I am a 39-year old woman. My mother passed away five years ago and about a year after that, my father finds a girlfriend via an online dating site and has been dating her ever since. In June, my father announces to me that he will get married in October. I had no indication that they would get married, and he once told my grandmother (yes, my mom’s mother is still alive!) that “I will never marry as I already had a great wife of 41 years and I cannot do it again”. Somehow, something changed his mind. I have met his girlfriend a few times and we got along but still she is no replacement for my mother. I find it heartbreaking seeing my dad with this other woman after I was so used to seeing him with my mother. My parents always had a happy marriage and I always had a good relationship with both of my parents.
We live miles apart (I am in Pennsylvania and he is in Georgia) so it is not like I can easily attend the wedding. If I lived locally I would go as in that case there would be no excuse out of it. I really do not feel comfortable going as it will not feel right to me seeing my father renew his wedding vows to this other woman. I understand my mother is gone and she is not coming back, but still I cannot help envisioning her flipping in her grave.
I am just afraid of deteriorating my relationship with my father if I do not attend the wedding, but I still do not want to see this marriage as it is heartbreaking and I feel he is “cheating” on my mother. As much as I hate to fib, I just have a hard time telling him that I am heartbroken by this marriage. I feel like saying “due to finances as I am unable to buy a plane ticket, etc”..what should I say?
While we wait for our relationship counselors to reply, I’d like to say a few words since I’ve been in both positions. I am a widowed mother (with grown children) with the same man for 9 years now and I have also been the daughter of a widower who was fairly young (under 50) when my mother died. I’d just like to address of few of the issues as I see them.
First, just for the record, your father wont be renewing any vows with this woman. This will be a whole different relationship and there will be new vows between the two of them. That said, when your spouse, the person you vowed to love and live with for the rest of your life, suddenly dies it’s very traumatic. His first thoughts, I’m sure, were that he would never fall in love again, never mind get remarried. However, it is human nature to need companionship. And with his daughter grown and living a few states away, the loneliness is probably even more obvious to him. Please don’t believe that your dad is replacing your mom. I encourage you to speak to him about how he feels about you, her, his family and his new life. Although you may need to address some issues surrounding your mother’s death, don’t make this marriage about anything other than your dad (naturally) moving on. If you can work it out for yourself I hope you can find a way to be there for your father. I can tell you from personal experience it’s a huge conflict – loving someone who can never be there for you while having the human needs of companionship and love from a contemporary. Yes,it is possible to love your mother and have feelings of love (albeit a different love) for a new woman. It might be helpful if you tried to put yourself in his place.
Of course, you should be totally honest with dad. Talk to him and choose your words wisely. Let him know this comes from a place of sadness, rather than anger. Please try to get some counseling for your own grief.
I’ve always been told that I have a bit of a sick sense of humor, so I hope this doesn’t offend. A few years after my husband died, when my kids were teens, I remember telling them that they’ll be glad when/if mom remarries or finds a steady beau because they won’t want old mom hanging around or randomly showing up on their doorstep. “It will be good for me to be otherwise occupied“. Now that they are grown, and one is married himself, I know they both agree that they’re happy that I have a life partner to occupy my time and they find comfort in that since they worried about me being alone.
By the way, my dad never did date anyone and he’s gone now. I find myself wishing he had more to his life than just being my dad and my kids grandad, but that was his choice.
I hope that gives you some perspective. I’m sure our relationship experts and counselors will have more professional advice for you. Hang in there.
Alyssa Johnson, The Smart Way to Re-Do Your “I Do”
I would agree with the moderator.
This is about your dad moving on with his life. It is not about him disrespecting your mother or loving her any less. The reality is that he had a wonderful life with her. She is gone now and he has blessed with the opportunity to have another life with this new person.
I do not doubt that it’s hard for you and that it will feel awkward. You clearly loved your mother. But in loving your father, I would encourage you to want him to have a full life. If their relationship was as you described, I would be shocked if your mother would disapprove. Loving someone means always wanting what’s best for them. That’s not always what’s most comfortable for us.
I agree that you need to talk to your dad. I think it will help you see that he’s not trying to replace your mom or forget about her. He is just trying to survive in the life that he has now without her.
I wish you the best!
Dr. Meredith Hansen, Clinical Psychologist & Relationship Expert
Helping engaged and newlywed couples build lasting marriages.
I also agree with the moderator. This is a difficult situation. Your father appears to have truly loved your mother, but it also seems that he has processed his grief and is ready to move forward in his life (which is a good thing).
Losing a loved one can be devastating and if we do not process and acknowledge our feelings about the loss, our feelings can interfere in our relationships. Take time to talk to you father about your feelings. Share your sadness and let him know how much you miss your mother. Keep in mind that your dilemma does not seem related to your feelings about this new woman, but rather the sadness you have around the loss of your mother and the loss of your family unit as you once knew it.
I also think that it may be helpful to receive some grief counseling to assist in processing your emotions and beginning to heal. Two great resources to find a therapist in your area are: networktherapy.com and psychologytoday.com.