My husband and I emigrated to North America 20 years ago and settled in very well. Our two daughters were born here and are now 18 and 20.
As they became “young women,” my husband became stricter with them, based on our religion. And he has more opinions about how I dress and where I go with my female friends.
He’s become more religious himself, which is a change from how we lived in the earlier years here.
I’ve told him that while I respect his personal commitment to our religion, his own more relaxed attitude of the past was accepted by both of us.
I’ve also reminded him that we raised the girls with that more open approach in their formative years.
He’s free to pray, attend religious services and meetings as much as he wishes, but I’ve said I believe it’s unfair to impose those changes on me and our daughters.
Neither they nor I behave disrespectfully to the religion, nor the basic beliefs. We are not following any other religion, and we are not living loosely.
We participate in the major religious holidays, but also enjoy those of our adopted country - Halloween when the kids were young, Thanksgiving, Christmas. We treat these as family times, not as part of our religion.
Our daughters are both excellent students, polite and respectable women, who’ve never given us a moment’s worry.
I’ve held a respected community-service job for ten years.
How can I get my husband to stop imposing his changed involvement with religion on us?
There are no simple answers to conflict that comes from different approaches to religion.
Given your daughters’ ages and the timing of your husband’s increasingly stricter religious views, I suspect that he’s worried about how their potential behaviour as single women might end up affecting their lives.
To be fair, it’s not uncommon for fathers to worry about their daughters when they reach an age spending more time away from their family home, socializing with others their age, including young men.
It may well be part of the reason he’s fallen back on the certainties of his religion, and has decided what he must do to protect his daughters from mishaps they may later regret.
Or, activities that might taint them in the eyes of some males he’d consider as the best choices for them to marry.
His own past lesser religious involvement in religion may even feel like a mistake he must correct, to save his family from later problems.
Instead of arguing about this, tell him you understand his concerns for you, your daughters, and himself. You know that he’s trying to do his best for his family.
Tell him how proud you’ve both been of your daughters’ accomplishments and behaviour throughout their lives.
Assure him that the important values are already instilled in them.
Gently suggest that a change to stricter rules may signal his apparent distrust in them, and this attitude can itself upset them and make them feel that nothing they do is good enough for him.
That’s a dangerous impasse to approach with young people moving towards adulthood.
This is a conversation to build slowly, not all at once.
It may also be helpful for you to talk to a respected leader within your religion who’s experienced with North American congregants and can reassure your husband that he doesn’t need to apply extra-strict measures.
Readers who’ve had similar experiences are welcome to share these, by writing [email protected].
Reader’s Commentary More on Grandparent Alienation, a situation splitting families apart:
“Six years ago, my son and his wife disallowed our seeing/contacting them or their three early-teenage daughters. (We send birthday and Christmas gifts to them. Any money orders and cheques went uncashed.)
“When I had turned 80, they’d said not to drive the girls anywhere. I obeyed. Yet they insisted that my husband and I should STOP driving.
“However, we enjoy the freedom of driving for our independent activities.
“We’ve seen our son and daughter-in-law only twice, when we asked to discuss problems. When we meet, their primary request appears to be for details of our wills.
“Our son recommended we see a psychologist, and then they’d go, too. When he learned that we were pleased with the psychologist we saw, they relied on their medical doctor - who never met us but - said we “shouldn’t be driving.”
Tip of the day:
Religious differences can divide a family. Discussion needs to be moderate and reassuring.