A friend of mine was talking a while back about the unbelievable boldness of her son’s girlfriend. “How dare that girl come into our home and act that way,” she verbalized to me. “I have no idea what Nick sees in her anymore. It’s like she has become a totally different person.”
As the conversation continued, the whole story came tumbling out. “Nick has been dating Chelsea for a few years. They’ve been cute together and I liked her. Even as they started college I always thought they were going to be the perfect couple. It is like she has always been part of our family. But something seems different about their relationship. As time goes on and I see them talking about marriage, it is as if she has changed. She has become someone who wants Nick to always do things her way.”
“Just last week I had all the kids home for the long weekend. After dinner Tom suggested that everyone help with the dishes so it wouldn’t take so long. Chelsea has always helped me in the kitchen when she was there before. But this time, as I gave everyone a job, I handed her a clean dishcloth to wipe off the table. She looked at me and said, ‘Someone else will have to do that job; I’ve told Nick I’m not going to do dishes any more. When we get married, that’s his job.’ She then handed him the dishcloth and told him to do it while she went in and sat in the family room to look at a Bride’s magazine.”
“Obviously, I was stunned. I didn’t even know what to say as I watched Nick clean off the table for her.”
Nicole continued to lament. “I don’t know what she expects, anymore. The other day she was at the house with Nick and we were sitting in the family room talking about when they thought they would get married. It was as if she had her life all planned out–next year we’ll get married, then I’m going to grad school, then I want to work for several years–at least 10 years–and I might decide to get my doctorate, and then we’ll probably have a baby.”
Laughingly, I interjected, “So if you do all those things, how old will that make you when you have your first baby?”
“What did she say?” I chimed in.
“We did the math together, keep in mind we were all still laughing and enjoying the conversation, and she realized that if she followed her plan, she would be 42.”
“What happened next?”
“We continued on with our conversation, no big deal, and then the two of them left.”
“So the conversation went well I take it? She realized that her dream most likely wouldn’t become reality?”
“Yeah, I thought so until later that night. Nick came home and was so upset at me. He told me how mad Chelsea was that I had ruined her plans for her life and that I had no right to interfere.”
I see it often. Girl meets boy. Boy wants to impress girl. (Sometimes it is the opposite). They fall in love. And something happens as they each get older and one begins to steamroll to make sure they get the life they want. Sometimes our kids are oblivious to the changes and the potentially unfulfilling life they might be choosing.
So what can we do as parents when we see our kids moving toward marriage with the wrong person?
- Keep the lines of communication open.
- Rather than complain about the person your son/daughter is dating, ask questions when you and your child are alone. “I see you and Chelsea are talking about marriage. How did you come to the decision that she is the one? What do you envision for your life together? I was surprised that Chelsea refused to take the dishcloth and help clean the kitchen the other day. Is something up?”
- As you ask questions, listen and don’t comment. Let your child talk without interruption. Then ask more questions when there is lull in the conversation.
- And if you haven’t already, begin conversations about how your child sees marriage. You might even talk about what you appreciate in your own spouse especially as it lines up with behaviors you are seeing in your child’s relationship.
- Continue the dialogue. “After our earlier conversation about Chelsea, I have some concerns I’d like to share. May I do that? I’m hearing her talk about her life, but how does that intertwine with your life plan? She is talking about grad school and a doctorate, all of that is going to be expensive. I’m concerned that Chelsea is only looking at her life and not your lives together… I hope you will both talk about these things before you decide to get married. But know that I never want you to feel the need to choose between Chelsea and us. I’ll support you no matter what you choose.”
- And pray without ceasing.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
When that special ‘someone’ enters our children’s lives we naturally want to gravitate to giving advice to our kids. It is important that they are in the right place to receive it and that means we have to think about our own relationship with our kid. Whatever we say will most likely get repeated to their significant other.
When in doubt about the communication — think relationship.
Dare you to respect your 20-somethings enough to cautiously give advice and at the same time recognize that they have to make their own choices.
“Let go…and let God,”