"Why does my future Mother-in-Law hate me so much?" "I wish I didn't have to have his sister be a part of my wedding party!" "We could have a destination wedding if his grandparents weren't so old -- I couldn't convince him to just invite them to the reception afterwards." "This is not what it's going to be like AFTER we get married." I've heard all of those things come out of brides' and grooms' mouths in my almost eight years of wedding planning. More often than you would imagine.
To steal a line from my girl Antonique Smith's new single: "Hold Up - Wait a Minute!" Did you just say that you are going to change things about your future husband and his relationship with his parents AFTER you say "I do?" Does he know you have a grand plan? How does he feel about it? What's the problem, exactly?
I know one bride who vowed TO NEVER AGAIN sit through his family's "hideous" Sunday afternoon dinners which had been a mandatory part of her life since they got engaged. She told me that tradition was ending when she returned from her honeymoon. Not sure what all the animosity was about, but I'm positive it won't lead to good things for her marriage.
Likewise, I've had several disgruntled grooms tell me they "cutting the cord" between the bride and her mom after the wedding (usually in an email after a truly unpleasant conference call when the mom and groom disagreed on something he was paying for). Again, do you really think that's going to happen? If she talks to her mom on the phone five times a day now, she'll do it twice as much during the wedding planning. And then they'll have to post-mortem the wedding for weeks after you get back from the honeymoon. Good luck with that cord cutting. Let me know how it works out for you.
No, I'm not joking. I know of a couple whose pending divorce has so much to do with each other's families that it is completely insane. She hates his family on a visceral level, but they don't live nearby. He might have liked her mother (who also lives far away) til she practically moved in with them for months at a time. All other marital issues aside, he works for Daddy, and she hates her father-in-law. And she honestly couldn't function without her mother's help and her husband isn't having the mother-in-law in the basement anymore. So it all imploded. And they sorta liked each other's families before they got married. If you hate them before you exchange vows, you are pretty much lying to yourself if you think getting married is going to improve that relationship.
I know you're reading this thinking "I love him/her so much -- I would never let my parents come between us. I'm an adult!" Yeah, right. That's fine in theory until she refuses to attend the traditional family dinner with his siblings every week at his parents' house. Or when he informs her that there's no way he's blowing the only two weeks of vacation he has that year to go to the beach with her family to the house they've always stayed in. Marriage is about compromise folks, but there are things you really need to sort out before you take legal and emotional steps to bind yourselves together for all eternity.
Here are five ways you can put your best foot forward with your in-laws before the wedding day:
1) Be committed to building a positive relationship pre-wedding with the future in-laws. If you live nearby, that's not too hard. Some mani/pedi bonding time or golf can be a real help. If there's a distance, maybe you need to be the one to initiate a visit to the parents pre-wedding, especially if your fiancé isn't good about going home. Getting to know them better, if you don't already, means much less pressure for you on the big day.
2) Do not cut your nose off to spite your face with your future brothers and sisters in law. For real. Remember, these people could, if you live nearby them, be a very important part of your future children's lives. Your children will be cousins... FOREVER. Even if you're not a fan of them, or even if your marriage fails, your ex-husband or ex-wife is still someone you'll be co-parenting and sharing family with FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.
3) Do not say things you cannot take back -- no matter how bad the disagreement gets. Wedding drama makes some people high strung. But being the bride doesn't get you a clear slate later for hateful things you say during the planning process to your fiancé's relatives. Odds are the subject matter is something like bringing children to the wedding or somebody not agreeing with another wedding choice. These are not things that will matter to you in five years. However, causing a major family rift with future family members over things that aren't really that significant in the grand scheme of life will still matter in five and 10 years.
4) Talk to your fiancé about the problems you're having with his or her family. Your fiancé already knows there's tension, or more. Have the heart-to-heart. Or have the screaming fight. Say what needs to be said and work through it together, or reconsider whether you two are ready to actually make things formal. One of you may need to have a heart-to-heart with your own parents to help mend fences.
5) Make an effort to listen to what your future in-laws have to say about your marriage, your wedding, your futures, your jobs. Remember, listening doesn't mean you have to take the advice. But sometimes people are just happy feeling like you've heard them out and considered their opinion. Fake it if you have to. Fake it out of genuine love and respect because, yes, it's possible to love people even if you don't share their love of pink flamingos and glitter.
If you hate your future in-laws more than your fiancé loves you, it's possible you are both going to reach a familial impasse way too early to build a solid marriage. What the point of putting your love on the line and going through the whole white wedding thing if you know his or her family is going to be a lifelong problem. It may be easier if you live on the West Coast and his family is New York -- but they're still his family and, if they can afford it, they'll be joining you (or expecting you) at all major occasions. Including when you have your children together.
You do not have to love hanging out with your future mother in law, and it's also okay to think your future sister in law is a piece of trash. But you should make the decision YOURSELF as to whether you love your fiancé enough to tolerate the baggage he or she is bringing along. Everybody has baggage. If you don't love your fiancé with the baggage, you love your fiancé enough to get married.
Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques and Weddings in Culebra!
Follow Sandy Malone on Twitter: www.twitter.com/SandyMalone_