Our daughter, 23, graduated university and got an excellent full-time job in her profession. We’re from a small town, deeply-rooted in our Christian religion and have always had a very close relationship with her.
She met a young man, now 27, at university. He lives/works in another part of the country.
We are extremely worried about her. He wants her to quit her job and move to be with him.
We’ve only met him a few times and met with his mother twice. They seem like very nice people.
We found out recently that he’s putting pressure on her to move, that he’s a Muslim, and that if they’re to be in a committed relationship, the following would be necessary:
A traditional wedding ceremony (nothing of our religion), their children would be Muslim, and she’d have to convert to pray with her children.
His family has insisted on this, and are teaching her how to pray in his branch of the faith.
My daughter had me removed from her bank account as she’s old enough to handle her own finances.
My husband now thinks that she’s being manipulated by this man who wants full control over her.
Our relationship with her has changed considerably. She tells us very little about their relationship and accuses us of being “racist.”
She becomes distraught over the possibility of losing this man, due to our inability to accept his differences. We also learned that it's his family’s intention that the couple have children very soon.
We don't understand what kind of a man would make such demands and ultimatums of him or her.
We feel she’s losing her entire identity for him: Her family, friends, job, future job prospects, her religion (especially).
It's like her entire identity is gone and we are out of the picture entirely. Before he’ll talk to us about this, he insists we need to take the first step of "reconciliation" to accept the situation and give the blessing.
What are we to do? Are we just concerned for nothing? Are we really racist?
Feeling Trapped, and Very Worried
Your daughter is young and in love. She’s experienced the benefits (and exposures) of a broader world than her home town, and the intensity of another religion (not an unfamiliar immersion, since you described her intense schooling in your religion in your much-longer email).
I agree that there’s an element of coercion in her boyfriend’s (and his family’s) approach, and understand your discomfort as parents.
But I believe that expressing fears of her losing “everything,” or your focusing only on his religion as the “problem,” will push her further towards him and whatever he insists upon.
Instead, appeal to her as the intelligent, accomplished young woman she is and your great love and regard for her.
Say that you understand her desire to be with him. Since her profession is portable (unnamed to avoid identification), and she’s still young, she could see how she adapts to the move, and all its changes before proceeding to have children, by working there for a year.
That way, she’s showing some strength in not wanting to just be ordered into major life changes. It may also help her see for herself that he’s exerting a lot of controls.
Show continuing support for her whatever she chooses.
Don’t make this a battle mainly about religion, or you’ll lose her when she may need you most.
FEEDBACK Regarding the relative(s) concerned about informing a young woman about her paternity (April 12):
Reader – “Last Christmas I bought friends and myself “Ancestry DNA” kits.
“You learn your heritage but also any DNA matches the company has. There was an unrecognized name on my list.
“A month later, I heard from a young woman who’d been looking for her biological father for ten years.
“We exchanged some non-identifying information and she learned her mother and one of my brothers had had a summer romance.
“When her mother had discovered she was pregnant, she thought someone else was the father. A later DNA test proved he wasn't.
“My brother did know her mother and his DNA test proved he was her father. He’s unmarried, has no other children.
“Our family has welcomed her and her family, and she now knows who her father is. Today, anyone can access their DNA and learn their heritage.”
Tip of the day:
Mixed-faith marriages can work, between equal partners. But parents fearing coercion and controls are involved, must tread lightly to not push their child away.