Good Guy, Wrong Reason?

Q. Dear 40-somethings,

Should I tell my sister I think she shouldn’t get married? He’s a good guy but I think it’s the wrong reason. 

My sister is engaged! She is beautiful, smart, giving, hardworking -the best person I know. She’s 28, and after a series of bad relationships and men who weren’t ready to move onto the next step…so her fiancé was a breath of fresh air. He wants kids. Family is important to him. He is a hard worker. After they met she finally felt like she had found someone with a similar value system and similar goals.

He is a good guy but I don’t necessarily think that he is right for my sister. My parents especially don’t think so. We’ve struggled on whether or not to say something. The first year into their relationship…my parents confronted her and tried to offer their perspective out of concern that this relationship would continue on the path it was headed…. marriage.

She was crushed and has remained very self-conscious about their relationship and how it is perceived as it has continued into the next phase.

She has expressed her doubts to me in private. Her fear of getting married as well as how it makes her sad that deciding to get married was far more of a decision and far less of an, ” I just know it’s right” moment.

I’m not sure if there ever is a moment like that… but I worry if we, her family, should speak up one more time before she takes a walk down the aisle.

Are we being too judgmental? Or is my sister committing herself to a relationship out of fear that there’s not a better match out there and she’s running out of time?  I want her to be happy… but something just doesn’t feel quite right.

A. Dear 20-something,

This is a tough one. Many people say don’t ever tell a good friend you don’t “approve” of their guy/partner because if they do end up with them they will resent you.   However this is your sister.

Many women believe it all depends on the type of relationship you have with your sister. She seems to feel close to you as she has expressed some doubts. But you need to tread carefully. Coming right out and saying don’t marry him probably won’t work. She will get defensive. But asking her questions that may help he come to her own decision can help.

First you have to figure out if your feelings are justified. As you said he’s a breath of fresh are and they share the same values. Some people feel that is plenty to build a relationship on. On the other hand, don’t think a marriage can rest on friendship and values alone…there has to be a spark.

I remember when my sister was getting married.  I didn’t like her choice. But I was a kid. So while I stubbornly pointed out he didn’t talk much (read didn’t pay as much attention to me as her previous boyfriends), I was much ignored….as I was only 12! She now jokes that she should have listened to me as they are long divorced. Of course, at the time she was not asking for my opinion and certainly did not take it seriously.

However, I remember later having a conversation with my parents about a guy a broke up with I’m my twenties. They said they knew it wouldn’t last because there wasn’t enough spark. I choked on my margarita (we were on vacation at the time). They then commented on my sister’s marriage that they thought the marriage didn’t last because it was all spark. Married 50 plus years they believe indeed you can have both.

I came to the right decision on my own…my sister was headstrong and did her own thing. The point…you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink. Talk to her about your thoughts and provide different perspectives so she can make her own decision.

Here is what 40-something women have to share about how to address the issue with your sister.

One women I spoke to didn’t like her brothers choice of fiancé. As an event planner, she was enlisted by the future bride and her mother to help arrange the wedding. Rather than coming out and telling her brother her doubts…she just made it more difficult for the bride to plan the wedding…subconsciously perhaps.

She constantly disagreed with the fiance’s taste and choices until finally the mother told her to cool it. She realized she was in the wrong and respected the mother for telling her. Her advice is not to let it fester. Say what you think and try to lend a supportive ear but if they don’t take it…get with the program.

Another woman had a situation where her sister got married to a man she didn’t think would treat her right. She didn’t say anything prior to the wedding. But when she saw her fears were coming true she approached her sister with questions that made her rethink her choice and get out of a bad situation. She would now advise doing this beforehand:

“Ask questions that lead her to her own decision. In my sister’s case I asked: If anyone treated your daughter this way how would you feel? What types of relationships do you admire? Can you say that about your own? Think about questions that could help her see if she is getting married for the right reason.”

Another woman shared a story about her fiancé. In this case her sister urged her to give the guy a second chance. He was getting cold feet about the wedding and acting strange. The sister liked the guy and counseled her to stay with him…give up on the big wedding and work around his issues. In the end they broke up. She is extremely close to her sister and holds no resentment for her counsel. She appreciated the support of her sister when the time came to get out and she knew she gave it her best until it was time to save herself.

This woman brings up the point that you don’t really have a lot of negative things per se to say about the fiancé but if the issue is really about her doubts…assure her that it is never too late to change your mind.

“I would start by saying you did not give a lot of information as to why you do not feel he is right for your sister, you listed no negative traits, so I would first make sure it is a real issue and not one made out of unrealistic ideas.  Either way, it sounds to me like she wants to be rescued. Tell her how you feel, tell her why. Remind her that getting married because you are “supposed to” or “already ordered invitations”, or “because he is a nice guy” does not make for a happy marriage.  People will get over it. He will get over it and maybe he feels the same way.  Better to do it now than after everyone came to a wedding, bought gifts etc.”

The last story I heard was from a woman who met her friend’s fiancé at their engagement party and violently disliked him. He was rude to the guests and treated her friend poorly. He stayed in the bedroom with a guy friend for the entire party save 15 minutes. Turns out she moved to Canada with him and he left her. The woman told her after the fact about how wrong she thought he was when she met him at the engagement party and the friend exclaimed …why didn’t you tell me?

“She said she wished I had said something but I told her that she would not have been open to it at the time and I did not feel that there was any “good time” to tell her.  Had I met him while they were dating, I probably would have piped up about my reservations.  I think she was very swept up in it and couldn’t see the real guy.”

So timing is important too. While it’s never too late to tell her it’s not too late to change her mind…don’t wait until the last minute to engage her in the discussion. Here are a few posts that might help you frame some questions to help her come to her own decision.


Good luck to you both!

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