Q: My boyfriend has been married twice – once right after college (that lasted a year), and again in his late 20s/early 30s (that lasted six years). We are both 34. My friends and family seem to think it’s a bad sign that he has two marriages under his belt. I know it’s not what you dream of in a relationship, but I find us a great fit in other ways. How can I tell them to butt out?
A: “Butt out” might not be the appropriate term if you’re the one who detailed his track record in the first place. I doubt your friends were hanging out at the marriage bureau, pulling files during their lunch hour. So you can’t blame them for having a reaction.
Once they’ve said their piece, however, the drumbeat of their disapproval shouldn’t be allowed to create constant background noise. Sit them down and tell them that you have taken their objections into consideration, but that you hope they’ll keep an open mind. And be fair about your expectations. If you’re a heavy solicitor of their thoughts on what kind of pizza to order, then it doesn’t make sense for you to break out the gag order about one of the biggest aspects of your life.
Q: My mother always insists on not giving me advice in the moment. She says she raised me to make my own decisions. She will listen, but not provide much guidance. The problem is she’s not afraid to chime in after the fact, telling me she’s not surprised something didn’t work out or that, in other situations, she’s thrilled I made what she views as the right decision. This is totally maddening to me!
A: I can understand where she’s coming from – as a college professor, I’ve seen enough helicopter parenting to last a lifetime. But at this point, would you honestly welcome her specific advice? If she’s always been this way, I imagine it could be jarring for her to start trying to steer your decisions in the moment.
That doesn’t mean she needs to let loose with a full-on postmortem. Tell her that if she believes in staying silent beforehand, then perhaps she could lessen her commentary a bit after the fact. And ask yourself: Are you letting her opinion matter even more because of the mystery that surrounds it? Presumably she thinks you’re doing just fine; don’t let this approval backfire so that you’re second-guessing yourself.
Andrea Bonior is a psychologist and author of “The Friendship Fix.” www.drandreabonior.com
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