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Q&A with Geoff: How Can I Support My Daughter’s Wedding While Protecting My Emotional Well-Being?

q&a with geoff Aug 16, 2023


My daughter is getting married in Europe soon. She is having a non-traditional wedding that includes four days or so of family, friends, excursions and time together. She’s expecting her closest family stay in one multi-room villa together.

I am newly remarried, and her dad has a serious girlfriend. Her dad and I have been divorced for years. We can get along at times. This is mainly dependent on him being appropriate and refraining from verbal abuse toward me.

It seems like he has so much anger toward me even after all this time. When she initially started making these plans, she talked about renting two villas. I would be in one and her dad in the other. Now she’s talking about renting just one villa.

I have told her about how her dad speaks to me at times. She knows he can be unpredictable and say vile things. I feel like she is being insensitive by asking me to stay under the same roof as him. The thought of spending four days in close proximity to him is causing me a great amount of anxiety. I’m trying to keep the focus on her and her marriage but having a hard time.

I want to be loving and supportive of my daughter but also want to protect my mental health. Can you please offer some advice on this situation?


First, I want to commend you for the love and dedication you have for your daughter and for your willingness to prioritize her special moment, despite the personal discomfort it will cause you. The reality of being in close quarters with a verbally abusive ex-husband is undeniably challenging. Your feelings of anxiety and concern for your own mental well-being are totally understandable. Let’s talk about options for how to proceed.

Balancing our personal boundaries with the wishes of our loved ones is always a delicate dance, especially when complex histories and dynamics come into play. One of the most important things you can do for your daughter is to not put her in charge of your mental health or have her manage the dynamic between you and her father. We can’t outsource responsibility for our emotional well-being.

While you can share your preferences for what would be most comfortable, you ultimately must oversee what you need during the wedding festivities. Of course, if there are ways to create compromise and support for all the competing needs, that would be the idea outcome. However, that simply may not be possible.

Instead of putting her in charge of creating the conditions you need, I recommend working closely with your new husband to decide what you need to create the best outcome.

When it comes to communicating with your ex-husband, there’s no need to engage him in conversation or coordinate anything with him. If you anticipate needing to exit a conversation with him, practice what you might say. If you decide to use the villa for sleeping and choose to spend time other places instead of with the group, then do so without dramatic flair. There’s nothing wrong with notifying your daughter about your intentions so she can plan accordingly.

If you find yourself having an anticipatory trauma response as you visualize spending time around him, then consider seeking expert trauma treatment to prepare for these interactions. Quality trauma treatment and healthy boundaries can help you stay regulated and balanced for the few days you’ll all be together. 

It’s also important to recognize that you don’t have to do any of this alone. You have a new marriage that can give you the strength and support you need to do this hard thing. There will be a variety of friends and family there who will provide much-needed support and validation. And, don’t forget that you’re the mom and your daughter needs you to show up in strength and courage to support her special day.

Remember, anything we can face alone, we can face better together.  

In the end, remember that your daughter’s wedding is about love, unity and celebration. Although old wounds can be challenging, focusing on the joyous occasion might help provide some clarity and direction.

Finding the right balance will require creativity, patience and open communication, but with thoughtful attention, I believe you can create a situation that honors both your love for your daughter and your need for safety and comfort.

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