LIFE MATTERS — Dear Life Matters,
I received a message from my niece that she would like to get together and talk with me. I haven’t called back yet because I want to be clear before I do.
I suspect that she is going to ask for my blessing in marriage. I have heard from other family members that she is getting engaged to this man who is 10 years her senior and whom she has only known and dated for six months. And worse, they are targeting the end of October as a wedding date.
We do have a good impression of him but it is a first impression, so we don’t really know him and that is our concern, we are not sure that she does either.
Prior to this relationship, she was in a two-year relationship, madly in love and always saying that this was the man she was going to marry.
They were young (still are), in their twenties and he decided he wanted to devote himself and his time to his rapidly growing career and he broke up with her. She was devastated but now just a year later, here she is engaged.
We are worried that it may be rebound and also, we are concerned that she is so hell bent on marriage.
She comes from divorced parents and a broken home and I worry that she is just trying to create a family for herself and is not really paying attention to who she is doing it with.
I love my niece and just want her to be happy; I just wish that she would slow down.
Most of all, I do not know what or how much of this I should say to her?

Signed,

Cautious Aunt

Dear Cautious Aunt,
I can certainly understand your concern and caution as you put it. It sounds like you love your niece very much and she is lucky to have someone who cares so much, seems level headed and is looking out for her.
It is really hard to know what is going on and if it is legitimate, good for her or not. I certainly do not know if you and your family don’t know.
However, it is rather quick for someone to date just six months and then decide to marry, especially at her age. But there are many stories where people have met and just “knew” and actually have lived happily married forever.
It could be rebound but you say it is at least a year ago, so I think you can put that idea to the back burner for now. If it were just a few months ago then I think you would have reason to worry but a year plus later, I think you can relax on that one.
The one thing that you bring up that catches my attention here, is that she is hell bent on getting married. Often people will have an idea in their mind of how life is supposed to be and a picture of what they want their life to look like.
In and of itself, this is not so unusual or even problematic but when it is carried to an extreme, and the picture becomes more important than anything else, it can be really bad news. I have been witness to this more times than I care to say and it is often tragic.
You mention that her parents are divorced and that she comes from a broken home; this well might be part of her motivation to marry and create a family for herself as soon as possible. It is an understandable need and desire but life is not a movie or even like one.
Trying to be the producer, writer, and director and lead actor is your life drama while casting the folks that seem to fit in the roles and who agree to play them, is not the best way to a happy ending.
The best marriages are the ones where it all happens organically and the people allow themselves time to really know their partners and to learn whether or not they can be best friends for a lifetime.
Some people do know this early on but others, most of us, need time to really know. Trying to force the picture in one’s mind is just not possible; it always turns out to be a disaster.
What to say to your niece? Maybe you want to congratulate her and support her in her engagement, even help throw a party but strongly encourage her to put off the wedding date. She may be afraid to do this after her last boyfriend but for the sake of making it a lovely, beautiful wedding, that takes time.
This way you are not telling her yes or no, because you really are not the one to say it, you are just encouraging her to buy some time.

Dr. JoAnne Barge is a licensed psychologist and licensed marriage & family therapist with offices in Brentwood. Visit her at www.drbarge.com or send your anonymous questions to newshrink@gmail.com

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