Our son is heading to propose to his girlfriend of three years, both late-20s. My wife and I (plus some friends of ours and our son) feel that they’re a poorly matched couple, with some signs of early issues.
We don’t want him to make a long-term mistake.
She has very strong anxieties and is afraid of doing anything. He goes to friends’ weddings by himself, just returned from an overseas trip when she didn’t want to go, though he offered to pay for her.
He’s very intelligent, she’s not, and there’ve been some frustrations with basic communications and conversations.
My son really wants kids someday, while she, mainly because of her anxieties, doesn’t want kids.
They’ve had counselling over this issue, and she now says, “maybe one day,” but we feel that’s just lip service to please him.
Should we concerned and caring parents, and still a tight-knit family, mention our concerns to our son?
Should we sit him down and ask if this is really what he wants, and has he thought of all issues now, and does he think she’s right for him?
I’m sure they love and care for each other.
Or, should we stay out of it, as none of our business. He’s an adult and it has to be his decision.
I had an interfering mom, and I don’t want to be like that. Maybe we should get his brother to bring it up? Or stay right out of it…
Concerned, Or Interfering
There will be readers who stand firmly on each opposing side: Speak up or Shut up about an adult child’s choice of spouse.
Years of writing this column (and life experience) tells me it could go either way:
1) He realizes their issues (especially about children) are too divisive and breaks it off;
2) He tells her what you said, they’re both shaken by the interference, and there’s the possibility of estrangement from you and your wife.
It’s not a simple decision for you, and an even tougher one for him if he considers your views.
Change the scene from “sitting him down” to casually asking some questions (not always as a team of both parents).
Does he see any change or help for her anxieties over the past three years, so that he won’t always have to travel or attend functions on his own?
Is he now assured that she’ll willingly have children?
Don’t pressure him nor barrage him with scenarios nor seek immediate answers. Don’t involve his brother. Leave him to think things through on his own.
If there’s another chance to talk casually, ask if he’s considered getting counselling on his own, in case his relationship to her is one of being her protector rather than of equals handling what’s involved in a long-term union.
If he objects, back off. Better to let him discover for himself whether they’re a mis-matched couple, than to be estranged.
FEEDBACK Regarding the man separated from his bi-polar wife (Aug. 6):
Reader – “As a professor of psychiatry, I find (his report of) her promiscuity, inappropriate dress, mood instability, lack of insight and suspiciousness are classical signs of a hypomanic or manic episode.
“If she has a doctor, he should be notified.
“Sadly, you cannot force someone in this phase to go for treatment.
“But when this passes and she becomes normal or switches to a depression, things will change. For him to rush into a divorce is not the answer.”
Reader’s Commentary “My mother-in-law, after decades of being a devoted hands-on grandparent, had a “falling out” with me (I called her a troublemaker) and forced my adult children to "pick a side."
“When they didn’t choose hers, both she and my father-in-law stopped contact. It’s been two years, though I encouraged my spouse to try to repair their relationship with our children.
“It took me 30 years to stand up for myself to her bullying. My daughter was heartbroken that they didn’t attend her college graduation.
“My son’s been a kinder young man without his grandmother trying to turn him against me anymore.
“I’m at a loss why my kind father-in-law would do the same as her.
“I read about grandparents who are upset when children and grandchildren don't make time for them.
“I did everything I could to please that woman and this is how it turned out. You reap what you sow.”
Tip of the day:
Tread only lightly and respectfully rather than interfering directly with an adult child’s serious romantic relationship.