Fights about weddings will happen, here's how to work your politics into the compromise


Guest post by Evelyn
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Thanks to erin_clevenger for uploading this to our Flickr pool.

I wish I read this post about consensual bridal showers when I first got engaged. I wouldn't have felt so "wrong" when I came across the same scenario…

My future mother-in-law and I have many differences. For the most part, we work around them. She is a conservative, older woman from a white, working class, small factory town. I am an independent, experimental documentary filmmaker (need I say more?). She wanted thousands of children, especially a girl, but could only have my fiancé.

I know many of our clashes come out of her knowing no other way to express her need for a close relationship with little understanding as to why some of her actions could be offensive to me. It is this understanding that is my saving grace when our clashes get difficult.

Recently, she went against my wishes and decided she would be throwing me a wedding shower. Nobody I know will be at this shower, and it's highly unlikely she'll be inviting my family. If she does invite my family, they live four hours away and it’s doubtful they will come.

I tried to be polite. I tried to kindly turn it down. That didn't work. I tried to explain my reasons and that these reasons meant a lot to me. She said it didn't matter. Furthermore, all my stuff is "junky" and it's time for me to get "nice" stuff. (For context, the "junky" stuff she is referring to is my mid-century teak that I've collected over the years and cherish). Besides, she's been to so many showers of other people that she's owed a shower.

I tried to enlist my fiancé to tell her my reasons, but he didn't see the point in fighting, especially if he was getting free stuff out of it.

Then things got ugly. When things get ugly between a bride and her future Mother in Law, and the groom happens to be the only child of a very possessive and controlling woman, guess which side he'll take? Not yours.

When I finally came around to ending the fight I told her, "Weddings are not about the bride. They are about bringing families together and I'd be honoured if you threw me a shower.” She cut me off mid-sentence and said she was going to throw me one anyway.

This is when I had a big realization…

These fights will exist no matter how hard I try.

Some of these fights will never go away, no matter how steadfast you are in your reasons and politics. But it's better to make compromises on the things surrounding your wedding so that you don't have to make compromises for the things during your wedding day that greatly matter to you. If controlling energy is part of the equation, direct it to where it will do the least damage.

Yes, I think showers are wasteful acts of consumerism, carried on by sexist, obsolete tradition, but there are ways to work these politics into the compromise.

My solution was to agree, but only on the condition that it was a joint shower for the both of us, and the shower guests had to pool together to get us three things on our registry.

I'm not saying always agree to the shower, but if you can turn it into something positive while redirecting that energy — and perhaps a shower is that place to do it — then there might be no harm in reworking the idea of the shower to suit your beliefs. The byproduct of this is the joy that my future mother in law will be getting out of hosting a shower and feeling included in the day that she’s probably dreamt of since the moment she decided to have children.

Pick your battles. There will be many along the way.

Which battles have YOU picked? Which have you decided to let go?

  1. "and the shower guests had to pool together to get us three things on our registry."

    How was that conveyed to the guests ?

    Also, you said the MIL is white while you're a film maker; I wasn't sure what that meant. Are you saying you're a white film maker ?

    • I read it as her future mother-in-law is /from/ a white, working-class town–which doesn't really preclude being an experimental filmmaker, but whatevs.

    • My FMIL has not experienced much outside of her small town that is predominantly of a white, factory-working culture and she is highly critical of many things outside of her narrow perspective. I on the other hand have made great strides to see a world far outside of my own and try whenever possible to see both sides of a story. I'm not saying anyone is better than another for these lifestyles, and in fact have great respect for the hard life they have had. And yes, perhaps these are all non-sequiturs, but it is my attempt to paint a brief portrait of two very different perspectives of the world that have to learn how to get along for the sake of family.

      I could go into detail about my clashes with her but I didn't want to turn this post into FMIL-bash. Instead, I preferred to keep our differences brief and get to the point of how I'm learning – and not easily so – to mesh together our lives to create this abstract, yet simultaneously meaningful idea of family.

      As for the registry, the shower hasn't happened yet. This is a very recent situation, compromise and agreement. But I'll work with her to determine on how to make this happen. If you're curious how it pans out, I'm happy to keep you posted.

      Cheers,
      Tess

  2. I have the same mother-in-law, a suffocating, bible-thumping, working-class mother to 2 cherished sons – a common profile in MIL's of any race I might say. I'll just add that making an effort to be generally warm and accepting goes a LONG way. The closer she feels to you, the more likely she will accept you as a person – and consequently be less annoying.

    Sometimes I'm nice to her because I remember she was widowed way too soon and raised her boys alone (who became amazing men), and it gives me loads of respect for her. But other times, I'm just nice to her for selfish reasons, because my partner knows how much patience and tongue-biting is required around her, he feels like he owes me one every time I act gracious 😉

    My mother-in-law visited us once and couldn't believe we didn't have a TV. We explained it was by choice, but soon after were gifted this massive flat-screen thing that she went into debt to buy from Walmart. It was a bad decision all around and insensitive to our lifestyle but we decided to keep it (in the closet) because she gave us one of the things that mattered the most to her.
    A traditional shower is probably one of those 'very important' things for your MIL, and sometimes you have to choose your battles…

    Good luck for making the relationship work in the future!

    • Oh my, I have the same TV politics and debates! At least my issue is an event and not something that takes up a whole closet! Well, let's hope it doesn't turn into that.

      And yes, I totally agree that all cultures have forms of this issue and didn't mean to white-bash. My fiancé is bonding with a good friend who is the oldest son of a traditional strict Chinese mother. And dude(tte)s, for the record I'm white. But it shocks me when they say things like "why don't we have a straight parade?" or "you should have been married before you moved in together". I know it mostly comes from living in a community where they barely interact with cultures outside of their own and I need to be patient with them. And sometimes I need to remind myself that refusing to tolerate their perspective is just another form of close mindedness.

      Thanks for the tips on how you get along. how you look at it and frame it is sometimes all you have and shifting your strategies can help keep your energy to positively work the situation.

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