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Posted on Fri, Dec 2, 2011 : 5 a.m.

Mother would like daughter to hold off engagement

By Carolyn Hax

Hi, Carolyn:

My daughter is 21 and finishing up her senior year in college. She has been dating a man she met in school for nearly two years, and they are talking about getting engaged before the end of the school year. My daughter has shared a lot of thoughts and feelings with me, and I have been supportive of this relationship ... until a couple of weeks ago.

We spent three days visiting them, and I began to not feel so good about it. It seems as though he is waiting to get serious about a job search until he knows where she will be going to graduate school. It also seems as though she is putting more effort into the applications for graduate schools in the geographic area he can most easily get a job rather than those schools with better programs and prestige that will help her career. I am concerned that the "love goggles" are resulting in her settling and selling herself short.

Also, she is athletic and active where he is slow and sluggish. He was with us for every meal, every activity, every day ... and seemed overly comfortable allowing us to pay his way for all of it. Perhaps I am being too picky, but I think that indicates something about character.

I wish they would postpone engagement until they are started on their post-graduate lives. She can discern if this is the man she wants to marry after she gets a glimpse of how he does in the "real world." It is easier to break up a dating relationship than an engagement -- and she may be more apt to choose the best graduate program for herself rather than one that will best serve the relationship. My dilemma is what (if anything) to say.

-- Worried mom

Nothing. The less you say, the more credibility you have when you say something -- and you'll want that credibility when you have bigger things to say than, "He's sluggish" and, "He might cost you a chance at a slightly more impressive graduate school."

As for letting you pay, postpone judgment; broke college guys meeting their girlfriend's parents can be very compliant.

I'll scooch out on a limb and venture that you raised your daughter with great care, and take pride in what both you and she have achieved. And, accordingly, you have the odd misfortune of having ambitious dreams for your child that hover within reach.

That's the kind of setup that makes a perfectly decent guy, as this one appears to be, seem like a crisis.

But unless he's in the grip of a major untreated illness or addiction, or cruel to your daughter, or reckless with her safety, money, feelings or the truth -- or if he brings out these troubling behaviors in her -- your daughter isn't at risk of anything a healthy 21-year-old can't manage perfectly well on her own.

And that means your getting involved would be a no-confidence vote in this accomplished young adult you raised. You have far more to lose from that fallout than you do from having a possibly complacent man in your daughter's life ... one she may well have chosen as relief from high expectations. But that's just more speculation, as well as a column unto itself.

Email Carolyn at tellme(at), follow her on Facebook at or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at

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