Need advice on detaching from daughter in difficult family dynamic

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by Rosebette, Oct 10, 2014.

  1. Rosebette

    Rosebette New Member

    I am very grateful for this site and found a wonderful article on detachment, which I downloaded from here. I have a challenging family -- 3 adult children, 2 boys and a girl. The oldest, 26, has mild Asperger's and is living at home with us. He works at a community college bookstore and drives a car, pays for his own car expenses and on one student loan. He's fairly calm, but still can occasionally "meltdown" at home if things get stressful. This happens only maybe once or twice a year, though. I have a younger son, 21, also at home, who may very well have had a conduct disorder -- he had experiences with drugs and some arrests in his late high school years, but is now clean, working at a good job, paying for his cars, and also living at home. While neither of these young men are probably where they should be in terms of "success" -- one has an associate's degree and one didn't finish college, and they are both still living at home -- other than issues around housework, the household is pretty peaceful, and I am extremely grateful for the younger son's recovery and our current good relationship. Meanwhile, I also have a daughter who graduated from college, is living on her own. In the eyes of the world, she's the obvious "success" in the family -- academically successful, lots of friends, interesting work opportunities, etc. She recently moved to a new apartment, and my younger son allowed her to borrow his truck for 2 days -- she kept it for 4. My younger son even helped her load and tie up some of her stuff. When she returned the truck, she bought him a 6-pack, but never even paid him for gas. She is an outspoken feminist and has very strong political opinions which are the opposite from my younger son's; anyway, they got into a political argument that turned into a shouting match -- name-calling, etc. She would not let go of the argument, and continued yelling and lecturing until both young men were punching walls or on the verge of doing so. My older son had a meltdown, and the whole house was in chaos. In anger, I actually suggested she leave, which she did -- riding her bike to the train station, but her dad felt bad and picked her up at the train station and let her stay the night. The next morning, she went on her way, leaving us shattered and picking up the pieces of the emotional wreckage she created.

    I am anxious about upcoming holidays because emotionally I don't think I can take that level of chaos over Thanksgiving and Christmas. Certainly, having her at a family gathering where say, my 83-year-old mother is present and risking that there might be another explosive argument, would be too stressful. I am considering detaching from her for a period and not inviting her to the home or family gatherings for a while. She has a strong support network of friends, as well as a boyfriend, so I don't think she would be "missing out" and often sees being with us as a chore anyway, especially since she really despises her brothers. I think she probably would just go to her boyfriend's family for the holidays or be with friends.

    To provide a little more context, I have always been very close to my daughter, but over her move crossed some boundaries expressing my opinion of where she was moving and the opportunities there, and that was also a bone of contention that night. So, it's clear that detachment is something that I need to practice -- to keep in mind that this is her life and she can make her own choices. Clearly, I am also at fault in this situation, as part of the family dynamic was that I may have been favoring her; even after she graduated, I would always brag about her accomplishments, possibly making her feel superior to her brothers so that she now feels she has the right to berate them. Now, painful as it seems, I feel that I need to tell her that due to the emotional chaos she created, she isn't welcome in our home for a while. I've already done a few things to set up detachment, such as "unfriending" her on facebook (I often would get notifications about her activities, and her picture was even on my facebook page -- of course, I enjoyed following what she was up to as she's had some interesting jobs and accomplishments), partly because I think my following her achievements is dysfunctional and also partly because it's now painful for me to see her picture or messages about some event or activity that we might have shared in the past. Clearly, the detachment is going to be more painful for me than for her; with her busy life and many friends, she'll probably move on pretty easily, while I will be consciously giving up the "mother-daughter" get-togethers we'd have from time to time.

    Sorry this is such a long post, but this is a complex situation. In some ways, the person I'm detaching from is actually the "neurotypically normal" child, which I guess is somewhat unusual.
  2. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    This is really not so complicated considering some stuff you read on here :)

    I would not have unfriended my daughter. That's in my opinion a hostile act and sure to hurt me. Your daughter has a big mouth and feels she can speak out and say what she likes and maybe she feels her brothers are inferior. If that's the case, I would make this a simple solution. You say she doesn't really like to go to family events anyway. Well,I'd invite her to go to them, but I'd say, "...however, if you come and deliberately try to cause drama with your front of Grandma...we don't really want our holiday to be that way. We'd love to see you, but if you feel the need to speak out, it is better if you go with your boyfriend." Then let her decide.

    Don't worry about the past. It is over. What you need to think about is now and setting boundaries so that the majority of you are comfortable. It is difficult when an entire family has to walk on eggshells around one person, and it's not pleasant. Politics is not a good topic for the Thanksgiving table if it is going to escalate into shouting and violence. You can even tell her, "Politics is going to be a forbidden topic at my dinner table." Your house/your rules. If she dislikes it, she will go elsewhere, but you still did not reject her. You gave her a choice with boundaries.

    Anyhow, that's my two cents. It is something I would do. However, I would not have thrown a mild mother tantrum by unfriending her. I always try (not always easy) to be the head adult in my family and not get caught up in petty drama of my own creation. Makes life more serene :)
  3. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Welcome Rosebette. I'm sorry you are struggling with your daughter's responses and behaviors.

    I am an advocate of detachment under most of the scenarios that present themselves here on the PE forum. However, that said, and with the recognition that your daughter may seem entitled, somewhat selfish and opinionated, perhaps more communication would be the first step before more drastic steps are taken. Generally speaking detachment is a process we go through when all other options have been tried.

    Your daughter has been favored by you, as you mentioned, and perhaps that might be a way to start a conversation, the recognition of that, the desire on your part to change it so that more equality exists, a more healthy connection........rather then telling her she is not welcome in your home. I may be totally off base here, but that seems like a drastic stance to take at this time. It sounds more like you and she need to change your dynamic so that she understands others feelings and has empathy for them, which sometimes entitled kids lack. But she is accomplished and taking care of herself and seems successful in many ways, so opening up a dialogue which includes her rather then excludes her, seems to be appropriate.

    You may not have mentioned all of the scenarios but with what you've mentioned, it appears you and your daughter might be able to make the changes necessary with some guidance from a counselor, or maybe even by simply talking and letting her know how proud you are of her, but that her recent actions have scared you, or upset you or whatever the truth is and give her the opportunity to hear you out, listen and perhaps see what you are saying and make some honest efforts to change.

    This is of course, my opinion, I am not in your shoes, but communication of honest feelings can go a long way in making change possible between family members. You've both contributed to the present dynamic, perhaps give her the opportunity to make the changes with you, as opposed to you drawing a definitive line in the sand that she has no vote in. I would guess if you do that, she will feel abandoned by you and be pretty angry too.
  4. Rosebette

    Rosebette New Member

    Thank you for your advice, especially about handling the holiday dynamics. I didn't "unfriend" my daughter to hurt her, but as a way of detaching from being overly focused on her life and activities. It was also painful for me to see pictures, messages and updates that get automatically sent because it is a reminder that our relationship is broken. If I don't get on the computer and go about my daily business doing other things, I can get past it, but some of my nonprofit work goes through my personal email and I do facebooks of our events, so it is just a constant reminder. Frankly, I don't think she's even noticed I've "unfriended" her since some of the things from her get posted automatically. What I have been learning from reading a lot of threads is that parents are not the center of our children's universe, while we think about them almost non-stop, which is probably very unhealthy. Also, from what I've read on some of these threads, many parents deliberately avoid being "friends" on fb with their children because it keeps them from being excessively focused on their adult children's lives and behavior.

    I don't anticipate hearing from my daughter until November probably, but I have been thinking over and over about how to handle this issue over the holiday season. I don't know if counseling is possible, as she is now living at a distance in another state. I also don't know if talking with her would work. I did try that after the incident, expressing that her brother might have been angry over the truck (which he didn't express because he was being a "good sport") rather than just the political issue and that sometimes maintaining relationships within the family are more important than proving oneself right on a political question. Her feeling, though, was that there is no excuse for ignorant political opinions and that from her educated standpoint, they should not be tolerated. I don't think I'll make much headway in that area. Incidentally, I am very similar to her politically, but have chosen to "pick my battles" and not get into that stuff with my son to "keep the peace", which I think she sees as a kind of moral compromise on my part.
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2014
  5. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    If you did it for YOURSELF, good work! Most of us have to work hard to take care of ourselves, but you took a step very quickly!
  6. Rosebette

    Rosebette New Member

    Even with the "unfriending", my husband still has her as a "friend", so he shares what is going on in her life if there is something major, but it's just not in my face on a daily basis. As it is, the detachment is hard. It's been 3 days since the argument, and I am having a hard time putting everything out of my mind and staying in the day. I feel a sense of heaviness and sadness all the time. I'm going on a week-end getaway with my husband, and I'm hoping that will help me recover a bit.
  7. Origami

    Origami Active Member

    Rosebette, your family dynamics sound a lot like mine. I have two difficult child sons (age 27 and 17) living at home and a easy child daughter (age 20) who lives in the university dorm not far from here. The two sons hate/love each other depending on the day, and daughter likes to correct her younger brother when he spouts his derogatory, racist, rude, crude (you name it) stuff around her. I can almost see the delight in his eyes when he can tell he's finally pushed her to the point where she's screaming at him. The trouble is, she can't let anything go, and instead of walking away or choosing not to respond to his taunts, she gets on her high horse and tells him he's a failure because he dropped out of high school, only has his GED, etc. while she's always been a good student. Their last blowup, which I feel was mainly instigated by her, ended up with the three of them fighting physically and me calling the police. Not a fun evening.

    How to deal with it? I would say that the advice from MidwestMom and Recoveringenabler is right on target. I'm just learning to set up boundaries. I did talk to all my kids since the big event and told them that we won't have any more fights like that in this house. My husband and I have agreed that, if they refuse to stop or take their argument elsewhere, we will call the police again. The boys especially don't want that since the older one has a pending felony charge and the younger one wants to join the military and neither one wants any police reports on their record. They've actually been getting along fine since then (knock on wood).
  8. GuideMe

    GuideMe Active Member

    Did you know you can still be someones friend on facebook but you can unsuscribe from all their posts? Just go to their home page and click "unfollow" so this way you can't see their stuff on your news feed.
  9. Rosebette

    Rosebette New Member

    Origami, your daughter sounds so much like mine. Although mine is older and allegedly more mature, she still has this attitude that it is better to prove oneself right than have good family relationships, and she thinks she's right all the time. The younger son does seem to know what opinions annoy her, but doesn't deliberately pick fights (although he used to). We haven't been on the point of calling the police, thank goodness!

    GuideMe, thanks for the Facebook advice. I'm rather tech-challenged, and didn't now you could do this with things sent by a person. I know you can do it with organizations and advertisements.
  10. witzend

    witzend Well-Known Member

    A hint about FB ettiquette. You don't have to unfriend someone to not have to listen to them anymore. I have a lot of friends who are "aquaintenances" and I have all my postings for the most part set to "share with friends except aquaintenances". Then I "block notifications" from people who are getting under my skin. I don't say anything, I just click on the little down arrow of their latest notification and say "block updates from x".