Should You Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace?

HOW TO START THE CONVERSATION WHEN YOU WANT TO INTERVENE

Don't lecture and don't mention your age as if it's an advantage you have over Tina. We all know young fools, but we also all know old ones. Instead, initiate a two-way conversation in which you try to draw her out about the sources of Geoff’s appeal.  This may lead her to ask for your advice, which is preferable to your trying to impose it at the outset.

Try to show your interest and concern without becoming overwrought: you want her to remember your questions and thoughts, rather than the agitated emotional intensity with which you expressed them. "She got all red in the face" is not how you want Tina to look back on your exchange.

Try to discover what Tina thinks of Geoff’s character.  She may not have thought of him in terms of character. Ask whether she believes he’s a man of integrity, a man of his word, a man others tend to like and respect, or one from whom they tend to keep their distance.

QUESTIONS THAT MAY ELICIT A REQUEST FOR YOUR ADVICE

Does he have close friends, and, if so, does Tina like them?  Marriage doesn't consist of two people forever living together in a vacuum, but rather experiencing thousands of interactions with others over a lifetime.

Can Tina picture Geoff being able to manage these transactions with others with integrity?  Does she find him trustworthy?  Do his flirtations cause Tina discomfort? Does she find herself easily bored in his company when they're not in bed, with friends, watching or engaging in sports, or at the movies?

Does she like his family? Is she comfortable with the way he treats his mother and sisters, as well as other women she sees with him, including her female friends, waitresses and other women he encounters when they're together?

If Geoff’s main appeal is physical and sexual, it’s often useless -- but still worth some effort -- to mention that over time the strongest bonds that keep couples together are shared values, and attitudes toward life in general and toward loved ones in particular.  Character traits such as loyalty, self-discipline and integrity also form the basis for strong, lasting bonds. These will long outlast the passions of the moment, and if such traits aren't already apparent to Tina, they’re unlikely to materialize out of nowhere one torrid afternoon in the sack.

Try to steer the conversation in a direction that causes Tina to ask for your advice.  If she does, you could say that you’ve observed the arc of many relationships such as hers and Geoff's, and they’re more likely to resemble the high peak and steep decline of a parabolathan the line of a graph that ascends, getting better and better, over the long term: 

 

If you can offer examples of couples you both know, so much the better.

         KEEP YOUR EXPECTATIONS LOW

Don't expect a sudden transformation in Tina, with an instantaneous announcement of her decision to break up with Geoff.  Your purpose is to plant a seed of doubt. Tina can now view Geoff’s behavior through the perspectives you’ve suggested to her.

Your role model here isn’t Perry Mason, who never failed to evoke a dramatic confession on the witness stand.

Try, instead, the less sensational, more subtle approach of the successful criminal defense attorneys on Law & Order, who seek to instill reasonable doubt in the jury, sowing seeds of suspicion.  Over time, through Tina’s internal deliberations -- the seeds of doubt may mature into a change of mind and a change of heart.

If, despite your best efforts, you fail, console yourself with the truths contained in this classic that expresses how Tina may feel one day: 

 

---Belladonna Rogers

Do you have questions?  Belladonna Rogers has answers.  Send your questions or comments about politics, personal or cultural matters, or anything else that’s on your mind, and Belladonna will answer as many as possible.  The names, geographic locations and email addresses of all advice-seekers will be kept confidential. Names and places and will be changed to protect the identity of the questioner.  Send your questions or comments to: [email protected]