Friday, October 22, 2010

Different Paths, Same Destination

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.

7 comments:

You've Got to Be Kidding Me said...

I've tried yelling "Red Flag! Red Flag!" at my friends and they've tried the same with me. And we all kept our fingers in our ears and sang "Lalalalala!" all the way home (to our disastrous breakups).

;-)

Wow, that was awkward said...

I just want to know how many of Mr. W's friends and family tried to warn him about YOU!

LesleyG said...

My sister, although she's younger, was always much more of a dater than I have ever been or dreamed of being. Many of the boys were okay, and some were SO very awful. So when she picked a good one to be her husband, I dropped to my knees with thankfulness that I wasn't in for a life of worrying about hers. Even if it was never my choice, I tell her every chance I get how glad I am she didn't screw up. In the nicest way possible, of course. ha!

Jeff said...

It's been my experience people who've chosen someone to date usually don't care and don't want to hear what you think, even if they're asking you. I start with the premise everybody's an adult and allowed to make their own mistakes without my pointing them out (even when I know I'm right). When asked, my neutral answer is, "As long as he/she is makes you happy." The truth is no matter what you think, they have to discover it for themselves. Like when I used to date Scarlett Johansson. Everyone told me it would never work, but did I listen? Man the heartache I could've saved...

Big Sister said...

Just an addendum, from the Overprotective Big Sister: I never had any bad feelings about Mr. W - I was just worried we might traumatize him, but he has exceeded all my expectations of what he could handle with our family, and he has made you happier than I have ever seen you. I had new respect once he wrote "Mikal" in that email. And, thank you for admitting I was right about all those other boys...

Danielle said...

It is hard, because none of us want to hear that our choices are wrong. Gotta go with our heart and learn from our mistakes.

geekhiker said...

Wait, wait, I know this one: it's "judge not, lest thee be judged." Right? Right? Do I win a prize?