Our only daughter is 31 and has two children, ages seven and five, but she’s married to the wrong man.
She’d been in a two-year relationship with another man whom she loved, but he’d suddenly broken it off and moved away, with scant explanation.
Our daughter married her husband, the father of her children, within three months of first meeting him.
He’s a cold man who’s consumed with his high-earning position. He frequently misses important family events, makes only rare efforts to attend his children’s school events, and leaves all household tasks to his wife though she has a high-profile demanding job herself.
She’s accepted all this on behalf of her youngsters but my wife and I worry about her. We know she’s not truly happy. On the surface, she’s calm, organized, gets everything done. But we raised her and know there’s no sign of the love and excitement that she felt in her previous relationship.
We know that man hurt her deeply. But it shouldn’t mean that she has to accept her husband’s cold distance from everything that isn’t directly about him.
She often looks sad and lonely. How do we help her? Is it acceptable to point out all the ways that he seems to ignore her and even his own children?
Picking her up from a fall was your task as parents long ago. Now, giving her emotional support (if it’s accepted), is how you can be most helpful.
Unless she’s opened up to you about deep disappointments in her husband, hurt feelings, neglect of her and the children, etc., you can inadvertently cause her to distance from you for interfering in her personal life.
It’s hers to live or repair or reject.
Barring any evidence of actual abuse - emotional, verbal or physical - you may be alienated from her for making wrong assumptions.
Be helpful whenever possible in your own life and that of the children’s, e.g., by attending their school events, picking them up for a special outing, having them visit at your place when their mother’s busy with her work, etc.
Do not pry into her relationship. What’s obvious to you is even more obvious to her.
She may’ve already decided to accept the situation till the children are older… or she may feel that things are acceptable enough, for now. Or, she may want them as they are. You don’t know unless and until she opens up to you.
Meanwhile, just respect her privacy and help when possible.
Last June I was aware of the severe Covid danger from the highly-transmissible Delta variant. My good friend still visited her sister-in-law - an anti-vaxxer and anti-masker – twice, despite my numerous warnings not to do so and my insisting to her on a 10-day break after each meeting.
We live in a province that’s had the worst medical disaster in the country. I blame her and people like her for encouraging the unvaccinated by indulging her sister-in-law's paranoia.
Now my fully-vaccinated friend won't meet me even outdoors. I want to say that I told her so. But I know she’ll bully and insult me. What should I do?
Should I give up a friendship with someone I no longer feel free to talk to, even about many other matters?
There’s not much friendship left there. What might’ve been healthy debate in the past, is now tired arguments and off-putting self-righteousness. Move on.
Reader’s Commentary Regarding mother-daughter relationships (Sept. 18):
“There are numerous Facebook groups on this topic and groups writing about toxic parents, narcissistic mothers, etc.
“Sadly, some parents and especially mothers aren’t emotionally able to cope with proper, loving parenting. They project their own insecurities and challenges onto their children, especially daughters. Therapy can help with a lot of this.
“The Facebook groups can be helpful but also shocking. Some people have had such horrible childhoods.
“It took me years to resolve my mother's attitude toward me - judgemental, manipulative yet also loving. It wasn't enough to "think my way through" factors in her childhood that formed her behaviour.
“With the help of a psychiatrist and lots of hard work, I found peace with the relationship. I've learned that the process toward this required resolving my “heart issues” first.
“Gratefully, therapy helped me deepen the relationship with my son, and equally important, my relationship with myself.”
Tip of the day:
Parents’ role in their adult children’s relationships is to be supportive, offering advice only when asked, unless abuse is evident/suspected.