Well Beth, if you are taking questions now… can you help me with my daughter? One thing that was made clear to me last year is that my daughter wants and needs my presence at the holidays. I’m dreading this and thinking about it already 3 months in advance. The difficulty in this is her live-in boyfriend, in-person a congenial, soft-spoken, sometimes funny oaf, and his group of compadres who are wise-cracking, imaginative mostly unattached men. A hard look finds him to be a slacker. A coaster without a plan. The guy you’d find in a ice shack, with a six pack, fishing on a work day. A willing victim of extended adolescence. It makes me sad to see my adventurous, bright daughter dragging this sea anchor. Any ideas why this happens to women? Please don’t tell me it’s about the sex.
Anyway, it’s hard on me to spend time with them. I wind up with a thoroughly chewed tongue, I have to bite it so often, and heartache. Since it’s taken me five years to finally get her sister and their mother to admit to his slackerism, I feel like an opportunity to foment change is before me.
Signed, Perplexed Dad
Ah Perplexed Dad, I know how much my own father had to bite his tongue. I’m sure he scratched his head over some of my choices. Looking back, if he had left me alone and left me to learn my own lessons and make my own choices, I would have been better off. Even at this late date I’m finding out about some of his interference. I attended my High School Reunion and saw one of my old flames. This man is very successful and would have been an excellent choice for me. At the time he was, well, a teenage boy. Still not grown into himself yet. My dad scared him off. I wonder now what would have happened had nature just taken its course.
Bottom line? Your little girl has grown up. This is hard on Daddies! You want to still be that guy in her life… and it’s tough to let go. Certainly if this young man is hitting your daughter, doing drugs, or creating a violent and untenable situation for her, you most definitely should intervene. As we’ve seen in the news recently, people in abusive situations are often incapable of making the break without help.
So, what to do? It sounds like you are going to have to express yourself soon or your head will explode. Think long and hard before you do. What would YOU want her to say to you if you started dating again and your daughter didn’t like your choice of women? Your daughter is obviously an adult now. It’s important to treat her like one.
You could find time with her before the holidays when tensions are already high and people often have too many other issues to deal with. Couch the conversation in a way that respects her adulthood and shows you are looking out for her best interests. Be prepared for her to uninvite you for the holidays.
Here’s a possible script. It’s a little long, but you can take what works and delete the rest: “Honey, you know how much I love and adore you. I see things from across a span of years and experiences that you don’t have yet. I know this feels good right now, and that’s important. Just make sure you leave yourself room to make choices that work for YOU; that honor the amazing woman you are… Because in the long run, you’re the only person who is 100% impacted by every choice you make. If he isn’t pulling his weight, you need to admit that to yourself and say it to him. It’s important early in a relationship to set clear boundaries and agreements. Have some “expectations conversations” with him and with yourself. You have permission to want what you want, and to expect some support from your man. Men need to know the parameters, the expectations, the rules – that’s how we’re built. Don’t make decisions
about how he feels or thinks based on your own brain. Women are hardwired differently than men. Men can’t read minds – Men need maps and directions, especially at 33.
“Look, I want you to be happy. And I want you to know that you can change your mind about your situation any time you want. Don’t hang onto him because of me, and don’t break up with him because of me. You have to live into your own choices. Just know I love you and I support any decision you make.”
Say it to her, or write it to her. Couch everything in love and respect. None of us knows the inner workings of anyone else’s relationships. You really have NO idea what the attraction is or what void he fills in her soul. Give her the benefit of the doubt and respect whatever choice she makes. It’s her life.
©2014 Beth Terry, CSP • All Rights Reserved