How New Couples Can Navigate Wedding Season
If you’ve just started seeing someone, wedding season could put unwanted pressure on the two of you regarding your relationship. Here, we share our best question-silencing tactics for new couples.
here’s nothing like a wedding to bring out the inner busy-body in your friends and relatives. “Soooo,” says your Aunt Sue as she pushes your boyfriend of four months into a corner, “…when are you two going to tie the knot?” Or maybe it’s your best friend who announces to everyone within
earshot that he thinks you and your new girlfriend would make “such a cute bride and groom!” Awkward? Yes. Embarrassing? Absolutely. But what’s worse is the realization that you will never be free of such cloying questions about your love life.
|Who and when you choose to date is your business.|
“When you’re single, people want to know why you’re not dating anyone. When you’re in a relationship, they want to know when you’re going to walk down the aisle,” says Denver-based author and therapist Jennifer Gauvain. “It can feel like a no-win situation.”
According to Gauvain, there are two important lessons for new couples navigating wedding season together. The first is to expect a prying question or two. “Plan ahead — but remember that most of the people who put you on the spot have good intentions,” Gauvain suggests. How to respond? “Instead of clamming up or getting defensive, answer a question with a question. Say something like, ‘How old were you when you got engaged?’ or ‘Didn’t you get married on the beach at sunset?’ People love talking about themselves and this is a simple way to change the subject and shift the focus away from you, your date, and your new relationship,” she says. “While it’s nice to know how to dodge awkward questions,” she stresses, “what’s most important is to be aware of the pressure — not just from nosy relatives — that can keep you in a relationship or push you down the aisle with the wrong person.”
She has also discovered that many troubled couples knew their relationship wasn’t quite right from the beginning. “As we tackled their issues in therapy, they inevitably cite pressure of one form or another as a reason for staying together in spite of early signs of incompatibility. That’s why it’s so important to understand these pressures, so you don’t end up in a relationship that is doomed from the start.”
Gauvain has identified five types of pressure that can lead otherwise intelligent adults to turn a blind eye to relationship red flags:
1. Family pressure
“I started dreading family occasions because my aunts and grandma would always give me the third degree about my love life.”
– Robert C., marine engineer
The single thirty-something barely has time to find the hors d’oeuvres table before he or she gets the third degree from a well-meaning relative. Seriously, do you really want your grandmother to pick your future spouse for you? Of course not! Who and when you choose to date is your business. And remember, you can always answer a question with another question.
2. Financial pressure
“I was positively floundering and I wanted to be settled. So I looked at the man I was dating and thought, This is great! He was older; more established. (I didn’t look closely enough, because he was 38 and living with his mother!) I hated my job and thought I could stay home and have little brown-eyed, brown-haired babies.”
– Jincey H., real estate agent
Don’t expect someone else to fix your finances or improve your life. Get your own financial house in order before you set up housekeeping with anyone else. You wouldn’t want someone to look to you to solve his or her money woes, would you?
3. The pressure of getting older
“I was getting older and wanted to be married. He seemed like a nice guy, and my family just
adored him. I know they wanted me to marry him. I suppose I just didn’t think it would turn out years later like it did.”
|I know they wanted me to marry him.|
– Victoria S., sales representative
Age is irrelevant if you know who you are and what you need in life. And while it’s important that your family likes your future bride or groom, it’s more important that you adore this person, too. Your relationship should be dictated by reality, not an arbitrary age or number on a calendar.
4. Social pressure
“Everyone I knew was married or getting married. If you weren’t in a serious relationship, you didn’t fit in. They were all doing couple-type activities, such as going to wineries, dinner parties and weekend getaways. If you weren’t part of a couple, you weren’t included.”
– Dave L., sales manager
If you’re not getting invited to all the “cool” parties because you’re single, then find other things to do. (Or better yet, more inclusive friends!) Balance is the key, both emotionally and socially. There’s got to be an easier way to wrangle an invitation to a dinner party than spending time with someone you don’t like that much.
5. Pressure to grow up
“I wanted to be an adult. I thought by marrying, I would become one. I didn’t know I was already an adult!”
– Monica D., personal trainer
Being married doesn’t necessarily make you a grown-up. (Think: Britney Spears.) But becoming financially secure, laughing off your Aunt Sue, not worrying about another birthday, and finding balance in your work and social life does make you one. You owe it to each other to be “all grown up” before entering into a long-term relationship.
If you pay attention to what you want and need in a partner instead of caving to external pressure, chances are good that you will end up in the right relationship, at the right time, and with the right person.
And as far as wedding season goes — lighten up. Weddings are fun. They are also a great way to learn more about your partner. Watch how he or she handles things in a new social setting. Observe how your date interacts with your family. And if something feels “off” or doesn’t “feel right” — don’t ignore your gut feelings. Now that you know how to sidestep the awkward questions, you can pay attention to what matters most — the relationship between the two of you. Cheers!
Anne Milford and Jennifer Gauvain are the authors of How Not to Marry the Wrong Guy: Is He the One or Should You Run? (Broadway/Random House, May 2010). Gauvain works as a marriage and family therapist in Denver, Colorado and Milford writes and speaks extensively on the subject of dating and relationships. For more information, visit their blog at coldfeetpress.com.