Relationship Connection: My daughter and her kids are living with a married man

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Question

Our daughter has been living with a married man for six months now. She advised us that he just filed for divorce this month.

We have a Disneyland trip planned this summer and our daughter agreed we can take her young children with us on the trip. However, we haven’t invited her because we don’t feel comfortable with this man.

Any suggestions?

Answer

Your daughter’s choice to have an affair with a married man is certainly scandalous and difficult to witness. My guess is that you’re asking this question because you don’t want your invitation to unintentionally condone their choice to live in an adulterous arrangement. Or, perhaps you’re so upset by their relationship that you can’t stand to be around them. Whatever your reasons, let’s look at some possible ways you can respond.

First, you need to look honestly at your motives for wanting to exclude him. Is this a protest about your daughter’s choice? Is there something you want to say to her, but you don’t know how? You are having a strong reaction to this situation, which means that there is a motive for your desire to exclude him.

Sometimes we’re ashamed of our motives and have difficulty admitting the true feelings we’re experiencing. If you can identify the motive, however unpleasant it may be, it will make it easier for you to figure out the healthiest way to respond. For example, if you discover that your motive is to teach your daughter a lesson for having an affair but you don’t want to be that kind of mother, you now have an opportunity to do something different.

Understanding our motives is a powerful way for us to honestly assess how we show up in relationships. This way, our reactions aren’t as automatic and potentially harmful to those we love. Watching our loved ones make choices that we know will harm them and others can tempt us to do things to control or manipulate the outcome.

Your responsibility isn’t to change your daughter or even protect her children from the reality of her choices. They are living with her and know she has this man in her life. Your daughter most assuredly knows that she’s doing something really unhealthy, so there isn’t a need for a lesson from mom. If you feel you need to talk with her about her life choices or the impact on her children, setting an indirect boundary about a trip isn’t going to communicate those feelings very effectively.

If your motives are about wanting some alone time with your grandchildren, then communicate that. If your motives are to have some time alone with your daughter to talk about her life, then let her know that. Be clear about your motives with yourself and with your daughter so you don’t feel trapped.

Ultimately, you get to decide who attends your trip. If you’d rather wait until she’s married to him, then communicate it with her. If you have something to say to her regarding her choices, then talk with her directly instead of using the trip to send a message. Your inclusion or exclusion of your daughter and her married boyfriend isn’t going to change your daughter’s direction in life.

Moments like these provide us with opportunities to check our hearts and make sure we’re aligned with our deepest values. Her choices aren’t a reflection on you as a mother, so you now have an opportunity to love her and her children without the pressure of trying to control or change the life she’s creating for herself.

Stay connected!

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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4 Comments

  • Hataalii April 12, 2017 at 9:16 am

    If you have something to say to your daughter, make time for the two of you to be alone together, and talk it out with her. She likely already knows how you feel, but don’t ask her to read your mind.
    She is your daughter, and you have a right to give her your opinion. Once you have made your feelings clear, then drop the matter. She is an adult, and a mother, she has to make her own decisions.
    Remember, there is a very good chance that you may really alienate her, so be as tactful and diplomatic as possible.
    Pushing too hard, just might result in her keeping you from seeing your grandkids.
    Another thing to remember, is that this man just may end up being your son in law. Even if you dislike him immensely, you may have to live with the fact that he’s part of the family. So don’t burn your bridges with him.

  • comments April 12, 2017 at 10:50 am

    I bet this sort of thing happens quite frequently in the land of momondom. I guess he’s technically married, but the term you want is ‘separated’. And really, what’s the value of marriage in these times anyways–divorce rate over 50%, homosexual “marriage”, etc. It’s right in the toilet. Doesn’t mean a whole lot anymore. And even here in the heart of mormondom extramarital affairs are extremely common–as much as any city, really. If you really just dislike this guy and can’t stand him that’s another thing.

    • comments April 12, 2017 at 10:56 am

      I’m not even sure why this ‘millennial’ age group even bothers with marriage, because it seems to actually mean less than nothing to them. I think it’s mostly parents pressuring them into it. That and the kids sure complicate things when they decide to split tho.

  • Rob83 April 12, 2017 at 11:22 am

    I for one am jealous when I see a happy older married couple. From my experience, my marriages have been torn away from me because my partner can’t handle that I am over weight. I wrote a Facebook message asking the person to stay away from my partner because we were still working things out and they ignored me, that’s just so disrespectful, they has been seeing each other for a few weeks and the person said they were too involved! If anything I wish people would have the decency to say “hey if you’re married I’m not dating you!” Atleast wait until the divorce actual happens. Divorces can be very ugly, especially if there are kids involved, I don’t have to really even state that, it’s a “duh” moment. Here’s where I am at peace with it all for the most part. The cheater in the marriage usually messes up the next relationship as well. Well good! Grow up and learn what commitment actually means, selfish greedy people. ..

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