Dear Carolyn: I really want to go to my half sister's wedding, but I don't want to start trouble with her dad, who hates me. He might cause a scene if I go.
My mom cheated on him and I'm the result. They divorced, and he got custody of my older siblings. Shortly after I was born, my parents left me with my grandmom and moved away. When I was about 6, my mom came back home and has been living with us ever since, but I've never met my dad.
I was always excited any time I got to spend time with my siblings, but their dad prevented it as much as possible.
The sister who is getting married is the youngest and the one I know the best, and she has invited me. She insists she really wants me at the wedding. My mom also says it will be okay, even though her ex-husband has never once been civil to me and usually starts trouble any time we're in the same room; apparently, I look just like my dad and that drives him nuts.
I don't think he's the kind of man to hold off just because his daughter's getting married, since he's stirred up trouble on holidays and at other celebrations too many times. As much as I'd love to go to the wedding, I don't want to be the cause for ruining my sister's big day. Should I go?
Anonymous: If you want to be there for and with your sister, then, yes.
If there’s trouble, then YOU won’t be the one “ruining my sister’s big day” — it will be the people choosing to drag up the past where it doesn’t belong. Specifically, it will be the person who chooses to punish the innocent for his own bitterness. How is it even remotely your fault how you were conceived, or whom you resemble?
I can understand his hard feelings, of course. But I can do that and still be thoroughly disgusted by his decision — again and again and again — to act on those hard feelings in such a public, ugly and unjust way. To stand in the way of your time with your siblings — and theirs with you — is a breathtaking act of selfishness.
So principle would be completely on your side even without the bride’s insistence that your presence is wanted.
With it, you have assurance that she understands, too, that if her father starts any trouble, you won’t have caused it by showing up.
That is seriously all you need. But this helps: “My mom also says it will be okay.”
Now, if you just don’t want the stress of wondering whether and when the dad will target you at the wedding, then that’s a fair consideration, and how you handle it is entirely up to you. But you’d be staying away because you want to, not because any person — or any law of decency — says you must.