Monday, May 6, 2019

The Step-Mother of the Bride

Just in case you imagined that I was offering caricatures of the therapy world, I offer in evidence, this weekend’s dvice column Annalisa Barbieri, from the Guardian.

I will preface this by saying that Barbieri counts among the better advice columnists out there. She is not in the realm of Ask Polly and the nitwit brigade.

In a letter a divorced mother of two daughters asks Barbieri what she can do about her ex-husband’s new wife. Apparently, daughter No. 2 is getting married and the mother does not want to see the new wife, aka, the stepmother, ruin a second wedding. You see, the new wife made an appalling spectacle at the wedding of daughter No. 1. Now, daughter No. 2 does not want to invite her father’s new wife to the wedding, even if it means that her father will not attend.

It sounds reasonable, a reasonable concern for the bride-to-be. Here is the letter:

I separated from my husband 16 years ago. We have two daughters. He went on to marry an aggressive, abusive narcissist who had a hand in rearing our children. She was, by turns, demanding, vicious and loving with them. I distanced myself but encouraged them to build a strong relationship with their father, which they did.

One of my daughters recently married, and my ex’s wife almost destroyed the wedding. She got extremely drunk, heckled the speakers and, when my daughter’s father was due to give his speech, she took the microphone, making an appalling speech that left the guests gasping in horror. She spoke disparagingly about the couple, me and herself, swearing throughout. We thought she was having a breakdown in public. The charm offensive began the next day with generic apologetic texts and, a week later, expressions of how upset she was by her behaviour. The girls are being bullied into forgiving her.

It feels as though my ex’s wife has a narcissistic cult around her, where everyone has to either collude with her behaviour or be shunned. My other daughter plans to marry and wants her father to give her away, but not if that means his wife comes to the wedding. How do I support the children? They have both said it can never happen again. How can I make sure it doesn’t?

The new wife is a drunk. She promises never to do it again, but how many drunks have made such promises, only to break them at the first opportunity. Why would a rational adult want to take the risk at her own wedding. As I said, the mother of the bride is trying to deal with her and her daughter’s concerns.

So, Barbieri asks advice from a psychoanalytic psychotherapist, one who apparently has gobs of personal experience handing out bad advice. What does the psycho therapist have to say? She says that the mother of the bride has a problem. Seriously:

Given that you can’t control all the personalities involved, it would be a tall order for you to prevent this happening again. Susanna Abse, a psychoanalytical psychotherapist, who has extensive experience in working with separated couples and parents, asked: on whose behalf you were writing? And she wanted you to look, not so much at others’ behaviour, but your own feelings. “Perhaps there’s a lot here that may relate to some unresolved feelings about how damaged you felt by the end of your relationship with your ex?” she asked

Appalling and ignorant… she advises the woman not to be judgmental. She advises: don’t concern yourself with the fact that a woman ruined your first daughter’s wedding. No, look at your own feelings about your divorce. Is she kidding? Unfortunately, she isn't.

As for the feelings of the daughter who is about to get married, the psycho therapist has no concerns whatever. It's all about not being judgmental. Yuck.

If you have a therapist who talks like that, fire her immediately.

Anyway, here is the rest of the advice, for your edification:

Abse said the best way you can protect your daughter’s future wedding is to foster “an atmosphere of collaboration and positive relationships”. This way your daughter – who I suspect may feel torn between what she wants to do and what she feels she ought to do – can truly decide on what works best for her. It is, after all, her wedding day. I don’t know if she has voiced her fears to her father and said, “It’s you on your own or nothing”; but it is likely that she wants her father there, given what you’ve said. What your ex does is up to him, and I would stay out of it.

If your daughter asks your advice, Abse recommended helping her think through the long-term consequences of not having her father there, and the potential for creating a rift. “All you can do is help your children manage their stepmother without losing their father. But remember, it’s your daughter’s choice who attends her wedding – not yours,” she said.

Fostering an atmosphere of positive relationships is… mental drool, mixed with a giant helping of psychobabble. Astonishingly, the psycho therapist has nothing to say about the appalling behavior of the father’s new wife. And besides, didn't the father noticed? Shouldn’t he be the one to ask her not to attend. Everyone else noticed. What kind of an imbecile would invite this woman back for another wedding. And, incidentally, arouse memories of the first scene.

As for what Mom should do, Mom should support her daughter’s thoroughly reasonable request. And she should find a stand-in for a man who has married a drunken shrew.

Note well, that the daughter’s sister probably be the matron of honor. How will she feel to be in the presence of the woman who ruined her wedding? Won’t she be in a continual state of anxiety about the chance that the scene will repeat itself? About these issues the psycho therapist has nothing to say.


whitney said...

Judgment is a tool that helps you separate the good from the bad.

I believe that sentence and it's how I conduct my life but I know there are so many things in that sentence that would trigger an sjw or even just your typical millennial, judgment, discrimination, ideas of good and bad and different merits. I saw an ad for New Hampshire College I think it's an online college and in the ad they said 'everyone is given equal talents but not equal opportunities. We want to change that'.

This unstable mountain of Lies is going to come down eventually

Sam L. said...

Could the father of the bride send his wife off on a week's vacation in the Bahamas (or somewhere, anywhere, preferably someplace to dry her out)? Or, could he stand up to his new wife and tell her she can't go to this wedding.

Anonymous said...

An evil stepmother can easily be worked into a Snow White themed wedding. :-)


Anonymous said...

Even before the first time in this post that "psychotherapist" was split in two, I found myself thinking of the classic cartoon with the sign painter on this one: