Carolyn Hax is away. In her absence, we are offering columns from her archive.
Q: My (much) younger sister's boyfriend is planning to propose on her 21st birthday. I am horrified. My sister still has a year left of college. Neither one has ever lived independently — they both are living with their parents in our small hometown. The boyfriend, while he has a college degree, only recently took his first salaried job — certainly not a job anyone would want to make into a career. His mom pressured him into immediately buying a condo locally.
Now, I realize everyone has a right to live their own life, and the chances of my changing things are slight, but I feel that, as the older sister, I need to have a heart-to-heart with my sister. There is so much to see of life and no rush to get married!
Do I have a right/obligation to give my opinion to my sister?
A: You have a powerful obligation to bite your tongue.
This is your sister's business. It's her moment to enjoy (or suffer), and her decision to make.
When your sister seeks your opinion, then you can offer it. Don't worry if she doesn't ask explicitly; it will be all over your face, body language, sleeve, and maybe a few other articles of clothing.
There are risks to having such strong opinions. While I feel as you do about rushing marriage, I'm also humbled on a daily basis by the complexity of outcomes in life. Even if your sister does say yes (she might not), and even if she does go through with the wedding (she might not), and even if the marriage does fail (it might not), it may end in such a way that matures her, awakens something in her, allows her to notice and appreciate someone really good for her.
If you must caution her, then do so knowing that mistakes can weather into blessings, just as that perfect person who marries at just the right time in the perfect arc of life can get hit by a bus.