JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Speak now, or forever hold your peace

Date
This is where happily ever after starts, right?

This is where happily ever after starts, right?

Oh dear. Now they’ve made it official. “We’re engaged!” The profile status update you knew would come, but dreaded. The drinks you had after work fuel you with urge to retort, your enabled mind feels for the right words:

“You’re screwed!”

Then you stop yourself. You doubt, very much, they’ll live happily ever after. But is it your place to comment? Is it bad manners to raise concerns about your friend’s relationship? When and how might you go about it?

It used to be that wedding announcements were printed in the paper after permissions had been sought from the protectors of the relevant parties. There was much formality, little autonomy and generally no room for public comment. Even at the ceremony, people rarely spoke now, preferring to forever hold their peace, the priest’s invitation to protest really a token gesture employed as the final covering of bases.

Not now.

Nowadays, we’ve many vehicles for comment. And we’re enabled by a new normal that encourages open, honest, peer-to-peer communication. We’re encouraged to ask personal questions and offer personal advice, even to people we hardly know, all the while bleeding our own intimate details out into the public sphere.

And there’s lots that is positive about this. It’s good we’re encouraged to share our feelings, and break-through the stiff-lipped constipation inherited from a history dominated by too-uptight social mores. Proper digestion of emotional issues does sometimes require a little bit of outside help, especially if you’re in a place where you really do need to be talking to someone.

But that’s not what we’re talking about here.

What we’re looking at is the problem that faces us on more fronts than it used to thanks to a culture of sharing and the communication devices that support it. We’re looking at the problem of having a problem with someone’s life choices and not knowing what to do about it.

Do you stay quiet or speak up? If they’ve aired their laundry, are you entitled to peg your opinions on the line as well?

Frankly, there’s a lot to be said for restraint. Regardless of whether your dilemma concerns someone’s relationship, job, or new baby name, it is always good to think before you speak. Think about why you want to speak (because they did? Or because you actually have something to say), and then decide whether it’s actually appropriate to say what’s on your mind. Too many times people just react. These people are uncivilised and lacking good manners.

And there are a lot of bad manners on Facebook, Twitter, and around the dinner tables of your town. Bad manners that would have someone commenting on someone else’s wedding announcement critically, or raising an oppositional view about a matter that couldn’t be changed at a social function (*note, you should only comment on a stain if something can be done to remove it).

Yet civilisation doesn’t work on silence.

Tongues need to be exercised sometimes. Sometimes, some things just need to be said. That you believe your mate might be making a mistake with their new girlfriend because of (insert considered reasoning) for example. Or that you’d like to attend the wedding but –

But. Well, that might just be pushing it a little. Because once someone has crossed the line of informality, into the realm of really serious commitment, you should recognise that you’ve missed the boat and the best you might do is stand on the shore, waving your hanky and possibly keeping it for later when they may come to you, really needing it, and your shoulder, to cry on.

Fact is, a lot of lines have been blurred in this brave, new, ‘social’, world, and the lack of clarity has brought about some very anti-social behaviours. That interactions with ‘friends’ is now possible from the privacy of your bedroom, via your mobile, after a few drinks, and not in real-time, has consequences. People say things they shouldn’t to people they shouldn’t, when they shouldn’t. It’s confused, and often rude, and can ruin relationships.

And it’s time to address it.

But let’s begin by focusing on the smaller issue here. Whether we agree commenting negatively about a friend’s major life decision, after they’ve decided to make it, is or isn’t ‘the done thing’, and why.

Have you ever talked a friend out of a major life decision like marriage? Have you attempted to, and been burned as a result? Have you held your tongue and regretted it later? Or do you think you should always speak your mind, no matter what, when, how or to whom?

@katherinefeeney

Tumblr

Facebook

kfeeney@fairfaxmedia.com.au

108 comments so far

  • I held my tongue when a close friend got engaged to her bloke, I couldnt see it lasting, and It was actually him I felt sorry for because i knew she wasn't able to be in love with him due to past circumstances, but I decided to stay out, they seperated 4 months later, he was shattered and she was guilty, she had said after they broke up that she knew getting married was a mistake and that she wasn't in love with him anymore, but she felt obligated to follow through with it because they had spent a lot of money for the day already, and that she wished someone had even just asked her 'do you think this is a good idea?' and helped her find the courage to call it off.

    Commenter
    Tongue Held
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    October 03, 2012, 7:49AM
    • she wished someone had even just asked her 'do you think this is a good idea?' and helped her find the courage to call it off.

      @Tongue Held

      And therein lies the correct approach; asking someone and letting them reach their own conclusion.

      I spend a couple of hours each week volunteering on a help line, and this is the technique we are taught to use. With leading questions, we can guide the conversation and bring someone to consider their situation and possible options. By assisting them to identify their own problem, we empower them to do something about it.

      Telling people what to do very seldom works. When we do this, we are actually telling them what we *think* we ourselves should or would do in their situation - even then, the advice we give is not necessarily what we would *actually* do if we were in their situation - much less what is best for them. They need to work that out for themselves, and with a few deft skills, we can empower them to do this.

      I would also caution against taking advice from others without question. Even our closest friends and family will deem what is best for us, as filtered through their own desires and expectations. A good example of this is a well-meaning friend of mine who values education and wealth (she is both educated and wealthy, and has chosen a partner of similar standing). Highly disparaging of my boyfriend at the time (a panel beater) she felt I should ditch him for someone of similar qualities as myself. The fact that he was medicine for my soul and laughter for my heart, was a concept she could not fathom and therefore ill placed to advise upon.

      Commenter
      Miss Rach
      Date and time
      October 03, 2012, 10:35AM
    • I am not sure whether doing either helps. I warned my sister off marrying a man who was ill-suited to her, but she did it anyway and divorced a year and a half later.

      She later said that she just felt as though she had gone "too far" to step back and although my family kept asking her whether she was sure and that it was okay to call it off if she wanted, she couldn't step away from the brink.

      Then again, I had my own father-in-law warn me off my insane wife and we are still happily married - so I don't think that there is any cut-and-dried rule about anything involved people and emotions.

      On balance, I would stay quiet and stay out of it.

      Commenter
      Enraged Sock-puppet
      Date and time
      October 03, 2012, 10:50AM
    • These cases certainly seem to be an argument against marrying someone you hardly know.

      Commenter
      enno
      Location
      sydney
      Date and time
      October 03, 2012, 2:47PM
  • Patty & Selma had no problem telling Marge

    Commenter
    I am the Walrus
    Location
    coocoo coojoo
    Date and time
    October 03, 2012, 7:52AM
    • But did Marge listen?

      Commenter
      MO4
      Date and time
      October 03, 2012, 11:51AM
  • I won't get involved but this is what I want to say.
    Don't get married. You are not her first choice. She had a fling with an arrogant low-life when she was 22 and no other man could move her like that. If only she could have changed him.
    You have the right mix of qualities for a husband - kind, good looking, good income, good with kids, a sense of humour. A good father. But these qualities make her want to marry you, not desire you. She both values your softer side and resents it. Eventually your sex life will suffer and she will bicker with you over insignificant things out of this underlying resentment that will never go away.
    If you divorce she can take the kids, the house and most of the money. Your heart will be shattered but she'll feel invigorated with a new freedom and zest for life. Her friends and family will support her decision. Your friends and family will secretly wonder what you did wrong.
    But not me. I'll know the truth because I saw it from the start. I'll talk to her and her family if she uses the kids as a weapon because I'm a nice guy and we'll still be on talking terms. I'll introduce you to some women and you'll have a girlfriend in no time. But hey, why not spare yourself the hassle.
    Don't get married.

    Commenter
    Not who you think it is
    Date and time
    October 03, 2012, 8:06AM
    • What a wonderful uplifting view you have on life. Thank you for sharing.

      Commenter
      Scarecrow
      Date and time
      October 03, 2012, 8:26AM
    • I won't get involved but this is what I want to say.
      Don't get married. You are not his first choice. He had a fling with a series of Victoria’s secret models when he was 22 and he has never forgotten the prestige it brought to his social status. If only he could maintain that lifestyle when he’s balding and 40 but life is unfair. You have the right mix of qualities for a wife - kind, good looking, good income, good with kids, a sense of humour. A good mother and carer. But these qualities make him want to marry you, not desire you. He values your dutiful wifely side and resents it. Eventually your sex life will suffer when he sees the childbirth scarring on your belly, he will bicker with you over insignificant things out of this underlying resentment that will never go away. If you divorce he will abandon the kids, take the house and ferret away most of the money. Your heart will be shattered but he'll feel invigorated with a new freedom and zest for life and you will see him with a younger model of yourself whilst you find yourself being a slave to your children, living from hand to mouth. His friends and family will support his decision and congratulate him on his new wife. Your friends and family will secretly wonder what you did wrong. But not me. I'll know the truth because I saw it from the start. I'll talk to him and his family if he forsakes his children because I'm a nice person and we'll still be on talking terms. But hey, why not spare yourself the hassle. Don't get married.

      Commenter
      A Response
      Date and time
      October 03, 2012, 9:36AM
    • Anonymous venting? Well... why not!

      You are a beautiful, successful, nationally and internationally acclaimed artist/choreographer. He is a narcissistic, self centred, self serving, straying pig. You can do better. I know you've been entwined for at least 7 itchy years... but you need to cut and run. While you still can.

      Commenter
      Bringer of Truth
      Date and time
      October 03, 2012, 9:49AM

More comments

Make a comment

You are logged in as [Logout]

All information entered below may be published.

Error: Please enter your screen name.

Error: Your Screen Name must be less than 255 characters.

Error: Your Location must be less than 255 characters.

Error: Please enter your comment.

Error: Your Message must be less than 300 words.

Post to

You need to have read and accepted the Conditions of Use.

Thank you

Your comment has been submitted for approval.

Comments are moderated and are generally published if they are on-topic and not abusive.

Featured advertisers

Horoscopes

Capricorn horoscope

Trust others to think for themselves. Don't be snobbish about what seems obvious. Everyone learns at their own pace, including you.

...find out more here