Daughter wants to 'check the marriage box'
Q: My smart, successful, and never-been-married 41-year-old daughter has recently become engaged to a twice-divorced man whom she has nothing in common with except a desire to not be alone anymore. I'm worried she's his "retirement plan," as he can't wait to retire early from his job and live the expat lifestyle with her overseas. They've only known each other for a year, and six months of that have been long-distance. She complains he won't stop seeing his "ex-girlfriend/best friend" who lives in the same apartment complex as him and it's making her insecure.
How do I support her? They have a 13-year age gap, and I want her to slow down and think carefully about what she's getting herself into. Wanting to "check the marriage box" off your to-do list isn't a reason to rush into this.
Just Want Her to Slow Down
A: You have a message problem, one that stems from the even bigger problem of trying to be a parent to someone who's 20 years into being an adult.
You don't have to be silent, but, if you want to avoid alienating your daughter (in most cases, straight to the altar of the person you're trying to red-flag), you do have to be mindful of her strength and autonomy.
That limits you to reflecting what she's saying — which actually isn't the worst thing. "If I'm hearing you correctly, you sound unsure." Or, "You're worried he still has feelings for this ex."
Then give her a chance to respond. Either she'll disagree and clarify what she's saying, or she'll confirm. If it's the latter, then say, "It's normal to be unsure/worry." Then, a tacit statement of confidence in her ability to handle it: "Have you thought about how you'll deal with that?" Then at the end, an overt statement: "You're a strong and capable person, and you'll figure this out. I'm happy to be your sounding board when you want one."
Isn't that what would you want your mom to say, if you were in this spot? A welcome reminder that, "Hey, you've got this"? With a side of, " . . . but I'm here if you need me"?