Q: Our daughter, 27 and married for just over two years, is feeling she "is living the wrong life, like I'm not in the right place." We are very fond of our son-in-law, but our primary concern is our daughter.
He is 10 years older and wanted to start a family, but his, "When do you think you will be ready?" has caused her to put the brakes on and have a rethink — of where she is, where they are as a couple, etc. Bottom line is that she doesn't love him the way you would expect a "newly" married couple to feel for each other. There has been no passion, she states, for a long time.
I believe they have laid everything on the table for discussion, but I can tell from my daughter's personality, etc., that she has basically decided that she doesn't love him the way a wife should, rather thinks of him as a wonderful friend. She is very worried about his reaction toward a separation. He has had some trust issues from the past.
I have suggested professional counseling, to help her figure out what she does want and need, but she is hesitant and/or embarrassed with the notion of being a "statistic" and "stupid" for such a serious lack of judgment.
Concerned Mother and Mother-in-Law
A: I answer you with some misgivings, because while this is your daughter and your heartache, it is not your problem to solve. It sounds as if you're admirably close, but already over-involved.
From one sometimes-can't-help-it meddler to another, though, I do have one suggestion for you that I think is both important and in-bounds: Please challenge her implied rationale for her less-than-full reckoning with the problem here. If she defers to feeling "embarrassed" or "stupid," then she passively makes a priority of avoiding difficult feelings, putting a facade on difficult appearances, and postponing any difficult decisions that will create difficult scenes.
In essence, that passive decision-making would put her right back where she was when she made the decision to marry this man despite what she now recognizes (right?) as serious doubts. Surely she chose marriage then because what can feel more awkward, painful, embarrassing and scene-y than pulling the plug on a wedding?
That's a rhetorical question, but I'll answer it anyway: pulling the plug on a new-ish, ill-fitting marriage.
As is always true, deferring pain only compounds it to the point where it can't be deferred any more.
You can't make your daughter do, think or feel anything she doesn't choose on her own, but you can point out at a crucial time in her life that the only way any of us can make sound decisions is to be honest about and accountable to our own needs. The therapist — the implied public — she is apparently ashamed to face doesn't have to live her life. She does.
I hope she summons the strength to follow through on admitting and serving her own needs — since authenticity best serves her husband as well, even if it makes him an ex.
His "trust issues" are his to manage, not hers, of course, but his (and anyone's) need for honesty is hers to respect; suppressing her own needs to mollify him is just a well-meaning kind of deceit.