Relationship Connection: I’m worried about my daughter’s choice of fiancé

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Question

I have a wonderful daughter who is about to graduate from college. She did not date much in high school and has only had one serious boyfriend. She recently started dating a young man she met at school. This young man has had problems with drinking and smoking pot and also has struggled with pornography ever since he was exposed to it at a young age.

He does treat my daughter well and loves her very much. She has been patient with him and understanding of his weaknesses and desires to master them (he is working a 12-step addiction program). However, as you can guess, I am deeply concerned about this relationship and their future, should they decide to marry.

Her father (my ex-husband) also struggled with a pornography addiction that resulted in infidelity and eventual divorce. She is aware of her father’s addiction and infidelity. Unbeknownst to her, she also has two uncles who are good men, but have also had lifelong struggles with pornography that have deeply affected their marriages.

I really do not want to see her heart broken. He already cheated on her once with another woman, and it broke her heart. He appears to be penitent and sincere about working to repair things with her. He also comes from a loving and supportive family.

I have shared my concerns in a loving way with her. How can I steer her in a healthy direction and help her consider the long term challenges that entering into a marriage with this young man might bring?

Answer

I can see how unbearable it is to have a front row seat to your daughter’s love life and watch her go through the trauma of betrayal. It’s one thing to go through it yourself and feel like you can at least do something to direct your life, but when you’re watching someone you love go through the same thing, you feel so powerless that every instinct in your body tells you to jump in front of her to protect her from danger.

You have already shared your concerns and invited her to consider the consequences of pairing up with someone who may cause her years of suffering. Unless she comes to you to talk through this, I don’t recommend you insert yourself further into her relationship. Your job is to stay accessible and responsive to her as she learns to trust her own feelings and observations.

If you get in the middle of this and pressure her to leave, she will continue to second-guess and will likely end up in another relationship with similar dynamics. As awful as it is to see her get hurt by someone who isn’t faithful, I believe it’s worse for her to never learn to trust her own feelings, develop a strong voice and make decisions to improve her own situation.

Your involvement will sabotage this delicate and essential process.

Like the caterpillar who relies on the pressure created during the fight out of chrysalis to form wings capable of flying as a butterfly, your daughter must struggle to figure out how she will direct her life in the face of betrayal. If you shortcut the process, she will never develop the strength she needs to deal with difficult decisions.

Your presence matters and she will need you to stay interested in her and available to listen. She might even ask for your advice when she’s feeling vulnerable and unsure. Be careful with how quickly you try and problem-solve this for her.

You might consider picking up a copy of the wonderful book by Gary and Joy Lundberg called, “I don’t have to make everything all better.” This book will teach you how to stay in an emotional support role instead of a “fixer” role. You can’t fix this for her, but you can stay with her as she learns what she needs to do.

Stay connected!

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.

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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, 2015, all rights reserved.

 

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26 Comments

  • Brian September 9, 2015 at 9:44 am

    Great advice, Geoff. This guy has more red flags than a Russian garage sale, but aside from letter your daughter know how you feel, laying it out in a single conversation (not months of nagging and subtle / not-so-subtle jabs), there isn’t much you can do. God’s respect for the agency of His children is very strong (and answers the question “How could He allow all the suffering in the world?”, and He’s the perfect parent. Following His lead can be brutally difficult, as this situation illustrates, but it is the best form of parenting.

  • Hataalii September 9, 2015 at 12:49 pm

    Another thing to consider here mom, is your long term relationship with your daughter. I agree with Mr. Steurer, that you need to pull back now. Remember, should you manage to break up this relationship, your daughter will likely always remember it, and think of you as, “my interfering mother!”
    Sure she is young, but if she is graduating from college, she is old enough to make her own decisions. A little advice is fine. Say what you have to say, the turn it off.

    • ladybugavenger September 9, 2015 at 3:58 pm

      Who cares if you are portrayed as interfering mom. You need to interfere and care not if she hates you for it. It’s the right thing to do as a mother. Just think if you don’t interfere and he rapes your daughter or molests your future grandchild, there would be alot of shame to bear….interfere and don’t care about her reaction. It’s the right thing to do.

      • ladybugavenger September 9, 2015 at 3:59 pm

        That wasn’t a reply to your post hat, I just put it in the wrong spot 😉

      • Dexter September 10, 2015 at 1:30 pm

        It’s the wrong thing to do. It’s her life not yours

  • Shannon September 9, 2015 at 1:38 pm

    From experience, I suggest you set up some limitations and boundaries ahead of time so that you both know what your answer will be ahead of time if things go wrong for her. My conversation would go something like this, “My Darling Daughter, I love you so much and I always will, no matter what. I raised you to make your own decisions and to know that decisions always have consequences, sometimes wonderful and other times painful. You know this from experiences we have been through together. I am hoping for the best possible outcome for you while knowing there could be struggles. I have to set some limitations for myself ahead of time so that, if it comes to it, we will both know what I can and cannot to do. I will not pay for any legal expenses, including bail. I can’t pay your bills if you come up short. If it ever comes to the point that you don’t have a place to live, I will let you come home, but there will be conditions and limitations. My love is unconditional, but you are responsible for your life and your choices.” I know it sounds harsh, but can’t let your children’s decisions ruin your life, and if you don’t make the decisions ahead of time, emotions might lead you to do things you shouldn’t (I know this from experience). If you make the decisions up front it makes it easier to stick to them, or to bend them a little if you think it is okay. You might also need to add something about making sure that when they decide to have children, they need to be ready and responsible emotionally and financially, and what you are are/are not able to do in that case.

  • Simone September 9, 2015 at 1:55 pm

    I agree with Geoff, pull back. Your daughter is old enough to graduate form college, she is old enough to make her own decisions. He cheated on her, she knows it. He has addictions, she knows it. You have spoken to her about it, have one more FRANK AND ADULT DISCUSSION with her in which you voice your honest concerns and remind her that you are there for her then let it go. Again, if she is old enough to be graduating from college then she is old enough to make her own decisions, reap the rewards of those decisions and suffer the consequences.

  • Dexter September 9, 2015 at 2:13 pm

    You’re not going to tell your daughter who she should and shouldn’t sleep with. She concerned about her feelings about the guy. not yours. whoever she decides to sleep with is her decision not yours.. you want to continue to have a relationship with your daughter.? then mind your own business and stay out of her bed.

  • ladybugavenger September 9, 2015 at 3:53 pm

    To the mom: you should be worried

    • Dexter September 10, 2015 at 1:28 pm

      To the mom. mind your own business

  • fun bag September 9, 2015 at 5:37 pm

    Notice how every man in her life she has labeled a porn addict? what does this tell us? Also funny how all you clowns are relationship experts all of a sudden… LOL’d

    • Dexter September 10, 2015 at 1:44 pm

      Hey FUN BAG. well I sure don’t want to have to take any advice from you. LOL.! I’ll see if we can’t get this on the Jerry Springer show LOL.!

  • voice of reason September 9, 2015 at 6:58 pm

    I am always amazed at how quickly the “freedom and liberty” loving people of Utah seek to impose their morality upon others. Maybe if this culture wasn’t so repressive to anything “unclean” there wouldn’t be these negative social stigmas attached to adults simply being adults. There are literally billions of people throughout the world who are able to drink alcohol responsibly. There are millions and millions of responsible adults who engage in recreational pot smoking. And pornography? The real problem is the people who are afraid to talk about sex (Anyone remember the Duggar family?) Be more concerned about the guy cheating on her than you are about him being a NORMAL ADULT MALE .

    • Brian September 10, 2015 at 7:45 am

      Seriously, you need to change your screen name. You may want to educate yourself on pornography, from a scientific view: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bb1hkIjcSJQ Porn is an actual addiction, no different than hard drugs. It affects your brain AND relationships in the exact same way. If you really want to understand it, here is a 1 hour presentation (that is very frank) from someone who is not religious or anti-freedom (doesn’t want to ban porn), but wants people to understand what it really is (hint: it ISN’T just being a “normal adult male”, it turns you into a selfish, insensitive, self-loathing git). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7oFVOJf0TzY

    • ladybugavenger September 10, 2015 at 12:46 pm

      Voice of no reason. That is absolutely the most insane comment of the day

  • voice of reason September 10, 2015 at 4:48 pm

    Anything taken to extremes can be harmful. But I’m not talking about extremes. Studies have shown that fewer than 1% of porn users have life difficulties because of their “addiction”. This is a great read about what porn actually does https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/women-who-stray/201305/porn-is-not-the-problem-you-are This same logic can be applied to the billions of people who are able to enjoy alcoholic beverages responsibly. You are trying to elevate your view of morality above everyone else. Sex is natural. It’s when we shame people because of their natural curiosities that problems arise. If more people (especially the religious majority in Utah) were willing to have open and honest discussions about human sexuality this so called “porn problem” would be viewed in a much different light. Just because YOU have a problem with something doesn’t mean you get to impose your will on others.

    • Brian September 11, 2015 at 11:43 am

      You may want to read up on the guy you’re quoting. He got his degree in philosophy and psychology, so he isn’t exactly qualified to be saying if something is an addiction or not, especially when there is so much neuroscience showing that it is (including brain scans). The sole study he quotes is seriously flawed from a scientific standpoint. Here’s a good place to start: http://www.yourbrainrebalanced.com/index.php?topic=9803.msg165531#msg165531. As for the other article, it talks frequently about the negative side-effects of pornography addiction and the effect it has on marriages and families. You’re right to compare alcohol and porn, both leave a wide swath of destroyed lives and families behind them, and both are incredibly profitable industries with massive lobbies behind them. So it isn’t surprising to find someone with an “MD” behind their name who is pimping his book sales with baseless articles.

      • Simone September 11, 2015 at 1:51 pm

        Yeah because message boards where people use names like “Dr. Evil”, “ThermogenicBeef” and “Knight of Freedom” are known to be places where great minds gather and share their well researched information with others.

        John Stewart had thisthis to say about a similar situation

        • Brian September 11, 2015 at 2:55 pm

          Yeah because comedians are the source of all truth in the world. The fact is, Gary Wilson is a well known, well-respected expert on pornography, and his arguments are based on science and many, many scientific studies. I don’t care if his opinion is shared on a message board or cardboard, he’s a reputable expert on subject. In my opinion David J Ley is not, depsite his credentials. He’s sensationalist, and great at promoting his, ahem, interesting books, but he’s catering to an audience that wants their actions validated, and it’s a huge audience. From a marketing standpoint he’s a genius, but I think he’s very wrong on the subject at hand.

          • voice of reason September 11, 2015 at 4:50 pm

            There are many, many, many others who share the same view. But again, because it goes against what you have deemed “morally acceptable” it must be wrong and not based on science. Stop trying to force your morality on others.

    • Brian September 11, 2015 at 11:55 am

      You say “sex is natural”, and you’re right. The problem with porn is that it isn’t natural, it isn’t normal, and our brains aren’t built for it. Watch Gary Wilson’s Ted Talk (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSF82AwSDiU), it’s excellent at showing scientifically why porn is so addictive and destructive. Are there exceptions? Maybe. But saying smoking is OK because you know several people that smoked their whole lives and never got cancer, while ignoring loads of scientific data to the contrary, isn’t going to lower your own risk factors or consequences.

  • voice of reason September 10, 2015 at 4:50 pm

    One more read about pornography and it’s effects.
    https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200508/you-me-and-porn-make-three
    Again, it’s not the porn, it’s the person. Stop blaming things and take responsibility for your own actions

    • ladybugavenger September 10, 2015 at 7:31 pm

      I understand that. People become powerless over their own choices and addictions when it gets so deep, they cant get out of it on their own. If the day comes they wake up and are sick and tired of being sick and tired then they have a chance….but some people never wake up.

    • ladybugavenger September 10, 2015 at 7:43 pm

      Understand this, when it comes to my child, I’m not going down without a fight to help them see the choice that they are making will lead them to a deep dark place whether it be porn drug alcohol or hoarding addiction. I’m gonna fight for them. As I have with my son with meth addiction. Oh he hated me for a long time but I didn’t care I wasnt going to act like what he was doing was OK. I knew he may never talk to me but dang it he was gonna know I know the truth of where this road ends…cuz theres not a person in this world that was going to tell him the truth, they were saying live and let live, its his life, hes an adult he can do what he wants, BS.its people like that enabled my son down addiction avenue. i didnt want his blood on my hands, i didnt want him to come back to me and say why didnt you do anything?. No, i did everything so i will never be blamed for his addiction. and I didn’t lose him, he doesn’t hate me for it. In fact, I was the only one who cared….just like this mother should fight for her daughter without fear of losing her. Stay true to yourself.

      • voice of reason September 11, 2015 at 6:39 am

        thank you for sharing this. I understand your perspective much more clearly now.

  • fun bag September 11, 2015 at 2:18 pm

    Al Gore invented the internet. Blame Al Gore for widespread porn addiction…

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