Help! Fiance Continues to Enable Her Daughter

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Frustrated2019, Apr 21, 2019.

  1. Frustrated2019

    Frustrated2019 New Member

    I hope you can share some guidance and insight.

    My fiancé is enabling her daughter and it’s spilling into/affecting our relationship. Some background: We live together – have dated 4.5 years, both in our mid-50s, plan to get married in 3 months. She has 2 adult children (both early 20s). Son is a recovering drug addict, lives with girlfriend and he’s clean/sober and in a 12 step. Daughter (reason I’m writing today) hasn’t worked in nearly 2 years, dropped out of college, smokes weed and drinks, got a DUI last summer/lost her car and has shacked up with abusive guys. She stopped talking to my fiancé last summer and then last month resurfaced looking for help….probably because the Sheriff came looking for her with a warrant because she didn’t finish her DUI classes. She is somewhere between homeless and couch surfing with various friends. She has no job, no money, and no visible means of obtaining food, etc., and isn’t highly motivated to find a job or make money and gives us lip service when we suggest how to get her life on track. About me….I don’t have children. I did have a relationship 20 years ago with a “drinker” and I was her enabler…until I ended the relationship and got into Al-Anon and learned to take my power back.

    My fiancé has enabled her children for many years, until I showed up and helped her understand how it only makes the problem worse. She followed my advice with her son (essentially: don’t do for someone what they can/should do for themselves) and he’s since done great! With her daughter she is resisting, continuing to enable her because she believes her daughter is not a strong/street-wise as the son. Why is her enabling a problem for me/us?

    1) Fiancé knows enabling is wrong (but “can’t help herself”), agreed to stop last month and also share with me her daughter’s many requests for assistance (so we can address it together as a team), and yet despite our “agreement” I learned that last week she paid off her daughter’s 6 month delinquent cell phone bill and bought her a new phone/plan ($600!)….so she could presumably look for work (which she hasn’t). The phone and the money are not the main issue…the issue is my fiancé hid this from me and in so doing broke our agreement / understanding and continues to enable…so, now I have some trust issues….not good 3 months before our wedding.

    2) Her daughter hasn’t explicitly asked to live with us (she did live with us 3 years ago and we kicked her out for smoking pot in the house), but she does lay the guilt trip on her mom, e.g., “don’t worry about me, maybe I’ll find a place to sleep tonight,” “maybe I’ll eat today,” etc. So, my fiancé’s motherly instinct kicks in and she ends up doing for her daughter what she can/should do for herself. I’ve suggested she cut her off financially and remain in her life as a non-monetary support resource to which my fiancé responds with “I’m not going to let my daughter starve or live on the street” and so the enabling continues. This is causing a major issue for us and threatens to end our relationship.

    We’ve discussed this many times and she fully agrees enabling her daughter is bad for her, us and her daughter as it doesn’t solve the problem it only prolongs it and in fact makes it worse. She said “after we’re married in 3 months I will cut my daughter off for good,” however, her track record and actions to date would lead me to believe otherwise. Saying she’ll cut her off in 3 months to me is simply pushing the goal posts further back to avoid the inevitable.

    Because of the diminished trust in my fiancé (to follow our agreement/be transparent with me and not enable her daughter) I am now considering ending the relationship / marriage and moving out as the stress and drama and fighting with my fiancé is wearing me down and affecting my health and sanity. I’m at my wits end…..any advice would be gratefully welcomed. Thank you in advance.
  2. Nomad

    Nomad Well-Known Member

    Just a quick note. Welcome.
    It sounds like you have the wisdom that comes from experience. Enabling only leads to sorrow. It doesn’t help any of the parties involved.

    Paying for the cell phone might be one POSSIBLE exception in my mind. Others might disagree. But the phone can be needed in case of emergency (to call the police), a way of communicating with the mom and a way to find a job.

    Also, is there a chance she is mentally ill and might need medication?
    Even still, no doubt, this young adult woman (the daughter) would very likely greatly benefit from some real cause and effect life experiences.
    We’ve learned and discussed at this site repeatedly that enabling adult children is not healthy.
    And setting boundaries can be very helpful.

    I also agree that honesty is important in a healthy relationship.
    Have you told your fiancé that dishonesty might be a deal breaker?
    Maybe your fiancé should consider going to alanon meetings or the two of you might consider some counseling sessions together?
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2019
  3. ksm

    ksm Well-Known Member

    I'm sorry you are in this difficult situation. You might read an article on detachment. The best one is on the web page, but it us on the "Parent Emeritus" forum, and it is always in the top four posts. Read it and share with your fiancé. I think professional help for both of you is a good place to start. And maybe a good place to bring up issues in the relationship before marriage.

    As a mom, there will always be some lines in the sand that I might cross, but lying about them shouldn't be one of them.

    Keep reading and sharing. We all ended up here because we were at the end of our rope. Ksm
  4. AppleCori

    AppleCori Well-Known Member

    It would be a bad idea to get married before this issue is resolved.

    Sounds like your fiancé is trying to sweep this under the rug with vague promises to stop enabling once you are married. We all know that a ring won’t make any difference in how she behaves toward her adult daughter. This is a red flag, and you should heed it.

    She needs to go to counseling and resolve her issues so she doesn’t bring them into the marriage.

    You need to stand your ground.You will be sorry if you don’t.
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  5. ForeverSpring

    ForeverSpring Well-Known Member

    Unless you can get used to this sort of enabling, I would not get married. This is a long pattern and is not going away because you marry. What if Daughter gets pregnant? That is another layer that often happens.

    It is hard to win if a mother has to choose between a difficult adult child and a new spouse. This difficult child-woman sounds as if she is not that young and has been playing your fiance for years. Old habits are hard to break. So in my opinion she will continue to help her behind your back.

    Think hard. Best wishes.
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2019
  6. Crayola13

    Crayola13 Active Member

    It's almost impossible to convince a mother to stop enabling a grown child. There is so much fear and what if that goes through a mother's mind. Your fiance needs counseling from a professional. I think pre-marital counseling might help.
  7. Frustrated2019

    Frustrated2019 New Member

    Hi Nomad,
    Thank you very much for taking the time out of your day to share your thoughts. I appreciate your insights and suggestions, no doubt borne of "real-world" experience. Yes, honesty for me, is a deal breaker because without honesty and trust even the "best" relationship is on quicksand. All good suggestions - that I will discuss with my fiance tonight. Thank you again, and peace and love to you.

  8. Frustrated2019

    Frustrated2019 New Member

    Hi KSM,
    Thanks for taking the time to respond and share your insights. I agree about seeking some professional help, particularly before we are to be married. Thank you, and peace to you :angel:

  9. Frustrated2019

    Frustrated2019 New Member

    Hi AppleCori, Thank you for investing the time here to respond to my post for help. I appreciate! Yes, my fiance hasn't done the best job at dealing with this head on, and quite frankly never has (until I showed up and offered a different approach). She's historically been the "classic" enabler with both her kids and at a core level knew it was wrong to do, but did so anyway believing if she didn't her kids would be homeless, starving or even end up dead. I've never had kids so cannot even begin to imagine the fears that run through one's mind, let alone a mother and a mother's instinctive need to protect her children at all costs.

    As a "recovering enabler" myself (I had a girlfriend 20 years ago that had a drinking problem...that I enabled) I've done the hard work, joined Al-Anon, and now have a better sense of what is going on and how best to deal with it, however, this is all new to my fiance and excruciatingly painful. Her greatest pain and fear is losing me, even more so than her kids as we are very much in love and have a great relationship, aside from what has transpired in the past week. I don't want to put her in a position where she is forced to choose between continuing to enable her daughter or not to be with me, although it may come to that as I don't believe we can have a healthy, honest relationship that is not controlled by her daughter's antics if I don't.

    Yes, I know her promises to be different after the wedding is simply moving the goal posts further down the field to temporarily avoid the inevitable and have told her that. Yes, I know this is a red flag that needs to be address by us both as team ASAP. Yes, we need to do some therapy...and the concern in my mind is will it be enough to help her diminish or eliminate her enabling before our wedding in 3 months? I have a very difficult decision to make and this is the hardest thing I've ever had to do. I will stand my ground, and have so far, and this whole process is surreal and is breaking my heart.

    Thank you again for your thoughts and insight. Peace.

    QUOTE="AppleCori, post: 747904, member: 16024"]It would be a bad idea to get married before this issue is resolved.

    Sounds like your fiancé is trying to sweep this under the rug with vague promises to stop enabling once you are married. We all know that a ring won’t make any difference in how she behaves toward her adult daughter. This is a red flag, and you should heed it.

    She needs to go to counseling and resolve her issues so she doesn’t bring them into the marriage.

    You need to stand your ground.You will be sorry if you don’t.[/QUOTE]
  10. Frustrated2019

    Frustrated2019 New Member

    Hi ForeverSpring,
    Thank you for stopping by and responding to my request for help. I appreciate your thoughts and insight. I fear you may be right and if so my heart is breaking because what I have with my fiance is so beautiful and pure and has taken me 56 years to find that the thought of discarding it is so painful. However, I cannot and will not get used to enabling and all that entails, nor want to always wonder if my fiance is taking care of her daughter behind my back....that is not a good relationship and I've done too much work to subject myself to that (again). Thank you and Peace.

  11. Frustrated2019

    Frustrated2019 New Member

    Hi Crayola13,
    Thank you for your insights. You might be right, although I hold out the hope and optimism that anything is possible (vs. guaranteed) if you want it badly enough and take the actions that lead to the desired result. I agree about the counseling and will discuss with-my fiance. Thank you and Peace.

  12. AppleCori

    AppleCori Well-Known Member

    No, three months is not enough time for your fiancé to work through her issues and change her behavior with her adult daughter, just like three months wouldn’t be enough time for an alcoholic/addict to have all of their issues resolved and for you to be certain they can maintain their sobriety.

    Going through with the wedding in three months may actually be a disincentive to changing her behavior long-term.
  13. Frustrated2019

    Frustrated2019 New Member

    I agree and the thought of cancelling the wedding is so painful at a core level and potentially damaging to us as a couple that I'm not sure we would be able to continue as a couple, live together, etc. My head is swimming....

  14. AppleCori

    AppleCori Well-Known Member

    You have some tough decisions to make. At least you are looking at all sides of the issue and getting all the facts.

    In some ways, I think stopping enabling an adult child is harder than stopping abusing substances.

    Our adult children ALWAYS up the ante when we try to extricate ourselves.

    Alcohol can’t withhold love, verbally abuse us, guilt us, threaten suicide, or get pregnant. Our difficult adults usually do at least one of those things pretty often to keep us hooked.

    Because it works.

    If you decide to go through with the marriage in three months, be prepared for any and all of those things to happen (and more). And be prepared for your wife to fall for it. At this moment, she has told you she will continue to enable. Don’t expect anything different after the vows are spoken.

    My brother and his wife are in their 50s, and have enabled their two daughters (who are late 20s, early 30s). They get constant requests for money, to move in, help with legal issues (like bounced checks), physical altercations between them and their husbands, husbands who won’t hold a job, and taking the grandkids in for a while. The adult kids are always on the verge of being homeless. My brother and his wife now have the oldest two grandkids temporarily. It dominates their lives and it is never-ending. They have literally spent every penny they have on this, and have no savings at all.

    You at least should get couple’s counseling or pre-marital counseling to set some boundaries on what is and is not going to be acceptable. Not sure if she will stick to it, though.

  15. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member


    I think that your fiancée concealed this from you because she wants to keep her relationship (and impending marriage to you), and she can't bear to not help her daughter. I think it sounds like she may have paid lip service to your counsel but did not ever really buy in.
    Your fiancée feels like she must choose between an arm and a leg, and she really feels like she can't.
    This is ridiculous. Of course she won't do this, nor should she, in my view. Where does this come from her sense of that she must cut off her daughter?

    It sounds like both of you are engaging in all or nothing thinking. In my experience life is seldom either/or. We are always trying to balance opposites, to have our cake and eat it too. Like is a paradox.
    Then stop it.

    You can step out of this drama. Either by leaving the relationship or stop pushing outcomes and results that are not working and may not be your right to impose.

    You have the option of backing down. To my way of thinking, fiancée should not have to accommodate your needs or values, in order to keep the relationship. You are free to leave or stay. This is your choice. But it seems to me that you may be trying to control her. Of course she is resisting this. This is human.

    Your fiancée's recovery is her business, not yours. However much you believe that she would benefit from doing this or that, it's her business, on her time table.
    This is the core of things. All of us have to deal with imperfect relationships. In some respects, your posting is illustrating that your relationship is not beautiful and pure, because of exactly the dynamic which is occurring. To maintain the illusion of purity, your fiancé seems to feel that she needs to conceal a major dynamic in her life, to keep you happy, and engaged. I think you need to look at the possibility that your needs have created the breach between you. I am not saying that you're not right, looked at through the 12 step lens.

    But not everybody (sadly) looks at life this way.

    To me the choice is yours. Your fiancée has a reality in her life. She is engaged with a child who has problems and she is not ready to let go the active participation in her child's life. That's her right.

    I see your choice as this: Can you accept that all of us are imperfect and that we are not all that another person requires? We do not act as they would wish, when they wish. Are you willing to accept imperfection, and to give up control over your fiancée? And work this through. Either you are willing to do this or you are not.

    This has nothing really to do with the daughter. Or even your fiancée. This is about you.

    Relationships are a process, they are not an absolute state. Marriage changes nothing. Are you willing to work things through her? This relationship and the messiness of it, may offer to you the possibility of greater recovery.

    Conversely, this situation may be toxic to you. Have you thought about returning to Al Anon and exploring this question there, through the 12 step lens?

    Anyway. We are glad that you are here.
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    Last edited: Apr 22, 2019
  16. Frustrated2019

    Frustrated2019 New Member

    Hi Apple,

    Thanks for the additional thoughts and insights, and thank you for sharing. You've certainly had your share of challenges and my heart goes out to you for the pain you've suffered. You sound like a very strong and wise woman that has transformed her challenges and pain into strength, learning and growth! What, may I ask, got you through all that?

    Thanks, and P.S. Thank you and your son for his and your service/sacrifice!

  17. AppleCori

    AppleCori Well-Known Member

    You are very welcome. My son is a great person who really enjoyed the service.

    There is nothing special about me and I haven’t had more than my fair share of challenges, but I really can credit this site and the wonderful people who frequent it for helping me to grow and learn.

    We all have our opinions here and we sometimes disagree, but we support each other through our difficulties.

    You should stick around a while, as you sort through your thoughts and feelings. It really does help.

  18. RN0441

    RN0441 100% better than I was but not at 100% yet


    Welcome and you have gotten great advice and lots to think about.

    Copa brought up some good points as well that you may not have thought of.

    Basically you are not able to change another person. YOU cannot change your fiancee and your fiancee cannot change her daughter.

    I would be stressed beyond belief if I were going to marry someone with all this "stuff" going on. Marriage is hard enough. Will it ever be perfect? No. But if it's making you ill then it's not something that you can deal with.

    Does it have to be all or nothing? What if you just put everything on hold for a while? I'd do that before I'd get married knowing there are so many things going on that you have no control over. Your whole marriage will be about what she is doing or not doing for her daughter. Yuck.

    Life's too short.
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  19. Frustrated2019

    Frustrated2019 New Member

    Hi Copabanana, Thanks for the great insights and thoughts -- definitely some food for thought!

    Thank you very much for taking the time to really dig into what I wrote and respond with insightful and wise comments!
  20. Frustrated2019

    Frustrated2019 New Member

    Hi RN0441,

    Thank you for your time and good thoughts...and by the way if you are a Nurse, or related...thank you so much for all that you do!
    I agree...we cannot change others, maybe by example, but certainly not by overt or controlling means...and that is something for both me and my fiance to remain aware of!

    Yeah, getting married while this is all going on is certainly stressful, but stuff happens for a reason. If it was nothing more than my fiance writing a check here and there that is one thing...but it usually never is. What concerns me is if the daughter becomes homeless or pregnant, or something else serious and wants to live with us (which I've already stated ain't gonna happen...and my fiance agrees), that will certainly cause stress and tension between me and my fiance/wife. While my fiance and I are on the same page now, if her daughter calls crying that she has nowhere to go, then my fiance might back off our agreement...and therein lies the future problem that has me concerned. Since there are no guarantees in life or with people usually, not sure what to do here.

    Your last sentence is spot on...and I laughed at the "Yuck." LOL....

    Thank you for your help and insight. Peace