This article was origninally published in DIVA Magazine in November 2019.
‘He just doesn’t listen’. My wife and I were sat in the living room of one of my wife’s friends, listening to her talking about her upcoming wedding. Her dad had recently turned up to one of her other friend’s wedding unannounced because he wanted to see his daughter in her bridesmaid's dress.
‘I told him not to come and he did anyway and now he’s convinced that we are going to do our own choreographed dad/daughter dance even though I have told him it’s not happening every time he’s brought it up’.
It was a familiar feeling. When we planned our wedding there were moments when I also felt unheard. Never to the extreme of being forced to participate in a two-person flashmob but still. One moment that sticks with me is my wife and her parents all being adamant about the date our wedding should be on and I disagreed. Instead of leaving it to us, as a couple, to decide, I felt that it was three against one and therefore my motion had be lost. I was then accused of being rude when I left the table we were eating lunch at, which I still, to this day believe was the only thing I could have done that stopped me from flipping the homemade tomato soup in the air. It was no longer an argument about what day the wedding was on - it was feeling like the control of my own wedding was slipping through my fingers.
What’s even more maddening is that as a rational human with the benefit of perspective, arguments about weddings are usually over things that don’t really matter. For some unknown reason, they create these deep-seated opinion that go all the way to the core of your identity, when really you don’t know why you like round tables rather than long. What I learnt from the situation which unfolded between my wife and my in-laws is that working hard to communicate what exactly is upsetting you is very important.
It’s a delicate balance of sensitive and being direct. I will always start by saying how grateful I am for something the person has done, as the recognition of their good intentions helps to disperse tension. Then I state my feelings - specifically the behaviour that upset me and make it clear, it’s how I feel. You can argue with facts but you can’t argue with feelings. Then I ask them whether they can see why that would upset me. If they say no, it opens up a dialogue to ask more questions and questions only lead to absolute clarity. It might be frustrating and hard at times, but it uncrosses all the wires.
You have to pick your battles, but often if you’re not careful, your feelings can build up to the point where you’re screaming into a pillow and crying uncontrollably, wearing oven gloves while the smoke alarm going off (my wife also insisted I bake our wedding cake and I really wish I hadn’t). Difficult conversations usually turn out to be the ones worth having, so if you feel like you really need to put your foot down, I urge you to do it gently but firmly.