Since You Asked…

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Dear Caroline

I have a gay daughter who is married to a wonderful woman. However, my daughter-in-law’s father is an evangelical tyrant, so they have not told him about their relationship. Because of this, my daughter doesn’t get invited to their family functions because her wife’s parents think they’re only roommates. My daughter doesn’t want to cause stress for her wife. My daughter-in-law’s brother got married, and there was a gay man in the family he married into who wasn’t invited to the wedding. My daughter’s wife and her parents are now going on vacation and leaving my daughter behind. What is your advice?

…Concerned Mom

Dear Concerned,

I’m not as sold on your daughter-in-law as you seem to be, because by bowing down to keep favor with her tyrannical father, she’s trying to have her cake and eat it too. That secrecy is making your daughter a second-class citizen in her own home. It may be “trickle-down” abuse, but it’s still abuse. Imagine, for a moment, a marriage in which a man who married a woman his parents disapproved of kept the marriage a secret and left his wife at home while he went to parties and on vacations with his parents. Does he sound like a wonderful man?

When a couple marries, they’re in charge of their lives and their family unit. Your daughter-in-law, for whatever reasons, hasn’t moved into her adult role.

You described your daughter’s father-in-law as an “evangelical tyrant.” Tyrants tyrannize because people hand over their power. I think your daughter and her wife will only have a healthy marriage if they move beyond his tyranny, even if it means upsetting one side of the family, losing an inheritance or other material or financial strings that the in-laws may be using as a form of control. However, that’s their choice to make, no one else’s.

Though you’re naturally concerned as a mother, your daughter is in charge of her own life and her own marriage. If she’s married to a woman whose unhealthy relationship with her parents requires her to live in the shadows, I think she’d be better off putting her foot down or leaving, but nobody can do that for her. All you can do is love your daughter unconditionally and offer advice if she asks you for it — and complaining is a form of asking for advice. Should her marriage fall apart, I hope you can offer her the emotional support she needs and possibly a temporary place to land.

Few things are harder for a parent than knowing their adult child has married into a situation that isn’t the best for them, but as adults, our children are entitled to make their own choices.

Yours truly,


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