Why is it that at birth, life doesn’t come with a manual? You know, one that helps you navigate the many trials of life. The hospital would probably charge your parents an additional twenty thousand in labor and delivery fees, ten thousand to check the manual’s vitals and five thousand for cleaning and lamination. It’ll tell you important things like how you’ll miss having a nap time as an adult, or how skipping the Game of Thrones finale will never not be a good idea, and maybe, just maybe, ignoring advice from friends about your significant other may be the best / worst thing you’ll ever do.
Since childhood, I’ve consistently had three things: Questionable taste in food, a fear of musicals (they aren’t natural), and an abundance of unsolicited opinions. So much so, I regift them to their original sources to help minimize fossil fuels. Eventually, my response to everything regarding relationships was Taco Bell. They’d say, “you should have kids.” I’d excuse myself and go to Taco Bell. “You should date more.” Goes to Taco Bell. And then there’s, “Why aren’t you married?” Obviously, because I was at Taco Bell.
I’ve learned early on someone’s going to have an opinion on everything you do, especially relationships, but how do you know when opinions regarding your significant other are worth listening to and when they should be put out to pasture? The answer’s easy: you don’t always.
When giving an unsolicited opinion about a friend’s significant other, my rule is simple: don’t. I may question a friend’s ability to eat bananas as if they aren’t the grossest thing ever — really, it’s a superpower — or how they’ve been five minutes away for twenty minutes, and even the dumpster fire of politics, but unless well-being is involved, without an opening or explicit question, I don’t openly give my opinion on relationships as a general rule of thumb. Doing so is akin to playing Russian Roulette. Positive opinions aren’t ever really an issue, unless they’re excessive. It’s the negative ones that should be given with caution. The thing is, most people only want to hear good things if they like someone, and you offering “bad” without even being asked can lead to resentment.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I don’t offer negative opinions. I’m saying until asked, I’m simply an observer. I’m a listener, a cheerleader, and when needed a bodyguard, mentally. I’m basically a therapist, but I get paid with hugs, round after round of Heads Up!, and Taco Bell (because, duh). And, after a little patience, ultimately, I’m able to share how I feel without it feeling cynical or heaven forbid, tyrannical.
In the past, when I’ve reached a point in my friendship where the bat-signal is needed, there are a few ways I give a negative opinion when well-being supersedes resentment. I start off by making clear that my friend’s happiness is very important to me and that He Who Must Not Be Named is interfering with that because of XYZ. I never nitpick, just straight to the point. The ending varies, but I make sure to listen, and in the end, respect whatever they decide.
Ultimately, when it comes to relationships, I listen softly. If a person offers an opinion, I take it for how it was given. Sometimes it resonates and sometimes it’s in one ear and out the other. Even if I disagree, I know it’s coming from a place of love, because those are the friendships I’ve established. I know my experiences aren’t always theirs, and I can sometimes be stubborn, or their judgment may be clouded.
Keeping in mind most friendships weren’t created equal, sometimes it’s just knowing your friend and how to present an opinion, or knowing yourself and if you’d want one. There are friends who want you to be very candid and forthright with your opinion — I’d like to think I’m that way, but only with certain people. Then, there are friends who may not want your opinion at all, and that’s okay, too. With whatever they decide, I’ve learned I can’t control others and that sometimes we’re just two different people. Whether giving your opinion turns loud and volatile or cries and hugs, you just have to go with the flow — and sometimes, learn to love people from afar. And, however you decide to accept opinions (or not), make sure you’re doing what’s best for you.