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Read Letter

My Father Won’t Participate In My Wedding

My dear Jil, you’re in a difficult situation. And to be honest with you I don’t understand your father. He’s holding you vicariously liable for the alleged sins of your mother. He’s punishing your mother by punishing you, by withholding consent to your wedding. It’s a proxy battle he’s waging. He’s fighting his ex wife through you and that doesn’t make sense! They’ve been divorced for how long now… 8 years? But he’s still fighting the battle. Kinda reminds one of those Japanese holdouts in the Pacific Theatre who continued to fight after end of World War II. Either they didn’t realize the war was over, or they held on to dogmatic beliefs.

Your father says he has nothing against you. Probably. But you’re his avenue to your mother, to get at her. He’s punishing you to make her come and beg, so he can exact humiliation and penance. That’s part of the challenge of divorce. Some people just never stop the fight. They refuse to move on. They define the remainder of their lives with the pain from the past, sometimes even punishing their new partner. And from their one painful experience they create an ideology about men and women. There are instances in which the father consents to the marriage but then insists the bride’s mother can’t participate in the wedding! These things happen. And some don’t want to sit in the vicinity of each other, can’t stand each other. So they neither stand nor sit. And they’ll go to lengths to keep the battle raging. These are horrible divorces, full of bile and hatred.

For men sometimes it’s just ego. Especially powerful men. How dare she leave me! The truth is, once children are involved, a divorce has to reconcile itself to that fact. Means there’ll be points of intersection in the orbits of the worlds of the parents because of those children. Those points of intersection include the children’s education and marriage. If you must divorce, at least have the mind to come to terms with the consequences. Divorce has consequences. As long as there are children involved, there’s an umbilicality between the two parents.

Problems often arise from the contest for the affection of the children. These are political gambits – one parent trying to vilify and tar the image of the other, sometimes with outright lies and inventions. There’s that PR war that ensues after divorce. Yet the demonization that goes on is misdirected energy. The primary consideration ought to be the children. There are things you do for the sake of your children. There’s nothing stopping the parents from being amicable, for the sake of the children. Putting the children in the middle is unfair, and really not wise.

I feel for you Jil, because here you are caught in the middle. Your marriage has been turned into a weapon of war. You have begged your father, sent aunties and uncles to beg him. He remains adamantine: will not sanction your marriage. And I understand where you’re coming from. Who doesn’t ordinarily want the blessing of a father in marriage? There’s a sacredness to the blessing of a father. Can be quite prophetic as we learnt from Jacob. It ought to be every father’s desire to bless his seed. So I understand the sense of pain and frustration you must have. Because he’s the father he carries some weight in the scheme of things, especially in an African cultural context. Your culture is patrilineal and that’s the context of the weightiness. This coupled with the fact that you want to honour your father and mother to access blessedness. According to the corpus of revelatory knowledge this blessedness is longevity of life.

Then there’s the social embarrassment and cultural imbalance. There’s the embarrassment of, “Where’s her father?… Is she a bastard?” The cultural imbalance is a lack of correspondent father-in-law for your husband at the ceremony. And who’s going to walk you down the aisle, hand you over with “I do” to the question, “who gives the bride?” Your father knows all these things, and he’s determined to make a point to your mother on his ceremonial significance. Only God knows what they said to each other at the point of parting. Only God knows what vows they made in bitterness. Amazing how love can easily turn into hatred. Emotions can transubstantiate.

There’s a life principle called “fulfilling all righteousness.” It means doing things to satisfy the claims of justification. I’ll like you to fulfill all righteousness with at least one more appeal to your father. Go to him and ask that he participate in your wedding once more. Do it with reverence. If he turns you down, send again your uncles and aunties to him. One last time. If he says no, then offer a compromise. Ask him to bless you and bless your marriage. He doesn’t need to come. That at least isolates you from your mum. He cannot not want to bless you. If he refuses to bless you, then that says a lot. Goes against him, goes to his nature. Means he can’t overcome his hatred for your mum to bless his own daughter. If you do all these things, duly honouring him, you have fulfilled all righteousness. If he still refuses you’re free to pursue your happiness and future. You’ve done all you can, all that should be done. You can then go ahead with your wedding. It’s his loss and he’ll have regrets. It’s to his shame.

Sometimes such people turn around, years after the wedding. Usually at the birth of a grandchild. At those moments in history they become objects of pity. You have to forgive if that ever happens. In fact you have to forgive now, for all the trauma he’s put you through. Just forgive. You don’t want to import that baggage into your marriage, do you? Here’s my wishing you a very happy nuptial in advance.

Your mentor, LA

© Leke Alder |

Tags : Wedding, father's consent, honouring your parents

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