Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: My 22-year-old niece just told me she and her 35-year-old boyfriend are eloping next week. This is a relationship that has been deeply opposed by my niece’s parents for years; they object to the age difference and many other aspects they view as unsavory.
My niece told me they are inviting only the people who have been “supportive” of the relationship, which is how I came to be invited. The problem is that while I haven’t been vocally opposed to the relationship (it doesn’t seem like my place), my attitude is far from one of support. I actually hoped and assumed the relationship would run its course, that the nightmare would end for my sister, and that my niece would finish school and then start dating age-appropriate people.
So now I am not sure what to do. The most pressing problem is that I am now keeping a huge secret from my sister, with whom I have always been very close. The second problem is that I don’t know whether to attend the secret wedding. I’m also not sure if it’s wrong to refrain from telling my niece that I too am worried about her choice. Any advice?
Burdened by a Secret
Dear Burdened: She’s 22! She’s an adult. What’s “unsavory” about her marrying a man of 35?
I get it, they’ve been together for “years,” but if she was 18 when they got together, then that’s concerning but she was still an adult who was free to make this choice. If there’s more to it that’s genuinely “unsavory,” then please fill me in, but otherwise I’m rooting for them.
As for the secrecy, that’s an issue — one you can dispense with in a very straightforward way. “I’m touched to be included in your wedding. However, I will not keep such an enormous secret from my sister.” Tell your niece you will give her a two-day grace period in which she can tell her mother of the wedding herself, if she chooses, but after that you will not refrain from discussing it.
If your niece bounces you from the guest list for that, then her immaturity solves your do-I-go problem, even as it no doubt creates others. Ones that are hers to worry about now.
But, really — unless you’re holding back something huge, two adults are getting married. Period. Just stop.
Re: Niece: About “telling my niece that I too am worried”: It wouldn’t do any good. Your niece already knows a lot of people don’t like the idea, and it hasn’t stopped her from planning to elope. Go or don’t go, but come to grips with the fact that people live their own lives and make their own mistakes.
Re: Niece: You can tell your niece something similar to what I told my brother when he moved in with his girlfriend and told me not to tell our mom: If you are mature enough to do this, then you should be mature enough to tell your parents you’re doing it.
Dear Anonymous/Sibling: Simple and elegant, thanks.
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