You’ve survived the wedding planning process, and your day went off without a hitch. Or did it? Many couples experience conflict with family members during wedding planning. If that conflict remains unresolved, it can have a lifelong impact on you, your partner, and your family.
Let’s explore how those conflicts can manifest in the future and what you can do to manage them. But first, a look at what conflicts may have come up while planning the wedding.
Common Family Conflicts During Wedding Planning
Your wedding should ideally be a happy time: cakes, pictures, dancing, and merrymaking. But family disputes may turn the wedding planning process into a nightmare and can be detrimental to your mental health.
There are six common reasons behind family conflicts during wedding planning: misaligned expectations, finances, divorced parents, the guest list, stressed out “Bridezillas”, and the nuances of second marriages. Understanding the possible causes of conflict can equip you to better identify and manage them before an issue arises.
But, what happens if conflict does occur? And if things go unresolved, what does that mean for your happily ever after?
What may cause family conflict to continue after you tie-the-knot?
Despite your best efforts, avoiding or resolving family conflict throughout the wedding planning process may not be a success. A conflict can remain unresolved for a number of reasons, like mismanaged expectations, inappropriate or explosive behavior during the wedding, and the failure to apologize – a lack of apology can make it almost impossible to have a relationship with concern the actions will be repeated. One primary reason conflict may continue after you say “I do” includes being treated unkindly by an in-law.
While most of us dream that our new in-laws will absolutely adore us, it’s simply not always the case. In fact, it’s when an in-law goes out of their way to be unkind or unwelcoming towards their new daughter or son-in-law – usually manifesting as a full-on wedding hijacking – that seemingly irreparable damage may occur.
When an in-law treats a major milestone like your wedding day as their own it can destroy the experience for the bride or groom. The disregard for honoring it as the couple’s wedding day, if never accompanied by an apology, sets the stage for a poor relationship. This impacts the entire family unit and any future grandchildren for years to come.
Take Sara’s story for example.
Sara’s future in-laws were newly religious and as outsiders in a new, highly religious community, were concerned about being accepted. With a long history of conflict with others, things became ugly when their son moved 450 miles away to marry Sara.
Behaving as if their son’s wedding was their own, despite it being paid for by Sara’s parents. They argued with the caterer and demanded changes on the menu because the bride’s selections didn’t meet their expectations.
They invited their own guests without disclosing the quantity and names to the bride and groom, created their own place cards, and sent the groom’s aunt down the aisle as a bridesmaid dressed in black. Sara’s in-laws brought members of their own clergy to perform the ceremony as a day-of surprise without consent and even shut down the band during the reception.
The bride broke into tears while her in-laws insisted on performing religious rituals during the reception, leaving her to feel so paralyzed by the stress she never found her voice and allowed a total wedding take over.
The act by the groom’s parents almost broke Sara’s marriage.
Impacts Such Conflicts May Have on Your Life After the Wedding
When conflict occurs surrounding a major event like a wedding, the impact can affect the entire family unit for years to come. How that conflict affects you specifically, can look different. Here are a few ways that unresolved disputes may manifest over time:
Conflicts Between You And Your Spouse
Navigating the strained relationship they are experiencing with their family member, like an in-law, and what that new dynamic looks like between the family member and their spouse or children can be difficult. Sometimes one spouse is left to have a relationship with their parents independent of their partner.
And when children (grandchildren) are involved, they may become aware that their grandparents mistreated their parent(s), passing the burden of conflict on. Family visits or occasions may welcome additional tension between the dueling parties, or even mean that a parent or grandparent is not present or excluded.
These qualms can be toxic to your mental health, and may even go on to impact your own relationship with your children.
Staying Away From the Toxic Relative Even After Your Wedding
The importance of mental health is that it gives you peace of mind. And so, to stay sane and avoid further friction with a family member or in law you may create a significant amount of geographical distance. Creating a boundary may sometimes be the best solution if the person causing the conflict is unwilling to acknowledge there is a problem and fix it.
This may damage the relationship even further, and there may be nothing you can do about it except work on acceptance. Acceptance does not mean you are ok with something, rather it means that you have accepted that you are no longer able to change or influence the situation. Acceptance can be powerful, and can help you to free up emotional space to focus on other things.
Your Kids May Never Meet Your Family or Your Spouse’s
Another significant impact is that your kids may never know one side of their family because of such conflicts. They may never meet their grandparents, aunties, cousins, and uncles. For these reasons, you may be unable to offer your kids the childhood you once had to attend fun family get-togethers. If your kids do have a relationship with a family member that one of their parents does not speak to, the absence of one of their parents during these visits may raise questions for children as they get older and become more aware.
If your children are old enough to understand, tell them the truth. In Sara’s case, one of her children stated that “Mommy does not visit grandma and grandpa in Florida with us because she is too busy working.” It was at that moment that Sara knew it was time to tell her child the truth in an age appropriate way. While her children should not be privy to all information regarding the discord, Sara did not want her young son to believe that work was more important to her than spending time with him.
Your Partner May Never Get to Build Healthy Relationships With the In-Laws
Because of family conflict, your partner may never get to know your family. And since you are determined to keep your spouse safe from the backlash they may receive, you keep them away.
How to Resolve Family Conflicts After The Wedding
It may seem impossible to put a fractured family back together and you may be so hurt that deciding how to proceed post wedding may take some time to consider. Before looking to resolve a conflict, first realize that the person or persons who hurt you, may not even be aware there is an issue. If you feel deeply hurt about something, give the person who hurt you an opportunity to understand as they may have unintentionally hurt.
In any case, an apology can be extremely powerful in conflict resolution. An apology is an acknowledgement that the person who hurt you understands how their actions impacted you. This acknowledgment can help the impacted person to move forward in the relationship that has been damaged. It signifies that if they could go back to do things differently, they would, helping the hurt person feel a measure of safety that these behaviors would not continue moving forward.
Sometimes an apology, or lack thereof, can help you reach a point of acceptance where you are able to move forward. In Sara’s story it took Sara two years and the help of a skilled family therapist to write a letter sharing all of her feelings about how she was mistreated. While she was hoping to finally receive an apology and an acknowledgement of wrong doing so she could move forward with a relationship with her in-laws, she was only met with more anger and hostility. Although Sara did not receive the response she wanted preventing her from ever having the close relationship with her in-laws she always dreamed of, this response did help her accept this reality and move forward in navigating boundaries.
If you continue to struggle you may benefit from the assistance of a licensed therapist to help you navigate the future and find a way to move forward. If family or couples therapy is a consideration, being open to listening might be one of the things you can do to defuse the situation. It would help if you also accepted the possibility that you may share some of the blame.
Attending couples therapy with your partner can help the two of you work together with an individual who is not emotionally charged in regards to the situation. This can guide you through navigating what the relationship with parents or in-laws will look like moving forward. By working together to create boundaries you can establish yourselves as a primary family unit and make decisions that minimize discomfort for both you and your partner.
Do not give up until you reach that point where there is no turning back. Get there with our assistance. Contact me at Balderman Wellness or schedule a private counseling appointment if you want to end the conflict.