05/02/2012 06:09 pm ET Updated Jul 02, 2012

Weddings That Set the Stage for Divorce

What a pity when the seeds of divorce are sowed at the wedding. Bridezillas, pushy wedding planners, fights with the in-laws, sibling rivalries, disgruntled relatives, sparring divorced parents, a MOB who thinks this is her day -- the dream of a lifetime that on average costs about $27,000 (not including the cost of the honeymoon) can certainly become a nightmare.

A wedding takes on a life of its own. Sure it can be a fantastic, magical event, but when the couple is unable to problem-solve and resolve conflicts under stress, it's likely these unhealthy patterns will become more pronounced after tying the knot.

Here are some of the red flags you might recognize:

  • Inability to recognize what is important to the other person
  • Self-centeredness
  • Excessive emotionality
  • Withdrawal of love
  • Inability to compromise
  • Muck-raking
  • Negativity
  • Inflexibility
  • Failure to distinguish between situational stress and relational stress
  • Failure to appreciate family history and cultural differences

The basic skills of conflict resolution are put to a test when planning a wedding. Among the many decisions are melding religious traditions, location of the wedding, budget, guest list, bridal party, choosing the band, photographer, etc. When the couple can't agree, when one wields the upper hand and the other is always giving in to avoid confrontation, the handwriting is on the wall.

Issues relative to the wedding can reveal character traits that might not have otherwise surfaced.

Case in point: Jackie was furious when she took a look at Tom's guest list. He had invited his whole office and was way over the count for his side. They'd agreed to have her brother as his best man. Instead he asked his college roommate who Jackie disliked. Meanwhile, Tom was learning how Jackie dealt with stress. She was always having meltdowns when things didn't go her way. Between the cost of her wedding gown, what she spent on gifts for the five bridesmaids plus all the extras, she'd blown the budget for the Hawaii honeymoon he was looking forward to.

Having to deal with family can create a wedge between the couple. Evelyn's divorced parents weren't on speaking terms. Her father said he wouldn't come to the wedding if her mother was there. Evelyn was expected to choose -- Mom or Dad. Her fiance sided with her father. Evelyn wanted her mother. She deeply resented her fiance's interference.

Smaller issues can be blown out of proportion. Marion complained that the groom took no interest whatsoever in the wedding. "He and his groomsmen got stinkin' drunk before the ceremony. In retrospect I'm sorry I didn't called the whole thing off." The truth is Marion spent more time planning her wedding than she did trying to figure out what was wrong with her marriage.

Even larger problems surface. My father recalled the wedding where the bride got the jitters before the ceremony. Supposedly, in order to stop her hysterics, the groom punched her in the face. The bride walked down the aisle with a bloody nose. I have no idea if that marriage lasted. Personally, I hope it was the beginning of the end.

In short, behavioral patterns -- and how individuals resolve issues before the wedding -- may not be so different after the wedding.