Now, about your mother-in-law. At least right now, she seems to believe that she treated you just fine before the wedding, and that while she’s sorry for disrupting the party, her collapsing was out of her control. She doesn’t seem ready to consider whether any underlying internal conflict might have contributed to what happened. For instance, maybe she felt left out during the wedding planning. Maybe she’s extremely lonely (you don’t mention her spouse), and feeling that her son is leaving her led to an intense reaction. Maybe her own wedding was a disappointment, and she had an unconscious desire to make her son’s a disappointment, too. None of this would excuse her behavior, but it may help explain it, which will be important as you address your feelings with your husband.
Note that I said with your husband. You don’t mention whether the two of you have talked about your wedding and how he feels about what happened. I don’t know if he shares your sentiments or perspective, or what his relationship is like with his mother. Remember that the goal of the day was to get married to the person you love, which you two accomplished. Now comes the part that’s far more important than a single weekend or party: the rest of your marriage.
The silver lining here is that you two will learn a lot about each other as you work through your respective feelings about his mother and her role in each of your lives. You’ll discover things about their relationship that will help you understand him better, and he’ll discover things about you that might help him be more sensitive to your reactions to her, not just during the wedding weekend, but also going forward. You’ll learn how you can support each other even if you have different views of the same incident or person. You’ll learn about negotiating boundaries, such as the role outsiders like in-laws play in your marriage, and where those lines are drawn. You’ll learn to wrestle together with messy and conflicting emotions. And finally, you’ll see that there are ways to turn lemons into lemonade—something you’ll need to do when facing life’s inevitable challenges—and getting practice early on will make you stronger as a couple.
How you two handle this now will set the tone for what you both signed up for that day. Changing the narrative around your “ruined” wedding will change the narrative of your marriage, so that not too long from now, you might find that your wedding becomes a hilarious story repeated again and again at dinner parties and family gatherings and, maybe later, at your own children’s (and their children’s) weddings. It will be a story not of ruin but of resilience, humor, and deep love. What a wonderful legacy you and your husband can begin creating together.
Dear Therapist is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, mental-health professional, or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. By submitting a letter, you are agreeing to let The Atlantic use it—in part or in full—and we may edit it for length and/or clarity.