Q: Our 21 year old daughter has been seeing a 22 year old guy for quite some time. They met on the Internet. We live in Oregon. He lived in Missouri at the time. They had been talking online for about 2 years when I agreed to let her go meet him. After meeting, she decided she wanted to go to college where he was so with reservations on our part, we let her go. They have since moved to Arizona where they are living together and attending college. Last summer, we told our daughter that marrying somebody that refuses to meet us was unacceptable to us. We want her to be happy but we feel this is unhealthy behavior on his part. He has given her various reasons for not wanting to ever meet us. He says that he is afraid meeting her family will “compromise their relationship”. I guess he has had problems with his own family members in the past. We even went to Missouri when they lived there to visit our daughter and he left and would not meet us. I thought maybe he was homophobic because we have a gay son but my daughter tells us that even though he does not agree with the “homosexual lifestyle” that he is not homophobic. His Mom lives in Missouri. Our daughter never met her while she was there. His Dad lives in Arizona. Our daughter lived with them for awhile until they got their own place but her boyfriend has never told his dad that he and Katie are involved. He doesn’t want his family to know about their relationship either. So now the final straw, she let me know in an e-mail yesterday when we were discussing her financial aide for college that she and her boyfriend were seriously considering getting married in February. Of course, we’re not invited. Her boyfriend has full intentions of never meeting us, EVER! So I asked my daughter, “well what happens when you have children?” She says they have talked about that and he won’t keep us from our grandchildren but when we come, he will leave. We will never be together as a family. I have tried to warn my daughter that I think this man has some mental health issues that need worked on before they get married. She just thinks that’s the way he is and she thinks this kind of relationship is going to work for them. I am so upset about this that I can’t eat or sleep. My daughters’ siblings are upset. Her Dad is the kind of person who doesn’t communicate so he just remains quiet about it all. I have told her I think she’s making the biggest mistake of her life. Do you think this kind of behavior is healthy? Thank you for your help!
A: I can understand your distress in the situation. It sounds quite unusual and extreme. I do not think that it is normal to be totally unwilling to meet the parents and family of the person you love. One of my professors in graduate school stated that “we do not marry a person, we marry a family.” I think it is unfair and selfish, however, a bigger question might be related to why your daughter is allowing this. Why does she think it is ok? She is your link and your connection, not him. If I were you I would have serious concerns and I would probably seek every possible way to meet him but the bottom line is you have no control. You can tell her of your concerns, you can warn her, you can cry, beg and plead, but they are adults and can/will do what they want. All you can do is let her know how you feel and that this is damaging the whole family and then work on acceptance and letting go. You may even want to seek counseling so that you have a safe place to vent and work through your feelings. I seriously can’t imagine a relationship like this working in the long run but you have to let them live and learn on their own. She is still relatively young and may change her mind. Your job as a parent is to do the best you can to guide them and prepare them for adulthood but then you have to let them go. My heart goes out for you but I’m not sure there is anymore you can do. I hope things eventually work out in an acceptable way.