Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Auntie Seraphic & Wedding Bell Hell

(Letter entirely rewritten for the sake of prudence.)

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

A girl I have always considered my best friend has gotten engaged. Sadly, I found out only because she sent a mass text to all her friends, including me, and then put the news on Facebook.

It is true we haven't been as close for a year or so, but we have always been like sisters. I am so hurt that she told me her news in such an impersonal way. I'm devastated.

This is not at all about jealousy over her being engaged. I'm reconciled, if not happy, about the fact that there is no man in my life. And I haven't even met her fiance.

How can I tell her, in a Christ-like fashion, how much she has hurt me? Of course I don't want to jeopardize the friendship, but I really am so disappointed and feel so rejected.

Wedding Bell Hell

Dear Wedding Bell Hell,

I write this hoping that you have not done anything yet. St. Ignatius of Loyola wrote that we should never make an important decision when we are in a state of desolation, and you sound rather desolate to me!

It sounds like your friend was so excited about being engaged that she wants to tell the whole wide world at once. I hope she remembered that she and her fiance were supposed to tell their own parents first, before they texted, tweeted and facebooked the universe. I am sure her electronic methods were not a slight on you but merely a symptom of her being engaged going straight to her head.

She has now entered one of the most stressful and emotional periods of a woman's life: planning a wedding is absolutely fraught with hurt feelings, parental tantrums, pushy salesladies, sulky friends, helpless grooms and hysterical brides.

People will second-guess what she wants over and over again. The last thing she needs is a showdown with good friends over how she chose to share her happy news. If you send her any kind of reproach right now, yes, you will definitely jeopardize the friendship.

Her text does not trouble me as much as the fact that you have not met her fiance. It seems odd that such a close friend would not have met him before things got really serious. (Perhaps you two live far apart now?) I suggest that you send her a text or email back saying "I am so happy for you! I'm dying to meet the lucky man! When can we all meet up?"

As for jealousy, there is nothing like a friend getting engaged to make the other Single girls go into a short tizzy.

First of all, when a friend gets engaged, things are now different and always shall be. Her fiance is now her best friend, and that's the way it has to be. Second, as happy as we are for our friends, if we are Single, the thought lurks in the back of our minds, "What about ME?!" This thought makes us feel guilty and selfish, but as long as we don't say it to the bride, it shouldn't. It is perfectly normal, but unless we* acknowledge it to ourselves, we don't understand why we feel so crazy.

My advice is to sort out for yourself (in private) everything you feel hurt about, let go your unhappy feelings about how she chose to tell her news, and to signal that you want to continue the friendship by sending her best wishes and your hopes to meet her husband-to-be.

I don't think Christ ever did tell people how much they hurt Him, so I can't imagine how anyone would do that in a Christ-like way. I am very sure that He would like His fellow Singles to be protective of and kind to brides, though, as the first miracle He ever performed was at a wedding, and He did it so that that the wedding party would not be embarrassed before their guests.

I hope this is helpful.

Grace and peace,

*I say "we" because I experience something similar when I hear the news that a friend is expecting a baby.

It is such a fun conversation, the revelation that a friend is getting married, that I cherish very much the memory of one girl telling me in person. I have only one such memory, and I simply don't remember how I went about telling my own friends I was getting married. It couldn't have been by text because I didn't own a mobile phone at the time. I bet it was mostly over the phone--and Facebook.

Update: I stopped playing these meme games long ago, but here's a link to a Single's blog.


sciencegirl said...

This reminds me of my freshman roommate, who got engaged at 18. She got engaged at college, over 100 miles away from her family and high school friends. This was before facebook, but she thought a clever, fun way to alert her extended family to the wonderful news was to snap a photo of her engagement ring on her hand and email it out. She was really into photography, I'll add, and she was also worried about which aunt to tell first. She didn't want relatives who were told first to start calling up other people, alerting them that they weren't the first to be notified. We all thought it was a great idea.

Multiple aunts and female relatives called to 1) chastise her for this "hurtful" method of announcing her engagement and 2) to congratulate her on getting married. She was completely shocked and spent a few hours crying.

The desire to want to announce an engagement to everyone at once is common, and it was of course nicer when all those people lived in the same town and could have a big party at the parents' house, ending with the wonderful news. But it's also normal to think that a text is not nearly as fun as a party or personal phone call.

What do you want to be to your friend in her engagement? Do you want to be the one she comes to when her aunts or cousins-in-law are driving her crazy with their overwrought feelings, or do you want to be one of the throng of troublemakers? She is probably already getting the "Well. Congratulations. Wish I'd heard from you in person. I guess this is the modern age for you," comments. Don't let one of them be from you.

MaryJane said...

Oh my gosh, I TOTALLY agree. Wedding planning is so stressful for the bride, it is the worst thing when friends get sensitive. Even if the bride does crazy things, she will not be able to see that they are crazy until it's over. (Or maybe for a long time after that. Or ever, because the whole memory will be a giant haze.)

The bride feels so much pressure already for everything that all she really needs is for friends to ignore the crazy and treat her as though she is a normal person who just needs a little extra concern.

It's true that it stinks to be one of the friends, but the single friends often forget/ can't believe the massive amounts of stress a bride is under. (Sometimes, the single friend even thinks, "at least she has a husband-to-be. If I were that lucky, I certainly wouldn't be so crazy." Which makes perfect sense until the day that the single friend becomes a fiancee and the crazy sets in. Then she realizes that in some ways, it stinks too.)

What is it about weddings that makes everyone, from the bride to the aunts to the friends, so very sensitive? It never ceases to amaze me that what should be happy is really just stressful for everyone.

healthily sanguine said...

Yeah, my first thought is that maybe the best friend isn't as "best" as the writer thought, and she ought to readjust her expectations of the friendship. That said, not being told personally about an engagement is not something to get your panties in a twist about. In fact, sometimes it's better not to be--you don't have to struggle with surprise feelings on the spot and find something good to say to her that isn't "congratulations" because only the man ought to be congratulated, and plus if you hear it through another friend the two of you can have a nice chat about the third friend and what kind of dress and wedding she is likely to have, etc. It's nice to be told personally on the phone or in real life, especially if it's someone you're really close to, but it's not the end of the world if you see/hear/get the news in some other way first.

Anna said...

Regretfully, I have done what Wedding Bell Hell wants to do and have chastised a good friend for telling facebook before me. I felt hurt. But here's the thing; it was about my ego, about feeling rejected, on some level, by her. It has no place in relationships. So I think you are quite right, Seraphic, when you say, "I don't think Christ ever did tell people how much they hurt Him, so I can't imagine how anyone would do that in a Christ-like way".

aussie girl said...

Can you recommend a resource for Catholic engaged girls? A blog or book? All the wedding mags assume you are living together and this misses out a big part of what a change of life getting married is for catholics.

Anna said...

Ditto what the ladies said above. The writer wants to pout that her friend is not as close a friend as she thought. I understand, I've been there and it is certainly a lousy feeling. But sharing it won't help.

@ aussie girl-- I've heard great things and briefly browsed through "For Better Forever: A Catholic Guide to Lifelong Marriage" by Gregory K. Popcak. It's now my go-to engagement / wedding present for friends (in addition to something nice for the home).

Jancie said...

While I mostly agree that the friend shouldn't take so much offense at the way she was told about the wedding, I also thought this blog was a place where single people could go for support.

I always, always, always get the, "when you're married and have kids you'll understand..." But what about those people who never get married, are we just to remain clueless for the rest of our lives?

Personally, the facebook/email method of communication isn't a big deal, yes a phone call would be nice but it is a stressful time and it is so hard to not step on anyone's toes. But the "best friend" obviously has not been open and forthright about a serious relationship she has been having. I would be hurt if one of my best friends got engaged and I hadn't met the guy (keeping in mind the fact that we were reasonably close by). But this happened to me once. My own cousin who was like my sister got engaged and I had no idea that they had even been dating. And they had been dating two years (I found out later.) Maybe its a different issue entirely.

Not to be too long-winded, but I do feel some sympathy for the writer of the letter. I do agree whole-heartedly that she shouldn't burden the bride to be by telling her that she's hurt but the grown-up thing to do would be to focus on the bride and let her enjoy her day. But it really hurts when good friends leave you out of their lives like that. I think there would have been the whole dating up to the engagement in which the friend could have called and that conversation would have included, well maybe we'll get married, maybe not. At least the letter writer would not have been so taken by suprise when the email came around. Maybe I'm reading into it because of personal experience but in short I at least feel for you "Wedding Bell Hell". As one lady who probably will never have the opportunity to experiencing the gut-wrenching stress of engagement I definitely know what it feels like to be left out in the cold.

Charming Disarray said...

Am I the only one who doesn't like getting phone calls? I actually kind of like the text-message picture of the ring because you get to see the ring right away and you don't have to have a repetitive conversation that goes, "I'm so happy for you!" "Thanks!" "You must be really happy!" "I am!" "Seriously, that's so awesome!" "Thanks! I'm really happy" etc.

MaryJane said...

I agree with Janice, in that single people need support and I can understand the friend's position of being hurt. It does stink to get left out. I guess I was just trying to say that I think it also stinks for the bride (in a totally different way), and given the situation, this is one of those times when the single friend has to be "the bigger man". Which isn't to say that it's easy or fun, or even fair. It just is what it is.

Seraphic said...

Janice, of course Single people need support. And that is why I took the time from my busy schedule to encourage a Single not to torpedo a friendship that means a lot to her when she was in a moment of desolation. I feel a lot of sympathy for the writer of the letter, and I want her to feel happy.

Supporting Single people does not mean encouraging them in their feelings of resentment--feelings that, if they act on them, can lead them into more hurt.

Sheila said...

When you have big news to share, it can be really hard to tell people individually and still be sure no one hears it elsewhere before they hear it from you. When I got pregnant, I wanted to tell people individually, but an acquaintance overheard me telling someone else and told EVERYONE. Yes, my closest single friend was upset. I called her as soon as I heard she'd been told, and she was asking me, "Why didn't you tell me yourself? Why did you let me hear it from X, who I thought wasn't nearly as close to you as I am?" So in retrospect it might have been better to just send a text around, who knows.

I think the occasion calls for a nice long phone call or visit soon so the writer can hear the whole story and congratulate her in the personal way she wanted to. It does hurt not to hear things "the right way," but what's done is done.

Janice said...

I don't really see the letter writer as being resentful (granted it was rewritten so maybe I just don't know), she did say she was happy for the bride and I guess I'm just taking that at face value. Sometimes single people are accussed of making enemies out of married people when I think just the opposite happens, married people assume that single people are angry and bitter and so read into what they say.

She just wanted to tell her friend she was hurt and from what I can tell she has some reason to be hurt, not because she wasn't the first one told or because she didn't recieve a phone call but because it sounds like leading up to the engagement the friend seemed to keep a very important part of her life to herself. So while I appreciate your advice not to tell the bride because she has too much else on her plate I do think it is less than sympathetic to deny her her feelings.

I don't see that being hurt is the same thing as being resentful. It just means you want to be reassured that your friendship is as important to the other person as it is to you.