How To Stay Sane While Planning for Your Wedding!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Thanks VS. Stress – Which Wins Out?!

So, here’s another one of those posts that I had copied from somewhere, moved to a folder and then forgot about!

There’s been much written on “gratitude” in the past few years especially with Oprah having popularized the gratitude journal.  It’s not that I’m an ungrateful person, BUT I think I reacted in a stereotypical, New York jaded kind of way.  I deliberately avoided writing or speaking about gratitude in any of my blogs or talks.  And, yes, I feel rather embarrassed writing that!

Recently, though, I’ve rediscovered the power of mindfully making the giving of thanks a part of my daily ritual. 

I don’t recall where I found the following snippet, but in rediscovering it, it occurred to me that perhaps wedding stress could be reduced if, each day, you followed the exercise suggested in the article – except, make the “three things” all related to your wedding.

Hey, it’s worth a try and I think you’ll be surprised – for the good!

Try This Gratitude Exercise

For the next five days, do the following daily:

Think of three things that happened that day for which you’re grateful. Jot them down. As days pass, you may notice that you’re now on the lookout throughout the day for reasons to be grateful. You may easily come up with a dozen candidates that you’ll winnow to three for your list—and your attitude will perk up as you start to see the world in a more positive light, says Jacqueline Lewis, co-founder of the World Gratitude Map and blogger at

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

I'm On "Yahoo Style"!

 photo: Corbis

Although I blog with the Huffington Post, I've never written for Yahoo Style. . .until today.  Well, actually, I didn't write this post, BUT, I'm quoted in it and I'm delighted to have had the opportunity to share another great wedding story. . .


Anne Chertoff
December 8, 2014

When we heard last week that Scarlett Johansson and fiancé Romain Dauriac were already married in a secret wedding in Montana, we started asking around if anyone besides a celebrity would plan a secret wedding.

Is it just the idea that an intimate event should remain private, and away from prying paparazzi lenses? Or are there other non-prying reasons that a couple may want to say “I do” under the veil of secrecy?

For Cara and her then boyfriend Raymond, who is originally from Germany, a secret wedding was the solution to his work-visa issue. “Raymond’s company was going to transfer him out of the U.S. so they didn’t have to deal with his visa,” Cara tells Yahoo Style. “So instead of being apart we decided to marry in secret in 2009.”

Friday, December 5, 2014

One Word That Describes Your Partner Is – ??

“Mr. Fleiss said that he has a French aunt who settled upon a word that best describes JoJo (his wife): ‘chaleur.’
‘It means having the quality of warmth,’ he said.
‘Imagine a snowy evening in the mountains, you see a log cabin with
a fire roaring — a feeling of home, of warmth and heart.
For me, that’s what JoJo is.’”

Yet another quote I picked-up from somewhere and have no record of where.  But I love the image the unknown Mr. Fleiss paints of his wife.  Intimate and desperately romantic.

What about you, what word best describes your partner?  How do you want us to imagine your partner?  Do they know this is how you think of them?

Monday, December 1, 2014

Who Do You Want To Become?

I saw that I would love him,
and that loving him would mean
saying yes to the self I would become
by loving him,
and no to the other selves
I would never become by not loving him.

I don’t know who made this observation – but, I’m deeply moved by the truth expressed.

I think the truth of this quote speaks to why making a vow to another person is such a profound act. 

In a real way, you’re vowing to become the person you could only become through the loving of this particular partner – and no other.

Now that’s deep!  And courageous.  And generous.

Friday, November 21, 2014

A Brief – Odd – History Of Marriage!

I’m always reading other blogs, along with magazines and papers, and so I’m constantly clipping and saving tidbits I find interesting and think I might use on one of my blogs or in one of my workshops.  Oftentimes, though, when I return to the clipping, I can’t recall why I had saved the info or where it’s from!

And so it is with this item. . .recently, I was sorting through  a bunch of posts I had saved regarding weddings.  I have no idea where I got the following, but apparently it’s a review of a book written by Mark Ishee, titled,  “Wedding Toasts and Traditions.”  I checked on Amazon and the book is now out-of-print.  However, I love the info provided in this review – stuff related to the history of marriage I never knew. 

This brief history might put your own planning into some perspective!


The author points to three stages in the history of marriage: marriage by force, marriage by contract and marriage by mutual love.

Marriage by force is indicated in our earliest historical record.  A man captured a woman, generally from another tribe.  This testified to his strength in warfare.  The earliest “best man” aided a friend in the capture of a bride.

According to Ishee, the honeymoon is a relic of the days of marriage by capture.  Frequently the tribe from which a warrior stole a bride came looking for her and it was necessary for the warrior and his new wife to go into hiding to avoid being discovered. 

The “honeymoon” evolved as symbolic of the period of time during which the bride and groom hid until the bride’s kin grew tired of looking for her!

It is clear why marriages by contract developed in time: the revenge exacted by one tribe on another for taking one of their women was costly.  At some point, compensation began to be delivered for the stolen woman in an effort to avoid vengeance.  Preventing tribal warfare and compensating furious family members led to a property exchange: livestock, land or another woman would be exchanged for the bride.

As Ishee points out:  “The very word “wedding” betrays the great stage of wife purchase through which marriages passed.  The ‘wed’ was the money, horses, or cattle which the groom gave as security and as a pledge to provide his purchase of the bride from her father.  From this ‘wed’ we derive the idea of ‘wedding’ or ‘pledging’ the bride to the man who pays the required security for her.

As time went on, this ‘bride’s price’ took the form of elaborate presents given by the groom to the bride’s parents.  Negotiated over long periods of time, sending and receiving constituted that the marriage contract was sealed. 

In some cultures, land, livestock and other valuables were given to the groom in the form of a dowry.  These goods were offered as compensation to the groom when he assumed the burden of supporting the woman.

Such practices of marriage by contract lasted in England until the middle of the 16th century.  The modern practice of ‘giving the bride away’ has its roots in the belief that the bride was property given by the father to the groom.  In fact, the phrase ‘to have and to hold’ comes from Old English property transactions.

Marriage by mutual love was rare until fairly recently.  You did not marry for love; rather, you were expected to love the one you married. 

Ishee states: “It was not until the 9th or 10th century that women gained the privilege of choosing or refusing their husbands according to their own judgment.  Rare exceptions to this are recorded since primitive times, where women claimed the right to select their mates.”

The practice of elopement was an early aspect of marriage by mutual love.  It allowed a woman to marry a man of her choosing, rather than one who met her parents’ specifications.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Marriage: One Long Conversation!

When we talked, I felt brilliant, fascinating;
she brought out the version of myself I like most.
Nadir Alsadir

Recently I learned that close friends of mine (not the couple in photo) are divorcing after twenty years of marriage.  I was / am stunned.  I had no idea.  Not a clue. 

This blog is about weddings and not divorces.  About beginnings and not endings.  Yet, it’s been hard for me to write as I keep thinking on my friends – and on their wedding day.

I officiated their ceremony and I recall sharing with them and the other guests a memory from my time living in the South Pacific.  I lived on an island in the Truk Lagoon.  The people spoke Trukese and my favorite Trukese word is “Achengacheng.”

“Achengacheng” literally means anything that can be easily broken and it is also the Trukese word for “love.”  My wish, corny as it might have been, was that they would always be each other’s “achengacheng” and that they would always hold each other as precious.

I know they tried – in more ways than I could ever imagine. 

But how do you keep the love from breaking?  How do you honor the “achengacheng”?  Yes, there are so many ways, yet, I do deeply, truly believe it all comes down to COMMUNICATION.

The quality of your life is in direct proportion to
the quality of the communication in your life.

true story
One night I grabbed dinner at my favorite local bistro. The staff knows me and brings me “the usual” without my having to ask. I was lost in a book when I happened to glance up and look across the room. Two tables lined the opposite wall.

At one sat a young couple in their 20’s, laughing, animated. And at the other table sat an elderly couple in their 70’s, talking, smiling. I thought—now here’s a dual snapshot of marriage. Except for the wrinkles, little differentiated the older couple from the younger. Both were smiling, talking and laughing.

The German philosopher Nietzsche claimed that, in its essence, marriage is one long, grand conversation. A lifetime of hearty conversation is the surest sign of real love.

Here are what I call SANITY SAVER Questions to get you and your partner thinking:

• If marriage is a conversation, do you and your partner enjoy talking with each other?
• Are you comfortable just being together?
• Are there any topics that are understood to be off limits? Why?

I don’t care if it’s corny, but you ARE each other’s ACHENGACHENG!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Reflections From 30 Years Of Marriage

As I’ve said many times before, here on this blog, some of the most wonderful people on the face of the earth are my friends.  Not bragging – just a fact!  And I’ve had the good fortune to officiate the weddings of many of my friends.  A while ago, I sent a questionnaire to friends who’ve been married for more than five years.  I asked each couple to pick any ten questions (five each) and share their answers here at my blog.

The reason why I asked these wonderful people to share their thoughts on marriage and weddings, is that I hoped they could offer you, the couple in the throes of planning, some perspective on the whole shebang.

Hanna and Bruce celebrated their 30th anniversary on October 6th.  They are the first friends whose wedding I officiated.  The photo was taken earlier this week, on their anniversary.  The wine goblet was the chalice used at their service.  It had belonged to my grandmother and was my gift.

So, from the vantage of thirty married years, here are Bruce and Hanna’s insights on love, weddings and marriage. . . 


Q:  Why haven't you gotten divorced?
A:  Checks and Balances.

Q:  What three things are you grateful for in your spouse?
A:  Love of God, love of others, love of food.

Q:  One sentence advice you'd give to a couple planning to get married?
A:  You must always be grateful for the easy times while being prepared for the hard times.

Q:  What has surprised you most about being married?
A:  How much I love it, and how much I fear I would miss it.

Q:  In no more than 140 characters, sum up your thoughts on marriage:
A:  If marriage was easy and effortless, everyone would do it. It's not. Marriage is by far the greatest challenge any two people can undertake.

Q: What three words do you think of when you think of your wedding day?
A: Joyful. Unifying. Memorable.

Q:  What three things are you grateful for in your spouse?
A:  He rubs my feet, when I don't even ask.  He showed genuine kindness and devotion to my parents in their declining years.  He knows how I like my coffee and my gin, and he quenches all my thirsts.

Q: One sentence advice you'd give to a couple planning to get married?
A:  Every so often, ask yourself “What is it like to be married to me?”

Q:  How has your partner helped you become who you are today?
A:  Here's an illustration: For a long time I was content to let Bruce be the one who made eye contact with the homeless and mentally ill; the man or woman asking for spare change on the street. He would give what money he had in his pocket with warmth while I sidestepped the whole encounter. It felt, since it was “our” money that he was acting on behalf of both of us, and I got a pass. But you know what? It wasn't enough, and I learned that from him without him ever saying a word to me about it.

Q:  What did you experience at your wedding that you hope other couples experience at theirs?
A:  A snapshot memory: We left our reception and got into our rented red Subaru that our nieces and nephews had gleefully decorated with cans and streamers and the requisite “Just Married” sign. It was a beautiful early autumn day in Vermont with glorious colors as we drove the 40 miles to where we would spend the night. I will always remember the smiles, the honks, thumbs-up from other cars as we drove along. At a stoplight I pulled a flower from my bouquet and handed it through the open window to someone in a car the next lane over.

To feel the love and support in celebration of our marriage from our family and friends was wonderful.

To receive it from total strangers was a transcendent gift.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Wedding Conversations I Overheard At My Favorite Cafe

This post is a bit different from my others as it’s inspired by conversations I overheard at my fav café on two different days. . .

The other day I was sitting at my local, fav café, Aroma, when I overheard a young woman (20’s) at the next table whine,  “I tried on my grandma’s wedding dress and it was pretty, but old-fashioned so I’m not gonna wear it.”

Okay, so you’re not “gonna” wear it BUT that doesn’t mean you can’t still incorporate the dress somehow.

This is where creativity comes in – with how you incorporate family tradition + heirlooms in fresh, contemporary ways.

I’m not going to turn this into a DIY blog BUT I once had a bride who didn’t want to wear her grandmother’s dress BUT who loved her grandmother very much.  Her grandmother let her use the dress for part of the canopy of the Huppa the bride made.
It was beyond beautiful!

Even if you are stressing the small stuff (which you shouldn’t!), PLEASE enjoy the fun of being creative and inventive – not for the sake of wowing guests BUT for the sake of honoring cherished traditions and heirlooms – honoring family.


So, I was back at my fav café, Aroma, and this time I was sitting next to a guy talking about how family politics is driving him batty as he and his fiancée come closer to their wedding day.

Apparently, his mother doesn’t talk to his aunt, with whom he’s close, and the sisters haven’t talked for over a decade.  His mother doesn’t want to be in any family photos with her sister BUT he thinks it would be nice for the entire family to have a portrait taken on his wedding day.  His two friends then chimed in with tales of their parents’ dysfunctional family relationships.

So, there you have it – family politics is all part of a wedding – and my experience has been that very few couples manage to get married without family wackiness tripping them up.

But, here’s the thing – when I officiate a ceremony, I look out at the people gathered AND what I see is a bunch of people wanting to believe that despite ALL the divorce and messiness of families, there’s hope that these two people will get “it” right.

That’s why I say that your wedding is a

Statement of HOPE

No one knows what the future holds
Everyone hopes
That the two of you
be faithful to:

The dream of becoming who you want to be as a couple

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Just Enjoy It!

Last week. . .

The Procession had started.  I was in position.  The groom, Eric, took his place next to me.  He looked out and then leaned in and in an awed voice whispered, “This really is surreal!”

Duh – It is! 
And what surprised me is that throughout planning, he had a relaxed, almost blasé approach to it all.

The wedding ceremony is an out-of-body experience and there’s no way to predict how you’ll feel. . .

Just enjoy it all!

Friday, September 19, 2014

It's All About Creating Happy Memories

The other day I was on line at a Starbucks when a man tapped me on the shoulder.  I turned around and had no idea who the guy was.  He smiled and asked if I was “JP”.  He then told me that I had officiated his wedding 9 ½ years ago in Westlake Village.  Suddenly, I recognized Fred and certainly remembered his wife, Rosanna.  I was blown away that he remembered me! 

Fred told me that he and Rosanna were grateful that I had been a part of their day and that they still smile when they look at photos of their ceremony.

I was very moved – and I share this, not to give myself a pat on the back BUT to let you know that Fred reminded me that I’m really not in the business of marrying people. 


I’m really in the business of creating happy, life-giving memories.

And for that, I’m grateful. . .

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

What You're Really Doing When You Get Married

Anyone who knows me knows that I love officiating weddings.  I love celebrating a ceremony for a host of reasons – and one of those reasons is that I get to be a part of one of the most intimate moments in a couple’s life.  I know – that might sound a tad kinky!

But I’ve been thinking about this throughout the summer.  I’ve looked at brides and grooms, straight and gay, and I marvel at what I see.  I see people who are downright daring in their embrace of life – no matter how nervous or whack-a-do they may appear!

It struck me this summer with a new found force that when two people enter into marriage, it really is a
Confounding and generous pledge.

Here’s what I think you’re pledging (and what I’m helping you to celebrate):

You’re pledging. . .

To be the witness of each other’s life
To help each other make sense of life’s surprises
To create a legacy together
To be steady for each other in the midst of randomness
To find peace in the routine of everyday life
To give each other life but not be each other’s life
To trust you will be valued even when you’ve forgotten how
To be brave in sickness
To believe “we can” and “we will” in all those WTF moments
To make yourself necessary to your spouse
To believe that together you’re smarter than any smart phone
To believe that friends and family deserve a place at your table laden with good food, good drink and good story

And in pledging all this, I think you’re also admitting that neither of you really understand the true meaning of what you’re vowing BUT that you are committed to understanding it more clearly day in and day out – all the days of your life.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Wedding Ceremony Podcast!

Remember to visit my weekly podcast,
cohosted with (Rev.) Clint Hufft,
in which we discuss all things ceremony!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

What Kristin and Meredith Learned About Marriage From Their Parents!

At the beginning of 2014 I hit on what I thought was a great idea for this blog.  I reached out to half-a-dozen close friends whose weddings I officiated and who’ve been married for ten or more years.  I asked each couple to write a guest post – offering advice to those of you who are now in the throes of prepping for your wedding.

Everyone loved the idea and assured me that they’d “get back” in a few short weeks.  Well, as time passed, all of my friends confessed that they didn’t know what to write!  “This is hard!” was the general chorus.

Then I hit on the idea of turning to Meredith and Kristin, daughters of my friends Ray & Stephanie.  
I asked Kristin and Meredith to write a guest post in which they reflect on what they’ve learned about marriage from their parents. 

So here are the. . .
Top 12 Truths Of Marriage Meredith and Kristin Learned 
From Their Parents, Stephanie & Ray

1.     Not saying anything is often the best route to take. 
Silence can sometimes be more powerful than words. In a situation where your spouse is in a huff over something, or deeply offended, and just needs to speak their mind, listening is often the BEST move to make. You don’t always need to add your opinion, just listen to them.

2.     It’s important to show your love. 
Regardless of the anniversary, little surprises help to show you care more than a set date.   My parents give each other cards on random occasions. If they find a funny picture of a crab, they might give it to the other “just because”. Who doesn’t love talking crabs?

3.     Taking time away from kids, friends, and work, to spend some alone time together never hurts.
Who doesn’t like mini-vacations?  This is essential because my sister and I….well we can be quite a handful bickering often, being loud and obnoxious – but, beside the point, you need to spend alone time to deepen your own relationship in addition to the family relationship.

4.     A marriage has to have respect for one another: each other’s goals, who you are as a person, and the wonderfulness you see in your partner.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T. I have never seen my parents disrespect each other because disrespect often times causes mistrust and insecurity, and no one wants that.  Respect in my family looks like: listening while the other is speaking, speaking words of encouragement when they are applying for a job, or redoing a resume, and most often: sitting through innumerous seasons of the bachelorette/ bachelor without mocking!

5.     Don’t go to bed angry.
Sometimes you just need to let things go. You are not going to agree with your partner 100% of the time, if you did then that would be extremely boring and uneventful!  But seriously, it’s only natural to have differing opinions on a few things. Talk through what is bothering you and then come to a compromise or leave it be until you both are more rested and less irrational.  These are ways that I have seen my parents live this cliché.

6.     Always say I love you. But you have to mean it because if you didn’t mean it, then you probably shouldn’t be married!
All the time my parents say, “I love you”, to me and my sister so as to remind us that they do (even though we already know).  It’s been a tradition in my family to always say it before going to sleep. It has become part of our routine and it’s important to me.  I have to say it otherwise I rest uneasy. It might sound silly, but it’s comforting and, in my opinion, it’s the most wonderful phrase you can be told.

7.     Life does not always go according to plan, but you have to roll with punches. 
We’ve moved about 3 times. The last time was due to unforeseen circumstances with relatives. However, no matter where we were, my parents made it clear that we did not need anything but each other. There was a point in which we were in between finding a home and a place to live, so I called us “homeless” because I’m dramatic, but also because that’s what I thought we were. I was wrong. My dad, my mom, my sister, and I were all together and that is my definition of “home”.

8.     Work together, not against each other.
As the saying goes, “it’s you and me against the world.” If conflicts arise, work together to find a solution instead of blaming each other for the problem. Working against each other will not get you anywhere, particularly if you need to get somewhere quickly!  I’ve seen my parents work this way so many times in my life, especially when it comes to big life decisions. When we decided to move abruptly when I was going into the 7th grade, they stood behind their decision, though it was very unpopular with my sister and me.

9.     With a relationship based on friendship, their first impulse is to support each other and the decisions they make as a couple as well as supporting the decisions, of us, their children.
Collaboration in marriage is essential. Could be the best project of your life!
Working patiently together, whether in a creative or problem-solving sense, will bring you closer together and help you produce something that is fulfilling for both of you. Whether this be in larger projects – like repainting every room of every house you’ve ever lived in or in smaller projects, like teaching your daughters how to correctly open and store wine—the positive and encouraging energy my parents bring to every situation shows how much they care, not only about each other but about those around them.

10.  Remember every day the things you love about your spouse, especially what initially drew you to him or her.
I love hearing my parents tell stories about their time in high school, when they met and about their friends who still surround them to this day.  My dad was in theatre, ran for student government and took German, while my mom was on drill team, waitressed at Marie Callendar’s, and was in a social action club that helped orphans in Tijuana.  They were friends and continued to be throughout their early adult life.  They both took different roads: my mom dated a lot of people and my dad entered the seminary to become a priest, but they both acknowledge that there was an attraction between the two of them from the beginning – one they then returned to later in life.

11.  Tell and share stories!
It’s a great way to allow the people around you be part of the story of your lives and your marriage. It also helps your children understand you more and see the journey you took to find your partner in life.  Hearing my parents’ favorite stories, of their proposal or of when my sister and I were very young, allow me to recall and retell favorite stories from my own life and of my family.  And even family folklore and history adds to my sense of belonging and identity.  Like when my dad used to tell us his ancestors were horse thieves in Germany and my mom used to say her side of the family was related to Lord Baltimore (as in Baltimore, Maryland)!

12.  Actions speak louder than words.
You can always tell how much my parents care about each other from their interactions. They share a great sense of humor about life. The way they look at each other and laugh, sometimes about what someone has said or done in our house, gives me a glimpse into the feelings they have had, and continue to have for each other for decades. Their day-to-day treatment of each other, and us kids, is filled with kindness, understanding and a dose of comedy, which I hope to have in my own relationships in the future.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Speaking Your Mind – gulp! Being Assertive

In my last three postings, I’ve highlighted the most common ways in which people deal with conflict.  Now I look at the fourth (and least understood) “dance step”. 

By the time I met with Moira (name changed), she was beyond distressed. The problem was her mother, who criticized almost every choice she’d made in the wedding planning. Moira’s mother expressed her disappointment with tears, tantrums and long silences.

The proverbial final straw was when Moira, her four bridesmaids and her mother went gown shopping. Everyone except her mom fell in love with “the” dress. Apparently, the bridesmaids teased her mom for not supporting Moira in her choice. Later, Moira’s mom broke down sobbing, accusing the bridesmaids of being disrespectful.

She demanded that Moira force her friends to apologize and if they didn’t, she wanted Moira to un-invite them as bridesmaids. Moira refused.  Tears, accusations, and all the stuff of emotional blackmail ensued.

Eventually, her mother admitted that, most likely, the women hadn’t intended to be rude and she may have misinterpreted what they said. Still, she wanted Moira to demand that they apologize.
At the time we met, things were frosty between Moira and her mother. Moira didn’t care if she came to the wedding or not. But, of course, she cared—why else would she cry when she said she didn’t care?

She told me that this was how things went between her and her mother. They argued; didn’t talk; and then got back together—without ever resolving what first led them into not talking. Theirs had been a dance that alternated between being passive and passive-aggressive.

There is, though, one other dance step and that’s to be assertive. You’re assertive when you decide to express your thoughts, feelings, and needs to a person in a clear and respectful way without playing games.

Of all the dance steps, this is the one that most people are unfamiliar with. Yet, it’s the one technique that has the greatest chance of reducing stress and increasing your chances of getting heard.

I suggested to Moira that she have two different conversations with her mother. The first conversation needed to be about the general pattern with which her mother dealt with their disagreements. They had to talk about her emotional blackmail, i.e. unfair demands followed by teary tantrums. Only then could they have the second conversation, which was about the wedding dress incident.

Oftentimes people are difficult because they don’t think they’re appreciated. Most likely, some of that was going on with Moira’s mother.

Here’s the strategy I laid out for Moira, so as to be assertive and draw boundaries.

I suggested she first reassure her mother that she was happy she’s interested in the wedding and wants it to be a perfect day. She also needed to reaffirm that when they disagreed, it was not a rejection of her support.

Once Moira reassured her mother that this whole planning process wasn’t a referendum on their love, she moved on to a discussion of the dress and the bridesmaids (source of the most recent argument).

I suggested a script like this:
“I love my wedding dress. I know it’s not the one you liked. It is, though, the one I love and I’m glad you were there when I found it. I’m sorry things got out of hand with the girls.  They didn’t mean to hurt you. I think you know that, too.  They want to speak with you and I hope you let them explain what happened. I’m not getting into the middle of this, though, and I don’t want you to give me ultimatums. I feel that you’re pressuring me to take sides and to punish good friends for what is just a misunderstanding. I don’t want this dress to remind me of something that grew way ugly and way out of proportion. I know you don’t want that, either.”

Although Moira resisted, I urged her to give it a try—it’s not like her mother was going to be more reasonable using any of the old tactics.

Moira reassured her mother that she appreciated everything she was doing and explained that rejecting her suggestions wasn’t a rejection of her. That helped to calm her mother’s insecurities.

However, Moira’s conversation about the dress didn’t go as well. Within a week, though, Moira’s mother realized she wasn’t going to get any traction from harping about the incident.  Eventually, Moira’s mom and the bridesmaids had their talk and she got her apology.

As the wedding drew closer, Moira’s mom tried to stir up more drama but by then Moira felt confident speaking directly to her.  By the time Moira walked down the aisle, she and her mother had laid the groundwork for a healthier way of talking with each other.

And Zach, Moira’s husband, was a relieved man!

Remember: having a hard conversation is hard because we’re not used to this “dance step.” However, no good can come from shouting, shutting down, or manipulating someone we claim to care about. With understanding comes clarity, the bedrock for resolution and healing!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

“Driving You Nuts Is So Much Fun!"

Continuing to look at conflict styles, here’s some thoughts on the “delicious” ways of being passive-aggressive!

Rhonda and Bill (names changed) were planning their wedding without the help of a coordinator. Although Rhonda’s job required her to travel several weeks a month, she felt up to the task of having a DIY wedding. Bill worked local and said he was willing to do whatever she wanted, though he thought she was obsessive with her detailed lists. He never actually completed a list, shrugging it off saying, “It’ll all be fine.”

I had a final meeting with them a little more than a month before the wedding. Rhonda looked stressed and exhausted, while Bill seemed uncomfortable. Rhonda was going to be out of town for the next week and a half and pleaded with me, “How do I get him to do what’s on the lists?  If he doesn’t do this stuff it isn’t going to get done?”

Bill promised he’d get everything done. “Why should I believe you?” she snapped. “You say you’re going to get it done and you never do. Do you even want to get married?”

Bill finally shot back, “Maybe if you didn’t treat me like an idiot, I’d pay more attention to what you want me to do!” He turned to me and in a mixture of sarcasm and resignation said, “If I didn’t tune her out, I’d lose my mind.”

Bill was classic passive-aggressive in that he had strong feelings of resentment and anger and was unwilling to express those feelings in an honest way.  He felt put upon by Rhonda and instead of having an honest conversation with her, he’d simply “forget” to do things. Any time Rhonda panicked, he’d accuse her of not trusting him and getting upset over “nothing.”

You choose to be passive-aggressive when you decide that your partner needs to be punished for hurting you and part of the punishment is that they’re not going to know you’re punishing them!

Two other classic passive-aggressive techniques are giving the “silent treatment” and withholding.  In the “silent treatment” you stop talking to the person and then, when some time has passed and your partner asks, “Is anything wrong?” you look surprised and say, “No. Why would you think that?”  In the withholding technique, your partner wants something and you deny it to them. She wants you to go somewhere and you say you’re tired. Here’s where the all time classic line comes into play: “No, not tonight. I have a headache”!

Is being passive-aggressive your preferred style for dealing with conflict?  Do you like seeing what it does to your partner? If so, why do enjoy punishing the person?!