Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Sisters at odds over whether fiance is good for third sister
Va.: My younger sister is finally marrying the man of her dreams at 36. Our youngest sister is divorced, had two broken engagements, and a string of loser boyfriends. She seems to think she's the expert on relationships, that she can see right through people.
So, all I hear is that our sister is making a mistake. Her fiance picks out her clothes (controlling), he's in a band (party guy), he's like our dad (cheated on our mom), he's made a comment once about her being a doctor (fortune hunter), etc. All looking for the worst in him.
I've been married 20 years and none of these things raises any red flags to me. Cynical sister and I are at odds, since I maintain that only time will tell.
Should I stop believing people are inherently genuine, and always wait for some "true nature" to show itself? Or is cynical sister so jaded that she can't see they are right for each other?
Carolyn: I suspect you're both looking at the wrong person, for the wrong reasons. You're both judging the groom, and using that as a referendum on each other — in order to bolster your images of yourselves. You're asking, "Don't my choices make me the smarter sister?"
Prime setup for a sibling competition.
If your goal instead is to show concern for the bride, then just look to your sister herself. Is she her usual self with this guy — at ease, nondefensive, possessed of her familiar sensibilities/sense of humor/habits/etc.? Or does she seem to be acting a part, making excuses for his behavior, abandoning things you always knew her to love, etc.?
Assuming she is at ease, that doesn't necessarily mean the marriage will succeed. It does indicate, though, that she is self-possessed vs. living in service to her insecurities — and that, in turn, suggests she'll be okay even if the marriage turns out not to be.
It's the people in thrall to their own worst impulses who are most vulnerable to predatory mates, and who warrant the greatest concern.
Anonymous: Re: Va.: Well, on paper, he is a loser: 30-something, presumably, and still making comments about marrying a doctor while in a band? PICKS HER CLOTHES? Sorry, but that is 100 percent controlling. I was a counselor at an abused women's center, and picking your wife's clothes is a starting point for abuse. It's about not wanting her to appear too attractive to other people. Men without self-confidence have to do this when they marry women with good educations and careers.
Carolyn: That's one interpretation, certainly. But maybe she has no interest in clothes, maybe his comment "once" about her profession really was just one comment, and maybe he's an able and dedicated musician.
People who have taken up residence under someone's thumb rarely do so without giving off signs — withdrawing from their close friends and family, for example. Or, they give up things they used to love. Or they over-explain: "I'm wearing this sweater because (etc.)" — or they make excuses for their mate — "S/he's just really stressed right now."
Signs like these say a lot more than someone's resume.