been a strong and positive influence in your fiance’s life, and he can now visualise a future for himself outside the farm and all that it entailed. However, he needs to deal with his family and the legacy of expectation that has come down from his parents.
The reason both sides feel so strongly and are taking such ‘no surrender’ stances is that both parties care so very much
The siblings bailed him out in bad times and perhaps they feel that they are owed some return on this investment. As you are aware, land in Ireland carries with it many emotional ties and often the people who are involved in disputes do not recognise in themselves the depth of connection and feeling that comes with it. This can result in negative behaviours and actions that come from a gut level and are often not thought out, but instead can gather momentum by justifying a limited perspective. This seems to be what is happening to you and your partner now – both sides have solidified and justified their stances and are entrenched in their positions. The difficulty is that this can hurt everyone and lead to a family breakdown that can even go down to the next generation, where children of one branch do not speak to children from another.
The reason both sides feel so strongly and are taking such “no surrender” stances is that both parties care so very much. You care that your partner is treated with respect and his siblings care for the tradition and life that their parents created for them and both views have validity.
However, it seems that the ability to communicate and negotiate about the family farm is at an impasse and now your wedding has arrived as a pawn in this game of hurt. As the person who is somewhat removed from the raw emotions, I wonder if you could encourage your partner to look into family mediation to help address this situation (see citizensinformation.ie for family mediation services countrywide). Mediators are highly skilled in dealing with complex situations like this one, where families fall out with each side, labelling the other as bad or evil. You have a good reason to initiate the mediation process – a family wedding where communities come together to support the new marriage through good times and bad.
This might be a situation where he needs to take the lead and he can hold the wedding as the light at the end of the tunnel
Mediation ensures that everyone is heard. The process is completely confidential and cannot be used later in any official way. It always seeks an agreed outcome and utilises the professionalism and skills of the mediator over a number of sessions until everyone feels satisfied with the outcome. Surely this is worth promoting and investing in, especially if your partner initiates this and acts on his new-found confidence, while also showing how much his family mean to him. You sound like you want to fight for your partner and this is good, but this might be a situation where he needs to take the lead and he can hold the wedding as the light at the end of the tunnel. If he takes action now and reaches out to his siblings, he may demonstrate his development and growth and they may get a chance to see him in a new light.
Your wedding should be a day full of joy and celebration for you both and it is worth doing all in your power to ensure that there are no missed opportunities at the beginning of your new life together.