You dreamed of what your wedding would look like since you were eight years old with your friends, so planning your wedding can almost feel like fulfilling one’s life dream. This can make it feel that a lot is at stake, adding to the pressure around every small decision. This can make the wedding planning process, though exciting, feel stressful for all involved (not just a bride contrary to popular belief).
Some relationships soar through the wedding planning and the actual wedding event, while others are left barely limping after the wedding reception is over. There are many stressful periods throughout a relationship and it doesn’t have to cause the relationship to fall apart, it can actually be an experience that defines and strengthens the relationship if they are navigated properly. While this list is not exclusive, I have identified three major conflicts that can arise and how you can navigate them leading to a stronger and happier overall relationship:
Conflict 1.The role of loved ones
Determining the role that loved ones will play in your wedding can feel like an intimidating task, especially if you tend to be a people pleaser. You want to involve everyone that you love in this very special time in your life, but you may not agree with your partner on who to involve and what level of involvement your loved ones will have. It may especially be difficult if you have family members that do not get along with one another and you may feel the pressure to choose.
One thing to consider is who plays well with others and who doesn’t. Keeping this in mind when determining who plays what role will be important and keep you both from having to play the constant role of mediator. Remember, all of your family members do not need to play a role in the wedding party, but consider other roles such as inviting a loved one to take on an important task during the wedding planning process
On the other hand, you might have to implement boundaries such as with a “helicopter parent” (a parent that tends to be overprotective and has a tendency to overstep their boundaries). Having a parent or loved one that often oversteps boundaries can add another layer of stress to an already stressful undertaking. If they are contributing to the wedding financially, they may especially feel that they should have a voice in the planning process. Individuals like this often have good intentions and may have their own vision of what the wedding and the planning process should look like. If this is the case, you should discuss with your partner the terms and conditions of accepting any contributions. You and your partner should agree on this and as a united front clearly discuss any expectations with the loved one upfront. For example, be clear that they can make suggestions but you and your partner have our own vision and ultimately the final decision will be yours.
The topic of finances is something that often arises for couples as a point of conflict, especially when coordinating something as costly as a wedding. Because of this, it is important to discuss finances upfront, set a realistic budget you both can agree to and stick to it. If finances continue to be a point of contention, it may not really be money itself that you are arguing about. Money can often represent our values and the conflict may be more about the conflict in values. Money can also represent power in a relationship and the conflict may be more about who has more power or influence in the relationship or a partner not feeling as if they have as much power or influence.
Compromise is an important skill in successful relationships and can help both partners to feel that they have a voice and influence in the relationship. Whether the issue is deciding whether to invest more money into the wedding, honeymoon or a home, or some other financial conflict, it may be necessary to discuss what money represents for each partner in the scenario. Below is a helpful exercise to help couples broach a conflict discussion and reach a compromise:
First, each partner should ask themselves the following questions: What is my core value/dream/need? Where can I be flexible and where can’t I be flexible on this issue?
Once you and your partner answer the above questions, ask each other the following questions: Why is your inflexible area is so important to you? What are your guiding feelings? Help me to understand your flexible areas. What do we agree about? What are our common goals? How might these goals be accomplished? How can we reach a compromise? How can I help to meet your core needs?
Being able to be open to each other’s influence, which means being able to find a part of your partner’s position that you can agree with, can be difficult especially when you are stressed or frustrated. But though you may not fully agree, when you and your partner both feel heard, understood and honored, the relationship ultimately wins!
Conflict 3. One partner is way more involved in the wedding planning
It can be frustrating when you feel your partner is not at all interested in participating in the wedding planning process. You may even feel that this means you care more about your relationship.
To avoid this frustration, it’s important to discuss your roles and expectations of each other for planning the wedding upfront. You may also have to acknowledge and accept that you and your partner are different. Your partner may not be emotionally invested in the choice of flowers but this does not necessarily mean that they do not care about your relationship or future together. Giving them tasks where their interests lie may help them to engage a bit more in the process.
Also, consider if you are taking too much on your plate. Determine if you have unrealistic expectations for yourself and what you can handle. You may also have an unrealistic expectation of your partner to read your mind and always know when you are frustrated and need help. In this case, it will be important to actually communicate with your partner (out loud) when you need help and how they can support you. If it is in your budget to hire help, do so. It may not be within your budget to hire a full-on wedding planner to take on everything but you may be able to afford to hire one as a consultant. Doing so may relieve a lot of tension between yourselves.
Lack of empathy for each other’s stress can often cause conflict and resentment. Though your partner may not experience or show their stress the same way you do, it does not mean that they are not experiencing their own stress. Find opportunities throughout this time to support one another. See below for a great exercise to help couples support one another with just a conversation. Each partner will take a turn as the speaking partner for about 15 minutes:
Directions for speaking partner: Talk about your stress with as much detail and depth as possible. Also, include one good thing that happened that day for you and maybe one thing you are looking forward to in the upcoming days, but spend the most time talking about what was stressful for you.
As the listening partner, you will: Show interest and let your partner know their emotions make sense to you. Let your partner know that you empathize with their position. Be sure to not side with others if your partner is describing a conflict but let your partner know you have their back. It is especially important not to attempt to solve the problem or give advice until your partner feels fully understood and only if they ask for advice.
On a final note: Don’t find yourself so task-oriented around planning the wedding that you are not able to enjoy the journey of fulfilling a dream with your partner. If you find yourself getting so caught up in the day-to-day stresses and decisions of planning your wedding, you may need to take a step back and find some perspective. This is just the beginning of your life together with the partner of your dreams, savor every moment!
Our Guest Blogger:
Licensed Professional Counselor, LPC, NCC
Is your relationship struggling due to wedding planning woes? Looking for more ways to improve your overall relationship? Robin Shannon is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Nationally Certified Counselor that specializes in helping individuals and couples build healthier relationships. She is currently seeing clients at a private practice, Sprout Family Clinics in downtown Chicago’s South Loop area. For more information visit: http://www.sproutfamilyclinics.com/