How To Stay Sane While Planning for Your Wedding!

Monday, October 28, 2013

When Tensions Build. . .

I hope this posting doesn’t apply to you. . .but just in case it does. . .

true story
Ten days before Andy and Sara’s wedding (names changed), their event planner called and asked if I’d meet with them at their home. Things were in melt-down mode. I’d finalized their ceremony more than a month before. It was a brief meeting and while they were stressed, they seemed no more so than most couples. Now, though, I could feel the tension when I walked into their house.

We sat down, I smiled and simply asked, “What’s up?” Silence. Anger, not stress, creased their faces. I asked Sara what had happened. She began talking about Andy as though he weren’t in the room. It was hard to follow what she was saying, but it soon became a litany of what he’d done wrong.

Suddenly, Andy exploded, “SHUT UP! I’M SICK OF YOUR LIES!” And, yes, I was now worried as he was bigger than I am and looked like he’d mentally snapped. They launched into a yelling match, totally ignoring me. I’ll admit that I was mesmerized since it was like I’d been transported to the set of a reality show!

But then I came to my senses and tried to intervene. Being polite and officiant-like wasn’t going to do the job, so I tapped into my New York voice and shouted, “YO!” They turned and looked at me seeming almost confused as to what I was doing in their home. Sara quickly looked embarrassed, while Andy just steamed.

What had gone so wrong between them? Well, they had an infant (unplanned). They were building a home. They had unresolved and non-discussed money issues. They had no time to talk, just time to argue and lash out; to say hurtful things to each other that they didn’t know what to do with. Their jumbled, poorly expressed emotions left them exhausted as they crawled to what they called the “finish line” of their wedding planning.

It sounded, though, more like the finish line of their relationship.
Andy and Sara had a far more complicated relationship than I’d been aware of. Part of what made their dynamic so rough was the manner in which they dealt with difficult conversations. Because they weren’t skilled at talking with each other; because they avoided the tough and messy issues; because they were overwhelmed by their intense feelings, all they could do was scream, accuse and belittle each other.

Avoid, simmer, erupt, hurt, and then retreat. This was their pattern. Classic aggressive behavior.

Sanity Saver Questions:
• Do you enjoy yelling at your partner?
• Do you enjoy putting your partner down in front of other people?
• Have you ever said, “I hate you!” to your partner?

If you answered “yes” to any one of these questions, then I suggest you put aside this book and search for a counselor and put your wedding plans on hold.

Remember: yelling, humiliating and hating are clear indicators that your relationship needs professional care and attention. Screaming, belittling and accusing are not the ways in which you protect and keep each other safe.

Monday, October 21, 2013

"Don't Rock The Boat"

true story
Robbie’s father (names changed) had never approved of Nina, his fiancée, as no one was good enough for his son. When they were dating, Robbie’s father was barely civil to Nina, but Robbie shrugged it off with, “that’s just dad being dad.” Once they began planning for their wedding, Robbie’s father made demands on Nina, disapproving many of her decisions.

Again, Robbie shrugged it off with, “that’s just how he is.” Nina kept her feelings bottled up because she didn’t want to disrespect her future father-in-law.

Three months before the wedding I met with them and within minutes Nina broke down. She could no longer deal with Robbie’s father. Robbie was surprised as he didn’t know things had gotten to this point.

Turns out, while growing up, Robbie learned to deal with his father’s tantrums by simply shrugging him off and not confronting him. In the face of his father’s overbearing ways, Robbie learned to “vanish.”

Nina, who is Indian, was taught that women should not question what a man says as a woman must know her place.” She learned not to cause waves in the face of conflict.
As we talked, Robbie realized he could no longer leave Nina to deal with his father alone.

The old ways, the old dance steps, of handling his father no longer worked. After our meeting, they had a long talk and strategized how to contain Robbie’s father and protect themselves during the final stages of planning.

By the time of their wedding, boundaries were in place and Robbie’s father haltingly was learning to treat Nina with a new found respect.

Initially, Robbie and Nina embodied a passive approach to Robbie’s dad. They avoided dealing with him in a way that would have let him know what they were thinking and feeling. They crossed their fingers, closed their eyes and simply hoped it would all turn out for the best! However, it wouldn’t until they told Robbie’s dad what they wanted from him.

Sanity Saver Questions:
• Do you prefer to be passive when dealing with difficult situations?
• From whom did you learn this pattern?
• Does it allow you and your partner to effectively resolve what needs resolving?

Remember: we train people how to treat us. If you endure a person’s troubling behavior, choosing to do nothing, then they will not change. They don’t know that you’re suffering and your silence gives them no incentive to change.

Friday, October 11, 2013

There Will Be Arguments!


true story

Two weeks before her wedding, Kelly (names changed) called me—upset. The night before, she and her fiancé, Jeff, had a fight. At the end of the argument, he snapped: “You think you know everything about me, but you don’t.”

I now think she’s calling to tell me that she’s canceling the wedding. Instead, she asks: “Do you think this is a red flag?”

Red flag? No, this is a RED CURTAIN!

I asked if she was curious as to what he’d meant when he said she didn’t know “everything” about him. Kelly told me that Jeff often vented and yelled, but that he didn’t mean anything by it. I was still curious since if he doesn’t mean anything by it, why does he yell? She had no answer.

A few days later, Kelly called to tell me that all was fine and back to “normal.” No, Jeff hadn’t apologized and, no, she still hadn’t asked him what he meant by that cryptic, snarling statement. She decided to let well enough alone—to let the pattern of their arguing remain in place despite the stress it continually caused her.

Kelly had talked herself into believing that there was nothing wrong with this dynamic. “It’s just how he is,” was her mantra. Besides, she was worried that if she confronted him, she’d hurt his feelings. She didn’t want to antagonize the situation by asking him to explain himself, as she “knew” he loved her.

Fear of confrontation. Fear of conflict. These are fears shared by many of us and Kelly was no different. But it’s essential to understand that conflict is a natural part of every relationship. Odd as it may sound, you can’t have a healthy relationship without conflict.

Over time, you and your partner have developed ways to deal with uncomfortable situations, conversations, and conflict. I call these “dance steps” and you’ve developed them without much conscious thought. The question is: do these dance steps let you and your partner get what you need in a way that’s honest and healthy?

As you plan for your wedding, arguments most likely will arise – between you and your fiancé, between you and relatives or friends.  Part of staying sane is knowing how to deal with those sticky situations.  In upcoming posts, I’ll offer tips and tricks for navigating difficult moments.  For now, though, here are some questions to get you thinking about you and your relationship to “conflict.”

Sanity Saver Questions:

• What do you enjoy about conflict? What do you not enjoy?
• Do you know what your partner enjoys or doesn’t enjoy about conflict?
• What would you like to see more of when you and your partner have a difficult conversation? What would you like to see less of?

Friday, October 4, 2013

Crying At Weddings - Go For It!

true story
Lindsey had been engaged for ten years and sobbed so hard during the ceremony she wasn’t able to complete her vows. She said enough of the vow so I moved on as I didn’t know what else to do. After the ceremony, Lindsey was annoyed, wanting to know why I didn’t help her stop crying!

Couples often tell me that they hope they won’t cry at the ceremony. Why? Why not cry? And if the groom cries, guests will slip an extra $50 in the envelope as they feel they got their money’s worth!

Your wedding is one of the most emotional moments in your life, for reasons you can name and some you’re not able to name. I assure couples that I will remain strong for them. And I usually do, though there have been exceptions. I cried at my brother’s wedding. I cried at the weddings of each of my close friends. And I’m not someone who cries easily.

I cried under a Chuppah nestled in the courtyard of a four-hundred year old Catholic chapel. It was in a town about an hour outside Mexico City. The bride was Mexican Catholic and the groom was Jewish, from Philadelphia. Underneath the Chuppah, along with the three of us, was a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe. After exchanging vows and rings, as the couple presented their mothers with roses, the bride’s cousin, a Mexican actor, sang Ave Maria. It was a teary-eyed, goose-bump moment. Why?

The sheer beauty of these good people was exquisite—Jewish and Christian, coming in faith and hope and love, to a remote village, to transcend all that could pull them apart. How can you not cry when life is so deep down good?

I cried in a vegetable garden (trust me, I really still haven’t seen it all). The wedding took place in a funky desert resort owned by the bride’s aunt. The ceremony was in the vegetable garden. The bride’s father escorted her down the dirt path. She wore a veil that every bride in her family had worn. The air literally shimmered from the desert heat. The DJ played “The Blue Danube.” The bride and her father looked like they were walking on water. And under a mulberry tree the couple gave their word to each other. How could we not cry at the earthy simplicity and sheltered trust of it all?

Why do we cry at weddings? I think it’s because of the intense sweetness of the moment—and the sheer audacity of the couple’s hope. Ultimately, I think it’s because our tears are the surest way to honor the truth and goodness of the moment.