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He says: “Our daughter is old enough to choose her own boyfriend”

By Deacon Tom and JoAnne Fogle

He says: “Our daughter is old enough to choose her own boyfriend”

Mary says:

Our daughter is seriously dating a man who is not right for her – he just doesn’t have the education and ambition he should. Steve wants us to intervene, but I think she needs to make her own decisions, even if they’re mistakes.

Steve says:

How can Mary suggest just standing by and watching our daughter ruin her life? I don’t think that’s being a good parent – we need to tell our daughter to stop seeing this guy.

What do they do?:

We could say you are both right, but that may not help much. Steve and Mary’s correct response should be somewhere in the middle. Mary is right that living with the consequences of your actions greatly benefits the ability to differentiate self and mature.

On the other hand, how many of us parents feel comfortable standing by while our children walk off the proverbial cliff? As parents of young adults, our roles are diminishing, and sometimes we are relegated to watching them fail. In many ways, it is no different than watching them fall when they were taking their first steps. They fall, but jump back up on their feet, and even learn to run. If we catch them too often or hold them too tightly, how will they learn to stand or run?

We encourage both of you to reflect on how your parents reacted when you announced your intent to marry. Is it possible that one parent (or set of parents) expressed doubts? Did anyone hint that, “She could do better” or “Why would he want to marry her?” Did you listen to the doubters or did it heighten your resolve to be together for life?

We remember all too well when we, as young adults, presented the idea of marriage to our folks. Our backgrounds were totally opposite and neither set of parents felt we were ready to make a life-long commitment to each other; but we felt we were. We still do.

It is normal for parents to want the very best for their children and selecting a spouse is certainly one of those major events in a person’s life. Your daughter has a right to select the best person who meets her needs. As parents, you have an obligation to help guide her and even suggest marriage prep through your local parish, but not to make the selection of her future spouse. You can ask questions like, “What future plans do you have as a couple?” and “How do you envision your lives together?” they are legitimate and can facilitate thought and discussion between your daughter and boyfriend.

Even if you feel this is the time for words of caution to your daughter, this is also the time to support her and let her know of your love, as well as your concerns. We are reminded of the words of Mother Teresa, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” Our concern is primarily with the stress you are placing on your relationship. One valuable suggestion that is often overlooked is to get some help – help from the Holy Spirit. Scripture is clear that if we ask Jesus for assistance, it will be granted so that the Father may be glorified. All we, as couples and parents, need to do is to make sure we are asking for the right thing. When we ask God to grant wisdom to our child, when we ask for the gift of patience for ourselves, when we ask for the gift of discernment of God’s will and we do it with sincerity of heart and trust, it will be granted. Steve and Mary, you will be surprised at the power and strength your relationship will receive when the Holy Spirit becomes involved.

Deacon Tom Fogle and JoAnne Fogle help prepare couples for marriage.