“Our Grown Daughter Is Jealous of Our Relationship”

My husband and I have been married for forty years and love our two children, but, unfortunately, our 31-year-old daughter has great jealousy of my husband’s and my relationship. We often include our children in things we do and love having them with us, but she doesn’t like to do things with us because she says she feels like a third wheel.

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.


Follow along on Facebook, and Instagram.

If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.


  1. I think there is a part of this which is missing. I think what she needs is a social network. This might or might not include dating. She needs community and friends and the parents should support her in this. I also, though, find the letter strange. It seems like off behavior for a grown woman. Does she have a disability? Has she always been like this? I also feel that it doesn’t seem so much that she is jealous so much as overly clingy.

    1. I think the daughter really needs to try harder to widen her social net work.She is a teacher. She could meet potential date mates and other young woman to hang out with. Skip her dad having to take her to any functions. At 31 she should meet friends to fill her time.

  2. Sunshine Brite says:

    I don’t think this is automatically jealousy. My parents tend to do everything together but it’s really nice when you get some one-on-one time with them. Especially my dad, my mom and I don’t naturally click as well so sometimes the buffer if welcome. It would irritate me too if I kept making plans with them only to have it scooped into becoming their plans.

  3. LW, I think you are reading too much into this. I am really close with my parents, and I like doing things with them together and individually. I have to say I would be pretty irritated if I invited my mom to a play and she brought my dad. Do you or your husband ever spend any time with your daughter one on one? Maybe make plans with your daughter, just the two of you, to have lunch or go shopping or get pedicures. I think it would be good for both of you.

  4. There is a different dynamic when you hang out one on one, versus when you hang out in a group, be it friends or family. I had one friend who always got upset when she wasn’t included in a dinner invitation with me and a certain other friend, regardless of the fact that she hung out with others without me, regardless of the fact that the three of us DID get together all the time. I will say though, if the daughter is 31, she is more than old enough to use her words and say, “Mom, I’d really like some time together, just us.”

  5. Avatar photo Crochet.Ninja says:

    i think she’s trying to have quality time with either of you, but you’re joined at the hip. i mean i get it, but why can’t she have time with you, just you and her? or just her and her father? i think she needs some one on one time with you guys. maybe it’s easier for her to talk when it’s just 2 people vs 3.

  6. Avatar photo kmentothat says:

    LW, how often do you and your husband have one on one time with your daughter? I’m the same age as her, and the older get the more I look to one parent or the other for advice and guidance on certain things that I may not necessarily want to go to the other about. It can be very frustrating that my parents absolutely insist on doing everything together as I want to have a strong relationship with EACH of them and one on one time really fosters that. Would YOU feel jealous if your husband and daughter went to dinner one on one? And if so WHY? I feel like that might be real issue. My mom was able to fly out to my city (2,000 miles away from my hometown) twice and the mother /daughter time was great for us.
    Give yourself a hard look and see if maybe you aren’t giving your daughter the space to have strong individual relationships with each of you. And know that it is normal and healthy for your husband and you to do some (even most) things together but also some things apart.

  7. I think that something is missing here. I find it weird that a 31-year old woman behaves like this over their parents’ relationship. There must be something else to the story.

    1. I agree. I feel like the mom feels a secret need to somehow be in competition with the daughter in some way and/or something is…off.

  8. LW, I am 32 & single, and my parents have also been married for 40 years (this Sunday! Happy Anniversary Mom & Dad!). As I have gotten older, particularly in the last 5 years or so, my relationship with each of them individually has grown because they are getting to know me as an adult and vice versa. I enjoy spending time with them one-on-one, and no, I’m not “jealous” of their relationship. It’s been a good example for me, one that hopefully I will use as a model in my own marriage one day.

    One thing I really appreciate about my parents is that they do not make me feel bad or less than in any way for not being married or not being in a relationship. I date quite a bit, they have met several boyfriends of mine, and I have a strong social circle, but I am an introvert and [choose to] spend a lot of time alone as well. My parents want me to find the right guy for me, not just any guy, and until I do they are perfectly fine that I am single. I can’t imagine what our relationship would be like if they were constantly pressuring me about dating. It’s hard enough to date as a 30-something as it is.

    I think a great way to support your daughter would be to focus less on her dating prospects and more on her as an adult: her individual interests, her work, her volunteer work and ask her how those types of things are going and if she would want you or her father to get involved in some way. Dating is not the be-all end-all of life, which one quickly learns when one is single in her 30s. If I based my life experiences on the handful of boyfriends I’ve had, it would be leaving out so much that makes me ME and the person I’ve grown into that I want my parents to know.

    Wendy is right: she presumably is living a rich and full life without a partner, and from your letter it really just sounds like she wants to develop a relationship with each of you as an adult herself rather than being jealous of your marriage. Invest in her as a person and get to know her as an adult without keeping her on the hook for dating, or else that’s all she’ll feel like is worth anything.

  9. I would be pretty ticked off at a friend if we made arrangements one-on-one and they invited another person without checking with me first. A threesome is not the same dynamic as a twosome. This may or may not have anything to do with the parents’ relationship or the daughter’s single status, but it does have a lot to do with presumptuous and interfering/imposing/rude/whatever you call it behavior by the parents.

  10. anonymousse says:

    I also think there is something left out of this story. I don’t think this is just a case of wanting to spend alone time with either parent. Who asks someone to drive them a great distance (I imagine) to a play and expects them to sit there and wait for them? That’s just, weird. And sort of entitled and rude. If she doesn’t have social outlets with people relatively her own age, she needs them. The thirties are a hard time to meet people and make friends, so many people have their circles established, and being single can be especially hard with all the pressure to have someone and start a family. But, something still is off about this story. I don’t think she’s jealous, I mean, she invited you out, and you brought your husband along….something is off here.

    1. I do think the drive me to this comedy show thing is a bit odd and like we’re missing more to the story. Maybe she was looking for a way to get some time with her dad to discuss something and thought a captive audience in a car for a few hours would be a good way? I don’t know, it does seem a little odd to not even invite him to the show, right?
      But the rest of it doesn’t seem that off. She wants to go to a play with her mom, not her parents? What’s wrong with that?

      1. anonymousse says:

        I just meant to illustrate that she invites both parents places, and they each invite the other along, so I don’t think it’s her being jealous of her mom.

      2. Bittergaymark says:

        Then let him coming to the FUCKING show. Making him just — wait? The daughter sounds… off. No wonder she is alone and desperately single.

  11. You say “jealous” but I would say “annoyed” is probably a better term. This is like when your college-aged best friend gets a new boyfriend and is suddenly incapable of doing a damn thing without him…at least you can expect it to wear off in a few months.
    But for grown adults to be so attached at the hip that they can’t do things one-on-one with their daughter I imagine can get quite old for this “third wheel.” Your daughter wants to hang out with you alone, like you are her friend. You should take that as a blessing and stop inviting your annoying boyfriend– I mean husband– along on mother-daughter-outings.
    Think about how you would do this if she were a friend, not your daughter. You would probably call up the friend and say “hey, [husband] is interested in seeing this play, too. Do you mind if he joins us?” and you would actually let her answer truthfully before inviting him along. So why not treat your daughter like an adult friend in that respect?

  12. girltuesday says:

    Can. Totally. Relate.

    Just a quick summary – my mother married my stepdad like 5 years ago. I was already an adult at the time. At the same time, I had just moved home from college, was job searching, and starting over in a brand new state. I did not have a social network yet, and my mother and I have always been close – gone shopping together – etc. I felt like he was taking away my friend, and totally felt like a third wheel sometimes.

    It wasn’t necessarily jealousy, it was more that I was annoyed and lonely. My mom took note of this and would make it a point to spend one day alone with me during the weekends while my stepdad worked on the house or whatever. Also, my stepdad and I carved out some time to get to know each other better. My mom would go visit my grandpa, and me and my stepdad would go to lunch. It made when we all hung out less about me being the annoying tag-a-long, but part of the tribe.

    It also sounds like she doesn’t have much of a social circle (yet) which is totally a factor and make this whole situation more difficult. Perhaps she can join a club or MeetUp? (Some people may knock on meetup, but I’ve met some wonderful girlfriends through that).

    TL;DR – Carve out one day in the week for just your daughter and talk to her about what’s really going on and how you can help.

    1. Nobody should knock Meetup – I met my boyfriend through a Meetup group and some great friends as well! The daughter should definitely consider joining Meetup.

      1. girltuesday says:

        That’s awesome! I find that people will sometimes knock online meetups, or online dating because that’s not what they’re used to. Hello, that’s the new norm! Everyone is so busy, and it’s nice to be able to socialize with like people at a set event.

      2. snoopy128 says:

        Just moved to a new city and plan on using meetup to make friends outside of my boyfriend’s friend circle

      3. I met some great people using meetup. Two of the girls, I’m still friends with. Both have since moved away, but we still keep in touch and go on yearly vacations together.

  13. I always find it annoying when people complain about other people being jealous of them. A mother that thinks her daughter is jealous of her and dad’s relationship? That’s not even annoying, it’s just OFF.

    1. Anonymous says:

      Also, when it’s the three of you, how do you guys behave to make her feel like the third wheel? … Do you just ignore her?

    2. Also, what would make her feel like the third wheel when it’s just the three of you? Do you ignore her or something? Too much PDA?

      1. Oops I didn’t think it had been posted the first time. (the awkward moment when you’re the only one commenting in a growing thread)

  14. dinoceros says:

    It drives me crazy when the first conclusion people jump to is that a single woman must be jealous of other people’s relationships. I think you’re focusing too much on your relationship and less on the other basic facts here. Most people who make plans with someone find it annoying if that person invites someone else without asking. Especially if it happens all the time. Especially if you never see that person without other people around. I find it kind of unusual that she’d care SO much when it’s her parents, but whatever.
    The easiest thing here is to allow for some one-on-one time. I assume that if you make it a thing that happens from time to time, she won’t insist on it every time and won’t get mad every time.

  15. Avatar photo Stonegypsy says:

    So, it used to drive me crazy when I would invite my mom to do something, and then she would bring my little brother along too. Not because I was jealous of the relationship my mom and my little brother had, but because I wanted to spend some one on one time with my mom.
    It sounds like that is what your daughter wants, LW. Some 1/1 time with you and her dad individually. So let that happen, and see if she stops being annoyed.

  16. Avatar photo Raccoon eyes says:

    Yeah, I agree with most above me here. To term this a “jealousy” thing, LW, is probably making it worse for you/your relationship with your daughter.
    To compare this to my own (flawed) relationship with my mother: my mother LOOOVES to give advice (also known as issue directives because SHE KNOWS THE BEST WAY TO DO EVERYTHING, or can research the best way to do everything, because My Way Is Wrong) and is incapable of hearing me when I say that I am an adult and I need to make my own way in life, and that I do not need her opinion on everything. Even though I am a 35 year old attorney with my own firm- I am obviously ignorant of…well, everything, she believes as far as I can tell. So each time that I gear up to speak with her (thankfully, she lives over 1000 miles away) on the phone, I give myself a pep talk (often with the aid of my beloved partner) that I will not yell, I will not get mad, I will not devolve into my 13 year old self while on the phone with her. But you know what? I do. And she treats me like I am that age anyway, sooo. It really never ends well.
    Why am I telling you this? Because I try to set up boundaries with my mother, and I try to re-establish our relationship. Literally every time I talk to her. SO my suggestion to you is to LISTEN to your daughter. Dont tell her everything. Ask her stuff, especially if it is to have your husband join you (for instance, “Do you mind if your father joins us for XYZ?” NOT, “oh, dad wants to see XYZ so he bought a ticket so he can join us.”) SOmeone above said do some girly things with your daughter like pedicures. I agree. Let her carve out separate time with each of you. Dont make everything about her single status, If she wants to bring it up, she will.

  17. There’s a bit of a smug gloating tone in the letter, especially talking about the daughter’s lack of success dating. I think on some level the original poster likes feeling better than her daughter and thus is anxious to see her daughter’s behavior through that lens.

  18. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

    I find it rude and entitled to ask someone to drive you a distance to a comedy club and not invite them to go in with you. That means she was using the dad as a driver, if she really wanted to spend time with him she would have bought him a ticket and they would have gone to the club together. She wanted a ride and that was it. I don’t see anything wrong with her dad finding someone to go along to do something with him since he wasn’t welcome at the club. It isn’t rude to find a person to go along so you won’t be left hanging out alone, a distance from home.

    I think the daughter’s main problem is that she is lonely. She doesn’t have friends so she tries to substitute a parent as a companion. It’s fine to do things with just one parent but she should find something that mom likes to do that dad doesn’t and vice versa. The daughter needs to work on her own social circle so that she has a friend to invite when she has something she wants to do.

    1. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

      LW Do make sure that your daughter is included in conversations when the three of you are together. My aunt got tired of my parents stopping to visit her because they would get into a conversation with each other and act like they weren’t aware that she was sitting there. You do need to make sure you don’t do something similar. Or, maybe your daughter expects to be the undivided center of attention of both parents and doesn’t like it when the conversation isn’t totally focused on her. We don’t see enough here to get a feel for which way this goes.

  19. Blackwood says:

    I honestly thought that “I need to go everywhere with my partner and anyone who objects is lonely and jealous” routine was over by the time people turned 25 or their relationship’s honeymoon phase ended. So, through an optimist lens, it’s kind of endearing that this woman’s relationship is still on that honeymoon phase after 40 years, but I can see how annoying and tiring that must be for the people around them, especially their children, who sometimes need one-on-one bonding with their mom and dad.

  20. LW, do you and your husband ever do anything apart? I agree with the other commenter who said your tone about your daughter’s singleness is kind of smug. It also seems kind of weird that neither you nor your husband seem comfortable being social as individuals and not a couple. Maybe I’m reading too much into the way you both invited each other along and the way you seem to be very proud of your couple-ness, but maybe the issue is you. Bumming a ride and not including Dad in the evening’s plans was rude, but that’s a different issue.

  21. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

    Everyone is assuming that mom and dad never do anything separately. We don’t know that. What we know is that she gave two examples where she felt her daughter was acting jealous. She didn’t give any other information or examples. She picked the examples because she felt they did show the problem. That doesn’t mean that they are joined at the hip. It means those were her two examples.
    I think one of the examples showed the daughter to be somewhat rude and self-absorbed. Why else ask dad to drive but not want him to come into the club? Why get upset when he found a fun way to spend his time since the daughter didn’t want to spend that time with him. I’d like to know whether dad or the daughter paid for the gas for the trip. Who paid for any food eaten? Why leave dad out and then complain when he brings mom, after all, the daughter didn’t want to spend the evening with him. She just wanted a driver. That’s like a kid who doesn’t yet drive and needs a ride to get to a social event. It doesn’t sound like an independent woman who is 31. It sounds like she wanted a designated driver for the evening.

  22. I agree with the comments on here but wanted to add something about the dad driving her to a show. I’m think there might just be an issue with LW’s wording; flip the order of the sentences about dad. I think it’s possible that what LW meant was that dad is a truck driver who is frequently out on the road to other states, and the daughter decided to ride along with him when he was going to the area of the show. If that’s the case, I don’t think it’s especially rude that she didn’t invite him to the show, and I don’t think it’s weird that she’s bummed out that LW is joining them. Maybe she was looking forward to being the front seat passenger and bonding with dad for several hours.

    1. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

      A truck driver can’t take their truck and drive their daughter to a show and hang out and then drive the daughter home. They have to drive according to their schedule to arrive at places when the loading dock is open or to arrive when a crew is scheduled to be there to unload. I’m assuming he probably is a truck driver but he couldn’t drive his truck to and from his daughter’s comedy club night and it is unlikely he was going that way at that time for work. If he was he wouldn’t have needed to find something to do to fill his time, he’d have been working.
      How many people on here would appreciate it if a friend wanted them to drive the friend a distance to do something social and made it clear that you weren’t wanted at the social event, you were just driving.

    2. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

      If she wanted the time to bond with dad she would have picked something that she wanted to do with him. She picked him to be her designated driver not a person to share her evening with.

  23. I wonder what the relationship has been like over the years. Has there been a recent change in her living closer again? Or some other change? Or has the relationship always been this way? It seems odd for this to have come out of nowhere, or like there are pieces missing. The reason I wondered if there had been a change was if your husband and you had grown accustomed to doing things together without them around and now she is closer or more available and has more time to spend with you all one on one? I do think it’s perfectly normal to want to do things with your parents one on one. But, I also know many parents who don’t do a whole lot of one on one with their kids.

    1. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

      It makes a lot of sense that there has been a recent change or else this issue wouldn’t be coming up at this time. One of my work friends had two sons home from college for labor day weekend, both with girlfriends. Her one older son who has graduated from college but who still lives at home doesn’t have a girlfriend. They did a lot of family activities that included everyone and she felt that her older son felt like the odd man out, especially when they played games and all of the couples paired up. One of the girlfriends lives out of state, a few hours away, so would normally have gone home to her own family and friends. She spent the weekend here instead so I could see her best friend at home feeling lonely and disappointed she didn’t come home. I wouldn’t be surprised if something similar hasn’t happened to the daughter. Her social circle has changed in some way, probably something to do with partners, and she is lonely and feeling like she doesn’t fit in. Parents pick up on these things. We know our kids and are tuned to their feelings. To assume that the mom is gloating because she is expressing concern is a jump. I know a lot of moms of adult kids and they talk very frankly about their kids. It doesn’t mean they are gloating, it means they are concerned and often know that there is nothing they can do, like the friend whose son was the odd man out, there was nothing she could do.

  24. I think the obvious answer is to run things by your daughter before you invite your spouse or yourself along to an activity with her. I don’t think the motives behind her discomfort are really up for debate or yours to help her understand and fix. There is no reason not to oblige her preference to keep things one on one if that’s how she initiated an invite.

    That said, I would be put off if a 30 year old sulked because I wanted to bring my husband along to a play he was really interested in seeing. I wouldn’t invite him if I knew it would make the person who invited me uncomfortable. But if I didn’t know, I hope they would tell me that they would like things to be one-on-one in a mature way. If one of my relatives requested my husband drive him out of state and wait alone while they went into a show, you had better believe I would be offended if they fussed because he asked me to come along. It isn’t about me wanting to be there. It’s about having a level of regard and respect for my husband’s comfort and preferences when he is doing them a favor. Of course I would consider it his responsibility to stand up for himself.

    1. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

      This! I agree completely.

      Most couples are a social unit. Most couples whose kids have left home do things together and enjoy it because they have spent years gearing their lives around their kids activities and finally they get a chance to do things together just because they want to do them. In our family we follow a basic rule that everyone is welcome but never required to go to an activity. When we do something our kids are welcome to join us but we never require them to go along. Our son goes out on his own and we wouldn’t think of inviting ourselves along. Our daughter is a little too young to drive so her social life and school activities all involve us driving her which means our social life has to fit in and around her social life. For example, she is in the high school marching band this year so we are going to go to all of the home games to see her perform and that means giving up our Friday evening dinner out with friends. Some people think we are mean for not also going to all of the away games, but we’ve decided to meet our friends for dinner on the away game nights. We think it is a good balance for both us and our daughter.

      1. I think the parent-child dynamic never fully goes away and always requires some level of patience and grace on both sides. But when the kids are grown they always expect parents to see them as autonomous individuals with their own personalities and world views.

        Grown-children should make the effort to see their parents as human beings and not freeze them into the role of the caregivers who just don’t get it and are immune to rudeness or their own thoughts and feelings.

  25. I am in my 30-ies and have parents who were married for over 40 years. I am married with children and would give anything to see them more often and spend time with them-all three of us(throw in my sister, too). The war in our homeland got us separated and I would give anything to have a little bit of time with my family. I don’t understand how somebody can say this:” This is like when your college-aged best friend gets a new boyfriend and is suddenly incapable of doing a damn thing without him…at least you can expect it to wear off in a few months.
    But for grown adults to be so attached at the hip that they can’t do things one-on-one with their daughter I imagine can get quite old for this “third wheel.” Your daughter wants to hang out with you alone, like you are her friend.”

    BUT these are parents we are talking about. They were married before she was born! The daughter had to have this type of personality where she can’t have two friends at once and probably wouldn’t let her boyfriend have relationship with his friends or family …there are people like that and they need to work on it, because that’s not healthy. I know a girl from college who would give a stink eye to anyone that talked to her best(and only) friend. She didn’t work well in groups. I don’t think the daughter is jealous of the parents’ relationship/marriage but she has possessive issues.

  26. I wonder why a 31 year old woman is out with her parents so much. If she wants to meet Mr Right,this is not likely to happen while hanging out ,together or separately with her mom and dad!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *