Childless Daughter

December 06 2020 | by

DEAR DR. POPCAK: My daughter has been cohabitating for the past 12 years with a man who is against marriage and who does not want to father any children. He already has 2 children from a previous marriage which ended acrimoniously, and he says he does not want to repeat the unpleasant experience. They get along very well together, and he has always been faithful to her, but whenever she has gently suggested that they tie the knot, he has always replied, “Let’s leave things as they are. Why ruin everything?” Do you think my husband and I should step in? What should we do?


As a parent, it can be so hard to know how and when to step in and help our adult children. We want the best for them, but we don’t want to overstep and may not know how to approach them effectively. When approaching a situation such as this, it is important we take guidance from Ephesians 4:2, which reminds us, “Be completely humble and gentle, bearing with one another in love.”

You understand that your daughter is created for more in her life and in her relationship, and you see clearly that God’s will for her is full communion with her significant other/spouse and ultimately with God Himself. It is beautiful that you want this for her and desire to lead her in this direction. And the fact is, she is settling. For some reason, she doesn’t realize that she deserves more from her life and relationships.

While she is an adult and, ultimately, in charge of her own life and decisions, you still have a role to play. Help your daughter begin to realize how much more she deserves – how much more God wants for her – not by lecturing her, but by supporting, loving, and encouraging her.  Acknowledge her strengths, encourage her in her skills and what she has to offer, remind her that she is created for – and capable of – amazing things.

When we feel powerless to effect the changes we want to see in someone else’s life, we tend to adopt the persona of a ‘contemptuous expert’. We lecture the other person. We tell them what they ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ do. Although our intention may be to help them, all we really end up doing is pointing out everything that is wrong with them. This approach ultimately has the exact opposite effect of what we’re intending; it causes the other person to feel foolish, ineffective, backed into a corner, powerless, and stuck.

This is why, rather than criticizing or lecturing, we need to focus on doing what we can to develop a strong relationship with that person and build them so that they can see how much more love they deserve than they are settling for.  It’s easy to tell them they were made for more, but it’s much more effective to show them.

This may seem like an indirect approach to addressing your concern, however it is the most effective way to help your daughter believe that she is created for more than her current situation has to offer. Strengthen your relationship with your daughter. Schedule regular time with her.  Show her she is worth making regular time for. Compliment her on what she is doing well in her career, with her boyfriend’s children, as a friend, or as your daughter. Express to her the wonderful qualities you see in her and how she uses those qualities to do beautiful things.

It is crucial, however, for you to be authentic in your approach. Don’t be obviously over-the-top or disingenuous in your comments. Our self-talk is largely formed based off of the things that we hear, the things that other people tell us about ourselves or even about others. Let your loving words be the basis for your daughter developing the self-talk that encourages her to be all that she can be, and understand all that God has in store for her and her life.

It may be difficult to take this approach sometimes, but this is the heart of what Pope Francis calls “accompaniment.” Resist the temptation to take the easy way out, by lecturing and scolding. Instead, see that your daughter (and her boyfriend) both have wounds that they believe cannot be healed, and so they settle for less. Walk with them. Be a reminder of how much God loves them, how much you love them, and how much more God wants to give them – whenever they are ready to receive it.

Updated on December 06 2020