It’s no surprise that planning a wedding takes a lot of work, which usually translates into a sizeable amount of stress. In addition to the financial and time commitment, family dynamics can also play a role. Big life events and milestones, like getting married, can bring out strong personalities, unexpected conflicts, and unresolved issues. And while bringing two families together is special in so many ways, it can also create more opportunities for clashes and stress.
Balancing the emotions, reactions, and expectations of the people closest to you can chip away at your patience and take away from your enjoyment of the planning process. At some point, you might decide that you need to talk to your partner about family-related wedding planning stress, either as a warning, an explanation as to why you’ve been a little on edge, or a way to get support and problem-solve. That said, it’s not always clear how you should broach the subject.
Here are a few tips for approaching your partner about family-related stress or problems when wedding planning:
How to bring it up:
Be specific without going overboard
When sharing something difficult, we sometimes tend to skim over important details or speak in vague terms. While this might feel more comfortable in the moment, it can leave your partner feeling confused about what’s really going on. As much as possible, it helps to paint a realistic picture of the problem or issue you’ve been dealing with, whether it’s managing conflict between divorced parents or feeling like your in-laws are overly involved. Focus on your own feelings and reactions and give a few key examples that explain why you’re feeling stressed, upset, or overwhelmed.
That said, it’s best to avoid going overboard and sharing every single situation or conflict that has happened. That’s not to say you shouldn’t be able to share your feelings or experiences with your partner. It’s just that sharing everything all at once can make both of you feel overwhelmed and unsure of how to move forward. And if the issue relates to your partner’s family, it can leave them feeling caught in the middle or defensive. Gradually opening up can make family-related stress feel more manageable and lead to productive conversations in which you really feel heard and your partner feels like they are in a better position to support you.
Stick to the facts
I’ve written about this before, but when we’re concerned about a potentially stressful situation, we sometimes tend to magnify (i.e., exaggerate) the extent of the real or anticipated problem in the hopes that it will make the real issue seem more manageable. The trouble is this can make both of you on edge and you might be on the lookout for conversations or conflicts that you might not have noticed otherwise. On the other hand, minimizing or downplaying the problem you’re facing can leave both of you feeling surprised and unprepared if or when things do come up.
Share the “what” and the “why”
Spend some time thinking about your reasons for opening up to your partner. This can affect what you decide to share, how you choose to say it, and the reaction you get in return. It also helps to be clear with your partner about your reasons for having the discussion. Let them know why you’re sharing and what you hope to get from them. Do you just want to update them about a difficult situation ? Are you looking for emotional support or words of encouragement? Or do you want them to help you problem-solve or intervene in some way? Being clear with yourself and your partner about how they can support you, both now and going forward, will help you avoid miscommunications or conflicts and make sure that someone else’s stress doesn’t cause problems between the two of you.
When to bring it up:
As much as it might feel like there is, there’s no perfect time to have a difficult conversation. And waiting for the moment or opportunity that feels “just right” can make you increasingly anxious and leave your partner confused about what’s going on. Although the decision about what and when to bring it up is a personal one, here are a few signs you might benefit from sharing the family issue you’ve been dealing with:
It’s taking a toll on your well-being
Keeping difficult situations and feelings bottled up can take a toll on your emotional and physical health. If you’re constantly thinking or worrying about the family situation or feeling more anxious, upset, or angry than usual, it might be worth opening up. Even if your partner can’t actually do anything to “fix” the problem, talking about it can still help you feel less overwhelmed and bothered by it.
It’s interfering in your relationship
It’s an unfortunate truth that we often take our stress out on the people closest to us. That’s why, it’s not uncommon for family-related stress to cause problems between couples. If you’re bickering more often or feeling extra irritable, it’s probably worth disclosing what’s really bothering you. Sharing can be a way of using the difficult family situation to bring you closer together instead of driving you apart.
A decision needs to be made
If the problem or stress relates to an upcoming decision that needs to be made, like whether a particular relative should be invited or who will be contributing financially, it’s often worth going into more detail. The problem or situation likely affects both of you. And working through these kinds of issues together can help you come up with solutions that you might not have thought of on your own.
What to do if they get sensitive:
Try as we might, we can’t always predict and we definitely can’t control the reactions of the people around us. That’s why it helps to be prepared for the fact that your partner might not respond in the way you hoped they would. They might react in a way that makes you feels like they just don’t “get it” or are minimizing how difficult the situation really is for you. Or they might become defensive if they feel like you’re blaming or attacking their family. It’ also possible that they’ll spring into action mode or try to mediate, when really all you wanted was a listening ear.
Highlighting that you’re bringing it up because you want to work through the issue together, reiterating the kind of support you’re looking for, and validating their right to have a different perspective can help you work through the issue together.
The goal of talking about family-related stress or problems should not be about getting the response you want (although it’s always nice when it happens). Instead, see it as an opportunity to get something heavy off your chest, come up with a solution that works best for everyone involved, and, ultimately, bring you closer together.