Dear Dr. Wallace:
Our 20-year-old daughter is living at home with me, my husband and our younger children. She has been dating the same guy for over two years, and their relationship is a nightmare — not only for them but also the rest of the family, including our younger children. Whenever they have a fight, our daughter becomes highly irritable, screaming and slamming doors. This is a most unhealthy relationship. Our daughter has been to counseling, but there has been no improvement. It’s to the point that my husband and I need to attend counseling sessions ourselves: We cannot take any more of this. I know the younger children are adversely affected by the whole situation.
My daughter and her boyfriend are basically good — no drugs or alcohol. All we want is for her to be happy, the way she was before she got a boyfriend. What should we do? We are loving, supportive parents. Our daughter has a full-time job and is capable of supporting herself.
— Mother, Tampa, Fla.
Dear Mother: Since you haven’t seen positive results working with your daughter, perhaps it’s time to concentrate, for now, on the boyfriend. Set up a time when you can talk to him alone and explain to him that the rocky relationship he shares with your daughter is affecting your entire family in a very negative way. Tell him that if he loves your daughter and is sincere, he can help the situation immensely by striving to keep the peace between them.
But if all else fails, you must ask your daughter to move out of the house. I know this would be a painful decision, but you cannot allow a dysfunctional member of the family to keep everyone else in the house in constant turmoil.
Dear Dr. Wallace: I’m 19 and have a full-time job, but I still live at home with my mother. I pay for her room and board because she doesn’t have an abundance of cash, so the money I give her helps pay our household utility bills. Two years ago, I was dating a guy I cared for, but for some reason, my mother didn’t like him. When I look back on it, the reason likely was his shaggy-dog appearance. He had extra-long hair and a long, scruffy beard. He wore jeans, cowboy boots and a scroungy-looking leather jacket. Instead of a hat, he wore a red kerchief tied around his forehead. He left town back then to live with his brother in another state, so we cooled things off at that time.
Last week, this guy came by my work, and I almost died when I saw him. His hair was a lot shorter than it once was. Gone was the hair on his face and his cowboy clothes. He wore a nice shirt and neat slacks. He took me to lunch, and we also went out that evening. I’ve been out with him three times since he’s been back home, and, yes, the spark is still there. He’s also found a good job in our city.
Of course, my mother is not aware that I am seeing this same guy again. Since I’m 19 and soon to be 20, I realize I don’t need permission from Mom to date him, but I don’t want to upset her. Should I continue seeing him without telling Mom that I am, or should I tell her and possibly make her upset?
— Pleasantly Surprised, Naperville, Illinois
Dear Pleasantly Surprised: Tell Mom that your friend has returned to your city, and she will be surprised when she sees him, as his once “redneck” appearance is now long gone. Casually mention that he now has a new look and attitude. Then arrange to have him take you and Mom out for lunch or coffee so she can see this for herself. It is better for you to inform Mom about him rather than have her hear about it from an acquaintance.
It sounds like you have an excellent, mutually respectful relationship with your mother. Cherish and protect this relationship by being honest and open with her.