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Dear Wendy: “How Can I Tell My Sister Her Relationship Is Doomed?”

How do I tell my sister that she’s not going to get what she ultimately wants out of her boyfriend? My sister has been dating a very good guy for over two years, and I know she wants him to be her husband and the father of her children. However, there are some roadblocks. They have different takes on religion (she is a Christian, and hopes he’ll become one), marriage (he’s not sure he “believes” in it and she’s been planning her wedding since she was 12), and whether to have biological children or adopt (he wants to adopt). In addition to these serious clashes in life philosophy/goals, she often feels like he places more importance on his work than on his relationship with her. He IS a really good guy, and she is happy with him, but I think she’s deluding herself into believing that she can change him. I think it may be worth being honest with her — if I can help her see that this isn’t the best she can do, it could save her time and make the heartbreak a little less severe. At the same time, my own relationship is verging on perfect, and my boyfriend and I have values/goals that are very much in sync, so I don’t want to come off as condescending or braggy when I approach her about this (she has gotten envious in the past). How can I be honest without really hurting her? — Leery Little Sister

If you read nothing else of my advice, at least pay attention to these four little words: Mind your own business. I was going to make it five little words, but one of them isn’t allowed on this website, so you’ll have to use your imagination to fill in the blank. LLS, your sister’s relationship is of no concern to you. Unless you have reason to believe your sister is in real danger, or you are privy to information she isn’t (like you caught him with another woman or something like that), it isn’t your place to tell her how to live her life, particularly if she’s not asking for your advice or opinion.

And you know what? You don’t know that your sister isn’t going to get what she wants. All you know is that her boyfriend treats her well and she’s happy with him, but they have a few differences. So what? Maybe that means their relationship won’t work out and maybe it doesn’t mean a thing. It’s none of your business, either way. Your sister is going to take her lessons from this relationship, regardless what the outcome is. She’s going to learn what she needs to and grow as a person, whether that means as a single woman with a new perspective on dating, or as a married woman who has met challenges with her husband and built a stronger bond with him because of them.

I’m sorry, but you do come off as condescending and braggy. You come across as someone who thinks she has it all figured out because her relationship is verging on perfect. What does that even mean? That you don’t have any differences? That you want the exact same things in life? That you never fight? That you have better sex than everyone else? I don’t know, when I hear someone describe her relationship as “perfect” or almost perfect or whatever, it makes me wonder what’s really going on behind the surface. Maybe this is about your own relationship. Maybe this is about issues or jealousy or rivalry between you and your sister, I’m not sure. But what I am sure about is no one really knows what’s going on in someone else’s relationship and it would be completely inappropriate for you to lecture your sister on mistakes she’s making when you have no idea what you’re talking about. I hope for the sake of your relationship with her, you’ll keep your opinions to yourself.

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