Ask Dr. V, Wedding Woes

Venus Nicolino holds a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology. Her column addresses Love, Life and Relationships. This week: wedding woes.

Dear Dr. V,

I’m getting married in three months and feel as though my husband to be may not be the person I thought he was. Mainly, the issues revolve around my in-laws wanting things to be a certain way for the wedding.

His mother and I have disagreed several times on stupid little details of the wedding, e.g., gold napkin rings or blue napkin rings? We seem to be having extreme disagreements on the seating chart. I have to say, dealing with his parents have been a nightmare and I feel he could be fielding some of the chaos but he’s hesitant to get involved.

Honestly, I feel like his parents are picking on me and he’s allowing them to do so. I can’t help but parallel his lack of support to fatherhood. Would he allow people to pick on his future children? If he can’t protect me or himself from his own parents, then who can he protect?

I’m just starting to wonder about the future with his parents. Maybe you can help me sift through these emotions … this is supposed to be a happy time and yet I feel anxious and overwhelmed. Shouldn’t we be a team?

Carry from Chicago

Dear Carrie,

You are not alone! I realize it does not diminish the importance of your question, but you should know that what you now face is one of the most common obstacles faced by couples entering into marriage. The dynamics of two families — yours and your fianc‚’s — are about to change dramatically. Emotions must be running high for everyone. It is easy and only normal to blanket behavior from one scenario to another (the way one behaves with their parents and how they’ll actually parent) but weddings can bring out so much as each person shifts to find their role within the new family dynamic that we can find ourselves upset by minor things when our precious and finite energy needs to be focused on what is truly important: making this special day joyous rather than stressful.

My goal, of course, to empower you to handle this situation in the most enlightened, empathetic way possible; but I think it could behoove us to step back first for an objective view of the situation.

The day of your wedding is indeed a special and unique day for you, but not only you. Of course for your husband, but also for both sets of parents. Parents simultaneously dream and dread the day their offspring will take a mate. Of course, they are happy to see their child happy, yet at the same time, this moment is the final releasing of their baby into the great wide world. The situation can be especially tricky for men and their mothers. Consider this: Most men, for a good portion of the first part of their lives, endeavor to please their mother in one form or another. With his marriage to you, your fiance is moving into a space where pleasing you should become his number one priority, even if doing so might displease or even upset his mother. This can be a difficult transition for many men, as some of their deepest, oldest emotions are in a state of flux, even turmoil.

I would suggest that you remain patient with your future husband. Bearing in mind that he may be feeling torn between you and his mother (on top of whatever other normal wedding anxiety he may have), I would gently broach the topic with him, being sure to communicate how you feel and allowing him the space to express himself as well. Being married, among other things, means working together as a team. Your husband may need your help now, so that he can, in turn, help you. You are equals, meaning he should of course protect and support you, but you must also be ready to do the same in turn for him.

As for your soon-to-be Mother-in-Law, I completely understand your frustrations with what must feel like intrusions in your sovereign territory; namely what your wedding will be like. I imagine this in turn might make you feel insecure or threatened, perhaps even deserted if you perceive your husband not to be on your side. Know that all you are feeling comes from within, and therefore it is within your power to affect change. If you are starting to think of your situation in terms of sides and right and wrong, try to let go of it. Everybody really wants the same thing, for the wedding to be the most beautiful and wonderful event possible. What’s needed is for everyone to be able to communicate, work together and agree on a plan. I see this as a great opportunity not just for self-empowerment by standing up for yourself and defining what the boundaries of your relationship with your new family will be, but also as a chance to show your fiance’s mother what a sensitive, strong and intelligent woman her son is marrying.

It may be that your future mom-in-law is sublimating her feeling of powerlessness over the “loss” of her son into an attempt at taking control of the wedding. Of course you do not want to have your wedding dictated by someone else, but perhaps there is room for diplomacy. Imagine your two families as two kingdoms that are joining together, the treaty of union being your marriage. Can you find room for compromise in the planning? It might be good to make a list of the points that you two are in disagreement over. If you can prioritize those that matter most from those that you are not as invested in, it could give you a starting point for a discussion with Mom. At the same time, I wouldn’t approach the conversation as a business negotiation. Really take the time to talk to her, ask her how she’s feeling about the wedding, and let her know how you’ve been feeling. Allow the conversation to flow organically from this point. In this way, you will both be approaching the issues from a place of mutual empathy, understanding and hopefully love, rather than anger. I believe this will yield much more satisfactory results for everyone as opposed to trying to stiff arm your way through your wedding; and who wants to be angry and stressed out on their wedding day anyway?

As I’ve said to other people who’ve written in, don’t put the pressure on yourself to resolve everything in one conversation. Speak from the heart, trust in the process of the Universe and all will resolve in the best way possible (of course a little prayer before, during and after never hurt either).

With Empathy,

Dr. V

Note: All information in the Ask Dr. V column is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnosis and treatment, please feel free to email Dr. V, or consult your doctor.

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