Dear Dr. Norquist:
I’m upset about some choices that my son is making and I’m not sure what to do about it. I love him dearly, and we have always had a special connection. He is a junior in college. He has always been a good kid – my husband and I have had many a reason to be very proud of him over the years.
What’s bothering me is that recently he and his girlfriend have decided to get married. I feel that he’s not emotionally ready for that commitment and that it may be a way of dealing with his fear of graduating next year, and not knowing how else to move forward with his life. I’m worried he is making the wrong decision.
I’m having trouble sleeping because of this worry. I’m afraid he’ll see my concern. I’d like to be happy and excited for him – but I don’t want to see him making the same mistakes I made – marrying out of fear and insecurity and later regretting it. How can I talk with him about this? I like his girlfriend, I just think they need more experience in life before making that commitment. Do you think I should talk with him about it? I’d hate to alienate them.
Dr. Norquist responds:
Having children leaves us forever vulnerable to the fear and pain we experience based on how their lives are going. When your son first learned to walk, or to ride his bike, I am sure it was painful to see him fall. However, there were things you could do to provide an element of safety for him. As our children grow, we are less and less able to provide a safety net for them. Unfortunately, we cannot always transfer our hard-earned life wisdom to our children. Many things they can only learn through the experience of living. How would you have responded if your mom suggested that you not marry, because she feared you were doing it out of fear and insecurity? Would you have been in a place to listen to her? Did you not learn about your own strength through the “mistake”?
Perhaps marrying now gives him a foundation to build on, and support for moving forward in life. If he has lessons to learn around fear and insecurity, they will be there for him to face when the time is right in his life. It’s not for us, as parents, to determine when the time is right. That is not something we have control over. We can, however, love and encourage them as they walk down their own path of living and learning.
The fact that you like the fiancée he is choosing shows that you can trust his judgement in this regard. If you do choose to speak with him, to best avoid alienating him, I’d suggest that you do the following; 1) stress how much you like his choice of partner and why, 2) make it clear that you will love and support the two of them, whatever they decide, and 3) go over the pros and the cons of marrying now, and what the motivating forces and likely results are. Reinforce that the choice, of course, is solely theirs to make.
Check out Dr. Norquist’s new blog GrowingThroughParenting.com
(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed psychologist (NJ #2371) in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling Services, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.) Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling Services, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanyacounseling.com or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries, and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding health-related concerns. Ó 2020 Chaitanya Counseling Services