Dear Amy: My daughter just announced her engagement to her boyfriend, “Clay.”
They are both heavy pot users. Clay is also a convicted felon (for selling narcotics), a college dropout, and has psychiatric and physical health problems.
He picks up occasional work but cannot and does not support her. He can barely support himself. He has terrible hygiene.
Worse yet, he seems to be incredibly reckless. He has totaled three cars in three years.
My husband and our other children insist that I must support my daughter’s life choices, but I cannot bring myself to. I see only pain and poverty in her future.
We raised our beautiful daughter in an upper middle-class family, sent her to private college and on European trips.
We supported her 100 percent over the past year while she successfully undertook and excelled in a prerequisite program to start a three-year (online, part-time) master’s degree toward a new career.
She recently got a minimally-paying job and wants us to continue to help support her while she moves forward with grad school and the boyfriend.
Her siblings have said that if I don’t support her choices, I will lose contact with all of them.
I feel like I’m being blackmailed into watching a horror movie play out. My heart is broken. If I cut off my daughter financially, she’ll hate me.
If I don’t support her relationship with her boyfriend, they’ll all hate me.
My husband, who wants to retire soon, wants me to at least support her relationship, and is willing to tell my daughter to take loans and support herself.
Could you weigh in?
— Heartbroken Mom
Dear Heartbroken: I see a distinction between “support” and “accept.”
Yes, you should accept your daughter’s choice because she is an adult and she has the right to make terrible choices.
If you accept her, must you also “support” her? Absolutely not.
She may need to experience the reality of living a marginal life — far from her upper-middle class privilege — in order to make a choice about it.
If she continues with her graduate program and you can afford it, you might choose to pay only her school bills (directly to the school). If she completes each semester successfully, you can choose to pay for the next semester. This would be extremely generous. She and “Clay” will then have to work to support their living expenses — as countless adult couples are expected to do.
Invite them over for dinner, include them in family events, and yes — you may be forced to face and tolerate your disappointment in your pot-using daughter and her choice in partner, but until she is forced to face her own choices and disappointments, she will never be inspired to perhaps choose differently.
Dear Amy: I have an alcoholic friend who is trying to quit drinking.
We go out once in a while to have lunch or dinner and I’m wondering — would it be wise to have only one alcoholic beverage?
I would think tapering off alcohol slowly and supervised would be better for him than stopping completely.
I want to be helpful.
— Concerned Friend
Dear Concerned: If you are an addiction specialist, then by all means you could try to coach your friend through tapering off of alcohol and supervise his consumption. Otherwise, I believe it would be best for you to avoid alcohol completely when you are with him.
For some addicts, any contact with their drug will trigger their addiction. One drink at lunch could lead to a binge later.
Some people might be able to effectively reduce and possibly manage their drinking by choosing to change their habits, but an alcoholic in the throes of addiction could not be expected to be able to do this.
It would be wisest for you to support your friend’s recovery by pointing him toward in- or out-patient rehab, attending 12-step meetings, and reckoning with your own powerlessness over his disease.
Dear Amy: Regarding “Worried Dad,” whose 20-something kids had bad hygiene, bad eating habits, and a habit of leaving messes, you left out the possibility that the boys are suffering from depression, particularly if this is a change from their habits in the past. I’d strongly recommend they be diagnosed by a physician knowledgeable about this insidious disease.
— Been There
Dear Been There: This father did not indicate any change in their habits, but I agree that a medical screening is always wise, especially for young men, who tend to avoid going to the doctor.