In the last week before our wedding, there are still several loose ends. Several decisions that still need to be made, several details we overlooked, and without doubt, many, many last minute changes. In the midst of all this stress, these conflicting values, and these deep and diverse desires, how will I maintain my sanity, pursue my vision for this event, and maintain my relationships with all my co-planners and other invested parties?
In this post, I list some advice to myself regarding how not to start fights this week, even when it seems like the obvious thing to do (as in, even when I feel frustrated, aggravated, or threatened).
1. Self esteem: Not starting fights is even more challenging in light of my last post, regarding my apparently plummeting self esteem. However, this week I will consciously try to access my calm and confidence. A wise friend gave me this advice: Take a moment every day to find the part of you that feels thoroughly strong and good. Although I haven’t been able to follow her advice as a daily practice thus far, I will try again this week.
2. Deep breathing: A pause. A moment. An interruption of the panic that can begin any time. Deep breathing is the link between #1 and #3.
3. Quiet voices: Once I take a breath and access my inner strength, I can then lower my voice. When I lower my voice, it often also means I say things that are less defensive. When I feel the need to defend myself, I speak loudly and authoritatively. But lowering my voice signals to myself, and hopefully to the person I address, that I am willing to let down my defenses, to share and listen to personal thoughts and feelings, to be vulnerable, and to compromise. I find even the slightest hint of increased harshness or increased volume in someone else’s voice to be particularly triggering during tense interactions, so I find it useful to take control of changing the literal tone of a conversation.
4. Check your assumptions: I have actually managed to address several conflicts in the past few weeks by doing the simple exercise of sharing assumptions. Once a conversation has been calmed down, I can take a step back and say, “This is how I am seeing it. Are you seeing it in a different way? Please help me understand.” This basic show and tell is essential to working through a conflict in a way that feels good and satisfies the most number of people.
5. Explore your flexibility: We have less than a week left. We cannot fix everything perfectly at this point. Furthermore, I do not intend to be a perfect person or have a perfect life, and I certainly do not need a perfect wedding.
6. Prioritize: Once I establish that I am flexible, I then have to determine what I need in the situation at hand. In what ways will the outcome affect me? What kinds of reflection, validation, or explanation do I need from the other person? How will the final decision reflect the meaning of the wedding ceremony, or my opportunity to celebrate and rejoice with so many loved ones? Identifying and expressing these priorities is not always something I can do the first time a conflict arises. I may need to take some time to reflect and then bring up the conversation again. Alternatively, I may want to enlist the other person’s help in thinking through my priorities. Either way, honestly and accurately identifying the relevant priorities is essential to finding a solution that feels good.
7. Make a decision: And stick with it. I am trying to close as many open ends as possible. I want as few details up in the air, or rattling around in my head, as possible. Conversations this week should be at least temporarily definitive. I want to make decisions, stick with them, and live with them through the wedding process. If there are any particularly strong conflicts with family or friends that I want to address later in July for the purpose of checking in and making sure our relationship is still strong, I may do that. But for now, I am here to commit, and I mean it.
If I raised my voice at you, responded harshly to something you said, or inexplicably started crying during a phone conversation with you, I apologize. And if I do so within the next week, I apologize ahead of time. I hope we can work it out. Let’s give it a try.