I am twenty-six years old, and for two years I have been in a secret romantic relationship with a man who is eleven years older than I am.

My mother… in her effort to protect me, won’t allow me to make my own decisions…. She doesn’t accept that I want to be independent and have a boyfriend. My boyfriend asked me to marry him… but my mother won’t accept me moving out of the house. She intimidates me saying that God will punish me severely and that I will never be happy…. She has even attacked me physically…. What can I do if I want to get married to experience God’s grace, without having to do it behind my mother’s back?

Dear Friend,

We are sorry to hear of your difficult situation. Your case is complicated because there are actually two different issues. One is the age difference between you and your boyfriend. For that, please refer to Cases 184 and 738 at message2conscience.com for our counsel to other women with a significant age difference in their romantic relationships.

Your other issue is your mother’s attitude and actions. You want to honor her as a way to follow the Ten Commandments, but she has made you believe that honoring her means doing everything the way that she thinks is best. She has even gone further to tell you that you will be punished by God for not doing as she wishes. And, to make matters even worse, she has physically attacked you.

Adults who physically attack others show that they cannot control themselves, neither in word nor deed. Your mother’s physical attack along with the lies that she’s telling you lead us to speculate that she has a personality disorder or a mental illness. However, we are not psychiatrists, so we cannot give a medical diagnosis.

Either way, your mother is deceiving you. It is not normal for a healthy twenty-six-year-old daughter who wants a different life to be forced to live according to her mother’s wishes. And it is certainly not healthy for a mother to try to make her daughter feel guilty for wanting to live her own life.

The Bible teaches that adult children who are independent from their parents are not obligated to live with them and are no longer subject to them. Honoring such parents, which means treating them with respect, lasts for a lifetime, whereas obeying them is only during childhood.

You say that you want to experience the grace of God. Grace is when we are blessed by God in ways that we could never earn through our own efforts. The most significant example of grace was demonstrated when God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins even though we didn’t deserve it. Anyone can receive this grace from God, (1) so we encourage you to accept that Christ already paid for your sins. Then do your best to put your mother’s misguided words and behavior behind you.

We wish you well,

1 Ac 15:11