Parents Don't Trust Her Guy

Q: I have been happily in a relationship with my boyfriend for 2 years. When he graduated high school he was told to find his own living arrangements, and if he was going to attend the college he was accepted to, he needed to pay for it himself. I am 23, just graduated from college and beginning a grad program. I work a few hours a week, but mostly my parents support me. My boyfriend has a steady job where the CEO is his grandfather. He is "paying his dues" and continues to work his way up the company ladder. My parents like him as a person, but he is not who they expected me to end up with. Also, complicating matters, my sister was the victim of a scam artist. She dated a man for 4 years and then married him, and when she later filed for divorce, she learned he had put her name on the mortgage and opened credit cards in her name and had not paid them off, and had drained her bank accounts.

My parents are worried that I'm making the same mistake as my sister. My father especially won't budge. He threatens to stop making my car payment, tells me I have to move out of the apartment I live in that he owns, and even checks my credit card statements online and grills me on every purchase. I feel extremely lucky to have the parents I do, but if it means I can't make any decisions on my own or have a normal life, I'd rather be slaving away at some job to support myself. What should I do? -- Hayley, 23

Dr. Susan: I can see how your father would be really nervous about a second daughter hitching up with a man who might take advantage of her financially. It would be a shame, though, to give up grad school because of his anxieties. What you need to do is find a way to reassure your father that your education is uppermost in your mind, and that you are not intending to give a cent to your boyfriend. Maybe a pre-pre-nup? Some sort of quasi-legal document? Your sister dated her future husband for four years, which should be plenty of time to ferret out a scam artist. (She needs to take some responsibility for not knowing what was going on for so long.) Perhaps you and your dad and maybe your boyfriend could have a session with a therapist to discuss how to protect everyone's interests. And then, if necessary, you might consider attending school less than full-time so you can work and cut the strings your dad is holding. Also, talk to your mom again (and again) to see if she can help reassure your father.

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