“I don’t like my daughter’s boyfriend. With a storied history of dating tons of toxic manipulators when I was around her age (24), I think she’s falling for someone who’s going to break her heart. He’s dripping in red flags—disappearing for entire weekends without a word, showing little regard for meeting her friends or family and always contacting her at the last minute to spend time together. But this is her first real ‘love.’ How do I express my concerns about her boyfriend while also being supportive of her?”
First off, props to you for realizing that confronting your daughter in a fit of motherly protectiveness is not the answer here. It’s refreshing to hear that you understand that she’s growing; she is going to make mistakes and will ultimately need to come to the revelation on her own that Mr. Toxic needs to go.
Speaking personally, one of the most challenging parts of my early 20s was figuring out how to manifest the love I wanted. A huge part of that was determining the kind of love I very certainly did not want. Like you, I dated tons of guys who didn’t call me back, played games with my heart and disrespected my boundaries. My patience for that drama ran out right around the time I got to your daughter’s age. But of course, you could not have told me that until I independently decided it.
You should not tell her what to do—unless you have reason to believe there’s emotional or physical abuse going on, in which case you should intervene. But if your daughter is safe, save for some future heartbreak, this may be one of the most critical learning periods for her when it comes to self-respect and self-love. But don’t worry, Mama Bear, you can still help ease her stress during this time with a few simple tactics. Friendly reminder: This will be easier if you have open lines of communication with each other, so resist the urge to be too condemning.