Friday, November 21, 2014

Accept That Your Grown Children Are Adults

Dear Prudence column got a polyamory question. Stuck in the Middle With Him wrote... [I'm bumping this up because it is as relevant as ever as this can happen any time of the year.]
Our daughter "Amanda" lives in another state and has been married to "Jacob" for several years. Theirs is an open relationship, and I have always known that. My husband, however has kept his head in the sand regarding this. My daughter has a boyfriend, "Tom,” whom Jacob knows about and has a great friendship with. They are all planning to come to our home this Christmas, but my husband insists that Tom (who has visited us previously) is not welcome. Do I tell our daughter, son-in-law, and daughter's boyfriend to make other holiday plans? My opinion is that they are all consenting adults, there are no children involved, and always behave appropriately in public.
The letter writer's husband is being a jerk. The letter writer sounds like a reasonable person. I would be interested in knowing if they have any other children, and if the non-spousal partners and friends of those children are also banned? I would also be interested in knowing how Jacob and Tom's families are about the situation. Maybe Amanda, Jacob, and Tom should go to see them for the holidays? Or they can host their own holiday get-togethers and invite all who will come?

Yoffe's reply...
Perhaps a generation from now many families will be having a very polyamorous Christmas. But we aren’t there yet. I support your conclusion that your daughter and the men in her life are consenting adults and as long as they behave with decorum, what they do in private is none of your business. But they are also open about their open relationship, so I can understand your husband’s point of view that he attended Amanda’s wedding to Jacob, where she vowed to forsake all others, including every Tom, Dick, and Harry.

Not everyone makes that vow, and not everyone who makes that vow means that they will have no involvement whatsoever with anyone else. Also, agreements are mutually modified all of the time, and if Amanda and Jacob mutually agreed to their situation, they that's all that should matter.

Suggest this year she come only with Jacob. Surely she knows there are simply occasions when she must make a choice about which man to bring.
Hmm. Tom is part of Amanda's life. This is a rejection of Amanda's autonomy over her own sexuality and social life, and a rejection of Jacob as well, since he agreed to this. Parents aren't always going to like the decisions their adult children make, but those grown children are going to live their own lives, and their parents can either be a part of it or not.
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