I Missed My Best Mate's Wedding Because I Was Worried I Would Object
The Debrief: 'I didn’t want to object, ruining her big day and causing a scene that I could never come back from and so, with a very heavy heart, I the did decent thing and abstained in the hope that I could preserve our friendship.'
Conventional wisdom dictates that if someone you care about is dating someone who is objectively a jerk you should play it cool, keep your powder dry, bit your tongue and wait for it to fizzle out. As a friend, it’s your duty to be supportive, keep an open mind (unless, of course, they’ve broken any laws in which case none of the above applies IMO) and be poised to pick up the pieces when the time comes over some conciliatory drinks without ever once being smug or muttering anything resembling ‘I told you so’.
As your twenties progress the problems you face shapeshift. ‘My friend is dating a total prick’ can quickly turn to ‘my friend got engaged to a total prick’ and then to ‘my friend is marrying a total prick’. In the final stages of this scenario, the stakes are very high.
Weddings, for the people involved, are supposed to be the happiest day of their lives. I’ve never got married so I can’t testify to this. I have, however, attended a fair few and they don’t always bring out the best in me. I’m not sure if it’s the heady concoction of booze, intense emotions, ‘difficult’ family and patriarchy or my own covert commitment phobia but I often find myself sweating profusely and convinced I can’t breathe as I arrive at weddings. I also baulk at the sums of money involved in this ritual and find it hard to understand why anyone would do it.
It’s difficult enough when a friend gets married to someone you like, you’re happy of course but there’s always a sense that you’re saying goodbye to a period of your life before serious partners, big jobs, responsibilities and, even, children. Regardless of whether you think the person your friend is marrying is brilliant, wonderful, amazing, you’ll always hold them in contempt on some level, because they represent the end of an era.
So, I found myself in an already difficult situation made worse when one of my best friends decided to marry a man that at best I simply cannot abide and, at worst, consider to be emotionally abusive.
My friend is a brilliant woman. Since the moment I met her I’ve admired her. Back then she was fearless, forthright, ambitious, friendly and kind. I remember the first time I ever saw her, across the room at a party, it was like light emitted from her. She was radiant. I know, I sound like I’m writing bad romantic poetry, before I get too Byron on this, let me expect what has unfolded since she met this man. Her light has been dimmed, it still shines but it’s a lot duller, it flickers. Occasionally I catch glimpses of her, but it’s rare. We all change as we get older, that’s no bad thing but I do not see her flourishing.
The man in question is doing a PHD. He is intelligent, there’s no question about that but he is not kind. He regularly undermines my friend in public, even when I know her to be right. On multiple occasions, he has been openly racist, sexist and anti-Semitic in my presence. A few years ago, when she was made redundant from a high powered job and moved to Scotland to be with him. Her life has since been tailored to meet his needs. Her career, it seems, is on hold. Many friendships have faded and become a thing of the past as she’s lost touch with many people in our group. Anxieties which I never realised she had, particularly about having children very soon, have surfaced on her part and, while I am not her therapist, to me it seems that she is trying to shore up the security of the relationship and not actually thinking about what’s best for her. Mutual friends who have seen her report very awkward and inappropriate drunken conversations which have seen them prematurely leaving nights out.
How, then, was I going to navigate their wedding, how could I celebrate said friend’s union to another soul if you wish she had picked a different sentient being to latch herself to legally and spiritually? Did I A) make excuses and politely decline the invitation or B) say something. I realised quickly that the answer could only ever be a. In situations like this you never, ever speak your mind. I was aware, however, that either way my decision would deal a fatal blow for our floundering friendship.
I thought it through. Was there any way that I could possibly plaster a smile on my face, bite my tongue, turn up and spout platitudes throughout the day? That’s what a few people advised would be the ‘right’ or ‘proper’ thing to do. I couldn’t do it. Inwardly, all day long, I’d be screaming ‘don’t do it’ because I truly believe she is making a mistake. As the words ‘speak now or forever hold your peace’ left the priest’s mouth I envisaged myself standing up, silently and spontaneously and then having to feign sickness to undo it all.
The consequences of saying something were great. No good would have come of it. I also didn’t want to isolate her forever because if, as I suspect, this doesn’t work out, I wanted and still want to be there for her. There are people who will say I should have just sucked it up, put my feelings to one side and been at the wedding. I hear them, I really do. Who she spends the rest of her life with is not for me to choose. I really do advocate being aware of the signs of a toxic or abusive relationship so that you can support anyone in your life who finds themselves in one but, in this situation, I knew I couldn’t say anything until she did. I also knew myself well enough to know that I would struggle not to say something.
Holding your ‘peace’ forever seems unrealistic either way, and I wasn’t prepared to commit to that in a church (despite being an avowed atheist). I didn’t want to object, ruining her big day and causing a scene that I could never come back from and so, with a very heavy heart, I the did decent thing and abstained in the hope that I could preserve our friendship.
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