Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Ask Natalie: Daughter came out to you but afraid to tell her father? Daughter refusing to invite mom to wedding because of her excessive drinking?

DEAR NATALIE: My daughter just recently came out to me. She is 16-years-old and told me that she knew she was “different” since she was a little kid. I am totally accepting of this, but I worry that her father (my ex-husband) won’t be as accepting of having a daughter who identifies as a lesbian. He is a pastor of a large congregation and I am concerned that he will reject her. She doesn’t want me to “out” her to him until she is out of high school. I don’t feel right about this, though. I don’t like to keep secrets, but I don’t want to appear disloyal to my daughter. What should I do? —CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE

DEAR CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE: Think of it this way, it isn’t a “secret.” It just isn’t your story to tell. She shared this information with you in confidence and to betray that would really hurt your relationship on a deep level. Her father sounds intolerant and I don’t blame her at all for not wanting to share her personal business with him. He’s losing out in this situation, not getting to know his daughter for who she truly is. But that’s on him. Maybe someday he will come around to learn that love is an action word. It’s sad, but it is not up to you to decide who learns this information. Just continue to be supportive of your daughter, love her for who she is and stand next to her in the fight against bigotry and discrimination. 

DEAR NATALIE: My sister is getting married and our mother is not invited. She has a bad drinking problem and my sister is afraid that if she comes she will embarrass everyone, including herself. She doesn't want to deal with this on her wedding day. My mother is incredibly hurt and now they aren't speaking to each other. I think if she doesn't invite our mom, she will regret it. What do you think she should do? —FAMILY FIRST  

DEAR FAMILY FIRST: This is a really tricky situation because the disease of addiction hurts in so many ways. I feel sad for your sister, for your mother and for you. The question that came to my mind is: “Could there be a compromise reached?” Maybe mom comes for the ceremony but doesn’t stay for the reception if there is going to be alcohol. I doubt your sister will want to have a “dry” wedding, but that is another option. If your sister doesn’t want to do either of these things, this may be a moment where your mom starts to make some decisions about the direction of her future as it pertains to how her family is relating to her. Unfortunately, sometimes we have to hit a bottom before we can decide to try things a different way. Maybe this is your mom’s moment to reevaluate. If she is willing to go to rehab or find a program to help and support her, perhaps that will be the olive branch that could change your sister’s heart around this. I agree that there are a lot of regrets in this situation, but unfortunately, this is a path your sister and mom have to walk and you may not be able to follow. Just be there to love them both and continue to look at this situation through the lens of compassion.  

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