Last week I told the story of Moira, a bride frustrated with her passive-aggressive mom and equally frustrated with her own inability to confront her. Here’s the strategy I laid out for Moira, so as to be assertive and draw boundaries.
I suggested she first reassure her mother that she was happy she’s interested in the wedding and wants it to be a perfect day. She also needed to reaffirm that when they disagreed, it was not a rejection of her support.
Once Moira reassured her mother that this whole planning process wasn’t a referendum on their love, she moved on to a discussion of the dress and the bridesmaids (source of the most recent argument).
I suggested a script like this:
“I love my wedding dress. I know it’s not the one you liked. It is, though, the one I love and I’m glad you were there when I found it. I’m sorry things got out of hand with the girls. They didn’t mean to hurt you. I think you know that, too. They want to speak with you and I hope you let them explain what happened. I’m not getting into the middle of this, though, and I don’t want you to give me ultimatums. I feel that you’re pressuring me to take sides and to punish good friends for what is just a misunderstanding. I don’t want this dress to remind me of something that grew way ugly and way out of proportion. I know you don’t want that, either.”
Although Moira resisted, I urged her to give it a try — it’s not like her mother was going to be more reasonable using any of the old tactics.
Moira reassured her mother that she appreciated everything she was doing and explained that rejecting her suggestions wasn’t a rejection of her. That helped to calm her mother’s insecurities.
However, Moira’s conversation about the dress didn’t go as well. Within a week, though, Moira’s mother realized she wasn’t going to get any traction from harping about the incident. Eventually, Moira’s mom and the bridesmaids had their talk and she got her apology.
As the wedding drew closer, Moira’s mom tried to stir up more drama but by then Moira felt confident speaking directly to her. By the time Moira walked down the aisle, she and her mother had laid the groundwork for a healthier way of talking with each other.
And Zach, Moira’s husband, was a relieved man!
Remember: having a hard conversation is hard because we’re not used to this “dance step.” However, no good can come from shouting, shutting down, or manipulating someone we claim to care about. With understanding comes clarity, the bedrock for resolution and healing!
Please send your questions to JP Reynolds at: firstname.lastname@example.org