Carolyn Hax: Dad wonders if his counsel on cohabiting is worth a potential rift

Carolyn Hax
Columnist August 7, 2013

Dear Carolyn:

I guess I’m old school, because my 23-year-old daughter has moved in with her boyfriend, and I have concerns about almost everything. On one hand, I know she is an adult and, even though I think it is morally wrong for two people to have sex before marriage, I will need to accept her choice. On the other hand, I know problems could arise no matter how much they think everything will be all right.

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

She knows my basic feelings, and since she now lives over 4,000 miles away, things can be a bit tricky when we discuss her new living situation. My question is whether I should warn her about the legal issues. She might take it the wrong way. I did find a nice Web site that covers the issues pretty well. Would it be better for me to send it to her without letting her know about it first; ask her if she wants to see it, then send it only if she agrees; or back off?

Hawaii Dad

That depends.


(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)

“Problems could arise no matter how much they think everything will be all right.” This is true of cohabiting, yes.

It’s also true of getting married, having children, driving a car, riding in a car, being exposed to the sun, having a job, not having a job, crossing the street, eating food or taking a shower.

If you believed your daughter wasn’t taking an adult approach to these other risks, then how would you respond — would you suggest Web sites that discuss reasonable precautions she can take? Would you decide the potential benefit to her outweighed the possible cost to your relationship for appearing meddlesome? Possibly most important: What’s the precedent? Have you typically sent her articles explaining, say, the increasing severity of the weather in her part of the country, or new research linking a favorite food of hers to cancer? If so, then, sure, send her the link to that Web site. Asking whether she wants it would be a respectful touch.

But if you are moved to send cautionary links only when your daughter makes decisions that don’t align with your values, then expect her to interpret — or recognize? — your motive as an attempt to control, not protect, and back off.

Hi, Carolyn:

My wife and I were married a little over three years ago, and now several of her family members are getting married.

In terms of gifts, my thought is, because I am the only one working, we are not giving any more than we received from each party. Her thought is that we should give a better-sounding amount. Any thoughts?

D.

My suspicion is that you’re nursing a grudge over the amount you received from “each party.”

My thought is that basing a gift on such a grudge — or, even if you’re not chapped by it, in any way reflecting in your gift the apparently worse-sounding amount they gave you — is petty.

Give what you think is right within the limits of what you can afford. When it comes to gifts, weddings and family members, try this as your new mantra: Count blessings, not beans.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Sign up for Carolyn Hax’s column, delivered to your inbox early each morning, at http://bit.ly/haxpost.

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