How should I respond when people come at me with negative advice about marriage like “Enjoy it now, it's all over once you're married!” And “You'll have a husband to cook for soon!” And “You're getting married? My commiserations.” I thought you or your readers might come up with something good for the negative marriage/wedding comments.
I know people are just trying to get a rise out of me when they say these things, but it gets very wearing and I'd love a way to shut them down without becoming offensive myself.
Ah, yes. The infamous unsolicited advice, fear-mongering, and “you'll seeeeee” game. Well-intentioned friends and family seem to LOVE to tell you how awful your life is about to become, both in terms of wedding planning, and in terms of life once you're married. As I wrote years ago in an infamous post:
The wedding fear-mongering is just one of the stories we tell. The expectations of marriage after the wedding are often heavily weighted. “Marriage is a lot of hard work,” people confide with furrowed brows.”You'll never have sex again,” they wink.
“You'll stop hanging out with your single friends,” they sigh.
“My stupid hubs!” they laugh. “YOU know how husbands are. Stupid, stupid husbands.”
Wedding and marriage fear-mongering is clearly a thing that happens. It seems like it's always happened… so how can you respond when you find it happening to you? Here are a few of my favorite copy-n-paste responses, broken down into three separate strategies depending on your communication style. Some of them are straight-forward, others are confrontational, and others are a bit more facetious:
Strategy 1: tell me about yourself
People are usually seeking validation of their own experiences when they give you negative advice. In a way, they're trying to bond over shared unhappiness, because if we can bond over it, maybe that means that it's ok that I'm unhappy, that I made the right unhappy choice, and that my unhappiness is out of my control. Negative comments about weddings and marriage say so much about the person commenting, and the best response may simply be to let them talk about themselves, instead of trying to defend yourself.
Simply put, when people try to say how you will feel, what they're more often telling you is how they feel. Instead of snapping at them, you can just let them blow off some steam — knowing that it has very little to do with you. Try these responses:
Wow, it sounds like you had it a pretty rough! If you had it all to do again, what would you do differently?
Jeez, that's pretty negative! You know, I'm trying to treat this whole thing as an adventure, so it's actually really helpful for me to understand why so many people are saying negative things like this about marriage. How do you think I can work to avoid the common pitfalls on this adventure?
Are you recounting your own experiences? What happened to you to make you feel that way?
I feel like these things are about 5% experience and 95% attitude. I'm working to try to keep a good attitude about it all, but you're certainly not the first one to say something like this! I find it pretty interesting, actually — why do you think everyone's so cynical about marriage?
Strategy 2: shut it down
Sometimes you don't want to get into empathizing with someone. They're just being a dick, and you don't have any interest in staying on friendly terms with them. In these cases, it's time to draw some boundaries. Remember that when you use blunt communication like this, you need to hold yourself accountable for people bristling. You should say what you feel, but be responsible for the fact that folks may not like it. Sometimes, you can soften the blow by redirecting the conversation…
I know you're just trying to get a rise out of me, but I actually really don't appreciate the generalizations you're making about marriage, and the assumptions you're making about my relationship….So, how's working going these days?
Huh. I guess I'll find out soon enough, won't I?…So, how about that weather this morning?
I'm actually not looking for feedback or advice about my wedding or marriage….So, how's your family doing?
Strategy 3: feign ignorance
Sometimes, “You'll see” and fear mongering can come from a place of resentment, fear, or even worry for the person it is directed at, so treat those who let it slip with gentleness and try not to fight snark with snark. That said, sometimes you can just feign ignorance:
Oh, wow. Do you think I should cancel the wedding?
What are YOUR best compassionate comebacks when people try to fear-monger about wedding planning or marriage?