Dear Wayne and Wanda,
I'm writing to you because I'm concerned about my sister. We are both now adults in our 30s but that's where the similarities end. I have never married or had kids, have had long-term relationships here and there, and also have had periods of being single and, for the most part, happy. My sister started dating "Bob" in high school when she was just 14. At age 20 they got engaged. I remember even then I suggested that she think about it, or date some other guys to be sure. She thought I was crazy for suggesting it, and she and Bob married. They were happy for some time and had two children together. But as the story goes, as they grew older (or grew up, more like it), they grew apart and divorced.
I was worried that she would have trouble dating. Nope. We took her out for drinks the day the divorce was finalized and there at the bar, she met "Dan." They had their first date the next day and within the week she announced she was falling for him. They moved in together two months later. It's been a few months and they're still together. The problem is I worry my little sister doesn't know how to be alone. I tried to bring it up and she got super defensive and said she's in love and I should be happy for her. Should I be happy for her and butt out? Or am I right to be concerned?
Worried older sister
Wanda says: It's not easy being an older sister, is it? We want our little sis to be happy and we always think we know what's best. Sometimes, we do. Sometimes, we don't. Here's a bit of truth I always fall back on: The only two people who know what is actually going on in a relationship are the two people within it. So as much as you want to armchair quarterback little sis' game plan, the truth is, you will never completely understand her emotions or her motives.
True, she may be exceptionally needy and totally lost on her own. This relationship may be further evidence of her sad inability to stand on her own two feet, solo. Or, she may really be in love. She may have actually found a compassionate adult companion after finally breaking away from a stale and unfulfilling marriage. But there's no way for you to know this -- except to trust your sister.
Why don't you take her out for a girls' night. Share some fancy snacks, sip wine, and lay it out on the table. Tell her you love her and her happiness is super important to you. Tell her you worry because it's important to you that she is happy and it concerns you that she has gone so long without truly being on her own. Ask her to tell you about what the past year was like for her. Then, rather than an interrogation, you can each participate in a conversation, and maybe afterward, you'll have a better understanding of where she's coming from.
Wayne says: So tell me again, what's really important about the experience of being alone after a relationship? To build independence and strength so that you can conquer any challenge ahead? To gain clarity on exactly what you want out of life and need out of a partner? To become your own best friend? Baloney. You could spend half your life on Meditation Mountain in a vow of silence and still come off the peak as messed up as when you hiked up.
I am perfectly fine with taking some post-breakup time to get your emotional feet underneath you. But I don't dig people who love forcing mandated single time-outs on anyone coming out of serious relationships. Sure, recent singles are usually fragile, needy and not exactly thinking straight. But does that mean they need to spend an undetermined number of months sequestered from potential friends and love interests?
We all love and rebound at our own pace. For your sister, maybe she is wounded and lost -- or maybe she's resilient, hopeful and in love with someone who makes her happy.
Wanda is wise (as always) about having a real talk with her -- as long as you take off your big sister pants and put on your best friend pants. Ask her to share how she genuinely feels about her recent experience of being in a relationship, being alone and what she believes she wants out of life and love. Do the listening and supporting. If you can't handle that, butt out.
• Wanda is a wise person who has loved, lost and believes in retail therapy. Wayne is a wise guy who has no use for therapy. Send them your questions and thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.