I cannot afford to lose my daughter by making her feel I am interfering
PROBLEM: My daughter moved to Germany after graduation and has settled there. Recently she came home on a visit with her boyfriend of six months. My big shock in meeting him was that to me he seemed to be a gay man. Her dad and I have been separated for some years. It was a difficult time for me and for her. She is an only child and her dad has a new family with his current partner. She felt very left out of his life, and I feel this was behind her choice to leave and seek a life elsewhere.
I feel she is not dealing with her poor relationship with her dad, and if my suspicions are right about this new man I have met, this is not good for her. I have no idea at all what his agenda might be. I felt I had to hold back on my feelings as they were just over for a weekend, but now I am at a loss about what to do.
I am now living alone, and at first it was very difficult not to have my daughter in the same country. I feel that my relationships in life have all gone wrong and I do not want my daughter to have the same problems as I have. I know that in the past I should have addressed my problems sooner but I cannot afford to lose my daughter by making her feel I am too interfering.
ADVICE: Clearly you have an unwavering love for your daughter. However, both of you have gone through a traumatic time and perhaps you both need to look at the patterns that have formed in your family and at the mechanisms you have used to deal with the separation and consequent sense of rejection.
As you feel so strongly about the possibility that your daughter is committing to a gay man, perhaps you should consider organising to meet up with her to talk about your concerns. This could test your relationship: you might be right that she would feel it is interfering but to avoid having the conversation might also be a source of regret in the future.
You feel that your daughter is suffering from her dad’s rejection, and this is amplified by not having a sibling to share her grief with. Also, it is conceivable that she sidesteps confrontation. You say that leaving the country was her way of managing and that this relationship is another element of this avoidance.
Perhaps you too evaded the reality of your marriage deteriorating and now know that avoiding the issue led to separation. Discussing this pattern in the family might be a good starting point in the conversation with your daughter; you could talk about your habits in relationships and wonder if she sees any similar patterns in hers. Your aim in the conversation would be to create awareness and reflection and not to get her to act in any particular way, as that truly would be interference.
Of course, you could be wrong and your daughter’s partner might be straight. Or she might be fully aware of his sexuality and accepting of it. Her choices need to be honoured, as she is an adult making her way in the world and her partner might be what she needs in her life at this time. The difficulty is not necessarily in her choices but in the lack of conversation between the two of you.
It seems that you fear further distancing if you speak to her, or even worse that you are cut off from the one person in the world you truly love. But we cannot let fear run our communications, and the fact that the love is so strong should give you the courage to speak up and trust that the relationship is strong enough to withstand some questioning.
The following tack might be worth implementing: tell her you want to have a serious conversation; this will ensure you do not back down. Explain that you have worries that she will cut you off if you speak truthfully. Hopefully she will reassure you that this will not happen. Then ask her if she has any concerns about her relationship and ask if she is ready to hear your concerns.
If you get an opening, it is better to speak very clearly and not fudge words. Do not look for an immediate answer but ask that she have a think about things, and perhaps you could have a follow-up conversation in a month or so.
It is important that you then back off and let her make her own choices with you as a supportive presence in the background. Also, consider how you can be a role model in terms of self-awareness and good decision-making in your own life, as this is the most effective way of passing on good characteristics.