She says: We should speak to our daughter about the man she is thinking of marrying
We don’t think this man is right for her; it’s our duty to bring up our concerns
He says: I’m concerned about the many ways this could go wrong
I’m concerned too, but this could backfire whether she marries him or not
Whether you should speak with your daughter depends upon the nature of your concerns and her openness to listening. Let’s break your possible concerns into three categories.
First are concerns of preference.
This could include his social background, temperament or education. For example, you might think he’s either too far below her (“she could do better”) or too far above (“he’s snobbish”).
If these are your concerns, don’t say anything. If she’s probing for what you think, say something like, “Well, honestly, if we were living in an arranged-marriage world he might not be our first choice. But we’re not, and besides, what do we know anyway? If your gut says yes, go with it.”
Second are concerns about disparity of religion or life values.
Though the Catholic Church officially prefers Catholics to marry other Catholics, She nevertheless allows Catholics to marry non-Catholics. As for disparity of life values – say, for example, your daughter loves the finer things while her beau wants to live in a hut – the Church has nothing to say except that if they marry, they’re in it for life. Where does this leave you?
Again, if she hasn’t asked, it’s probably best to say nothing. If she’s asked, say something like, “Yes, we have concerns about possible tension and division. But we want you to be happy, and that’s why we also want you to be realistic.”
Third are concerns about addictive or abusive behavior.
In this category we include not just substance abuse, but also relational patterns such as physical or verbal bullying, silent treatments, manipulation, coercion, etc. Should you bring these concerns up?
Yes. Whether she’s asked for your input or not, these concerns go to the heart of his/their capacity to even form a marital union at all. But do it with utmost tenderness and love, and moreover, with the proper distance of knowing that in the end this is not your battle.
In short, try to be like God. He wants his children to make good choices, but he lets us make poor and even awful choices. What matters is that whenever we make those choices, he is always there on the other side to receive us, love us and help us find healing and hope.
Steve and Bridget Patton hold master’s degrees in theology and counseling and serve as family life ministers in the Diocese of Sacramento.