With Spring arriving, so does wedding season. Wedding planning can be one of the most challenging and stressful things a couple experiences early in their relationship. Before you finalize the napkin color and walk down the aisle, experts recommend taking the time to put your relationship in order so not only will you survive the first step toward wedded bliss – the planning of your wedding – but the lifelong journey as well.
Dr. Julie Saflarski, a certified PREPARE/ENRICH facilitator, understands how differing views and opinions are inevitable when planning a wedding. These discussions are but a precursor to what to expect in a marriage.
PREPARE/ENRICH, a pre-martial divorce-prevention program that focuses on aiding couples in navigating challenging discussions early and learning effective strategies meant to build a healthy marriage, offers five helpful strategies to manage stress when approaching wedding planning.
- Consider the big picture. Some couples differ greatly in what their dream wedding looks like. Some wish to have a destination wedding while others prefer a traditional church wedding. Being able to look at the big picture around both sets of needs, such as guest list or finances, can help determine ways to resolve differences.
- Ask yourself who cares more. At times, one partner may have stronger feelings around an issue than the other. For example, partners may disagree on the state they should wed if they both grew up in different locations. When disagreements like this occur, it is recommended to consider which partner cares the most about that concern and find ways to give more to that partner and give in other ways to the other partner.
- 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 while also incorporating the other partner.
- Teach and learn from one another. 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 their traditions. This is especially true in cases where there are couples from different cultural or religious backgrounds.
- Consider whether deeper issues are underlying your conflict. Sometimes conflict during wedding planning may stem 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. Saflarski recommends that engaged couples attend pre-marital counseling to strengthen their relationship as it approaches the next stage. The common tools of PREPARE/ENRICH are focused on effective communication, conflict resolution and preparation for future relationship goals.
These pre-wedding conversations can help a couple enter a marriage better connected and on the path to a lifelong relationship.
Julie Saflarski, PsyD, is a Clinical Postdoctoral Fellow with The Family Institute. She has expertise working with early relationship, pre-marital, and early marriage couples. She provides couples a unique opportunity for divorce-prevention, marriage enhancement, and to increase communication skills amongst developing or reconnecting relationships. Dr. Saflarski is an approved facilitator for the PREPARE/ENRICH program, a premarital divorce-prevention/marriage enhancement program, that assists with informing her approach.
The Family Institute offers affordable, effective mental health counseling for families, couples and individuals in Evanston, Chicago, Northbrook and Westchester. Learn more about our services on our website.