Q: “Our 18-year-old daughter has been involved with someone for almost three years, and we really don’t approve of him. I know everyone’s child is beautiful, but she is strikingly so. She could have anyone she wants! She’s also academically proficient and has been offered a full-ride scholarship to a well-known institution. The young man she’s seeing is almost 22, obtained his GED last month, has not had a job — ever, sits on the couch and plays video games all day and has anxiety issues. His parents continue to enable his laziness. Anytime he calls, regardless of the hour, our daughter drops what she’s doing and runs to his aid. His dad has now offered her a job with the company he plans to start for his son. We have tried everything to make our daughter realize this man is not a good fit for her. Now she is considering turning down her scholarship because he doesn’t want her to leave the area. Her dad and I feel hopeless. Can you give us any advice on how to redirect her thinking?
Joyce: Love can do more than blind a soul; it often leaves one oblivious and voiceless.
Hindsight is a tough teacher. Your golden opportunity for redirecting your daughter’s attraction to this man was when she was 15 and allowed to date someone who was 19. To a young, impressionable girl, being swept off her feet by a “real man” is a winsome thought. She was not capable of those kinds of decisions at such a tender age.
Now, what to do with this seemingly hopeless situation? Your options are greatly limited since she is “of age” and completely free to make her own choices in life. The obstacles that continue to impede her clear vision are one, if not all, of three things: control, her nurturing nature, and/or her heart for people.
Your daughter has obviously confused love with infatuation. Therefore, a good place to begin is for Dad to date his daughter and have heart-to-heart conversations about the definition of what true love looks like. She’s smart and will catch on to what is happening if he presents the description, so allow her to express what her depiction of that means.
The approach is going to be to join in on her “love” for this man — let’s call him Tim. You have tried everything else, so you must lead her to the trough and let her get a taste of the Kool-Aid.
1) “Honey, you really love Tim. I’ve always loved your caring and attentive heart, and I’m sure Tim does, too. Your mom and I might have been unfair in our assessment of him. We see one side of this picture of love. You see another. Share with me what attracted you to him. What are some of Tim’s best qualities?”
2) “If Tim is going to be a part of your life, then we want to partner up with you to make you two a healthy couple, because a healthy couple is a happy couple. What couple in our circle of friends have you come to admire and why? What qualities do they possess that you feel has made them a successful couple?” Hopefully, she will recognize that there’s give-and-take, no control/manipulation, responsibility is taken in working, and that the two are happy for each other’s success and are not threatened if one outgrows the other. After she’s made her assessment, Dad might have to craftily point out the attributes he admires regarding this couple.
3) “Let me share with you a few of our deepest concerns about Tim. Then, let’s get a plan for how we all can help get him better. Because we want to love him, too.”
4) You and Dad do your homework about the mental and emotional effects of video games. This might not have caused the onset of Tim’s anxiety, but it is definitely adding to it. Suggest that because she loves Tim, she could talk privately to his parents, present the studies, and then everyone can agree to get Tim help in order to wean him off of his “addiction.” (It is exactly that.)
5) After she’s on board with the three of you helping this young man, if she should get any pushback or non-cooperation from Tim or his parents, the light should begin to come on for her — i.e., he’s content to be where he is and she will fight a lifelong battle trying to change him.
There is hope. At least Tim got his GED. The strategy could work and is definitely worth the attempt at restoring your daughter’s 20/20 vision. But remember, it took hindsight to remove your blinders.
Having trouble with a relationship issue? Write Joyce Oglesby, Family Life FIX-IT Pro at firstname.lastname@example.org and find a solution for life. Listen to The Just Ask Joyce Show M-F from 3-5pm on WFIA 94.7fm/900am. It’s where real life and family values connect.