How to get a wed­ding she wants

The Washington Post Sunday - - MUSEUMS - Car­olyn Hax

Hello there! I am get­ting mar­ried this win­ter. My fi­ance and I want a small for­mal cer­e­mony. We found a small chapel that holds only 12.

My mother told every­one in my fam­ily and in­vited some­one I don’t even know to our wed­ding and then man­u­fac­tured a list of peo­ple I “have” to in­vite. I went home to my fi­ance and cried my eyes out.

He told me we could change our wed­ding to make Mom happy. I was so re­lieved he was will­ing to, but I also wish I could have the wed­ding I want. I vented to a friend about the change. She ran into my mom awhile later and com­pletely laid into her about how it’s my wed­ding and it should be the way I want it. I was un­aware of the con­ver­sa­tion un­til my mom called and screamed at me about how she won’t be com­ing to my wed­ding.

I was crushed! My fi­ance came up with a plan. We would have “our” wed­ding ear­lier in the day with friends who sup­port us and have “their” wed­ding af­ter­ward. I liked the thought. My mom de­cided to come and ev­ery­thing was fine.

Un­til my sis­ter de­cided to send me a book on man­ners. She had the (dis) cour­tesy to write com­ments in the mar­gins (“dad in a tuxedo what are you think­ing?” “Mar­ried in win­ter? Put it off un­til spring!”). She even in­formed my fam­ily that the wed­ding is be­grudg­ing and I am only put­ting it on for show.

I’ve had it. I’m so up­set. If it is all com­ing out of our own pock­ets, why can’t we have the wed­ding we want?

— Frus­trated Bride­Not­to­Be Frus­trated Bride-Not-to-Be: I don’t know — why can’t you?

Your fam­ily wants what it wants and goes full ban­shee to get it, but that’s not a rea­son you “can’t” be in con­trol; it’s the rea­son you’ve cho­sen to cede con­trol to them. Two very dif­fer­ent things.

You’ve asked about a wed­ding, but please know this is about ev­ery­thing.

That’s be­cause it’s about your fam­ily’s poor grasp of bound­aries: One mem­ber’s busi­ness is treated as ev­ery­body’s. Your mom in­vites peo­ple to your wed­ding, your sis­ter anoints her­self your pro­to­col chief, even your friend takes up your bat­tle with your own mother.

Your friend isn’t fam­ily, of course, but you chose her, and so it’s not a stretch to con­nect some dots: Your fam­ily trained you in no-bound­ary in­ter­ac­tion; we seek friends who seem fa­mil­iar emo­tion­ally; your friend is not good with bound­aries.

Even your fi­ance, who sounds lovely, is about ac­com­mo­da­tion vs. hold­ing the line.

So I think it’s fair to call your wed­ding a bru­tal 5 a.m. alarm telling you to work on your un­der­stand­ing of bound­aries.

Think of them as the lines be­tween your busi­ness and some­body else’s. “Lifeskills for Adult Chil­dren” (Woititz and Garner) is great on the ba­sics and so perfect for an adult “be­gin­ner,” as in, one whose fam­ily makes no such dis­tinc­tions. Brene Brown also has a nice take here: bit.ly/ BBBound.

To en­force a bound­ary is to de­cline to al­low others to con­trol you, and to re­spect one is to choose not to at­tempt to con­trol others. For ex­am­ple: “Mom, I see how ex­cited you are for the wed­ding. You do not get to in­vite peo­ple, though, with­out asking me first. I’ll share my guest list when it’s ready, and I won’t add ex­tra peo­ple just be­cause you told them they could come.”

Bound­aries have con­se­quences; your mother will ac­cuse you of be­ing rude and mak­ing her look bad when you do this, and peo­ple who thought they’d be in­cluded won’t be.

But the long-term emo­tional ben­e­fits are well worth the short-term pain of defin­ing, own­ing and de­fend­ing the parts of your life that are yours alone to gov­ern.

If you and your fi­ance de­cide that pleas­ing your mom is a higher pri­or­ity than hav­ing the wed­ding you pre­fer, then so be it; there’s noth­ing wrong with hear­ing peo­ple out — or even chang­ing your mind. What mat­ters isn’t the ex­act na­ture of your de­ci­sions, but in­stead that you give your peace of mind the last word in mak­ing them. Cav­ing to others breeds re­sent­ment. Ex­am­ple: You. This. All of it.

You can as­sert your au­ton­omy and its lim­its in the way you an­nounce your de­ci­sions: “This is our wed­ding, as we pre­fer it. We real­ize not every­one is thrilled, but we also hope you’ll re­spect our wishes and share in our joy.”

Put it in your own words, of course, and then en­ter­tain no fur­ther com­plaints, pres­sures, fits, judgy lit­tle mar­gin notes (!!), gate-crash­ers or har­rumph­ing boy­cotters. Just be lov­ing and firm and con­sis­tent as you do (or I-do) your own thing.

When your re­solve buck­les, as it surely will un­der in­tense pres­sure from peo­ple ac­cus­tomed to get­ting their way, re­mem­ber: It’s your life. Full stop. Re­mem­ber this un­hap­pi­ness as what cav­ing will al­ways pro­duce.

Loved ones ei­ther ad­just and honor your in­tegrity or ac­cept a di­min­ish­ing role in your life.

Con­grat­u­la­tions to you both.

Write to Car­olyn Hax at tellme@wash­post.com. Get her column de­liv­ered to your in­box each morn­ing at wapo.st/hax­post.

Join the dis­cus­sion live at noon Fri­days at wash­ing­ton­post.com/ con­ver­sa­tions.

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