Stuffed doll

A daughter’s decision

Tracey Columns

Dear Tracey,

Our daughter has been telling us about her boyfriend for months. They have been dating for eight months and obviously, she’s head over heels in love. From everything she told us, he sounded like a good match. They seemed to have similar values and goals, both work in the same profession, and enjoy many of the same activities. We were impressed that he owned his own home and sounded quite responsible. So, what’s the problem?

You can imagine our surprise when they arrived for a visit a few weeks ago. We picked them up from the airport. As soon as we saw them, our jaws dropped – he looked to be about our age. (Our daughter is 29 and we later we found out that he is 52.) She never brought up this little detail, figuring we’d be upset. She was right.

It gets worse. Part of the reason for their visit was to get our blessing on their marriage. My husband and I tried to keep our cool but we were shocked. During their visit, we found out that he’s been married twice before and that he has three children, all in their twenties! This would be our daughter’s first marriage.

In talking with them, he clearly didn’t seem to think there was anything wrong with their age difference. He also volunteered that “this marriage will be different” because our daughter is “such a catch.” Who talks about their prospective bride this way, especially to her parents?

I’m afraid it didn’t end well. I tried to explain that we needed time to get used to the idea and that hurt our daughter’s feelings. She said we never did approve of any of her boyfriends, which isn’t true at all. One afternoon they just packed up and flew back to the east.

I’m heartbroken and my husband is angry. We haven’t spoken to our daughter since. I keep thinking she’ll call and apologize but she hasn’t. She probably thinks we owe her a call. I can’t decide which is worse, that she didn’t tell us or that she has fallen for someone who seems to utterly wrong for her. What can we do?

Worried sick

Dear Reader,

Oh, this is a sticky one. First of all, the scene at the airport must have been awful. It’s no wonder you both feel blindsided … you were! Unfortunately, it sounds like it went downhill from there.

My recommendation? Pick up the phone and call your daughter! This is NOT the time for a game of chicken. All of you had expectations and all of you have been disappointed. To continue this stand-off is a waste of everyone’s time and energy.

Why do I say this? Because there are bigger fish to fry! You need to be paying attention to what’s most important, and that is your relationship with your daughter. Sure, she blew it when it came to sharing this news … but that is a discussion for another day, if at all.

I’m not saying that you and your husband need to offer up your blessings – at this point, it  would be perfectly unreasonable. But I would like for the three of you to come to a better understanding about why your daughter wants to marry this man.

Have a calm, adult discussion about her reasons for this decision. Do not interrupt nor interject anything while she is talking! When she has finished, explain your feelings and reservations. No lectures! Choose your words carefully and thoughtfully. Always keep that ‘big picture’ in mind, which is the preservation of your relationship with her.

Now here’s the really tricky part, figuring out how to make peace with your daughter’s decision. Bottom line? She is a self-sufficient, 29 year old woman and, like it or not, this is her decision, not yours. As much as I can understand, and even relate to your concerns, this marriage is probably going on no matter what you and your husband think. (Rare is the adult daughter who chooses her parents over her betrothed.) The best you can do is to support your daughter and keep the lines of communication open.

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