The help desk: My best friend isn't in love with her fiancé - how can I persuade her not to rush into marriage?
Q. My best friend has told me she’s getting married. I didn’t really know what to say, because she’s told me herself that she’s not “in love” with the man she’s marrying, whom she originally met at university and whom she’s been seeing for less than a year. He’s nice and I can see he adores her, but he’s just not very interesting and definitely not her equal intellectually.
She’s 34 and I know how much she wants children. She broke up with the man she always said was the love of her life partly because he couldn’t commit to this (though he was also unfaithful to her). She says her current man wants a family, and he’s Catholic, as she is (though I don’t know why this matters, as she never goes to church). I’m just afraid that she’s making a terrible mistake and condemning herself to a dull life – or a divorce – because she’s putting practicality above love. I feel she shouldn’t rush into this. But how can I persuade her to wait?
A. Well, as waiting a while won't make your friend's fiancé any more interesting or intellectual, I assume you mean how can you make her wait so you have time to talk her out of it. But should you? Suppose for a moment she would take your advice not to marry him. Do you think, in years to come, if she were to find herself without him, but also without the family life she craves, that she would console herself that she'd been true to the noble cause of romantic love?
It's only in recent times that romantic love has come to be regarded as the chief reason for pledging your troth. Historically, marriage has been about unromantic matters such as procreation and money. Most research still appears to show that what makes marriages last are boring things such as similar family backgrounds and both parties wanting or not wanting children, though of course there are relationships that thrive without these things.
Romantic love is great, but it skews our judgement and sends us slightly mad. Weirdly, none of us seems to mind this – in fact we rejoice in it. But considering how many marriages are based on it, it's amazing really that the divorce rate is so low.
The lengths that some women will go to when in the grip of a yearning for children have been discussed before in this column. For your friend, this desire might override everything, and if procreation means marriage to a man who is kind and adores her and wants what she wants, and for whom she feels affection, maybe that seems a pretty good deal. Or perhaps, at 34, she's simply had enough of the hurly-burly of the chaise longue, as the actress Mrs Patrick Campbell famously put it, and simply longs for the deep, deep peace of the marital bed.
A friend told me her mother always advised to her to "beware romantic men", and it's true that while they're interesting, it's rather in the way that "interesting times" are, as your friend as already discovered. Show respect for her decision and she'll be able to talk to you more openly. Then you can decide whether she needs saving from herself.
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