New readers, welcome to Dear Wendy, a relationship advice blog. Read some of the most popular Dear Wendy posts here. If you don’t find the info you need in this column, please visit the Dear Wendy archives or the forums (you can even start your own thread), do a search in the search bar, or submit a question for advice at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.
My daughter used to be big into a family get togethers, but now it isn’t important anymore because his rudeness seems to be rubbing off on her. This guy also seems to have a very hard time being fair with her, and has a bad temper and an extremely hard time admitting he’s wrong. She gets 90% of the blame. They also work together, with her as his apprentice, which in itself is a weird arrangement.
I feel anger and resentment towards my daughter’s boyfriend now — and somewhat towards my daughter too, to allow this behavior. We see her less because he makes sure to use up her whole weekend and we feel cheated by that. She complains about him more than saying good things about them together. What is your opinion or suggestions? — Not Happy with Her Boyfriend
My opinion is that you’re really lucky to have two sons-in-law you like, get along with, consider “normal and secure,” and who make time to visit you despite living far away. You’re lucky to enjoy family get-togethers with the daughters who have continued to make time to visit you and you’re lucky you have one daughter who lives close by who is young enough that the choices she’s making today aren’t necessarily paved in stone (and could very well just be “phases”). I also think that you are being incredibly judgmental toward a man you have met all of two times — a man who has distanced himself from his own family because of unfair — likely similarly judgmental — behavior from them, and that you would be wise, considering the influence you believe he has on your daughter, to befriend him instead of alienate him.
Best case scenario: This relationship runs its course and your daughter moves on before any major or life-changing event, like a baby or marriage, happens. If they do break up, she’ll need and want your support. Even if you don’t like him and even if she comes to not like him herself, a break-up will still hurt. She’ll want to know you’ve got her back despite any behavior you haven’t appreciated. Conversely, if they stay together and even eventually marry, she will need your support even more if this guy treats her as poorly as you believe he does. If you continue acting like you aren’t a fan of his, she will continue distancing herself more and more from you, and not only will you see less of her but also she won’t come to you for support when she needs it.
If you want to keep this daughter in your life in both the short-term and the long-term, you have to accept this boyfriend and treat him as kindly as you can so you don’t alienate your daughter and don’t turn her and her boyfriend into a team against you and the rest of your family. Don’t give the guy ammunition to use in manipulating your daughter to turn against you. Be the kind of family his own family doesn’t seem to be. Extend warm invitations to him but be understanding and flexible if he doesn’t show up. Remember him on his birthday. Ask about him (in a sincere, well-meaning way) when you talk to your daughter, and always tell her to send your regards to him. Remain neutral when she complains about him and don’t even bring up past complaints or negative observations you have made. She — and he — need to believe you are on their team (even if you really aren’t) or else they’re going to believe you’re against them, and, believe me, you’d much rather them think you’re on the same team here.
Finally, if you ever believe that this boyfriend is more than just rude and unfair — if you think, God forbid, that he might actually be abusing her in some way, then, obviously, acting nice to him isn’t going to cut it. Here are some tips to help support a victim of domestic violence if you should ever need them (and I pray you don’t!). And remember, the less you alienate your daughter now, the more likely she will be to turn to you and trust you in the event that she ever does need the kind of support you hope she won’t come to need.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.