Everyday Ethics

Paddy’s recent post about how to date honestly (or too honestly) got me thinking about relationships, intentions, and the perils of long-term commitment, particularly when cultural, religious, and social mores collide. Her post asks us whether ’tis better to be upfront, or give it time before declaring one’s eventual relationship intentions.

I started thinking about this question even more after a friend at Jewcy passed along this recent, horrifying snippet from an ultra-orthodox Jew ranting at a cousin who was about to marry outside the faith. Apparently, it’s an email from a guy named “Moishe” (name has been changed) railing in horrendously bigoted fashion about what will happen to his cousin Noah (also not his real name) when/if he marries a non-Jew.
I would quote a sample from the letter, but here’s the thing: though the names have been changed, permission was not given by the writer of the email to reprint it (though the recipient did grant permission). To quote the Jewcy staffer: 

By an odd and fortuitous chain of events, the email found its way to Jewcy HQ.”

So it could be somewhat unethical to promulgate the guy’s hate-speech, even just to out him as a jerk, considering he only meant to share his creepy views with one guy–his cousin. For the purposes of this blog, I’m more concerned with the question: Is it OK to stick your nose in and give your opinion on someone else’s relationship?

I tend to think, except in extreme circumstances, that’s a big old “NO.”

Sure, I may have an opinion. I may think X is so completely wrong for my friend Y that I can barely stand not to scream it from the rooftops every time I see them together. I may think it’s a bad idea to mix heritages (I don’t), religions (I don’t) or political affiliations (well, maybe), but I’ll do my darnedest not to let it show.
  • From a practical standpoint, sharing my two cents on someone else’s relationship is a great way to lose friends/loved ones. I’ve never met anyone involved in a relationship who wanted to have their bubble burst, or, more importantly, who took anyone else’s sage advice, no matter how kindly meant. Have you?
  • From a moral standpoint, who am I to point the finger? It’s not like I know so much about relationships. I may have a gut feeling about how things are going to work out, I may want to protect my friend from getting hurt, but I don’t know everything.
  • What works for me may not work for someone else. That goes for religious as well as secular considerations. 
  • Maybe it’s OK to voice an opinion–IF your friend specifically asked for one, but I still don’t think it’s a good idea to be too forthcoming. Whatever your thoughts on the person Y is dating, I believe Y needs to come to their own conclusion about X without being unduly swayed.
On the other hand, if I happen to know Y’s love interest is actively cheating, dangerous, mentally ill, etc, then I may perhaps have an actual responsibility to step in. But otherwise? I think it’s best to keep my trap shut. Even if it means a lifetime of biting my tongue because I can’t stand the jerk.
What’s your opinion?
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