Dear Carolyn • 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 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?
Dear 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.