When you DON'T want your child to marry !

mycompostAugust 9, 2005

Help. My daughter announced yesterday she is getting married. I am NOT happy. How do I handle my feelings? Do I tell her the truth? Do I keep my mouth shut?

My concern is that she's a senior in college, engaged to another senior--her 1st and only boyfriend (together 3 years). She's too young!! She has great aspirations for her career and we've invested mightily in it. Her boyfriend and she have the same major and are somewhat competitive with each other. He gets jealous of her talent and tends NOT to support her, often downplaying her awards and belittling her dreams for the future. She has this fantasy picture of married life and I think she's "settling" because she feels this guy is the best she can do. She has not seemed all that keen on him for the last 2 years and I'm very dissappointed that she's making this leap. He gave her a ring on her 21st birthday and I can't help but feel he was just trying to do something nice as a gift. It seems so impulsive. She was ready to break up with him 2 months ago! So far I have played the supportive mom, "Whatever makes you happy, honey", but inside I'm cringing. Has enybody been through this?

Thanks for any advice out there!

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Instead of "you're too young" or "he isn't supportive," perhaps you can ask her questions: Do you feel like he's supportive of your talents and your career aspirations? How to you feel when he downplays your accomplishments? You might observe that she's seemed less interested the last couple of years and ask if she feels differently now.

She needs to know it's okay to back out, if that's what she wants to do.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2005 at 10:55AM
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I think you are doing exactly the right thing -- and I know it has got to be REALLY hard.

I wouldn't try to talk her out of anything, or to point out the problems you see. If you think about it, she probably already has a pretty good idea of what you think and/or of the issues themselves anyway. Besides, parents are often the hardest people to hear such thing from -- maybe her friends are telling her the same stuff anyway. If you do say anything, no matter how right you are, and even if at some level she agrees with you, she will dig in her heels and rise to his defense (she does love him, after all). That will make it harder for her to change her mind later; no one wants to eat her words or feel like there is a big silent "I told you so" hanging out there in the air. So try to behave in a way that will make it "safe" an easy for her to change her mind if she wants to down the road.

My suggestion would be to try to keep my mouth shut but make sure that the wedding isn't scheduled any time soon -- (giving only some neutral logistical or finish-your-education/get-your-career-going type reason, not your reservations about the match). A lot of times, time itself takes care of these issues, one way or the other. [I would find this advice nearly impossible to follow myself, but I think it's the best course if you can pull it off.] When you need to vent, do it with your best friend (that can be trusted not to repeat your reservations to anyone).

If she does marry him anyway, you won't have poisoned your future relationship with him, her, and them. Remember too that they will still keep growing up, and if she's lucky, he will outgrow his competitiveness with her as he becomes more confident himself. And in the end, who knows -- I bet a lot of us parent-age folks can look back and see that our parents were right in the questions they had about our then-boyfriends, but we have long, happy marriages anyway. No one's perfect!

    Bookmark   August 9, 2005 at 1:22PM
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Oh, thank you. This is helping me a lot. The one saving grace is that my daughter told me today that they do not plan to marry right away, and want to be "at least" one year out of college. Here's hoping she matures in the next year or two and the both of them make the right decision. This is killing me. I want her to live out her career and travel dreams and not make any lifelong commitments just yet. I do understand that I need to give her the freedom and space to make her own decisions so I will try, try, try to be a good mom and not tell her what to do. Give me strength!! Urgh!
Mary MD7, how do I let her know it's OK to back out without making her think I want her to?
Thanks again!

    Bookmark   August 9, 2005 at 5:30PM
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Gellchom is exactly right, as usual. I don't think you have to do anything special to let her know it's okay to back out. If you're supportive of her and don't disparage her fiance, she'll feel comfortable enough.

One thing I can think of, though - if and when the wedding plans start, don't make comments about how much everything costs. (Not that it's not fine to say, "We can contribute X dollars to the wedding.) You don't want her to ever think, "Well, I'm not so sure about Tom, but my parents have spent so much money ..."

Like you, I would worry about the fact that he is jealous of her and belittles her dreams. I don't think you can address this directly, but I would look for opportunities when both of them are present to say things like, "Tom, did Jane tell you that the recruiter from Able & Bell said that she was the strongest candidate they've seen all year? Isn't that terrific!" or "Jane, I was telling my friend Claire the other day about the Howard Award you're getting, and she wanted me to tell you how excited she is for you."

I know this is probably playing with fire, but I'd want to see how he reacts - and I'd want my daughter to see. And if he matures, it will give you an opportunity to see how he's changed.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   August 10, 2005 at 8:32AM
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Wow Joanne 23456;
You said, "One thing I can think of, though - if and when the wedding plans start, don't make comments about how much everything costs."
That's going to be tough! I know it will be really hard to avoid this trap, so should I indeed set a budget?
When I was young, my mom always held an offer up to all her kids. She'd say, "If you elope, I'll give YOU the cash I would have spent for your wedding!" One of my sisters actually took her up on it. I wish I had!

    Bookmark   August 11, 2005 at 6:52AM
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I would set a budget and let her know what it is. I think this just makes sense for parents to do. No one has unlimited cash, and the young couple might as well make decisions based on what's actually doable, instead of some pie-in-the-sky fairy tale.

This has the added benefit of avoiding "discussions" about money throughout the planning process. She's obviously a bright girl, and will know exactly how much she has available to spend.

I'd probably buy her a good wedding planner book when it comes time to have the money discussion, and offer to help in whatever way possible.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2005 at 7:16AM
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So, what's a reasonable budget? Anyone out there willing to share what they spent on a wedding?

    Bookmark   August 11, 2005 at 7:52AM
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mycompost, you know there's no answer to that question! It's like asking how much a house should cost. A reasonable budget for a backyard reception for 40 in a small town is different from a reasonable budget for a gala for 400 in Manhattan.

Here's some more unsolicited advice: by focusing on something like wedding costs now, or for that matter anything involving wedding plans, you are heading right down exactly the road you want to avoid. You are hoping this wedding won't even take place, or at least not too soon, right? So the LAST thing I would do is give in to the (admittedly fun) temptation of planning a wedding. I think that your best course is to think of your daughter's announcement more as if she had said something like, "I really do think Cuthbert and I are going to get married someday -- probably at least a year or so after we graduate." Don't SAY that to anyone -- i.e., don't refuse to use words like "fiance" or "engaged," which will just make her dig in her heels -- but sort of try to hear it that way in your own mind. A lot will be happening in the next two years -- let nature take its course, one way or another. I have learned by observation that those wise folks who are able to keep their mouths shut while letting events play themselves out are always the happiest later. After all, you don't want either to be blamed if they break up or to remembered as fighting their happiness if they don't.

And, really, isn't that actually pretty accurate? Judging from her comment that they want to wait "at least" two years from now, what does this "engagement" really mean, anyway? Lots of scary words float around, but until there's a wedding, nothing has really changed, when you think about it. Don't worry about what relatives/friends think -- they will probably take it all with a grain of salt anyway. They are all used to college students making declarations about all kinds of things that don't end up happening!

Again, I want to stress that I would have a lot of trouble taking this advice myself. I admire your ability to greet the news with "Whatever makes you happy, honey." Repeat as necessary. Good luck!

    Bookmark   August 11, 2005 at 10:32AM
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Thanks again for your advice. To be honest, I really have no clue about wedding costs and I thought there might actually be a "ballpark" figure. Once you posted, though, I realized how silly I was.
ANYWAY, I think you're absolutely right. I am NOT going to anticipate costs. I will not even give wedding plans another thought since my daughter has a long way to go (2 years at least) before she wants to tie the knot. A LOT can happen before then.
I have not even told a single soul about her announcement. I'm sure her news will only be known to those she tells. I am SO not interested in encouraging this, or in getting people talking about it.
I am SO BAD!

    Bookmark   August 11, 2005 at 1:47PM
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You said that you haven't told anyone about your daughter's announcement. That statement means that you are hoping and expecting that there will not be a wedding in the near future. There have been times when I have done this when I felt that the event would not take place. Your intuition is kicking in.

Your daughter is doing the right thing by waiting. I would just be there for her and ask her from time to time how things are going. Hopefully, she will open up to you when things are bad and at that time you can give her honest motherly advice.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2005 at 5:44PM
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Just another thought.....

Your daughter is planning on doing this a year after graduation after she and her boyfriend are out in the real world after reaping the benefits of a good education paid for by you. By that time it should be expected that she and her boyfriend can support themselves.

She and her boyfriend will, in every sense of the word be independent adults and should therefore be paying for the wedding themselves.

You can make the amount you contribute to the cost of their wedding anything you want it to be and the rest will be up to them.

As an FYI, I think I just read that the average wedding is now around $26,000.

Good luck, I know this must be very tough.


    Bookmark   August 15, 2005 at 4:50PM
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I think if you delay any wedding talk with her, it will help. When she finally seems ready to talk about plans, she will hopefully be out on her own. Many parents expect their "launched" kids to pay for the wedding themselves. I think if she thought she had to save for a good portion of the wedding costs, you might also increase the delay. Also, if you can delay wedding planning, you will delay all the non refundable down payments, that might prove difficult for her to decide to walk away from. And I think most of us would rather lose the $10,000 or $30,000 down than cope with a messy marriage, unhappiness, and divorce.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2005 at 9:15PM
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All very helpful thoughts. BTW, my daughter has not mentioned her engagement anymore, other than hoping to get her resized ring back soon.
Wow, what interesting info about "launched" kids paying for the wedding themselves. I never heard of this, but I like it!
I would never, ever dream of paying anywhere near $26, 000 for a wedding. Not even close! That seems like an utter waste of money to me...especially when most marriages these days end in divorce.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2005 at 10:06PM
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When I was planning to get married the first time, I was commenting to my mom about how much it costs to get married. She jokingly said... well, just remember that it costs a lot more to get divorced. That's all the negative she ever said. Nothing more. Other than that, she gladly helped me plan. But it sure hit hard!!! That sentence just rang in my ears for the next few days. I ended up ending the engagement because I realized I could not laugh at her joke... it just rang too loudly and too true. I didn't love this person the way I should and I did not look in to the future of old age and see us rocking on that proverbial porch together.

As for the budget, whether it's $500 or $50,000 you have what you have what you have. Don't feel guilty or ashamed. "This is our wedding gift to you... spend it now or elope and spend it later. But this is what we are offering."

No person, especially a parent should be paying for a wedding forever. That's just ludicrous! And I'm a planner who is dependent on people spending tons of cash.... and I still think it's wrong to go into debt for a wedding. Houses and cars... that's all we should ever finance.... and as little on cars as possible. (wink)

    Bookmark   August 21, 2005 at 1:48PM
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cali4dawn, how wise you were, and how maturely you considered your decision. I'm glad it worked out well. Thank you for sharing that story with us.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2005 at 1:49PM
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Oh boy, can I relate to this! My daughter was engaged to a guy a few years ago, and my husband and I were not crazy about him at all (couldn't hold down a job, was lazy and irresponsible, etc.). If she asked my opinion on anything, then I gave it to her - no holds barred! But other than that, I kept my mouth shut. Fortunately she's a smart gal and eventually broke off the engagement and relationship. She talked to us before announcing the break up because her dad and I had invested about $2,000 in down payments towards the wedding on the venue, DJ, photographer, cake, wedding dress, etc. and she felt bad about the money we put out. But losing the two grand was nothing in comparison to knowing that their relationship probably wouldn't have lasted a year, if that.

She is now dating another guy, but isn't jumping into the thought of marriage. We're again keeping our mouths shut, but this new beau has quite a few debts to take care of before they can consider entering into a marriage. So many young people are carrying a lot of baggage these days, and our kids just have to take their time in finding the right person.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2005 at 10:19PM
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you know, Carolyn Hax (a hip advice columnist from the WashPost) says you can change people's minds--but you CAN be a "mirror"--"you don't sound happy"

"That frustrates you, it seems"

You might sometimes go out on a limb and say, "he criticizes you a lot, I think" and then STOP!

Best of luck!

stuff like that. She puts it so much better than I do; a romp through her archives will give you many more examples.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2005 at 4:55PM
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One suggestion is to come up with questions in the form of a pre-marital questionaire for them to fill out separately, then get together to share answers. If they attend a church this could be in conjunction with a pre-married's class. Your questionaire could have categories such as Respect, Teamwork, Finances, Communication, Goals, etc. The purpose of this is to help deepen their communication and understanding of each other. It also helps define what their relationship is and where it needs to go.

Most importantly, it reveals strengths AND weaknesses without defensiveness.

I'm glad they are planning on waiting...maturity brings so much more wisdom. Marrying someone who is competitive with you brings a lifetime of grief, so hopefully he will either mature out of it or, if not, she will see this before walking down the isle.

There's a lot of good advice here. Joann23456 has an excellent idea of praising your daughter in front of her fiance. Talley Sue's being a mirror is also very effective. That way you're not making any judgments, just declarative statements. This might open doors for her to confide in you as well.

Gellchom gives the best but the hardest advice: keep your mouth shut. Aughgh. So hard to do when you see your child making what is obvious to us as a mistake. The only time to be candid is if they ask a direct question. Then be as diplomatic as possible, otherwise the risk of them digging in their heels is a common reaction.

When I was 21 I was engaged to a real loser (at the time I didn't think so), but my mom started acting so excited for me, she started a guest list for an engagement party, etc., and the more excited she got the worse I felt, because deep down I knew he wasn't for me. I finally broke it off, and 7 years later married a good man, have been married 25 years with three grown kids. Thank God she didn't oppose me or I might have married the guy.

Prayer works wonders; God really does hear the prayers of mothers.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2005 at 4:13AM
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Two stories: First, a story of an old friend of mine. She lived with a guy for two years in college and they got along well. They got engaged. He was wrong for her, but she said she loved him.

"Mom" immediately began planning the wedding for just after graduation. She took on a second job. The wedding got a life of it's own. "Mom" was going to create the wedding of her dreams for her daughter. She was in charge.

The morning of the wedding, her daughter was sick in the bathroom. Came out and said "Mom, I'm sick. Should I cancel the wedding?"

Mom jokingly laughed and said "I'll push you down the aisle in a wheelchair".

Mom thought it was jitters. Her daughter was telling the truth. Mom had worked so hard for the wedding, daughter went through with it. Guilt wedding number one.

Groom lost his wedding ring the week after the wedding. Couple was separated after a month and got a divorce.

Second story, my cousin married a guy that was similar to the guy in this story. He was a jerk. She had low self-esteem. "Mom" made the grand push to create a big wedding for her daughter and didn't listen to the signals that something was wrong.

Girl got married. Mom-guilt, again.

Divorced after a year.

To me, the moral of the story for me is, if a girl has a relationship with someone that it's doubtful that it will work out, I'd leave it alone. I wouldn't get excited in either direction. I'd WAIT until SHE starts generating wedding plans. I'd ignore the subject completely. Especially since there isn't an official date nor are specific plans being made.

After all, it's HER wedding, right? Then she has to take the helm. I've never understood weddings that get thrown by parents like it's a kid's birthday party. If she's adult enough to marry, she's adult enough to manage the process. Not do all of the work, but be the conductor of her own symphony, so to speak.

I feel that mothers are there to support the process, not run it. And if the girl is in charge of it, then she won't lose face if she backs out. All of it gets to be her decision.

And if she brings concerns over time, listen. Tell your own truth about what you've learned about marriage, adulthood and life. One thing that I've told all of my grown nieces contemplating marriage is that "this is as good as it gets"...As in..The state of the relationship BEFORE marriage is what it's perfection looks like. Once children and life pressures ensue..Once the couple lets down their guard, they won't try as hard. It's the nature of the beast as marriage isn't one big long date. It's a LIFE. We all can't be "on" for decades.

Ergo, if the situation is 'great', then there are things to look forward to and a mellowing. If things are not great, they won't get great with a ring.

It's preferable to have this conversation in the abstract and not involving a current boyfriend. Less likely to be taken personally. However, if it's stated like a life law of physics and not like an accusation, it's easier to deal with.

I prefer to make statements like that in a neutral fashion without an expectation of a response. Sort of like, take this for what it's worth, but this is what I believe. No big emotion. No fire. Sort of, this is your life and your decision. Like you would with another adult that is not your kid. That allows the person to walk away with it and think about it, as opposed to setting up a situation where someone has to fight to not be wrong.

Be yourself. Tell the truth over time. Act like you trust her to make the right choice for herself. She's going to need that if this guy really is wrong for her. She needs to know that she can go to you and talk about it, whatever it looks like.

And if at any time, she acts like she wants to balk, but is confused? I'd tell her to spend some time thinking about it, that it's her choice on her timeline. But that it's better to back out before the complications of shared homeownership and children...And that there is no law stating how and when she is to marry. It's her choice. Her life. She's the one that has to live it.

More than once my own neutral mother dropped a oneliner piece of truth in my lap that I couldn't have said thank you for at the time, but that I thanked her for later.

And when the emotional drama is removed, all that is left is the truth.

Just my thoughts on the matter...

    Bookmark   September 29, 2005 at 12:47AM
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Smom, some good thoughts there.

I have always told my daughter and sons that dating is the least complicated time in their lives. That it is a testing time. If there are problems when there are no responsibilities, then how will this person act when someone loses a job, the mortgage is due, the baby is sick, or you are sick? If there are any cracks in the character, values or temperament of the person while the easy life of dating is going on, then walk away. It will not get better with the pressures of family life.

Luckily, my DD listened well and married a kind young man this summer. The boys are younger, and at this point, heaven help any young woman who picks them before they're ripe!!!!!!

I do think that if the parents can afford it, that they should contribute to the wedding. But I also agree, do not go into debt. And certainly the bride and groom can cover some of the costs since they are out in the working world soon. These days, the groom's parents often offer to pay for a little something too, such as the social hour cocktails. But don't count on their help as they may not offer.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2005 at 11:02PM
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By the way, what is their college major? Just wondered because what kind of careers they have would affect their married life.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2005 at 9:17AM
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I am bumping up this post because there is so much logic in it, and thought it might be a worthy read.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2007 at 7:50AM
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When you have a lifetime of experiences, both good and bad, it is SO hard not to try to tell your young daughter to wake up and see where she is heading. Yet that is exactly what we have to do. It's so difficult, though.

I was the first in my family to go to college. I worked hard to graduate, worked all the way through school. I married a man who was a professional student and I worked many years so he could continue getting his zillion degrees. Unfortunately I lost the thread of my own career while supporting him. Eleven years of marriage later, no house, no kids, no light at the end of the tunnel, I pulled the plug and divorced him. It has taken me years to get back on the track professonally. He finally got a great job and is a vice president of a major company, I'm still renting and living from paycheck to paycheck. All for "love"... it wasn't worth it.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2007 at 3:24PM
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