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#501 & #502: When directness > “nice”

It’s a two-fer, united by weddings and people who won’t let a subject drop and need to be told, flat out, NO.

#501: Hiya Cap!   

I’ve got a short and not-so-sweet one for you:  

My grandfather passed away earlier this year.  As it happens, my fiance’s aunt was getting married the same weekend of his funeral.  I, of course, elected to spend time with my grieving family rather than leaving them to go celebrate a joyous occasion.  

Aunt called me to express her condolences, but mostly to kind of whine about me missing the wedding, and to tell me that I should still “stop by for dinner.”  Because having a wedding dinner with people who never met my grandfather between the sessions of his wake is exactly what everyone would want to do, amiright?  

When this woman inevitably brings up the fact that I missed her wedding at future family functions, would it be terribly rude of me to respond with something like, “I’m sure you’re sorry you weren’t able to pay your condolences to my family at my grandfather’s wake, too?”  

For the record, Fiance’s mother and sister both came to the wake.  

Sincerely,

I Don’t Even Know What to Call Myself For This

Dear I Don’t Know:

On the list of “good reasons to miss a wedding you’ve RSVP’d for even though the bride & groom have spent lots of time on seating charts and given final numbers to the caterer:”

Said wedding takes place in the middle of a family funeral. DEATH HAPPENS.

If your fiance’s aunt never brings this thing up again, I hope you can forgive her somewhat for putting her foot in her mouth during a time when she had a ton of stuff going on and was pulled in many directions. “If you have time and feel up for it, you are welcome to join us for dinner” was very likely a sincere, heartfelt offer, but it was one almost guaranteed to be refused. Chalk it up to a stressful day, foot-in-mouth disease, not really knowing what to say, feeling guilty about having a happy occasion on such an occasion of grief, whatever and hope for the best. (Have a lowered opinion of her due to the whining, but let the whole thing go if you can).

That’s if she never brings it up again. IF.

If she does bring it up again – whining about how you missed the wedding, wondering why you couldn’t stop by for at least a little while, letting you know how much it bothers her, etc., she is showing some very unflattering colors. In that case, here is your script:

I was very sad to miss your wedding but I am happy with my choice.

Put a real period on that sentence. Imagine this lady saying it. Or this one.

She will stammer out something. Stay silent until she stops talking. The message you want to send is, unequivocally, “I am okay with you being sad about this. I am not okay with guilt trips.” If she really won’t stop talking, say that out loud. “It feels like you are fishing for an apology or wanting me to feel guilty in some way. I don’t.” Keep “We should stop talking about this” up your sleeve.

Short declarative sentences. No explanations or apologies. It takes practice, but that stuff is power.

#502: Hey Captain Awkward and team,

I have a question about negativity surrounding upcoming events. I met my significant other through online dating, and after almost a year together we got engaged, and the wedding is set for December. . I’m thrilled! My family is thrilled! His family is thrilled!  My friends are thrilled! well…. except for one.

This is a good friend, (though not my nearest and dearest) who is being, uh, pessimistic, whenever future plans come up in discussion recently. He is not usually pessimistic about life, tends to have an overall positive outlook in fact, but any time my upcoming wedding, or plans after that come up, he instantly turns to “are you sure? you’re moving too fast! Are you positive you’re ready to commit like that with him? Given his personality I suspect he will _______ later, watch yourself!”

Now given my awesome supportive  friends, if one of them has criticized someone I’ve dated in the past I’ve been inclined to listen and at least take a second look, usually they have good reason. In this case though… This friend is not as close as many others, all of whom approve strongly of my fiance and of how we work together.  This friend also did not voice ANY of this concern until after we were engaged. Finally playing in, this friend and I also have the very slight history that he asked me out in the past and was turned down.  I thought we were past it and that he was fine with the understanding that while I like him as a friend, some fundamental religious differences made the idea of dating severely unwise.  I can’t help but wonder though if the gloom and doom being professed about my relationship isn’t slightly related to that.

My question is, how do I deal with this friend socially for now? The warnings have been expressed, acknowledged and considered,  but now I wish that they, and the concerned looks, would stop, particularly given that he seems to be in isolation in this worry. Avoiding him socially is not really an option, he’s in multiple of my social groups, and it’s not a friendship I wish to lose, moreover I feel like pulling away would result in a “see! I told you so! I told you he’d make you leave your friends!” even though that is not at all the case, my fiance highly approves of me being myself, doing my own thing, and socializing with whomever I choose!  You can’t force someone to be happy for you, can you?

Sincerely,

Stop raining on my parade!

Dear Stop Raining:

I recommend total bluntness at this point. You’ve tried soft-pedaling it and it’s not sinking in.

Wait until he says something weird, and then just say it: “Okay, at this point your continued ‘warnings’ & ‘concerns’ are just weird and annoying. I need you to keep them to yourself from now on. Thank you.”

He will be totally taken aback, probably insist that he’s just trying to help, whatever. It will be super-awkward.

To whatever he says, you say some version of “Once upon a time I appreciated the caring sentiment if not the substance behind your warnings. At this point, it just feels hostile and controlling. Please stop. Thank you.”

He’ll go away and lick his wounds and then come back and be cool. Or not. But you are not wrong to stand up for yourself.

The jilted Aunt doesn’t ever have to feel good about the letter writer missing her wedding.

The “helpful” friend doesn’t ever have to feel happy about his friend’s upcoming nuptials to Not Him.

The Letter Writers just need these people to knock off the bad behavior. Feel anyway you like! Stop doing this crappy thing you’re doing!

If the Aunt & the Friend take the admonitions seriously, apologize, and stop what they are doing, a good relationship is possible sometime in the future. The Letter Writers can start the Bygones Clock and let the past be in the past. Having someone tell you “Hey, you’re out of line here” doesn’t mean “I HATE YOU FOREVER,” it means, stop doing that thing so that we can continue to relate to each other in a positive way. It also means “I think enough of our relationship to tell you directly what needs to happen. If I didn’t care, I would stay quiet as a first step to cutting this off.”

If they won’t stop digging the hole they’re in, the relationships will be ruined, but not because y’all stood up for yourselves.

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107 comments
  1. slfisher said:

    I’d be inclined to something like, “Yes, it’s really unfortunate my grandfather’s death was such an inconvenience to you” but then I’m that sort of person.

    And kudos to fiance’s mother and sister for supporting you, LW, in your time of need. I’m sorry for your loss.

    • Yeah, I’d probably be like “I was at a *funeral*, remember?” Although that would be for people I had known for years and had a better general relationship with.

      But the Captain’s advice is better.

    • LW#1 said:

      Thank you so much.

      Fiance’s mom told me that Aunt was hysterically crying because I wouldn’t be there, and her wedding would be “ruined.” O.o Fortunately, she never said that directly to me, so I can just pretend like it never happened.

      Knowing this woman, it’s pretty inevitable that she’s going to bring it up. I think I’ll keep your response in my back pocket in case the Cap’s advice doesn’t work on her. ;)

      • “Aunt was hysterically crying because I wouldn’t be there, and her wedding would be “ruined.””

        Clearly the takeaway message is that you are the fixed point in the universe around whom your fiance’s aunt entirely revolves. But not only that! Your influence extends one mile into the atmosphere beyond the surface of the earth and one mile into the earth’s crust, and beyond that, you have dominion of Time for a year into the past and a year into the present, so it is also terribly inconsiderate of you to fail to take responsibility for the Thing that your fiance’s aunt’s ex-boyfriend’s wife’s lover’s dog Did on Thanksgiving last year. You are also the Bad Fairy at the Christening/Wedding, and your aunt fears that your absence has only predicted further doom, and the first child of the marriage will tragically prick her finger on a spindle and fall under a cursed sleep, which will ruin – RUIN! – your fiance’s aunt’s TIN WEDDING ANNIVERSARY, HOW DARE YOU, DOES YOUR VILLAINY KNOW NO BOUNDS?! For that was her only chance to collect several desirable pieces of tinware from her registry and now it is slightly spoiled by the inconvenient needs and emotions of her family. I don’t know how you can possibly live with that knowledge. TINWARE, LW.

        Best of luck to you, LW, and my regrets on your grandfather’s passing. It might be best to pretend that you never suspected your aunt could say such a thing.

        • LW#1 said:

          ::shifty eyes:: SHHH! You’ll blow my cover! ;)

          Thank you for your expression of sympathy. Pretending I never suspected that Aunt could say such a thing will be VERY HARD; I have a very good imagination, but unfortunately saying such things seems to be her modus operandi.

        • I am laughing. A lot.

          LW, the perspective to remember whenever anyone is going on about ruined weddings or the like is this:

          At the end of the day, were the couple married? If yes, then the wedding was a success! Even if a tornado blew through and dropped a very confused dolphin on the wedding cake, if the couple got married, the wedding’s a success.

          And…. I mean…. even when the aunt goes on wailing about you, remember it’s not even a little bit about you. You’re her nephew’s fiance, for crying out loud. She hasn’t dreamed of you being at her wedding for twenty years. You did not actually break her heart by your absence. It’s about her, and about her feelings of Wedding Must Be Perfect AAAAA.

          Now, she might be secretly awful, but she might also be secretly incredibly stressed out by the whole wedding thing. It can totally fuck with you. Suddenly you’re planning this HUGE PARTY that EVERYONE WILL JUDGE YOU ON when you are ABOUT TO CHANGE YOUR ENTIRE LIFE and have ALL THE FEELS, and at the same time you probably have approximately ZERO EXPERIENCE and then OMG THE MONEY FUCK MONEY ARGH and at the same time an entire industry is zooming down on you to exploit your ass, after having spent your entire life pumping your ego up with “It’s Your Day” and “Have The Perfect Wedding” and “Be The Princess” and all that other nonsense. I mean, you’re obviously engaged but I don’t know how far you’ve gotten in the planning, and it can be overwhelming. The aunt may be only a little bit selfish and annoying and had the wedding blow all that part of her personality completely out of proportion. This isn’t to excuse her behavior entirely, but if she doesn’t give you any more crap it might make it easier for you to cut her some slack.

          So popping back up, her going on about you spoiling the wedding? You were just The Next Thing Going Wrong OMG, and probably later something else went wrong and totally spoiled the wedding OH NO.

          And also, if you do say something less than graceful to her, it’s okay. If there’s one thing that can mess up people’s grace and etiquette more than being a bride can, it’s grieving a loved one. “I’m sorry, I just miss my papa so much…” and then peace out.

          • LW#1 said:

            Is it wrong that I’m now hoping for a tornado-deposited confused dolphin at my own wedding? Because that would be BAD. ASS. (Provided the dolphin is unharmed, of course.) (Also, that the cake is not completely ruined, because cake is my favorite.)

            Aunt is one of those people who assumes that they are the center of the universe, regardless of wedding planning status. I understand that stuff like that is stressful, but my expectation is that once the stress is done with, she has no reason to berate me about it further, which is what I’m concerned about.

            Personally, I’ve been an A Practical Wedding/Offbeat Bride junkie for quite a bit longer than I’d care to admit, so I feel like I am Prepared to take on the WIC and people who Expect things.

          • CoolNewAnonymousNickname said:

            Couldn’t figure out how to reply below, so I cut-n-pasted “Aunt is one of those people who assumes that they are the center of the universe, regardless of wedding planning status”. Am I right in assuming that Aunt is well into advanced grown-up age, as she has a nephew who is of marriageable age herself? If you were feeling particularly uncharitable, you could put on your very best sweetly-concerned face and say to Aunt, “I am so sorry for ruining your big day, but I promise to make it up to you. When you’re in divorce court, no force on earth will keep me from being there to support you.” But, I am an evil-hearted woman, so ymmv….

          • LW1, if that’s wrong, I don’t know what’s right. Although I did not personally hope for a confused dolphin, I did buy Emergency Kites on a whim — and people used them.

            I hope for you that you have misread this lady and she will be more reasonable, or at least stick with passive-aggressive stupids. We can hope that she will Flounce out of attending your wedding so you can Know How It Feels and then it will all be even!

            If she threatens that, make sure to pretend to be upset, because otherwise she won’t go through with it.

          • slfisher said:

            I was also going to suggest that you should probably expect some sort of payback at your wedding, which will give you the opportunity to model gracious behavior to her.

            Sharon Fisher from my Samsung G3

          • LW#1 said:

            @CoolNewAnonymous: Yes, she is an older lady, and why yes, some of us DO secretly expect this relationship to end in divorce! Alas, my heart is not quite as evil as yours, so I don’t think I could pull that comment off.
            @CarbonatedWit: I think Emergency Kites is a thing I need to have in my life in general!

            If she flounces my wedding, I will no longer have an ass, because it will have been laughed right off! Also, my brother/Man of Honor will have an easier job that day, because I have tasked him with keeping the crazy fifteen feet away from me at all times.

            I’m kind of giggling evilly with glee at the thought of her refusing to attend our wedding. Alas, I don’t believe it will happen.

          • slfisher said:

            Well, you just need to plan your response. Like, taking her hands in yours, looking sincerely into her eyes, and saying, “Aunt, I’m *so* sorry that you weren’t able to attend my wedding because you were washing your hair, but I *do* understand that these things happen. Tell me, how is your hair now?”

            On Fri, Aug 9, 2013 at 1:20 PM, CaptainAwkward.com wrote:

            > ** > LW#1 commented: “@CoolNewAnonymous: Yes, she is an older lady, and why > yes, some of us DO secretly expect this relationship to end in divorce! > Alas, my heart is not quite as evil as yours, so I don’t think I could pull > that comment off. @CarbonatedWit: I think Emerg” >

          • Ve said:

            “At the end of the day, were the couple married? If yes, then the wedding was a success!…

            “And…. I mean…. even when the aunt goes on wailing about you, remember it’s not even a little bit about you. You’re her nephew’s fiance, for crying out loud. She hasn’t dreamed of you being at her wedding for twenty years. You did not actually break her heart by your absence. It’s about her, and about her feelings of Wedding Must Be Perfect AAAAA.”

            Exactly. The wedding is only “ruined” if the future-spouse doesn’t show up.

          • Pterinochilus murinus said:

            I too now want a a dolphinado at my wedding, if I eventually meet Ms Right. Hmm, maybe a wedding cake with the wedding couple plus a tornado depositing a dolphin?

          • Hazel said:

            “Dolphinado” is a good superhero name.

      • You might find that the ‘I am ok with you being sad’ vibe which underlies the Captain’s response takes the wind out of her sails somewhat. People who cry hysterically like that do so because it makes those around them go ‘Oh no! That’s terrible! Poor, poor you.’

        If you calmly and authoritatively (remember! You. Are. Meryl. Streep. Or Tilda Swinton. Or Jeremy Paxman, if that’s more your thing.) keep repeating variations on the theme of ‘I don’t want you to be upset, particularly, but never mind if you are,’ then you almost instantly become less fun to cry hysterically at than the enablers.

        She will still cry *about* you, maybe-probably-almost-definitely. But it’s like you say – not to your face, didn’t happen.

      • JetGirl said:

        Whaaa? That is a bit of an overreaction. Were you a bridesmaid?

        • LW #1 said:

          Nope! Not even close.

      • A little perspective here. I didn’t have a wedding (for financial reasons) but my husband and I renewed our vows when we could afford to throw such a party. A lot of awesome people came, and I’m super-grateful. Other awesome people were not able to attend. I was disappointed, but I understand. I did not cry hysterically. I still love them as much as I ever did.

        One of my best friends in the world got married. I have literally known her since she was born (I was 3, and my mom and I went to her mom’s house when she got home from the hospital). We grew up living 3 houses apart. I’m now 42 and living 3,000 miles away but the other night she was having a crisis and guess who she called? Me. When she got married she asked me to be a bridesmaid. I declined, and in fact, didn’t even make it to the wedding. I had a baby at that point, and had been separated from my husband, and life was just awful and hard and I had no money. I’m SURE she was disappointed. And I feel absolutely awful about it. But you know what? She has NEVER made me feel guilty about it. We are still close friends, and every time I go back home we get together and have a great time.

        My point is simply that missing someone’s wedding–even for less important reasons than a funeral–does not ruin their life or even their happy day. Anyone who tries to convince you otherwise–well, that’s their problem, not yours.

      • golden peanut said:

        “Fiance’s mom told me that Aunt was hysterically crying because I wouldn’t be there, and her wedding would be ‘ruined.’”

        Wedding’s are stressful. I would cut her slack, esp. since she never said this directly to you.

        • JenniferP said:

          I also have a little side-eye for fiance’s mom, who passed this info on.

          • LW #1 said:

            I side-eye her all the effing time, but that’s a different story entirely.

          • M said:

            I … have to enter a plea of “Really?” for those side-eyeing the aunt not because of her I-am-the-center-of-the-universe behavior, but because she is older.

            Not all of us find our Ideal Significant Other between the Ideally Culturally Centered ages of 25 and 32.

            (I mean, speaking of “I am the center of the universe” behavior … )

    • That sort of thing feels good for a moment but the problem with it, in my experience, is that it’s more likely to create discussion about it.

      The Captain’s script – not coincidentally I suspect – contains things the person can less easily dispute. “I was very sad” and “I am happy with my choice” is less open to debate. They can’t tell you – without sounding like a loon – that you did not have certain emotional responses. When you quip about their inconvenience you open up debate about “oh no, I wasn’t inconvenienced, I was just so so sad not to have you around on my special day and I am forever going to remember this you-shaped hole in my heart on what was otherwise beautiful and wonderful but will always be slighly scuffed.”

      So now what? You get into the merits of picking one event over the other or how you couldn’t have been the best guest you could be or… what? What good does that do, other than potentially escalate a conflict with someone rather than hopefully inspiring them the own their own feelings by setting the example yourself?

      I console myself when I have to swallow those delicious quips by remembering that the sense I have of feeling like I want to school this person about how they should be shows a lot of resemblance to what they’re feeling when they start this shit.

      • I think, even worse than debating the loopholes in a sarcastic remark, someone this self centered might not even pick up on the sarcasm. They are fishing for what they want to hear and will stop listening after “It’s really unfortunate.”

      • boutet said:

        Sarcastic replies also give the person ammunition to make you look awful to the rest of the family if she’s that kind of person. Not only did you MISS HER WEDDING but then you SASSED AT HER when she was only trying to tell you how very SAD she was that you MISSED HER WEDDING! She can spread that around and make everyone else’s opinion of you worsen while enjoying attention and sympathy.
        It could also lead to several “I was at a funeral” conversations depending on how direct the rest of the family is about it.
        I think it’s better just to be straightforward and not give the person any more openings to create drama.

        • boutet said:

          To clarify, my last sentence “and not give the person any more openings to create drama.” was not meant to imply that you gave her any openings in the first place or have any responsibility for her drama. Just that she’ll probably take anything she can as an opening.

  2. Lieutenant Right said:

    Damn, Captain, this paragraph:

    “If the Aunt & the Friend take the admonitions seriously, apologize, and stop what they are doing, a good relationship is possible sometime in the future. The Letter Writers can start the Bygones Clock and let the past be in the past. Having someone tell you “Hey, you’re out of line here” doesn’t mean “I HATE YOU FOREVER,” it means, stop doing that thing so that we can continue to relate to each other in a positive way. It also means “I think enough of our relationship to tell you directly what needs to happen. If I didn’t care, I would stay quiet as a first step to cutting this off.”

    Not the poetic beauty of the sex story post, but the clear-headed, common sense that is just so hard to articulate. I especially love the Bygones Clock.

    • JenniferP said:

      Well, thank you!

  3. There’s only one exception I can think of to the ‘friend keeps telling me I’m moving too fast’ situation: if the friend actually knows something in the fiance’s past that a) is truly relevant and b) the LW doesn’t know. Minus 10 points for using inuendo instead of saying, straight out, “I don’t know how to tell you this, so I’m just going to blurt: when I knew X in Cincinnati he was married to a woman who later turned up dead under mysterious circumstances and the detectives thought he did it.”

    I don’t have good dialog for getting ‘friend’ to speak up, if he has real info, but I wonder if the marvelous Captain would have a suggestion for asking directly if there’s a real reason under all this repetitive, intrusive cautioning.

    • JenniferP said:

      I feel like this has been going on for a year, which makes it less likely that there is some earth-shattering secret, but just in case, ask directly.

      “You’ve been saying stuff like that for a while now. Is there some specific thing you know that I don’t know? If so, tell me.”

      • NutellaNutterson said:

        This is part of the “actually have a direct conversation” that is so difficult for most (almost all?) people to have! I LOVE your statement “It also means “I think enough of our relationship to tell you directly what needs to happen. If I didn’t care, I would stay quiet as a first step to cutting this off.”” – and I think that saying that explicitly could be a really good idea.

  4. mercutia said:

    If standing up for yourself ruins a relationship, the relationship was already ruined. You just slapped a ‘condemned’ sticker on it and evicted a squatter is all.

    • Jake said:

      This reply is relevant to my interests.

    • unlurking said:

      Whoa. “If standing up for yourself ruins a relationship, the relationship was already ruined.” Truth.

    • staranise said:

      I love this.

    • Pterinochilus murinus said:

      This: deserves to be a cross-stitch. With a little cross-stitch condemned house.

      • JenniferP said:

        With an evil bee flying away from the house.

        • mercutia said:

          APPROVED.

    • Hazel said:

      It took me years to learn this. Anxious, painful years.

    • Molly Grue said:

      This is so true it ought to be made into a giant monument and put up in a central location in several cities.

    • *applause*

      Hard to remember in the heat of the moment, but worth trying.

    • Nerdlinger said:

      Preach.

    • Hollis said:

      And you have put succinctly why I do not get along with my mother.

  5. datdamwuf said:

    I have a problem where I got an apology for a breach of trust but I cannot let go because there was no explanation for why the person didn’t follow through with the promises. Am I being an asshole? I do have trust issues due to some bad PTSD causing shit so I’d like a reality check. Back story is too long but essentially I was supposed to vacation cat got sick and I told friend that was petsitting that I was cancelling due to cat being sick. She convinced me to go on the trip while she cared for my cat which was only just recovered 2 days before I left. I left instructions and talked to her about what needed to be done to keep him well/not relapse and she just did not do the thing that was most important, nor did she inform me she wasn’t doing it while I was away. My first day back when I asked why, she said “he’s fine, he didn’t need it” which I responded that he did but I let it go because I hoped it would be OK if I started doing it again right away. The next day my poor cat is sick again and suffering and it takes a week to get him back on track, he’s still not 100%. Her apology was simply “I’m sorry, I don’t know what else to say”. I couldn’t continue the conversation because of extreme anger but when we spoke again yesterday and I told her cat was recovered, she said good and didn’t talk about it beyond that. I found myself still too upset to ask her why and I guess I just don’t know how to put this in perspective and/or find a way to get the answer I need to let it go. She is the kind of person that prefers to sweep things away and pretend they never happened but this time I’m having issues with that. She is my best friend and we seldom have issues, she is normally super responsible and trustworthy. Any ideas?

    • JenniferP said:

      I don’t know how to get an answer from her, either, but she really screwed up here and owes you an actual apology.

    • Bunny said:

      I think the key here is that your feelings are totally valid. You get to feel upset, betrayed, confused, unable to let go. But this thing you’re asking for, this explanation? It falls under the mythical category of “closure”. The truth is, no answer exists that will actually allow you to “let it go”, and deep down you probably know that.

      An experience I had with my stepdad: We were staying with him and my mum for the holidays, and as our cats were young my parents said instead of putting them in a cattery, to bring them along with us. It’d be fine! I agreed, with a caveat. These were indoor-only cats, young, and used to living in a basement flat with covered windows. So I asked that, if my parents wanted to open a window in a room, especially upstairs, could they close the door to that room first to make sure the cats didn’t go in there. And to not leave the front or back doors open,

      The holiday comes and all is fine, but my stepdad verbally dismisses my concerns for their escaping (we’ll be able to find them before they get very far) or falling out the window (they’re cats! they climb!). So when he did leave a massive window open in a bedroom and a cat DID climb out onto the ledge and promptly fall out landing on the bonnet of the car, his response was “Don’t tell your mum or I’ll get in trouble”. No apology, no concern, thankfully the cat wasn’t injured.

      And if I had asked for an explanation, the truth is there wouldn’t be one that would actually make me feel better. Because the REASON was likely some combination of a- didn’t think it was as big a deal as I made out, b- didn’t think about it at the time and c- magical thinking in which he assumed the emotional attachment I placed on the cats was the same as the lesser attachment he placed on them, and that nothing bad would happen because he didn’t want it to.

      If you really feel like you need a sincere apology, you can ask for one, but you need to do so directly. “I trusted you to do a thing I asked. You didn’t do the thing and that caused me the exact problem I wanted to avoid. I need for you to apologise.” Accept that you may not get one, may not get one that sounds like you’d hope, or may get an “I already apologised geez!”. But definitely don’t expect an explanation that will fix things.

      • Bunny said:

        edi! The Captain is right, of course. Your friend really DID screw up and you are right to feel how you feel about it – it occurred to me that I might not have made that at all clear in my last comment! But if your friend is the sort who evades conflict or stuff like this, you might not get the apology you should.

        And whatever you decide regarding this friend moving forward, I definitely wouldn’t trust them with your cat again unless they do.

      • Kaz said:

        The truth is, no answer exists that will actually allow you to “let it go”, and deep down you probably know that.

        I think there’s also an addendum here – if the friend *did* have a good explanation for this, she would have told you. If she got kidnapped by aliens and replaced by a cat-hating pod person for the duration of your vacation, the very first thing she would’ve said after fighting her way free and back would be “I am so sorry about your cat I was kidnapped by aliens!” The fact that she hasn’t tendered an explanation, to me, indicates that either she doesn’t have much of one beyond “I thought you were exaggerating, idk”, or that she simply doesn’t consider your cat very important – or, likely, a combination of both. In that case, digging for more detail is unlikely to change things or make you feel better.

        • Mary said:

          It is possible that she hasn’t realised the gravity of the situation and the breach of trust to datdamwuf and would take it seriously and apologise properly if datdamwuf made it clear. Even if there’s no *excuse*, then, “I’m really sorry, I didn’t take it seriously enough and got distracted and forgot. That was stupid of me and I’m sorry” would probably go a long way to making datdamwuf feel better.

          My closest friendships are the ones where that *can* happen – one of us can fuck up and upset the other, and even if we don’t get immediately why our fuck-up upset the other, it’s OK for the upset person to keep that issue open until the other is ready to address it properly. I don’t know if datdamwuf’s friendship is like that, and it is really scary to make a fuss over your friend’s fuck-up when they are trying to play it down. But that’s something that can happen in good friendships: you can say, “This thing which isn’t a big deal to you *is* a big deal to me, and I would really like it if you would take it seriously.” When it goes well and the friend takes it seriously, it hugely increases trust in the relationship. It’s very difficult to know in advance which way it’s going to go, but generally speaking, if it’s really niggling that a friend hasn’t apologised properly for something, it’s probably something that needs to be addressed.

          • datdamwuf said:

            Mary, I didn’t see this earlier, what you say here is correct, we normally have the kind of friendship where we can say *anything* to each other and I do need to do it to regain the trust factor. thanks.

          • Mary said:

            Oh good luck! I find stuff like that so scary, but when it goes well it really does make everything feel so much better. I will keep my fingers crossed that your friend takes a moment to think about it and responds positively.

    • You are not the asshole here, datdamwuf.

    • Beth said:

      As a very attached pet owner, I can tell you that I would be LIVID if this happened to me. So while I don’t have any better advice about how to deal with your friend than other commenters have, I just wanted to remind you that your feelings on this are completely valid and you don’t have to act like it’s no big deal for the sake of keeping the peace if you don’t want to.

    • Hexiva said:

      My go-to response for getting an apology for something I haven’t forgiven is “Thank you for the apology,” usually followed by either the end of the conversation or a request to not do that thing again. In this case, I’d go for “Thank you for the apology, but I don’t feel comfortable letting you take care of my cat again.”

      You’re definitely in your right to feel upset.

    • Anisoptera said:

      Ugh – that’s awful. I really, really love my pets and I would go batshit over something like that.

      But some people just don’t love animals like that, and will see it more like a failure to water a pot plant properly (you know – annoying but forgivable). There is nothing your friend can say that will erase your new knowledge that this is the kind of person she is. I understand the hope that if you can just make her understand the gravity of the situation, and appologise sufficiently, and have a good reason, then you can go back to the way things were. But the reality is you have different values when it comes to the health of your pets. It’s up to you if that’s a thing you can live with or not.

      I once had a good friend I really liked who let two goldfish die choking and starving in two inches of fetid green water because he couldn’t be bothered feeding them and cleaning their pond while his wife was away. I no longer like that person. I just couldn’t like him after that. I never mentioned it to him, but I certainly made no further effort to keep in touch, and he faded out of my life. Sometimes people’s values are just too different. It just sucks when you find out years into a good friendship that there’s been this deal breaker lurking in the background all along.

      Also. Never trust her with your pets again, whatever you decide about the friendship.

    • Erin said:

      I think it’s very legit that you want an explanation and I second that an apology would be important here. If I were in your shoes, I’d definitely want an explanation.

      I suggest you give yourself some time to find out what exactly you want from her and think about how you can communicate it to her. (You can even play the dialogue out in your head, revise it, write it down, whatever.) I also suggest you give yourself time until you are prepared to hold this conversation and, if necessary, don’t meet her until then. You could also plan out an explanation why. “Sorry, I need to take a break from meeting you a few days.” *Maybe question from her* “I need a break, thanks for respecting that./I need to think about some stuff.” Your answer will determine if she’ll go on asking so repeating the initial statement without a lot of changes will be the most helpful to just end the conversation. But if you feel this works for you, you could also say “I am not okay with how you handled the cat sitting and I need to think about it some more before I can talk to you about it again.” As I said, this could lead to further discussion or her brushing it off again, you getting angry again (justifiedly so), so maybe it’d be better to give a non-commital answer.

      I feel that the next conversation will be easier if you give yourself the time to find out what exactly disturbs you about the whole thing and can request a specific reaction from her. Maybe also find out if there are new boundaries that you need to establish. “FYI, no more cat sitting. I found you too unrealiable to take care of my sick cat even though you said you would. They are very important to me and you won’t even give me a reason why.”

      You are justified in being angry or hurt or whatever comes up and you can tell her how you feel about this topic and what consequences this means for you.

      • datdamwuf said:

        Thanks to all of you for responding to my question. I am still a bit fragile regarding trust issues and wanted to make sure I was not being a tool, thanks for validating.

        Some said she may not be a pet person, she loves animals and has taken in a large number of feral cats. Also, she really is my best friend of many years, she really does care about MY cats and she has cat sat them 5 times in the past – which is why I can’t wrap my head around why she would ignore my instructions when my cat was sick.

        I appreciate the advice to understand what I want out of it, helped me realize what I want is to trust my friend again, to keep her on team me (team me is really small ya’ll). Reading your comments clarified in my mind that in order to trust her again, I really need to know WHY she did it even if I have to bull doze past her confrontation avoidance/forgettaboutit feelings. And I don’t mean just trust her to take care of my cats. For those who mentioned a need for “closure”, that’s not what I need, what’s done is past and she can’t make up for that, my need is about going forward with our friendship intact and that = trust. For example, if she dismissed my instructions because she decided the cat was fine and I was exaggerating; then I need to hear that and hear that she recognizes she was wrong and will tell me her truth in future rather than ignore my wishes.

        Many of you advised to wait a while and go over what I want to say, I think you are right, my problem now is that it will be a long time… Today she went TDY to Australia for 5 weeks so I will wait quite a while to talk to her about it.

        • Brightwanderer said:

          I don’t know if this helps at all, and it may well just be reading tea leaves, but – was the thing that needed to be done for your cat a) something gross or just unpleasant (like expressing anal glands or force-feeding medicine) or b) something that required a lot of prep or a long sequence of specific actions (like bathing with medicated shampoo or checking skin under fur for problems)? Because even if she’s a cat person, I can imagine either of those scenarios, coupled with a situation where it’s not her cat, could have led to her convincing herself that it didn’t really need to be done, because she really didn’t want to do it/felt like she didn’t have time to do it. And that could also be why she’s being so reticent about it – it’s not that she suddenly turned into a thoughtless person who doesn’t care, it’s that she gave into the desire not to have to do something she didn’t want to do, and justified it in a way that didn’t hold up to later evidence (since your cat got sicker). If she’s honest, she can’t say to you now, “I genuinely didn’t think it was necessary,” because she knows that isn’t true.

          I don’t suppose it really changes things – I think you’re right to approach her directly regardless – but if you’re really just not getting a straight answer, and you don’t think she’s someone who just “didn’t care” at the time, I’m guessing this might be why.

        • staranise said:

          It’s my experience that when someone who’s normally conscientious about something fails at it and then doesn’t offer a justification or excuse, they’re ashamed. I suspect your friend knows that she has no good reason to offer you, nothing that will make you say, “Ah, it was totally understandable that you did that.” And she knows it, which is why she isn’t even trying. Who knows what caused it–emotional turmoil, pounding migraine, inability to ask someone else for help or tell you when she wasn’t capable of doing it–it was not a good enough excuse for failing to help a sick cat.

          Most people, when completely ashamed of themelves, believe they are unworthy of forgiveness, friendship, or love. So I could be totally off-base here, but I would not be shocked if your friend is basically going, “I fucked that friendship up forever and there’s nothing I can do to fix it, so I’m just going to stand here until datdamwulf gives me the punishment that is my due.” It’s a kind of learned helplessness, especially since there’s a strain of thought out there that pleading for leniency you don’t deserve is morally despicable. It’s not like she can make good with you; nothing your friend can do will go back in time and make your cat un-sick.

          So if you want to find out what went down, I think it’s important to make it clear to her that her explanation about the cat is a separate question from whether you stay friends. This is you needing information to make sense of the world, not part of a referendum on her goodness as a person. You are either going to have to decide you can’t trust her anymore, or that you will trust her anyway, even though she’s a person who sometimes fucks up for no good reason and then refuses to tell you about it (possibly because she’s too scared/prideful/stupid/untrusting to do so).

          If you stay friends? This is the territory of forgiveness most people don’t get. Most people think forgiveness means finding a reason why the offense was not really so bad or can be overlooked and deciding to ignore it. It isn’t. Forgiveness is something you do to debts. When I forgive a debt, I say, “I know you owe me $1000, but I have decided you don’t need to pay me back so you no longer owe me money.” I don’t say, “As it turns out, what you owed me isn’t really money anymore.” It is wholeheartedly saying, “You did something really bad and I am justified in being angry with you, never speaking to you again, or demanding some kind of reparation; but I am choosing to forgive the debt.” Or maybe you take your totally justified options of being angry/cutting off contact with her/demanding some kind of repayment, and then decide whether you can stay friends. But that’s your call.

          • datdamwuf said:

            The thing cat needed wasn’t gross, but he hates it, it is putting laxatone on his mouth to lick off every other day to keep his fur going thru the intestinal tract. The other things she was supposed to do but didn’t, allowing the dry food to run out, watching to be sure he was drinking and eating his canned food regularly. When I told her he was vomiting again my first day back her first response was that he ate his food that morning, problem is I looked and he did NOT eat his food, I could see he licked a little gravy off but did not eat, I told her that. It’s obvious to me she did not really make sure he ate because from the last episode there is no way he vomited after drinking water if he had been eating the last few days. Last thing she didn’t do was turn on my home alarm system when she was at work, she knows I’m afraid my ex will come and she did not do it.

            We have always been clear that she cat sits because it’s a sort of vacation for her from her spouse and long commute as much as it is to help me out. The thing I think this revealed is that she really didn’t take my cat’s illness seriously which means she didn’t believe what I told her and that is the root of it. The second part is that she doesn’t ever want to deal with problems in relationships, she won’t engage in a discussion. In this case if she won’t then I guess I loose my only truly close friend because I’ve let shit pass before but in this case she caused my cat to suffer and the stress caused me to get sick from a chronic issue I have that comes on with the stress. As far as forgiveness goes Star, I can forgive if she can admit the wrong and I can feel she won’t do this kind of shit again. The worst thing here is we are pretty damn honest with each other but I now think it’s it is possible this is because it’s easy for her to do that since we agree about almost every thing. This may be a result of something I didn’t know about her, that when she disagrees with someone she just does what she thinks is right without consulting the person. I hate to think that is the case.

        • miss_chevious said:

          Wow. There’s no way to reply to your last comment because of embedding, but I would have to say that your friend really let you down, because it wasn’t a single thing she didn’t do. Based on your description, it was *multiple* things she didn’t do, and those things endangered the life of your pet and your property.

          I think you need to find out what happened. Honestly, I would be surprised if it was about you or your cat at all. The one time I really let my best friend down in a serious (and similar) way (although it didn’t involve pets) was because I was having some internal conflicts about the stage of life I was in and what I was going through and I kept that in and basically fucked some stuff up. That rift healed, fortunately, but in order for it to heal, I needed to be explicit about the fact that I had really screwed up and was deeply sorry and then had to be uber trustworthy for a while, which is pretty much SOP for healing a breach of trust. If your friend can’t or won’t do that for you, I don’t know how much trust I would place in her in the future.

          • datdamwuf said:

            yeah miss_chevious, you nailed it – multiple things she didn’t do and you might be right about it being some issues she has cos her job is soon to be in jeopardy and her spouse has recently sprung some crazy on her. I definitely will write down what I want to discuss, what I need from it and be understanding of things like that. Maybe it was that she felt so peaceful in my house with less responsibility (2 cats rather than the 20 cats at her house, and those cats are half feral so I think maybe she’s gotten thick skinned about health issues) and also no spouse to deal with, maybe she convinced herself the cat was fine because cats aren’t obvious about pain.

    • General Expression said:

      Wow, not only would I be livid, but that person and I would no longer be friends. I would not bother to try and get an explanation or an apology, because I wouldn’t care – there is no excuse for that behavior. We’d be DONE. You are SO not being an asshole.

      And I am so sorry about your poor kitty! I hope he’s OK now.

      • datdamwuf said:

        I appreciate your support but Please don’t be that B&W, really we are all fallible. I’m over 50 and so is my friend and we’ve been close for 17 years so I’m not going to just cut our ties. Lots of shared history and support along with bad shit, all relationships have it I think. And thank you, my cat is doing better, though he’s not entirely back to normal I think he’ll be OK.

        • Badsack said:

          Hey Datdamwuf. If your cat is dealing with chronic constipation or what seems like the beginnings of megacolon, there are some solutions that may be better for both of you that I would like to suggest (I have a cat with chronic constipation which can flare up into painful IBS which makes him miserable). Laxatone sort of lubricates the stool through the gut, but daily use can inhibit absorption of vitamins and minerals during digestion. There is a human OTC product, sold under the brand name Miralax, Laxaday, etc.. It is the powdered version of lactulose. It works as a stool softener, and helps to draw water into the gut. My cat with grumpy guts gets a little sprinkled on every meal. It is almost odourless, tasteless and does not change the food’s consistency. It is really easy to administer this way. It helped my cat feel so much better, and is also very inexpensive. Plus he also does not get free fed dry food anymore, but gets canned food with a little dry food as a treat during his three meals a day. Canned plain pumpkin added to your cats food can also add enough fiber to help things move merrily along, too.

          (* Also – if your cat is getting older and the constipation is a newish thing please get some bloodwork done to rule out hyperthyroidism or renal issues. Bad constipation can occur due to dehydration that happens with these conditions. It was the first symptom for my other cat.)

          • datdamwuf said:

            Badsack, thanks for the suggestion, I’m sorry your cat has to deal with that. I’ll ask my vet if that will work for keeping the hair moving through his gut. What happened is my meticulous cat started vomiting within a couple of minutes of eating or drinking, this went on for 2 days so had to take to emergency for fear of dehydration. Turned out he had a mass of hair too large to go out either end and it irritated his stomach. Had to put him on a prescription drug to stop the vomiting and to break up that hair ball. Then Pepcid AC for a week, so two days before my trip he was off all drugs, eating and drinking but not 100% healthy. He was to get the laxatone every 3rd day to keep hair moving. I just went through the same thing again. He’s 7 years old and this never happened before. I’ve been giving them Lion cuts since they were 1.5 years old but scheduling got screwed up and they were all grown out for a month when this started. So I blame myself for the original problem, I think I *really* have to keep my meticulous cat shaved, no more delays ever, and give him laxatone or some other thing to keep hair from balling up. He has super silky long fur and cleans himself very well AND he cleans “his” cat too.

  6. dsg said:

    If Auntie is in fact someone you enjoy having in your life and someone whose wedding you were looking forward to, a thoughtful congratulations card from you to her (sent once your emotions are in a state where that’s something you’re capable of focusing on) can be a nice way to let her know that even though you made the right choice to miss her celebration.

    (If you don’t particularly care about her one way or the other, no need to go to the effort.)

  7. manybellsdown said:

    Oh I’m so glad when one of these posts comes up. I am having a boundary-violating issue with my mother, and she’s SO GOOD at the guilt-tripping and the passive-aggression, and I just need to keep hearing this over and over again. Short declarative sentences. I am okay with you being upset.

    It’s not my fault my brother doesn’t talk to her, and it’s not my job to report on him to her. Not my job to fix it. I have to keep reminding myself.

    • Astral said:

      Me too! I just wish that it didn’t take so much emotional energy because of each guilt trip or what-will-people-think response to get me to cave! And that it wasn’t so hard to fall asleep due to rehashing it all in my mind.

    • MamaCheshire said:

      Definitely not your job, and meh, I’m sorry you’re dealing with that. :(

  8. Rachel said:

    People can be very weird for not recognising the importance of attending a funeral over a social event. Last year I spent a lot of time and effort organising the work Christmas party, then couldn’t attend it myself because it turned out to be the same day as my grandad’s funeral. When I got back to work, everyone who went to the party complained (to me!) that they hadn’t liked the venue or the food.
    Yep.
    I work in a different office now and will never agree to organise another Christmas party!

    • Wow. Your former co-workers were jerks!

    • I had a similar situation, except I was too sick too go (really guys? You want me to call in sick to work and then show up to the party?) and they complained that the heat was broken (how could I fix *that*?)

  9. Wow, this is such great and effective advice. Not rude or mean, just clear and without apology. Cool. Thanks for sharing!

  10. SassQueen said:

    One thing about keeping silent when you are letting someone talk themselves out: you have to keep your FACE silent as well, you know? Like where people see by your face that you want to say something, so it’s as though you are ALREADY SAYING IT.

    I’ve got a really awesome Silent Face, though in my head I call it my DMV Face, because it’s the face I’m making on my driver’s license, the day I had to go in and get a replacement after having my wallet “borrowed”.

    • Ethyl said:

      Ugh, me and my good friend both have the problem of a serious lack of a silent face. We call it “our face thing.”

  11. Jolly said:

    As someone who would also be the friend wondering if you had lost your mind and probably totally unable to accept your choice deep down, I still am able to say it is a fine policy to only remain friends with people who respect you. It is totally fine to seriously tell friend you think they are making a big mistake once; that is something a concerned friend might do when they are having serious doubts about another person’s decision. Trying to manipulate someone into making their decision with their partner a shared decision among friends is gross as hell. I would just flat out tell this dude that you require a minimum standard of respect for you, your decisions, and your partner, and that if they can’t do that, you are not friends.

    • This, exactly.

      LW2′s friend is perfectly allowed to have whatever weird feelings he has towards his friend getting married–a lot of people have weird feelings about that for whatever reason–but there is no excuse for just being an ass about it. And he is being an ass about it. He is refusing to own that his weird feelings are his and keeps banging on about them like HIS baggage is THE LW’S problem.

      Friend may be sad that LW getting married means he has to more concretely face that he doesn’t have a chance with her. He might be feeling like she’s moving too fast because he doesn’t feel old enough for his peers/his closest friends/his younger friends/some group of people he has some relation to that LW is part of to be getting married. Other people getting married might make him feel lonely and left behind. He might have a cynical view of marriage in general. All of this is okay. None of it gives him license to pretend it’s totally the LW and not him at all.

      I am the worst at Having Baggage And Weird Feelings about these things. I am 25 and I seem to be stuck believing that I am 15 or possibly 10, and when people my age get married I am like but we are babies and babies getting married is creepy! We should not be thinking about this for like, ten more years! At least! I also have to consciously remind myself that the proper response to someone announcing an engagement is “Congratulations!” rather than “Why?” and the proper response to someone breaking up is “I’m sorry” rather than “Congratulations.” The words “marriage,” “wife”, “husband,” and “wedding” sound fundamentally weird and alien to me; I do not grok them; I have difficulty keeping those words and actual humans in my head at the same time; I do not understand or derive amusement from any form of marital humor whatsoever; I could not in ten million years conceive of myself as being a wife or having a husband (thinking about it gives me a literal headache and a sort of uncomfortable crawly-skin feeling; even typing that last sentence made my stomach hurt). When my friends get married or engaged, I automatically feel like I relate to and understand them less. Seeing happily married couples interact with each other feels like going to the zoo and observing some strange species of beetle: intellectually curious but utterly alien. I can sort of pull off “I am happy that you are happy” but congratulating someone on getting married feels to me somewhat akin to saying “I’m glad you had such a fun and exciting time getting kidnapped by aliens and having your arm chewed off by a tiger when you made your escape!” Like, I am happy that they’re happy, but I’m also completely fucking baffled that they are happy under such circumstances. Everything even the smallest bit related to marriage is just one vast blank space of I-don’t-get-it.

      Guess who are the *last* people on the *entire* fucking planet I vent about these feelings to? ENGAGED PEOPLE, IS WHO.

      • Wow. This. All the way down to feeling like my friends and I are waaaaay too young to be getting married and having babies and such. These feelings are definitely shit you share with other single, childless/free friends.

      • monologue said:

        This this this. Except maybe not the too young feeling. I’m 30, so I accept that marriage and kids are stuff that some people my age want to do, but they’re not things that I have any interest in. I can deal with the idea of wanting a committed relationship and living together and stuff, but somehow I think that getting married like kills everything. This could be related to me being gay and pretty close to the middle of the gender spectrum though. I hate gendered things in general and the idea of being pregnant is like body horror to me. Whenever I have to do wedding cards and stuff I really feel like I’m just performing social protocol. What’s even worse is when I get invited to baby showers and stagettes. I feel like I’m glaringly the wrong gender and everyone’s wondering why I’m there.

        I enjoy the party part of weddings though, so I just focus on having a good time there as a way to show support for the couple. If I can’t muster the right sentiment for congratulations then in my brain I focus on thanking the couple for the very elaborate and awesome party instead.

        • Ali said:

          ME TOO oh god me too. To basically all of it. I wouldn’t mind having a kid, but 1. I do not like what I know about adoption from adult adoptees, and 2. being pregnant is definitely horror movie scary. If I could grow one in a jar that’d be fine.

      • Kelly L. said:

        …I thought I was the only one with those particular feels.

        I think it’s kind of like how sometimes people raised in really sex-negative religions have trouble relaxing and enjoying sex once it’s OK? Except in my case it wasn’t religious, it was a super pushy parent who hammered into my head, at every turn, that The Very Worst Thing Evar would be to get pregnant and/or married because it would Ruin My Life.

        Thing is, all of that was meant to keep me from doing those things at high school age but somehow I internalized them to mean “ever” and so I sit here, 35 years old, and still feel like I’m too young to get pregnant or married (both of which I’m actually, after many years, kind of wanting to do).

      • Utter East said:

        Me too! Me too! I have the exact same feelings as you. I too have to remember to say “Congratulations” instead of “UGHHH WHY” or “what that’s for OLD PEOPLE” when people in my friend group are getting engaged (in increasing numbers). I’ve also been genuinely surprised by all of my female friends who are changing their last names to their husbands’– THAT really grosses me out, it’s a weird ownership thing.

        “(thinking about it gives me a literal headache and a sort of uncomfortable crawly-skin feeling; even typing that last sentence made my stomach hurt).”

        YES ME TOO

        But yeah, these are my weird issues and it’s vitally important I don’t actually say them to people who are planning to get married.

        • slfisher said:

          This is why the world invented the standard cliche for certain life events, so you don’t have to worry what to say. Unoriginal? Sure. But then you don’t embarrass yourself by blurting out something else.

          Wedding: “Best wishes” to the bride. “Congratulations” to the groom. Death: “I’m so sorry for your loss.” Pregnancy: “Congratulations!” Divorce: “I’m so sorry.”

          Nobody will say, “God, she was so unoriginal.” They *will* say “God, I told her that such and such happened and you know what she *said* to me?””

          • datdamwuf said:

            Well, sometimes the correct response to Divorce is actually: “Congratulations” just sayin, cos it was for me.

          • Alice from England said:

            On divorce . . . and many life changing events like stopping work . . . . I go for a neutral “And how is that for you?” so that I can tailor my response to either “I’m so sorry” or “Whoot! Go you! as appropriate. Or any gradation in between . . .

  12. MamaCheshire said:

    LW2, it occurs to me that sometimes there are people who have very different standards for relationship-moving-too-fast. And of course sometimes those standards have ulterior motives, especially when someone is hoping for a mind-change on the part of the person they secretly hope will wake up one morning deciding to like them back.

    But I also got the “moving too fast” thing from MULTIPLE people as I was planning my wedding, so I’m sympathizing on that score as well. Probably all the more so because I was one of the younger people in my main circle of friends, and Spouse is four years younger than I am.

    We Met Cute-but-Awkward through a shared hobby, at a time when both of us had been single for quite a while, and we pretty much immediately declared ourselves a couple, and spent about three months in intensive “are there any dealbreakers here??” conversations. We were incredibly thorough about those conversations – not just things like “Do you want kids?” and “What if one of us has to move for a job?” but really detailed questions about, well, everything we could think of that might come up later and be a problem. (There were a lot of things we didn’t think of that were problems later, but having the foundation of those three months was very helpful in getting through them!)

    Then he moved in with me and we talked about making a permanent commitment and what our timeline for that should be. We’d been together since July, decided, “Yeah, marriage is where this is headed” in mid-November, told my family at Christmas and everyone else on New Years Eve, and set a wedding date that was exactly two years from the weekend we met.

    And there were a handful of very, very uneasy people at that wedding, or who chose not to show up to the wedding. Most notably among the uneasy people at my wedding was my own mother, who was apparently actually approaching members of my wedding party to ask, “Do you really, REALLY think Cheshire is doing the right thing?????” I was NOT pleased when I found that out.

    The wedding was nine years ago last July. I think people have gotten the point that Spouse is sticking around and that I didn’t make a bad decision. My mother likes him as much as, well, she likes anyone. Meaning he often doesn’t live up to her perfectionistic standards (neither do I!) but every now and then she finds a reason to genuinely compliment him. It’s an improvement.

  13. twomoogles said:

    Oh, the will they last/won’t they last thing is so frustrating. So often people on both sides use the end result of a relationship to ‘justify’ their opinion/decision. Something like, “Well, they ended up breaking up after 3 years together, so obviously I was right all along!” or “So what if I cheated on my boyfriend with him/got married at 18 to a 35 year old I knew for 2 days/my boyfriend’s a wanted criminal…*we’ve been together for 4 years so suck it, haters!”

    If someone expresses rudely their feelings on a friend’s relationship (like LW2′s friend here, constantly repeating himself, ulterior motives, won’t let it go), they don’t become somehow *justified* if the relationship doesn’t last forever. And if someone politely expressed misgivings, they aren’t proven to be idiots or mean if the relationship does work out.

    Red flags for one person might not be for another, so it’s hard to say. I mean…*I* would never want a relationship where opposite-sex best friends were not OK. But I know a lot of people who would be totally fine with that. I’ve been in a relationship that’s going fine and had a friend say to me “I just don’t think you’re happy”..and have them be completely wrong. I then felt the need to *prove* to her that I was happy. I know she had my best interests in mind. But, she was wrong in this case!

    (Sorry this comment is all over the place.)

    • miss_chevious said:

      THIS: “Oh, the will they last/won’t they last thing is so frustrating. So often people on both sides use the end result of a relationship to ‘justify’ their opinion/decision.”

      Right? Like the ending of a relationship is necessarily the most important part, no matter how long or good it was. “Well, you broke up, so that one was a failure!” Ugg.

    • Vir Modestus said:

      Add in polyamory, and this becomes multiplied (as it were). I’m in a poly relationship of over 7 years, while my sweetie has been married to her other sweetie for nearly 20 years. I still get the occasional “it won’t last” kind of comment as an indictment of the poly relationship. Not just me: A recent Salon post about a poly relationship had those kind of comments all over the place, because the secondary relationship had “only” been in place for two years. How long is long enough? People get married after a few months, people have been in relationships for decades or most thereof. Is the ending the only thing that matters in relationships?

  14. Ruby B said:

    I don’t know what it is but some people apparently enjoy having some bit of past history to hold over others’ heads. I don’t entirely get it. A few years ago, I went to visit a friend in another city and stayed in her small apartment, and somewhere in the middle of that vacation I contracted the Martian Death Plague. My sniffling kept her up at night, of which she’d periodically remind me for the next YEAR AND A HALF. Whenever we had a slight disagreement, out came some snide remark about some people and their inability to blow their nose properly. A year and a half, until I quit apologizing and told her straight up that she was being ridiculous and needed to get over my sniffles. The sniffles were never mentioned again. (And we’re not friends anymore for various reasons, but not because of that.)

    People sometimes need to be bluntly told to drop their bad behavior. I’m sure your aunt doesn’t secretly think that you’re a horrible person for choosing to stay with your family in their grief rather than attend a wedding. Maybe she just doesn’t realize what she sounds like when she complains about such things. (That is, if she does complain again.)

  15. LW#2, based on what you said about this nay-sayer dude and your history and how that “might” be playing in here? I think that is exactly what’s happening. Even though you shut him down all that time ago and he backed off, it sounds like he’s nursed hope of a feelings reversal on your part at some point, and what’s happening with you marrying someone else is that his hope is getting formally put down. For what it’s worth, if this truly IS the situation, then it has nothing to do with your fiance, and everything to do with the fact that *he* is not your fiance (i.e., he’d say this about ANYONE you decided to marry, as long as that person wasn’t him).

    That’s not your fault, and his feelings aren’t your responsibility, and frankly it sounds like it’s long past high time this dude got over it. I think the Captain’s advice is spot on here, just go for total bluntness. Next time he brings up his reservations, just tell him that he’s said his piece and you’re done hearing it.

    What I want to bring up is kind of a Worst Case Scenario–IF this dude really is still burning a candle for you and you shut him down bluntly as the Captain advised, there’s a (small) chance he might confess his feelings in a big, messy, awkward meltdown. If that happens (and I sincerely hope it does not) then I’d recommend gently–but firmly–reaffirming that you’re not interested, and then putting a good deal of distance between you and he, immediately. As in, do not interact with him at all, period, for a good long while. This guy’s feelings for you need to die, and if he can’t keep them from spilling messily all over you, then your only option might be to take yourself out of the proverbial flood zone.

    Again, that’s for a worst case scenario. Hopefully it won’t come to that, but there’s at least one situation in my life which went sort of that way and I wish I’d been prepared for it, so I feel compelled to say that here. Good luck to you, and I hope you have a wonderful wedding!

  16. LW#2: It’s entirely possible that your friend is reacting the way he is because he has feelings for you. It’s also entirely possible that he’s just one of those people who become overinvested in their concerns for others. “Oh no, my friend might be making a mistake, and I’m the only one who can save her from the terrible, terrible consequences!”

    These types need to remind themselves that before they met the people in their sphere of concern, those people fended for themselves just fine. If you think this applies to your friend, you can try reminding him yourself, but it may only work as an epiphany from within.

  17. LW2 said:

    Hey, LW 2 here. Thanks for the extra tips, I promise I did ask the friend if there was something specific he was concerned about and got “no, just based on his personality and other people *like* him” which is particularly annoying from someone who doesn’t actually know my fiance all that well.

    It’s funny, I’ve been on the opposite end of this, highly disapproving of who one of my best friends was marrying, but in that case, myself (and several others!) told her we were concerned about big red flags early, and as soon as they got truly serious and then engaged, we backed off the negativity completely. Obviously that decision is unlikely to change and we felt that if (when?) everything hits the fan, she needs her support network to still be there for her, not doing any sort of ugly “I told you so” and certainly not trying to make her pick sides between her friends and her now husband.

    There is a big difference (for me) between “I’m so glad you’re happy!” and “I’m so happy for you!” – both are totally acceptable responses to engagement, and most people don’t hear any difference, but one I’m not having to say *I’m* happy about it!

    • staranise said:

      I like your approach to this stuff, LW2. :)

    • LW #1 said:

      ::LW solidarity fist-bump::

  18. I feel like with some adults, I have to speak to them the same way I’ve been trained to speak with the preschoolers I work with — using a statement that both validates the emotion but also makes it clear that events will not be dictated by that emotion, a “You can feel ____, but ______” statement. Statements I’ve used in the past week include “You can feel angry, but you cannot hit your friends,” “You can feel sad, but we are moving onto the next activity,” “You can feel upset, but you need to keep your clothes on at school.”

    So if I were LW1, I’d say to my fiance’s aunt, “You can feel upset that I wasn’t there, but it was a very difficult time for me and we need to move on.”

    • miss_chevious said:

      Wait…you’re supposed to keep your clothes *on* at school? I have been doing this all wrong.

      (Seriously excellent scripts; I will have a use for them in the near-future.)

      • I did have a child who, to express her fury, started taking off her clothes. It was a new approach.

        • Marie said:

          Apparently, Leymah Gbowee threatened to take off her clothes if Charles Taylor and the Liberian warlords didn’t hammer out a peace treaty. It worked. So maybe that child was onto something ;-)

        • Karyn said:

          Hey, sometimes clothes just get in the way of a good mad.

        • We used to have one of those in my mom’s daycare. She could also make herself vomit as a manipulation tactic.

          • Oh, man. I’ve experienced that sort of child. This is why I’m getting out and teaching Jr. High instead.

    • jadriver said:

      This. I use it in Play Therapy when needing to set limits with kiddos having big feelings and acting out (i.e., “I know you’re angry, but I am not for hitting”). Validates the emotion but also sets the boundary that you are not going to take that ish. Works similarly with difficult adults, I’d imagine.

      • I’ll have to try that sometime if I have the presence of mind to think of it in the moment. Problem is, with other adults, you don’t have the authority to enforce your boundary the way you do with kids. You can remove yourself from the situation or make things more unpleasant, but you can’t physically stop them from doing the bad thing.

  19. Utter East said:

    I have massive side-eye for the guy in letter #2. In my former friend group, a woman (A) who had dated and then broken up with one guy (B) started a long-distance relationship with someone (C) that we all played an online game together with. When they were initially interested and flirting, B constantly made references to “the bro code” where “a bro shall not date a woman that his bro has dated” or some shit. When C came to our town to meet us all and to meet A in person, B suggested that we all hang out together. It was the worst day ever, almost entirely an opportunity for B to keep taking A aside to lecture her on how long-distance relationships were a terrible idea and would break up our video game group. I eventually bailed because my skin was peeling off my body and trying to escape the vehicle, and I was told (and saw horrible chat logs) later about how B invited A and C over to his house to lecture both of them on how they were deliberately hurting him by being together. When they left, the discussion continued via IMs where B told A how he was contemplating suicide due to her betrayal.

    Yeeeeeeaaaaaaah. Ironically, B’s actions broke up our video game group because A and C and C’s friends wisely decided to move to a different server. Greek prophetic tragedy, no?

    Luckily I don’t think the problem is nearly as severe in LW#2′s case, but I wanted to share my creepy entitled mans story. Hopefully LW#2′s friend can be shut down with a minimum of drama and sordid instant messages.

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