Group Therapy is a relationship advice column that asks readers to contribute their wisdom.
A reader writes: My 26-year-old daughter married her live-in boyfriend last spring. Now he refuses to attend any of my family events with my same-sex partner. Meanwhile, they have had her father and brother over for dinner. My daughter says they have lots of lesbian friends so I don't understand why a grown 42-year-old man would say he hates us. My daughter now refuses to see my partner, who looked after her when she was a teen and has been very generous to her. I've been helping with my daughter's health care. Should I pull back from any support or contact with my daughter and son-in-law?
Keep the door open
You must have a heart-to-heart talk with your daughter. It's important to know whether it's a case of homophobia, or personal dislike or something else. If your daughter refuses to discuss the matter, then you may have to consider curtailing relations. But you must explain why: You deserve to be treated with as much fairness, respect and honesty as she (or her husband) deserves. Continue the financial help. Doubtless you still love your daughter, even though she is treating you shabbily. She may change her mind some day, and you should leave the door open.
Steven Spencer, Toronto
Don't fuel the drama
Sounds like you want to continue to contribute to the drama. Withdraw health care support only if that is truly a weaning plan to help her become independent, but never as a punishment for not behaving as you want. Forget the one-big-happy-family edict: This may be an unrealistic goal with your son-in-law. Strive for a relationship and mutual respect with your daughter, but pull back and let her find her married identity.
Darby Brown, Kitchener, Ont.
You can't barter for love
Here's the simple principle that answers your question. "You cannot demand or trade for love, just give and hope it's returned." So if your "support" is quid pro quo, then go ahead and withdraw it when the exchange rate goes down. If it's because you love her and like seeing her happy, well … keep on giving true love. Worried about disrespecting your partner? Same deal. If she loves you and feels you love your daughter, a great spouse would join in giving love, reciprocated or not. Aim toward this, and you'll be aiming toward gold.
Zaid Sayeed, Toronto
The final word
Since no one else is going to make the observation, I will: Your 26-year-old daughter has married someone 16 years older than her. I have no issues with May-December romance in general (except in the case of Hugh Hefner because - ew - granddaughter territory). No, the reason I point this out is that I remember my own 26th year. It wasn't so different from my 16th in terms of girlish impressionability. Sure, I liked to think of myself as a badass independent woman - I was going for a sort of bookish Liz Phair - but like most postures we adopt in our 20s, it was just that. A pose. In real life I was an out-and-out romantic (ew again), devoted beyond all sense and rationality to my partners, with a loyalty described by friends as "dog-like." (Not meant as a compliment, FYI.)
Your daughter may be an adult but in the grand scheme of things - and particularly with respect to her new husband - she is young. She is the junior partner in her marriage and, psychologically, this has to have an effect. The mid-20s, I might add, are not a period in a woman's life when she particularly esteems the parental presence, or even grasps that it may one day no longer be available to her. In a few years, I honestly believe, she'll look back on the way she's allowed her husband's attitude to nearly sandbag her relationship with you and be appalled. But right now she's in love and wants more than anything (clearly) to make her husband happy.
Furthermore, young people sometimes forget their parents have feelings. The health care issue (my colleagues and I agree) is beside the point - you need to take Steven's advice and tell your daughter you have been hurt by her actions. Don't soft-pedal this. It's not your job to coddle her any more - your only job as a fellow adult is to let her know exactly where you stand. Tell her it feels like she's trying to cut you and your partner out of her life and, if that's the case, you deserve to know why. If the new husband has an issue with middle-aged Sapphic loving, out with it. If he's fine with lesbianism, great - you'll see him at the next parade. But meanwhile: What exactly is his problem?
Next week's question
My husband and I have a very good friend (we've know him for 40-plus years). When he and his wife are with us, he has an annoying habit of blathering on and on, holding us captive while he talks about some boring subject, and doesn't let anyone else get a word in. If we don't find a way to stop it, I think we will probably explode and ruin an otherwise good relationship. We don't want to hurt his feelings, but we can't stand it any more. What should we do?
Let's hear from you
E-mail us with your advice to next week's question or your own dilemma at firstname.lastname@example.org. All questions are published anonymously, but we will include your name and hometown if we use your response (it will be edited).
Lynn Coady is the award-winning author of novels Strange Heaven and Mean Boy .