The mother of the bride traditionally holds a seat of honor in the bridal party. She usually takes the first seat in the first row. She becomes the ever-watchful protector who holds the roles of a personal stylist, trusted confidant, and treasured mentor.
However, I’ve decided that my mother won’t be invited to my wedding.
The decision hasn’t been one I’ve taken lightly. I know that it will probably fracture whatever weak semblance of a relationship we currently have. Some people have called me selfish, and others pity me as if I have been orphaned suddenly at 27 years old.
My decision, however, has liberated me.
My mother has narcissistic personality disorder and is addicted to alcohol. Her behavior is motivated by ambition when she’s sober, and by aggressive self-promotion when she’s not. She’s willing to sacrifice even her own children just to get ahead. During my childhood, my mother’s love was conditional. All of my successes were exploited as her own, and my failures were mine alone.
Even after I fled her care at 18, she would manipulate me over the phone by guilting me about my failures as her daughter. Luckily, as an adult, I was able to recognize the gaslighting techniques she used on me as a child.
After I got engaged, I resolved to start building the distance between myself and my mother. I knew this decision was one I needed to make quickly. Weddings tend to follow engagements, after all.
When word got around to her that my fiancé had popped the question, she reached out.
She asked to see a picture of my ring, which my fiancé had hand-carved from a slab of meteorite. Its beauty is complex: it’s made from dark iron with sparkling striations of nickel, woven by the incredible heat and pressure of an atmospheric entrance. Because it was handmade, it holds some imperfections and has a little rust, making it perfectly imperfect.
Upon seeing the dark metal hewn into a plain band, my mother commented that it was dull. She ignored the work my fiancé put into it, and implied he was cheap. She thought he should have purchased a ‘real’ ring.
When this happened, I saw the game for what it was – and the years of mind play unraveled to show her as a woman who couldn’t share her daughter’s happiest moment. She still felt the compulsion to undermine that joy for some perverse personal gain.
At that moment, the decision was made. She would not participate in the next chapter of my life – including the wedding.
I wish desperately that my story was unique. However, I know for sure it’s not.
Many mothers are toxic, whether it’s because they have narcissistic personality disorder, or for another reason. Plenty of children struggle, as I did, to heal after being raised by someone who constantly manipulates and hurts you.
Soon after an engagement ring is placed on a finger, you might ask yourself, “Do I want my mom there?” I want to let you know that it’s okay if you don’t.
Your wedding is a day for you, your spouse, and the people who will enhance that experience. You should not spend your time worrying whether or not you will have to break up a fight between your parents, or, worrying that your parent would insult your spouse for whatever reason they think is legitimate. You should only worry about having the best day possible for yourself, regardless of who is in attendance.
Kleinfeld’s wants us to believe that weddings are a hallmark occasion for mothers and daughters. They show bridal parties, lead by a matron-in-chief attending wedding gown shopping sprees and hosting engagement parties. It’s true: having that support behind you makes it easier. Of course, it’s easier to have an experienced woman help you navigate your wedding from the ceremony to the cake. But that support doesn’t need to come from your mother.
I’m lucky because I will have two moms sitting in the first row on my wedding day. These women haven’t manipulated or hurt me. They are proud of the person I’ve become. My stepmother and future mother-in-law are happy to fill the space my mother no longer occupies.
Together, they fill a space larger than she ever could.