Elizbeth Doherty Thomas from TheFirstDance.com offers up some advice on handling conflicts that arise during wedding planning.
Don't forget to block for your bride (in life & in wedding day pick-up football)
There is a huge stressor out there in wedding land. The stressor continues well into marriages, may peak with new children, and for some, never goes away until someone dies.
The stress? In-laws.
When you’re just dating, life may be great. Your parents like her. She likes them. That’s about as far as it goes.
Then the engagement ring comes and all hell breaks loose. Your parents start becoming “difficult”. Your bride starts going crazy. You just want peace and harmony! Never in your wildest dreams did you think you’d be getting yelled at from everyone you love. At the same time.
So what’s a guy to do when he is being pulled by his two biggest loyalties – the people who raised him and the woman he’s marrying?
Our solution, from a marriage and family counseling perspective, is to follow our principle: When there is conflict, blood talks to blood. (A groom we worked with repeated this principle as the notion that he’s got to block and tackle for his bride.)
When there is conflict between your bride and your parents, there is no way to win. Your bride doesn’t have the history with your parents. She doesn’t have the loyalty and the ability to weather the storms the way you do as their son. Not only that, but your parents aren’t going to listen and trust someone the way they’re going to listen and trust their own son. Even if your bride gets into conflict with them, your parents will simply return to harassing you and demanding you listen to them.
So how do you actually implement this principle? It’s both easy and hard.
The easy part is you are going to tell your bride, starting NOW, she is off the hook for anything conflict-prone with your parents. Forever. (One bride we worked with had the biggest sigh of relief, knowing that she was no longer ever in charge of dealing with her difficult father-in-law. The groom was happy for her relief and ready to take full charge knowing that it was fully his responsibility from now on.)
The hard part is getting your parents to stop going to your bride for conflict-filled wedding related items, especially if they’re of a more traditional mindset. It can also be hard if they start talking nice on the phone and then lead into a heated argument and your bride is left trying to avoid the entire situation. Your bride will need some coaching from you on how to avoid or end conflicted situations with your parents. You know them best. It may be as simple as your bride telling your parents, “this sounds like a Josh thing, so I’m going to end the conversation now and have him call you when he gets home.” In the case of an email from your parents to her, she just forwards it on to you!
The other hard part is if you really don’t care but both sides REALLY do. What we like to say is if your bride is complaining about your parents, and you don’t stick up for her, then her complaint isn’t about them at all. It’s about YOU! So now is the time to pony up and hash out whatever is driving her crazy, so you can resolve the situation. Sometimes you may end up agreeing to go with her view point and then telling your parents. Sometimes it may be you really disagree with her, you two work through your fight, and then you tell your parents that you both have chosen to follow their advice. Either way, she is no longer going to be vilified as the evil woman in your life because you are going to pony up, blocking the anger against your bride.
But no matter what you do, always remember you are a united front with your bride. And the same rules apply to HER! If her parents are difficult, she has to deal with them in conflicted situations.
Wedding Stress Coaching at TheFirstDance.com
Elizabeth Doherty Thomas and Dr. Bill Doherty are a father-daughter team whose mission is to strengthen marriages through wedding planning. Their nationally-award winning advice can be found on www.TheFirstDance.com. They have been featured in a variety of magazines and newspapers across the country. Their book and classes are used by marriage preparation programs around the country. Dr. Doherty, as a national marriage expert, has been on Oprah, 20/20, all national morning news shows, and can usually be found somewhere in print or on the radio speaking about marriages and families. His website is www.DrBillDoherty.org