DEAR READERS: On May 5, I printed a letter from a parent, "Against the Tide in New Jersey." He said his "independent, intelligent, loving" daughters (both in their late 20s) have dated their boyfriends for five years and had recently moved in with them. The man also said he and his wife approve of the young men.
One daughter is planning to have an open house and invited her parents. The writer said his daughter is upset because he and his wife refuse to attend because cohabitation is against their beliefs. He said he and his wife "understand her decision," but their daughter doesn't appear to respect theirs. He asked, "Are we wrong?"
I responded yes, because it's no longer unusual for couples to cohabit before marriage. I asked how long they plan to continue punishing the daughter and said I don't think they have anything to gain by doing so. Thousands of angry readers wrote to comment. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: Cohabitation is NOT a substitute for matrimony. I realize it is "not unusual for couples today to live together." However, you must certainly be aware that many religious people regard doing so as a sin against God. Should the parents compromise their beliefs to attend, simply because their daughter's relationship is "progressing nicely"? Why do you feel that standing up for their beliefs is "punishing" their daughter and her live-in? I wish you would address this again. -- DIANNE IN LUBBOCK, TEXAS
DEAR DIANNE: I try to deal with things as they are, and not as some people think they ought to be. Today many couples have chosen to live together before marriage. Some are trying to avoid the unhappiness they saw in their parents' marriages. Others realize that you don't really know someone until you have lived with him or her. Divorce is messy, not to mention expensive on many levels, and they want to avoid the pain if possible -- although few separations are painless.
I believe that parents should choose their battles carefully after their children become adults. What these parents are doing may eventually isolate them from their daughters. Acting as they are, there may be other happy occasions they'll be skipping. This one is just the first.
DEAR ABBY: If the letter writer and his wife accept an invitation to someone's house, do they check first to make sure their hosts share their "values," that they vote the same way, are against gay marriage, have the same religious beliefs? If they don't take that same care with everyone they know, they are being unfair to their daughters.
For five years they were apparently comfortable with the daughters living at home or in their own apartments and having sex with their boyfriends on the sly. Now that the young women are honestly acknowledging the sexual relationship and formalizing it by living together openly, suddenly there's a problem. There's a stench of hypocrisy here. -- ONLINE DEAR ABBY READER