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  • relationship problems no attribution required cc0 public domainI always wanted a perfect wedding. I endured a lot as a young person. My parents’ marriage ended in separation after three years and divorce after only six years. Even though I saw two people who could not get along and stay married, they still cared for one another and even spent time with each other. They never married again for the sake of my brother and myself. This really impacted my life, seeing two people work together despite their inability to completely reconcile the relationship. Therefore, I have always held the idea of marriage with great respect. Coming from a faith-based background, I was also influenced to believe marriage was a sacred and holy commitment. My own wedding occurred a little over a year ago. I really wanted it to be a certain way. However, I can say that while it was quite a beautiful wedding, a splendid ceremony, and always a cherished memory, the day was far from free of discord, dissatisfaction and even from sadness.

    Let me first start by saying that I was terrified to get married to my husband. I love him so much, and while he is someone I do want to spend the rest of my life with, I was so afraid the night before that I almost called it off. The fear of failure, of a potential divorce, and of not being able to resolve issues with him almost totally swept me away. The idea of commitment was so scary that I almost backed out of this after nearly three years of being with him.  We also have had our differences for a long time but I decided to take a chance. These fears influenced my behavior during our wedding ceremony. Individuals can see that I was not myself when they look at my facial expressions in the ceremonial pictures. So, my fear was a source of conflict that contributed to my wedding woes.

    My second source of conflict came from my parent’s concerns.  My mother was one of the best friends that I ever had. After her death, I missed her being at my wedding. She did not exactly approve of our relationship at the very end of her life. There was this force that was tearing at me internally saying: “Is this the right choice?”, “Are you sure about this guy?”, “Are you making a mistake?” that echoed all throughout my engagement, and again up until the wedding. My dad who is still alive also questioned this relationship. So, the parental influence was a strong source of conflict over this decision and contributed to the wedding woes for me.

    In terms of my in-laws, they consist primarily of my husband’s parents and his eight siblings. I have never had a positive relationship with his parents. They and I simply do not see eye to eye. I did not want them to contribute financially to the wedding, as I knew there would be strings attached. Even though they did not contribute to our wedding, they still took advantage of us as they invited many people that I did not even know, and they did so through my husband’s generous nature, as they had him invite all of them for them. Regardless, there were a number of differing expectations each of us had of the other based on family tradition, religious values and lifestyle attitudes. Previous disagreements and values clashes limited my communication with my in-laws and prevented me from expressing my true expectations. This lack of communication only caused more tension, the need to control aspects of the wedding event, and my increasing anger that my needs were not met. The fear of judgment and angst caused me to emotionally and physically distance myself from them during the reception. I spent my energy focused on what they would say or do against our wishes, that the day was filled with stress and sadness instead of the joy you wish for any bride and groom on their special day. Upon reflection, my advice to engaged couples whether in private conversation or during marriage prep is to discuss expectations, and there are many. First, you need to determine your expectations of the groom, bridal party, parents, siblings, in-laws, vendors, etc. and discuss them with your fiancé. While I communicated this with my husband, and while the women, priest, organist, and photographer all assisted me with much love and concern for what I wanted, it still was not REALLY what I wanted. My husband really had NO expectations, meaning that he would be happy regardless. I had many needs, but I held low expectations of this whole situation, actually, due to the way that life has gone. My problem was that I did not exactly communicate what I wanted out of this experience and just expected others to know  what I wanted without me telling them. I would pose the following questions to you in order to illustrate what I learned, and what I believe would be helpful for your situation:

    1. Ask yourself, what do you want to clearly communicate to your in-laws? Clearly communicate what your expectations are to your in-laws as soon as you become engaged. Share with them the type of wedding you desire, limits to how many people can attend the wedding versus the reception , and exactly how you want it to look and feel like.
    • Ask them, what are your expectations about your role during the wedding event? Communicate to your in-laws that this is a very special day for you and your soon-to-be husband. They are welcome to be a part of it. Make sure to discuss what you don’t want to happen. 
    • Ask yourself, what are your boundaries or limitations of unacceptable behaviors from your in-laws, parents or family members? Identify what would really cross the line for you and ensure that you are respectful but firm in your communications. Always show kindness in the midst of anger and discord. 
    • Ask them, what would mutual respect look like at the wedding? For many parents, it is hard for them to let go of their children and therefore a challenge to treat their children as adults. Communicating with your parents or in-laws about what respect looks and sounds like is critical if you don’t want to feel like a child again at your own wedding. They very well might have had different experiences from their own wedding which they might impose upon you.

    Here are two additional tips for when things go wrong at the wedding:

    • If mom and dad are rude at the wedding and/or reception, simply pretend like they did not make the remark and walk away until you are able to communicate to them in private. Do not cause a serious scene which only lends to embarrassing yourself, your parents or in-laws and others.
    • If your parents or in-laws invite too many or unknown people to the ceremony and reception, and you are concerned about additional costs or food shortages simply tell the officiant to check in the approved invited guests and politely inform uninvited guests  they are welcomed to stay for the ceremony but unfortunately, will not be able to attend the reception.  This allows those folks to still be a part of the day but preserves time and money at YOUR reception.

    All in all, remember not to let the hurtful behaviors and remarks of others determine your mood, reactions and ultimately your happiness for this special day. You will regret it for the rest of your life otherwise. For some tips on managing expectations, listen to last week’s podcast from the Texas Conflict Coach® on avoiding wedding conflict: Common Conflicts and Peace Practices for Engaged or Newlywed Couples  featuring Michelle and Dan Joy!

    Have a Great Week,

    Ann Margaret Zelenka

    Graduate Student Intern

    University of Baltimore, Negotiation and Conflict Management M.S. Program

     

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  • love-1284492_1920Did you know that there are 6,200 weddings a day in the US and that June is the most popular month for weddings in the US? According to Sound Vision’s article on wedding statistics, the average wedding budget is $20,000 with 178 guests attending the event.  Organizing a wedding is no small feat when it comes to communicating a vision, creating a plan and coordinating all of the moving parts including service vendors, bridal parties, family members and guests.

    Planning a wedding can be a very stressful process whether you are having a large or small event. There is potential for conflict to arise all the time, particularly between the bride and groom. My husband Bernard and I are newlyweds; we got married in September of 2015, and we had a 200 person wedding in the city of Baltimore.

    I won’t sugarcoat anything, despite being the happiest day of our lives, planning a wedding of that size was incredibly stressful and overwhelming at times. However, the one key way I minimized the stress and sidestepped a lot of conflicts resulting from untold details was remaining organized and constantly communicating. On more than one occasion, vendors would say that I was the most organized and communicative bride they had ever met; a title I wear proudly.

    Why are organization and communication so important when planning a wedding? 

    Unless you are lucky enough to have a wedding planner, chances are the bride and groom (but most likely the bride), are doing the majority of the planning. There is a lot of details that go into making the day the magical one you envisioned. Being able to keep track of everything is necessary to ensure miscommunication and confusion don’t lead to conflicts.

    How can brides stay organized and effectively communicate when planning their wedding?

    1. Get a Binder. My binder became my bible during the planning of our event. I had it organized into sections by the vendor; and I included my contract, pictures of what I wanted, etc. from each particular vendor filed in their section. While I know, it may be easier to have everything located on the web somewhere; I enjoyed having something tangible to hold so I didn’t have to sort through my phone to find stuff.
    1. Imagine What You Want. I am a very decisive person so when it came time to plan our wedding I had a very clear-cut idea of what I wanted which I think made things much easier when delivering my vision to our vendors. I know not every bride is like that, so vendors are great resources for sharpening your ideas. However, it important that you go in with some idea for them to springboard off of that way you don’t end up with a theme or colors you didn’t want.
    1. Ask Questions. I had a vendor tell me they felt like they were in an interview when I came to inquire about using their services because I asked so many questions. Before my first meeting with each vendor, I Googled, ” Questions to ask your [ fill in vendor].” I found that I not only covered a lot of ground, but I was able to see if they would be the best fit for the event.
    1. Create an Itinerary. You may think this is a little much, but I strongly recommend sending out an itinerary the week before your wedding to anyone who is involved: vendors, bridal party, readers, etc. The itinerary I created for our bridal party beginning with the rehearsal and ending with ceremony covered everything they needed to know from what to wear to the rehearsal and times they needed to be there to a checklist of what they needed to bring the day of the wedding. By sending this plan out, I was able to minimize my stress the night of the rehearsal and the actual wedding day, and I avoided having to answer repetitive questions.
    1. Speak Up. I have heard many brides complain after the fact that they didn’t like something a vendor/bridal party/family member did; or were disappointed by something a vendor/bridal party/ family member didn’t do. My rule is if you don’t say it or clarify it you cannot expect them to know what you wanted or didn’t want. Many brides fear being labeled a “Bridezilla” but if you hold back your wishes or don’t make sure everyone understands when things don’t go as planned you cannot blame anyone but yourself.

     

    Have a Great Weekend,

    Abigail R. C. McManus M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management

    Apprentice

     

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  • Ann Margaret ZelenkaThe Texas Conflict Coach® radio program celebrated seven years in April providing community outreach and education about all topics about the everyday conflict in your life. We added this year the new Conflict Chat on the last Tuesday of each month to invite callers to discuss their conflict situations and to chew on disputes we hear about in the news, social media and our lives. Callers can talk with experts and get guidance on their issue.

    We could not provide these services without the support of our volunteer guest hosts, graduate student interns, special guests and my Executive Assistant, Shawn Tebbetts. It is truly a team effort. We are growing our relationships with various universities to provide virtual internships. The interns learn about various areas of conflict resolution practice and where they can apply their skill sets based on their interests. Many interns have a passion to work with families or youth. Some have enjoyed the idea of providing negotiation skills to the workplace, and yet others in the legal arena or international affairs. Interns are responsible for researching topics of interest to the ordinary person and write weekly blog posts to help deal with certain situations. They are integral to producing quality programs by identifying radio topics and finding guests around the globe. Interns also get the opportunity to use social media to educate and engage, and to co-host radio programs during their term.

    Joining us this summer and fall term is a new graduate student intern, Anne Margaret Zelenka from the University of Baltimore’s Master’s program in Negotiations and Conflict Management.

    Here is a little bit more about Anne Margaret.

    My name is Ann Margaret Zelenka, and I am completing a Master’s of Science degree in Conflict Negotiations and Conflict Management at the University of Baltimore in December 2016. I have been working as a federal intern for the U.S. government at several agencies as of recently. It is my hope to one day attend law school and become a federally-barred attorney, but I have many other interests including humanitarian and international affairs, intellectual property matters, private consulting, and others. I am trying to find my niche in this field, and it is my hope that this internship aids me in doing so.  A little bit more about me personally is that I like to crochet, sew, cook, sing, write poetry, read books, spend time with friends, travel, volunteer, and participate in self-improvement activities. I have studied abroad in Poland, the Philippines, Canada, and have spent time in Mexico as well. I am very involved in on-campus activities and currently hold several part-time jobs as a lab assistant, tutor, and personal assistant to an author. I volunteer for many outside organizations including my church and other places that are important to me.

    Currently, I live with my family in Baltimore County, MD. I have one brother and two half-sisters, and my dad is still living. I married in 2015, and my husband is working in the pharmaceutical industry. About my childhood and young adulthood: I attended St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School in Hampden, MD for pre-k, then a Christian school in Baltimore City, MD for kindergarten, and then I was homeschooled from 1st-9th grade by my mother, who recently died. I then went to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic High School for the remainder of my high school career, where I graduated 3rd in my class. I graduated with my Bachelor of Arts degree in Jurisprudence from the University of Baltimore, Magna Cum Laude and with other honors. 

    We welcome, you, Ann Margaret Zelenka to our team!

    Pattie Porter, LCSW, ABW

    Founder and Host

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