I have racked my brain trying to figure out if there's a "right way" to tell someone they deserve better than who they're dating, and I'm pretty sure it doesn't exist. Particularly if you're related to the person you want to advise.
Prior to meeting Mr. Wonderful, I brought home several guys of whom my sister did not approve. She tried to communicate her feelings in different ways—sometimes with sarcastic remarks, sometimes with serious warnings, sometimes with leading questions. No matter what approach she took, it felt like she was telling me I had failed. Her judgment of my boyfriends felt like judgment of me. And the hardest part about it all was that there were many times when I knew she was right.
I would rationalize my decisions, telling myself that she and I were different and she didn't understand where I was coming from. She wasn't born in the same decade as I was; times had changed. She didn't get it because she settled down so early.
But the thing she knew that I didn't was that dating should be built on a foundation of happiness. That crying or feeling disappointed or unsure were telltale signs that things weren't right. She wasn't trying to condemn me or my choices, she was trying to protect me from making mistakes and getting hurt.
Unfortunately, her disapproval hurt too. And compounding that was the inadequate feeling I got when I looked around my family and saw that everyone had gotten married and purchased homes by the time they were my age. I felt so far behind. How would I ever catch up? How would I ever live up to the expectations they had set?
Then, when I met Mr. W, everything changed. My sister still voiced concerns about him (worrying his quietness might not mesh with our loud, obnoxious family) but they didn't matter anymore because I knew he was right for me. Suddenly that was all that was important. I didn't need a house or 5 kids because I was happy with what I had in the moment.
I've thought a lot about what it will be like when my nieces start dating. I'm sure one or all of them will bring home boys that the rest of us don't like. But I'm going to do my best to make sure they know that just because I may not choose the same person for them that they've chosen for themselves, it doesn't mean they are wrong or incapable of making smart decisions. My uncertainty about their boyfriends is not a reflection on my feelings about them.
We all have to take different paths and follow different timelines to get to where we want to be. All that matters is that happiness is the place we end up.