In the next few months, wedding season kicks off. Some of us have RSVP’d to weddings we’d rather not attend because, frankly, we don’t support the union. Realistically, few of us will speak up when the officiant asks us to, “Speak now, or forever hold your peace.” But is it reasonable to speak up before your friend or family member walks down the aisle? Sometimes.
If you’re concerned about a loved one’s upcoming nuptials, it’s essential to ask yourself questions including: Should I intervene? How do I intervene in a way that he/she will hear me instead of resent me? And, do I have the right to intervene?
It’s important to decipher whether you don’t support your loved one’s engagement because of your personal preference or because you see that she’s in an unhealthy or dead-end relationship.
It’s unreasonable to challenge your friend or family member’s engagement because:
You Don’t Click With Her S.O
It may bother you that you think your friend’s finance is loud and pushy or quiet and boring. Thankfully, you’re not the one in the relationship, and you can’t project your own feelings onto them.
Instead of challenging your friend on her decision to get married, or resigning yourself to the fact that her fiance is lame, put your energy into trying to get to know your friend’s partner better. Suggest doing an activity with both of them where the focus isn’t solely on talking. If this idea makes you cringe, at least consider asking your friend what she loves about her S.O. You can be honest and admit that you haven’t bonded with her partner yet, but that you’re excited to get to know him or her better.
You Don’t Think Her Fiance Is “Good Enough”
The way we define whether or not someone is “good enough” for our loved one tends to be pretty superficial. For instance, because you think the world of your cousin, you may think that she should be with a more “successful” person than her current partner. But she may define success as someone who treats her well and provides for her in more ways than financial. Perhaps she doesn’t mind being the breadwinner. (A growing trend for women in partnerships today, in fact.)
As long as your loved one hasn’t expressed concern that she’s settling for someone who she doesn’t really want to be with, it’s not fair to impose your own values and expectations on her relationship. She’s an adult, and has likely had a number of experiences that led her to her current partner.
The Relationship Doesn’t Make Sense to You
You may not understand your friend’s dynamic with her S.O. and that’s OK, as long as she seems content and stable in her relationship. The reality is that most of our relationships play out behind closed doors, and we rarely get a glimpse into how couples really act when nobody is watching.
If your friend isn’t complaining about her partner, you don’t need to understand why she wants to be with him—you just need to support it.
Licensed therapist Meg Batterson of Meg Batterson Psychotherapy says, “In these cases, if you really want to speak up to say how you feel, you still have to do it in a way that you’re respecting your friend or family member’s choice. If you’re really close, you can express that you don’t see it, but don’t dwell on it. Once they’ve made their decision, try to be accepting of that.”
On the other hand, it’s totally reasonable to protest your loved one’s engagement if:
You See Her Struggling
“This is a time when you can say what you’ve noticed,” Batterson says. “You can say that you’re noticing she’s been really stressed lately, and ask her open-ended questions like, ‘What’s your stress related to?'”
You don’t want to attack her relationship, because you’ll shut down communication. But it’s totally fair to call attention to what you’ve noticed. The reality is that you know your loved one well, so you know when she’s not acting like herself.
Ben, 40, had this situation with his engagement three years ago. A number of close friends and family members questioned his choice, and he admits now that it made him wonder why so many were calling attention to it. Today, Ben is appreciative that his loved ones spoke up and raised a flag. He said, “It really is better to realize sooner rather than later that things might not work out. I wasn’t acting like myself. I wasn’t sleeping and I was stressed out. It’s the mark of a true friend who has the love and respect for you to risk the difficult discussion that could follow, but I’m thankful that my good friends made me face a difficult decision to call off the wedding.”
Your Friend Is in a Codependent Relationship__
In a partnership, we rely and depend on each other and this is normal. However, in an unhealthy codependent relationship, generally one person doesn’t have autonomy, or is in a pattern of rescuing the other. In this case, the relationship can be extremely one-sided.
Batterson says, “It depends on the degree of the co-dependence. If you find your friend is acquiescing to the demands and needs of her partner the majority of the time, or showing distress, it’s fair to express your concern.”
Signs of codependence may include your friend canceling plans or dropping everything to make sure her partner is comfortable at all times. Batterson adds, “In an unhealthy codependence, you may see your friend experiencing distress, withdrawing from her typical interests, withdrawing from plans with you and other friends, and always waiting to hear from her partner.”
She may consistently disrespect your time by canceling or putting things on hold to satisfy the needs of her partner. This isn’t respectful behavior, and it should be called out.
She’s Being Abused__
If you see your loved one experiencing verbal, emotional, substance, or physical abuse with her partner, this calls for an intervention. In this case, you can be more confrontational since she’s involved in a potentially extremely dangerous situation.
“These are qualities that aren’t going to change,” Batterson says. “Things like this take years of therapy to get to the bottom of why you’re like that. I deal with this a lot in my practice. It’s not uncommon for people to attach to someone that they can’t let go of; but I always let them know that the person has to work on themselves before they can be a healthy person or partner and that work could take years.”
The bottom line is that many of us would rather not be with our friend or family member’s partners. If you disagree with her decision to get married because of personal preference, choose your words carefully. In this case, it’s better to be curious about her choice rather than challenge it. However, if you see that your loved one is in danger or that her S.O is bringing out her worst, it’s worth speaking up to call attention to what you’ve noticed.
A few years ago, Jodi questioned her best friend’s engagement by saying, “I know you’ve expressed concern to me about your relationship in the past, and I just wanted to let you know I support whatever decision you make ahead. If you want to vent or process this decision more, I won’t judge you. I’m here for you.”
When her friend ultimately called off the engagement months later, Jodi was one of her first calls and now admits that “I’m here for you” was the best message she could’ve received.
Andrea Syrtash is a relationship and lifestyle expert and the author of the new Audible book He’s Just Not Your Type (and That’s a Good Thing)