Weddings, Estrangement and Hard Love

HardLoveMy only sister is getting married this week. As happy as I am for her, I’m also filled with anxiety for her big day. You see, on my own wedding day nearly eight years ago, my mother never showed up.

The weeks leading up to our engagement, my mother gave me an ultimatum to choose between Mr. Wonderful or herself. And while I had spent most of my life trying to be “a good girl” in order to earn her love, I didn’t want to give up the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. I didn’t love her less. I just chose to stand up to her, for the first time in my life.

After that, my mother simply stopped speaking to me. I tried to reach out to her, but every time I did, it seemed to cause more damage than good. Friends prayed for us in earnest. People assured me there was no way a mother would miss her daughter’s wedding. I wanted to believe in a miracle.

I remember when my dad arrived to the ceremony, alone. I wasn’t completely surprised at my mother’s choice, but my heart sank, anyway. And while I have no regrets, I haven’t been able to make it through the Hallmark aisle around Mother’s Day without my stomach tied in knots. Mr. Wonderful and I never have fights about whose house to go to for Thanksgiving and Christmas, because my mother has made it clear that we’re not invited.

It took years of therapy (and a lot from the bank account) before I was able to deal with all the emotions and heal. I got to the point where I felt emotionally healthy again. I could talk about my family without falling apart in tears. I stopped having nightmares. I still wanted to reconnect with my mother, but I recognized that a relationship takes two people willing to make it work.

When my sister announced her engagement, I was excited that she had found someone who truly loves and cherishes her. But I also knew my mother would likely be at the wedding (she and my sister have a healthier relationship). Suddenly, the old fears that I hadn’t felt in years came flooding back. It had been so long since my mother and I had even looked at each other in the face – anything could happen. And as much as I want to honor and support my only sibling, I’m also dreading the ceremonial procession as her matron of honor. Will my mother even acknowledge me as I walk by her chair?

Eight years later I still question if I should have tried harder. When is it time to let go? As I witness new cycles of life and see my friends gaze adoringly into their infant’s eyes, I can’t help but wonder, What was wrong with me?

Have any of you been through a similar situation?

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  1. Liz says

    My heart is breaking for you Jen. Yes, there are many of us out there, just like you that have always wondered the exact same thing….”what was wrong with me?” The answer is simple, NOTHING. You cannot change a persons heart. You can only fogive them and embrace those in your life now, that love and cherish you. This will be an incredibly hard thing for you to go thru. My only advise is to look to God for the strength you will need to get you thru it. He is always the answer. May you find peace and happiness despite the heart ache you have suffered.

    • lifeunrefined says

      Thanks for your words, Liz. I am indeed grateful for those that do want me in their life. It’s a gift.

  2. caitlyn says

    I really like the perspective that Liz shared…
    In many ways, your situation sounds similar to mine. I am estranged from my father. Repeatedly, it was “do what I say or you are not my daughter.” Literally. And one day I realized that the situation wouldn’t change and that this is not love. My father did not attend my wedding 11 years ago and I haven’t spoken to him or seen him. I also have one sister, and she and my father also have a much healthier relationship (at least one that doesn’t involve ultimatums).
    I tried pretty hard, and it didn’t make a difference. Your question about whether you should have tried harder – sometimes we can try as hard as possible and things still don’t work out. As Liz said, we can’t change other people.
    I’ve been dealing with the situation since I was 15. At first I held a lot of anger in my heart, but I learned how much the anger hurt me – it didn’t touch him – and over time and with prayer I managed to let it go. And I let him go.
    I hope this doesn’t come out sounding egotistical because that is not how I intend it, but my question isn’t “what was wrong with me” but “what was wrong with him?” I am a mom now, and I know my daughter and I will have our disagreements and I will be angry. But I cannot ever, ever imagine casting her off forever because she didn’t do what I wanted.
    I hope you will be able to find peace. Hugs to you.

    • lifeunrefined says

      Thank you for sharing your story, Caitlyn. Your situation sounds similar to mine. It’s comforting to know I am not alone. Your daughter is blessed to have you as her mother!

  3. says

    Reading this brought tears to my eyes, what an emotional piece of writing. Yes Liz is right, there is absolutely nothing wrong with you at all. I cannot imagine what you are going through on anticipating the wedding but I wish you lots of inner strength and to know that I am thinking of you.

    Sarah xxx

  4. says

    Wow, this hits very close to home for me. I hope she shows up for your sister’s ceremony and that you two are eventually able to reconnect so you can heal those wounds. Also, I agree with Caitlyn who said sometimes you can try as hard as you can and things still wont work out. Just do your best and leave the rest in God’s hands :)

  5. says

    Jen you are so brave to share this story. From the sounds of it, you have gone far and above what should ever be expected of someone. You’re allowed to feel sad and scared, but don’t let these emotions make you second guess your convictions. You are so strong!

  6. says

    Wow. Thank you so much for sharing your story here on the blog! It’s so brave of you to open up and tell us that. I’m so sorry for all the pain you’ve gone through. I struggle with having a relationship with my parents too. I really do hope it doesn’t end with estrangement, but I have a fear that it will because I’m just so tired of wanting to please them but end up rather just disappointing them even more. At the end of the day, we don’t live for them. We live for us. It’s tough I know.

    be the plebeian

  7. says

    My stomach knotted up as I read this. My best friend went through a very similar situation as you did just about two years ago. Though her mother did show up to her wedding, she sat in the back pew drinking out of a flask. My friend’s relationship is still very much stressful and on the rocks with her mother and I’m not sure she realizes that she may need some sort of counseling to help her get in a better spot. As a friend who is blessed to have a good relationship with my mom, somehow I don’t know how to best support her… do you have any ideas? Things that would have been helpful to you during your journey?

    • lifeunrefined says

      Hi Sarah,
      Well first, your best friend is lucky to have you. :) Just by your comment I can tell how much you care. The advice I have perhaps sounds like a simple one…but just continue being her friend. I don’t know how your friend is processing all this, but for me it was similar to grief. Sometimes I just needed to vent, and for someone to listen. Sometimes I just wanted to cry, and needed a friend to hold me. And believe it or not, I discovered a lot of close friends who just weren’t up to the long-term task. I don’t blame them. But you learn who your true friends are, and I’m grateful for the ones who did stand by me. It also helped a lot to get a text from some friends on Mother’s Day just saying something like, “I know today might be a rough day for you…just letting you know I’m here.”

      As a Christian, I can tell you what DIDN’T help me is when other Christians respond to my situation by spouting off bible verses. Especially the go-to generic ones. If you read something and think of a friend, that’s one thing. But if I’ve just shared my heart and the response is “I’m sorry. Hey, you should read Ecclesiastes 3,” then I’ll feel like that person just doesn’t get it at all and I won’t be vulnerable to them again.

      I hope that helps, Sarah. You can always email me at lifeunrefinedblog at gmail as well. :)

  8. Anna says

    I stumbled upon your blog because of our mutual friend J and I just read your post from April and it really resonated with me because I am going through similar mother wounds even to this day, even after years of therapy and lots of prayer. Nothing is wrong with you but as daughters we can’t help but think that. We are all broken and fallible people and your mother’s response (or lack of) really has to do with her own childhood wounding/attachment issues but it still hurts when we are at the other end. My sister (who has a healthier relationship with my mom..maybe it’s the younger sibling thing) has even called me the “black sheep of the family”, so even she does not quite understand the dynamics between myself and my mom. Your reply to Sarah, about friends and support is true. Even with what I am going through now in my personal life. Some friends just can’t handle emotional trauma and I have come to accept that and receive the blessings from the friends who do come alongside me in support and prayer. I have been reading Staci Eldredge’s “Captivating” and “Becoming Myself” and it has really helped me on my journey of healing and trying to truly understand with my heart & soul, that I am God’s beloved. Blessings!!

  9. Linda Manns Linneman says

    I don’t think there is anything wrong withyou. As a mother of grown children I have talked to my boys about things but I always let them know the ultimate decision is theirs. I always stand by no matter what they choose. Sometimes they have to suffer the consequences of their decisions but that is how we learn and grown. Be yourself. Be kind to your mom. If she chooses to ignore you it really is her problem and her loss. God Bless you and your family

    • lifeunrefined says

      Thank you Linda! Your boys are lucky to have you. I hope if I’m ever a mother I can give my children the same freedom and support.

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