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Family Therapy Almost 20 Years Post Parents’ Divorce in Prep for My Wedding?

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My brother and I are both getting married next year (his first, in Feb) and having our parents in the same space for the first time in many years is causing a lot of anxiety. My parents’ divorce was dirty, angry, and never properly processed (I was in middle school, brother in HS). It didn’t end fairly, and so the anger and pain are still salient, esp. for my mom. To way overgeneralize, there’s an attitude of “it’s been so long, get over it” on one side and “not without a genuine apology/admission of what you did” or some sort of truth & reconciliation on the other. SO, even though everyone’s established their own lives since, this is all coming to a head with the impending weddings. Now that I’m an adult, and more mature, and pursuing my own career in therapy, I am realizing that preparing for these weddings might be best facilitated professionally and as a family, given the systemic context. I haven’t proposed it officially yet, and I am unsure how it would be received. But we have some logistical issues: 1) we’re somewhat time-limited. 2) we’re in 4 separate states, so if there were even just a few sessions, they’d most likely have to be online. Not ideal. 3) Not sure how appropriate it is to have time/session-limited therapy when there are so many years of pain to unpack. Yes, we could have the goal of just making it through the weddings so that my brother and I aren’t stressing over our parents’ emotions and the awkwardness that many people, including guest’s privy to our family’s past, might feel. (To be clear, we aren’t worried about a public altercation or anything like that). But that feels dismissive of the larger work that clearly needs to be done.

Help! General advice/insight welcomed, but also – do you know of MFTs who would be willing to do distance counseling for 4 people in separate places? :/

Family Therapy Almost 20 Years Post Parents’ Divorce in Prep for My Wedding?

Answered by on -

A.

I have several thoughts about this, but I will be straying away from the typical approach of trying to facilitate their issues prior to the weddings. I would begin in a very different place with this process before offering thoughts on facilitating it.

The first question for you and your brother is to decide how important is it for both parents to be present at these weddings. Your needs and those of your future mates are the first and primary thing to consider.

The first question I’d ask is: “Do you want both parents there at both weddings? If you say ‘yes’ to that I would then ask ‘why?’ Why do you want to have them there when it is your day and being concerned about their respective antagonism in the room could be a distraction? If you come up with an answer for this that is more than a mere obligation, then let’s work toward a solution.

If you find that their presence together doesn’t suit you or your brother then take a stand with that decision. I highly advocate for couples to do what works for them first and foremost. Trying to please everyone else involved can be overwhelming.

If you do decide you want them there then my recommendation isn’t for a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) to do the facilitation, but rather to get the experts in a one-day event with divorced parents in the same room: A wedding planner.

Most quality wedding planners have had an exceptional amount of experience in these things and advice is readily available from them as is evidenced here.

If you don’t need a planner for the entirety of the event, you could certainly get a one-time consult, even if it is by phone with a seasoned professional. The key here is for you and your brother and mates to have a plan of what is most likely to work. A topnotch wedding planner would be my first recommendation if you want both parents to attend. Here is a list of professional wedding planners who may be able to help. I also believe this approach will be much more cost-effective than therapy.

Thanks, and we’d love to hear back from you to let us know how the weddings went!

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

Family Therapy Almost 20 Years Post Parents’ Divorce in Prep for My Wedding?

Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: http://www.dare2behappy.com/. He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2019). Family Therapy Almost 20 Years Post Parents’ Divorce in Prep for My Wedding?. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 5, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2019/11/21/family-therapy-almost-20-years-post-parents-divorce-in-prep-for-my-wedding/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 18 Nov 2019 (Originally: 21 Nov 2019)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 18 Nov 2019
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