Reader Question: I Hate My Daughter’s Boyfriend!

Reader Question of the Week
“I hate my daughter’s boyfriend.” That’s a tough situation to be in. And that’s our Reader Question this week! Every Monday I like to put up a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it. Here’s this week’s from a woman who is not pleased with who her daughter is dating:

I am concerned about my daughter’s current boyfriend. It seems to me and my son that he doesn’t respect my daughter and he is getting her involved with odd things – role-playing games, songs with bad lyrics, etc. She is 18, so I have limited power, but any advice would be great. Her dad doesn’t really see it, but he is gone a lot for work.

This is a difficult one, isn’t it? Personally, I’m really blessed, because I love my daughter’s boyfriend, but I’ve often thought about what I would do if one of my daughters decided to date someone I didn’t approve of.

And the truth is that once they’re a certain age there really isn’t a whole lot you can do. You can’t forbid them; they’re an adult. Nevertheless, you do have influence, so here are some thoughts I have on how to tackle this problem.

I hate my daughter's boyfriend! Handling a relationship you disapprove of.

Keep Your Daughter’s Boyfriend Close

You know the saying, “keep your friends close, and your enemies closer?” I think this applies doubly for a situation like this!

Here’s the thing: if you tell your daughter that he is an awful person, and you tell her that you don’t like him, what’s she going to do? She’ll hang out with him anyway, but she’ll do it away from you! You’ll end up driving her away from the family.

Teenage love is a strange thing. People feel all these intense things, and believe that this is real love, and we’re alone in the world, and no one else understands us. Pretty much all teenage couples feel this way to some extent. Add in a slightly controlling or “dangerous” boyfriend, and you’ve already got those feelings doubled.

Then, if you start reinforcing this by telling her how awful her boyfriend is, she’ll take that as a sign that this is true love, and that only her boyfriend does understand her.

Instead, have him over a lot. Engage him in conversation. Ask him to help with things around the house, like fixing some plumbing or changing the oil on your car or something. Treat him like he’s part of the family.

Won’t this tell your daughter that you like him? Not necessarily, especially if you follow the next few steps. But what it will do is show your daughter how he sticks out like a sore thumb. If he is really different from your family, and your daughter is comfortable in the family, and then she finds that he just doesn’t fit, it could easily make him look more pathetic. If she only spends time with him away from the family, he can look better than he really is.

Here’s another benefit: even if you don’t like this boy for your daughter, he is a child of God. And right now, you have influence over him. I can think of two moms that I know who didn’t like their sons’ girlfriends. But they embraced those girls, they mentored those girls, they interacted with them on Facebook and tried to make them feel like they were valued, and when those destructive relationships did end, those girls had seen what Jesus’ love looks like.

If you bring that boy into the fold, you’re not blessing the relationship. You’re simply exerting influence, and showing your daughter that you trust that she will eventually make the right decision. And then you’ll know more what’s going on in their relationship, because they’re living it under your eyes.

Ask Your Daughter What She Wants in a Relationship

Talk to your daughter about the future. Where does she want to be in five years? In ten years? What kind of job does she want? How does she picture herself living? Does she want children? Then ask her in the abstract: what kind of man would make a good father? What are your non-negotiables for a husband? Eventually you may ask her how she sees her boyfriend fitting into this.

The main point: Don’t volunteer your own opinion. Simply keep asking questions. It’s better for her to come to the conclusion herself about whether he’s marriage material than for you to tell her repeatedly.

Share Your Specific Concerns to Your Daughter about her Boyfriend

In this case, the mom is worried about the role playing games and the songs she’s listening to. Again, start with questions. “What do you think of that song?” Share with her that this isn’t a song that you thought that she would like. And ask her, “have things changed? Do you feel differently now?”

If she no longer feels the same convictions that you do, you can’t make her suddenly have those convictions. But you can make her confront her own hypocrisy. Ask her, “how does this connect with your faith?” If she can’t answer it, then at least she can start to see that her faith may be weak. You can’t have a real God experience without realizing that you truly need Him and you’ve messed up. It’s totally okay to help her see that.

One word of warning, though: It could be that she does still love God, but she’s going to express it in different ways than you would. I know some teenagers, for instance, who the parents have told me have “rebelled” and have “turned their backs on God.” However, from my perspective they haven’t done that at all. They’ve gotten tattoos, and they’ve got different views of some social and political issues, and they’ve started going to different churches. But they still love God, they’re still in ministry, and they still pray and identify as Christians. They just do it in a different way from their parents.

I’m not saying that’s what happening here; I’m just saying that sometimes we react to what we perceive is a child leaving the faith, when really they’re choosing to express faith in a new way. I know that’s hard, because it means that your child is rejecting your family culture. But please, in those times, remember that God is bigger than your family culture, and see the faith that is still in your child. Approve of it. Bless it as he or she goes on a different journey, and don’t make him or her feel guilty for choosing something other than what you would do, as long as the essentials of the faith (say, the Apostle’s Creed, for instance) are still there.

What if the Relationship is Dangerous?

But what if it’s not a question of just disapproving of the guy, but a question of the relationship honestly being dangerous? Maybe she’s at risk of pregnancy because you’ve found that your daughter is sleeping with her boyfriend, or you fear he’s violent or controlling. That doesn’t look like the case for our letter writer, but some of you may be facing a more dire situation. Here are some thoughts in that case:

Do Not Let Your Daughter Sleep with Her Boyfriend in Your House

When You Discover Your Daughter is Having Sex
If your daughter is going to sleep with her boyfriend, she’s going to do it somewhere. Either your house, his house, a friend’s house, or the car. Those really are the only options.

You can make sure she doesn’t do it at your house by not letting them in the house alone, and by never letting them be in a room with the door completely closed.

If he still lives with his parents, you can talk to those parents and ask that they not leave the two of them alone, though you have no guarantee that the parents will follow this advice.

If the car is an issue, you can stop letting her borrow your car.

Here’s a more detailed post on this issue:

What to do if you discover your daughter is having sex

Give Her a Taste of Reality

The quickest way to end a fantasy is with a little dose of reality. If your daughter is completely rebelling, and is involved with someone that you know is bad for her, and is openly sleeping with him or doing drugs/alcohol, etc., then sometimes the best thing to do is to issue a bit of tough love. Tell her that she cannot do these things while living in your house, and tell her that if she is going to make these choices, then she will have to support herself.

Will this be hard? Absolutely, and this is really only for the worst case scenarios. But sometimes a person needs to go through a year or two of horror to come back and realize that’s not the way she wants to live her life.

Maybe it’s not to that level, though. Let’s say your daughter is involved with a slightly older guy that has kids with another woman, and he has to pay child support. Have her make up a budget. Have her figure out how much money will actually be left over if her boyfriend pays the full child support. Have her talk to one of your friends who is always in court battling her ex about money or access (you likely have at least one friend that does this; I have several!). Let her see how hard life will be.

If Necessary, Call the Police

If you suspect your daughter is being physically or sexually abused, call the police. Will it make her mad? You betcha. But it’s difficult for the authorites to prosecute unless they have a paper trail showing a pattern. And it could be that this guy has already been charged with domestic violence with other women. Violence is violence; don’t keep it in the family.

Remember that She is in God’s Hands

Finally, and this is the hardest part, remember that she is in God’s hands. You’ve done all you can; you’ve raised her for eighteen years or so, and you’ve instilled all the values in her that you can. Now it’s time for her to make her own decisions–even if you don’t like those decisions.

So pray hard, and lean on God, and learn to trust Him. He really does love your child, and He will protect her wherever she goes. Sometimes it takes a few years in the wilderness for her to figure out what she wants. Those are going to be tough years for you. But God can carry her, and He can carry you, too.

Now’s the time to learn to trust. It’s not an easy lesson, but it’s an important one. And He will be enough for you.

Now I’d love to hear from you: has your child ever dated someone you didn’t approve of? How did you handle it? Or if you ever dated someone your parents didn’t like, what made you eventually see the light? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

Comments

  1. Larissa says:

    One point I would add is that there is a difference between a bad influence and the person just having different interests than you. In this case, she mentions role playing games. these in themselves are not bad. They are just considered strange by “normal” people.

    I learned this with my sister. She is now married to a guy who is completely different than everybody in our family. While there are things about him that have been a negative impact on her, a lot of the things about him that made us initially feel turned off of him were his interests and that they were strange to us. he could change his tune and keep his interests and he would be completely “acceptable” as a Christian and family member.

    • Great point, Larissa! Thank you. And I totally agree. Sometimes it’s just that they’re different, not bad.

  2. I agree with Larissa – I think Sheila did a good job of answering this question in a general sense that covers all possibilities, but the concern about role playing games is misplaced. RPGs are nothing more than a cross between a video game without screens and a choose your own adventure novel of sorts. Some people take them to a weird place but there are always those with every community (look at the extreme Harry Potter fans for instance).

    I think this ties into a larger theme of nerd hobbies being socially unacceptable, and even more unacceptable in the Christian community. For example, I’m a longtime World of Warcraft player but I would never dare mention that in any group bible study ever. I will get lectured about wasting time and bad influences, but then the same exact people will turn around and be like, “hey did you watch Mad Men last night?”. WoW is actually much much cleaner than most TV, part of the reason I play it. I think that Christians need to take a step back and rethink their dislike of nerd hobbies.

    • Butterflywings says:

      Totally agree! Most of the best people I know are into RPGs. My husband’s great friends, my great friends. Most are christians, all are caring, upstanding citizens. It’s not really my thing, but I started playing with my husband and his friends and my sister’s friends when we go back to our hometown because it’s a great way to catch up and have fun. It’s better than the mindless gossip (at best) and drunken idiocy (at worst) that goes on at most non nerd parties I’ve been to.

      Perhaps the problem isn’t the boyfriend but the views of society that nerds/geeks are somehow deviant for being different.

    • Elizabeth says:

      I agree 100%! I’m not super interested in most “nerd hobbies” but they do get a bad rap. A lot of the video games and card games out there are fine — it’s all what you do with them. Anything can become a crutch or soak up all of someone’s time. That doesn’t make the thing inherently bad.

      I’ve never understood RPGs (tried it, didn’t get it then, don’t get it now) but there are a lot of benefits to playing them. You get to work on a large project with people (teamwork), and you get to be pretty creative! If you’re doing a written one, then your writing skills get a workout (or should… unfortunately, the internet can be a cesspool of ignorance). Same with video games… you can choose the stupid ones OR you can choose the good ones.

      Also, apparently people aren’t allowed to like math/science these days, either. My husband is a TOTAL nerd that way (example… he spent yesterday morning figuring out what shape has the most area within given parameters… in his head) and he’s always super excited when he finds another one like him. :) But it’s not like you can just come up to someone and say “So, I was trying to prove a formula…” You get a lot of weird looks (and sometimes ignorant lectures about why math is stupid, and shouldn’t you be more worried about providing for your family with actual SKILLS?). So irritating.

      • Same here – RPGs aren’t really my thing either (too boring) but part of what draws me to nerd culture is the good clean stimulating fun aspect of it. I think part of the social unacceptability is just being in the minority. For example, a few weeks ago a relative of mine was posting stuff on Facebook like, “Can you believe Friends went off the air 10 years ago? Oh the memories! I miss Ross and Rachel so much!” and she’s considered a fine upstanding pillar of the Christian community. I can’t stand Friends and can’t imagine being that emotionally attached to TV but I’m sure she would find my cabinet full of German board games equally weird. There are more of her in the world than there are of me, so she is considered ‘normal’ and I’m not.

        Although if the world were full of puzzle/game/lego enthusiasts, I’m sure the emotional TV watchers would look very out of place.

    • Definitely! The majority of my friends are Christians, and a bunch of us are also really big geeks. Myself included. My husband and I end up getting together with a group of good friends a couple of times a year for a weekend of board gaming, and RPG-based games are often on the table. (No pun intended.) Most of the inside jokes I share with my best friend are centered around various “fandoms”. We’re actually preparing for a girls’ weekend going to our first sci-fi convention. And one of the ways I realized that my husband was a great match for me was his willingness to embrace a lot of this– he’ll never like Lord of the Rings or Doctor Who as much as I do, for instance, but we still have a lot of fun watching the movies and the show together. And we love playing board games together. Honestly, I get kind of irritated with people that automatically assume that something is “bad” just because the main characters happen to be wizards or some other fantasy creature, and miss the bigger themes of the story. And, for me at least, I’ve found that the people who like these things in even small doses are more creative and generally more fun!
      Becky recently posted…overwhelmedMy Profile

    • Christine C. says:

      I’d also like to chime in and say that role-playing games are a great way for a couple to have fun together and get to know each other (how does a partner react to in-game stress? How does he/she work in groups?) Maybe the mom can invite the daughter’s boyfriend to a game night at their house? That way she could join in their hobby and be around to supervise them at the same time.

  3. Sheila, love your advice about integrating the questionable boyfriend into the family. YES! Especially if she’s still close to her family, she can see how he does or doesn’t fit in. Is he polite and respectful to her family? Does he pitch in and help, or expect to be waited on? Does he enjoy anything outside of his own interests? What about her interests? I’d be very curious what KIND of role playing games he’s into and how much time he devotes to that.. Sure, they can just be an off-beat hobby, but I’d be curious if he’s kind of a Peter Pan (adultescent, whatever you want to call it). Is he functioning as an adult and those are his hobbies, or is his life all about his hobbies. Is he employed? Self-supporting? And you find out all of that by spending time with him. And hey! the more they’re with you, they more they’re chaperoned ;D

    Julie
    julie recently posted…Grasshopper DaysMy Profile

    • I’d agree those are much more important questions that his particular hobbies.

      I’d also ask, how’s his walk with God? Is he attending and actively involved in church?

      She brings up rolee-playing games and the music, but as has been mentioned that’s more because it’s considered socially unacceptable to have those hobbies, but I’ve seen just as many, if not more “grown” men who had a problem with sports and ignoring their wife and family because a baseball game was on.
      Ticia recently posted…Austin Aquarium Field TripMy Profile

  4. Great points here, everyone! As someone who married a nerd, I completely agree about nerd culture being seen as somehow aberrant (and we have a whole closet filled with German board games, too).

    And I’d agree that many marriages are wrecked over more “innocent” things like sports, etc.

    The key thing is seeing the heart. Like I said in the post, often we assume that all of our own cultural pinnings to Christianity are an essential part, when really they’re not. Just because someone isn’t like you doesn’t mean they’re not following God.

  5. I have a few years before this could be an issue in my home. But a lot of the advice is good for “my kid has a friend I don’t quite approve of”, too. Not a friend I feel the need to completely ban contact with (and I’m not sure that would work anyway) but one I want to keep a close eye on and be extra-aware of what the two of them are up to.

    I had to look up German board games, because I’d never heard of them. But most of the ones listed as examples are, in fact, on the shelf downstairs where we keep games.
    There wouldn’t be space in the living room, what with the pet cages and the spinning wheel and things.
    So maybe we’re nerds and didn’t even know it…. :)

  6. Ilka W. J. says:

    Ok, sorry, I know that I am probably majoring on a minor here, but I stopped (briefly!) at, ” even if you don’t like this boy for your daughter, he is a child of God”. But then, he just might well not be, and that’s part of the problem? Or do we just have different definitions – as in, my understanding is that, while we all are _created by God_, a _child of God_ has made a decision to follow Christ and knows Him as his or her Savior, and others may call any human being a child of God?

    • Ilka, that caught on my radar too. I don’t believe that everyone is a child of God, but all are made in His image, and I think that’s the point Sheila was making. We ought to treat these sometimes-hard-to-love people as God’s creation. I was assuming (maybe too much?) from the letter that the boyfriend was not a believer, and that was the root of the mother’s concern.

      Julie
      julie recently posted…Mothers Day HappenedMy Profile

  7. Ilka W. J. says:

    Adding to say that I’m totally tucking this away (LOVE Pinterest!!) for future use. My oldest is almost eight… ;-)

  8. My daughter is involved with a young man of another colour. Having being brought up to believe that mixed relationships/marriages are taboo, my husband and I are finding it very difficult to accept. My husband has almost rejected our daughter. Before she went into the relationship, he begged her not to and she promised him she would not, only to confront us a few weeks later to say that she had to give the relationship a chance. It is very hard for me too, but I love my daughter and am not prepared to lose her. My husband also loves her but will not/can not accept the relationship and also feels she betrayed him by breaking her promise to him. My daughter lives at home with us. Relations in our home are very strained and I am in the middle. I feel as you do, that we should accept this young man, invite him into our home and get to know him. My husband refuses to allow this. This has been going on for nine months. My husband refuses to stand down and I am stuck in the middle.

    • Jayne, I’m a little unsure how to answer this. I understand that many people think mixed race marriages are wrong, but there is absolutely no biblical basis for that. In fact, the Bible says the exact opposite. In Christ there is no Jew nor Greek. Race doesn’t matter. What does matter is belief. It’s infinitely better to marry a Christian of a different race than to marry someone who doesn’t believe of the same race. It is Christ that matters.

      If your husband is a Christian, then he needs to be confronted on his sin of being racist and of judging this man and this relationship unfairly. I know that it can be culturally ingrained, and that is hard to stop, but a sin is a sin, and racism is simply wrong.

      If you do not want to lose your daughter, I would tell your husband very clearly, “I love you and respect you, but what you are doing is wrong and is contrary to God’s principles. I will not lose my daughter over this, and I will not see Jesus maligned by you refusing to welcome someone good into our home. You are free to stay in the bedroom when he comes over for dinner, but if you fight with our daughter over this, we will simply go and hang out elsewhere, leaving you alone, since that is what you are choosing. You will miss out on your daughter and your grandchildren, and I will enjoy having a relationship with them.”

      Your husband doesn’t need to have a relationship with her and her boyfriend, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t. And we are to stand up to sin and confront it; your husband is clearly sinning, and this should not be tolerated, whether it’s his culture or not.

      If the boy is not a Christian, that’s an entirely different story.

      I’m sorry you’re in the middle, and I would definitely try to love your husband and have a good time with him doing other things, but I would make it clear that you will not tolerate his exclusion of the boy, or his attitude towards him.

      I hope that helps!

      • Jenn T. says:

        Thank you so much, Sheila, for speaking out against the ugly sin of racism. As the mother of a son who was adopted from another culture/race, I am so saddened, hurt and sickened that this attitude exists today, but to know that it exists within the Body of Christ is absolutely heartbreaking. Thank you, thank you for not staying silent!

  9. My
    Daughter has been a devoted and dedicated Christian for 4 years and has been a great influence to many of her friends who were not Christians and who now are. She professed her belief that she didn’t want to just date a guy just to be dating and that she wanted to only date guys with a heart for God and those who were seriously looking for a wife. She told multiple, suitors that this is her belief before she really gave them the time of day. She had this utopia that the perfect wise and God loving man would just show up and put a ring on her finger.
    My son had a great deal of influence over her in this area because, after a few years of drug abuse and being lost he came out of that with a heart for God but also an attitude that he was wise and wanted her to follow in his footsteps for finding a husband.
    He married a Christian having only known her for 6 months and truly only dated her long enough to know what was on the surface. Under the advice from his pastor, he was guided to note date any women until it was the girl he would marry. He was sat down in front of his pastor and asked are you prepared to marry this girl right now and if not you need to not date her.
    Well under this advice the proposal, and marriage happened within a 3 month period.
    My son wanted the same thing to happen for his little sister and convinced her that this was the only wise path to take even to the point t of meeting with her last boyfriend a year ago and putting him on the spot with the same question his pastor asked him “are you prepared to marry my sister today and if not you need to stop dating her.
    Fast forward 2 years and my son is in tears telling my daughter to not do what he did because his wife had not had a sober day in over a year. We didn’t know of his wife’s drinking problem until then and suddenly he tells my daughter to not follow his advise and make sure she gives a relationship time to really know the person before marrying them no matter if the man professes to be a Christian or not.

    In other words, his influence and talk of his choice being the wise path to take was suddenly shattered. She now sees the real struggles he is facing and has decided that her utopia of the perfect marriage was just a lie.
    Now my daughter comes to me and says she feels like she has been a devoted Christian to please others and that her heart was not truly on fire for God. She is questioning everything she has held a firm position about since learning about her brothers not so wise and perfect marriage.

    Apparently I found the truth of her recent battle within it is not so much that she does not believe in God but that she is torn because she is now dating a guy who she knows would not fit the profile of what she thinks we would approve of. She is also contemplating a tattoo. I know she has lived for 4 years trying to be the perfect daughter and developing a personal relation ship with Him but trying to live up to the expectations s of her brother and her Christian friends and is tired of pretending
    that she is “all in” with her heart and soul for God.

    I think this change in her is a partial rebellion caused by her shattered believe in her brothers “all wise and knowing” prideful influence over her.
    This new guy is of another culture and does not fit the blueprint of someone she would normally Consider as a suitable match. She knows she will mostly likely be challenged by the fact that she will not get approval in her choice to date this guy
    This new love interest might be her rebellion against trying to please everyone for so long.

    My husband and I have told her that everyone questions the validity of their faith sometimes when things are going well. I told her that she has not experienced anything truly devastating and has not been brought to her knees by any
    thing really in her life but when it happens, I promise that Jesus will be who she turns to again because he will not stop pursuing her or abandon her no matter how confused or how much she questions her faith in Him.

    We have told her that we love her unconditionally and do not expect perfection. We told her it is OK and enviable that she will make mistakes. We have told her we will never leave her side no matter what and that Jesus will never leave her as well. She is questioning in the validity of Christianity and leaning about the history of other religions.

    Being completely honest, it is going to be very hard to walk the talk and follow the way of Jesus not to judge and offer grace to this new boyfriend because of our own pride and prejudice about his culture. We have in all honestly put her on a pedestal as the perfect daughter and that is really our mistake. As she makes these choices, how do we really show her that we love and trust her adult choices and let her fall off the pedestal we have put her on?

    How will we handle the comments and judgements from our family about her choices when they have also put her on a pedestal!

    • Wow – I have the same questions – I am a mother of 4 (21,20,19 and 17). A year ago in July our 20 year old daughter and her boyfriend of almost 2 years were being pushed to marry so they do not sin sexually. He asked for our blessing (and we liked him but not the idea of marriage while they were both still in school) on the Wednesday and was killed in a car crash on the Friday, 2 days later. Our family has struggled since – however, we are all christian and that has really helped us on this journey but it has been very difficult still.
      Since then, our daughter has become involved in a church that seems controlling … we are no longer christian enough for her, every conversation goes wrong and we can’t even communicate –
      In June she was introduced to a man from Brazil who is 29 – he asked for permission to date her and we said yeas but to go slow as she has not fully grieved her loss(not a year yet). He tok her to meet his family on the first date and after 2-3 weeks of not taking it slow, the word marriage came up. Once again, the church was encouraging marriage rather than to sin sexually. We could not provide scripture to say why she should wait to get to know this guy but they were in a rush to marry in December when he was home from school (goes to Southern Seminary in Kentucky – we live in Canada) so he could take her with him back to school.
      She quit her education and he has convinced her to work while he finishes school. He is $10,000 in debt and our daughter has saved quite a bit more. He says he feels bad that she will have to support him.

      He also says that it is good for them to marry because they cannot control themselves sexually – however, he lives in Kentucky right now. Our daughter has always lived at home – they have never come to our house, always his, they are very isolated and the church people are surrounding them with approval.

      My husband and I are devastated – he asked for our blessing to marry her in December and we said no that we had a few things we wanted them to do first and to wait. He proposed anyway and they at least are waiting until June.

      The mention of his name makes us sick – we never see our daughter as she has moved out to live with a family from her church. I just feel something is not right – we have tried to talk with our daughter but she will have nothing to do with us now. I do not know how I will be able to get through this wedding.

      I am trying to trust God – what a test …

      Any advice or has anyone out there had to deal with this?

      worried mom

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