Dear Loveawake: My husband and I have been apart 4 years, divorced for 2 years. We have two children. The oldest, a daughter, will be 21 years old in April. She started a relationship 6 months after I left the marital home, her first ever. I was angry when I discovered that my ex husband had allowed her boyfriend, Mike, to stay over the house while our daughter, Jean, was in her room next to her younger brother. After some time of Mike "living there" I spoke up. Mike & Jean moved out when she was 18 and he was 20 and got an apartment. My ex husband has continued to pay for her car insurance and financed a car (which he pays for) and life moved on. They have had this apartment for two years and have not been able to save a dime. Mike, in the mean time, has moved around in jobs and has been employed at a fast food restaurant for the last 4 months. Jean is working in a billing department for a local hospital and taking some college classes. The lease is up in two months and Jean wants to come home to save for their wedding and a house. However, Mike's mother and father are divorced and will not allow him to move back with either one of them. I know the same thing will happen again at the ex husband's house, Mike will be living there. They will live there, bill free. My ex and I have discussed this and he wanted me to write to you also. I feel like he will be enabling her to stay with Mike. Mike is a nice guy but has no ambition. I want her to struggle to be able to see what the future holds with this guy. What would Mike do if our daughter wasn't around, live in a shelter? Please give me some suggestions to tell my ex how to handle this. I did tell Jean she could come live with me but she knows I won't allow Mike to live there with her. - Kathy
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Dear Kathy: Believe it or not, I don't think that your ex husband had anything to do with the love your daughter has for Mike. If this relationship is meant to be, then Mike sleeping or not sleeping in your ex's house would not have changed that. I have always felt that, as a parent, you have no control over what your children do or don't do, whether it's on a date or if they are away at college. Your behavior however, dictates whether or not they will share their lives with you or not. Perhaps 18 was a little young, but certainly a woman who is going to be 21 is old enough to know whether she is in love or not. I met my husband when I was 17 and he was 18 and I knew that he was the man that I was going to marry. My parents thought he was too shy and too poor. Nothing they could have ever said or done would have convinced me not to marry my husband. In fact, if they had made me choose between them and my husband, they would have lost. In time, they came to love and accept him but had they not; it would have been their loss. It may be your opinion that Mike isn't ambitious enough, but I believe that, "opposites attract." Your daughter is probably the go-getter and more of an achiever, but he brings something to the table or she wouldn't be in love with him. As hard as this is going to be for you to read, I am in complete agreement with your ex. Providing this couple a roof over their heads, while they are saving to get married and buy a house, is a very loving thing to do. He's not making any judgments and loves your daughter unconditionally. There are not many dads who would do that as evidenced by Mike's parents. If this couple can survive living in a parent's home, their love is meant to be. It's not about the free ride. It's about saving for their freedom as well. No one wants to remain a little boy or little girl if they don't have to. They want their independence as much as you do, maybe even more. If your daughter learns to admire, appreciate and respect Mike for who he is, this young man will soar. He might even surprise you as well. I know that you are not that good of an actress and your daughter must feel your disappointment with her choice for a husband. Please try and give her a different message. Tell her how much you love her and if this is the man she loves, you will love him too. After all, it's really all about how he makes your daughter feel. If he's respectful and loving, that's really all you can hope for. You cannot predict the future but you can be supportive of your daughter, no matter what! So my advice to you is to let your daughter know that she and Mike are welcome in your home. They may be more comfortable using your ex husband's home as their primary residence, but wouldn't it be terrific if they felt that they could also come over to your home anytime as well. Trust me on this one, your life will be richer if you can just let go and let your daughter live her life, which means making her own mistakes. I'm sure that she was deeply affected by your divorce and yet there was nothing she could do to stop it. All she could do was love her mom and dad no matter what. Give her the same gift. - Loveawake