The first few weeks (or, okay, months!) after you get engaged have you and your partner starry-eyed and gushy, taking advantage of all of those we’re-about-to-spend-our-lives together vibes. It’s an exciting period for every couple, but it’s also the calm before the wedding planning stress on your relationship. While determining the many details of your happy day is an exciting opportunity to work together as a team, making decisions and determining a budget, it also brings a new level of stress that your relationship likely has never experienced. Considering you are not only challenged with compromising on what you both seek out of the event, but also the expectations of your family, it’s normal to bicker more often than you naturally would.
As licensed marriage and family therapist associate and relationship therapist Melody Li explains, “The solution is not as simple as the couple stating that they’ll do as they wish because family tradition and cultural practice are highly valued in most families. The couple wishes to stay connected with their families and simultaneous maintain a sense of autonomy, which can feel like a balancing act.”
If you’re noticing your partner pulling away, remember, you will weather this wedding planning stress on your relationship, with a little help from these tips
Ask from a place of love.
When you’re frantically going through the guest list and double-checking with all of the vendors about timing, your partner is buried in their laptop, citing “drama” at work as a reason why they can’t be involved. This might happen a time or two, but if your partner continuously seems apathetic about your upcoming big day, Li says it’s time to approach the conversation. And even if your sometimes unruly temper tempts you to throw a snide, dismissive comment in their direction, a passive-aggressive approach won’t benefit your connection. Instead, Li says to come from a place from love. “It can be painful to feel your partner pull away, so the reflex reaction is to become angry. However, anger may get in the way of understanding the root of the wedding planning stress on your relationship. Sure, feel angry and speak to the pain. However, I encourage you to make room to be curious and listen to what may be causing the withdrawal,” she explains.
One way to mitigate the conversation is to express how you’re feeling, without being accusatory. When you come from a place of sadness or frustration, your partner will likely emphasize with you and do what they can to explain why they’ve grown distant. Li adds keeping an open mind and listening are the key qualities to exercise, since you don’t want them to feel afraid to be honest if your reaction is sour. Remember, feelings are just feelings and they don’t necessarily define your relationship, but they can help you chip at the wall that’s separating you from your spouse-to-be.
Especially if you find yourself overwhelmed with maintaining your friendships, your career responsibilities, your personal sanity and your health, in addition to planning a grand affair, you might roll your eyes when your partner expresses stress. Even if you are taking on the brunt of work to make your wedding day the experience you both crave, psychology practitioner Amy Cooper Hakim, Ph.D. explains everyone handles times of pressure differently, and your partner’s reaction might be to hide instead of rolling their sleeves up.
She also adds a person might shy away from wedding talk or discussions if they felt like their opinions weren’t heard or considered in the beginning stages of the planning process. Or, if compromises aren’t leaning in their direction. “A partner might pull away during wedding planning to avoid arguments or to minimize stress. This can be helpful for the relationship if that partner doesn’t have a strong opinion about flower arrangements or the guest list - and is willing to let the other partner take the lead,” she explains. “However, a partner may also step back from the relationship itself if she or he sees a red flag. For instance, one partner may feel incompatible with the other if the two don’t share the same perspective on the cost of the wedding or on the emphasis of specific aspects of the wedding.”
If you fear this happened in your relationship, it’s better to purge all of your shared grievances on the table so you can recreate a united front to approach the remaining work of your nuptial planning.
If you and your spouse-to-be come from different religious or cultural backgrounds, or have families with contrasting tax brackets, determining commonalities or ways to celebrate your marriage in a way that satisfies both in-laws is tricky. When your partner is receiving pressure from their respective parents or siblings to host your wedding in a specific way that differs from your preference, they might turn away to avoid conflict on either side. That’s why explaining how much you value and respect your partner’s background and traditions will help bind you together.
“When a partner seems to pull away to align with their family of origin, the other partner may feel threatened and pull them closer. They may desire to create more distance between them and the family of origin, which can result in deep injury and resentment,” Li explains. “Validate your partner’s loyalty to family, and that you see the loving intention behind it. Seek to understand the significance of these ideas and traditions. When the partner feels understood and validated, then speak to the pain or alienation that causes. Suggest ways to compromise so that the partner can honor family traditions, while creating new traditions of their own that highlight the couple’s uniqueness.”
Focus on the greater picture.
You want to spend the rest of your lives - with all of the ups and downs, ebbs and flows, floods and droughts - with one another. It’s quite the commitment, and arguably, the most important decision you’ll ever make. And though the wedding may seem like the most-important-event-in-all-of-history, Hakim reminds it’s just a day. Keeping in mind your dreams, goals and anticipation for your marriage will help keep you grounded. To ensure you’re focusing on all of the joy you have left to experience together, Hakim says to schedule time together that has nothing to do with the looming, infamous date.
“You decided to get married because you love each other and want to spend your lives together. Don’t get bogged down in minutiae, especially if doing so is causing wedding planning stress on your relationship,” she says. “If you are fully immersed in wedding planning, it can be easy to forget to nurture your relationship. Set aside a date night each week where you talk about things other than wedding planning. It will help to keep your relationship - and your love - fresh.”