Welcome to the Sidebar’s advice column, where voters, boaters and promoters alike sit down for a chat with our very own Muffle. Her advice might be bad, but hey, at least someone’s listening. Today we’re talking about how to handle concerns that a friend is committing too quickly.
My friend and current roommate just got engaged. I’m happy for him, but I have some misgivings (which I have not voiced). My friend has only dated one person (the bride-to-be), and their relationship is only a little over a year old. They are very traditional and do not live together. My concern is that my friend is rushing things without really knowing how to handle situations in relationships where shit hits the fan, as it is wont to do.
On the one hand, I feel like, as a friend, I should talk to him about this. Marriage is a long commitment, and the last thing I want is for my buddy to become a divorce statistic because he was impatient. If I were in his shoes, I know I would want him to speak up about his concerns.
On the other hand, it’s entirely possible that their marriage will be a lasting, happy one. I don’t know the fiancée too well, but she gets along with my friend, their personalities match, and she seems like a decent person. My concerns are driven by my views of what is or isn’t good for a lasting relationship, which are just that: my views. As it was pointed out to me, there’s almost no way to broach this topic without seeming condescending or rude; the last thing I want is to ruin a friendship over a relationship that may be perfectly fine.
My question to you is this: as a long-lasting friend (we met about 15 years ago), should I voice my concerns or keep my mouth shut? I don’t want my friend to get hurt, but I also don’t want to get out of line by giving him unsolicited feedback.
Lightly Treading Friend
As someone who has, herself, gotten married, I must admit that my gut reaction was to tell you to mind your own beeswax. There is nothing like planning a wedding (or, as I understand it, having a baby) for making the entire world think that you both need and desire people’s opinions about your personal life choices. After months of almost universally unsolicited quips about everything from the date to the venue to the groom to the dress, I had absolutely zero interest in entertaining any more well-meaning commentary in the months leading up to my actual nuptials. Your friend may have more patience than I, and he may have to suffer through fewer of these conversations (being a dude; thanks, Patriarchy), but that’s something to keep in mind moving forward.
That being said, this is a friend for whom you clearly feel a great deal of loyalty and affection, and you’re concerned that he’s making a bad decision. I think there’s a way to broach that with him without being rude or condescending, and without being yet another unwelcome busybody, but you have to let him take the reigns a bit. If I were in your place, I’d take him out for a drink, and at some point in the evening, ask him how he’s feeling about the engagement: Excited? Nervous? Let him respond before you start giving him your opinion. If he seems truly happy, and totally certain, I think you need to swallow your misgivings and trust your friend to live his life. If he’s at all wishy-washy, however, or even trepidatious, that’s your opportunity to probe a little deeper. Ask him to elaborate on his feelings; ask him if he’s sure he’s making the right decision. And regardless of his answer, support him through whatever happens next, because whichever path he chooses, the next steps are big ones.
Going to the meat of your concerns, though, I’m sympathetic as to why you’re a little iffy on his decision: the generation of folks who are now looking at first-time marriages tend to spend more time experimenting and poking around (heh) before they settle down, hopefully for good. We get married later, have kids later (if at all), and are more open to a wider variety of romantic and sexual (or a-romantic, a-sexual) relationships than our predecessors. That being said, something isn’t necessarily a bad choice just because it’s an uncommon one. I met my husband when I was 15 years old, and have been actively “with” him since 17. We’re now working on our third year of marriage, and so far, so good. (Not saying we don’t still have plenty of time to crash and burn in a horrific and traumatizing way, but no indication of that as yet. [Love you, babe! ♥]) Make sure that your concerns apply to the situation your friend is actually in, rather than your idea of it. If they really do seem happy together, then hey; maybe they just got lucky.
Snark and tipples,
Got a question for Muffle? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.