As our young adult children move through their twenties and onward, chances are they've had at least one romantic relationship. And chances are that we the parents have met at least one of those romantic partners. I look back at those years when my children were part of the dating scene (it was a while ago; my children now have children who have romantic partners) and remember that not everyone they dated (am I dating myself by using that word?) was my cup of tea. I found most of them wanting in one way or another.
At a time when our children are ranging far from home and tribe to make friends and meet possible mates, it's not surprising that they came home with people we weren't comfortable with, disliked or found inappropriate. When that person looms as a possible life partner, is it okay for us to share our misgivings with our child? When we don't like their choice, is it okay to say something?
The quick answer--and almost every advice column I checked backs me up on this--is no. The only exception is if the relationship is abusive--physically or emotionally.
But what if we see trouble ahead for a variety of reasons--the person seems adrift or is too young or too old for our child.
Here's what Amy Dickinson had to say to a mom whose daughter was in a serious relationship with a man 17 years her senior. "I am wondering," the mom wrote, "whether I'm negligent as her mother by not pointing out the possible challenges, should this relationship continue."
Amy's answer is one for all of us:
Unless there are mitigating circumstances, which you don't mention (he is married, was married, has children or a previous unhealthy history with relationships), you must trust that your daughter will make her own way, as we all must.
A child's job is to grow up. A parent's job is to let them.
A friend of mine found an indirect way to make his concerns known. He not only disliked the man her daughter was seeing, he also found him inappropriate. He and his wife made it a point to encourage their daughter to bring him to all family events; they invited the couple out to dinner often. "We wanted her to see how poorly he fit in with that part of her life that was her family," my friend says. It worked. The daughter broke up with that partner.