Jennifer
Savvy September 2021

Guidance on approach (long, sorry)

Jennifer, on July 31, 2021 at 12:14 AM Posted in Etiquette and Advice 0 14
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I’ve been struggling with planning since we hit 2021. I know (and constantly hear) wedding planning is stressful but since May the planning and excitement have gone out the window. I love planning events too; I’ve made binders that stay up to date so FH can see exactly what needs done and by when. But I’m at a loss. **please don’t judge or reply with comments about how I should feel, the boards aren’t for criticizing how someone has gotten to where they are today


When FH and I got engaged I told him I wanted a private/small ceremony, such as a destination (like a four hour trip away) wedding. He wanted the big event. His parents are divorced and it was a bad one at that but he has a fairly large family, some he hasn’t spoken to in over six months. I know the wedding is about us so we compromised about number to invite and both agreed to not invite anyone else after we sent out the invites.
His mother has started drama and attacked me for people not being invited. She literally caught me in a room and would not let me leave until she said what she wanted, which accused me of controlling FH and that my family may not be as close as FH family, taking money and more (no lie). All of which was completely unfounded and I can’t think of how she got to that conclusion. But anyways. She was fine until he came in the room and then she cried and he consoled her, not me. She makes remarks about me, including that I don’t have to take his last name (yet she kept his dad’s) and that we don’t have to have kids but will ask if we’re going to try to have them on the honeymoon. I’ve set boundaries with this behavior and been upfront with FH about it because it has really strained our relationship. His father and my parents on the other hand continue to state it’s about us and celebrating our love so it doesn’t matter what others want.
We’ve told people and put it on our website that we are having a child free event, it’s what we want to do other than those in the ceremony itself. Yet he’s allowing people to get there foot in the door about bringing kids (he hasn’t ever met) to the event. He literally just texted me tonight about a friend telling FH the “might” have to bring their kid. This on top of one that was supposed to be in the wedding and now it’s not fair to other family children who are very young.
What I’ve disclosed is just a tip of the iceberg. I constantly feel like the bad guy and don’t know how else to approach any of this with FH. I feel disrespected, plain and simple, but he acts like everything isn’t a big deal and procrastinates. I’ve even told him I feel like his mother or personal assistant at times. I’ve done 99.9% of the planning for an event he wanted, I’ve tried engaging him in the process but nothing and then he chimes in with his opinion as I’m submitting stuff to a vendor.
I’m getting married in about a month and have been open with FH about my feelings and what is stressing me out on top of a very mentally demanding job. I take breaks and try to distract myself, this works until I open up that binder. I’m not eating (I love sweets so no appetite is odd), sleep is disrupted, more moody and crying because I’m at a loss for words.
Before anyone mentions counseling, already there. I’m a social worker and a big proponent of being mentally healthy; I’m also getting some bump from the antidepressant and anxiety meds I’m on. I have set boundaries about tasks I’ve told him he is to complete (mother son slideshow) but if he doesn’t do it then I feel guilty.
How do you deal with stuff like this? How do you respond? I’m tired of crying, stressing and all the fatigue. I want to eat. I feel that my opinion goes in one of his ears and out the other.
TIA

14 Comments

Latest activity by Laura, on August 5, 2021 at 5:28 PM
  • Jacks
    Master September 2019
    Jacks ·
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    I'm really sorry to hear all of this. It's a lot to unpack, but it strikes me that you have a FH problem, not a FMIL problem. It should not be up to you to stand up to her about wedding-related issues, it should be your FH. He should also not allow you to be disrespected by his family.

    I do think this is the tip of the iceberg. Have you gone to couple's counselling? I did see you mentioned counselling, just checking.

    How old is your FH, because he sounds really young?

    I'd let go of trying to get him to do things. If there's no mother/son slideshow that's on him. If he wants some kids there, it's on him to deal with the catering or/ say no to the added people. Hand that back to him. "I have xx seats arranged. If you want to add people please contact the caterer and rearrange the table seating. Alternatively you can say no to the kids coming". "Your mother seems to want these people to come, please let her know that there won't be seats or food for these additional people".

    If his mother is paying, then some of the control is hers, to be sure. If not, then you can call those shots about the extra guests.

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  • Jennifer
    Savvy September 2021
    Jennifer ·
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    Thanks Jacks. I do like your approach, it’s another way of putting it on to him to make decisions and deal with his family. He’s 29 (I’m 33) and FH and FMIL have a different relationship, which I respect. He has Cystic Fibrosis so I get her protectiveness and his closeness to her (it’s not a weird or inappropriate closeness). He has specialist appointments and she’s always wanting to go; she went on the first one with us and it wasn’t my place to make the decision, it was also helpful for me since I was new to Cystic Fibrosis. Since that appointment he has told her I’ll go with him or he will go alone.


    I’ve mentioned the counseling to him, as did his pastor when we did our second session with him, we have another in two weeks to follow up a little more on the questionnaire we completed online. I planned on sharing stuff with his pastor (not all the little details), mainly that I have concerns about his family creating tension, that I don’t feel listened to and that I’m extremely overwhelmed. He’s acknowledged the stress I’m under and he should do more. He did talk to his father after FMIL cornered me (which I encouraged him to talk to someone who wasn’t present when it occurred) about handling the situation and he followed through on it. He called his mom and was consistent with telling her it was about us and he wanted her to be a part of our lives, but she needed to respect our boundaries and decisions in order to continue being involved. She hung up on him and didn’t speak to him for two weeks. I offered to be there and support him, I knew it was hard on him (I had tremendous guilt) and encouraged him to reach out and at least see if she would talk to him and to at least let him see he has tried and wants her to know he loves her. She answered his call and when he tried revisiting the matter she was the victim in it all. I’m not trying to change him by any means or cause more friction, plus it’s hard to stand up to a parent. She has a very strong personality and so do I, which he and his father also acknowledged.
    There are times I see he’s trying but when I feel he’s not it’s all the past frustration coming back and adding to current frustration. I have told him I will not be doing his slideshow, I know I will feel guilty about it and likely be blamed by his mother but he is an adult. my sister/Matron of Honor offered to do mine and have it coordinate with the song, which will be a surprise to me; I shared she offered to help him with his but she needed the pictures. She’s a teacher so it’s too late now, I’ve even encouraged him to ask his sister if she would help with it. I’m not reminding him of it going forward because that’s just more stress for me and haven’t since two weeks ago, I told him that was the last time.
    It’s funny that during counseling I was talking about techniques to use when dealing with difficult relationships/people and I’d already done them all since I knew about them due to my profession. I use techniques to manage my own response to difficult situations, with him I’ll tell him when I’m about to share how I feel and use “I feel ___ when you/they ___.” It keeps me from putting blame on him. I also reframe so he can see and share how he would feel in certain situations, such as when I asked him to put my dad as the one asking him if he planned on trying to conceive during the honeymoon. That one hit home.
    I’m not perfect and I know he’s not, we all have things to work on and what I’m trying to do is get it to where we work on things together. I have told him if he’s asked about more people coming, to respond by saying it’s a conversation I need to be a part of as well. (His mom pulled him aside and asked about more coming, I found this out a few days later.) I love the guy and intend to ask him to set aside time so we can talk and get everything out. He’s at bachelor weekend so I didn’t want to do it last night and ruin something that should be fun for him. My bachelorette is next weekend, but it will be done before that; I can’t let stuff simmer, it eats away at me and can cause resent.
    I appreciate your kind words and advice. Thank you again!
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  • Jacks
    Master September 2019
    Jacks ·
    • Flag

    The CF actually makes a bit more sense now. Resist the impulse to take over the mothering and managing FOR him. Really hand his power to him and don't cave. Let him sit with consequences of his choices or inaction. It's something it sounds like he hasn't had to do. Adulting is hard, he's going to have to do some.

    I would also continue to encourage him to stand up to his mom. She can flounce off all she likes, but she's really only spiting herself.

    For you, I would refuse to entertain any of her nonsense and make a line like "You'll have to talk to (FH) about that". Repeat ad lib. That will cut off her attempts at splitting. Have a look at the concept of "Grey Rock" and do that. Don't give her drama any fuel at all.

    I hope this helps! All the best to you.

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  • A
    Just Said Yes March 2023
    Adrian ·
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    Bless your heart ❤that's a lot
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  • Kari
    Master May 2020
    Kari ·
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    I don't have much help to offer, but when you mention counseling, are you doing counseling or are you going to couple's counseling? It's not 100% clear to me. If the only counseling the two of you have done together is two sessions with your pastor, then I think more robust counseling (with a marriage and family therapist) is needed for your FH to understand how his actions are feeding into your feelings, reinforcing his mother's toxic behavior, etc.

    It sounds like you are dealing with a lot, and I'm very sorry his family is not supportive and your FH doesn't seem to have the ability to empathize with what you are feeling. I do want to emphasize that none of what you are describing sounds like your fault in any way, but it does seem as if you might feel some guilt that the situation is what it is, and I would really like to encourage you to not blame yourself for the current situation. It sounds is if you have taken a lot of responsibility for your actions and emotions, and made exhaustive efforts to educate your FH, find support from loved ones and other resources, and support your mental health. I am truly sorry you are going through this.

    I would strongly recommend more robust counseling with someone experienced with couples, relationship, marriage, or family therapy. You may be very skilled in social pragmatics, communication, and interpersonal relationships, but it can be extremely helpful to have a neutral third party help sort your relationship dynamic, particularly if your partner isn't as sensitive and socially intuitive as you are.

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  • Katie
    Rockstar August 2020
    Katie ·
    • Flag
    Hi Jennifer! Agree with Jacks advice. If your fiancé is in charge of a task, he maybe used to you coming in at the last minute to complete it. In this case, if he doesn’t get it done - oh well! Wedding planning as you mentioned is stressful to say the least and it is not humanly possible to be fiancé’s or anyone else’s backup task-doer. I’m a people pleaser and a month before our wedding, my mental health forced me to be direct on saying “no, that doesn’t work for me” or “no thank you”. Good luck and just remember - you are a human not everyone’s miracle worker and that’s ok ❤️❤️❤️
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  • Natalie
    Super November 2020
    Natalie ·
    • Flag
    This must be a very frustrating situation. It seems that your husband has some issues with learned helplessness and helicopter parenting and relies on someone telling him exactly what he needs to do or swooping in and doing it themselves to save him. While he learned this from his mother, he now relies on you for these cues. Because it took years for these habits to develop, it will likely take some time for them to fade away and be replaced with independence. It might be easier to “prioritize” exactly what areas you’d like him to be more assertive and tackle one or two at a time. Some of the most helpful advice I got from a counselor was, “You are a passive person, but this will cause others to walk all over you. If you are aggressive, you will walk over others. You need to be assertive.
    Stand up for yourself by expressing your own wants, needs, and feelings that are in your best interest without taking down others.”
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  • Jennifer
    Savvy September 2021
    Jennifer ·
    • Flag

    Thank you all for your input. I plan to use the techniques and responses you’ve empowered me with. I’ve been trying to condition myself on not being a fixer and not take on someone else’s responsibility. I’ve realized I can’t do that as it’s gotten me to where I am now, burnt out. I can’t social work my relationship and I’ve learned from many clients who have had lengthy marriages (60+ years, which is just amazing) that marriage is not easy and it’s okay to disagree on matters, but communication is key. I have to remind myself that there are times where difficult conversations are required, and this is one of them. I will talk with him this week, I want this last month to be full of anticipation and excitement, not stress at this level.

    Being able to get this off my chest, process and receive feedback has been very helpful. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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  • Michelle
    Devoted August 2021
    Michelle ·
    • Flag

    Thank you for sharing. Our stories are similar in some ways. First, I think you should forgive yourself for not being able to mitigate everything despite being a SW. Wedding planning with another person is really a unique situation. For all my self-knowledge and boundaries, I wanted to give my FH his dream wedding (I did not care myself but had planning skills). I further got trapped in toxic positivity hoping it would get better, though every week I had a breakdown. We also shared a loss for which I got a therapist. Now second, I would suggest hiring a partial planner. They often work the last 4-6 weeks and will be with you through the last dance. Third, I would try to forgive him for your resentment and relinquish all duties to him and the planner. Let him make it up to you. If something doesn't happen, it doesn't happen. If he wants it, he must do it with the help of a professional planner. Fourth, I suggest robust couples counseling. We started ours yesterday because I made it mandatory for our marriage. Haha we have 2 more weeks until our wedding, but I really want to continue afterward and into our marraige.

    My mother told me about Forgiveness. My brother gave me the mantra, "That's not going to be me". I could not come up with these on my own. I support you in being intentional with your choices. Best wishes, Bride!

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  • Laura
    Rockstar September 2020
    Laura ·
    • Flag

    A bit of advice... You cannot fix other people's brokenness. You cannot learn their lessons for them and if you try then you are enabling those behaviors. Be very sure that this is what you want. Birth families hold a ton of influence over people. Please check your heart that you will be fine if fh never changes any part of this dynamic. The impetus to change (most often) lessens after marriage, it rarely grows. I know you don't want to change him, but dynamics between you do. And that's not likely given what you have said. I wish you so much happiness and hope that it all works out wonderfully!

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  • Jennifer
    Savvy September 2021
    Jennifer ·
    • Flag
    Wanted to update you all.


    I spoke with FH yesterday morning and asked that we designate time to sit down. I told him I had things I’d been concerned about and holding in, which I felt he needed to know. I told him I had no intent on causing anxiety and that we owe it to ourselves to clear the air and figure out at least two ways to start for us to grow together. He seemed nervous and I reassured him it was not meant to be distressing but it may be difficult, however I would be openminded and nonjudgmental of what he needed to say. Took a good three hours.
    I came with a list, it’s how I prepare and how I keep myself from reacting emotionally. I asked him how he’d like to start after again explaining why I asked to sit down and talk. His concerns were how the wedding stresses me out and I asked that he elaborate. He identified the lack of follow through on his end, being asked about adding guests and meddling from FMIL, he brought up boundaries too. I did not interrupt and asked him to let me know when he was done.
    I started with some of the similar things he brought up and provided examples, but we stayed on boundaries and communication the majority of the time. I gave specific situations and he acknowledged them. I also asked him to fill out the worksheet our coordinator gave us, he seemed to realize just how much I’ve been doing and why I’ve asked for help with certain areas and had increased frustration. He couldn’t give half the information on it and I pointed out that he’s had access the entire time. He tried saying he’s more laid back and can adjust to changes given his job; I acknowledged that and pointed out that while I like organization, my job too can have unexpected changes that I adjust to. I know it will happen, like things related to the wedding and asked that instead of him now asking what’s being worked on tonight and what I wanted him to do, that he look at the calendar and ask what else needs to be done for the task designated for that day, and acknowledge what the tentative plan is.
    He said he’d talk to FMIL and I told her at this point in time I needed a date because in the past everything just got swept under the rug after a few days and when it happened again then I felt more stressed and initially got here emotionally and physically. He acknowledged he had not stood up for me, even when he has been present for a few comments, most recent being Sunday (where I was put on the spot and at fault again). I didn’t shut down but I didn’t react, I put the ball back in FMIL court and was consistent with my response. She made comments in front over ten other family members about how she would have loved to get together and have drinks this past weekend while FH was on his bachelor weekend and that I never want to do anything with her. My response was asking why she didn’t reach out to see if I’d like to do anything. She stated I never let her help and she could have this weekend. I asked her why she didn’t reach out. She tried again and I said she can ask FH what needs done going forward as it’s just as much his wedding (she actually pulled him aside earlier and was mad about his little cousin not being in MY wedding and MY wedding causing family issues for them. He said he told her it was OUR wedding and OUR decision 👏.). When we were leaving she made remark in front of him and others that she felt hurt she wasn’t invited to bachelorette party, I told her I didn’t handle the invites and said goodbye. FH said nothing. There was a breakdown in the car after I told him all that had been said.
    Last night he shared FMIL called him yesterday and he told her the comments about the wedding were uncalled for. He also told her I shared with him comments she made to me. He said she told him it was a miscommunication and she apologized to him. I quickly told him that miscommunication is not attacking someone and puts blame on both individuals which I was not going to accept. I told him about her victimizing herself and that I felt he continued to allow the behaviors. I also pointed out that he had excuses made for him and responsibility being put on me, and with all the remarks that have hurt me, I have never received an apology from anyone.
    I asked that we end the discussion by agreeing on actions to be completed by this week. He said he would talk with FMIL today about the behaviors, remarks and establish boundaries with her that were not to be crossed and if that she wants to be a part of our lives band continues to cross the line then the degree of involvement will change. I told him I will not communicate with her without him present, I will of course remain respectful towards her at any social events. We both agreed on sitting down together and going over what needs done for the wedding, pick out tasks for each to have completed by next week and go forward with this approach until all is finished.
    He listened and I asked him to share how all what I had to say made him feel. He was quiet and kept saying not good, his go to response. So, I wanted to share with him my posts on here so he could see how “not good” I felt and I felt more support and empathy from third parties. That was the last thing I could do to really get him to understand where I’m at mentally. He hung his head, apologized and said he never wanted me to feel how I have and recalls me asking for help and that he didn’t intervene when he should have.
    As far as the kids/guests matter goes, I told him deadline for rsvp was 8/1 but by 8/8 if we don’t have all decisions in then the decision will be made and people notified that we had to get a number in and miss they won’t be present. I told him at that point in time he could come up with his own table plan and notify vendors of change from my rough draft I sent to the venue and our day of. Deer in headlights moment for him.
    I acknowledged how difficult and uncomfortable conversations like tonight can be, but we shouldn’t get to that point ever again. I told him my body is tired and taking a major hit on top of my mental health with everything. I stated if I at any point in time I feel things are going back to old ways, it will be couples counseling for us (pre crisis). He agreed. Hopefully it doesn’t start to revert back to old ways, but I’m going to go ahead and look into local couples counselors. I think it’s something we need to start doing anyways.
    Thank you again for all your support and advice. I wanted to share that I followed through, advocated for my needs and planned with him how we need to start fixing areas we have control over.
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  • Laura
    Rockstar September 2020
    Laura ·
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    My only concern is whether this is just all - so. so. much. You and FH deserve to be yourselves and this is so much work for you both. It seems like you want different people or a different dynamic. I would suggest couples counseling right now. I'm worried for your future because this much angst now - and when kids come along it's an event that lasts for lifetime. I feel bad for FH too, he's catching it from mom and (rightfully) from you. But that doesn't seem like a tenable situation for him long term. You have made it clear how stressed you are, but I don't think he has candidly shared how much stress and angst this is causing him. Men tend to smooth things, ignore them, or avoid them when they can't handle them. And reading this - this is a lot of weight on you both. I would not wait for counseling, you need more resolution than this. I've been married and divorced and I've had a problematic relationship with my (then) MIL. This is a much bigger stumbling block than you know; issues with families of origin do not merely go away after the wedding. Those dynamics remain and (yes) they can break couples apart. Run to couple's therapy - run now.

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  • Jennifer
    Savvy September 2021
    Jennifer ·
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    Thanks Laura. I’ve been reaching out to local couples counselors and I told FH that it doesn’t mean the worst (like we won’t make it) but it will help us develop techniques and learn more about one another so we can adapt when tough situations come up again, they’re inevitable. The counseling would prepare us to adapt versus react.
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  • Laura
    Rockstar September 2020
    Laura ·
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    It's always better to know in advance and understand what you are up against. In my (then) pre-Cana course, family of origin issues appeared. We were counseled on it. Everyone thought that we could overcome it but one thing needed to happen for that to be successful - and that 'thing' never happened. It was 7 years and 2 children later when it all came unglued. The catalyst, was a rant by a person in the family of origin. A rant that occurred while holding my child and refusing to give him to me. It's far more complicated because there were many problems, but the issue with the family of origin was never overcome and it only got worse once they realized that we were married - because married is forever and that meant they didn't have to be considerate of my feelings. Find counseling and know that you have help. FMIL isn't likely to stop now. And together you two should be unstoppable! My heart is with you both!! Smiley heart

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