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When Not to Confront

Not all conflict has to go to trial.
—LeRoy Armstrong

Their wedding day approaching, a young couple I'd been counseling was stuck. They couldn't agree about anything—the order of the ceremony, the ring bearer, the reception. Feeling misunderstood, they couldn't look at each other without arguing.

My first instinct was to help them resolve their dispute. But in talking with the young man, I learned the real source of their conflict: his future mother-in-law.

She was terrorizing their relationship by second-guessing almost every wedding decision they made. This was more than just an enthusiastic mother of the bride. She ended up imposing her will on their wedding and their relationship. The bride felt torn between her mother and her husband-to-be.

I came to see their conflict on two fronts: the communication breakdown between the couple, and the interference by the future mother-in-law. The couple's conflict did not seem abnormal; engagement is always a time of high stress. The tension created ...

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