Dear Dr. Bill,
I recently turned 20 but I still live at home with my dad. My mom died when I was 2, and since then it’s been just the two of us. My dad and I’ve had a great relationship until recently and I’m wondering if you can help. A couple years ago I began dating a wonderful man named Eric — and now we’re talking about marriage.
The only hitch is my dad doesn’t like him. I don’t think this is about my boyfriend — my dad has always been very protective and he won’t like ANYONE who would “take away his baby girl.” I love my dad and I don’t want to create long-term problems in our relationship. But I also love Eric. What should I do?
Given your family background, it’s understandable that your father is having a difficult time “letting go.” Think about it from his perspective—his wife dies early in his marriage, leaving him to care for a baby girl on his own. You’ve basically been “everything” to him for the past 18 years.
Nevertheless, you are now a young woman and he needs to let you transition into adulthood. As difficult as it may be for him, that includes allowing you to pursue relationships and eventually marriage.
For you, a big part of achieving independence and establishing a healthy separation from your dad will be moving out of the house and living on your own. I’d suggest you set a goal of getting your own place in the next year.
This is important regardless of what happens in your relationship with Eric. In fact, given your background, I don’t believe you should even consider marriage until you’ve been living independently for at least a year.