New Member in difficult situation

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by Parent42girls, Jan 6, 2012.

  1. Parent42girls

    Parent42girls New Member

    My husband and I are dealing with a difficult situation with our 17 year old daughter and just don't know what to do at this point. Our situation is unique in many ways so I'll provide a little background.

    This may sound strange, but our daughter has been working toward a career in a highly competitive and specialized field since she was about 11 years old. At age 14 she was awarded a scholarship to a boarding school that provided the specialized training she needed in a safe and very well supervised environment and we allowed her to attend. While there were a few ups and downs at the boarding school, she always remained focused on her goal. And up until this point it has paid off. She was invited to join an organization in an apprentice type situation and all indications are that she if she continues on this path, she will reach her goal. The only downside to the new opportunity was that it was not a school environment which meant that we would need to make living arrangements for our daughter and pay her living expenses. By scrimping and saving and making a lot of sacrifices, we have managed to financially afford for her to take advantage of this opportunity. As her parents, we were aware that we were allowing her to live in the "adult world" a year earlier than most kids her age, but having lived away from home for so long and proving herself to be a very responsible kid, we felt that she was ready for it.

    We now find ourselves in a difficult position because she has entered a relationship with a 20 year old who is very controlling and manipulative. Having been in an abusive relationship as a teen I saw so many red flags as their relationship developed. He was jealous when her Dad came to visit and she spent the entire weekend with her Dad instead of him, he made her "unfriend" several people on facebook because he didn't want her talking to them anymore (some of whom she had been friends with her entire life), she stopped attending the extra functions related to her work because they always took place when she should be with him, and eventually she missed some required work functions because of his pouting as well. He is constantly checking in on her and needs to know where she was at all times, he gets angry so often over such small things and his temper is explosive. He has not touched her, but he has thrown things and punched a wall.

    I bit my tongue as best I could and was very careful not to say negative things about him, but I certainly voiced my concerns over the direction things were headed. Just before Thanksgiving it looked like she had come to her senses and she told me that she was going to break up with him and asked for my help because she was afraid of his reaction. It was a drama filled break up - he cried uncontrollably, promised to change and told her that he would kill himself if she went through with it. Somehow she managed to hold her ground and she told him it was over. At that point we insisted that she have no contact with him. He did not try to contact her after the break-up, but my daughter's guilt got the best of her and she contacted him just to make sure he was okay. This of course resulted in them getting back together and also caused a huge fight between her, her Dad and I. She ended up breaking up with him a second time and promised her Dad and I that it was over and that she would not have any contact with him ever again. That lasted a few days...and when we found out she had been talking to him again and lying to us about it there was another huge blow up. Since then then lies haven't stopped. We found a note in our room after we dropped her off at the airport to return to work that said she was sorry for everything and that she appreciated everything we have done for her. She said she realized that this relationship wasn't worth losing her family over and that she would honor our wishes and not see him anymore. All the while, she had plans for him to pick her up at the airport, and for them to spend the next day together even though it was a work day for her. Again - another huge blowout.

    At this point my husband is ready to bring her home, but by bringing her home we essentially take away her career as well. She does not have the same opportunities here. I realize that we cannot continue to allow her to lie to us but I also feel like bringing her home isn't going to change that behavior. I am at a loss for what to do. How can we let this one boy ruin everything she has worked for?

    I suggested to my husband that by forbidding the relationship we put her in a position where she had to lie. There is a small part of me that thinks we should just back off. Make her think she has won what has now become a power struggle. He sees it differently and thinks that she is not capable of handling this very adult situation and that we need to step in now before its too late and the relationship becomes physically abusive.

    Any advice is welcome...
  2. dashcat

    dashcat Member

    Is her not attending career-related functions impacting her work? Is there anything, other than this relationship, that is affecting her progress? If not, then backing off is probably the best option. I know it must be very frightening to see her being involved with this guy but she'll never learn to avoid such situations unless you allow her to make her own decisions. Does she live near other people who are close to her age who are also involved in her work?

    Believe me, I see the same red flags you do with this guy but to bring her home forcibly will only cause her to submit to another kind of control.

  3. busywend

    busywend Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Can one of you go live there? She needs a parent by her side. Too young to be alone especially now that you know she is able to be manipulated.
  4. CrazyinVA

    CrazyinVA Well-Known Member Staff Member

    This is a tough situation, for sure. Having dealt with watching my Youngset in an abusive relationship, I can tell you that the more you try to "forbid" her to see him, the less likely she is to end the relationship. Unfortunately it also gives him a manipulative edge. He'll say, "See how awful your family is? They don't want us to be together. This is why I don't wnt you talking to them." So, I would tread carefully here. I do think it's ok to say, we'll support you, but we won't support this relationship. Maybe find a local domestic violence shelther near where she is living and provide her with their contact info. Or even contact them yourself, for advice.

    My other thought is whether she has an adult mentor in her career there that you could trust and reach out to. Chances are they are noticing this pattern as well, and could offer some support and additional insight into the situation.
  5. lovemysons

    lovemysons Well-Known Member

    Hi Parent42girls, welcome...

    In my very humble opinion your daughter is trying to assert her independence. She has lived on her own for awhile and I think it will be difficult to try and control her or this relationship.

    I do understand how anxious you and your husband must be about this situation given what is at stake...but I think practicing Non-Interference may be the wisest move here. If you "forbid" her from seeing this young man I think it will cause her to dig her heels in even deeper. I have seen this happen before...In fact I am a product of it as my mother was "forbidden" from seeing my father (before they were married) she snuck out to see him anyway. Within a month they were married and I was born 9 months later. He was abusive and my mother divorced him by the time I was 2 yrs old and raised me alone.

    I sure hope your daughter will wise up to the negative impact this person is having on her and her career goals. Letting her figure this out for herself is in my humble opinion the best move.

    Now, my thoughts would be totally different if you had concrete evidence that he has physically abused your daughter. Then I would definitely intervene.

    Hoping for the best in your situation,
  6. Nancy

    Nancy Well-Known Member Staff Member

    She is in an abusive and controlling relationship and does not have the maturity or experience to handle it. Huge red flags with everything you have described and he will not let her leave easily. Abusive men prey on young women alone with no support around.

    I am uncomfortable suggesting anything but would seak out advice from an abusive women's shelter on how to handle it. A career is not worth having your daughter's life ruined.

  7. Parent42girls

    Parent42girls New Member

    Thank you so much for your quick reply and questions. Not attending her work-related functions may have an impact on the hiring decisions. She was called into the office just before Thanksgiving and they told her that they had some concerns over her lack of involvement. They said that she has everything going for her as far as her abilities, but that they are looking for someone who is a "good fit" in all areas. She spent the summer there so they had a chance to see what she was like pre-boyfriend. It was after that meeting that she told her boyfriend that she would be attending a work-related function instead of having a dinner with his family. He was so angry and it was his reaction to that news that prompted the first break up.

    There are others there in a similar position as her, but she is the youngest by 3 years. It was unusual for them offer this type of position to someone her age.

    This relationship is the only thing that is affecting her progress - which is one of the reasons why I think its so hard to sit back and watch. We feel like she is throwing everything she has worked so hard for in the trash and along with that has no regard for the financial and family sacrifices are making for her to be there.

    I had not considered that by forcing her to come home would be another kind of control. I feel like it comes down to two choices. We leave her there, allow her to make her own mistakes and possibly ruin her chances for the future she has always dreamed of - OR - we bring her home and most definitely ruin it for her (although my husband would say that she did it to herself by lying to us). I can't say that I like either option but at least with the first option there is a chance that she will come to her senses before its too late.
  8. buddy

    buddy New Member

    Hi. sorry for your situation, it sounds very scary.

    I have several thoughts:

    1. Sounds like she does really know what is not allowing her to be with him may push her to do what she really doesn't want to do just because it is natural to rebel (especially the good girls who were rule followers and have really new found ideas about this)

    2. Since this is serious, a huge risk for abuse...... Find numbers and locations of domestic abuse centers near her so she has a plan for an emergency. Remind her to always have her phone with her and to make sure she has the number under a relatives name so she can quickly dial it.

    3. Keep your enemies close. Make friends with him, keep tabs on him, etc.

    4. any chance she can go back to the boarding school instead of totally giving up the career path?

    5 nothing is forever..... there are other ways to do things, other ways to be fulfilled. to have the pressure of do this now or your life will not be as successful is a lot for any child, even a gifted one. I am not saying you have done anything wrong or that she shouldn't try...FOR SURE not saying that. Just think your thoughts of having her come back can be realistic if needed. It will take some self talk and talk with her about it not being the end of the world.

    We have had discussions on this board about giving up dreams we have for our kids... and having to help them give up some dreams... or at least the plan for obtaining that dream in a certain way. In life things come up and it is a,.... a great lesson to help our kids learn that there is always another way.

    You sound like truly amazing parents. It takes a lot to sacrifice for a gifted child. whether it is music, business, theater, skating, gymnastics, whatever... very very special that you have encouraged her and supported her. She is a lucky and loved girl.
  9. rejectedmom

    rejectedmom New Member

    In my opinion the more you push her to break up the more she will lie and defy your wishes. If you force her to come home she might just leave your home for him and then be totally at this guy's mercy. I would just go to her and say something like "Honey you are well aware of your father and my opinion on this relationship. We do not think it is healthy but we realize that we cannot change how you feel. We want you to know that you always can count on us for help. Should you find yourself in a position where you feel he is going to hurt you or is stiffiling you and controling you too much and you want to get out and do not know how, please call us or the hotline on domestic abuse. I am sad that you are in the position of having to choose between him and your career. I want you to know that from our end at least you will not have to choose between him and your parents. Your father and I love you with all our hearts and always will." Maybe with the pressure from her parents off of her she will drop the guy on her own terms and that would be the best for all.

    I am really sorry because my easy child gave up her dream of being a doctor for her controlling and needy boyfriend (now husband) and it has affected her happiness ever since. We tried to get them to go to counseling before the wedding because of this very issue. He was jealous of her relationship with me (still is) jealouse of her time spent with friends (still is) and very demanding of perfection and intolerant of her needs. Sadly I see the same for your daughter if she doesn't ditch the guy but also know that the more you push her in that direction the more she will dig in and defy your wishes.
  10. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    I, too, hesitate to give any input because we have never faced your situation. One of our daughters was in an unhealthy relationship at that age but she lived at home and therefore the family's presence was always reassuring. Although she is obviously intelligent and career goaled my gut says that she needs someone closeby that she can trust and turn to. Whether she would be agreeable or not I obviously don't know. on the other hand I "think" I would seek out a mentor in her community. Perhaps a easy child late college student or someone from a church or if at all possible someone dedicated to her field of interest.

    It would likely be a tough sell to get her comfortable with the idea. on the other hand, perhaps, if you present the new person as a safety net so you and her Dad feel comfortable with her living at a distance..perhaps she might buy in. I know it sounds like a long shot but often a choice that is neither black nor white can save face and have a protective benefit. Ideally she would then have someone available nearby and know she is not alone...while also knowing she is not being controlled by per parents. I'm assuming there are no caring family members available in her town. Sending caring hugs your way. Wish I had "the" answer for you. DDD
  11. toughlovin

    toughlovin Guest

    I have both personal and professional experience in this area. Yes he definitely sounds abusive and yes you have every reason to be concerned. It is a very very tough place to be as a parent.

    One of the things that happens in an abusive relationship is that the abuser tries to do everything to isolate their partner from family and friends. That is why he was so jealous when Dad visited. So your goal has to be to not let him isolate her from you. Don't put her in a position of her having to choose between you and him because there will be times when she chooses him and it will add more isolation. You want her to know that you love her and will always be there to support her no matter what.

    The other thing is an abuser is very controlling and takes away any sense of autonomy.... so part of healing is making your own decisions. So if you make the decisions for her, bring her home etc. you are not helping her make her own decisions and in a sense adding another person to control her which is what she needs to break free from.

    Leaving an abusive partner is a process... there are usually several times of going back ... so the fact that she has doen this does not worry me. And in this situation her lying doesn't worry me too much either. It doesn't sound like lying has been a long pattern in your relationship but rather a survival tactic on her part. By lying to you she is trying to keep you in her life and keep you close and not get isolated from you. So although I don't think lying is a good thing I think in this case her goal is to keep you close and that is a good sign.

    I also think it is a good sign that she has already broken up with him a couple of times. There is a part of her that wants out of this relationship and that is the beginning.

    The best thing you can do is to encourage her strengths.... she has close family, she has this career opportunity that she is obvioiusly good at. Don't do anything to take those things away.

    So yes back off. Let her know you love her and although you are worried about the relationship if that is the man she chooses to be with you will accept him. Let her stay at school, I really can't see anything good about bringing her home.

    I also suggest calling a local to her school domestic violence program. A lot of them now have stuff focused on teens and teen dating relationships. Find some resources and people she can talk to when she is ready. They can really make a difference.

    Hugs this is hard to deal with.

  12. pinevalley

    pinevalley Member

    You have received lots of excellent advice here. I hope that you and your husband can come to a decision that is right for both of you. You need to be a united front for your daughter and this bad relationship she has now. I can tell that your daughter loves you and respects your opinion, and she does not want to lose her family over this guy. You are lucky to have an intelligent daughter who really cares for her family. Good luck in this difficult situation.
  13. Nomad

    Nomad Guest

    Is there another person in the family or a long time close friend who she respects who might be able to talk with her about this topic?
    Sometimes hearing it from multiple sources (other than parents) can be very helpful.
    If she stays there at such a young age, you might want to visit OFTEN and also make sure she is on birth control and gets the Gardisil injection.
    Additionally, if your family has a religious background, see if she could attend services nearby and then she would have the opportunity to speak with clergy (privately) should she have a question or feel threatened.
    If the situation worsens, likely simply because she is a little on the young side ,etc.) and have to return home, would it be possible for her to go back next year to this location?
    It is not worth her safety to keep her in an unsafe situation. I agree, it is wise to refrain from overtly speaking negatively about this guy, but at the same time, she should be protected. She is after all, under age.
    If she does return home, my guess is someone with this much motivation, would still do VERY well and continue to excel!
    Please don't think of this as some last ditch opportunity for such a young girl who seems very capable.
    Hopefully, this is just a passing phase and she will open her eyes to it all in short order.
    I'm keeping a good thought.
  14. Star*

    Star* call 911

    Hi -

    Welcome to the board. I read through the responses you've gotten, and I agree with a lot of the advice. My thought is having been there personally to a degree I can't describe in a day - is that in order for a woman to begin to DATE someone that IS ABUSIVE - she probably has self esteem issues. Low self esteem. Confidence? My word yes - she was put in boarding school at a young age to pursue a career in (X) and does very well at it. Others have said her career is not worth her life - and I highly second that statement, but would also bring to light - that IF SHE HAS a controlling, abusive relationship? She's going to eventually do what HE wants her to do ANYWAY. This could involve - having children before she's ready to "keep her in contact with the baby's bio-father." Drop out of school - and get a job at Wendys to support him. He will weave tales that are so fantastical to her - she isn't going to hear much you say anyway. He's got her hooked. His kind nearly seems natural like second nature at preying on women who 'feel sorry', 'think their love will change him', 'he just needs a break - he's so...blah blah blah."

    For all you know? I could be writing about my own son, in love with your daughter, or myself and my ex husband. But the really ugly WHAT IF's are there - whether you like it or not. And in order to change her thinking? She's going to have to understand and admit - "OMG I have a problem I'm in love with a problematic, troubled individual, I NEED HELP." I need to know WHAT it is that makes me attracted to a man that is like him.

    The yin and yang of this abusive circle is going to be NOT telling her she can't see him, NOT telling her she's moving home, NOT standing shadow over her because - for how many years now? You've basically LET her be on her own at a school - so perhaps she fancies herself a little more MATURE than most girls her age, and is trying to express a little bit of that in dating WHOM SHE PLEASES = as an adult. Personally I would tell her that she can date whomever she wants - and you won't but in. You're not happy - but it's her life - AND then I would suggest finding a counselor for YOU - that can give you the ins and outs of better guidance through therapy, and HOW to get her to COME TO THERAPY....and start figuring out WHY she is like she is and WHY she makes the choices that she makes - and BE AWARE that she may NOT EVEN be aware (and most likely not) of WHY her self esteem (not self-confidence) is in the hole to the point where she doesn't tell this guy - SO LONG.

    The guy himself needs therapy too.....Maybe there's something in that idea that will spark her - SHE goes first to help HIM get answers for his ANGER PROBLEMS - and all the while the therapist is working on her? I mean he could come later if you think it would help - but for now? Let's just make her believe it's another step in helping him. (because it really is - when he looses such a wonderful girl? Maybe he'll have a serious heart to heart with reality and actually seek help - sounds like he needs it.)

    In the mean time? You can call a domestic abuse hotline - nationwide - They're number is easy to find with a google search. It's anonymous, and you can get a lot of information through them, your local health department (mental health) or as others have suggested a local DV shelter.

    Hope something in this helps her - But it really has to be HER that recognizes that she has a problem and stick with therapy to find out whats cooking in her brain.

  15. JJJ

    JJJ Active Member

    Right now, she has broken up with him and he is persuing her?? Talk to her and get a restraining order on him. As the parents of a minor child, if you tell him to leave her alone and he does not, that is all you need for a restraining order. Get her on board so that she sees that you are helping her, not controlling her.
  16. Parent42girls

    Parent42girls New Member

    Let me first start by saying that I am so thankful to all of you for your kind and thoughtful responses. My husband and I were both feeling overwhelmed with the situation. After taking a few days to calm down, discussing the situation with our loved ones, and doing a ton of reading (both on-line and in books) we have made some "temporary" decisions.

    We had a heart to heart discussion with our daughter during which we told her that we have unconditional love for her, and that while we clearly did not approve of her current relationship, we could not change her feelings. We told her that we will always be here for her and will offer our love and support to her - without judgment - no matter what the situation is. We know we cannot forbid the relationship and we would never want her to choose between her boyfriend and her family. We asked that she call a teen domestic abuse hotline where she can speak with a peer advisor and she agreed to do that. We also asked that she seek out a mentor in her field (and discussed a few of the people that she felt were good candidates) and told her that we would like her to begin counseling with a therapist. She agreed to all of this, and was actually relieved at the thought of speaking with someone who is not so involved in the situation. We asked that in light of our concerns she be completely honest about the relationship. She apologized for lying to us, and said that she did it so that we would not be disappointed in her, but now that she knows we will not judge her she feels better about being honest.
    We wrote all of this out and e-mailed it to her so she could look over it anytime and know that we meant what we said. We are also working to change her living situation where she will rent a room in the same place where many of the others in her peer group live.

    Ultimately, we felt that by forcing her to come home we were subjecting her to more control (thanks to whomever it was that pointed that out to me). We also felt that she would not come home and suddenly go back to being our "good little girl". It's not like she would come home and thank us. While I know we cannot parent on the "what if's" we felt that she could potentially be opening a whole new can of worms.

    In my heart I know we have given her a good foundation on which to make the right decisions. We have said all that we can say with regard to the relationship and continuing only makes us look like the bad guys and him like the hero. We believe that by letting her make her own decisions, she will not be so defensive of his actions. And as another poster pointed out, it is a good sign that she has already broken up with him twice. I told her that we all have those moments when we hear that little voice inside our head whispering the truth to us. I asked that she please listen to the whispers, and when I said that to her she started to cry. She thanked us for believing in her said she was so grateful to know that we would not give her the I told you so speech if she made the wrong decisions.

    We speak with her every day, and Skype at least once per week. We will be keeping a close eye on the situation and will act immediately if we feel that the situation changes. Also, just to be clear, she was the one who initiated all of the contact after the break-ups. He did not contact her at all.

    So that's where we are. I have a visit planned in Mid-February and my husband will go out in March. I am hopeful that we are doing the right thing here but only time will tell...
  17. buddy

    buddy New Member

    wow, just very impressive.
  18. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    Outstanding parenting, Way To Go! You've covered all the bases with love and forethought...she's one lucky teen and seems to know it. The combination of supports with guaranteed parental backup must make her feel in control with safety nets. Fingers crossed that all goes well. Hugs. DDD
  19. toughlovin

    toughlovin Guest

    Great job and you are doing the right thing... and she is responding to it. Your love and support means a lot to her and she needs to know without a doubt it is there while she figures this out. It will be so much easier for her to figure it out (and I am sure she will leave him eventually) if she knows you are there backing her up.. Great parenting job to both you and your husband.

  20. dashcat

    dashcat Member

    You've doe a stellar job of expressing your concerns and balancing that with your love and your trust in her. This guy may see m very exotic and exciting to her, but you've managed to dull the gloss of the forbidden and you've instilled her with the knowledge that your love isn't going to be something she can be isolated from.

    Well done.