Dear Annie: I have two stepdaughters whom my wife and I have I raised since they were 7 and 10 years old. We also have three daughters from our 18-year marriage. My wife and I worked hard to put both the older ones through college. We’ve always had trouble keeping the oldest one engaged with making the best of decisions for herself. She finished college with a teaching degree yet doesn’t use it and waitresses at a restaurant. It’s difficult watching her struggle financially knowing she could have a career as a teacher.
She moved out at age 25 to live with a friend. They had a falling out about nine months later, and she moved in with a man she had known for two months. He is living here illegally and was in jail previously, related to an issue with a woman he had been seeing. I don’t know why, and our daughter has never told us the whole story about it. After about nine months of knowing him, she tells us she is marrying him. Well, that announcement didn’t go so well. My wife and I told her that we had concerns, and she was hurt by our reaction.
Our relationship is somewhat stable. We call and invite her over several times a year, but she never calls us, has never invited us over and never comes over unless there is something in it for her, such as dinner or gifts. I need some wise advice. – Shepherd With a Lost Sheep
Dear Shepherd: She will marry the man she loves, regardless of his prior jail time or your disapproval. Invite both of them over for dinner more often. You say she ignores your invitations unless there is something in it for her, such as dinner.
The point is that you need to communicate with her – and her future husband – if you want to have a closer relationship and offer advice based on the years of wisdom you and your wife have accumulated.
Try not to be judgmental or critical. A warm, loving and accepting approach is much more likely to bring her around to your way of thinking. Keep us posted.
Dear Annie: Caught in the Middle was stepping away from social situations because discussions of politics were becoming so ugly among his friends. You suggested that he and his wife set a rule for gatherings saying no politics are discussed.
I have another approach. What if, instead, people agreed to rules that mandated that political discussion be conducted in a respectful way? They could study up on the rules of debate. They could outlaw sarcasm and personal attack. They could ask people to back up assertions with fact. They could require that people cite the source of information.
At least these friends are engaged in politics. Too many people are not. Setting different rules would give everybody a chance to grow, intellectually and socially. – Healthy Political Discussions
Dear Healthy Political Discussions: It is true that for democracy to work, we need to be able to have healthy and respectful debates on difference of opinions. But there is a time and a place. Forming a group meeting to discuss all sides of current political issues is brilliant. If it is an ordinary dinner party or get-together, I think it’s good to avoid political debate.
Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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