Dear Carolyn: My only sister (she’s 25, I’m 28) has always been extremely competitive, and I lack this impulse. My sister met a guy online in May, moved in with him in September, and started looking at wedding venues for next year. She’s always been one to dive completely headfirst into relationships, often extremely expensive disasters that my parents have to bail her out of. This guy (and I do think he is a great guy, but I’ve only known him half a year) is the first who has the same headfirst goals. They also can’t keep their finances under control and seem to be expecting our parents to pay for an increasingly complex wedding.
My own partner and I have been dating for almost four years, and only in the past few months decided to make a solid decision on getting married, as we feel we have our finances in order and can do it soon.
Our intent was to have a very, very quiet town hall marriage sometime next year, and I feel really like we can’t say, “Yeah, we were planning on getting married this coming year,” when we’re drowned out by her daily discussions of table settings, attire plans and guestbook designs.
I’m worried in large part that she’s being her normal, highly competitive self and doing things without stepping back and thinking about it, but I also don’t know how to ask if she’s sure without her hollering at me for what she'll perceive as an attempt on her limelight.
Do you have any suggestion for bringing up this worry without it becoming an argument of who gets to go first?
Right. No competitive impulses whatsoever.
You are in love. You want to get married. You believe you are emotionally and financially ready. Congratulations! Tell your family about your engagement at the earliest opportunity that seems appropriate, and get on your merry married way.
Advisory Pop Quiz: How much does your sister have to do with any of this?
I’ll print the answer upside down to discourage peeking:
Your sister is an adult and in love and wants to get married and thinks she’s emotionally and financially ready. Repeat after me: Good for her. I hope she finds happiness.
Since she’s a fellow adult and you’re not her parent, and since I don’t even have to squint to see a pattern where you condescend to her and she overcompensates to prove herself — no, you don’t get to ask her if she’s sure. Not unless you’d genuinely expect and welcome her, as your peer, to ask the same thing of you. “Genuinely expect” being the key words.
Since you’re not the one living with him and you have no evidence of wrongdoing (abuse, for example) and she apparently hasn’t asked you to, you don’t get to weigh in on her choice of partner.
Since you’re not the one paying for the wedding, you don’t get to weigh in on the tab they’re running up.
And since you aren’t competitive [theatrical clearing of throat], you don’t want to get into a bustier-measuring contest by expressing concern for her choices as grim by comparison to your shining, responsible ones.
So, congratulations! You’re getting engaged. Please keep your attention on that.
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