Monday, July 1, 2013

How Do I Not Invite an Abusive Cousin to My Vow Renewal?

Dear Jocelyn,
I am having a vow renewal in 2015 (its a part of my religion). I invited all of my aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, as well as my husband's family to our wedding. For the 2015 vow renewal, I want to have my younger cousin on my mom's side in my bridal party, and I absolutely cannot invite my older cousin on that side (bad history of abuse with me as the recipient). 

However, only my mom, my husband, my therapist, and now you know this. My aunt is a wonderful woman and my godmother, and I desperately want to invite her and her younger daughter, without having to explain why or creating a rift. We are not inviting any one from my dad's side except my grandma. We are inviting all of my husbands side (he doesn't see them often, and there aren't many of them). Thanks for any light you can shed.
-In An Awkward Situation

Dear Situation,
What a difficult situation! I'm sorry you are facing this. As you probably know, it isn't really an option to simply not invite the older cousin and not say anything. So I think you have three options:

1) Email/call/sit down with your aunt and say something along the lines of, "I am very much hoping you and (younger cousin) are able to come to the vow renewal, however, I am unable to invite (older cousin). I cannot share the reason and I am sorry about that. I understand if this means you cannot come, but I very much hope you still can." And if (and when) she asks for details, simply say, "I really can't go into it. I know that is hard, but I can't."
2) Consider telling your aunt what happened. Since you know your family dynamics and the details of the abuse, only you can decide if this will cause more or less trouble than not telling her. If you do share, it will (probably) help her understand better why you cannot invite him. 

3) Don't invite anyone (or hardly anyone) to the vow renewal.

None of these are perfect options. In the first, you leave your aunt wondering about this secret, and she will likely press you for details. It might also strain your relationship, since she will know you are keeping a secret from her. The second option has you opening up about a very personal matter to the mother of the man that hurt you. It is quite likely that she will feel defensive for him, and she might not even believe you. The third option will help you avoid sharing that you do not want to invite your older cousin. While it will make your vow renewal a significantly smaller event, your aunt will be none the wiser about your secret.

I am sorry that I didn't have an easier option. You have quite a challenge ahead of you - best of luck.
-Jocelyn

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