Relationship Connection: Supporting an unexpected marriage

Question:
 
My daughter just announced her engagement to a guy we've only met one time. They've known each other for about two months and they are engaged to be married before the end of the year.
 
I recognize that it's not my place to tell her what to do, however, we are somewhat concerned that she might be rushing into marriage too quickly. My husband was hoping her boyfriend would contact him to ask him for her hand in marriage. I realize a lot of my concerns are about doing things in a traditional way, but my biggest concern is that she simply doesn't know this guy well enough. Is there anything we can do?
 
Answer:
 
It's difficult to see things turn out in an unexpected way, especially when it comes to something as important as the marriage of a child. As you already mentioned, it's clearly not your place to tell her what to do, however, it is important that you find a healthy way to open your heart to her so she can understand your feelings and concerns.
 
If you already have a strained relationship with her, you will want to lay some groundwork before you attempt to tell her how you feel about her decisions. Without some relationship-building, she will most likely hear your concerns as your attempt to manipulate and control her decision.
 
Here are some questions that can help you determine the quality of your relationship with her:
 
Are you there for her emotionally? Have you shown her that you care how she feels? Do you keep up with her life, interests, and accomplishments? Does she know that you will stay close to her?
If you find that you need to do more to build a relationship with your adult daughter, then I encourage you to make this your focus instead of focusing on her choice of fiancé. Your words of counsel and concern about her engagement will mean nothing to her if she doesn't believe you know or care about her as an individual.
 
If your relationship with her is strong and secure, then here are some thoughts on how to communicate your concerns with her. First, it's important to let her know that you will be there for her regardless of her choice of spouse. This commitment transcends any choice, ill informed or otherwise.
 
Second, I would encourage you to invite her and her fiancé to spend time with you and your husband. Get to know them as a couple. You may find that you actually like this guy. Stay open and curious about their relationship and avoid making any judgments about their future. Again, without a good relationship with them, your concerns will come off sounding reactionary and self-serving.
 
If you're hurt that they're skipping the traditional protocol of going through your husband before becoming engaged, this may or may not be something you can share with her after there is more of a relationship. It just really depends on the nature of your relationship with her.
 
Every young married couple benefits from the close association of mature and stable marriages as they find their way into couplehood. You and your husband are in a great position to model this stability and extend the hand of support to this couple as they begin their marital journey.
 
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, UT.  Please send questions for future columns to: [email protected] Geoff maintains a blog and article archive at www.geoffsteurer.com.  You can also follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/geoffsteurer.

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