“To Jaw-Jaw is better than to War-War.” This quote by Winston Churchill, British Statesman, opens the door to today’s article – Good communication skills (Jaw-Jaw) stops the destruction of relationships (War-War).

Part one: Raise your weapons

Mandy Moore and Matt Bernhart are planning their wedding. No, it’s more like Mandy and her mother are planning the wedding. No, it’s Matt’s mother, Sara Bernhart (AKA ‘Diamond Sue’) who has highjacked the wedding.

First blood was drawn when Diamond Sue declared, “the reception must be held at the Country Club.” Mandy’s father, an electrician, had reserved the Union Hall for the reception dinner. Unlike Matt’s family, owners of Bernhart Mercedes Dealership, Mandy’s family could not afford a Country Club soiree. The closer the wedding day, the thicker the tension grew between the betrothed.

And then, War-War.

“Matt,” Mandy snapped, “your mother is destroying my wedding!” Matt shot back, “I thought it was our wedding.” Mandy bristled, “Diamond Sue is destroying our wedding, and you’re too chicken to confront her.”

Matt barked, “my mother is controlling, but why can’t you bend just a little?” Mandy stepped closer to Matt and struck his chest hard with her right fist – “bend?” she roared. “Like I bend down and kiss Diamond Sue’s feet, or I bend the truth about that girl you kissed two days after we were engaged?”

Matt grabbed her hand, bent it back and screamed, “face it Mandy, you don’t love me- you love having power over me.”

“You’re hurting me,” Mandy yelped. Matt released his grip. Mandy stepped back and with a voice of steel said, “I hate your mother, I hate the silver spoon she stuck in your mouth, I hate this 3-carat ring she gave to you, but more than anything else, I hate a spineless man!” Mandy slipped off her engagement ring, dropped it on the floor and stomped on it. “The wedding’s off,” she shrieked.

The next day, Matt got up and checked his emails and social media. What he saw chilled his blood. His best friend posted, “how can you be so abusive to Mandy? I told her to get a restraining order against you.” As Matt waded through the mound of hostile e-mails, he knew he needed help. He called Dr. Wade, a psychologist, who had a 1 p.m. opening.

Part two: A plan for peace

Dr. Wade asked, “Has Mandy ever called the wedding off before?” Matt said, “Yes, twice before.” Dr. Wade continued, “When she called it off, who did the work to repair the relationship?” Matt replied, “I did, Mandy never believed she had done anything wrong.”

Dr. Wade said, “Many couples like you have an unhealthy power dynamic – the one who threatens to leave holds the most power. In healthy relationships, power is equally shared, and both work together to fix problems.” Matt asked, “What can I do?” Dr. Wade replied, “I going to teach you the skill of confrontation.” “I hate confrontation,” Matt said. “Everyone hates confrontation,” said Dr. Wade, “they believe – wrongly – that confrontation contains anger. Confrontation is like rain for a forest: essential for growth. It begins with the word, “I.” For your mother, try saying, “I am upset over your demand that the dinner be at the Country Club – Mandy and I are the ones to

Dr. Richard Elghammer is a clinical psychologist in Danville and practices at the Elghammer Family Center. He received specialty training in child, adolescent and family psychology at Riley’s Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis, and completed his clinical internship at Indiana University School of Medicine.

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