My parents divorced when I was 13 years old, and it was a nasty, bitter split. My dad left my mom for another woman. Not an upgrade or trophy wife, but a woman his age with three young children. He moved to the other side of the country and several years later he remarried. While I have since forgiven my father, my mother has not. In fact, my mother has never met my stepmother. My mother understandably has a lot of old wounds from the divorce. She had a really hard time recovering (it took years) and I think even now, even though she has remarried and moved to Illinois with her husband, she has not forgiven nor forgotten the past.
The last time my parents were in the same room together was in 2006 when my mom was seeing me off at the airport when I was moving to Japan. My dad also happened to be there as he was flying through Atlanta (he's a commercial airline pilot) on a trip. I won't lie -- it was awkward. I remember standing there and feeling red in the face, hands sweaty. My dad looked incredibly uncomfortable. I was so thankful when it was over, but then I cried realizing it was the first time I'd seen them both together, at the same time, in ten years. Even at 30 years old, the idea of having a photo taken with my mom and dad at my wedding still makes me tear up. Old emotions like this don't heal and disappear, they lurk under the surface of your skin; they resurface at Christmas, on birthdays, whenever I think about being able to go "home" which doesn't exist anymore.
Always over the years, the one thing that has been cycling through the back of my mind is: what's going to happen when I get married? Even when I was in relationships that I knew had no future potential, even when I was single, it was always a worry that would surface from time to time: what happens when my mother, who can be at times very volatile and irrational, finally meets the woman who she believes destroyed her marriage?
I don't want to get too detailed about the events of the divorce or what my older brother and I endured in our teen years, but suffice it to say that very little was handled with dignity or, in many cases, sanity. It was bad and things were crazy. Even though I love my mother very much, it's actually been a lot harder for me to forgive my mother for her actions and behavior than it was for me to forgive my father. I know people may have a hard time understanding this, but without airing everyone's business you will just have to withhold judgement.
To further complicate things, Mr. C's parents are also divorced. His father remarried and his mother is now single and living on her own. Of course, there are always going to be old, bitter or perhaps resentful emotions in such situations. I know that there have been some situations between Mr. C's parents in the past. Thankfully they both have a working, amicable relationship together so it's not quite as intense or drastic as my parents' relationship (or lack thereof). But it's still something I worry about.
So here we are, days from the wedding, and all of these emotions that I've been pushing away under more pressing concerns (work, planning, projects) are suddenly resurfacing. What's going to happen? Will everyone behave like adults and enjoy themselves? How will things go at the rehearsal dinner when we will all be there together for the first time? Weddings are incredibly emotional for everyone and I hope it's not enough to push anyone over the edge.
It may sound weird but really my biggest concern is that everyone is able to enjoy themselves at the wedding. I don't want my mom to treat the wedding as a competition. I want her to relax and enjoy being with her family and meeting Mr. C's family for the first time. I feel the same for my dad and stepmother. They are paying for a considerable chunk of our wedding and I want them to enjoy it. I don't want them to worry about my mom acting out. I don't want them to shy away from being affectionate with each other or dancing together. I want everyone to get along and I want everyone to have fun. I hope the wedding provides some closure for our families.
I don't know what's going to happen on my wedding day. I hope that what everyone keeps telling me is true: that our parents will realize that this day is about Mr. C and me and our love and not about their pasts. I want to believe that is true, but I also have seen things in the past that haunt me today. But I will have faith and believe that everything will go smoothly. And the best part is that the day is about Mr. C and me rising above our pasts and forging a new union. Together we are creating a new family, a new home, and not one split by divorce and resentment, but one with love, laughter, and adventure.
So my question to you is: If you have parents who endured a highly emotional or possibly even destructive divorce, how did things go at your wedding?