Boomerangst: Turning Dilemmas Into Discoveries – Tell The Truth or Stay Silent?

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It’s a rotten situation: you don’t like the woman your son is about to marry. Should you be honest and tell him – or remain silent?

Q. Our son is planning to marry a woman we don’t think is right for him. To be blunt, we don’t really like her much either. She is 14 years younger, extremely childish and clingy, barely supports herself and is uneducated. Our son, in contrast, is well-educated, has a good job and is responsible. But he seems to have the blinders on. (Other family members totally agree.) We wonder if his fiancé sees him as her meal ticket. We can’t understand why he’s so enamoured, but we suspect if they do marry that it won’t last. We know it’s not our choice to make but we also wonder if we should be saying something before it’s too late.

Irene and Ray, Ottawa


A. That’s a rotten situation, and you may not like the advice you’re going to get, but here goes: you need to tell your son how you feel. In fact, you should tell both your son and his fiancé how you feel.

I know, I know. That sounds impossibly awkward, but that’s the advice offered by Dr. Guy Grenier, a London, Ont.-based clinical psychologist and author. Dr. Grenier says there are three important factors essential for a healthy relationship: love, conflict management and a lot of similarities. Rather than saying something like, “We don’t like the fact you have a lousy job and our son has a good career” or “We think you’re badly matched,” Dr. Grenier suggests you try something like, “We have real doubts about the viability of this relationship. We know that one of the three important things in a healthy relationship is similarities, and we see a lot of dissimilarities between the two of you.”

But no matter how you choose to say it, something needs to be said, he insists. You may worry you’ll offend the couple and you might, but there’s also a risk in saying nothing.

“What if the relationship ends and the son comes back later and finds out you saw it coming but said nothing?” says Dr Grenier. “He’s going to say, ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’”

So silence is not an option. Instead, “Define what you see as the problem and put it out there,” he advises. “Respect is telling the truth, and it’s about the exchange of quality information. And good communication isn’t fluffy communication. It’s not all just sweetness and light and the idea that you say something positive before you say something negative. Frankly, that’s patronizing and annoying.”

And if you talk to your son and his fiancé and they go away mad or won’t talk to you?

“Well, then that’s the best you can do,” says Dr. Grenier. “Painful truths are more respectful than soothing lies.”

Send Diane a brief description of your dilemma, along with your first name and where you live, to [email protected]

A professional journalist for more than 25 years, Diane Sewell has written for some of the top newspapers and magazines in Canada and is a baby boomer herself. Her new blog “Boomerangst: Turning Dilemmas into Discoveries” is interactive with readers and focuses on life issues – like aging, dating, second marriages, sex, death, family and fashion. Diane will use her expertise to find the right expert to help solve your predicament, unearthing kernels of truth and quickly getting to the heart of the issue.