Dear Margo: Tough Love; No Money

How can I prevent my teenage daughter from marrying too young? Margo Howard’s advice

Tough Love; No Money

Dear Margo: My daughter is 18 years old and a high school senior. She’s been dating her boyfriend for less than a year. He is also 18 and insisting he’s ready to propose next month. He is, of course, not financially stable. While my daughter has traveled and lived in various places, this young man has lived in the same small town his whole life and is very sheltered. His family has a long history of marrying young and living in poverty. Neither my daughter nor the boyfriend is very mature, and they seem to have no grasp of how much things cost in the real world. My daughter has a full scholarship to college, and I think the boyfriend is afraid he will lose her once she starts college.

My husband has repeatedly told the boyfriend we are against an engagement or marriage at this time. Now we are unsure what to do. If she marries him, she will lose her health and dental insurance and all the financial security we have provided. How do we express our disapproval without pushing her away? We raised her to be an independent young woman, but she seems to have lost all her common sense when it comes to this relationship. As parents, is there anything we can do to discourage such a big commitment before college? –Very Worried Parent

Dear Ver: I think a nuts-and-bolts/dollars-and-sense talk is in order. I would reiterate everything you said in your letter to me — his family history, your guess as to his fears, the losses to her (financial protection and perhaps an education). Ask where’s the fire that makes her think she must move quickly, and also request that she delay a decision until she’s finished one year of college. If she insists on following this kid’s wishes, not yours, be firm about withdrawing the safety net you provide. She will learn, at some point, that there is wisdom in your advice. Whether it’s before or after making a mistake, I cannot say. It is a truism that often the best lessons we learn are those we learn for ourselves. And sometimes it’s the hard way. –Margo, unwaveringly

Get Out the Calculator

Dear Margo: I am divorced, and it was a very $uccessful divorce, if you get my drift. I have no money worries — though money is my problem. I am going with a great guy who is an academic. I’m sure you see the predicament. We are talking seriously about marriage, and finances are a tricky problem to be solved. I don’t want to feel that I am keeping him — which would make him uncomfortable, as well. There has to be a solution to this; I just don’t know what it is. –Planning Ahead

Dear Plan: You are not alone in the circumstance of being a woman with more money than the man. This has become a rather common reality these days, what with all the cracks in the glass ceiling, not to mention $uccessful divorces. Some businesswomen (Carly Fiorina comes to mind) arrange things so that the spouse is a househusband, relieving a working woman of domestic responsibilities and often childcare.

In your case, I suggest that your prospective husband contribute to household and living expenses pro rata. The proportionality will foster a sense of fairness and also of equality — in spirit, if not in dollars and cents. I know of couples where this has worked well. Then, too, if your settlement is as cushy as you say, it might be hard finding a financial equal. So … the fact that you found a great guy should trump the fact that his bank account is not the size of yours. –Margo, proportionally

* * *

Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via e-mail to dearmargo@creators.com. Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.

COPYRIGHT 2011 MARGO HOWARD
DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

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52 comments so far.

  1. avatar David Bolton says:

    LW1: Operant conditioning, baby. Play dirty pool and offer her something the BF can’t—say, a reward like a nice used car—for completing her first year of college successfully. Get her excited about the idea of going to school and meeting some new friends. Always stress to her how proud you are that she’s turned out to be a smart, independent young woman who has so much potential ahead of her in life. Monopolize her time by taking her on a trip and Introducing her to the idea of having fun as a single young woman with a fulfilling career in a big city. Expose her to adult concepts that are desirable, but cost money and time and commitment and discipline. If you do this right, you’ll have invested a reasonable amount of time and money and gained a daughter with some maturity, direction and goals worth working for—which you should be doing anyway.

    LW2: Ugh.

    • avatar Lilibet says:

      Those are great ideas for LW1, David. They distract her heart, which will probably be more successful than trying to reason with her. As my 52 year old confirmed bachelor brother-in-law likes to say: “When the heart fills, the head empties.” :-) Logic will not work, I fear, but your approach just might. I think if the parents refer to this as “postponing” the marriage until after a year or two of college, that may be more palatable to her than trying to talk her out of it completely. Once she’s spent time in college, she won’t look back.

      And I may be a meanie, but there is no way that I’d pay for a wedding if she decides to marry this boy. My house, my rules. She’s not going to make a huge mistake on my dime!

    • avatar D C says:

      A less materialistic approach might be to have your daughter talk with someone who maybe took that same road and wishes they had finished college, etc.  Thats one thing my kids always got at home.  I was 21 – almost 22 when I married, but quit school to work and make some money.  I will always regret not finishing, except for one thing:  If I HAD become a teacher I am sure I would have been in prison by now for slapping some smart-ass kid across the room.  BUT, a degree in ANYTHING will usually up your salary, no matter what you do. 

      Were it my daughter, I would lay out all the facts and encourage her to follow the dreams she’s always had, rather than the one that only involve this boyfriend.  And I would not withdraw all support if she chooses the boy.  My grandparents did that to my mother, and when she came home after he started punching her, they said “you made your bed now lie in it.”  That was the late 50′s, and maybe that’s just the way life was at the time. 

      • avatar David Bolton says:

        I completely agree with you that this is a materialistic approach. The reason why I suggested doing these things is because LW has an uphill battle fighting an abstraction like teenage love with another abstraction, like success in college.

        If the LW can show her daughter some positive results of going to college in terms a teenager can understand and value—like getting to be independent, or new clothes, cars, and so forth—I think she’ll make better headway. Trying to get a teen to fall out of love with the wrong boy because it will make Mom and Dad happy is going to be difficult at best.

      • avatar Grace Malat says:

        I like your idea, and think it would work. But I also think it should be balanced and they should also introduce her to the ‘flip’ side. A trip to a homeless shelter, to social services, an area where the poverty is high. Showing her the homes that people live in, the lives they live and compare it with where she would be with an education.

    • avatar Lilitu Aster says:

      My mother-in-law tried something like that with my husband… guess who he cut out of his life for refusing to support his decision to marry me?

      Doing that can definitely backfire so be careful.

  2. avatar Paul Smith says:

    Tell the frumpy parent to keep her medical and dental and let the Romeo and Juliet have their day. Marriage is a mockery by the hour, and the divorce mill never sleeps.

  3. avatar CatA says:

    Going Bohemian is always more attractive in movies and when viewed from the sidelines of a financially secure existence.  I hope LW1 takes Margo and David’s good advice and, most importantly, that her daughter listens up and decides to postpone marriage for at least a year of college. Like Lilibet said, likely she will not look back.  I also think that no parent should have to finance a big wedding for a match that will likely fail in the first year.  The oh-so-in-love couple may feel quite differently about their relationship in as little as six months.   Many people aren’t ready for marriage at 25, so why can’t Romeo and Juliet wait another few years?  If they were meant to be together, they will be.  In the meantime, they need to get their education and careers started, so their married life will be easier. 
    LW2 should do what rich men have been doing for a long time to curb gold-diggery:  have your lawyer draft and present hubby-to-be with an iron-clad pre-nup.  And don’t let anyone tell you “how unromantic” for a woman to do this – you have to look out for your own interests if you want to remain financially secure into your golden years.

  4. avatar Lisa M says:

    LW #2: You forgot to mention the importance of a pre-nup. I’m going through this kind of divorce right now. That allegedly loving guy I married wants all my money and if he can’t have it he’s making me spend it on legal fees. The divorce was unavoidable but the poverty that goes with it wasn’t.

    • avatar Sue ZQ says:

      + 1000

      So, so true. I’m going through that same divorce, and am paying way, way too much temporary spousal support.

  5. avatar Dan Patterson says:

    I have a one-word piece of advice for Planning Ahead: PRE-NUP

  6. avatar yeahright says:

    Am I the only liberal here?

    I like the idea of waiting a year, but I think everyone should live together before marriage, particularly the young and the never-married. So, Mom, if she won’t agree to a year at college first, some plan B suggestions:
    Can the infatuated daughter live with the guy (at college, on her scholarship, in an apt.) for a year before marriage? Except in big cities, apartments cost about the same as dorms, sometimes way less.
    How far away is the college, and why won’t the boyfriend go with or move closer?
    And, oh, please, run her to planned parenthood for birth control if you haven’t already.

  7. avatar Jrz Wrld says:

    LW1, if you haven’t spent your daughter’s life perpetuating traditional gender stereotypes (more on this later), you have a perfect way to address this. You put it to her as one responsible adult to another. Obviously she wants to provide the best life she can for the family she hopes to form with this young man. And she has opportunities his family has never had. For the good of the family unit she hopes to form, she is obligated to pursue this opportunity. Unwillingness to do so would mean she is wrapped up in instant gratification and not mature enough to enter into something like a marriage, which should be between two responsible adults. I think it’s a nice catch-22. Of course, if you’ve taught her that girls are there to look pretty, marriage is her primary goal, and a wedding is the biggest day of the bride’s life, you’re just reaping what you sow (but it doesn’t SOUND like you’ve done that). Whatever you do though, don’t use my mother’s argument about a boyfriend of mine she didn’t like, mainly because of his socioeconomic status: “But Jrz, he won’t be able to keep you in the lifestyle to which you are accustomed!” *GAG* (And terribly amusing: I have – and had then – a rather stripped-down lifestyle, an Ivy League degree and a pretty decent career. Not sure why I’d need someone to “keep” me. My mom’s kind of an idiot.)

    LW2, unless you have any reason to believe this man is after your money, just turn off that nasty little voice in your head and enjoy the relationship you have. What are you? Like 80 (because your gender biases seem to date from that era)? Do you want to spend the last few years you have left alone, counting your money and consoling yourself that at least the man you loved isn’t leeching off you? However, I suspect you’re younger with some unfortunate beliefs.

    Two incidental things though: 1) Most academics of a certain age have a certain amount of financial security, so he should likely be able to take care of himself quite comfortably. If I could whisper in his ear, I’d tell him to run while he still can.

    2) Um, have you SEEN the dating scene for the over-40 crowd? Really? You’ve found someone who seems to work for you. That’s… rare. I know far too many attractive and vivacious women who are distraught over the lack of dating options.

  8. avatar ann penn says:

    Pre-nup is one way to go. Another is to talk to an estate planning attorney and place your assets into a trust that can support you, but is not available to a spouse/SO in a divorce.

    Whatever road you take, get sound legal advice. And in this case a more expensive attorney with a solid track record is probably the WTG. Usually the top CPA’s will know who to see where you live.

    And I like the suggestion of a “pro-rata” contribution to the family finances!

    • avatar snail says:

      For a variety of reasons, including the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” syndrome, my boyfriend of 12 years and I are not getting married.  One of the more practical reasons is that he is on disability – complete renal failure, years of dialysis, and, although he was recently given the incredible gift of a new kidney, on-going and likely life-long serious medical complications.  I make a very comfortable living, but couldn’t possibly afford his medical care.  Not even the portion that is picked up by Medicaid as the gap insurance after Medicare pays its portion.  While neither of us particular likes the fact that the government is taking care of him, we are grateful for the life-saving assistance.  Which he would lose were we to get married.

      While it may be an older-generation Southern male thing, my BF feels that the fact that I am paying for everything else – I bought everything from the house to his car – is not only unfair but emasculating.  He pays me over half his disability income in “rent.”  While it makes a minimal drop in the bucket as far as my finances or bills, it makes him feel like he is contributing to the fullest extent possible, and gives him more of an emotional investment in our life together.  I’d suggest LW2 stop focusing on who-has-what, take the pro rata suggestion, and move on.

  9. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #1: I agree with Margo completely.

    L #2: Gosh…I wish I had your “money problems.” ;-)

  10. avatar Barbara says:

    LW#1: You are addressing this emotionally. I suggest going at it logically. Just sit down with her to help her plan her new life. Lay out the budget. Here’s rent (where will you live, dear?), here’s health insurance. here’s car insurance. here’s groceries. here’s the utility bill. here’s your cell phone bill. etc. Talk about what job she will have to support herself, what job he will have. Add up the total. Hopefully, if she is smart enough for a scholarship she will be smart enough to see that they are not financially ready. Then lay out alternatives. You go to college, have a long distance relationship, here’s how it looks. You go to college, he goes with you somehow. Here is what that would look like. (How is he helping to pay for rent, car insurance, his health insurance, etc.?) Give her concrete alternatives to look at in a non judgmental way.

    LW#2: Why is it a problem for you to have more money than him? If he is happy and successful in his career choice, there is no reason that it should bother you or him. Do you think he is after your money? If so, then a prenup is probably a good idea. If this is a strong and happy bond, then why worry about it?

    • avatar D C says:

      Your response to LW1 — Brilliant!

    • avatar David Bolton says:

      Absolutely.

      My original response to LW1 was to have her say: “Oh darling, I’m so happy for you! What colors are you going to pick for the wedding? By the way, rent is due.”

    • avatar jabbeycat says:

      You’re approaching this as though teenage girls are logical, which they are not. Approaching this logically will get you nowhere. I married the man I started dating when I was 16. (Of course I waited until we were 26.) David Bolton’s original post is the best way to go about it. Do not try the he can’t keep you in the life you’re accustomed to argument, it will make her think you’re materialist and push her away. Either offer her a reward for completing a year of college, or find a way to make college the more appealing option. Try to find her a mentor to show her the social scene at the school she’s attending, or try bribing her with clothes or a car or the like. Take it from a former teenage girl whose family was against her boyfriend and his family was against him dating her, you can not compete with love, even if you don’t think it’s real. My family stopped me from marrying young by agreeing to pay for my life the first year in college and buying me a car. All they asked me to do is wait. I’d say it worked out fine. I graduated from an Ivy League school and we’re financially comfortable and have a happy marriage. The extra years we waited didn’t really end up making a huge difference, except to make us more sure we found the right people to marry.

  11. avatar htimsr40 says:

    “I am divorced, and it was a very $uccessful divorce, if you get my drift.”

    Yes, I got your drift. When you describe the divorce as “$uccessful” it is abundantly clear how you viewed your first relationship. He earned the money and you walked away with a very nice bank account when the marriage ended. And now, you want to make sure that your nice “academic” doesn’t have a “$uccessful” marriage.

    Apparently YOU were a gold digger and you want to make sure that your hard earned cash isn’t appropriated by the second husband that you marry for “love”.

    If the gender roles were reversed … well, that would be common. Nothing wrong with someone wanting to protect themselves financially, which is why pre-nups exist … but YOU clearly don’t want Mr. Academic to benefit even during the marriage.

    My advise is not for you … it’s for Mr. Academic. Run. Run fast. Run far. Run and find yourself a nice woman who didn’t view her first marriage as $uccessful and isn’t so caught up in her personal financial $uccess as an ex-wife that she views you as some sort of financial anchor rather than a partner with whom $he wants to share life. Because she sees it as $hare life … and $he’s only comfortable when the $haring is to her financial benefit.

  12. avatar amw says:

    LW1:

    I have mixed feelings about this one. I certainly don’t think that expressing your disapproval on multiple occasions has done any good…in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if it backfired. All that has done is broken any trust this young man may have been able to develop with you and it likely has upset your daughter to see her BF treated this way.

    Your assumption that living in the same small town all one’s life makes one sheltered is a bit presumptuous. And what exactly do you consider poverty? Obviously your family has had the good fortune to be able to afford trips and that is wonderful. But moving around a lot isn’t necessarily a good thing for any child. How do they learn stability and develop close relationships if they’re being uprooted every so often? I realize this is a frequent occurrence in military families…my point is, it isn’t a bad thing if you don’t move.

    I think the right thing to do here is sit them both down…as equals. Treat them as adults…which they are. Be supportive but honest. Hopefully they’ll at least agree to a long engagement…or come up with some sort of compromise that won’t take away your daughter’s opportunity to further her education. Just don’t push either of them away…it’ll be even less likely they’ll respect you or your wishes. If they are getting respect from you, they’ll be more likely to listen and perhaps even ask for advice. Good luck…to you all.

  13. avatar Kathy says:

    “$uccessful divorce” … thanks for confirming every stereotype about money-grubbing divorcees.

  14. avatar Belinda Joy says:

    I agree with Margo in regard to her advice to Letter #1.

    This is the time to have a long, drawn out discussion about life. Lay it all on the table. The letter writer states that both teens are immature. The letter writer makes this statement without taking any ownership for her and her husband’s failure in raising a mature, level headed and responsible child. Now, 18 years later that lack of parenting leaves them in this unfortunate situation.

    It is always hard to stand on the side of the railroad tracks and watch as a loved one steps off and in front of an oncoming train. You know the damage that decision will cost them and those that love them. And in most instances I would say young people have to learn from their mistakes, let her step in front of the train. But this time I won’t say that.

    This letter writer needs to apologize to her daughter for not instilling a strong sense of responsibility in her.  That should be the first step. That may sound harsh, but a truly independent, responsible young woman would see the decision of college over love of a boyfriend and a life spent ”barefoot and pregnant” (that is what I envision for some reason) as a no-brainer. Someone raised in a household where boundaries were broad and where they were given an extreme amount of latitude when it comes to their actions, those are the ones that act recklessly in life (IMO).

    As Margo said, they should explain to her that if she chooses to marry him, she should know she is then on her own. They need to use the actual language of “If you marry him, you are showing you are an adult and as such responsible for you own life. Do not expect mom and dad to help you out, and do not resent us if you turn to us for help and it is denied. Real men and women, adults….make their way through life on their own. They don’t seek hand-outs from others, especially when those circumstances could have been avoided if they had made other choices for their lives”

  15. avatar D C says:

    My husband’s best friend married the wrong girl when he was young.  They had been high school sweethearts for a time, then he went off to college.  She dated around, and got into “trouble”.  When my hubby’s friend came back for summer he went to see her.  She hadn’t contacted him at all.  He showed up at her door and surprised her, and he was surprised as well to see her 8 month belly.  The responsible boy had fled town and they didn’t do DNA back then.  Anyway, hubby’s friend cared for her very much and decided to take care of her and marry her.  His parents were so livid they didn’t even come to the wedding. 

    5 years later, they got divorced, and it didn’t really have to happen, but MIL’s constant hammering didn’t help.  He ended up marrying the “right kid” of girl later, and they are still together, but have a pretty loveless marriage.  He says he “loves her, but isn’t IN LOVE with her.”  How sad is that?
     
    I was kind of disappointed in my brother when he married his high school sweetheart whose only ambition in life was to get married and make biscuits.  SHE ended up going back to school and becoming a teacher (lots of teachers in my family) and has turned out to surprise us all and be a much better person than my brother ever deserved.  I really like and respect her. 

    All this to say, Mom, don’t cut the ties.  Sometimes people you think will let you down surprise you and step up. 

    • avatar Paul Smith says:

      Good point, DC.  People, and life, continually surprise.  The middle class has adopted the practices of the wealthy, without of course truly being wealthy. What about love, afterall? Or do now want our daughters to be Wendi Murdoch’s in training?

    • avatar Anais P says:

      Glad to hear the people you thought would let you down actually stepped up and did well, making the family proud. On the other hand, I know a family that gave the non-educated woman their son married the benefit of the doubt. They later found she had been married twice before, not once, and had no high-school diploma or GED. She did not work the entire time they were married is now giving her husband, who found out about financial irregularities she instigated, a horrible time for coming to his senses and filing for divorce. He will be lucky to get out of this marriage with his sanity and credit intact. My point is, the parents don’t know what kind of man this boy will turn out to be. But laying the financial cards on the table is a good idea, as is the idea of insisting she complete at least one year of college. In this economy, people WITH education and training are having a terrible time making ends meet. What are people with NO education and training setting themselves up for?

  16. avatar R Scott says:

    LW2 – I kind of chuckled when I read that. I have an acquaintance who is well off. When asked what she does for a living/career she always responds, “I marry well and divorce better”.

  17. avatar mbr says:

    I am the parent in the first letter. I expected criticism about my parenting and some of my statements. I do appreciate the advice. My husband and I tried to be supportive parents and didn’t want our children to worry about money and bills like we did growing up. Obviously, that backfired and that’s why I wrote Margo. We aren’t wealthy but we work hard and wanted to give our children the best opportunities like most parents do.

    To clarify: I’m not criticizing anyone for choosing to live in one place. I grew up in a small southern town. I’ve lived it. I was being polite when I called my daughter’s boyfriend “sheltered.” In reality, his family is racist and homophobic–and VERY conservative in their beliefs & values. Conservative in the sense that they are right and everyone else is wrong. My husband and I moved away from that area when our daughter was a baby so that she wouldn’t be scared of the outside world– with other races and religions. We moved back there so our children could have the stability of living close to family. This is a big regret.

    I honestly wish them living together was an option. They have decided to “save themselves” for marriage and that’s a big reason why they are rushing into this. I honestly wish they would just sleep together now. I am glad my daughter is not promiscuous but I don’t want them to rush into marriage just to have sex.

    Also, I define poverty as not having basic utilities like running water on a consistent basis. This is not because they do not work but because they spend unwisely and don’t have any money left for their bills. I know the family well and it is a constant cycle for them to buy “things” and then have to borrow money from other relatives to reconnect utilities. It is a predictable pattern in the boy’s family: start college, get married, get pregnant, drop out of college, get a low paying job, buy stuff to impress others so they look like they have money and then declare bankruptcy more than once. I see it in his grandparents, parents, aunts, & uncles. I just hate to see my daughter marry into this and she doesn’t seem to see a problem with it right now. But once the money troubles start, that’s when she will come crying to me… I just want to stop this train wreck before it happens. That’s why I wrote to Margo.

    She is immature. But a lot of 18 year olds are. Brain development continues into the 20′s and right now she doesn’t seem to have the insight to see how her decisions may change her life for better or worse. I’m doing my best to be a loving parent and setting boundaries. Sometimes kids do what they want anyway–even if it hurts them. I’m learning that the hard way. They are engaged. We are not paying for a wedding. I guess we’ll see what happens.

    • avatar snail says:

      Dear mbr:

      Sadly, sometimes there is no stopping a particular train wreck, much as we would like to. I’ve been your daughter, and there was nothing my parents or anyone else could have said to me at the time that would have stopped me from making the mistakes I made when I was young. Do I wish, today, that I had made better choices back then, or had listened to people who were older and wiser? Of course. But hindsight is always 20-20, and our mistakes have as much to do with turning us into the people we eventually become as do our successes.

      Much of the advice that’s been given is, I think, excellent. And certainly in my case I was always more inclined to listen to logical and practical statements than I was to anything even smacking of emotion. While I not only understand but totally agree with your feelings about this young man and his family/history, I would bet that your daughter would immediately transform any negative comment, no matter how realistic, into “proof” that you’re “against” them. Try as hard as you can to keep any discussion focused on dollars and cents – and keep your fingers crossed!

    • avatar amw says:

      MBR,

      I understand that letters to Margo must be edited to save space, but I truly wish a better description of what family your daughter could potentially marry into had been printed. I believe some advice (including mine) would have been different.

      To rush into marriage because you’ve made a vow of celibacy until the license is filed is a serious mistake. It shows clearly that neither your daughter or her fiance have thought this through and are racing towards what they anticipate will only better their relationship…WRONG!

      Given his family history, I’m surprised that he is even considering marrying someone from your daughter’s background. It makes sense that he would like to catch her before she goes off to college. He sounds like the type of person that would want to dominate the relationship and would punish your daughter when his decisions wound up coming back to haunt him.

      I think it is important that your daughter be given a realistic view of the cost of living. Instead of telling her what a bad idea this is, ask her what her plans are to support herself and fiance, what they plan to do when/if they get behind on their bills. Give her scenarios that accurately describe some of the toughest circumstances anyone could find themselves in…and have her tell you what she plans to do. If she is forced to think about all sides of the issue, she may not be so excited to jump into the unknown.

      I apologize for MY presumptuous response as I obviously did not have all the details.

      Best of luck.

    • avatar acchappell says:

      Let me start by saying you could have been my mom a few years ago . I was engaged at 16 and married the day after graduation.

      Most likely there is NOTHING you can do to change her mind and while everyones suggestion of giving her a dose of the real world (cost of living, what to do if they get behindetc.) is a great idea you may just end up with answers like “that won’t happen” or “we’ll deal with that when it comes along.” That is the teenage mind.

      There is nothing that could have persuaded me to not marry my husband but I would suggest sitting them both down and ask about future goal 5, 10 years from now. Their differences may surprise each other.

      Start showing her how to budget, pay and reduce bills when necessary.  Teach her how to run a house sucessfully and encourage her to continue her education. I’m sure my parents were disappointed when I didn’t go to college immediately but after taking a year off working 3 jobs (my choice wasn’t truly financially necessary) I decided to enroll and will graduate in December.

      Also encourage pre-martial counseling so that they can be on the same page with their finances, kids etc. I’m sure you realize by now that you cant make their decisions for them but you can give them the tools to better their life regardless of what she choses.

    • avatar R Scott says:

      MBR – Thanks for checking in and filling in the blanks. This is tough. I have no words of wisdom but you are in a tough spot and this really the difination of watching a train wreck: just not much you can do and hope the damage is minimal. I have niece who was in this exact same position. Not a choice I would have made for her but after 20+ years they are still together and seem to be happy. Maybe that’s what you need to hope for. Take care.

    • avatar Lila says:

      MBR, I hope you have already laid all these observations out for your daughter, in a factual, non-opinionated way to get her to think about the reality of her future life.

      When I was about 9 or 10, I had an episode of extreme frustration with some homework. My Dad was trying to encourage me, explaining the value of a good education – including college. “It’s too hard,” I said. “I’ll just be a housewife.” “You can do that if you want,” he said. “But even if your husband is dependable, bad things happen. Look what happened to Mom [she died when I was six]. Through no fault of yours or your husband’s, you could be left alone trying to raise two or three kids, and then how will you earn money to support them, with no education?” I had a pretty vivid imagination and saw myself in some dingy place with no job and three hungry kids crying around me. NO WAY, NEVER. That was the defining talk, and I don’t think Dad even intended it that way. But it instilled an intense desire to be independent and to rely on no one. Trust, yes. Rely on, no.

      Fast forward. I decided that even if I met Mr. Right, I would not marry until age 25, because I wanted to be done with college and on my own for at least a couple of years. No going straight from Dad’s house to Hubby’s house. If Mr. Right was really Right, he would wait.

      Turned out to be easy. I married at age 29, hubby was 33. We own our home together but bank accounts and investments remain separate. For us, it has been a recipe for marital/financial happiness. No money fights. Oh, and two other conversations we had right after he proposed: 1) Kids vs. no kids; and 2) My career plans, which would eventually cause a physical separation (we had a total of about 5 years apart in our military careers). All known cards on the table before committing. And this marriage has held up.

      Has your daughter had some serious talks with her intended? She should lay out what SHE wants in terms of kids, career, and freedom. I will bet you that if she says, “I plan to finish college, take a job in Boston / NYC / LA, keep my own last name, and I plan on not having kids until I’m at least 25,” his head will explode. And maybe that will give her pause.

      I hate to say it… but… in my observation, extremely conservative, racist and homophobic families also tend to have a very narrow definition of women’s roles, and your daughter may end up feeling trapped in a borderline abusive or outright abusive marriage. Once kids are in the picture, that will be exponentially complicated.

      • avatar Lila says:

        PS… if your daughter goes away to college, she will meet a whole spectrum of people who live in a bigger world. It may show her, by comparison, just what she is / was about to step into. I hope, hope, hope you can convince her to at least delay long enough to finish one year of college. It will give her breathing room and thinking room.

      • avatar David Bolton says:

        Awesome post.

    • avatar David Bolton says:

      MBR: No criticisms here—you come across as logical and caring in my book. Here’s hoping everything works out, and that the capriciousness gene every 18 year-old girl has will kick in and save the day.

  18. avatar Eve Dallas says:

    LW1 – When I was a senior in high school, we had to do a project called the “Real World” project, in which we had to figure out what kind of money we could make directly out of high school, research apartments, if we’d have a roommate, move-in costs (including furniture), and make a budget for food, transportation, school (if we were continuing on, and how much parents might chip in), and plan for some savings in case things got tight. It was a real eye-opener on what things really cost. I think EVERY high school needs to have a project like that for ALL seniors, and not necessarily just before graduation – should probably be done upon entering or midway through senior year. Maybe, letter writer, this is something you could do with your daughter.

    • avatar Lila says:

      Eve, this is great. I wish ALL schools would do this, and starting more like around 8th grade. I have long advocated a practical math / home economics course similar to what you describe. Also a good time to learn about credit cards, fees, loans and interest rates, investing, checking accounts, credit ratings etc etc etc.

      • avatar David Bolton says:

        I had this exact discussion with someone just the other day—high schools should have certain required classes that are run exactly like a business. Have kids pick from a list of “careers” on the first day of high school—and let that be their job for the entire year, complete with responsibilities, networking and so on. If they don’t like the job, make them network with friends, find an opening and land an interview with the teacher or “boss” who runs that company. That’s the way the real world works. Expose kids to dealing with money, independence skills, team management and so forth, instead of this 11th grade research paper crap. Teach a kid how to write a resume and a cover letter and prepare for an interview. Even a lot of adults don’t know how to do that.

      • avatar Lila says:

        David, those would be great skills to teach in school, too. THIS is the kind of stuff that should be required, right along with the basic “3 Rs.” It also might wake kids up to just WHY it is important to be able to read, write, figure percentages and compounding interest, etc… not to mention, not burning your bridges at work…

  19. avatar Anne M says:

    LW#1 BTDT with my son he married young & I knew it was a bad choice BUT sometimes you just have to love your child enough to let them go and learn the hard way. After 4 years they are divorcing and I got the call in January, he was trapped in a very bad situation and had to rescued which we did. So at 23 years of age he has nothing, no money and is starting his life over but a wiser man for what he has gone through. All you can do is ask her to write out how much rent cost, food, insurance, then have look at jobs & how much they make college education vs. high school education and just maybe she will see the light but don’t bank on it. Like someone else said she is thinking with her heart not her head.

  20. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    MBR my heart goes out to you. 

    The advice to set out the financial realities for both of them (now that they are engaged…treat them as a couple) is good.  While I don’t think you need to mortgage your house to pay for their wedding…I’m thinking giving them a modest sum or hosting a modest party would probably pay dividends in the long rum (I’m talking less than 3K here if that) as the failure of you to support their union MAY always be the sticking point that always drives her back to him and away from you. 

    His family does sound dreadful.  But, since it appears that this is going to happen whether you like it or not (and I certainly would not), I think that you should be thinking about how to *break the cycle* here and provide a good example for them. (Maybe the young man is attracted to your daughter because he WANTS to break the cycle).   Encourage them both to get higher education.

    Here are some questions to ask yourself:  Does he treat your daughter well?  Is he respectful to your family?  Ask your daughter about their shared goals and values.  How do they see their life together unfolding?  

    Sometimes what looks like a train wreck based on our experience and wisdom does defy our expectations.  My niece essentially eloped with a man my parents had met only once…in fact on the day of the wedding at the courthouse…no one knew his last name!.  At the time she was 24, had graduated from college and had not lived with her parents for 5 or 6 years so obviously they had no control over it.  My brother-in-law had to be dragged to the courthouse to witness his daughter get married he was so upset and worried about it.   After 5 years, two children, their marriage surviving a year long tour of his in Afghanistan AND him being 2 years younger than my niece…he is by far the favored son-in-law because he loves my niece so dearly, is a good and devoted father, and just the dearest man you would want to know.  

    Her mother, my older sister was engaged for 2 or 3 years to a guy my parents strongly disapproved of (for good reasons..he treated her badly).  At my parents urging they waited to get married until they had both graduated from college.  It ended when he found someone else.  She found her soulmate a couple of years later so all was well.

    However…to discourage her relationship…which began in high school, my parents set strict limits on how often they could see or talk to each other. And to be fair, imposed the same limits on me and my boyfriend.  And encouraged me and my sister to see the world, get our education etc.   

    I did so and lost the love of my life in the process.   While I was travelling the world he found someone else.  And while I moved on and have had a good life, I know I lost the soul mate I found at age 14. 

    So, if this is going to happen…do not close the door to your daughter.  It may turn out to be a train wreck (chances are it will) but do not give her a reason not to come home if she needs to.  

    Best wishes.    

     

  21. avatar S Hughes says:

    If you can’t talk her out of marriage, try to get her, or maybe even them since it’s something everyone should discuss before marriage, to agree to postponing children. If they agree, take her to the doctor to get the shot (or was it an implant, I can’t remember) that lasts three years. (It’s too easy to forget to take a pill) The reason being, is that if she does change her mind, she doesn’t stay together for the children; although I wouldn’t mention that to them.

  22. avatar mbr says:

    Thank you. Lots of good advice and I am taking my time & trying not to react instinctively in a negative way when I hear her say something I don’t approve of. At the time I wrote to Margo, I was very emotional because I knew the big proposal was imminent and did not think to include more detail about my daughter’s potential in-laws. I also mentioned her losing health insurance if she gets married but didn’t write that she requires monthly medications for health issues, one of them being asthma. She is currently on birth control but is not consistent in taking it. She thinks women having babies in their late 30′s is “gross” and wants to be a young mom. I am concerned she would be trapped in a marriage because of finances, children & religious issues that were mentioned previously. I have worries on so many levels that I couldn’t include
    them in my original letter. She says she is planning to wait until next summer to get married so I hope this is the truth. Her fiancee is following her to the same college so they will be together on a daily basis. I had hoped she would have time to grow as a
    person on her own but with their constant togetherness, I doubt she will open herself up to spending time with others or making new friends. As of now, we are helping her financially for her first year in college but have made it clear that everything stops when she gets married. Thanks again!

  23. avatar CatA says:

    MBR:  You say your daughter’s fiancee is “following her to the same college.”  So he will be attending college as well?  This is good news, actually.  He will be exposed to others equally, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he turns out to be the one to leave the relationship first.  Problem solved (kinda).  I hope your daughter will find herself a strong and non-alcohol/drug dependent support net of friends, and that she finishes her education without the interruption of marriage and kids.  So she’ll need to take birth control (and STD prevention) seriously.  Once she sees how much fun her twenties can be without a husband and kids, she may come to see marriage and kids in her 30′s as natural rather than “gross.”

    • avatar Lila says:

      CatA, agreed… It would be ideal if he is also a student. If he’s just “around,” then I think he will have no appreciation for how much time students have to invest in homework, research, etc. He may just resent the time she isn’t spending paying attention to him, or otherwise interfere and drag her academic performance down.

  24. avatar victoria_suominen says:

    What, exactly, is an “academic”?  If it’s a professor, they make good salaries.  From the sound of the letter, it seems the man in question is a professional student.  If so, this is a marriage that will NOT work.  Been there, done that. After ten years of supporting him and still he made excuses about having “one more research project to finish”, I threw in the towel and made something of my life.