If she stays with her present partner, ns worried the she’ll finish up alone, childless, and unhappy.

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Editor’s Note: Every Monday, Lori Gottlieb answers questions from readers about their problems, big and small. Have actually a question? email her at dear.therapist

Dear Therapist,

My 42-year-old daughter has actually never to be married but has had relationships with men and women. She now associated with a married guy who’s left his wife and is supposedly acquiring a divorce and doesn’t desire children.

He seems nice enough, however my daughter has actually told she father and he’s called me that her boyfriend won’t discuss the divorce with her. My daughter is having actually a great time but knows that the relationship is walking nowhere. I can’t believe she’s content with so little when she claims she desires to be married and to have actually children.

For the life that me, ns cannot recognize why she’s v this guy. I have told mine husband that i don’t want to entertain them together. I don’t give of the relationship, and also I nothing think it’s great for mine daughter. Ns feel she is not thinking plainly and is not valuing herself. My husband states “It’s she life.” And, that course, it is. Yet my are afraid is the she’ll end up with nothing—no relationship, no children, no home. Ns worried and also angry.

I’d love her advice or suggestions.

AnonymousOlympia, Washington

Dear Anonymous,

One the the hardest facets of being a parental is recognizing that your youngsters are their very own people, and that no matter how in different way you view things—or just how much you want to safeguard them—they obtain to make life options of their own. That course, that doesn’t average you can not share her perspective in a respectful way, but to perform that, you’ll very first have to gain curious about your daughter’s desires, different from what you think they need to be.

You say a lot around your daughter’s state of mind—that she wants marriage and also children; the she’s having a an excellent time in this relationship; that she “knows the relationship is going nowhere.” It’s not clear come me, though, whether she’s shared these thoughts directly with friend or—like the information about her friend not discussing his divorce with her—they’re comes to you secondhand (or are merely your assumptions).

Right now, her proposed strategy for interacting your concern and love for her daughter is through punitive activity (boycotting she boyfriend). Periodically when parents feeling powerless, they will to what’s basically a hostage-taking situation. Until you do as i wish, I will certainly withhold something necessary to you. But this tactics hardly ever work, nor are they “good for” your daughter.

You might not choose this situation, but you love your daughter, and punishing her isn’t a way to present your love. Instead, it reflects a need to exert control, come erase she personhood native the equation. You can’t love who by erasing she personhood. And also the more you erase she by insisting the she see her relationship the means you do, the less receptive she’ll be—not simply to your thoughts, but also to you much more generally. If you’re worried about your daughter losing a specific future thus relationship, take into consideration that friend may shed a future v your daughter because of the way you manage this situation.

So let’s consider another method of addressing this issue between you and also your daughter—because that’s really what your letter is about. Friend say the you can’t recognize why she’s through this guy, however have you tried—in a thank you way—to understand? yes sir a difference between an worried “What are you doing v this guy?,” which will put her in the position of defending herself, and also a genuine conversation that originates from an open-minded ar of wanting come learn an ext about her inner world.

What she tells you might be hard to hear. Maybe in perfect world, she would love to have actually children, however she might feel the that is no a most likely path for her right now. Even if she were to break up through her boyfriend tomorrow, she’d have to satisfy someone brand-new very quickly, a prospect that’s complete of uncertainty. She might not affix strongly v anyone for a long while (the dating swimming pool is more limited at midlife, given how many civilization are married by then), or she can go with a collection of quick relationships that don’t work out—all while she fertility timeline shortens. If she at some point meets and falls in love with a younger woman, that may buy her time—and, of course, she can shot to adopt children if she ends up v a same-age or older partner. But if she wants to parent with a companion whom she has yet to meet and also then gain to know well sufficient to spend her life with, she might be act the mathematics in she head and also coming to the conclusion that having an child at, say, 50 year old no appeal come her—especially once she’s right now with a man she loves. Consider, too, the in countless people’s minds (including, perhaps, your daughter’s) there space a many of methods life can work out that fall between having “nothing” and being married with children.

People do all kinds of very an individual compromises come be v a person they love—they move to cities that aren’t your favorite; they inherit stepchildren they might struggle with or in-laws that drive castle crazy; they live with the fact that their partner travels for work-related a an excellent deal and often has to miss birthdays or holidays. And sometimes a human being makes tranquility with no having kids if she drops in love with someone that doesn’t want them.

Now, that’s a different scenario from remaining with a companion who important isn’t ideal for her because she fears not meeting anyone else. Healthy relationships require open up communication, and also you have reason come wonder about her boyfriend’s refuse to discuss his divorce v your daughter. I say “wonder” because you nothing have sufficient context to totally understand this one piece of secondhand information. Because that example, he might be hiding something from she or preventing commitment, yet it’s also feasible that he won’t talk about the divorce because of the way your daughter interacts with him about it. Probably she doesn’t recognize what he’s going with emotionally (his grief or sadness or anger) as he end his marriage and he feel criticized fairly than supported when he bring up the divorce. Perhaps she demands that he to speak or do particular things when communicating with his wife, therefore overstepping her role in the resolution of your marriage. Possibly she insists on telling him what he should be obtaining in your divorce settlement or demonizes his wife whenever the topic of the divorce come up. In other words, she may have actually trouble hearing him agenda-free, the way you may struggle come hear her daughter agenda-free—and that may be why that doesn’t speak to her about it.

You i will not ~ really understand what’s walking on in this connection until you’re ready to listen, without interjecting “Yes, i know, yet what about…” You could want to start by asking her to tell you around what she likes around her partner, and also some the the fun they have actually together. Permit her know that friend relate to how much much better life seems once you go to sleep in ~ night next to someone friend love—and the she need to really value having that in she life ideal now. Questioning her around the good things in the relationship and also delight in she joy, due to the fact that her happiness is as actual as your concern. If you do room in between the two of you for a much more balanced check out of the relationship, both that you might be much better able come tolerate the nuances the your relationship that feel so threatening to every of you right currently (for you, her delight with her boyfriend; for her, your worries about him).

Sometimes when people are provided the chance to speak openly in a safe and trusting context, castle hear themselves an ext clearly, and they feel that an emotional load they have been delivering alone has lifted. Once she realizes the you’re yes, really there come understand and also listen, you could at some point—perhaps in this conversation, or likely in another—say something like “I wonder what it’s choose for you, not learning what’s walking on with the divorce. Exactly how are girlfriend feeling around that?” She may justify what her boyfriend is doing with every little thing line of thinking he gave her, or she might acknowledge the she finds this dynamic challenging or anxiety-provoking. Again: just listen. The much more you listen, the an ext inclined she’ll it is in to share v you—and much more important, the much more she’ll have the ability to hear herself.

I have actually no means of learning from your letter whether this is a doomed relationship, however if the is, think about this: Most human being who leave dead-end relationships execute so not because somebody told them to—a parent, a nearby friend, a therapist—but since they were given the conditions in which to see their instance in every its complexity. The most powerful truths—the ones people take the many seriously—are those lock come to, tiny by little, on your own. V some beneficial facilitation, her daughter will make the decision that feels ideal for her.

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Dear Therapist is for informational purposes only, does not constitute clinical advice, and is not a substitute for experienced medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of her physician, mental-health professional, or various other qualified health and wellness provider with any questions you may have regarding a clinical condition. By submitting a letter, you space agreeing come let The Atlantic use it—in part or in full—and us may modify it for size and/or clarity.