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My son is getting married and Im not invited | Mariella Frostrup

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Mariella Frostrup suggests that a mother excluded from her sons wedding tackles long-standing family discord

The dilemma My son and his girlfriend live in New Zealand and are returning to the UK to get married (not legally binding because of residency requirements), then returning to NZ for what I assumed would be a quiet registry office affair. Having not been invited to my sons first marriage, Ive been very involved in planning this ceremony. Theyve asked me to be a witness, do a reading, etc. I am estranged from my other two sons so didnt attend their weddings. Theres a lot of history here but my lovely husband, relatives and friends say it isnt my fault. Ive now learned online that the legal wedding is next year in NZ and his dad, who holds grudges about our divorce, is attending but Im not invited to the real one. I feel foolish for getting excited about the UK wedding. When I tackled my son he blew up. So I have three sons; between them four weddings I havent been invited to and a granddaughter Ive never met. Am I some kind of monster?

Mariella replies Youve sent me a relatively short letter about what is clearly a complicated family history and its difficult to make a judgment about whats occurred today without being privy to what has gone awry in the past. What I can say is, its not about you. I appreciate it may be hard to get your head around all this, but that could be the lesson you need to learn. If you require reassurance that youre central to your sons thoughts, then consider there might not have been a UK wedding had you not been a priority for them.

Divorce always has a fallout and I do sometimes wonder why, instead of being infuriated by childrens clumsy attempts to negotiate the post-split turmoil, the adults involved couldnt shoulder a bit more of that burden. If you want a harmonious environment where both you and your ex are included in family gatherings, perhaps the first step would be to improve your relationship with him. Obviously I dont know whos making civilised engagement impossible but one of you making peace moves could lead to a new dawn in your dealings. Indeed its hard not to suspect that many of the problems you have within the family might be solvable if you started where the discord probably also began, with the parents separation. As I get older I find most things are forgivable with time.

Weddings are emotionally fraught occasions at the best of times and with this one the proceedings are further complicated by the rifts between you all, the location of their new life and the demands on them to try to include a very divided family. You cant change their plans now and youd be battling against an unyielding force were you to try to do so. So how about you surprise them all with a totally different approach? Accept with grace the honour theyve paid you by making you so central to the UK side of events. Then, and more importantly, resist comforting yourself with the reassurance of your new spouse and assorted friends (all of whom will no doubt have been told the story from your point of view) and try tackling the past in a spirit of reconciliation. No matter how minimal your part you certainly bear some responsibility for the way things have played out, and while its just a hunch, the roots of many of your current woes might be found in the still-acrimonious relationship with your ex. You cant take the sting out of long-harboured hurts overnight but if you revolutionised your own approach, youd find it entirely in your gift to improve familial relationships.

Of course that takes a great deal of courage, the subjugation of personal pride and desire to be a catalyst for change. If you feel capable of those key components, then I suggest you lift your gaze from the emotional quagmire and set your sights on a better future, when your three sons, your ex-husband and your current spouse can sit down and raise a glass to the end of discord. This may sound naive, but forgiveness is possibly the most important human virtue and I doubt any of us, on our deathbeds, will be celebrating the ties weve broken instead of the connections weve made.

You do have one legitimate gripe which is the manner in which you found out, but with more and more of us leading our lives virtually and publicly, youre certainly not the first person to discover unpalatable truths online. Were the situation less emotionally charged you could afford to take issue with your son but as things stand wouldnt you reap far greater reward by swallowing your pride and resolving to make yourself the catalyst for future harmony? We all hold the power to instigate change in our lives but too often were so buried in the business of living that we forget that reinvention is a perpetual possibility.

Yours is certainly an unhappy state of affairs and it barely matters whos at fault: this needs to change. So why not be the one to set about that business, for your own sake as much as anyone elses?

If you have a dilemma, send a brief email to Follow her on Twitter @mariellaf1

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