To be or not to be

A good friend wants me to be her bridesmaid, but her husband-to-be says she can't be my friend after the wedding.

Published July 2, 2004 7:08PM (EDT)

Readers -- The Table Talk thing is going well. There are some good posts there on places to flee to from L.A., such as Austin, Texas, and the Twin Cities, as well as neighborhoods in L.A. itself that can be cool. Those posts are in reference, of course, to Thursday's "Suburban Blues" column. Also in TT: how to talk back or not talk back to the right-winger in your life.

'Nuff said.

Dear Cary,

A friend of mine (we've been very close friends for 12 years) is getting married to a guy who's not good for her.

He doesn't treat her with respect (I've seen it and she tells me about it) and he's just a jerk. He's also becoming controlling and possessive.

I agreed to be a bridesmaid because at the time I thought it was the right thing to do, even though I was against the marriage from the beginning. But I just found out that once they get married, we won't be allowed to be friends anymore. He thinks I'm a "bad influence" on her because I "disrespect my husband" by not changing my last name. (If my husband doesn't care, why should he?)

None of her family or friends like this guy, so I know it's not just some bias I have against him.

I've talked to her about not marrying him, and apparently that's not an option. She's blinded by love and she's just in denial, I guess.

They're getting married in a couple of months, and I'm wondering if I should back out of the wedding. If he's not going to "let us" be friends anymore, should I just back out now and at least have my principles? Or do I stick it through and lie to everyone and myself that I support this union when I really don't?

Her matron of honor (her cousin) is thinking of bailing and if she does, I know I'm next in line to be matron of honor and I don't think I can handle that.

Should I stay or should I go?

Needing Insight

Dear Needing Insight,

Weddings often involve going along with things we don't wholly approve of. If what we disapprove of won't affect us materially and directly -- the groom's career, the bridesmaids' dresses -- then it's often best to put our concerns aside and simply participate. But there are limits. In this case, you're being asked to officiate at your own banishment. That's an odd and troubling request, and I'm not surprised you feel so torn.

I think you need to first try to determine how serious is the prospect of banishment. Discuss this with your friend. Ask her if she really intends to obey her husband, and not see you after they're married. Her impulse will be to reassure you, and she may not know her own mind or her own ability to defy her husband. So after discussing it with her, you will need to evaluate her response yourself. What is your gut sense of it? Is she loyal to you? Is he just blowing smoke? Do you sense, intuitively, that this wedding will signal the end of your friendship?

Only if she were to tell you outright that after the wedding she won't see you anymore would it be an easy decision to refuse to participate. Given any other response, if you want to remain her friend, I think you ought to participate.

For if you refuse, it bolsters his belief that you are not a good friend for her. "She didn't even participate in your wedding," he might say to her later. "How can you think she's still your friend?" It would more or less seal your fate. And she herself might wonder too -- if you really wanted to be her friend, why did you shun her wedding?

So if she assures you that you'll be friends, but you sense she's slipping away anyway, perhaps you could view the wedding as a way of saying goodbye, as your final tribute to your longtime friend, a way of wishing her well even though you yourself feel it keenly as a sacrifice and a loss. In that way you might express true friendship, even if you're the only one who really knows why you went through with it.

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