Question: My daughter recently asked my husband and me if we approved of her boyfriend, whom she loves dearly. It seems irresponsible not to point out areas where they may struggle as a couple, but on the other hand, if they marry, I don’t want our son-in-law to always remember that we had some concerns. (She tells him everything.) How should we deal with this "no-win" question?

Answer:

Rather than thinking of yourselves as stuck in a no-win situation, consider this as an encouraging milestone in your daughter’s growth and development as a young adult, and in your own development as parents!

Encourage your daughter

Building a precious and primary relationship of her own, apart from her family of origin, is a natural and necessary experience for your daughter. Hopefully she and her boyfriend are learning to communicate, negotiate, have patience, work out goals, explore faith, set healthy boundaries, and the million other things that a healthy relationship involves – whether or not it results in their marriage.

At the same time, her question demonstrates that your daughter remains strongly connected in her relationship with you, and values your opinions.

Consider your own concerns

The challenging part for you is to first determine whether your concerns are based on real red flags, or simply your preferences in this time of change. (Remember when your parents were getting to know the one you later married!)

Are you concerned about his maturity, or his character? Is he abusive and disrespectful to your daughter, or did he simply grow up with different customs and in different environments than those you created for your kids? Are your concerns that he is not living a Christian faith, or that he simply lives out his commitment to Christ in a different style than your family experiences?

When you clearly define for yourselves what your concerns are, you’ll be in a better position to have the conversations that your daughter’s question invites. You’ll be better equipped to pray too!

Continue to build your relationship

Finally, keep in mind that your daughter is in a stage of life where you no longer have control over her. You haven’t had control for quite a long time! And you really have only limited influence, for that matter. But where you do have lots and lots of room is for invitation and relationship. Invite her to help you understand her faith, priorities and relationship choices by asking open-ended questions. Explore her thoughts on how you can build your own relationships with her boyfriend; get to know each other without your daughter being the go-between. Work on listening more than telling, on building relationship rather than "being right."

© 2015 Focus on the Family (Canada) Association. All rights reserved.

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