Mother and Daughter Dating Conflict

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When a daughter grows up and still lives at home with her single mother, it creates problems with dating. The mother and daughter relationship is not equal to two single women. Let our dating coach help you see how this situation is different than normal roommates.

Mother and Daughter Dating Conflict

Reader Question

I am 51 and have been divorced since 1992. My daughter is 20 and still living at home but stays over her boyfriend's most weekends. They've been together 2 yrs and are leaning towards living together as soon as she graduates. She wants to live with him now but I told her if she was mature enough to do that, then she was mature enough to pay her own way (car, insurance, school, phone, etc.). I'm also dating someone at the moment and we have been steadily seeing each other for 3 months. He spent the night last Friday when my daughter was home. She got up in the middle of the night, slamming the front door as she left for her boyfriend's house. She refuses to speak to me. Sunday she called saying, I should have respected her enough to let her know if my boyfriend was going to be over so she could stay away. The couple of times that I have seen her in passing, she will not acknowledge my presence. I have no idea how to proceed, so I am laying low now. She and I normally get along, although I have never had a date stay over while she was around. What should I do? Am I to be my daughter's "prisoner" until she moves out?? Thanks for any advice, Barbara-- Contributed by: Barbara

Expert Reply

Dear Barbara,

While it's true that children do grow up and leave home, changing the dynamics of the parent-child relationship. One thing always remains the same. Parents will always be older and their children will always be younger. For this reason, the parent-child relationship can grow to be equitable, but it will never be one of equals. As a parent, you generally will never be in the same developmental stage as your daughter. You may be single and dating or in a relationship like her. While this creates similarities, it does not make you equals. Your age, stage in life and experiences are not the same as hers nor is your role in her life.

This example is best illustrated in the area of sexual relations. No child, know matter how old she is, ever wants to hear or see a parent having sex and many kids don't really want to know about it either. Yet, as a mother, you want to support your daughter and have an open and honest relationship with her. You want her to feel safe and comfortable to come to you and share what is going on in her life, this includes her love life. She on the other hand will not want the same from you. Herein is the root of the current problem with your daughter and the double standard that exists between the two of you. You unintentionally violated her boundaries of safety and comfort as well as her trust when you invited your date to stay the night without talking to her ahead of time. As a result, your daughter learned more about you and your date, than she wanted or was prepared to learn.

A good way to approach the current issue is to start by apologizing to your daughter. You're not necessarily apologizing for having sexual relations with your boyfriend or for having him spend the night. What you are apologizing for is not talking with her ahead of time about how the two of you will live under the same roof as adults and preparing her for what some of those changes may include. You are also apologizing for not taking the lead in having the conversation and acknowledging that as a result she was caught off guard when your boyfriend spent the night. From the apology, the two of you can then begin to repair and work on establishing a new and different relationship, with new and different rules for two adult woman living together. This is where you're likely to establish equitable but not equal rules for living under the same roof.

As a mom, your job is to guide your daughter to become the strong, intelligent and independent woman you hope she'll be. Sometimes this will be easy and fun and sometimes it will be challenging and difficult. Developmentally, your daughter sees you as different and what is OK for her, is not OK for you. This is the development challenge she is currently going through. It is also the reason she sometimes comes across as mature and other times as childish. This is normal and part of growing up. At the same time, you're guiding her to come to a new understanding that you are human and have some of the same needs, wants and desires as she does. Don't expect your daughter to accept this reality all at once and don't give up on the ability of the two of you to get past this momentary dilemma.

~~Lori

Mother and Daughter Dating Conflict