DEAR CAROLYN: Our daughter, 27 and married two years, feels she "is living the wrong life." We are very fond of our son-in-law, but our primary concern is our daughter.
He is 10 years older and wanted to start a family, but his, "When do you think you will be ready?" has caused her to have a rethink of where she is, where they are as a couple, etc. Bottom line is that she doesn't love him the way you would expect a newly married couple to feel for each other.
I believe they have laid everything out for discussion, but I can tell from my daughter's personality that she has decided she doesn't love him the way a wife should. She is very worried about his reaction toward a separation. He has had trust issues from the past.
I have suggested counseling, to help her figure out what she wants and needs, but she's embarrassed with the notion of being a "statistic."
Concerned Mother and Mother-In-Law
DEAR CONCERNED: I answer with misgivings, because while this is your daughter and your heartache, it is not your problem. It sounds as if you're admirably close, but over-involved.
From one sometimes-can't-help-it meddler to another, though, I do have one suggestion for you that I think is both important and in-bounds: Please challenge her implied rationale for her less-than-full reckoning with the problem. If she defers to feeling embarrassed, she passively makes a priority of avoiding difficult feelings, putting a facade on difficult appearances, and postponing difficult decisions.
In essence, that would put her back where she was when she decided to marry this man despite what she now recognizes as serious doubts. Surely she chose marriage because what can feel more awkward and painful than pulling the plug on a wedding?
That's a rhetorical question, but I'll answer it: pulling the plug on a new-ish, ill-fitting marriage.
Deferring pain only compounds it.
You can't make your daughter do, think or feel anything she doesn't choose on her own, but you can point out that the only way any of us can make sound decisions is to be accountable to our own needs.
The therapist the implied public whom she seems ashamed to face doesn't have to live her life. She does.
I hope she summons the strength to admit and serve her needs; authenticity serves her husband, too, even if it makes him an ex.
His "trust issues" are his too, not hers, but his need for honesty is hers to respect; suppressing her own needs to mollify him is just a kind of deceit.