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By Nicolle

The first of my college roommates is getting married this fall (which is weird). I went to her bachelorette party this weekend where we played goofy games and did silly activities like decorating pairs of granny panties (see my group’s “Be fruitful and multiply” pair to the right). But after we’d downed our wine, reminisced about our days living in one apartment with 10 girls and watched her open our presents of lingerie and massage oil, we were each asked to share some advice, congratulations or memories for the bride-to-be.

I had a small, internal panic attack when I heard this. If you’ve been paying attention, it’s probably clear that I err on the side of realism when it comes to relationships, engagements and marriage – fluffy congratulatory comments aren’t my thing. I feel compelled to throw in a cautionary tale or two, and remind people that most relationships aren’t full of carriage rides, glass slippers and fairytale endings.

But reciting a list of statistics about divorce rates would have been akin to asking if I could try out the body frosting she received as a present: a little inappropriate, and a guarantee that I wouldn’t be invited to any more bachelorette parties in the near future.

So as I pondered what I’d say to my former roommate (whose marriage I completely and fully support, by the way), I struggled with where the balance was. How do I make it clear that I love her and her fiancé and I’m really happy for them, while combating the unrealistic expectations that I think we’re all subject to?

While I can’t single-handedly change the culture or our expectations, I don’t want to contribute to them either. So I wished the couple well, and also reminded them that, if marriage is hard and things aren’t going as “planned,” it’s not because they’ve done something wrong or they chose the wrong person. It’s because that’s life. Things are hard, and marriage isn’t easy, and that’s OK. They can work through it together.

And that piece of advice is a lot more useful than any piece of lingerie, granny panties or not.