Total Therapy Blog
Matrimonial – Keeping Your Sanity
Spring is in the air, and wedding season is gearing up for many soon-to-be wed couples. Getting married is a momentous, happy occasion, but it can also equal a lot of stress. The next few articles, we’ll help you navigate the rollercoaster that is wedding planning. We’ll cover everything from staying fit and healthy, to maintaining your mental sanity, so you can enjoy the process and more importantly, your wedding day. This week, we invited our Clinical Counsellor, Amrit Crowther MA RCC, to talk about “soon-to-be-wed-stress” and how we can keep our sanity.
Getting married can be one of the most exciting events in one’s life. That being said, it is also one of the highest rated ‘Life stress events’. Holmes and Rahe’s Life Stress Inventory rates ‘getting married’ as being more stressful than getting fired. It is the 7th most stressful event out of the 47 listed on the scale. Where there is stress, there is often conflict (or vice versa – where there is conflict, there will be stress). Planning a wedding requires endless decisions, schedules, deadlines, input from friends and families, and financial strain, all mixed in with the soon-to-be-weds’ own relationship. So how does one deal with conflict during this joyous but stressful time? Each situation is different and unique, but here are some general guide lines:
As soon-to-be-weds, take time to sit down and answer some of these important questions. Try writing them down beforehand to avoid forgetting your ideas or questions. This will also help you communicate your ideas and thoughts, rather than get caught up in those of your partner’s:
1. What is your vision of the wedding? E.g. location, number of guests, cost, decorations etc? What are your “must-haves” and what can you be flexible about?
2. How big an influence are outside parties going to play? (E.g. is either mother expecting to play a big part in the planning portion of the event?) How does each partner feel about this?
3. What things are you looking forward to or dreading? (E.g. I want to pick out the dress but hate designing invitations or having my mother in the same place as my step mother). How would you like your partner to support you?
4. Who will make the decisions? Are both parties okay with this?
5. How do both parties behave around their own families/families in law? Many people feel they are pretty good at saying how they feel and what they want in the regular world, but then freeze up in front of certain people, and lose the ability to answer truthfully or at all. Talk about this – if your partner freezes up in front of certain people, be understanding and ask how you can help him/her communicate what they want.
6. How will you deal with it when either one changes their position/opinion on any of the above questions/answers? Keep in mind, people’s opinion can change as time progresses – how will you and your partner address this when it comes up?
Inevitably, some conflict (big or small) will come up. What should you do? Firstly, it’s important to understand how our bodies react to stress. Built in to our bodies is a fight/flight/freeze response. This is a primal instinct left over from times when humanity’s main worries were physical threats to safety (e.g. being chased by a tiger). Unfortunately, this response lumps “being chase by a bear” into the same category as “feeling misunderstood by my partner”. As a result, we may say things we later regret (fight), withdraw (flight), or not say anything (freeze). When this response kicks in, the part of our brain associated with higher thinking shuts down, leaving us unable to reason. We become focused on one thing: ending or getting away from the perceived threat. If you’re discussing a topic and things get heated, take a break. Leave the hot topic to the side for a while to give the brain time to settle down.
When you are calm and want to revisit the topic, it is important to communicate to your partner your thoughts, feelings, memories and body sensations/reactions to what happened. E.g. Bride ” When you suggested I was making a big deal about your mother coming along to help me pick out the dress when I didn’t her want to, I instantly felt my stomach clench into knots and felt angry and hurt. I thought that you didn’t understand me and that you didn’t care. It reminded me of the time you … or reminded me of how my mom or dad never listened to me when … “. It’s important to also add at the end what you want your partner say or do instead. For example “When I tell you how I feel about something, please don’t negate me or tell me I shouldn’t feel the way I do. I need you to try your best to understand me, support me, and find a solution that works for both of us.” Make sure that both parties get a turn.
Things to keep in mind:
-Check in often with each other about how you’re both doing. Don’t assume
-Keep each other informed.
-Focus on what you do like/appreciate about your partner or what they are doing. Try to avoid outright criticism
-take time to see their vision/view, and then describe yours.
-Remember – the end goal is to create a lasting, loving, and supportive partnership. It’s your wedding, so make it what you both want!
-If you have opinions about the other person’s family, best to keep them to yourself unless they directly impact you.
-Have fun and do all your usual things to keep stress in check (exercise, eat right, get sleep, spend time with loved ones, etc.)
-It’s never too early to get help! By identifying weaknesses in your relationship early, you can work on them before they become bad habits. Just like you take time to take care of your body, take time to take care of your mind and relationship.
Overall, wedding planning can be a great opportunity for personal growth. By working together, you’ll build a stronger relationship through learning how to communicate your feelings and thoughts effectively. In the process, you can achieve in practice what your wedding day will symbolize: the coming together of two people, in love and harmony.