Dear Carolyn: My daughter is 31, a college grad with a career she loves. And she lives with her boyfriend she met in college. Problem: She works, he does not! The majority of the time they have been together, he has not had a job. All of the financial responsibility is on her.
In the past she did complain to me or her sister about money — the lack of it. She has had much help from grandparents: college money, a car (that she wrecked within a year), and more money from my parents. She seems to take this help for granted.
I and others point out that if her boyfriend would just get a job, her financial life would improve! She’s been renting a not-so-nice house for over six years now.
But, she always defends him: “He has no car” (he could ride a bike or get an evening job); “he will have to pay back his student loans” (so do you); “there are NO jobs” (yes there are – servers, sales, etc.).
Please tell me why oh why my smart, college-educated daughter is allowing this to go on. I can’t change it, but it does upset me. As parents we want so much more for our children; this is not the life I hoped she would have.
It may be irrelevant, but nobody in the family and none of her old friends likes him. He’s a know-it-all, lazy and is obviously using her.
Why does she continue to live this way?
She gets something out of it, that’s why. What, I don’t know – it could be anything from his being a bad habit of hers, to his enabling some other bad habit that she doesn’t want to kick, to her having a defiant streak that he satisfies by being inappropriate enough to tick all of you off. Death and taxes notwithstanding, adults with the means to do what they want tend to do what they want. Ergo smoking, credit card debt and blowing off Dad on his birthday.
What this means for you is as grim as you already know. You can’t harangue her out of this relationship, and even if you could, whatever underlying problem of hers that led her to this choice would lead her to the next inappropriate guy, possibly one even worse. You also can’t cut off her money supply, since that’s between your daughter and your parents. You can suggest it, but see “next inappropriate guy,” above.
You can try to see his strengths, certainly: Is he kind to her, does his presence allow her to invest more deeply in her career than if she were on her own, is she in a good place in all ways besides the financial? And/or you can try to see any weaknesses in your opposition. For example: If this were a son, and if your son had a girlfriend to whom your chief opposition was his having to support her, would that opposition be so fierce?
You can also note that her making excuses for him is an abuse flag (http://bit.ly/1nctWHy) and stay as close to your daughter as she’ll let you. Loving, respectful connections strengthen us – and only her strength ultimately can save her. From any poor choice, not just the one you fear here.
Email Carolyn at email@example.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.