Murphy’s Love: Advice on Intimacy and Relationships
Dear Stacy, I find myself in an awkward situation. My stepbrother (my stepmom’s son) is getting married to a wonderful woman and my husband and I couldn't be more thrilled. The problem? She is turning into a bit of a bridezilla. She asked my stepmother to help throw her a shower, demanding that every person on the guest list be invited (100 people) and insisting that the party be over three hours long, along with other such details, all the while stating: “I don't want to plan this.” Throw in the fact that my brother hasn’t shared their wedding budget (my parents offered to help cover costs) but are now afraid of the cost since they are on a fixed income and have no idea what bill they will be handed. My brother has also shared with my husband his fear of his fiancée’s overspending for this event.
How do I talk to my brother without stepping on too many toes? Although we are not blood-related, we are very close, and I am close with my stepmother. My dad is pretty clueless about this stuff, so what do I do? -Treading Lightly in Friendship Heights
Dear Treading, Yikes, it does sound like you have a bridezilla situation on your hands – 100 guests at a shower? But it’s not exactly on your hands unless you decide to get involved.
I know you have the very best intentions. You want to protect your parents. You love the couple and are vicariously smarting at the upcoming wedding tab’s sticker shock. But your opinion has not been requested – that is, unless Stepmom and Dad have asked you to intervene. I don’t mean that they have hinted that you should intervene. I mean: have they specifically asked?
Sure, Brother told Husband that he’s worried about the spending, but you ought not take that as a direct request for assistance. If passive-aggressive cues are they way it’s done in your family, let’s work on making that practice end with you. Widespread familial harmony is not your responsibility. Stepmom and Dad offered to help with the budget, and they’re grownups who can ask for the bottom line if they really want to hear it. If they prefer to pretend like it’s not a big deal, that’s their own ostrich-like decision. Again, you are not responsible for their financial decisions (unless you are because of a legal agreement you haven’t mentioned).
I don’t imagine my suggestions will completely override your natural instinct to protect your family, and so I’ll assume that you still plan to confront Brother. If so, please take your own advice and tread lightly. It’s likely that a gentle reminder about your parents’ fixed income and general tendency to ignore problems until they get unmanageable could be all that’s really needed.
Dear Stacy, A good friend of mine has been dating a new guy since last summer. They get along quite well and have already moved in together. He’s really very nice, but I can’t help feeling that they are moving way too quickly. We’re all around 30 and more and more of us are pairing off lately. He’s currently ring shopping and she has already asked me to be a bridesmaid in a wedding she’s planning in her own head for next spring. Every time I think of this, I get a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. Her grandmother passed away last fall, and she took it very hard. I think that she is just rushing to do this now because he was so good to her during that tough time – but that’s not enough to base a relationship on. How do I prevent her from making a huge mistake? -Not a Nervous Nelly
Dear Nelly, I can tell from your message that you do mean well. You don’t want a good friend to make a big decision colored by a grief episode. Still, even from the bare bones you’ve supplied, it sounds like the couple has a good basis for making this decision. When you’re “around 30” you don’t date as long as some do in their early 20s before making a lifetime-type decision. If they are already living together while he is actively planning a proposal, that signals less of a fairy-tale fantasy, and more of a decision based in reality. Further, walking through a difficult period together (after she lost her grandmother) and coming out on the other end more deeply connected is a very common experience, not to mention a great indicator that they are compatible in good times and bad.
In other words, I’m not at all worried about this match. I am a little worried about you, however. I’m not going to feed into the stereotypes about Washington women backstabbing one another when it comes to long-term relationships – especially those “around 30” – and I also won’t suggest that you are motivated by jealousy, because you didn’t admit that in your letter. What you did admit is that you have a mental timeline before two people should make such a commitment. There are incredible stories of lifelong love built on flimsier foundations than facing family obligations over three seasons of dating. I wonder why the timeline is so important? It’s either the way you did it, and you are holding them to your own subjective standard, or it’s the way you expect to do it someday, and you are holding them to your own subjective daydreams. Unless you have first-hand knowledge of his illicit badness (e.g. you saw him kiss the stripper yourself) or she asks you directly for your help, it’s not your place to keep her from making this kind of decision.
Stacy Notaras Murphy is a licensed professional counselor and certified Imago Relationship therapist practicing at the Imago Center of DC in Georgetown. Her website is www.therapygeorgetown.com. This column is meant for entertainment only, and should not be considered a substitute for professional counseling. Please send your relationship questions to email@example.com.