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hopeful5141's avatar

Future stepchild does not want to attend his father's remarriage?

Asked by hopeful5141 (418 points ) January 5th, 2013

My sister just became engaged. Both she and her fiancé have kids. The one child of her fiancé does not want to attend the wedding. He is still very angry over his parents divorce two years ago. He has never wanted to do anything with my sister and her kids, and he wants no part of attending the wedding. He’s in his teens, just like the other three kids. My brother in law to be is a good person, and has been a good father to his kids and kind to my sister’s kids. He feels upset that his son might not attend, and is pushing to have none of the children attend if all of the children are not attending. My sister is upset because the son is the only one unhappy about the wedding. The three other kids are either happy or neutral. She worries that if the unhappy son is forced to come the event will be ruined. So, no one knows what to do, and we thought some of you may have experienced the same situation and have some ideas.

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28 Answers

SABOTEUR's avatar

Clearly, forcing the son to attend would be disastrous. There seems no alternative but to proceed with the wedding without him.

As far as the other children are concerned, I wouldn’t “push” one way or the other. Leaving the decision to them heads off later arguments of “you made me go” or “you wouldn’t let me attend”.

bossob's avatar

I was a teenage boy when my Dad re-married. I was given the choice to attend or not, and I chose not to. But I was the only child involved. I suppose I was scared about how my life was about to change, but I can’t say for sure.

If I were the father, I would respect my sons wishes, but I would be very concerned about his lingering anger and possible fear of an unknown future. If those aren’t resolved, they could cause more anguish within the new family unit for years to come, than anything he could do at the wedding.

It would not be helpful to deny the other children the pleasure of attending.

Kardamom's avatar

A marriage, only two years after the divorce of this young man’s parent’s divorce is awfully soon if you ask me. There has barely been any time for the parents (unless they were having an affair for many years before the marriage ended), let alone the kids, to have gotten to know one another. Have the kids and the new wife been together in any kind of family counseling? If not, I’d recommend it before any kind of wedding takes place.

The kids should come first. There is plenty of time for marriages to take place later in the relationships (of the whole family). Maybe put the wedding on hold for now.

Since I’m pretty sure that this wedding is going to happen, whether or not it’s healthy for the kids involved, I would let this young man choose to come or not to come, and not give him any grief for not attending a ceremoy which should have been postponed until all of the participants, husband, wife and children went through the proper grieving period and probably necessary marriage and family counseling that was necessary.

This young man is right to feel angry and walked upon, no matter how hot and bothered and desperate the new couple may feel. The new couple can wait until this young man is 18, or else they should have all gotten into family therapy before the idea of marriage was ever brought up.

augustlan's avatar

I’d let him opt out, and allow the other children to attend. Clearly, he hasn’t made his peace with the situation, so that’s something that needs more attention, but don’t try to solve it by forcing the wedding on him.

ragingloli's avatar

You could drag him to the ceremony, but give him the opportunity and choice to speak up when the priest asks if there is anyone who objects.

cookieman's avatar

I agree with @Kardamom. This seems to be all about the needs of the parents and wanting the wedding to go well.

ZEPHYRA's avatar

Tons of heart to heart talks and reassuring and then freedom to make his own choice without anyone making a big fuss over it. It should all happen as discreetly as possible.

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Pachy's avatar

It has to be his choice.

Shippy's avatar

The wedding day is not that important, not in the bigger scheme of things. The real focus is about helping this young man come to terms with this new life, after the wedding. I would never force him I’d give him a card, saying he matters, and we will be thinking of him on the day. And that you care.

hearkat's avatar

I also agree that it seems very soon for remarrying 2 years after a divorce. I strongly recommend counseling for the child that objects, and suggest family counseling for everyone – because the others might have issues that they are suppressing. Teenagers are prone to angst even in a stable home environment; so it is to be expected that dealing with divorce and then a blended family will cause a lot of turbulence.

I divorced when my son was 5, and I was in a relationship from when he was 8 through 15, and we lived together. My son had a lot of emotional issues and was in counseling and even on medication for a while during those years. When that relationship ended, I chose to forego dating for a while to spend those last few years of my son’s childhood focused on him. My only regret was that I hadn’t made him my true priority in the first place. We say how much we love our kids, but our actions usually prove otherwise. We are often emotionally immature and needy and quick to rush into a new relationship, telling ourselves that that is best for the child, when it often isn’t.

I acknowledge that this is not personally your issue, and say that at the very least, all the kids should be invited to attend – and even participate, if they want – but all should have the option to not attend. Their minds might change over time, and their choices and feelings should be respected.

jca's avatar

I think the hard thing about getting teens to go to therapy is that they can be resistant, cynical and leery of pouring their hearts out to a stranger who they may perceive as being in cahoots with their parents. So while I think that ultimately the correct thing to do would be to sit the whole family down and tell them that they’re all welcome to attend the wedding, but that their individual choices would be respected and in addition, therapy is in order, I don’t think the therapy part will be met with much enthusiasm.

hearkat's avatar

@jca – Getting teenagers to do anything isn’t easy… that’s the basic premise of this question. My response is suggesting an ideal. Clearly, in the situation described, things have gone forward to a degree that trying to get the kid(s) in therapy would be back-pedaling. Then again, we don’t know that they haven’t already done some counseling. When I was a teenager, I would have leapt at the chance to see a therapist, which is why Psychology was my original college major – I was desperate for help. No one can know how someone will react, so I think it should be offered to the kid.

marinelife's avatar

Do not force the other kids down any path they did not choose. If they want to attend let them. The behavior of one child should not dictate the behavior of the others.

If the one child does not want to attend, he should not be forced to, but his father should talk to him saying that the wedding is taking place and the blended family will be a reality whether he comes to the wedding or not. He should also be forced to treat his stepmother with respect.

poisonedantidote's avatar

Don’t worry about it at all. It is probably not the problem it seems.

When I was a teen, if my mother had divorced and then married some other guy, I would have not attended any wedding either. In fact, there is a good chance I would have physically hurt the other guy quite badly.

Now I am 29, and will be 30 in a few days, and looking back on it all and thinking about it again now, if my mother divorced, I would want her to marry again so she would be happy, you only live once. I would also want my fiance to marry again if I was to die or something. People change, they grow up, and opinions change.

If you force the guy to go, you risk very big problems on the day of the wedding, and if you don’t allow the others to go, you risk big problems after, from a full fledged unified hate squad.

Just issue them all with an invitation, and leave it to them to decide individually. It will yield the best results in the long run.

If you force them to go, or not go, you will probably force them to hate. If you leave it up to them, you allow the chance of it to become a regret that leads to an apology and friendship and acceptance in the future.

A teen is more than old enough to decide, and more than capable to totally destroy the day, but is too young to be accepting about this yet.

Coloma's avatar

I agree with @Kardamom

2 years is barely any time at all for the divorced parent to consider remarriage, let alone a kid who is still coming to terms with his family falling apart.
I would allow ALL the kids involved to make their own choices without any criteria being forced.
Personally I see it as the typical rebound relationship of someone who is too afraid to be alone and single and is jumping headfirst into a new marriage. I don’t blame the kid for being disgruntled.

The whole thing smacks of relationship addiction IMO.
The LAST thing on my mind after divorcing was to wrangle up a new marriage partner in the first few years. People, are nuts!

harple's avatar

The only thing I’d like to add really, as people have covered most angles and varying opinions here, is that my divorce completed a full 2 years after the relationship had ended and we’d gone our separate ways. It hasn’t been said either way in the question details, but it is possible that although it is 2 years since the divorce for the person here, it may well have been a lot longer since the marriage completely ended. (By completely ended, I mean when they split up and started living separate lives, children-aside.)

Judi's avatar

Your sister should be the kids advocate, insisting that he be treated with enough respect to make his own decision. He needs plenty of space to get to know her and making him responsible for the other kids not being allowed to attend is just childish on the future husbands part. This is going to be a dificult blending.

gailcalled's avatar

When my second husband and I married, only one of his three sons (the 11 year-old) came to the wedding, as did my two.

The 13 and 8-year old stayed away. It was a decision made with no overtones or repercussions. It all worked out just fine.

Today, decades later, we are all good friends.

gailcalled's avatar

PS. Your sister getting upset at this boy serves no one… neither her, her fiance, the boy nor the other children.

Coloma's avatar

It’s a case of the “shoulds”...there are no absolute “shoulds” in life. I like the saying of “don’t should on yourself, or others.” :-)

bossob's avatar

I expressed my concerns about the situation in my preceding post. Here’s how I would address them.

When I was the father of a young teenage boy, I began to notice a pattern change in my son’s behavior. When we were working or playing, he became an uncharacteristic chatterbox. I distinctly remember patching shingles, chopping wood, and playing putt-putt golf, when he voluntarily started talking about things on his mind. I was ecstatic that my son was talking to me about things that my father begged me to talk about, but I wouldn’t.

Shortly after my realization, I heard a psychiatrist on the radio talking about my situation, and she nailed it: generally, women sit down over coffee or wine to talk; men talk while they’re doing something. Specifically, teenage boys need ‘action talk’, is what she called it. Fathers and sons can most easily talk when they are doing ‘something’. Bingo! It was even more relevant to me, because as a teen myself, my loving father was always ready to talk…on the telephone. We never ‘did’ stuff; there was no action talk. He wasn’t home much because of his job, so he did the best he could. But I couldn’t/wouldn’t talk on command ie. when it fit his schedule.

Given the busy, chaotic life that I imagine the families are experiencing right now, I would suggest that the father carve out some alone time for the son, where there would be an opportunity for ‘action talk’ to occur. A loving, concerned, and anxious parent can exacerbate the problem by trying too hard to force a meaningful dialogue with a child. Instead, create the environment where the son would feel most comfortable, and give him a chance to open up when he’s not feeling pressured.

That’s Step 1. There’s no way to know how to proceed from there until the son reveals what is troubling him.

Coloma's avatar

@bossob Yes, excellent advice, I have heard the same thing about communication styles.

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wundayatta's avatar

I don’t know if anyone talked about the reciprocity of children idea. I skimmed through, but I didn’t see it. What I mean is this idea that his son won’t go, then her children also shouldn’t go, either. It will become a no children event. In this way, it will kind of even out for his son’s choice and protest, and make it seem like the children weren’t wanted there, anyway.

I’m guessing that the son doesn’t want to go because he is still upset about the loss of his mother, and he is probably really angry with his father for making a new relationship. If this relationship started prior to the ending of the marriage, and the son knows it or suspects it, then that makes it even more difficult for the son, because he feels like this woman broke up his parents and his happy home. He has no desire at all to live with a new mother, and certainly not with new step-siblings.

So he is trying to prevent the union. Symbolically, at least, if he can stop the marriage, then he won’t have to live with these new people.

Now I’m not sure what others are suggesting. Do they think the marriage should not take place? Should the households not merge? Should they move in together, but not get married?

I do believe the kids come first, but I also believe the parents’ happiness is important. Sometimes you have to do things that kids don’t like, and they have to live with it. On the other hand, they can make life miserable. The son might start acting out. He might drink or do drugs or get into trouble, if he isn’t doing that already. Many children do act out when their parents divorce.

I don’t like the idea of making the new wife’s kids stay away from the marriage because his son can’t handle it. I think he is going to be trouble, no matter what. It won’t help if the other kids don’t go to the wedding. His problem is his new mother and new siblings, and he is going to be acting out against them, whether there is a marriage or not, and whether he is there or not. No way he should go. In fact, he should be told he can’t go. Reverse psychology.

Like other people say, they need family therapy to help them talk about it. The son needs to express his anger and everyone else needs to listen and support him. Fat chance of that, but at least in therapy it could be possible.

But this is going to be an ongoing problem, no matter who attends the wedding. Having the other kids not attend will not help the son. So they might as well go if they want to. But dealing with the son is going to be an ongoing issue, and I hope they are thinking about that and have a plan for that.

hopeful5141's avatar

Wow, thank you for all of the opinions and thoughts. To try to respond to the two years issue, my sister has been divorced for four years, and her fiancé and his ex wife had been estranged for many years, living under the same roof, but nothing more. Her children are happy, and one of his children is happy. The one child who is unhappy has been according to his dad, challenging his whole life with disliking change and not handling well things that don’t work out in the manner that he wishes. I don’t have any familiarity with the boy to be able to share more than what his father shared with us over the holidays when this was discussed. I can state that all of us would love to have another boy in the family, and would be delighted to welcome him, but he is too old to force. My sister and her fiancé feel uncomfortable cohabitating while being unmarried, and are wildly happy together. So, essentially they and all of the kids but one want to move forward. Their mother is still alive, and my sister is not trying to take over the role of mom. It’s tricky all around. I appreciate all the time that all of you have given over to offering your ideas and opinions. I think, being too close to a situation can sometimes make it harder for our family to help.

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