My fiancé and I are getting married this spring. He’s 30, I’m 28, and after knowing each other for four years and living together for two, we know we’ll be together forever. We are both Wiccans, but Matt was raised a Catholic. His parents have been as open-minded as they know how, but they’re devout Catholics, and our plans for a handfasting ceremony are causing them all kinds of distress. It seems that when they discussed it with one of the older priests at their church, the old coot told them that attending a “godless” ceremony would be a sin and an offense against the church. They love their son, they’re happy that we’re getting married, and although they were a little apprehensive about attending a pagan ritual, they knew it would be a beautiful ceremony. But this priest has confirmed their fears, and they feel like they’re being forced to choose between their religion and their son. We respect their beliefs, but it would hurt Matt deeply if they weren’t at the wedding. How can we convince them to attend?
It’s exactly this our-way-or-the-highway-to-hell attitude that is turning people away from the Roman Catholic Church in droves. That anyone can tell these folks that their god is so selfish, jealous, and mean that he can’t allow them one non-Catholic celebration is absurd and cruel. Is it just Wiccans this priest fears so much, or would he also forbid them to attend a bar mitzvah, or a Presbyterian baptism? It’s hard to believe anyone still considers the church an authority on morality, but if your future in-laws aren’t willing to attend your wedding without a priest’s blessing, find a priest who will give it. Starting with their parish, look around for a younger, more sympathetic priest who can ease their minds. If you don’t find one there, keep looking. There are plenty of enlightened souls in the priesthood who, while believing in the basic tenets of Catholicism, are less dogmatic about the details. Find one, and arrange an interview with your fiancé’s parents.
Or, you could have your fiancé remind them that, even though it may seem a tad cynical (something the church seems ready enough to forgive itself for), their own religion gives them the solution: the Sacrament of Penance. They can go to the wedding, have a great time, and the very next day drop by church and confess the whole thing, including how much they enjoyed it. Then, because it’s his job, even that sanctimonious old coot of a priest will have to absolve them. A few Hail Marys and a Glory Be or two will wipe their sin slate clean.
My boyfriend of a year and a half is one of the nicest people I have ever met. He believes that if you can’t say something nice about someone, you keep your big mouth shut, and he’d rather walk on razor blades than hurt someone’s feelings. This is all very fine and admirable, and usually I love him for it, but whenever his ex-girlfriend is around I find myself wishing he would relax his principles just for the duration. They were together only a year and broke up four years ago, but she acts like she still has a claim on him. I’m not ordinarily possessive, but whenever we see her, she rushes over, links arms with him, and drags him off to give him a minute-to-minute update on whatever is going on in her life. Which, by the way, never seems to include any new romantic interests. She and my boyfriend still have a lot of mutual friends, so we see her at least once every couple of months. My boyfriend insists that he doesn’t really want to talk to her, but he doesn’t see any point in hurting her feelings, and he says I’m overreacting to a situation that is not only harmless, but actually more bother to him than to me. Arguing about it has gotten me nowhere. Is there anything I can do?
Tired of It
I don’t blame you, TOI; it does seem like your boyfriend has his priorities backward. But perhaps he really doesn’t understand that by sparing his ex-girlfriend’s feelings he’s hurting yours, or maybe his I-can’t-stand-to-be-unkind presentation is camouflage for an anything-to-avoid-confrontation-with-the-ex reality. She’s obviously a bossy gal, which may be the reason they’re not together anymore. If, indeed, that is the reason they broke up, leaving her may have been the one true heroic act of his life, and it may take years before he can muster the courage to face her down again.
Instead of trying to change him, try buddying up to her. Next time, instead of letting her take him away, insist on joining them. Pretend that getting to know her is the most important thing in your life. Of course, this puts you in grave danger of having her actually start to like you, in which case you may find yourself having to practice exactly what you’ve been preaching. If you only see her every couple of months, and you trust that your boyfriend is not longing for a reconciliation with her, it might be the wiser course just to let him suffer through these encounters until he gets bothered enough to find his own way out of them.
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