My lovely, 23-year-old daughter is a romantic and wants to marry the young man she is dating. They have “officially” dated two years, but were friends for years before that. They did not attend college together, so are just recently back in the same town.
My daughter lives alone, pays her bills, and is learning how to be a responsible adult, but she is still naive in many ways. Having just graduated, her boyfriend lives with his parents (who fully promote this relationship) and has an entry-level job, so has not yet lived independently or paid his own way.
They talk all the time about their future, even about living together, which I completely oppose. I believe my daughter just “loves being in love” and loves that her boyfriend is willing to discuss the future when most young men his age would turn and run!
I also don’t want her to become so involved that she won’t be able to extricate herself from this relationship should it not endure.
My daughter fluctuates about what she wants to do, career-wise, and I want her to be able to explore many options, develop friendships, and focus on aspects of her life other than getting married. How can I encourage her to slow down and focus on becoming an independent, self-reliant woman in her own right?
— Worried Mom
By letting her navigate this relationship for herself.
You provide a thorough accounting of common, indeed, legitimate concerns about committing to someone too young, but, you know what? It’s not your call. Not unless she asks for your opinion, and even then you need to respond judiciously for several reasons: You don’t want to motivate her to prove you wrong; if you are wrong, then you don’t want to be the one who bashed her future spouse; none of what you say will be as persuasive as what she learns for herself; independent, self-reliant people become that way by learning to get up after they fall; and your biases against this man and his parents, job, choices and association with your daughter are abundantly clear, oh my goodness.
You have so much more to gain from trusting the daughter you already raised than from fussing to perfect the daughter you envision. Slow down, please, and focus on becoming an independent, self-reliant parent in your own right. It’ll be painful for you both sometimes, but loving someone always is.
I call my 84-year-old grandmother every Sunday. She always lists things she “had to do” that week. She had to report people for having too many cars in their driveway. Had to remind people to trim their trees. Had to call the pastor because he did not wear a necktie to give his sermon. She talks like these things are her job!
She also cries because she doesn’t have any friends. Should I point out the connection?
Her tears — and 84 years — are telling you how resistant she is to connecting the loneliness and the busybody dots.
But you can throw a new dot out for her to try: “You also compliment the pastor on a good sermon, right?” Adapt and repeat weekly. It might help only you, but that’s OK, too, if it brightens those important weekly calls.
Email Carolyn Hax at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Facebook at facebook.com/carolyn.hax