What advice or help can you give your daughter if she’s struggling with her husband? Here are a few tips for supporting your daughter during a difficult time in her marriage.
Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Cloud and Townsend is an excellent book to read. You need to figure out how to be supportive, yet you can’t take on your daughter’s marriage problems or save her from her relationship. You need to stay healthy, and stay in tune with your own responsibilities.
Here’s what a mother said about her daughter’s marriage: “My daughter’s husband has not been interested in her physically since she got pregnant. Even now, after three months after the baby was born, he says he is physically not attracted to her anymore. I want to give her the best advice, however my instinct is to say just pack your bags and leave. I think he is having an affair. He does have a job that seems to have him out of the house a lot. I asked her if he would be willing to do counseling. She does not believe he feels there is a problem. Any suggestions on the type of advice and support I should be giving her?”
It sounds like this mother-daughter team is very close! When your daughter confides in you about the sexual aspects of her marriage, she trusts you a great deal. This is both good and bad. Good, because it shows she respects your opinion and support. But it’s also bad, because you may feel helpless and powerless to “fix” her problems.
How to Support Your Daughter in a Bad Marriage
Giving your daughter freedom to make mistakes and be unhappy is hard…but it may be the best way to support her.
Be available when she’s ready to reach out
You can’t convince her to leave her partner or change her life, but you can be there for her when she needs you. Tell her that you’re willing to help her in whatever way she needs, but don’t push her to leave her husband. Tell her you love her and want the best for her, and you want to help her when she’s ready.
And, listen to her. Let her talk – don’t give her advice or counseling. When was the last time someone listened to you for 15 minutes without interjecting? It feels great to just talk without having to defend yourself, answer questions, or listen to others’ opinions. It helps us figure out what we really think and want – and it is amazing to just be heard.
I think one of the best ways to support your daughter during a rough time in her marriage is to just listen to her. Don’t think about what advice to give her, what to say, or what she should do. Just let her talk. Be there for her. Cry when she cries. Laugh when she laughs. Just be a mom or dad who loves her unconditionally. Don’t give her advice or be her marriage counsellor.
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Remember what you don’t know
You may think you know what your daughter should do about her relationship and life, but perhaps you don’t know as much as you think. You may have beliefs and worries about her marriage, but do you really know what she should do? Are you sure you know what’s best for your grandchildren, son-in-law, or the future of their relationships?
Maybe you don’t know as much as you think. Maybe the reason you’re searching for ways to support your daughter in a bad marriage is because you honestly have no idea what she should do. You don’t know if she should leave him, where she should go, or how her kids will react now or in the future.
And that’s okay! It’s not your job as a mother to have all the answers. It’s your job to learn how to hold on to your faith when love hurts. It’s your job to love and support her no matter what happens in her life. Don’t push or nag her, and don’t assume you know what’s best for her.
Let your daughter be a grown up
Your beloved child chose to marry this man. She may not be happy – and she may even be abused in her relationship. She may give you her perspective on her marriage. But, you have to remember that you don’t know the honest truth about their relationship because you’re only getting her side of things. Even if you were a marriage counsellor, speaking to both of them and hearing both perspectives, you won’t know the actual truth. Marriage is very complicated, and partners bring their own flawed perspectives to the table. They don’t bring the truth – they bring what they believe.
If your daughter asks for your advice, give her two or three options. Don’t say, “Leave him! I think you should end your marriage right now.” Instead, give her a few things to think about. Encourage her to make a decision that makes sense to her. “Well, honey, you could try marriage counselling or a trial separation. What makes the most sense to you?” You can give her advice, but it’s important that she makes her own decision about her marriage.
You might send her articles such as 6 Signs Your Marriage is Over if she asks for advice.
Protect your relationship with your daughter
This should probably be my first tip for mothers who want to help their daughters cope with cheating husbands or difficult marriages! I think you should let your daughter work out her marriage problems without your advice. Why? Because in the long run, you’ll save your mother-daughter relationship. If you push her to leave her husband or share your opinion about her marriage, your words may haunt you in the future. What if she works things out with her husband? She’ll never forget your encouragements to leave him. This will taint your relationship with both your daughter and your son-in-law.
Be Switzerland. You love your daughter and want the best for her; I think the most supportive way to show your love is to give her room to talk and share her feelings. Don’t tell her what to do. Encourage her to find her own way in her marriage.
Here’s another article I wrote for a reader who had a similar question: How to Help a Friend in an Abusive Relationship.
I welcome your thoughts on how to support your daughter in a difficult marriage below, but I can’t offer advice or counseling. You may find it helpful to share your experience, because writing helps us process our thoughts and emotions. Writing can bring clarity and insight, and help us see our situation in a different light.