Dear Amy: I have three great kids. My daughter has always been headstrong and willful. My abusive ex-husband cut off all ties with her from the time she was 15. She is basically a good person. However, she and I do not agree on a lot of subjects, causing our relationship to be strained. She is now 25.
Two years ago, she met and fell in love with a guy 23 years her senior. Two months later, he told her that, although he was born a male, he was also undergoing hormone therapy to transition to female.
My daughter feels that because she fell in love with the “person,” she has no problem with his gender.
I was brought up very conservative. Although inside I feel like screaming at her, I have kept silent.
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I have met him once and he seems to be a nice person. But I am worried about my daughter. How will they have kids? How will my 80-year-old mother and our family and friends react?
Am I wrong to object to my daughter’s choice of a partner, given the age difference and the gender issue? How do I deal with this? Does she need counseling, or do I?
Dear Mom: You are neither right nor wrong to object to your daughter’s choice of partner. However, ask yourself what the use would be of raising your objections to her.
Your headstrong, willful daughter is no doubt expecting that this will rile you, but you cannot live her life or pick her friends or her partner. She either will or won’t have children, and this is also something out of your control. Your 80-year-old mother and your family and friends might freak out, but again their reaction is up to them.
She is an adult. You want her to be happy. If being with this person makes her happy, then her happiness could ease her relationship with you. If she asks your opinion, you should tell her frankly that she faces many more challenges than other people her age, but that you trust her to handle them.
You should definitely give yourself the gift of therapy. A competent and compassionate therapist will encourage and coach you to detach with love.
Dear Amy: I have been married for 16 years to a wonderful man who has an adult daughter from a previous marriage. (He was divorced for 20 years prior to our meeting.) “Cindy,” has often been problematic, self-absorbed and dramatic. We have been fairly successful in coping with this and setting boundaries. She typically talks about herself exclusively and shows no interest in us. We accept that.
Now, her father is going to need surgery. She has already stated that she is going to be at the hospital and will stay with me during that time. She lives about 90 minutes away.
Amy, he doesn’t want her at the hospital, but I realize this is something we are going to have to deal with. I can understand a daughter wanting to be at the hospital when her father has surgery. However, I have very mixed feelings about her “announcing” her plans without asking, and about whether I can tolerate her being at our home.
I want to minimize the stress for my husband. He says he doesn’t want any of this and has to decide “what is the least worst option.” What do you think?
Trying to Cope
Dear Trying: I’m with him. Your stress will add to his. Accept that this will be a tough time for all of you, and do your best to present a calm, accepting and united response, and keep your focus on his needs. Work with his medical team to dial down visits or drama, and to run interference if her presence is too disruptive. Set a departure date for her stay, and be firm about it, without offering extraneous explanations.
Dear Amy: Regarding #MeToo allegations, I agree with you that the onus for bad behavior lies with the perpetrator.
However, parents in our society need to teach daughters at an early age to deal with weird or uncomfortable situations. For example, and I can’t believe it needs to be said, but when someone is doing something you don’t like, stop smiling and practice a forceful voice.
It is not blaming the women; it is giving them life tools.
Using my Voice
Dear Using: For generations, women have been socialized to smile and take it. I agree that we need to teach our daughters differently.
Email Amy at firstname.lastname@example.org.