Managing Pre-Wedding Jitters

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My fiancé, Noel, and I recently went to the mall to register for wedding gifts. I set my Panic Attacks, and anxiety disorders are real and treatable. If you suspect that you or a loved on has the disorder, it is best to consult with an anxiety specialist or a mental health professional.

Working as a Team

Outside of anxiety disorders, Susan Heitler, PhD, a clinical bully their partner, while others may cave in and feel resentful. Patterns such as these can lead to fights and can trigger anxious feelings before the wedding day.

To make matters worse, the high stress involved in wedding planning can make people slip into their worst habits. Instead of working as a team, one or both parties may become demanding. Instead of listening, people can become defensive.

To ease high-pressure times and decision making, Heitler recommends learning effective collaboration skills. She explains the necessary communication skills in her book, The Power of Two: Secrets to a Strong and Loving Marriage. They include:

  • Focus on what you would like instead of what you don’t like. The words “don’t like” invite defensiveness, whereas the words “would like” invite cooperation. For example, instead of saying “I don’t want your family staying at our house during the wedding weekend,” you could say “I would like it if all out-of-town friends, including your family, would stay at a hotel for the wedding weekend.”
  • Use I instead of You. This invites a less defensive response from your partner. For instance, instead of saying “You left a mess in the kitchen,” say “I was distraught when I came home and saw the mess in the kitchen.”
  • Change your shoulds to coulds. The word “should” tends to bring pressure to both parties, while the word “could” promotes more constructive dialogue. In the examples, “We should invite all of our friends,” and “We could invite all of our friends,” the latter sentence encourages more of a two-way discussion.
  • Listen to learn instead of listening dismissively. Whatever your partner says, take note of what makes sense in what he or she is saying. If you say “Yes, but…” you are listening for what’s wrong in what they are saying. If what they say does not make sense, ask for more information until what they are saying makes sense to you.
  • To find out more information from your partner, start out questions with How or What instead of Do you, Have you, or Are you. The words “how” or “what” tend to invite more dialogue, whereas the words “do you”, “have you” or “are you” tend to elicit “yes” or “no” responses.

These communication skills can promote good flow of information, which is the stuff of good marriages, says Heitler. “If you’re going to be a team, you need to understand each others’ concerns in a respectful way and learn to make decisions together,” she says. “Otherwise, one pulls left, one pulls right, or you crash into each other.”

Sorting Through Doubts

If you’re still not sure you want to go through the wedding, it’s best to talk to someone.

Kate Wachs, PhD, a Chicago psychologist and author of Relationships for Dummies, recommends talking to a trusted family member, preferably someone who is married. It helps if that person is not normally critical of you or your partner. Be sure that person is rational and isn’t the type to make situations worse.

You may also want to discuss premarital misgivings with a trusted friend, priest, minister, rabbi, or a therapist. Talking to your partner is another option, but do so with caution, says Wachs. Make sure your partner understands that your doubts do not necessarily mean you want to call off the wedding.

If canceling or postponing nuptials is in your mind, try to be as honest as possible with your partner. “Many times, if it’s meant to be, (the wedding) will go forward anyway but a little bit farther down the line. If the other person can’t tolerate that, then maybe it’s not meant to be,” says Carol Kleinman, MD, clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the George Washington University Medical School in Washington.

Meant to Be

Fortunately for Noel and me, calling off the wedding did not become a real option. We were able to talk about our disagreement with the registry. I found out he was tired of what he saw as my complaints – our old blender wasn’t good enough, our old food processor wasn’t good enough, and the plates weren’t good enough. He wondered why I wasn’t happy with our stuff. He wondered what he was doing wrong that I was so unhappy with our life together.

I, of course, explained that my wanting certain things for the registry did not mean I did not like our stuff or that I was unhappy with our life together. I saw the registry as an opportunity to get nice things.

Since we discovered each other’s viewpoints, we were able to understand why we acted the way we did during our shopping trip. The understanding eased the frustration and confusion. We were able to save our relationship, and in the process, felt stronger as a couple.