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Home > Support > Mothering > I really need an experienced mother's help in knowing how to act in regards to my 19 yr-old daughter's dating relationship...
Question: I really need an experienced mother's help in knowing how to act in regard to my 19 yr-old daughter's dating relationship. She is a wonderful girl, did not date in high school, and now attends Franciscan University- Praise be to God! I know that she is certainly of an age to date, but I am having great difficulty accepting either the boy or the situation, and I'm not at all clear about how to talk with her about it. If someone doesn't mind helping me, I would greatly appreciate it. First, they are both just 19, and a long way away from being able to get married and support themselves, I believe. Second, I think it would be better if she were just mixing with many people, rather than being committed to dating this boy-( and she does spend time with many different young men and ladies)- until they are both closer to a time of discerning marriage. Third, his family practices the Orthodox rite- which of course allows for married priests- and he feels called to that priesthood. I have some trouble with this, both as a matter of faith and for her life personally. SO... do I just accept that it is all her decision and remain hands-off? How do I talk with this boy (long-distance) when I don't feel accepting of their dating? How do I go about either changing my attitude, or else expressing my concerns to her in a loving way? I just don't know how to be a good mom at this stage of my kids' lives! Help! And thank you.

Dear Mom,

Let me begin by saying out loud what you may or may not fear with regards to your daughter and the young man that she is dating. Whenever two people who are attracted to one another sexually spend a great deal of time together and begin to speak of life long commitments (even if that commitment is way off in the future) there is the strong temptation to express that mutual love with sexual intimacy. The dear Lord in His great love for us and His desire that we love one another and enter into relationships that are procreative and pure through the covenant of marriage has allowed that humans be attracted to one another for the purpose of experiencing in some measure the total covenant that Jesus has with His people. This covenantal love is expressed through intimacy and is meant to be fruitful for procreation. No matter how wonderfully moral a person is, the stronger the bond the greater the temptation. Nearness of heart allows for nearness of mind and body. That's that.

It is important that you speak frankly with your daughter and with the boy she is seeing if you feel called to do so. Are you willing to accept that they are both adults and must understand the limits and temptations risked through a close dating relationship? Understand that in their mutual adulthood they can make choices apart from your wisdom. They can diminish the extent of their mutual love in words, wishing to remain private with their situation and their relationship.

I would suggest that you make it a habit to visit often, write often, call often and have your daughter come home often. Nothing centers a young person like the microscope of home. Once my daughter was dating an undesirable person. I sensed in my spirit that he was unholy and unworthy. There were many clues in conversations over the phone that we had about his interests. However, my daughter felt he was acceptable. My husband extended an invitation for the boy to come home with Margaret for a weekend. After one night, he awoke the next morning and wanted to leave with Margaret, but Margaret refused. He left. In tears she explained, "He seemed so normal up at school."

Remember that where you child goes to college is not an automatic guarantee that the Tempter will stay out of the lives of the people there. This is not a prudent way to view college. College is a time when a young person may find that they are confused and in need of the familiar and at the same time they are homesick and unsure of the future. The barometer of family and close ties makes it easier for the young person to gauge their emotions. Your daughter may see in this young man more of a 'family' than a boy friend. She may feel that he is settled and sure, something she is not. Given her inexperience with dating it would be easy for her to confuse her thoughts and emotions. What was this young man's experience before he met your daughter?

And keep in mind that the Lord may have sent into your daughter's life the person that He intends for her. By having the two of them visit often and by your visiting often you will help the two of them protect their relationship and save intimacy for marriage. Your being a strong presence gives this boy a compunction, as he grows closer to you and your children. He 'becomes' family and in this he will desire to do what is best for your daughter and her siblings. He will become protective. He will understand that he answers to your husband and to you. It is a deeper relationship that is borne of mutual respect.

I will be praying for you and for your daughter during this time of discernment. This is the real work of parenting. Stay close to the Blessed Sacrament and pray often for your daughter. Prayer is a mighty tool in the hands of an Almighty and Loving God. Let us pray this morning for all young people as they navigate the waters between the safe harbor of home and the open sea.

Sending out a prayer,

Rita Munn


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