Carolyn Hax: When a freshman gets married, end financial support?

Anonymous: Define “should”.

Is it a question of result, of principle, of deterrence?

Deterrence goes without saying. You don’t like his choice of life, so you attach great material consequence to it. I’m not a fan of the tactic – punitive child rearing has always seemed wrong to me, so punitive adult rearing mystifies – but you can’t fault its simplicity.

The principle is one that both parents can cite to support your positions. Son: You promised her an education and there was no “don’t get married” clause. Yours: Adults who make adult decisions are adult enough to support themselves.

These both have merit on their faces and a satisfying simplicity of their own – but they also contradict some obvious things left unsaid below the surface. First, it’s sort of understood that if you’re functioning as a dependent for educational purposes, the “don’t marry your boyfriend” part doesn’t need to be said. (Isn’t it?) On the other hand, your daughter has been an adult since she was 18 and yet that hasn’t stopped you from paying for her tuition, room and board as if she were an entirely dependent child – so if you’re already working from a gray, fuzzy definition of adulthood, then you can’t declare a black and white definition to be in effect on that one subject just because you want to. Not without hypocrisy. Why is it acceptable to fully fund an adult woman’s education only if she is single adult woman?

Finally, denouement: the refuge of the pragmatic. If the purpose of paying for his education was to equip him in early adulthood to live independently thereafter, on (this is often the unspoken part) middle-class rung or better, then he does not There’s no reason you can’t continue to make your decisions with that goal in mind – in light of the threatened marriage or any other reorganization of her personal life. The basic facts may change, but the age-related goal may remain intact: equip it in early adulthood to launch stably forever.

If you and your husband – and your daughter – can agree on this goal, it will clarify the decisions that make sense to achieve it.

Dear Caroline: Do I have an obligation to attend a dinner, for example, with a sour mother-in-law that my husband only tolerates to see his father? I find the facade intolerable – putting up with his control and demeaning attitude to gain access to my husband’s father. I see my husband’s over-attention to her as creeping, which he says is to protect me from having to deal with her at the dinner table. It’s toxic. Am I going numb?

Degraded : Your obligation is to marriage – not on its terms, but on mutual terms. If your husband doesn’t want to compromise on your sanity, then he short-circuits his Homework.

Sometimes the most brutal instrument is the best: an agreed limit. You attend… half of these torture sessions? A quarter? You offer a certain presence to protect him, he offers a certain absence to protect you. Think forever.

And if the “crawling” dulls your feelings for him, then you owe marriage the truth about that, too.

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