What do you do when you don’t approve of a friend’s engagement? This month’s HerTake question asks when it’s acceptable to give a close friend unsolicited advice about her impending marriage, especially if you think the marriage would be a huge mistake.
A close friend of mine is getting remarried after her marriage ended last year and I think she’s making a terrible mistake.
First, she moved on (very quickly!) to a long-distance relationship that requires her constant travel; this has been hard on her, her local family and friends, and her own minor children.
But the bigger issue is that I don’t like her fiancé at all and none of her other local friends do, either. I’m ashamed to admit we’ve discussed this behind her back not to be cruel or gossipy, but because we don’t know how to handle this dicey situation.
(For the record, because he lives elsewhere, she was already in love by the time we met him, and we didn’t have an opportunity to express our feelings early on.)
My gut instinct is to say it’s none our business, but I know my friend trusts me and that she values my opinion; by saying nothing, I’ve given her the impression I not only approve of, but like her intended.
If she follows through with her wedding plans, I’ll do my best to support her, but I’ll also be setting myself up (and my husband) for an uncomfortable future: she expects us to continue a close friendship as couples and we have no desire to socialize with him at all.
My total honesty would force her to choose and I know she’d choose him. But it would also break her heart. I feel like I’m between a rock and a hard place.
To Give My Unsolicited Opinion or Stay Quiet?
Dear To Give My Unsolicited Opinion or Stay Quiet,
Oh boy, this is a tough one. You’re clearly a loving, dedicated friend, and I’m sure it’s been extremely difficult to watch your friend decide to get married so quickly after her divorce. The constant travel and knowing it’s been hard on the kids doesn’t help either.
Don’t Interfere: Here’s Why
Unfortunately, my gut instinct is the same as yours that you should not interfere in a direct way. If your friend is indeed making a mistake, she will only acknowledge it as a mistake if she is forced to go through the process of seeing so for herself. I fear if you or her other friends try to stop the marriage and she ends up calling off the wedding, she will always have a “what if” scenario in her mind in regards to this man. He may take up a place in her imagination as “the one who got away,” making her forget his faults or encouraging her to idealize whatever virtues he possesses. (He must possess some.)
I want to also mention that my mother, who I often consult for my own advice needs, has always expressed a strong opinion about minding one’s own business in matters of the heart. Before I told her about your situation, I guessed that she would advise you to stay out of it, but just in case I asked her to react to your question without knowing my opinion. I think my mom came up with a good way to potentially get your friend to discuss any doubts about the relationship, hopefully before the wedding takes place though there are no guarantees.
Stay Silent But Listen to Doubts
Here’s what my mom said: “In my opinion, what this woman should do is stay silent. As she correctly perceives, her friend will choose the fiancé over her. There is nothing she can do to prevent the marriage and will probably lose the friendship if she says anything. If the friend asks her opinion, she can always say it is not her decision and continue to say nothing negative. If, on the other hand, the friend expresses doubts, she can always start asking questions about what is fueling the doubts while still not expressing her own opinion. This question is a variation on the one of whether you should tell a friend if her husband is being unfaithful. I am in the camp that minding one’s own business is the best way to go.”
She Probably Already Knows
One last thought: I wonder if your friend already knows how you feel, that you don’t approve of her engagement. It’s a good possibility since you’re close and she can probably “read” you. She is likely determined to set her own path whether or not her friends approve. As for having to spend time with your friend and her husband-to-be as a couple, I can at least give you some proactive advice for that problem. As you find ways to not spend time together as a couple, increase the time you spend with her alone so that the message is clear you want to keep her in our life, but it’s going to be more as a twosome than a foursome. I know it’s easier said than done.
I wish I could tell you something that would alleviate your anxiety over the situation. Ultimately, for better or worse, I do think your friend’s fate with this man is out of your hands.
We’re always looking for new reader questions for Nina! If you have a difficult friendship situation that you’d like advice on, fill out our anonymous contact form.