As spring approaches, as does wedding season. Wedding planning can be one of the most challenging and stressful things that a pre-marital couple experiences. Dr. Julie Peterson, a certified PREPARE/ENRICH facilitator and Licensed Clinical Psychologist at Edgewood Clinical Services, understands how differing views and opinions are inevitable when wedding planning just as they are in marriages. Dr. Peterson advises PREPARE/ENRICH’s five helpful strategies when approaching wedding plans to manage stress:
1. Consider the big picture. Some couples differ greatly in their dream weddings. Some wish to have a destination wedding while others may prefer a traditional church wedding. Being able to look at the big picture around the couples’ needs, such as guest list or finances, can help determine ways to resolve differences.
2. Ask yourself who cares more. At times, one partner may have stronger feelings around an issue than the other. In times such as this, it is recommended to consider which partner cares the most about a specific concern and to find ways to give more to that person.
3. Assess your wedding planning stress and delegate. One partner may become upset when their partner does not follow through on a task. Rather than becoming defensive or critical, it is recommended to politely offer to take on a task. When this responsibility is shifted, the partner who is relieved of one responsibility should then offer to help with another task. This can assist with relieving one partner from feeling overwhelmed and avoid taking on too much.
4. Teach and learn from one another. Couples often assume their partner “gets it” in terms of stress and planning. Rather than leaving one’s partner to guess what should be involved in the wedding, both partners should educate each other about their families and traditions. This is especially true in cases where there are couples from different cultural or religious backgrounds.
5. Consider whether deeper issues are underlying your conflict. Sometimes conflict during wedding planning may be stemming from deeper feelings of hurt, anxiety, envy or competition. For example, a partner may feel envious towards his/her partner for having a bigger family or circle of friends. In other cases, conflict may not be between the couple but rather between one partner and his/her family members.
When there appears to be larger areas of conflict, Dr. Peterson recommends that pre-marital couples attend pre-marital counseling to strengthen their relationship as it approaches the next stage. PREPARE/ENRICH is a pre-martial divorce-prevention program that focuses on aiding couples in navigating challenging discussions early and to learn effective strategies meant to build a healthy marriage. Common tools of focused are effective communication, conflict resolution, and future relationship goals.