Carolyn Hax: Advice

Dad upset daughter is sowing oats

Carolyn Hax
Carolyn Hax

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: Daughter, 25, with a Master’s degree and a minor in snark, seems to be dissolving into a life overseas (France) that is centered on guy-security. Her past relationships approximate serial monogamy a la one year with Charlie, two months off; six months with George, one month off; eight months with Freddie, one month off. And the most recent: 10 months with “Andy-but-I-swear-we’re-just-friends-Dad.” She takes small jobs to stay food/rent/beer solvent, and insists she wants to live permanently in Europe.

My worry is that she isn’t seeing the long view, and that each new guy is an emotional crutch, helping her defer a future. Should I bug out? Should I ask her to defend her choices?

Confounded Dad

Bug out. She’s 25, self-supporting and hasn’t asked your opinion.

And what would you say that wouldn’t just be some version of, “You’re messing up your life, and I can see that better than you can”?

And what defensive person (see “snark”) ever heard the above from a parent and responded with, “You’re right, thanks for being smarter about me than I am”?

Furthermore …

With a little squinting, what I see is a young adult who is navigating foreign countries and living the heck out of her youth. How is that not awesome, even with some mistakes? Speaking only for me and only for the sake of argument, I was in a steady job at that age and engaged, and didn’t know myself well enough yet to be any darn good at either. Maybe some people even tried to wake me up. But it was my life and it needed to run its course.

So what matters isn’t where she is but where it all takes her – and, again, where she is (solvent, Europe, a Man for Each Season) isn’t close to certain doom. It’s merely a set of wide open questions that are hers to answer at her leisure.

Re: Worried: I assume she’s not asking for handouts from you, and as long as she’s taking care of herself and safe about it, let her live her life. I would have loved an opportunity to live in Europe when I was that age. Just love and support her, and only offer your opinion/advice when asked.

Anonymous

I agree, with the caveat that Dad’s reach is still limited if she’s being unsafe. Self-supporting adults aren’t obliged to run their lives in a way that helps their parents sleep at night. It would be thoughtful of them, perhaps, but it’s not their job.

Re: Worried: If Dad is unable or unwilling to be her safety net if/when Daughter’s adventures in Europe come to a close, he should just say so. I see many people trying to control others’ behavior because they’re afraid of having to pick up the pieces, when really they just need better boundaries to let their adult kids deal with the consequences of their choices.

And, Daughter has a minor in snark? Buddy, she was home-schooled in that.

Anonymous 2

Excellent point on the consequences, thanks.

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