Dear Carolyn • My fiance’s job is detrimental to his mental health, but he needs it for health insurance due to a serious condition.
Our wedding is next year. We are considering getting legally married soon so he’s covered by my insurance and free to leave his job. We would still have our wedding next year for the exchanging of vows and rings.
My biggest concern is telling my parents, who will be upset. If my fiance leaves his job, they may suspect what we’re doing.
I have a lot of ingrained fear of disappointing them. My relationship with them has been severely damaged in the past and is worlds better now, but our history definitely contributes to my fear of telling them. Thoughts? — Secret Bride
Answer • Moving up the wedding is just as important for your serious condition as it is for your fiance’s — yours being that you’re an adult who can’t freely make adult decisions out of fear of disapproval.
Until you’re able to make choices openly that you believe are right — even knowing they’ll upset your parents or whoever else — your fear will stand between you and life fulfillment. No exaggeration.
If you can’t marry now with confidence that you can withstand the pressure your parents bring to bear, then please take the matter to a reputable family therapist. Find your voice, find the strength to stand up to pressure, then find joy in walking your own path vs. tiptoeing on somebody else’s.
Dear Carolyn • My adult daughter let me know during her last visit that when she speaks of her life she is looking for “validation.” I am trying to learn what this means so I can improve when I see her again in a few months.
Most people describe me as an excellent listener, so I am confused. Part of the puzzle is that I am an action-oriented person and jump to brainstorming solutions immediately; the other part is perhaps generational? — Brainstorming
Answer • It’s not generational, it’s linguistic.
Your daughter does not want unsolicited advice. And therefore is like every other generation before her.
It’s possible — I’m going with likely — that your “action-oriented,” “brainstorming solutions immediately” style has served you better with other people than it has with your daughter because they are other people and not your daughter. Unsolicited advice tends not to be a cherished commodity in general, but it often takes one’s offspring to find it truly unbearable.
The good news is, problem-solving skills are valued. Therefore, the only adjustment you need to make is to ask people if they want your suggestions before you start suggesting. All people, not just your daughter — but especially your daughter.
People who don’t want advice generally want someone to listen to them and maybe make sympathetic noises every once in a while: “Oh no, I’m sorry to hear that.” It’s just a timeless human transaction that some people are learning to ask for by name.
When you genuinely don’t sympathize, don’t fake it, but do ask: “I have thoughts. Want ‘em?” In the event of “no,” I find it helpful to bite on a stick.