QUESTION: My daughter has been going out with the same man for six years.
I feel he's sponging off her because he hardly contributes to the expenses of her flat and does very little work. But because he's amusing and good looking he gets away with it.
She keeps hoping that he'll ask her to marry him and she wants children, but he keeps saying he's not ready - he's 30 and she's 34.
I fear he's one of nature's “boys” and it's only a matter of time until he finds someone to mother to him and he'll leave my daughter high and dry. Should I interfere?
ANSWER: What do you want to achieve by such “interfering”, as you say? Do you honestly think that anything you do or say will make her reconsider this bloke or change her mind about how she feels about him?
Your daughter's an adult so you can't legally force her out of this man's clutches. But do you really imagine that if you told her how you felt, your daughter would say: “Ah, thanks for revealing those wise thoughts to me, Mom. I shall now drop this sponge like a stone.” (If that's not too much of a mixed metaphor!)
Or do you feel that by saying something now, at least when your daughter had been bled dry by this chap and left just at the age she's too old to have a baby, you will enjoy saying: “I told you so”?
You're labouring under the delusion that anything you say will have any effect - except, of course, to make your daughter feel extremely uncomfortable. Indeed, it could possibly end up making you feel the same if this ne'er-do-well actually - and you never know - gets her pregnant and turns out to be a loving and responsible father and partner.
Can you cast your mind back to when you were your daughter's age? I bet you hung out with some unsuitable blokes. Would your mother tut-tutting on the sidelines have made a blind bit of difference? No.
I think the only thing that you could say is something so vague as to be totally ineffective - along the lines of “I know he's charming and fun, but I do hope he won't hurt you in the end. I do wish he'd get some work”. And I bet she knows that already.
Sometimes people want to interfere, as you say, because they feel so strongly they can't bear their feelings bubbling up inside them without letting them out. Well, let them out by all means - to your friends, relations and even strangers on a bus. But letting them out to your daughter, using phrases like him being one of “nature's boys” or “sponging” off her won't help her. They'll just make her feel that you're not on her side. Speaking your mind will only make you feel better temporarily, and make your daughter feel worse. Is this what you want?
Your daughter's no fool. I imagine every night she tosses and turns and wonders if her boyfriend will ever get his act together. She knows your fears because they're her fears, too. Let her work it out for herself and reassure her that, whatever her decision. you'll be on her side. She's old enough to live her life and make her own mistakes. And as the mother of an adult, you just have to sit on your hands and watch her life unfold, painful as it can often be.