Boomerangst: Turning Dilemmas Into Discoveries – Should You Marry Your First Love?

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Daughter’s plan to marry her first boyfriend concerns parents. What to do?

Q. Our daughter is planning to marry next summer. We love the guy but we’re also concerned because he’s her first and only boyfriend. They’re both in their mid-20s and have been dating about five years. We wonder if this is such a good idea. As much as we care for this young man, both my husband and I think she should get out and see the world and see what it’s like to be in a relationship with someone else before tying the knot. We don’t know what to do. Should we mind our own business and simply be grateful we like this fellow, he seems to like us, and our daughter seems happy? Is that enough? — Anita, Halifax

A. The question is, is it enough for your daughter and her boyfriend? As parents you have every right to be concerned – but with a caveat. “Experiencing other relationships is a good thing, but it’s not a panacea,” points out Dr. Guy Grenier, a London, Ont.-based clinical psychologist and author. “Some people have lots of relationships and just keep cycling through them. Other people marry their high-school sweethearts and sail happily off into the sunset.”

So there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution here.

Dr. Grenier suggests you express your concerns to the young couple – then back off and let them decide. That’s the caveat. “For all the imagined hurt feelings and upset you might cause you also have to imagine the potential for positive outcomes,” says Dr. Grenier. “It’s possible your daughter or her boyfriend are also having similar concerns but are afraid to bring them up because it’s politically incorrect or it seems unromantic. But if anyone has concerns they need to come out.”

Our kids are our kids their entire lives, no matter their age or stage. But at a certain point in life, you have to say your piece then let go and allow them to make their own decisions. “We have to recognize the vast majority of our time with them is actually as adults,” Dr. Grenier points out. “We get 18 years of childhood with them, then hopefully 30 or 40 years of adulthood. But as parents, we don’t necessarily make that shift very well.”

What you can also do is direct them to a resource that might help them make their own decision. Dr. Grenier’s book, The 10 Conversations You Must Have Before You Get Married (And How to Have Them), includes a section entitled The 15 Rules of Good Communication and tackles head-on the presumptions and assumptions many couples make about one another going into marriage. The book covers a range of topics, such as having kids, careers, sex, family and the division of labour. Dr. Grenier identified these key topics during years of practice as a clinical psychologist and as a sex and marital therapist.

The book just might be a way to give your daughter and her boyfriend some things to think about that they might not otherwise have considered.

Send Diane a brief description of your dilemma, along with your first name and where you live, to [email protected]

A professional journalist for more than 25 years, Diane Sewell has written for some of the top newspapers and magazines in Canada and is a baby boomer herself. Her new blog “Boomerangst, Turning Dilemmas into Discoveries” is interactive with readers and focuses on life issues – like aging, dating, second marriages, sex, death, family and fashion. Diane will use her expertise to find the right expert to help solve your predicament, unearthing kernels of truth and quickly getting to the heart of the issue.