Dear Margo: Same Song, Second Verse

Should differing beliefs spell divorce? Margo Howard’s advice

Same Song, Second Verse

Dear Margo: “Ron” and I have been married for three and a half years, together for four and a half. (I’m 30, and he’s 31.) When we first started dating, I honestly didn’t care if he went to church with me, shared my beliefs or got along with my parents. Now, four years down the road, I realize I do care if he goes to church with me, shares my beliefs and gets along with my parents. He gives in and goes to church maybe once a month, complaining the whole time about the pastor and his “sheep.” He doesn’t know if he would let his children be raised in the church, and he doesn’t really get along with my parents. Divorce has come up several times — along with massive fights and screaming matches. He usually walks out, and I always beg him to come back because I love him.

Now I’m the one who wants to end our marriage — before we bring kids into the picture. Ron is now begging me to work it out and telling me he wants the marriage to work, saying he’ll go to church, change his beliefs and try to get along with my parents. Do I try to salvage my marriage? Do we split up and go our separate ways before we end up hating each other? We’ve tried counseling, but didn’t get very far. We were basically told, “You know what your problems are. Now fix them.” I do love my husband, but I don’t know that I’m “in love” with him anymore. — Wondering in the West

Dear Won: As you may know, I don’t think much of the complaint, “I love him, but I’m not in love with him.” To me, that’s an issue of maturity and expectations. In the situation you describe, however, the two of you are thrashing out basic issues that many couples try to come to terms with before they are married. Because of your history together, and your having laid down the gauntlet, I would give him (and the marriage) a trial period. If he can live up to his pledges, then you will have a better idea of whether it’s a go or a no go. — Margo, experimentally

Disability, Families and Bias

Dear Margo: I am Mom to three beautiful girls with autism, ages 11, 15 and 16. Their 49-year-old aunt is getting married for the first time in the late fall. She invited two nieces to be flower girls and two nephews to be ring bearers. She did not invite my girls to even attend her wedding and, to clear up the “chatter” in the family, sent an email to her brother saying, “There will be no other children under the age of 18 at my wedding.” My mother-in-law thinks the exclusion of her granddaughters is perfectly acceptable behavior. What do you think? And would you attend this wedding? — Miffed Mom

Dear Miff: I know of a man with Asperger’s who married an autistic woman, so it seems to me that if people with autism can marry, they certainly may attend weddings. Granted, this is anecdotal and not scientific data involving a large sample, but I detect in your situation a prejudice against persons with disability — and the fact that it’s family makes it all the more hurtful.

I would bring it up directly with the elderly bride (49; meow) and state your feelings. Use this incident as a teaching moment. You might also mention the sting of exclusion to your out-to-lunch m-i-l, who is clearly leading or being led by her daughter. (So much for doting grandmothers.) But do attend the wedding. If you cannot get your sister-in-law to change her mind, you will at least have gone on record and made your point. — Margo, instructively

* * *

Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via e-mail to Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


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134 comments so far.

  1. avatar Jrz Wrld says:

    Argh. I’m an atheist and I refuse to date religious people because of types like LW1. You want to change the rules on him. That’s not fair. I can’t imagine being coerced into going to a church I didn’t believe in via the threat of divorce. That’s just sick. And of course he doesn’t want to raise his children in your church since you’re showing a rather unsavory side of the whole religion thing – he sees his children facing the same sort of coercion he is. He sees you suddenly withdrawing your love because they might not believe as you do (as my mother has done lately to me, so don’t say it’s unthinkable). As for not getting along with your parents, some details would help, but I can’t help but wonder if they play the same games you do.

    LW2, I think people with mental health issues should be included in all things, BUT having read more than the average bear on autism and having had a few relatives working in the field (in addition to knowing some autistic children), I can’t help but wonder if they were excluded out of kindness. You don’t say how high-functioning they are, but many of the autistic kids I’ve encountered and read about would be completely freaked out by a wedding. Heck, all I’ve got is ADD and I find weddings to be a rather nerve-wracking trial. From what I understand, routine is vital to autistic people and unfamiliar sounds/sights/activities can produce real anxiety. Weddings are basically a lot of mumbo jumbo ritual followed by a noisy and splashy party – not routine at all. Before you make a stink about this, please make absolutely certain you are weighting their welfare and comfort above your need to see them included in a family event.

    • avatar Margo Howard says:

      Jrz Wrld:  That was most interesting about how the different spectra of autism affect people. Thank you for the edification.

      • avatar Jrz Wrld says:

        Grazie:) I’m not an expert, but one of my cousins was responsible for developing protocol for individual children as an aide at a school for autistic children – she emphasized that it was all about being consistent. And Temple Grandin has some interesting things to say about it in her books, too.

    • avatar David Bolton says:

      “I can’t help but wonder if they were excluded out of kindness. You don’t say how high-functioning they are, but many of the autistic kids I’ve encountered and read about would be completely freaked out by a wedding.”

      Maybe yes, maybe no. I think after 3 children and over 15 years’ of experience with autism—the mom would have either agreed with the aunt’s decision or disinvited herself if the kids were unable to function at an event like a wedding. As it is—she wrote a letter because it upset her.

      • avatar Jrz Wrld says:

        I dunno – I admit I’m coming at this from a bad angle, but my mother frequently misjudged my capabilities and interests and I was made miserable as a result of her unrealistic expectations. I have, perhaps, a warped view of moms, but I’m not entirely convinced that the mother who wrote the letter doesn’t have some blind spots of her own. I’m not sure how horrible that is of me. I’m also coming at this from the angle of a kid who was miserable in party dresses and hated going to church with a passion.

      • avatar yeahright says:

        well said. Frequently, parents of autistic children think the rest of the WORLD should “make allowances” for their children’s behavior. Or, that they are “not that bad” I think the mom needs a clue or two.

      • avatar David Bolton says:

        I know, right? And those AWFUL wheelchair-people.

      • avatar PinkFlamingo says:

        Some CAN be awful, as can Walking people, and blind people, and “NORMAL” people, and Ladies… PEOPLE can be awful, and amazing and terrifying etc…
        Generalizing in such an inflammatory way makes me disregard any valid point you might have…

      • avatar David Bolton says:

        “How To Recognize Obvious Sarcasm” is available at

      • avatar Deeliteful says:


        I keep looking for the sarcasm font. Perhaps one must be fluent in sarcasm to recognize it (obvious or otherwise)?

      • avatar David Bolton says:

        Anytime it looks like I’m playing devil’s advocate by making some sweeping, heartless generalization—I probably am.

        “AWFUL wheelchair-people?” Sorry, I thought I was being obvious.

      • avatar Lym BO says:

        It was.

      • avatar Jrz Wrld says:

        ARRGH that’s not what I meant at all. I actually do believe the world should make wide allowances for people with disabilities when it is possible. I grew up with undiagnosed ADD, and I was fortunate to have people cut me a lot of slack even though no one knew what was wrong with me. They recognized that I was trying, thank God, rather than writing me off as lazy or manipulative. I don’t know whether the daughters can behave with minimal disruption or not, and honestly, I think it’s a poor person who’s so obsessed with staging their perfect wedding that they can’t tolerate a meltdown or two by a mentally/neurologically disabled loved one. Life happens, ya know?

        The nature of autism however is that sufferers often don’t deal well with disruption in their routine and what they know – novelty is often traumatic. The mother sounds as if she is coming at it from the angle that her kids will be hurt if they are not invited, but it’s highly unclear if she is imposing her idea of normalcy on them or not. The dilemma here is not, if these children deserve to be at the wedding or not (they absolutely do), but which party is acting in their best interests.

      • avatar Jrz Wrld says:

        And it’s not even about “deserving” if that under 18 rule is evenly applied. As Briana pointed out, the wedding party doesn’t count…

      • avatar vdcthiessen says:

        My son with autism is probably more well behaved than your typical children. Every child is different. Obviously you know nothing about Autism otherwise you would never have made such an asinine statement.

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        David, as the mother of an autistic son, and having known the parents of many autistic children…and many parents of simply “garden variety” children (I don’t use normal. What the hell is “normal”?)…you are expecting far too much reason from parents as a whole. Yes, it could be true that LW2 is absolutely accurate in her assessment of her daughters’ ability to attend a wedding/reception. Or she could be like far too many parents, and be over-estimating their ability to deal with a long ceremony, and then the excitement, sometimes frenetic activity, and noise of a reception. I am sure you are all too aware of the parents of young children who believe they have produced lovely cherubs who issue forth with only the most dulcet of tones, whilst pooping rainbows and ice cream, and fluttering harmlessly about…while the reality is shrieking little beasties hurling food at your head from the opposite table during the late dinner hour at a fine restaurant, and ravening between the tables, in sagging, filthy diapers, causing havoc for the servers. Now, multiply that state of delusion for certain parents of children with special needs. Do you see the problem?

        My son, now 20, is what is referred to as high-functioning. He is verbal, of standard intelligence, can hold a conversation and deal with most social situations. It still took a long time to get him to that point. He was not ADD, or ADHD, but his tolerance for noise and swirls of activity were low, as was his ability to cope with social situations involving strangers, both before he reached puberty, and in his middle teens. Autism is not only a spectrum disorder…but each and every case is utterly unique. One of the LW’s daughters may be perfectly able to cope…even the youngest…while one, or both of the others might have a meltdown from the stress.

        Her family may be chattering…not just because her children were excluded, but because she doesn’t understand why. I am not stating this as fact…but I do know of what I speak. I do so wish I had a dollar for every situation we had to leave, for every meltdown and tantrum (yes, autistic children can and do learn to try and manipulate), for all of the rolled eyes and glares as I scooped up my son from the floor and nonchalantly left a store (I simply can’t be embarrassed anymore), or told him in a neutral voice to pull up his pants, and the thousand other things that I accepted as part of him. It isn’t always easy to accept reality…and far too many parents of all sorts never do…much to their children’s detriment.

        I would advise LW2 to ask a few other relatives for their absolutely honest opinions of the aunt’s decision, before she makes up her mind to be hurt and offended. Others may be unwilling to state the obvious because she is overly sensitive (no, there is no reason to be that way. There is no way to predict what you’ll get in the genetic lottery. My younger son is “garden variety” gifted and talented and so far, stable as can be. You deal with what you have, and you do your level best. People with special needs are not the center of the social universe because of their differences. I know…I am one of them…diagnosed with four separate Axis I disorders. So? I should win a prize?) and is unwilling, perhaps even…resistant…to any suggestion that her daughters are less than able to cope.

        But be prepared for a reality check.

      • avatar Mrs. Doolittle says:

        Not sure how this works but this reply is to Brianna, the mother of a son with autism.  Kudos to you!  You sound like the kind of parent my bother is.  Accept your child, love your child, but don’t expect others to live their lives around him.  My brother has, on several occasions, declined invitiations because he knows the invites are out of kindness but that his child wouldn’t function well in that environment and would become a disruption and ruin the celebration or whatever.

      • avatar David Bolton says:

        What I was saying was a comment about Jrz’s hypothesis that the children were excluded “out of kindness,” which may or may not be the case. But the fact that LW1 wrote a letter because she’s apparently upset with the decision would indicate that she doesn’t exactly view this as an act of kindness, but rather exclusion. Someone needs a reality check here—it’s either 1) LW1, who has children who would not be able to function at the wedding, or 2) the aunt, who either views the children as being a potential disruption, or who doesn’t want children at her wedding for whatever reason (other than the cutsey-role ones). In any case, LW1 should send a card and list her obligation to the wedding under the “done” column.

      • avatar David Bolton says:

        Oops—that’s LW2. Although I bet they weren’t invited to LW1’s wedding either.

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        @ David Bolton, who said: “…Someone needs a reality check here…”.

        Precisely my point. I don’t know if the sister considered her decision an act of kindness or not, and I wouldn’t begin to make that presumption. We don’t even know what sort of wedding/reception she’s having. There are two sorts, in my humble point of view, the sort of casual, mellow, family oriented variety at which children (not just the strictly decorative, over-dressed, sedated with Benadryl for overly-precious…and quite hideous…Wedding Memories Photographs…type) are welcome and can be comfortable…and the very formal, sit-down-dinner, champagne, open bar, $$$ extravaganza at which everyone is likely to view them as a royal pain-in-the-ass, even their parental units (unless they’re the sort who think of their children as always adorable and entertaining…even when they’ve consumed far too many hors d’oeuvres and are vomiting on someone’s $2500 Jimmy Choo stilettos), and also at which they will be bored, whiny and miserable.

        This can definitely apply to the average teenager as well. LW2 gives no indication as to the sister’s chosen style of wedding. Generally, flower girls are “tots”, as are ring-bearers. Personally I find it quite delightful when small children behave like the pod people they are…and decide to pull down their formal trousers, or lift their horrid pageant dress, collect the flower petals rather than distribute them, lie down mid aisle for a small siesta, eat the ring…or projectile vomit from the stress and all of the scolding they’ve received to make them behave in an over-heated church full of cooing, stuffy adults. Pah. But, back to L#2. The LW’s daughters are not “tots”, not suitable as flower girls, not in the wedding party, and the bride-to-be has made it clear that no sub-adults are welcome except for the flower girls and ring-bearers. None. Period. End of Story. Poor parents of the tiny prisoners of formal-wear and photographic sadism.

        The question being: is there a reason that LW2 is reading so much into the bride’s decision? Again: no other persons under the age of 18 are being invited to either the wedding or the reception. Why would she view the lack of an invitation for her daughters in particular as an exclusion if no other teens, or pre-teens, will be attending? Does it really matter if the bride-to-be wants children at her wedding (accept as decorative objects…and best of luck to her…though I find the practice distasteful and saccharine)? It is her wedding (and while I am not into the whole fetish of the Bridezilla and It’s MY DAY!, a couple does have a right to exclude children) and unless there is something profound missing from the letter, why should the bride be subject to a reality check regarding the LW’s daughters? O, she may get a reality check regarding the wisdom of trying to force space aliens into behaving like rational, adult homo sapiens (actually, those can be vanishingly rare at weddings, too) while performing complex duties such as walking without dancing, skipping, tripping, crawling…and standing still sans nose-picking and pulling at creeping under-things.

        But the true need for a reality check is with LW2. I suspect that she may be carrying an enormous chip, perhaps the size of a Sequoia tree, on her shoulder, because of her autistic daughters, and she views anything that can be remotely conceived of as a slight as just that. LW2, do yourself, and your probably lovely girls a favor, and drop the chip. They are different, yes, Growing up different has some interesting, frightening, and sometimes terrible challenges. I did it as a bi-polar I, schizophrenic, OCD-afflicted female…and my son is high-functioning autistic, bi-polar II and has severe behavioral issues. I’ve made a commitment to never let him think for a moment that he needs to have a chip on his shoulder because he’s different, or that the world revolves around him or owes him a thing because life is more challenging for him. Or me. Sadly, his biological father doesn’t see it that way…hence the behavioral issues, and a horrible sense of entitlement.

        If LW2 can’t talk to the sister, and actually discover the reality of the situation, and can’t resolve what she perceives as her daughters’ being excluded…then David, you’re absolutely correct…she should send a card, from the family. I personally would not be sardonic about it, because either the bride is really a clueless bitch, and won’t get the point anyway…or there actually is no ill intent at all, and nastiness will only lead to confusion and hurt. She may be a bit dim…but my feeling is that it’s only in regard to using an alien race as wedding props. One that consumes ribbons, metal, flowers and then displays its feelings through ear-splitting shrieks and regurgitation.

    • avatar Katharine Gray says:

      Thank you for your information on autism.  Also, I have to say, I did not have ADD but I too found weddings to be incredibly uncomfortable and boring at the ages of 11-16.  In fact, I think I only started to enjoy them after I was married myself! 

    • avatar Amy says:

      L#1: “If he can live up to his pledges, then you will have a better idea of whether it’s a go or a no go.” Really? Why must HE live up to HER ridiculous demands? From her wording it wounds like she harps him constantly. Please dear, let this poor man go he can find a good woman and you can find another “sheep” you can get along with.

      L#2: I commend your sister (in-law?) for declaring no one under 18. I am not convinced that this has anything to do with cutting out specifically YOUR kids. Simply because you have special needs children doesn’t mean that the world revolves around them. weddings are often long, drawn-out events for tots and they can get bored with all the “adult fun”. She is free to denote her guest list as she deems fit to allow for maximum enjoyment and relaxation.

      • avatar Pdr de says:

        Just an observation – 11, 15 and 16 year old girls are not “tots”. Tots is a nickname for toddlers!

    • avatar dthomas74 says:

      Jrz Wrld–I have to disagree with you.  The writer is not changing the rules so to speak, but she is re-evaluating what are important beliefs and views in her life.  Her husband is not just passively letting her go to church, but criticizes her beliefs to her.  That is disrespectful.  How do you know he doesn’t make disparaging comments about her family either?  Would you be able to accept that kind of behavior from a partner?  This does not have to do so much with religious beliefs, but of the respect that each person in a marriage should show each other.  Would you still have your opinion of this letter if the person said that they both shared the same beliefs but the spouse still made critical comments to her all the time?  The issue is not so cut and dried.  Who would want to have kids with someone who did not respect them?  I agree that a trial period is in order, but not for attending church, they need to draw some ground rules that encompass mutual respect.

      • avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

        Your first point is an issue of semantics.

        It definitely seems that both partners could learn a bit about respect though.

    • avatar LCMom says:

      I’m with JrzWrld on both of these points.

      LW1 – when you got into your relationship, and indeed, your marriage, you made an agreement that your differing views on religion made no difference and would not come into play. You are responsible for breaking the agreement that you said you made with each other, and it sounds like he’s exactly where he was when you got together 4.5 years ago. That’s not right. You’re crying foul when it’s you that’s doing the fouling.

      LW2 – I’m also in agreement, and having read David Bolton’s comment as well, I have to say, I still agree with JrzWrld that often moms have major blind spots that are both good and bad. I’ll be the first to admit, I have them myself.

      • avatar David Bolton says:

        “I still agree with JrzWrld that often moms have major blind spots that are both good and bad.”

        Well of course this is true. But it’s not unreasonable to say (or assume) that it’s possible this particular mom knows the abilities and limitations of her daughters. And… considering that there was “chatter” about this particular exclusion—which was quickly followed up by 1) an explanatory email from the bride eliminating ALL children (except for those being used) and 2) further justification from M-I-L, then it’s possible that the mother has been invited to events before and the daughters were disruptive, or that indeed the mother has justification for feeling the way she does.

        Look, it’s the bride’s wedding and she can invite whomever she chooses. But I’m of the belief that weddings are about a celebration WITH family, and not just the convenient kind.

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        There was no “justification” from LW2’s mother-in-law regarding the alleged exclusion of her grand-daughters…in fact, the LW simply states that the bride’s decision didn’t seem to disturb her. That does not equate to her justifying the decision to have no non-adults at the wedding…not does it imply that she agreed or disagreed with her daughter-in-law’s assessment that the bride was “excluding” the girls. What it means is that it didn’t bother her…exactly as LW2 stated. Maybe she just doesn’t like young people. Perhaps she is tired of her DIL’s constant defensive posturing. Or it truly is a case of…And so?

        As for the “chatter” regarding the decision…was that really about LW2’s daughters…or was that about the complete exclusion of all people under eighteen…save for the those in the wedding party? I tried to exclude children from my first wedding reception (purely a cost factor…and the fact that the venue offered no “children’s meals”…O, and we had an open bar) and I know the kind of venomous acrimony that arises when that decision is announced. It could very well be that others making a general complaint…and that LW2 is so focused on her own misperceptions that the blanket decision to have NO children had to be explained to her.

        Perhaps LW2 is fully aware of her daughters’ capabilities…and perhaps others see much more clearly how things really stand. In any case, forgive me, but she comes across as being far too ready and eager to seize any opportunity to “defend” her children. And it is the couple’s choice on who to invite…or not. Weddings…faugh. Give me the JOP and a little birdseed and a plain gold band.

    • avatar astrobasego says:

      Wow. So I am agnostic, but was raised in church. I know a couple going through pretty much the exact same thing, threats of divorce ect. But instead of calling his wife sick, I suggested for the sake of both that he attend, and instead of viewing it as a forced attendance issue that he look at it like a theology class. Everyone can benefit from positive messages. It matters little where the message originates. This couple now has healthy discussions about what the sermon contained, it has almost become more of a ‘date’ Sunday morning than torture for him. Conversely, his wife agreed that if he attended Sunday that she would do something with him she had no interest in, so Sunday night they kick back and share a cocktail at a sports bar and watch football. She engages and asks questions just like he does at church. Instead of fighting, they reached something called ‘compromise’, a handy tool in any relationship. They are doing better than ever. Will he ever actually believe in god? Will she actually become a football fan? Only time will tell. One thing is clear- nobody has hired an attorney.

      • avatar ann penn says:

        There are “churches” and then there are “churches”. Not all religious institutions have preachers who preach sermons that are worthy of discussion. Given that he refers to the congregants as “sheep”, I suspect this preacher may have very firmly set beliefs with which the husband cannot agree. What the wife wants him to accept may go far beyond theism/agnosticism/atheism.

        Perhaps another WTG would be for him to find his “own” church – one that is more tolerant. They he can offer her the choice to accompany him to his church/temple whatever. We do have freedom of religion in the US precisely because not all agree on which is “right” or “right for themselves.”

        However she is the one asking the questions and changing the “rules” of the relationship. She is the one with the problem with their situation. If he is truly disrespectful to her beliefs/family/self (impossible to tell from her letter), then she has not chosen her spouse wisely and would probably be better off moving on and freeing him to do the same.

      • avatar Carib Island Girl says:

        Why should either one of them be forced to do something they don’t want to do? Forced church attendance and football games would be a deal breaker for me. But I also would not put that on my mate either way, just because you are married does not mean you need to do EVERYTHING together. Take the time your mate is off doing their thing to enjoy some “me” time, it’s pretty awesome!

    • avatar Carib Island Girl says:

      Great responses on both accounts Jrz. LW1 KNEW he wasn’t religious and to try to coerce him now is why I find most religious people so repugnant.

      LW2 is out of line also, jeez, I find weddings trying and attend very few, I can only imagine what a young autistic person would feel. I generally feel children don’t belong at them anyway and forcing them to participate borders on abuse, lol.

  2. avatar Jrz Wrld says:

    And in defense of excluding children, a relative did this to keep costs down. She was marrying into a large family, and including all the children beyond the ones in the wedding party would have bankrupted her parents. Moreover, I don’t really believe children should be at weddings in the first place anyway. The ceremony is boring, and then the party usually gets pretty rowdy. I’m not a prude, but I’m not a fan of kids seeing their relatives drunk out of their minds, which is usually what happens. I didn’t go to my first wedding until I was in my mid-20s, and all I could think about was how bored I would have been at the ceremony and the reception when I was a kid.

    Yeah, your family could be excluding your high-functioning autistic daughters out of bigotry, but do a gut check before wading into the battle on this one. Set aside principle and ask, is going to this wedding what is best for them? If it is, then have at it.

    • avatar LuckySeven says:

      Yes, thank you.

      (For the record: I have Asperger’s.)

      The bride stated that “no other children under the age of 18″ would be in attendance, which, regardless of family rumors, basically means that this is a cost-control thing, not a discriminatory thing. Many weddings are adults-only (and many that I’ve attended certainly should have been, as a mercy to the toddlers who were stuffed into fancy clothes, overstimulated, and kept up way past their bedtimes). The mother in this case needs to get over it and stop looking for reasons to feel slighted. Sometimes things are as they are stated, and no more.

      * * * * * * * * * * * *

      LW1: Why are Ron’s views less valid than yours? You baited-and-switched: It wasn’t that big a deal to you when you married him, but now you’ve changed the rules. It would be equally “fair” of him to ask you to give up your new-found religiosity. Ouch, right?

      I’m not religious, so I don’t date religious guys (I don’t care what religion they are, just as long as they aren’t serious about it). A partner who was OK with my lack-of-religiosity at first, but then started insisting that I attend his church, etc., would be a big problem for me. Actually, it would be a big problem for us, since I could never participate in his faith honestly, which would be disrespectful to everyone involved (me, him, and the church).

      Decide which means more: Ron, or religion. You may not be able to have both.

      • avatar GardenGnome says:

        Lucky Seven, I was going to post basically the same thing regarding the wedding. This probably has absolutely nothing to do with the daughters’ condition, and everything to do with the bride wanting only adults at the wedding (party excluded). Love it – “The mother in this case needs to get over it and stop looking for reasons to feel slighted.”

  3. avatar David Bolton says:

    Some things to consider:

    Why are Ron’s beliefs any less valid than yours, and why is it necessary for him to adapt to whatever pattern you’re wanting to create for your future children? Keep in mind that this is a pattern of behavior on your part that will profoundly affect your relationship with Ron, or Ron’s replacement.

    How important is it that Ron get along with your parents—and what is the reason why he currently doesn’t? Is the conflict religion-based, or is there another reason?

    Having someone who fits into every little mold that you set forth is not a partnership—it’s a dictatorship. And that’s not fair. Honestly—your problems are so all over the map—it’s hard to offer you any advice other than my initial response, which is to say you are ill-suited for each other and should part ways.

    There are lovely, inexpensive cards at Target, and 99¢ ones at Walgreens. Send one, sign the kids’ names and voilà—you’re done. Take the money you would have spent on a present and go buy something fun for the kids, or better yet—throw them a small party and teach them a lesson about friendship and including people who are special.

  4. avatar beatrix_pierre says:

    LW1: At the beginning of your relationship with Ron, you didn’t care whether he was as religious as you are (weekly church attendance & shared beliefs) or got along with your parents. Four years later you’ve realized going to church, having the same views and harmony with your parents are important and essential in your life. Ron is telling you he will be molded into your ideal mate and you are wondering whether your marriage is salvageable? From the scant information given, I’d say go your separate ways before you two end up with children and an acrimonious divorce.

  5. avatar babyapple says:

    i am LW 1 – I will give you the background you ask for, because I didn’t give it all in my letter

    As for the relationship with my parents – no, for the most part, my parents aren’t like me – my mom is a bit guilt-tripish and nutty and my dad is somewhat detached from the situation but my husband has been rude and condescending to my dad and he’s not deserved it – thus my dad not really caring for him, but tolerates and respects him for my sake. I’m an only child, which may contribute to some of the friction between him and my parents – he does not have the caliber of job they would prefer him to have (for monetary security sake), he doesn’t have the education I have, he’s always got a smart alack comment waiting for whatever you say (whether positive, negative, or anything else, the first response is always smart alack)..etc, but they don’t ride him about it and have been exceptionally good to him (tolerating his smart mouth, trying to help him get better jobs that he loses because of the smart mouth, giving us money when we’ve been short, etc). Church isn’t an issue that he and my parents discuss – as a matter of fact, I don’t discuss church with my parents b/c they feel I’m too involved (at least my dad does, my mom just wants me to be happy).

    As for the church/religion issue – he isn’t an atheist – he claims to be half pagan-half Christian. When we got together, I wasn’t really being the Christian I should have been being – and I honestly didn’t think it would matter to me, or maybe I even thought I could change him – yes, I admit to my faults on that. I realize now that that’s not fair – hence why I wrote. I do love him, I love him enough to let go if that’s the right thing to do for him to be happy and for me to be happy. I do know that when I have kids, I want to raise them in the church – if they choose to go their own way once they hit college, then I know I’ve done the best I can to raise them the way I believe is right and that’s their choice. I’m not going to berate them at that point for making an adult decision. Just as I don’t berate my husband for the choices he makes – but I know what I need as a person, and I don’t know that staying married to my husband is going to be the right thing for either one of us.

    We didn’t have proper per-marital counseling when we were engaged – I think we had one or two short sessions with the officiant who married us and that was it. We also had a difficult first two years of marriage, with me not working (couldn’t find a job even while looking), a heartbreaking miscarriage 8 weeks after we got married, two job losses for my husband, and losing our house and having to move in with my mom. We are currently back in therapy again – but it’s not going much better than before – we don’t get much feedback from the therapist, and because of our job situation (neither one of us is eligible for insurance currently), we can’t just look for someone else. We’ve found a low cost therapist locally and that’s what we’re dealing with until something changes insurance wise or we make a decision one way or the other. We’ve had some amazing times and shared some amazing things and I don’t want to look back on those times with sadness if we end up splitting horribly and nastily. I’d rather us both be happy and end things peacefully knowing we did all we could – and I do know that he feels the same way on that subject.

    If you want more info, post it, I’ll answer the questions in order to get more opinions and outlooks – I do frequent the boards – I generally use a different name, but don’t want everyone to know it’s one and the same :)

    • avatar Jrz Wrld says:

      Um, not to be too shrink-y, but do you think it’s possible that you are getting so deeply involved in your religion because you weren’t happy in your marriage? A guy who loses multiple jobs because he can’t keep his mouth shut isn’t exactly looking out for the best interests of his wife, and can’t be much of a picnic to be married to anyway – definitely would be hard to get close to someone that prickly. Seems like there’s A LOT of issues going on.

    • avatar David Bolton says:

      In all honesty, I think you’ve answered your question. I don’t fault you for wanting the things YOU want—or the life YOU want to lead, or the qualities you want to instill in YOUR children. The key is to find someone who shares those traits, or to be flexible enough yourself to make mid-course corrections once you meet someone with whom you’re willing to form a lasting partnership. It doesn’t sound like your husband is the one who will fulfill this role. I don’t know what your husband’s maturity level is—but to lose job/s over a bad attitude is not a good sign, especially when it leads to financial kaput-ness, like losing a house. And as far as your beliefs in the church are concerned—keep in mind that even if you end up with the preacher’s son, there may still be some marked differences of opinion. And that’s okay, as long as it doesn’t start veering off into “I’m going to control you through religion”-land. One other thing—when people start telling you that they worry you might be getting too involved in your religion, and it’s your parents telling you this, that’s a sign. You might seriously want to consider talking to a counselor about whether you’re substituting spirituality for some other vacancy in your life.

    • avatar Jim P says:

      LW1 — with the extra detail it makes more sense. I would say end it now — don’t drag it out.

      I started out agnostic in my early teens, and ended up as a full blown atheist at this point. (Too many years but, easily north of 20+ years.) I don’t generally announce it. I ignore religion generally, as it is embedded in the American culture. If it is a matter of someone wants to open a meeting with a blessing — it isn’t worth arguing over. If they start evangelizing — I will have an issue with it.

      You have turned back to your faith, and he was not really worried about it as an issue originally. Your change has changed the foundation and fundamentals of the marriage and your commitment to each other. For all intents — you have introduced a third party into your marriage — the church. Some people can adapt and adopt to the change, some can’t.

      As for the smart aleck comments — he did them in the past, he does them currently, and probably will do them in the future. If they are on point — then that is a matter of learning to censor himself not to hurt someone. That is a sign of maturity.

      The statement that he wants to change to please you does not give me long term hopes. That is saying his change would be for you — not the both of you to grow together.

      It sounds more like he is afraid of the unknown. Chalk this up as a long Starter Marriage[1].

      [1] Starter Marriage – A short-lived first marriage that ends in divorce with no kids, no property and no regrets.

    • avatar Katharine Gray says:

      Babyapple…after reading your supplementary information…I’m thinking you made a youthful mistake marrying this guy…many people do…its nothing to be ashamed of…get out of the marriage.  On this site you are going to run across an incredible bias against faith and a lot of people will join in slamming you for being religious and try to tell you its a crutch blah blah blah.   Ignore their bias.  Your faith is your faith and you are entitled to it.  Your statement about his smart mouth (which I sort of picked up on with his comment about the *sheep* attending your church) have sealed it for me.  Especially if he has lost 2 jobs because of his smart mouth.  Run Run Run to a divorce attorney.  Your parents don’t sound like horrible people.  He sounds like an immature spoiled brat.  You have outgrown him.  Thank goodness there are no kids and move on with your life.  

      • avatar David Bolton says:

        Indeed—there are some people who will slam you for having faith, but there are also others who understand that spirituality can be an important and fulfilling part of life. That is, as long as you don’t use your beliefs as a weapon to belittle or devalue others and try to disguise it under some faux-tolerance “love the sinner” crap, OR force someone to alter theirs simply to fit in with yours.

      • avatar butterfly55 says:

        I would say she is trying to alter someone to fit her entire life, religion, the way he talks, education, etc.  She was also without a job at one point “even while looking” but he at least found jobs.  She is the one who thinks she is too good for him so she better get out now and find mr perfect.

      • avatar David Bolton says:

        Oh, don’t get me wrong: entering into a relationship with the idea that you’re going to “change” or “fix” someone to suit you is a HUGE mistake.

      • avatar butterfly55 says:


    • avatar percysowner says:

      LW1 I am of two minds on your letter. If you love him and really want to save your marriage, I suggest you look for a different counselor. Any counselor who says you know what the problems are so go fix them is not being helpful. Finding a counselor that connects with both you and your husband and who is willing to work on the issues is crucial to helping to repair a relationship. Every therapist is not equal.

      However, when you described your relationship between your parents and your husband, I sensed an underlying contempt for your husband. You admit your parents are guilt trippy. You then go on to mention every single issue they have with your husband. He doesn’t earn enough money, he isn’t educated enough, he is snarky. You talk about your parents good points and how they are trying to tolerate your husband, but you fail to mention ANY of your husband’s good points. If the differences in your education, earning ability bother you and you find his attitude to be unacceptable, you may need to consider whether the fact that you “love” him is not enough to hold this marriage together. If you consider your husband less than you because of income, education and religion these are very high hurdles to get over. Perhaps, even though you love him, it may make both of you happier if you break things off and find people who are more compatible.

      Good luck, whatever your choices.

    • avatar Jen McK says:

      I’m fighting with this myself right now after 18 years of togetherness and 10 years of marriage. Our one son passed away around 4 years ago. Before he was born I was about at the point of leaving him. Then our son came and was so sick that we both had to put our marriage on the back burner. This actually brought us much closer together and I thought it would continue to do so. Then the grieving period started. I worked through all of mine (still have sad days, but I know my son is okay now so they are far between). I believe he has worked through his, but I kept putting off his “bad” behaviors off on still working through his grief. That was until someone pointed something out to me that I had not acknowledged to myself- the actions he is taking now are exactly the same as they were when I was at the breaking point in our relationship before. Since then I have finally been seeing things as they really are. I also started reading The Verbally Abusive Relationship which has made me truly understand that it does not make a difference what I do or say, it is not going to change what is occurring. Now I am starting the trip towards divorce as I have to get things in order to protect myself in the process. This is heartbreaking for me as I thought we would be together forever as when it is good it really is good, but I have learned that I do not trust him anymore. He has always said horrible things about my family and I always just discounted it as it’s because his family growing up had so many issues. I am also grew up an only child. There is nothing wrong with being religious or an Athiest and the two can live together and have a beautiful existence as long as they respect one another’s beliefs. The question is what are you willing to accept as these issues you are having now are going to drastically escalate when children are brought into the mix.

    • avatar Carrie A says:

      Religious differences and in-law problems are not things that have to end a marriage. My mom went to church when I was little but my dad didn’t. Mom would always take us and dad would stay home. It wasn’t a problem because they weren’t trying to force their religious beliefs on each other (like you forced him to go to church – has he ever tried to force you to stay home? Neither is a good idea). I have nothing to do with my in-laws but it doesn’t create problems for my husband and me. I think if your heart is in the marriage you can work anything out. But if you truly don’t believe you should be with your spouse then all the compromise in the world won’t help. It’s not an easy decision. Good luck.

    • avatar Cindy Tran says:

      You say you would be okay with your children making an adult decision of not going to church. Isn’t your husband an adult? Why can’t you respect his decision not to go to church without you being upset about it? You know he doesn’t believe and he doesn’t respect it. It would be better for the both of you if you just didn’t take him along. Some people want to share all their events with their partner and be with them all the time, but in this case this aspect of your life is hurting your relationship. He’s not likely suddenly going to believe and you say he’s not an atheist, but him calling churchgoers “sheep” says otherwise. If your religion is important to you, you should break it off now. I think it would make you both much happier in the end.

      Out of curiosity, what are your reasons for staying? You’ve only listed bad things about him. There has to be something good for you to consider staying. Something other than the fact that you’re already married to him.

    • avatar Phillip Koons says:

      Well…I think you should leave but not for the reasons that you are giving.

      The one thing I definitely took away from your letter was your contempt for your husband. That’ll just eat away at the relationship and bond you two shared.

      It’s unfortunate that your lives have taken you in 2 different paths. I will say that I’m agnostic and do tend to be a bit harsh on religion (but that comes from my own experiences with that). You do need to remember that the compromises that he’s making can’t be the only ones. You (or he) may not like the person he becomes if he is always bending to your needs without recognizing his own. This can’t be a 100% give on his part. You are going to have to bend a bit yourself to meet in the middle. If you aren’t willing, just end it and save both of you any further hurt.

    • avatar Lym BO says:

      People change. It’s a hard decision. This hasn’t been mentioned & I’m not sure why, but this smart aleck of a husband who berates your beliefs with snide remarks is not exactly good father material. Think long and hard about it. Your decision should partly be about religion, but raising kids is really hard-especially if you are not on the same page. My perception of your guy is that he will berate the children, has an inferiority complex that he attempts to hide with his remarks and hasn’t the social skills to deal graciously with your parents (or a job). It doesn’t say a lot for him. Being in love isn’t much-just a good foundation to start with, which hopefully morphs into a mature love that also is coupled with respect. Not seeing that here.

  6. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    LW#1:  If there were children involved, I would urge you to try another counselor and give this marriage a chance.  With no children involved, I wonder if all the drama and angst is worth it since you are not in love with him anymore.  I think people can change…to a degree and maybe Ron will come around.  You don’t say why he doesn’t get along with your parents and what that entails.  For example, have you been missing family events, holidays etc. because he doesn’t want to be around them? He can make himself be pleasant and civil and accommodating to your parents if he wants to but if he then throws in your face how *wonderful* he is for tolerating people he doesn’t like…I don’t think thats going to make you happy.  As to your religious beliefs…faith is or it isn’t.  Attending church with you is not going to instill faith in his heart or make him believe the way you do.  So, he can go through the motions but if he dislikes your parents and doesn’t believe what you believe it really is all on the surface.   I guess giving it some more time is up to you or not.  I would only urge you to not have children with this man unless or until you are truly happy in the marriage. 

    LW#2:  I am of two minds on your letter.  On one hand, it seems incredibly insensitive of your sister-in-law to exclude your daughters while including her other nieces and nephews in the wedding party.  On the other hand, you provide no information on the severity of your daughters’ autism or their probable reaction to new situations.  I know there are many forms of autism and some forms come with disruptive behavior and some do not.  Perhaps your sister-in-law thought that the pressure of being in the wedding party and towing the line would be too stressful for your daughters and that it would be so disruptive as to make no one have a pleasant day, including your daughters.  Or perhaps your daughters are simply too old to be the traditional flower girls.  Not including them as guests, however, does seem a bit harsh.   Your mentioned that she invited 2 nieces to be flower girls and 2 nephews to be ring bearers…are these the only other nieces and nephes or are there others (besides your girls) who were not invited either to be in the wedding party or to attend the wedding?  If other nieces are nephews are also excluded then perhaps you are being too sensitive.  Has this aunt shunned your daughters in the past or has she been generally loving and kind to them?   

    Of course, I was the bride who purposely did not invite children other than my nieces to my wedding (which was not large and not fancy).  And because one niece was only three, I did not think she could handle being in the wedding party (although I bought her the same pretty dress as the other two who were).  She was actually the most composed of all of the wedding party, bride and groom included  and seemed to understand exactly what she was supposed to do if only she had been allowed to do it. I stll regret not tellng her at the last minute  to go down the aisle with her sisters.  I assume your sister-in-law has no children of her own.  People without children…especially at an advanced age…have far less patience with children and do not really like having them around to cause chaos and mayhem.  I’m not suggesting that your daughters would cause chaos and mayhem…I’m only pointing out that many children (afflicted with autism or not) do and I can understand why someone would want to minimize the chance of that happening at their wedding by excluding children entirely…because you can hardly tell one set of parents to bring their kids because they are well-mannered and behave and tell another set their kids are not invited without telling them its because their kids are a pain in the butt. 

    I guess I would encourage you or your husband to talk with the bride about this and try to understand her reasoning for excluding your daughters (assuming they are her only nieces or nephews who are not invited to the wedding) before you decide not to attend the wedding.

    Before I get creamed for being insensitive to special needs children, understand that I have walked the walk in that arena for 55 years of my life.  However my experience is with mental retardation coupled with violent psychosis and I admit I am not fully informed on autism.  I do know that at a certain point in my loved one’s life, when her behavior was unpredictable and could turn on a dime….I would not have expected anyone to invite her to their wedding .  As she is now, if anyone excluded her because of her disabilities, I would exclude that person from my life.

  7. avatar David Bolton says:

    “I would bring it up directly with the elderly bride (49; meow)…”


    • avatar KarrinCooper says:

      Hahahahahahaha!!! Personally, thought that was the best part, that line ;).

      That aside – I don’t think she was excluding these children due to their Austism, since she pretty much excluded all under 18. I actually think that is wise; kids and weddings don’t mix well. I had none but 1 at my handfasting almost 3 years ago that wasn’t one of my future kids. So don’t take it personal LW2, I doubt it was meant as such………

      As for LW1 – sweetie, nothing is a mistake if you learn from it. I like the term ‘starter marriage’ someone mentioned. It is what is was and now is what it is. His ‘changing’ for you – not likely to stick as he may end up resenting you for it down the road. However I do have to say this: you did bait and switch. You knew how he was when you married him, and in some respects, your follow-up and some of the comments smack a bit of snobbery. That is never a good component in a Union….just sayin’. My husband knew I was Wiccan when he married me….that hasn’t changed and neither have his acceptance. Something to think about.

      Blessed Be,


  8. avatar Kathleen Hein says:

    Letter #2: 34 years ago, before it became common to do, my aunt got married and excluded all children other than those in the wedding party. My other aunt never did quite forgive the groom for this (her son and I were the only niece and nephew at the time, and at 3, I was the flower girl.) In the past 15 years or so, however, I can only think of 2 weddings I’ve attended- with one of them being my own!- where children *were* invited, other than those in the wedding party. Sometimes it’s for costs, and sometimes it’s because the bride and groom just don’t want their wedding ruined by ill-behaving children. Maybe, autism or not, your daughters are perfect angels, but it’s easiest to ban ALL children, rather than single out the brats. When it’s your wedding, you get to decide who is or isn’t invited. Otherwise, you don’t get a say.

  9. avatar Jeny Jenny says:

    LTW #1 – You want Ron to embrace your religion, attend your church, and get along with the inlaws. Before you married him, you knew who his personality and didn’t care. Now you’re changing your perspective.

    The problem is that I don’t see a lot of compromise happening on your side. There are plenty of married people who have one spouse that is religious and attends church while the other one is not.

    Non religious people are capable of being good parents. I might go as far as to say better parents because they are open minded. And when you have children, don’t automatically assume that your children will embrace your religion. How would feel about them if they didn’t want to be part of your church? Would you love them anyway? Would you be willing to accept their views?

    If so, then the answer is the same for your husband. Personally, I think you feel this marriage is a mistake. And that’s okay. If you are better off without him and he doesn’t make you happy then you both deserve someone who loves you just the way you are.

    LTW#2 – This is the bride’s wedding. Not yours. She’s probably been planning it all her life. You don’t decide the guest list and who should attend. Between the lines, what’s really happening is that you’re hurt that your children were not asked to participate in the wedding. It’s understandable but it’s not your call. She has her reasons and you must trust them. What you should do is take advantage of the situation and have a lovely evening out, free of responsibility. Or you could stay home and stew and send regrets.

    • avatar Jeny Jenny says:

      I would also like to add that your children will make their own choice about religion. They will start showing the signs many years before they turn eighteen. You need to let them figure it out on their own or else they will resent you and the church.

      • avatar Lilitu Aster says:

        Agreed 100%

        No matter what you say, if you threaten to punish, or drag them kicking and screaming to church, you absolutely cannot force anyone to believe whether they’re 15 or 50. Your children’s minds and beliefs will be their own and there will be nothing you can do to control it.

    • avatar Pdr de says:

      “There are plenty of married people who have one spouse that is religious and attends church while the other one is not. ”

      I’m chucking as I think of Liv and John Walton of “The Waltons” – Liv went to church and John stayed home and wouldn’t we all love having the strong, supportive, tolerant and loving relationship those two shared? As the world becomes more insane and violent by the minute, I occasionally watch those old Walton reruns in the late afternoon while drinking a tall glass of iced tea. They’re “feel good” moments when family members supported one another and neighbors cared about neighbors and everyone worked together for the common good.

    • avatar Sweet Dream says:

      I am an atheist and my husband is not. He doesn’t practice any particular religion (he grew up a Catholic). Apparently his mom forced the children to go to church until the were seventeen and he told me that he couldn’t wait for his seventeenth birthday. I grew up Protestant, went to religious school. Had a horrible experience in Sunday schools (with a bunch of bullies). But one thing is clear with our marriage, we don’t want our child to subscribe to any religion. So my point is that I can not be attracted to a religious person, no matter how charming he is and how desperate I am. It is just too important for me to overlook. So LW1, for the sake of your happiness (and his, even though he doesn’t know it yet) please end it while there is no children involved. They’re too precoius to be put in the middle. Also since he doesn’t seem to measure up to your parents expectation, he can’t be that happy in the relationship with them either.

  10. avatar French Heart says:

    ‘Should differing beliefs spell divorce?’

    So an immature wife/religious nut does a complete reversal in 4 years and hubs better hop to or out the door? When she decides something else 4 years hence will he need to do another about face then, too? Think he better understand that his choices are: 1) be a doormat and be what she demands, and/or 2) plan on paying alimony + child support a few years down the line, 3) or get out while the gettings good and find someone more simpatico. He will never be able to be his own person with this gal.

    • avatar Michelles11 says:

      I agreen with you…especially since the religious one doesn’t seem to want to compromise at all.

    • avatar David Bolton says:

      “an immature wife/religious nut…”

      Keep in mind that many people would actually view the half-pagan/half-Christian husband as being closer to that label than LW1.

      • avatar French Heart says:

        And so? My opinions are mine, and others belong to them. This little dictator doesn’t get that separation or that when others chose your beliefs for you–you are no longer free. As Carl Sagan said about the Pale Blue Dot….on it is ‘everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, T-H-O-U-S-A-N-D-S of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.’

        Am grateful that my then 20-something Greatest Generation parents consisted of a father who took his 5-little children to church on Sunday–and let them decide what to think for themselves–and a mother who stayed home Sunday mornings and ditto. Free to chose…as in the good old American I-N-D-I-V-I-D-U-A-L way.

        Fear-based people impose their views….and fear is one of the 7 deadly sins for good reason.

    • avatar Lym BO says:

      I beg to differ. One can have different beliefs and still be happy. Really the issue here is how he reacts to her beliefs. And really vice versa. They have grown apart and Ron is not exactly a social gem. He should be able to stay home from church & she should be fine with that. There has to be an agreement about how the children will be brought up religiously speaking. Therein lies the problem. The couples I know who vary spiritually have an agreement as far as the children & it works out.

  11. avatar phoenix says:

    LW1 – given the extra info you have given, I have to concur with some of the others. You have matured and changed. Ron has not. He may say that he will change, but there are many tales of woe from women who have waited years for the promised change and it never comes. The fact that he has lost jobs and a house and still cannot realize how his behavior is contributing to this isn’t likely to change. It’s easy to get out now while you have no children. You can wait, but I think you will have to resign yourself to being the main breadwinner (something he probably won’t fight since he does not seem to be that motivated). If you can be happy supporting him, stay with him. If you have kids, which does not seem like a good idea, you will have to realize they will likely pick up bad habits from him. Your parents are real angels for putting up with him and not criticizing him to you despite what seems like very good reasons to do so. Since you are involved in your church, do you have a pastor who does marriage counseling or marriage retreats? Many churches do. The current therapist – while cheap – is doing you no favors. Quit wasting your money there and save it up for a better one.

    LW2 – You said there were no other children other than the ring bearers and flower girls invited. This does not seem to be discriminating against your daughters unless of course those four children are the only four children other guests invited to the wedding have. I have a mildly autistic nephew. Granted he’s only 5, but he would not do well at the wedding. There would be too many people and too much noise for him. Not to mention it is something out of his normal routine. As others have mentioned, many autistic people do not like crowds, noises and anything out of the ordinary. Your SIL may be well acquainted enough with your daughters to know that they would find the wedding and reception a hostile environment. She may know they don’t like loud noises or sitting quietly for extended periods of time.

    Now if your SIL had invited other children who were not part of the ceremony and then excluded your daughters without consulting you or your husband about how they would tolerate the wedding, then you should feel put out. Really, it sounds like she tried to tell you and your husband this was not specifically about your daughters by mentioning there were no other children invited. Not to sound terse, but it sounds a bit like you making a mountain out of a molehill. She told you it wasn’t about your daughters’ autism, but because she was not inviting children to the wedding. I can’t blame her. My half-sister was the only child at my wedding (she was 11) and it was pretty boring for her, but this was out of town after college graduation so arranging a sitter for her would have been problematic. But this was an early afternoon wedding and reception, so that helped keep behavior of guests in check.

    • avatar butterfly55 says:

      You are making assumptions here.  Why should he change.  She is not the “perfect one”.  She could not get a job at one time.  She goes to church, he doesn’t, that does not make her right, plenty of people go to church on Sunday, that doesn’t make them good people.  She should get out because she has always thought she was better than him and has wanted to change him, you should marry someone that is right for you in the first place, or maybe she can’t find anyone that good.

      • avatar phoenix says:

        I wasn’t saying that he should change – merely that they have grown apart with her values having shifted and she now wants his to match hers. She is the one who indicated she wanted him to change so she could be happy. Like you I said she should get out because she’s unlikely to get him to change. As to whether she’s better than him or not – I can’t judge because we don’t know his side of things. And I in no way judge a person by whether they go to church or not. I know plenty of wonderful, decent people who don’t or rarely attend church and there are those who are Bible-thumping, church on Sunday if not more frequently people who are really quite myopic and have their own interpretation of Christianity – and if you don’t see it their way, you are a heathen in need of conversion and if you fail to convert must be a servant of Satan type.

        Whatever the case, it’s quite clear that LW1 and her husband no longer share the same values/work ethic and it’s going to make for a rocky relationship if they stick together.

  12. avatar Donna Sampson says:

    lw #1….I agree with others that you have grown in a different direction than he has.  Personally, I think you realize that he isn’t “the one”, regret your original decision to marry him, and feel guilty about what’s happened. I think there is nothing wrong with divorcing and finding someone who shares your beliefs. Take it from someone who’s been married for 27+ years, marriage is no picnic especially when kids are added into the family. If there’s stress now, it will just multiply as time goes by. If the bonds weren’t strong to start with, they will break under the strain of life later. I think your gut tells you the answer to your situation.

  13. avatar Michelles11 says:

    LW1-you changed the rules in the middle of everything.  Granted, he shouldn’t make smarta$$ comments either.  I just don’t see how this is going to work unless both of you respect each other’s beliefs and feelings.

    LW2 – I have always seen weddings to be a family affair and have always enjoyed weddings with children.  I honestly don’t remember any wedding that I have attended to be “ruined” by children that were in attendance, and I’ve been to a lot.  I have, on the ther hand, been to weddings where “adults” caused plenty of drama and problems with obnoxious behavior, nasty comments, and getting wasted at the free bar.  Ignore your s-i-l and your m-i-l, go to the wedding, and just remember they don’t deserve the presence of your beautiful children, if indeed, they were excluded for being who they are. 

  14. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #1: I’d give it more time, and be very careful with continued contraceptives. You definitely don’t want to bring a child into this picture as it currently is. If your husband is willing to give in (church, parents) to make you happier and keep the marriage intact — you’ve got to give him that. However, the question is whether he’ll *continue*, and how much time you’re willing to give him to prove he’s sincere (for the long-haul). My husband and I had the same problem (church), but it was he who was devoted and attending every Sunday. For most of my adult life you couldn’t get me to darken a church door. We’ve managed to work it out, but for quite a while there was ongoing tension — and sometimes downright anger. In fact, I once told him in a fit of anger if I’d known he was THIS religious I wouldn’t have married him; and I meant it. Your husband isn’t me obviously, but again: If he’s willing to meet you halfway and will stick to it (time will tell). I hope you guys can work it out.

    L #2: I’ve never dealt with autistic children. Does the mother have her daughters under fairly good behavioral control? The bride should have kept the wedding entirely “child free,” or if she absolutely wanted flower girls and ring bearers they could have been children of friends. I can understand the mother’s hurt, and it definitely is a rub. OTOH, the bride would want a smooth ceremony; are mom’s autistic daughters loud and disruptive, does she/husband have difficulty controlling them? And everyone else’s children are excluded too. Would I go on to attend the ceremony? I can’t say; probably not, but then again I might take the high road and go (without my kids) as a future “peace offering.”

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      Careful with contraceptives? O, no…no no no. Do not have any sex with him until you figure this one out. Do not in any way risk bringing a child into this toxic waste dump. Get yourself a nice Purple Rabbit…if your church allows such sinful measures.

      But no sex with him…or any other male. Because unhappy, uncertain people are the most careless and irresponsible. And neither of you sound terribly mature. Do that child as yet uncreated a favor…and sleep in separate states if need be.

  15. avatar Mrs. Doolittle says:

    My brother and I have both worked in institutions specifically for people with developmental disabilities.  The largest part of our clientelle were individuals with autism.  My brother worked with children, I worked with adults.  On top of that my brother has a child with severe developmental abilities.

    The different levels of autism are staggering.  While these children may be able to handle the wedding without becoming a disruption, its also possible that these children are very disruptive and putting them in this situation would cause a disruption of the wedding ceremony.  I can’t tell you how many parents of autistic children are the “Include my child no matter what it costs you or how it affects you” types.  While a majority of parents of autistic children have reasonable expectations of their children and the people around them, there are way too many who just don’t.  Never assume that your LW is one of them.  I think the bride did the diplomatic thing.  By excluding all children except for the wedding party she didn’t single out these specific 3.  I’m willing to bet that there were other children she would have loved to have had there but in fairness to her neices she decided to exclude them all.

  16. avatar Elizabeth L says:

    Sorry Margo disagree with you on both counts LW#1 should find someone who shares her values from the get go both seem only to want the marriage when the other is walking out the door. This is a no go.
    As for LW#2 I understand Mom’s feelings but this is the Bride and Groom’s call and only their call if they invite the three nieces in addition to the children in the wedding party how many other children under the age of 18 would also have to be invited ? I doubt it has anything to do with autism Mom seems a little thin skinned she should got to the wedding and have a good time.

  17. avatar Barbara says:

    LW#1- I don’t think it’s differing beliefs that are the problem. It’s that you expect your husband to change. Either love and accept him the way he is or go your own way. He says he will change his beliefs? Sorry, he may change his actions but it’s pretty hard to change your core beliefs and if someone is willing to “change” those base attributes, I’m not sure that is someone you would want to be with. Frankly, from your description, you don’t sound particularly loving about him. You describe someone who is rude, smart alecky, not respectful of your parents. Someone who does not share your interest/belief in religion. I don’t see anywhere that you lay out what the big attraction is. That gap in your description says to me that this is not a relationship that is meant to be.

    LW#2 – As others have said, you left out crucial information. How severely autistic are your children, what is their behavior pattern, how well do they function in unstructured environments. In addition, what is their understanding of and interest in attending this wedding. I know my kids would have given anything not to attend family weddings when they were kids and teens. Are you just looking for a fight because you have other perceived slights against your children? I would say you have a few options (remembering that the wedding is not at all about you, it’s about the couple being married.) 1. Go as invited and have a good time, not mentioning your perceived slight against your children to anyone. Stop the drama. 2. Send a great gift and a sincere apology that you have another commitment and are unable to attend. Don’t share your perceived slight against your children with anyone. Stop the drama.

  18. avatar Paula M says:

    LW1 – you have changed the rules in the middle of the game, and they involve major life decisions, not insignificant, little annoyances like where to squeeze the toothpaste tube.  Your husband should not have to attend church, but if he decides to, he should keep his complaints to himself.  Same deal with getting along with your parents – he either does or he doesn’t and complaining to you about them after a visit is bad form.  There seems to be a lot of immaturity floating around in this situation.  My advice is: get divorced now before you drag innocent children into this mess.  Your husband is never going to like church and will resent the indoctrination of his children should you insist on taking them there.  Things can only get worse with the stress of raising a family.  Your parents will probably become more involved with your life once children are present, and the thought of your husband being faced with swallowing all of that is not fair to anyone. 
    LW2 – My son has Down Syndrome and Autism as do many of his friends.  What I probably don’t need to tell you is they are as different from each other as any other people are.  And they have good days (days where they would love being at a wedding) and bad days (days where they would for sure have a meltdown if required to attend such a function.)  The pros and cons could be discussed until the end of time, and that’s not really the issue.  The issue is:  Is your SIL deliberately excluding your children from “auntie’s big day” (yes at 49 she should be over herself, but apparently she’s not) because she doesn’t want to deal with any possible errant behaviors?  My thought is yes, she probably is.  While the whole idea of that attitude insults and infuriates, I have been on the receiving end of it for so long that it doesn’t surprise me.  Perhaps you could attend the ceremony and give regrets as far as the reception?  Depending on the amount of time the event is planned for, you may not want to leave your girls with a caregiver that long.  But at least you will have shown that you care enough about SIL to attend the part of her day that really matters. 

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      Paula M: regarding L#2: Did you actually read the entire letter? If so, did you miss the bit in which LW2 explained that NO children under 18, except the flower girls and ring bearers, would be attending the wedding/reception? That would be “no persons who were under the age of eighteen”. As in “NONE”. Zero.

      You have a child with Down’s Syndrome and autism. And it infuriates you that people have an “attitude”, and may sometimes wish to exclude your child, and his friends, from certain activities and events, probably because of behavioral issues. So, I would therefore infer that your child is a perfect angel, and completely predictable…even given his issues. Because the current societal convention is that all persons with special needs are angelic in some way (unless you happen to be bi-polar or schizophrenic, in which case you must be an axe murderer or serial killer).

      See my above comment for a complete, in-depth explanation of my next statement. The convention is unmitigated crap. I’ve known many children and adults with Down’s Syndrome. Some had lovely personalities…and some were people so nasty, manipulative and ill-natured that being around them was a very unpleasant experience. I’ve known even more people on the autism spectrum, including my son and his best friend. Same thing. Combining two significant disorders such as Down’s and autism is likely to make for an individual who could be potentially very unpredictable, and very difficult to cope with in a traumatic or distressing situation. I had a friend with a Down’s daughter who was also bi-polar II. She was a handful, and very difficult to treat or help with therapy.

      You say that you have been on the receiving end of a certain attitude. My son had meltdowns at the drop of a hat. We learned how to cope, when to remove him from situations, when he was being manipulative to get attention, or something he had been told he couldn’t have (no, we did not cave in)…and the difference between a true meltdown and a tantrum. We learned to perceive his levels energy, his triggers, his bad moods and his good.

      What we did not expect was that people should have to accept and tolerate his screaming, tantrums, throwing things, poor behaviors and even meltdowns just because he was, and is “special”. I despise the term “Special needs”. My younger son, if you are going to validate the term, is also “Special Needs’. He has an extremely high IQ, is gifted and talented, and understands the world around him on a level far different than 90% of his peers. That’s a tough place to be. I was in the same place growing up…plus being severely mentally ill. But know one gives his special needs one iota of consideration. But I hear you clearly, and I suspect that you’re one of those parents who believes that the world, and society, owes her child everything because he is “Special”.

      No. No more than it owes either of my sons, at opposite ends of the spectrum. They will have to learn that their differences do not make them any more unique than anyone else, no more deserving, no more entitled, no more or less anything. The world does not bend for you because of accidents of genetics. I have never been on the receiving end of “that attitude”. I am not ashamed of my son, I have never made the, “He can’t help it, he’s autistic”, excuse, I have never cried in public because he melted down, I have never regretted his birth, or blamed a non-existent god, I have accepted him as my beautiful child from day one, and tried to be as damn good a parent as I could be. I have tried to teach him to be accountable, responsible, loving (he hugs…an autistic male who hugs willingly), to read early, to be respectful, to know that he is special, not “Special”, just like every other human being on Earth. I did once offer him to a scowling, blue-haired woman because I had told him he couldn’t have candy, and he was having a tantrum on the floor of store. I was squatted down, patiently watching him, telling him, “you’re making a lot of noise…you look very silly…and you still can’t have the candy” in a rather reasonable tone. She said I ought to spank him and shut him up. I picked him up, held him out to her, and said, “Would YOU like to do the honors?”. She got such a stuffy look that he stopped screaming and goggled at her…which was somewhat more peaceful, actually.

      You’ve got that tone. The one that makes the hairs on the back of my head stand up. We declined many an invitation, and skipped many an event because my son, we knew, was likely to be disruptive. No one is obliged to tolerate that. And yet, he is very well socialized, friendly and outgoing. He missed nothing. Maybe you see “that attitude” so often because you believe that the micro-verse that you share with your son supersedes all others. It doesn’t, trust me.

      • avatar David Bolton says:

        “My son had meltdowns at the drop of a hat.”

        He sounds like the modern bride on her wedding day. Now THAT would be some irony—yes?

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        I had a friend absolutely insist that Rusty and I bring our younger son to his wedding reception. M. was all of eighteen months at the time. As you can probably guess from my previous posts…my opinion of small children at weddings and receptions is a dim and cynical one…at it’s very brightest. And we don’t even drink…though by the end of that ordeal this dry alcoholic wanted to seize a bottle of wine and guzzle it to the dregs

        And I don’t like wine.

        As for my older son…yes, he could have out-Zillaed any Bridezilla. It would have been a fine irony. We didn’t take him to that wedding because the Bridezilla in question (who was heartily pissed off because I was shorter than her in stocking feet…go figure) would have had a meltdown…given I.’s penchant for projectile vomiting after gorging on pasta…then shrieking madly and throwing himself to the floor and kicking violently at any human that approached (cameras. Who’d a thunk it?). He would have been seven then. He was a very large child (he is 20 now, 6’1″, 290 lbs.), and I could just lift him (5’1.5″, don’t ask a woman’s weight…but I could bench about 150 lbs. then) or ask his good as gold step-father to get him while I handled his baby brother. who would have been yelling his little heart out by then as well. Someone on the sour-faced, society bride’s side would have called CPS.

        Which is why we didn’t bring our much beloved, but also very well-known I.. Even an evil Bridezilla’s family doesn’t deserve that. And she had a very pleasant father, and sweet, and very helpful sister. However…I could have rented him out to people as a defense against Bridezillas. Ah, missed opportunities.

  19. avatar htimsr40 says:

    If I were Ron, I would dump LW#1 as fast as possible. SHE is intolerant of his belief system although he seems to be tolerant of hers (even if he thinks the congregation are sheep). She readily admits that she no longer tolerates his belief system … and her intolerance is likely to grow if they stay together. He has two choices … conform to HER ideas on everything she thinks is important … or leave Dodge on the next stagecoach. I suggest he belly up to the ticket counter ASAP.

  20. avatar Chris Glass` says:

    Letter 1 – When we are young we tend to accept people for who they are at the time. As we mature things that weren’t a problem, rudeness, getting routinely fired etc. begin to grate. I’d think that your spouse feels his lack of education and social acceptance because he sees you growing in a different direction. The only weapon he probably has is his mouth. People can and do change if they are willing. He has to be willing. It is also possible that he will continue to lose jobs if he has no viable skills. He is the only one who can decide if he is willing to get more training or education to stabilize his future. You could also be feeling pressure at work because your husband does not fit in with the other spouses

    Letter2 – Weddings are not about us and our wishes they are about the bride and groom starting a life together. They have the right to decide that children, except for those in the wedding party, should not be included. This was not directed at you the bride sent an e-mail saying that no children under 18 would be invited. Since this bride is older it is probable that she wants an adult wedding so she can enjoy her day. All children, autistic or not, need to learn that there are times when life is not centered around them. Your children will not feel the absence of being included unless you make it a big deal to them.

    • avatar mmht says:

      I don’t think you were reading the same letter as everyone else. This woman didn’t care if her husband was religious or got along with her parents while they were dating. Three years into their marriage she now suddenly cares and nags him constantly about becoming religious and getting along with her parents. While I agree with the parent thing, the church thing I don’t. She married a man with different beliefs then her is now upset that his beliefs differs from her. The husband is not at fault here, it is her who is changing the rules on him and threatening divorce if he doesn’t suddenly change to her liking.

      • avatar Chris Glass` says:

        I am looking at things from the woman’s point of view yes, she did change things but some people grow into change and others never do. The fact that the woman’s husband is putting her down verbally could indicate self-esteem problems. He is trying to drag her back down to his level. She states he can’t keep a job – that could be due to his mouth or a lack of work skills. Again he has to be willing to change for this marriage to work. You don’t see a lack of ambition in life as a problem before you pay the bills together. It is probably upsetting to have to ask her parents for help and hear them put down if the husband isn’t contributing his share.

      • avatar mayma says:

        Self-esteem problems? Maybe, since the LW and her parents seem to talk a lot about how he doesn’t have the right education, the right job, the right income. Sheesh, does she love him or not? I don’t think he’s trying to drag her down at all; maybe he just wants to be able to be himself. And where does it say that he lacks work skills? The LW is the one who couldn’t find a job. What about her contribution to their finances?

        LW is being 100% unfair and immature, in my book.

  21. avatar gsmoore says:

    As a mother of four children in the autism spectrum, ages 9 to 16, I have found that routine is a comfort to my children. But routine is how we do things not when. This approach allows a lot of flexibility and allows us to attend as many family events as possible. Perhaps the mother of these girls would like to host a family shower and teach the girls the routines involved in hosting a family event.

  22. avatar L T says:

    Another crucial bit of information LW #2 left out is what the relationship has been like in previous years between her daughters and their aunt. My nephew has autism spectrum disorder, and my s-i-l has kept us at a distance from him because “we couldn’t possibly understand” because we don’t have kids. (She was a helicopter mom, anyway — we were allowed to babysit literally once, before the diagnosis, and haven’t been allowed since because he came down with a cold shortly thereafter.) This despite the fact that she does allow her mother to babysit, even though my m-i-l takes seizure meds and tends to pass out on occasion. Because of all this, we’re much closer to our godchildren, who call us “aunt” and “uncle”.

    We’ve been specifically not invited to birthdays and holidays, and when we did get together last Christmas, my s-i-l yelled at me because I was going to let my nephew play with my phone (as I do all of my “nieces” and “nephews”). It really makes me wonder if the LW is being oversensitive and has caused a distance over the years and yet still somehow expects their aunt to put her nieces first on her big day.

    Not that that would be be appropriate anyway. No matter the bride’s age, the wedding isn’t really about the guests.

  23. avatar mmht says:

    LW#1: You are a very immature person and I feel sorry for your husband. You changed the rules on him after you got married and are now threatening divorce if he doesn’t follow your new rules. You should get a divorce for his sake. Maybe then he can find a mature woman who knows exactly what she wants before she enters a lifelong commitment.

    LW#2: I’m sorry but I don’t see what the fuss is all about. Its not that she’s excluding only your daughters, she’s excluding everyone under 18. You never state exactly how many nieces and nephews she has, so I don’t know if your daughters are the only one’s being excluded or not. Maybe she’s doing that due to financial reasons. I just got married and had to cut several family members in order to stay within my budget. Or, maybe she’s doing it b/c whether you like to admit it or not, your daughters are not capable of handling a wedding. You also left out what spectrum of autism your daughters are.

  24. avatar amw says:


    I don’t see anything wrong with a bride and groom wishing to exclude children from the ceremony other than those they may have asked to be in the wedding party. I have been witness too many times to a child screaming while the couple is reading their vows. While most people were polite and removed the child as quickly as possible, most times a good bit of the ceremony was missed because of the disruption, not to mention the parent that had to leave completely.

    Having said that, I think the news that your children would not be invited would have been accepted graciously had your sister explained the situation to you herself. By telling your brother and leaving him to be the bearer of bad news, she left the opportunity of speculation wide open. I can understand your hurt feelings.

    However, in light of the circumstances, please try to forgive your sister’s lack of manners and file this away as a mistake rather than a slap in the face. Unless you aren’t telling us something, I doubt it was anything against you or your children…she may have even thought it would be easier for you and them if they were excluded.

    My guest list has only a handful of parents with young children and I myself have wondered whether to request the children stay at home. But, in an effort not to offend anyone and/or create the dilemna of finding a sitter or missing the ceremony, I am keeping my mouth shut and fingers crossed. There are many worse things I can think of upsetting the day.

  25. avatar amw says:


    What a sad situation for you both.

    Imagine the situation in reverse…would you be willing to save your marriage if your husband insisted that the children not be raised in the church? It’s unfair to simply change your mind and way of thinking four years in.

    I can’t help but wonder if your husband’s smart aleck comments stem from your parents’ behavior. Not that that excuses him in the least.

    Your therapist sounds like a waste of time and money. You need a neutral third party to help you sort out your issues so you can prioritize them and decide if the rift can be repaired or if the marriage is unsalvageable.

    I think you both made a serious mistake by not covering these items prior to tying the knot. But we are human…we make mistakes. Your priorities have changed and things that weren’t important a few years ago take precedence now. While its commendable of your husband to try to work things out, he shouldn’t sacrifice his own needs to do so.

    Good luck to you both.

    • avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

      It is not unfair to change her mind.  It is unfair to expect him to conform based upon her change.  People are not static.  They continue to grow throughout life.  It is not out of the ordinary for a 30 to wake up to realize that they want different things from life than they had previously.  I love my wife, but it would be difficult to be married to her 21-year old self and maybe even her 27-year old self at my age.  I think the reverse for her may be even more so.  I have changed and so has she.