On Teens Who Get Engaged, Out-fo-touch Parents, and Rebuilding Relationships

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My 14-year-old came home today with a ring on her finger. The gem looks like a diamond. I asked her where she got it, and she said her boyfriend of two years proposed. They plan on getting married when she is 18 and he will be 20. She said she wants to drop out of school at 18, but he won’t let her. I didn’t even know she had a boyfriend, though she has long told me she plans on moving out when she is 18. She says this boy walked into her life for a reason and saved her in every way a person can be saved. What should I do about this? Is this crazy? Could it be puppy love? I don’t want her to ruin her life.


At first blush, this doesn’t sound like puppy love. Two years is a long relationship for high-schoolers, and the engagement ring suggests that both the boy and the girl take the marriage idea seriously.

As for what you do about it, your choice depends entirely on your relationship with your daughter. Your letter provided few details, but I can draw a few conclusions.

First, you don’t have a very good relationship with your daughter. Perhaps this comes as a surprise to you, perhaps not. But for whatever reason, the girl has long since decided to leave home as soon as she is 18, and she didn’t tell you about this boyfriend until after she came home with a ring. Those omissions suggest that either she doesn’t trust you, she doesn’t think you’re very interested in her life, or both. Second, until now, your daughter has probably not been happy. She said this boy “saved” her. I suspect you know what he “saved” her from, but if you don’t, you had better learn right away. The girl’s insistence on leaving home immediately and lack of interest in completing high school also suggest that she sees few reasons for optimism other than this boy. Third, there is probably little you can do in the short term. In every state in the U.S., children under 18 cannot be married without the consent of either parents or a judge, or both. However, no law prevents a couple of minors from committing to marry at a future date. And in most places, once they turn 18, they can marry without parental consent. Given that legal backdrop, I suggest you don’t try to convince your daughter to call off the engagement, or to insist that she do so. Her actions so far suggest she doesn’t care about your feelings in this matter, and given that you can’t really force her to comply, you have little to gain by contesting the matter right now.

While your situation is unusual, in that teenagers rarely take such direct and forward-thinking action with regards to marriage, the engagement is not your biggest problem. No, you must first mend the relationship with your daughter before you can hope to influence her conduct. If you don’t know why she feels so disconnected from you, find out immediately. Talk to her. If she won’t talk to you, talk to her father or her younger sibling.

Give serious thought to the events of the last few years. When did the two of you start to drift apart? On what topics do you disagree? Have you done anything to make yourself look untrustworthy in your daughter’s eyes? Has your supervision of the girl been too lax, given her ability to keep a serious boyfriend for two years without your knowledge?

I’m not saying this is all your fault. In most cases, there’s plenty of blame to go around, and it’s likely your daughter is to blame for at least some of her own discontent. However, I am saying that even if you didn’t cause the rift, you bear a share of the responsibility for it. As the mother, it is your job to keep up with your daughter’s wants and needs, to nurture and teach her, and to be the loving parent she needs.

Find out what caused the distance between you and your daughter, and take some steps to close that gap. If you pray, I recommend you get down to it right away.

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