The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Carolyn Hax: Parent has ‘grave misgivings’ about daughter’s polyamorous marriage

(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)

Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: Our only child, a daughter in her early 40s, married, with two young children, recently told us she had a polyamorous marriage. She hinted about it frequently for a year and then I asked her directly. The issue seems to have now completely dictated a shallow level of communication between us. She sent me a bunch of articles to read about the wonders of polyamory.

I know it’s none of my business how they conduct their marriage, but grave misgivings fill my head and heart. She is very sensitive to anything that feels like criticism and always has been thin-skinned. The children are pre-hormone so I assume this is going undetected on their level. She has told me I need to practice acceptance.

I am concerned about the future. We do whatever we can to love and support the grandchildren, but I don’t know how to navigate the future with the knowledge I have. My moral compass says this isn’t right and I see it as attention-seeking and flawed, which I am probably telegraphing indirectly. Like I said, communication has become very surface-level. Do you have a direction for me?

— Concerned

Concerned: You treat her as your daughter. Which means, override your impulse to judge her and navigate the future by the usual standards. Care about her, trust her to manage her own life, and don’t offer advice unless asked.

If it helps, I will take your key sentence and reverse it: I know grave misgivings fill your head and heart, but it’s none of your business.

She is wrong on one point for sure; you don’t “need” to accept anything, any more than she “needs” to conduct her marriage to your standards.

But if you feel your behavior has to be in service of your moral compass, then frame it this way: IF your concerns for the future are founded, then your maintaining a solid relationship with your daughter and her children will be of utmost importance.

And the path to a solid relationship with your daughter is, all together now: to care about her, trust her to manage her own life, and not offer advice unless asked. I.e., wipe the judgy off the face.

Hi Carolyn! Is there a non-hurtful way to explain why I “unfriended” someone on Facebook? We have almost nothing in common anymore. Our friendship — formed when our kids were in school — has run its course. It seems these folks and I hold different world/political views. We used to be close, but a lot has changed, and I’ve had life events I kept off Facebook that they know nothing about.

I know it’s a slim possibility, but they have a bully-ish vibe and I can see them questioning me. I’m stumped on a graceful answer, especially considering I will probably see them often. We’re neighbors and have mutual friends.

— Unfriend

Unfriend: I’m not even sure how to answer this, because I just can’t see someone you already don’t interact with much even noticing they’ve been unfriended, and getting exercised over it, and actually saying something about it. This can be hard even to notice when the algorithms already make some people disappear for their own reasons.

But, okay: “Oh, I just streamline my list when I don't hear from people. No harm intended.”

Re: Unfriending: Hide them or put on some filters.

— Anonymous

Anonymous: For next time, yes.