Dear Neil: Please tell me what’s wrong with my 38-year-old daughter. She’s very attractive, physically fit, ambitious and has many interests. She’s financially secure, independent, doesn’t smoke or drink, and has no criminal or psychiatric history. The problem? She never dates.
She’s had only two several-month relationships that I know of: when she was twenty-five and thirty. She spends every weekend evening, plus several week nights with us, her parents. If I mention the topic of dating to her, she flares up and won’t talk about it.
I know she’s not gay, because she doesn’t even have any female friends. All she does is work, read, exercise and participate in sports. She’s never been sexually abused. If you saw her dressed up for business, you’d never know she doesn’t date. What do you think is going on?
Dear Baffled Parent: Here are the three most likely possibilities. First, your daughter may be avoiding an intimate relationship because she’s fearful of being hurt or rejected.
This would likely have been caused by her being badly rejected in one of her previous relationships which she has not yet recovered from, and perhaps has actively decided to not recover from.
Second, she may have such low self-esteem she assumes that no one would have her. If this were the case, it would also show up in a variety of other areas in her life.
Third, she may not know how to get close to and bond with other people. This would have most likely been caused by inadequate, unreliable or painful bonding with her parents when she was a child. You say she wasn’t sexually abused. Could she have been physically or emotionally abused? Did she feel loved? Was she betrayed by someone she trusted?
This really is your daughter’s problem, because you can’t do anything to make her different. You could offer to pay for her to see a psychotherapist, who hopefully would be able to assist her in understanding why she has adopted this attitude, and whether it’s in her best interest to maintain it.
Dear Neil: My boyfriend of two years has single-handedly raised his son and daughter, now eight and eleven, since his divorce five years ago. He and I have a very fulfilling relationship. We are in our late 30’s, and would like to marry.
It’s become painfully obvious, however, that he and I are on opposite ends of the child-rearing spectrum. I have quite conservative values, where his parenting style is permissive and laid-back.
He maintains that he should raise his children as he sees fit, and I can’t seem to keep my opinions to myself. Consequently, we fear that co-habitation would lead to constant conflict over his kid’s behavior.
We’ve come up with a rather unorthodox solution on which we’d like your opinion. If I purchased a house nearby, and we maintained separate households, I’d have the order and peace I crave, while he’ll be free to parent without my interference. Has this been done? If so, with what degree of success?
Dear Ellen: This is a question concerning your goals. Would you be okay with this arrangement? You’re talking about being committed to each other for a long period of time without living together. Might you grow resentful of the time and energy his that children would take away from you?
If you’d be okay with it, it’s a very workable plan.