Ask Alice — Advice for All

My 30-year-old daughter, whom I am very close to, is getting married this fall. She’s asked five of her friends to be in her wedding party, one of whom she has known since childhood. I have always been concerned about this friendship because this young woman appears terribly envious of my daughter, probably because my…

Published August 9, 2012 5:00 AM
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My 30-year-old daughter, whom I am very close to, is getting married this fall. She’s asked five of her friends to be in her wedding party, one of whom she has known since childhood. I have always been concerned about this friendship because this young woman appears terribly envious of my daughter, probably because my daughter is more successful financially and socially.

 

Being a Supportive, Not an Overprotective Parent

 

Dear Alice,

 

My 30-year-old daughter, whom I am very close to, is getting married this fall. She’s asked five of her friends to be in her wedding party, one of whom she has known since childhood. I have always been concerned about this friendship because this young woman appears terribly envious of my daughter, probably because my daughter is more successful financially and socially.

 

My daughter is a very sensitive person, and her relationship with this friend has been difficult over the years. She gossips about my daughter and excludes her at various times from her group. Recently, I have learned that this young woman has been talking negatively about the upcoming wedding, deriding the location, the bridesmaids’ dresses, and even the groom.

 

As I watch this unfold, I realize my intense reaction in part relates to feelings of betrayal regarding one of my own friendships that was similar and hurtful.

 

How can I be helpful to my daughter? While this will be the most exciting day for our family, I fear that this girl will try to ruin it if she can. I want to warn my daughter, but I have concerns about saying anything. Do you have any suggestions on how I can handle this upsetting situation?

 

— Nervous Mom

 

Dear Nervous,

 

Weddings are emotionally charged events for families. Parents understand the relationship with their child will change because they have to incorporate another person, the new spouse, into their lives. The adjustment is also complicated by the inclusion of the spouse’s family. We are aware of these changes on some level, but we often focus on the wedding day, something we attempt to control, instead of examining all the changes that the marriage may bring and our fears about what these may do to our lives. Thus, we hope for a perfect wedding day in order to create the illusion that all will be right with our world.

 

At the same time, watching our children deal with the ups and downs of their friendships can be very difficult for parents. When painful experiences happen to our children, we are reminded of our own earlier hurts. At such times, our desire to protect our children intensifies.

 

However, the fact that your daughter chose this person to be a bridesmaid suggests she still considers her a friend. Somehow she has found a way to deal with her friend’s bad behavior. As difficult as it is for you, try to support your daughter’s choice. Warning her will only cause her to worry and may spoil her special day. She has been managing her feelings about this person all these years. Your mentioning it does not help her.

 

Often when we try to protect our children, we give the message that they can’t manage for themselves. This is surely the opposite of what you want to convey. Unless she asks for your opinion, you are both better served by letting it go and remaining quiet. As your daughter starts her new life, she may decide this friend is not someone she wants in it any longer. One aspect of maturing is to assess and reassess friendships.

 

Your daughter has to make these decisions on her own. Trust that you have given her the skills and self-confidence to choose good people to be close to and enrich her life. This skill ideally develops over time and with expanding experiences.

 

Being a good parent is a job that is never completed. While you have a close relationship with your daughter, she will be working through many of these issues with her spouse, and your role will likely change. You have to allow her to make mistakes, just as you did when she was a young child.

 

Parents and their adult children continue to negotiate their relationships with one another throughout their lives. Allowing your daughter to evaluate this friendship on her own will strengthen you both as individuals as well as your mother and daughter relationship. By recognizing the tension around the wedding and choosing not to add to it, you bring leadership to this milestone in all of your lives.

 

Congratulations and best wishes for a wonderful wedding for you and your family.

 

— Alice

    

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