You're one lucky gal if you're close to your sister; there is no sweeter friendship. But many a sister relationship is more of the Cinderella-with-the-steps variety. If you assume getting married is going to make the relationship better, well chances are that's like assuming having a baby will save a disastrous marriage. However, given that the bride is constantly reminding herself of how lucky she is to be in love and to be planning a celebration of that love (you are reminding yourself, aren't you?), it behooves her to try her best. Still, you'll know when your sister is starting to make you "go bridal".
Symptoms of sister-induced "going bridal"
• She says, “I think you should ___&" (fill in the blank) and you hold the phone receiver away from your ear.
• You start obsessing with your friends about all the wrongs their sisters ever inflicted on them when they were six years old, and one-upping their stories each time.
• She's the pretty one and when she says to you, unconvincingly, that the dress you've chosen "does wonders for your skin tone," you feel like smacking her with that stack of bridal magazines she gave you and you never read.
• You ask her to make the toast and for the next two weeks she e-mails you with variations on the following theme: "I'm sure you really would prefer one of your friends to do the toast, wouldn't you?" Instead of going into emphatic denial, you think, "Yeah, she's right. Why the hell did I ask her anyway?"
• She tells you that your LSF (Long-Suffering FiancÃ©) isn't good enough for you and you feel like a cartoon character about to explode and ricochet all over the bridal boutique she forced you into, where you are currently being fitted for a dress she picked that looks like something out of a bad 1980s made-for-TV movie.
The trigger: You'll get it wrong
Nicole says that getting married put her own relationship with her sister to the ultimate test. "All my life my sister has known how to make me mental. More than my mom actually. If I said black, she said white. I knew as soon as I said we were getting married she'd start trying to make me feel like I didn't know what I was doing, because that's what she always does."
Generally this trigger is the purview of older sisters who really know how to line up their sights. But that's not always the case. Sometimes it's the domain of the favourite child, whether older or younger. (And hey, no one wants to admit it, but many parents have a fave.) The wedding may well be a stage upon which to perform that old squabbling-sibs drama one more time. Whether it's a case of rank or family role, if there has been a lifetime of "sister knows best," what better time for her to know it than when you are making the biggest public statement of your fully formed adult self to date? Consequently, she may tell you that you have done any of the following.
• You've chosen the wrong man.
• You've chosen the right man, at the wrong time. (As in, "But you were just making a name for yourself slinging burgers in Tonawanda and now you're throwing it away so he can play jazz in Paris? Who cares that he's smart, compassionate, funny as hell, adores you and has an international recording deal?")
• You've hurt your parents' feelings, again. (As in, "But you know they're devout Unitarians and you're getting married in an Anglican Church. They'll never get over it -- again.")
• You've chosen a bridesmaid dress that makes her look fat. Or you've chosen your dress so that her dress will look frumpy beside it. Or you haven't chosen a dress at all -- you are so foolish as to believe that your favourite pantsuit, which you were wearing when you met your future hub, will be appropriate on your wedding day.
• You've forgotten ______. (Fill in the blank: her favourite brand of bubbly, the maid-of-honour gift or the rice that she and no one else wants to throw.)
The treatment: Just let it go
The goal: To avoid resorting to childhood tactics of trying to hit her in the gut as she puts one hand on your forehead so that you can't get within striking range. Or the adult equivalent..."going bridal".
The application: This is one of the most challenging interventions between you and "going bridal". Self-discipline is essential in many potential "going bridal" situations, but often sisters require a high dosage.
"Just let it go" calls for great determination, aka tongue biting. So she thinks you chose to have your wedding in the rumpus room of your former roommate's parents' house to spite your own parents. If you know she couldn't be more wrong, who cares if that's what she thinks? You won't change her thinking. The only thing you can do in that situation is recognize that it is her problem and stay focused on all the good things in your life. Remember, you're the one planning to marry that man who loves you dearly, and you and he are going to have the kind of wedding you want.
Just let it go training ground
• Yoga class. Great for finding an inner place of calm.
• The boxing ring. Boxing offers a more physical outlet for your frustrations.
• The mantra. For example, you could try the always-popular "Will this matter in 50 years?" You might also consider the pithy "Just ignore her," repeated at five-minute intervals.
• Recalling your own successful choices and decisions. Perhaps planning to marry someone you truly love who truly loves you might enter into this pleasant reverie.
• Reminding yourself who you are. A ballplayer admitted telling himself as he walked into the batter's box amidst the jeers of the crowd, "I am a professional ballplayer. I am a professional ballplayer." (Of course you can substitute your own profession or accomplishment. "I do make fabulous macramÃ© hangings. I do make fabulous macramÃ© hangings," will work just as well.)
Reprinted from Going Bridal: How to Get Married Without Losing Your Mind (McGraw-Hill, 2004) by Li Robbins with permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies.