Life Advice



Hard-Headed Daughter

Annie Lane on

Dear Annie: My 20-year-old daughter, "Jessica," was adopted when she was 2 by her mom and her first husband, and I adopted her when she was 15. She decided to reach out to her birth mother in a very small town with very limited opportunities last February, and then she moved across the country to be with her in April.

This broke my wife's heart, as they have had a strained relationship for the last few years. Naturally, she felt rejected. By June, things fell apart between my daughter and her birth mother, and she was couch surfing and living in hotels that were being paid for by a charity group that helps women victims of domestic violence.

My wife just spent three weeks in a hospital to work out a lot of issues that have finally boiled over -- a tempest in a teapot, so to speak. But she is in mom mode and does not want our daughter to be homeless if there is anything we can do about it.

Jessica had a round-trip ticket to fly home for her brother's wedding in October but then canceled it and bought a one-way ticket that is in a couple days. She did this without talking to us first, expecting we would take her in, as she has exhausted all the couches in town. I told her I would fly to her and help her pack and ship her stuff before taking her to the airport to fly home.

Since she's been home, she has been really snotty to me, and I told her I didn't appreciate it. She got mad and packed her things and went someplace else for the night. I cannot help but think I made a mistake by coming to get her. My wife cannot handle this attitude my daughter keeps giving us and the hurtful things she says.

Should I give my daughter an ultimatum and tell her we will not tolerate this behavior or she will be out to fend for herself? How do I handle putting my foot down with my wife if she fights me on throwing our daughter out? -- Can't Win With My Daughter


Dear Can't Win: First things first, you're doing the best you can, so please stop tormenting yourself. Your daughter has had a rotating cast of parental figures in her life, and she needs some reassurance of stability. Let her know that your love is unconditional and that there will always be a place for her in your family. It may take a while for you to become the happy family you want to be, but helping her move home is a good start.

That said, unconditional love does not mean she can live in your house rent-free, making snotty remarks and insulting your wife. Communicate some ground rules, starting with basic respect. It sounds like you, your wife and your daughter would benefit from a family therapist, who could help you get to the root of Jessica's misbehavior.


"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book -- featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette -- is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to




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