I’m in a lose/lose situation between my husband and daughter. Help!

I’m sorry everyone that I missed blogging last week. I had just returned from a week long conference at the American Association of Christian Counselors and just needed a day to rest before starting my counseling week. I’m trying to put into practice some of my own advice in my new book, Lord, I Just Want to be Happy, which includes slowing down and enjoying life. By the way, those of you who requested influencer copies, they are going out this week. The book is available through my website now and stores should be receiving copies in the next few weeks.

Question: We have a rule at our house for our 20 year old daughter. She must be home by 12:00 am or sleep elsewhere. Last night she was locked out at 12:15 am during a bad thunderstorm by my husband. She called my cell for help. Knowing I shouldn’t have, I let her in. Now, I’m the bad guy and I’m forced to choose between my husband and my daughter. A lose/lose situation. How can I make this situation better?

Answer: Unfortunately I don’t have enough details of the history of this situation in order to give you specific advice but let me give you a couple of different ways to handle it depending on the general history.

If your daughter has generally been an obedient and respectful child and usually follows the house rules and this 15 minute gap was an exceptional situation, then I think you were right in responding to her need for help and helping her. Grace, not law is in order here. No one is perfect and even when there are house rules, sometimes there are exceptions and we need to show mercy and grace.

However, if these house rules are in place because your daughter has not been respectful or willing to come in at reasonable times then you are enabling her to continue more of the same when you help her out. I know it’s difficult seeing our children suffer the consequences of their choices but that is an important way they learn to stop doing stupid and foolish things. Your daughter had other choices. She could have slept in her car in your driveway, gone to a friend’s, or stayed at a hotel. Having to suffer the inconvenience, expense, or difficulty of finding an alternative place to stay might be what she needs to learn to respect the house rules.

Let’s go to the conflict this has caused between you and your husband. If your daughter is generally a good kid and this was an exceptional sitaution, you need to stand up for your daughter. Ephesians 6 tells fathers not to exasperate their children to bitterness. We all need mercy when we slip up and if dad is a rule keeper to a fault, he needs to learn how to extend grace.

Let me ask you a question. Did you agree with these house rules to begin with? You said in your question, “We have a rule at our house.” If so, then you must talk with your husband about your reasons for going against what both of you have decided. Was it because you thought that the rule was restrictive, unreasonable or inappropriate for a 20 year old and you were not honest with your husband about how you felt to begin with?

I find many times one person in a marriage goes along with something that they don’t agree with just to keep peace. However, when certain situations arise, they go around the other spouse’s back and break the agreement. This happens in areas of budgeting, parenting, household chores and responsibilities, visiting relatives, etc.

If this is the case here, you must be honest with your thoughts and feelings with your husband and renegotiate something that you can live with. This is an important element to a healthy marriage. You come up with decisions and solutions that both of you can live with – a win/win. As you speak up, your husband may not like your assertiveness or not be used to it. He may try to get you to back down and do it his way, but if he wants to have a good marriage, he has to work toward healthy conflict resolution, not just get his own way all the time.

However, if you went again the rules because you felt sorry for your daughter in the moment but now realize that you were wrong, tell your husband you were wrong and ask for his forgiveness. Next have a heart to heart with your daughter telling her that this was the last time that you will help her get into the house if she doesn’t make it home by midnight. Taking responsibility for what you did and humbly talking with both should help clear the air and repair the relationship with your husband.

I’m assuming the best about your husband. He wants to help your daughter be responsible, considerate of other people’s needs, and respectful of those she lives with. Those are good character qualities to instill in our children. At 20 years old, she needs to understand that the whole family (or universe) does not resolve around her and her needs. If you can respect that about him and talk together as a family, perhaps you can renegotiate the curfew time (if your daughter needs more time) but that the consequences for failure to comply still hold.

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