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Making my daughter "get it"

answered 04:42 PM EST, Tue September 20, 2011
My 17 year old daughter is in a relationship with a boy 2 years her senior. He seemed nice enough at first and so we weren’t too worried about the age difference but they seemed to get very serious very quickly and soon she stopped hanging out with all of her high school friends to spend all her time at his place and then she started to become very critical of her friends and even of us for how we have treated her in the past. I think he is filling her head with this stuff and he has some sort of power over her. He wants her all for himself and he wants her to cut everyone else out of her life.

I don’t know if he has ever abused her physically but I have heard him shouting at her over the phone after she decided to go out for the night with an old friend instead of him (a boy) and I know that he has a scary jealous temper, and what’s worse is that it worked on her and she canceled her plans with a really nice old friend who was in town for the day just to please her boyfriend. She has always done sports and band but this year she says she’s not going to sign up anymore and I can hear them making plans to move in together next year when she goes away to school. She already seems to be spending all her money on him.

What can I do to get her to see this guy for the controlling jerk that he is? Anything negative I say about him gets her on the defensive right away and we just end up fighting. She is way too young to be so serious with anyone, especially someone who seems to want to limit her potential so much to keep her down at his level.

Art Matthews Says...

First of all, you are probably astute at picking up on an abusive male. Men who try to separate their significant other from established friends and family are often doing so as an insurance measure to gain control. But he can't control her without her consent. Your criticism of him or her for being in this relationship can be the straw on the proverbial camel's back that pushes her to choose him over you.

Sometimes we cannot prevent our children from having to learn some of their own life lessons the hard way. Perhaps your ability to identify this guy as an abuser comes from your own experience and a lesson learned the hard way for you, but honestly you can't get her to see anything unless she chooses to see it, especially when you are actively pointing out how bad is her decision to be with him.

You can only be there and be supportive of her when it happens. It's better to try to keep a close, working relationship with her, even though it might feel like you are acting incongruently with how you feel about him. You have already pointed out that when you raise concerns about him, she backs him up and your conversation ends up in a fight. With him acting in a manipulative and bullying way, you can't resort to the same tactics with her to try to get her out of the relationship. Change your tone, ask her about how it's going from her perspective and listen. Be supportive of her decisions and when she voices her own concerns, refrain from saying "I told you so." Ask her what she thinks about the situation. How she feels about it. You need to keep a good relationship so that she will come to you when the chips are down. Make sure you have resources at hand for when she does need them, but any attempt to point out his shortcomings are going to be picked up as your criticism of her for choosing him. Do your conversations sound like this?


Mom: "You're just too young!"


Daughter: "Oh, yeah? Watch me!"


Mom: "He's acting abusive towards you!"


Daughter: "You don't see how good he treats me other times!"


Talk about your own experience, especially the mistakes you may have made. Share information about dating violence, dating abuse and/or safe relationships. Refrain from judging her or him. Point out only the things that she will admit to or tell you and ask her for her opinion about what she thinks she should do about it.

Here are a few sites that might help you with additional information:

Have patience, hope for the best and have a box of tissues handy. Sounds like you both are going to need them.

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Page last updated Sep 20, 2011

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