true story (names changed)
Max and Katy were both accountants who had met while working at an international accounting firm. Katy arrived to the first meeting with her binder and admitted she was getting sucked up into the planning in ways she’d never imagined. She always thought she was too sensible for that sort of thing.
Max didn’t say much and didn’t really smile. I worked hard to bring him around, but with little success. Finally, puzzled and frustrated, I asked him outright what he was feeling. He took me aback when he said: “I hate weddings.” I told him that I hoped he didn’t hate his own! Turns out, he hated only the ceremony part of weddings; he liked the party part.
Cut to their wedding day and I’m feeling apprehensive, as I knew Katy was looking forward to the ceremony which Max offered no help in planning. After introducing the vow segment I nodded for Max to repeat after me, “I Max take you, Katy.” He opened his mouth and got all choked up. I’d never seen a groom become so emotional. So much for hating ceremonies!
Afterwards, I overheard his father say to him, “You should never let your wife see you cry, son—she’ll take advantage of you.” Huh?
From childhood, at the knee of his dad, Max had learned how to control his emotions in complex, nuanced ways. He was good at doing what he’d learned, but then got to a moment in his life when what he learned about emotions proved useless.
The one aspect of their relationship that frustrated Katy was Max’ inability to show what he was feeling. That inability had been at the core of many arguments. She later told me that his tears were the greatest gift he’d ever given her.
It’s been my experience that weddings bring out the best and the worst in people. Stress is all about emotions. In my family, “emotion” was a dirty word. You just didn’t bother dealing with emotions. They were denied and swept away. I’ve met enough people over the years to know that my family wasn’t alone in this.
Growing up each of us learns from our families that there are “good” emotions and “bad.” We learn which emotions we have a right to express and which we don’t have a right to express. And what you learned about emotions may very well be different from what your partner learned.
As you go through your wedding planning you and your partner are going to have to confront and manage a “bunch” of emotions. How you deal with the roller-coaster ride of these emotions will either increase your level of stress or help you put the craziness into perspective.
It’s vital that you and your partner become aware of your relationship to emotions—your own and as a couple.
Sanity Saver Questions:
• What are 3 feelings you’re comfortable expressing to your partner?
• What are 3 feelings you’re uncomfortable expressing to your partner?
• Are you satisfied with how you express your feelings? With how your partner expresses feelings?
Remember: the truth is that emotions are neither good nor bad. They just are. The real issue is what you do with them. Along the way, emotions you don’t like and don’t know how to handle are going to pop up, often at the unlikeliest of times. If you don’t have healthy ways for recognizing and dealing with your emotions, then they will bite you in the butt!