Relationship Connection: My daughter is marrying a guy with 3 kids

Question

I have been making a mess out of my daughter’s relationship.

My daughter is 31 and lives on her own with a great job.  She is very headstrong and usually doesn’t date. However, she has started dating a man seven years older than she is (I’m good with that). He has three children and she seems to be serious about marriage.  The children are ages 9, 7, and 14 months.  One big issue for me is that he felt like his ex-wife got pregnant because she didn’t want a divorce, so he left her while she was pregnant.

My daughter is not very tolerant of children. She sleeps in late every morning and when she finally gets up, she goes to the sofa to relax before starting her day.

Please advise me on how to let this be and not cry every time I’m in a room with them. She and I have always been so close and I don’t want to see this end up as a disaster for her.

Answer

I agree that you’re making a mess out something that has absolutely nothing to do with you. You are creating a burden of unnecessary suffering for not only yourself, but also for your daughter and her new relationship. Let’s talk about how you can free yourself so you can be supportive to your daughter and her fiancé.

The first thing you can do is recognize the difference between managing your daughter and influencing your daughter. Your internal drama is caused by your drive to manage her life and relationships.

Managing your children isn’t a bad thing when they’re infants. They’re completely dependent and count on you to manage everything in their lives. As children grow up, they should begin managing their own decisions at an early age.

When children are small, parents are actively involved in helping them understand their choices as they balance managing certain aspects of the child’s life while they actively influence them with their presence and support. Think of this as scaffolding around a building. This scaffolding doesn’t hold up the structure, but allows the worker direct access to influence and shape the outcome. Eventually, the scaffolding needs to come down completely.

While there isn’t a magical age when the parenting scaffolding should come down in the life of a child, I think it’s safe to say that your 31-year-old headstrong adult daughter doesn’t need you managing anything in her life. In fact, your influence should be limited as well.

Parents can continue to influence their children and families through the lifespan, as long as there is a good relationship in which the adult child welcomes that influence.

Let your daughter figure out how to navigate taking on three children. Let her figure out how to deal with a future husband who left his pregnant ex-wife. Let her deal with having to change her morning routine. These are normal adjustments and challenges that come with marriage.

Why are you terrified that your daughter will have a challenge she has to work out? There is nothing you need to manage here. You can be a supportive influence in her life as you step back, take control of your worry, and give her room to figure out this new direction in her life.

If your happiness depends on your adult daughter’s life going smoothly, then you will become a huge liability for her new relationship. There is nothing wrong with getting help from a counselor who can help you figure out where you stop and she begins. Your clarity and commitment with keeping personal boundaries and learning how to stop managing her life will be the best wedding gift you could give to this couple.

Stay connected!

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Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Facebook: facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

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15 Comments

  • Dr. Marrix Mass December 24, 2014 at 9:07 am

    If the new wife is a durable, loving, and can live with a whole lot of selfishness she will have a wonderful family. Hopefully she won’t want to bring more kids into the world. She has the best of both world. She’ll get respect from the women for raising and loving someone else children. She will keep all the men respect by staying in shape by not having children oh and her husband. No belly or booty sag, no stretch marks, no floppy flappers that have been utterly destroyed by years of lactating fun. Yep best of both worlds oh by the way she needs to get used to be the 5th most loved by the new husband in the family. Good luck and merry CHRISTMAS.

    • Koolaid December 24, 2014 at 3:10 pm

      But she’ll miss out on the joy of those group latch-on gatherings. However, this being Utah, he’ll fell it is her duty to give him a whole new quiver of kiddies while she is expected to fetch and ketch for his current quiver.

      • Native born New Mexican December 24, 2014 at 5:05 pm

        Both of you are vulgar, disrespectful and full of ego. What woman would be stupid enough to even give either of you a side ways look, losers. My concern is for the children. This does not sound like the best thing to do to them. I don’t think the selfish father cares about that and I am certain the self indulged young woman has no idea what she is in for. I doubt she is up for the challenge. How very sad for the children- nobody cares what happens to them.

        • koolaid December 24, 2014 at 5:28 pm

          Just speaking from what I see of both sexes in your StG berg.

  • Koolaid December 24, 2014 at 9:24 am

    As long as he’s not one of your ex-husbands, what’s the problem? There are many divorced women in southern Utah with 4 to 6 kids looking for another guy to pay for, er, I mean be a father to them.

  • ladybugavenger December 24, 2014 at 9:42 am

    Merry Christmas!

  • Dana December 24, 2014 at 10:30 am

    The Tabloid Therapist isn’t living in the real world. S.T.O.P. communicating with him. All you have to do is tell your daughter to look at her fiancee’s character.
    1)He LEFT his pregnant wife. Who does that? A weak person with no integrity, that’s who.
    2) “… he felt like his ex-wife got pregnant because she didn’t want a divorce, …”
    She didn’t make that baby by herself. Yet, here he is playing the blame game. Who does that? A weak person with no integrity. Honesty is a foreign concept to the weakling.
    That’s all you have to do. Just point out his dishonesty. Do it quietly and do it only once. Then back away. And when he destroys her life, because he will, then have a party saying ‘I ed.ellipsis told you so!’

  • rastasamoa December 24, 2014 at 10:41 am

    Yea 6 kids no job and some booty sag sounds good

  • Joe Smith December 24, 2014 at 12:07 pm

    In utah child custody defaults to the mother, so if she doesn’t have custody of her own baby she must’ve been a serious piece of work…

    • DB December 24, 2014 at 3:38 pm

      I see your point but I don’t see anything in the article that infers that HE actually has custody of the kids and not the mother.

  • laytonian December 24, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    Sounds like daughter doesn’t have a job and is lazy.
    Sounds like the guy needs a stepmother for the kids.
    She’s an adult and can leave the marriage “no strings” since she already has a good job and needs no other support.

  • Dr. Marrix Mass December 24, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    People shouldn’t be mating or even if they just want to knock the bottom out of it, if your considering divorce. At that point you become less than an adulter

  • amandacc11 December 24, 2014 at 10:50 pm

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    • Joe Smith December 26, 2014 at 2:51 pm

      oh yeah, best site ever!

  • Herd December 26, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    I wonder what mom would say if her daughter was dating a lesbian with 3 kids?

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