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Ask Ellie: Divorced mom frets over daughter marrying young

A parent’s role is to listen, not to sound the alarm over adult child’s decisions

Dear Ellie: My 20-year-old daughter is excited about starting her university education in September. She’s also said that she and her boyfriend of four months intend to get engaged soon.

I like her boyfriend. He’s 24, smart, ambitious, and has been in a professional course for the past three years. He seems to adore my daughter.

But I’m worried that she’s making this decision and talking about marriage way too soon. She’s previously hung out with one boy or another at her high school, but they were always just friends.

When I mention that she’s had no experience of a full commitment to someone, and with him in a different university pursuing further post-graduate studies, they’ll be apart for much of the period of her getting her bachelor’s degree.

I know she’s an adult and can do what she wants. But I also know from my personal experience that marrying too young can result in problems between the couple that weren’t detected until it’s too late. Advice, please!

Divorced Mom

She’s not you. And she’s not living in your time frame. She has her own goals regarding education, and has chosen a future partner who’s pursuing a career track.

Yes, she’s young, but she seems sensible regarding the future. Your roll, then, isn’t to alert her to pitfalls of marrying young. It’s to listen. If she’s mentioning doubts about her future education path, ask her more about it, and encourage her to talk to the career counsellor if provided at the school, or someone in that field elsewhere.

Also, consider the couple’s plan for getting engaged. Gently ask why this is important right now. You may hear perfectly logical answers regarding the distance between their schools, related to how often they can see each other. Perhaps one or both of them has separation fears regarding being apart for weeks, possibly months.

Time will soon show whether there are weak links in their still-early commitment. That’s for them to handle.

Meanwhile, your best role, when plans are still being discussed by the couple, is to be a support for your daughter, not a worrier expressing doubts in advance related to your past divorce.

Your experience as a young bride doesn’t foretell whatever led you to a divorce. Your ex-husband and her hopeful fiancé may have no commonality at all. Relating today’s young couple to a long-past time is more about your hurt from back then, than your daughter’s current and promising situation.

Dear Ellie: I loved my husband deeply. We raised two children, and stayed close as a family through his first heart attack.

When he recovered, we all felt hugely relieved. My husband followed a gentle fitness program, a “heart-healthy” diet, and insisted that we keep a positive attitude. Sadly, he died at 70.

It was a harsher loss than any of us could accept. I grieved privately, deeply.

Three years later, a widower I only knew casually, suggested that we occasionally have dinner together or go for a walk, rather than each staying home alone grieving.

Two more years later, we’re a “couple,” travelling together but living separately. Our children (his two are older than mine) have accepted this. Your thoughts?

Still Sad

The loss of a loved one is always painful. Yet death is a fact of life. Once grief can be handled (grief counselling is sometimes needed), facing the future and accepting change is essential to moving forward.

Reader’s Commentary: “The letter from Sexless since 50 could’ve been written by my husband.

“We are both 65 and have been married for more than 30 years. I love my husband and he loves me.

“Despite that fact, we haven’t had sex in about 15 years. After I went through menopause, my libido disappeared. Rather than ‘fake it,’ I was honest with my husband.

“I went to counselling and I went to a gynecologist who prescribed testosterone therapy. Nothing changed. I even wondered if maybe my husband is the issue, and I’m not sexually attracted. I’ve also wondered if I was gay.

“My husband would like to be intimate but I’m just not interested in sex. If I could change that, I would (I do like cuddling, though).

“But anytime he tries to initiate something, it makes me feel sad and less of a wife. That makes me even sadder.”

Ellie’s Tip of The Day

Don’t attribute factors in your life years back to having similar effects on your daughter’s life today.

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