Tell Me About It: Trying to control? Back off

Question: I guess I'm old-school, because my 23-year-old daughter has moved in with her boyfriend and I have concerns about almost everything. On one hand, I know she is an adult and, even though I think it is morally wrong for two people to have sex before marriage, I will need to accept her choice. On the other, I know problems could arise no matter how much they think everything will be all right.

She knows my feelings and, since she now lives over 4,000 miles away, things can be tricky when we discuss her situation. My question is whether I should warn her about legal issues. I did find a nice website that covers the issues pretty well. Would it be better for me to send it without letting her know about it, ask her if she wants it then send it only if she agrees, or back off?

Answer: That depends.

"Problems could arise no matter how much they think everything will be all right." This is true of cohabiting, yes.

It's also true of getting married, having children, driving a car, riding in a car, being exposed to the sun, having a job, not having a job, crossing the street, eating food, or taking a shower.

If you believed your daughter wasn't taking an adult approach to these risks, how would you respond - would you suggest websites that discuss precautions she can take? Would you decide the potential benefit to her outweighed the possible cost to your relationship for appearing meddlesome? Possibly most important - what's the precedent? Have you typically sent her articles explaining, say, the increasing severity of the weather in her part of the country?

If you are moved to send cautionary links only when she makes decisions that don't align with your values, then expect her to interpret - or recognize? - your motive as an attempt to control, not protect, and back off.

Q: My wife and I were married a little over three years ago, and now several of her family members are getting married.

In terms of gifts, my thought is, since I am the only one working, we are not giving any more than we received from each party. Her thought is that we should give a better-sounding amount. Thoughts?

A: My suspicion is you're nursing a grudge over the amount you received.

My thought is that basing a gift on such a grudge, or in any way reflecting in your gift the apparently worse-sounding amount they gave you, is petty.

Give what you think is right, within the limits of what you can afford. When it comes to gifts, weddings, family members, try this as a new mantra: Count blessings, not beans.


E-mail Carolyn Hax at, follow her on Facebook at or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at