Q: My 27-year-old daughter recently broke up with her live-in boyfriend. Now she wants me to tell her Iím on her side of every dispute.
Itís her life, sheís an adult: Got it. But should I really be expected to tell her she acted well when she didnít? She was needlessly cruel, and she doesnít care at all that she insisted we welcome him as family for three years ó no problem, we loved him ó and now weíre supposed to forget him. I dread seeing her again. Help.
Mothering an Adult Who Wants to Be Told Sheís Right
A: I hope I can say without sounding like an utter twit that youíre about 26 years, give or take, past the ideal time to put up this emotional guardrail.
If you have indeed held to your principles all along against her emotional strong-arm tactics, then please accept my apologies ó and my sympathy, too, for wanting a break from her. Some personalities just wonít be denied.
"Dread," though, is so strong ó devastating, really ó that I suspect you havenít kept a healthy cushion between yourself and her drama.
Either way, it doesnít affect your path now, just your relationshipís prospects: Be loving, be principled, be firm. You can recognize and respect that sheís in pain and offer your support accordingly; you can also do this while acknowledging that her behavior was not above reproach. Yes, itís her right to leave this relationship, and yes, heís no doubt partly to blame for their unraveling ó but there are still kind and unkind ways to get out. You are capable of loving and supporting your daughter with your whole heart while still retaining sufficient objectivity to know unkindness when you see it. Say this to her outright.
If she doesnít like your assessment of the situation, then she can respectfully disagree like an adult, or lash out or go silent like a child. Up to her.
How she acts/reacts doesnít affect your position; thatís the beauty of principled choices. Careful thought + loving action = the power to withstand pressure. Itís difficult, but itís not chaotic the way a life submitting to an emotional blackmailer tends to be.
As for the closeness she "insisted" on and the forgetting youíre "supposed to" do, please see the who-demanded-what as outside the scope of your concern. You welcomed her boyfriend into your life because you chose to, and he wonít be a part of your life now because theyíve parted ways.
Certainly some ties among exes and families can survive beyond the primary friendship or romance, but those are exceptions, not rules, anchored to a familyís core of trust and respect.