Getting along with your friend’s partner is always important. But when your friend is about to marry someone, suddenly it feels crucial. Sure, you don’t need to be best friends with everyone your friends date. But you do need to be able to get along with them. And if a friend decides to take the leap with someone, what do you do if you feel that some of her partner’s choices are…questionable? If you think your friend is marrying the wrong person, should you actually say something?
The annoying truth is that in many cases, it may be better to not say anything. “If you think your friend is marrying the wrong person, you really need to feel it out carefully,” relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW, tells Brides. “In most situations, the best thing to do generally is to keep quiet. We never know what is going on in someone else’s relationship. What might look wrong to you might actually be right for them.” You need to accept that her relationship doesn’t make sense to you—but your relationship might not make sense to her. Romantic relationships are always built on the private interactions between the two people involved, so no matter what you think you’re seeing, you just don’t have the whole picture.
That being said, there are times when you may need to speak up—times when the person isn’t just wrong for your friend, he or she is actually damaging. Here’s what you need to think about if you’re sure your friend is marrying the wrong person, because you need to tread carefully.
What Has Your Friend Been Saying About Her Partner?
Maybe it’s not your place to say something out of the blue, but if your friend is clearly unhappy, then you might have an opening into a conversation. “If you continuously hear them expressing their own doubts and concerns, you can, very carefully, reflect back what they are saying,” Harstein says. “You can say something like, ‘It sounds like you are having some doubts. I know it's scary to think about, but you can always talk to me about anything.’” By picking up on things that she has said, you’re able to open the door to a discussion without bringing it up or forcing it yourself.
Know Which Situations Are Non-Negotiable
There are some cases where, as a friend, you really do have a duty to say something. “And if your concerns are about your friend being in an abusive relationship, then you should always speak up and say what you are observing that makes you uncomfortable with it,” Harstein says. “And make sure that they know they have options.” While in cases of physical or mental abuse it may be obvious that you should intervene, there may be some situations that aren’t so clear. But if you sense that the person is overly controlling, manipulative, or toxic, you may feel the need to say something. Listen to that feeling; read the situation and use your best judgement. If you just don’t like someone, that’s not a good enough reason to say something. But if you can tell that something is really off, then you should go for it.
Know That Your Friend Might React Badly
Now, you need to be prepared for the fact that your friend may not like you saying something—no matter how dire the situation is. As much as people may accept criticism about their job or lifestyle choices, a lot of people become very defensive about their partner. And even if you’re absolutely right about what you’re saying, that doesn't always make the situation any better. In fact, if people know that there’s some truth in what you’re saying, that often makes them even more defensive. So open the door, but know that there may be consequences. Saying something is more about you feeling like you’ve done right by your friend by giving her a chance to speak—and hoping that she’ll listen. Ultimately, it’s her life and it’s just not a decision you can make for her. Your friendship might suffer, but if the partner is really bad for your friend, you probably need to say something anyway.
If you don’t like your friend’s fiancé, it’s a tough situation to be in—but that doesn’t mean you should say something. However, if you feel like your friend is in a toxic environment or that the relationship could be detrimental, you may need to intervene. There’s a good chance it won’t work, and she may not like it, but on some level she’ll know that she has options and support. And that’s the most important thing.