Recently, our daughter asked my husband to take her to another state where she bought a ticket to go to a comedy show by herself. My husband drives for a living, so she asked him to drive her there. He asked me to join them so that we could do something together rather than my husband waiting alone, and our daughter was offended by this. Another example is that, when she asked me to go to a play with her, my husband said he wanted to go because the reviews were good and she was offended because I asked him to come with us.
Our daughter is single but has recently signed up for a dating website without much success. She said the men either live with their mothers or don’t have a job or a car. She’s a teacher and I don’t think she has many opportunities to meet singles even though she stays active and does volunteer work.
Anyway, is my daughter jealous of me? How should we look at this or view it and how do we handle it without hurting her feelings? — Happily Married Mom of Jealous Daughter
It’s a little presumptuous to say your daughter has a “great jealousy” or your and your husband’s relationship simply because she’s seemed annoyed or hurt when she has plans with one of you and suddenly the other one wants to tag along. I agree, it sounds like she’d probably like to have a relationship herself, but the logic you’re using is unfair. Her wanting a boyfriend + her wanting to do things one-on-one with each of her parents don’t necessarily equal “great jealousy.” The two things may not have anything to do with each other. Maybe she simply enjoys spending quality time with each parent alone (although, I think it’s weird she wanted her dad to sit in the car while she went to a comedy to which he was nice enough to drive her!).
Your daughter’s 31, which can be an awkward age to be single. There can be a lot of pressure — from one’s self, society, family — to “settle down,” and if there’s isn’t a significant other in the picture…well, that can really suck. When your daughter says she feels like a third wheel, that could mean a lot of things. Maybe she feels like a failure because she doesn’t have a significant relationship yet. Or… maybe when she’s alone with both parents and there isn’t a significant other — or any “other” — to help balance things out or to act as a buffer, it’s easy to regress to the same parent-kid dynamic of her childhood. Maybe she simply wants to avoid that feeling as much as she can and be seen and appreciated as the adult she is now.
Or, yeah, maybe she really is greatly jealous of her parent’s marriage. But is that such a terrible thing? It means she admires what you two have and wants the same for herself. It means you’ve modeled a happy marriage for her — one that can continue serving as inspiration. Never underestimate what a gift that is to your kids and how well it can guide them to finding their own happy relationship. Knowing such a marriage can exist will make it harder to settle for less. And that’s a good thing, even if it means waiting a while to find it.
And your daughter (probably) will find it. Maybe she doesn’t think so now and maybe you don’t think so and maybe this potential lack of faith is affecting your relationship with her, but my God, it’s not like she’s run out of time or anything. She’s 31! And you can remind her of this. Remind her of how much she has to offer and remind her of how full and rich her life already is without a partner. Encourage her to continue building both a social life and a fulfilling career and to continue doing things, like going to comedy shows in other states, for the adventure and experience as well as the possibility of meeting someone special. Living one’s life well and fully is one of the best ways of finding a good match.
Beyond that, there’s really nothing you need to do to “handle” your daughter’s potential jealousy. Continue inviting her to do things with you and your husband, but also honor your individual relationships with her and nurture those and get to know your daughter as the adult she is now. Celebrate her independence and let her know how proud you are of her. And feel good about giving her the gift of happily married parents who have set an example of what a successful relationship can look like.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.