I have begun to see the faults of my daughters’ husbands, and I worry a lot because they are pulling away from me. I don’t want to cause them any harm; on the contrary, I try to counsel them when I see them treat my daughters unfairly. Would you please advise me what to do?

Dear Friend,

Your own words reveal the reason your daughters and their husbands are pulling away from you: you are interfering in their lives. You say you don’t want to harm them, but that is precisely what you are doing. If you do not stop, they will eventually cut off communication with you because you are dangerous to their marriages.

Every week many adult children write us asking for advice on what to do about their interfering mothers. Their mothers love them very much but do not have the wisdom to know how to stay out of their adult children’s lives. There is a formula at the very beginning of the Bible which is repeated at least three times throughout the Scriptures. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”(1) This formula makes it clear that the young couple must leave their parents, separating themselves both physically and emotionally. Those who continue living in the home of their parents are not following the formula and will usually have many difficulties as a result.

But even those who move out to live on their own, if they continue to have a parent‑child relationship with their parents, will also bring trouble into their new marriage. The person who gets married is no longer a child. He or she is an adult and must be respected as an adult by the parents. This means that the parents should not give advice unless it is specifically asked for. Moreover, they must let their adult children make mistakes and pay the consequences of those mistakes. The parents must build a new relationship with adult interaction and communication. The hierarchy of the parent as the leader and the child as the follower is gone forever. They are now equals, and must treat each other as equals.

I am the mother of five adult children. I know from experience that it is extremely difficult to keep my advice to myself. Of course, I am not always successful, but I cannot even count the multitude of times when I haven’t said what I really wanted to say. My adult children constantly make choices that I don’t agree with, but I recognize that they now get to do it their way, and my opinion is not always important.

I let my five adult children set the pace for how much I communicate with them. Some call me several times each week, and I communicate with them on a similar schedule. Others call or email me only once every few weeks, and I follow their pattern. They are all adults and they get to decide how much they want me in their lives. I will not force them to communicate with me if they don’t wish to.

The only way you can help your daughters is to pray for them and offer emotional support if they ask for it. And show their husbands only love and respect.

It is difficult, but you can do it!

Linda (Charles’ wife)
1 Ge 2:24; Mt 19:6; Mk 10:9; Eph 5:31