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My Daughter Is In An Abusive Relationship

by Trisha

How do I get my daughter to end her relationship?

My daughter won't get out of an abusive relationship. Her boyfriend controls her money, who she talks too, is possessive and jealous. He broke her nose, pushes, hits her, and spends his money on drugs.

She pays all the bills in his flat even though he works and is on $300 a week. She puts him before everyone and does everything he says in the end after screaming and shouting and breaking up mobile phones.

He never hugs her or treats her well and I'm scared for her.

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How To Support Not Enable - Part One
by: Annie Desantis

Dear Trisha
It is terribly hard when we see our children making choices about their life that we can see are hurting them. And of course we hurt too seeing our child being mistreated.

Accepting Our Kids Choices?

You didn't say how old your daughter is, but I am assuming that she is over the age of consent, and actually living with her boyfriend if she is paying all the bills etc?

So if this is the case, then she is choosing to live as an adult away from home and hard though it is, you don't actually have any rights to stop her or to end the relationship.

I can totally understand how hard it is, I have had a member of our family who moved in with an abusive man when she was very young, had a child with him, and it took years and numerous attempts to support and help her until she finally got free of him.

I know you must feel terribly helpless and fearful for your daughter. The number one thing you must try to do, is to make sure she knows you will support her and love her even if you disapprove of her relationship.

If you alienate her with endless nagging or pressure to leave him she will not feel she can come to you for help when she does finally reach the point of wanting to end the relationship. (And that may take several attempts.)

Our family member ended up in Women's refuges, or went into hiding various times, and still kept returning to him for several years. But with ongoing support she finally got free of him and now lives a very successful life.

What Are Your Boundaries?

The most important thing is you set boundaries for what is acceptable in your home - ie you might decide that if there is violence on your property you will be calling the police.

Or you might decide he is not welcome in your home. You might decide they can only visit if they are sober or drug free or you might decide that you will only meet with your daughter in neutral territory.

Just be aware that you don't want to alienate her and force her to chose between him or you. If you make conditions that push her into a corner she will not see that she has any support and help when she needs it.

Part Two Follows . . .

How To Support Not Enable - Part Two
by: Annie Desantis

Of course you don't want to be enabling her, so don't give her money to bail him out. You can feed her, or pay for her medical bills or things that you feel are important but don't give her money to support his drugs or lifestyle.

Focus On Strengthening Your Relationship

Try to have some time with your daughter on her own - just meet for lunch or something low key, and listen to her without constantly judging or trying to influence her to leave him. You need to be building a positive relationship with her, not just based on her problems and your disapproval.

If she brings up the issues you can let her know you will support her to get stronger and point her in the direction of services that can help. But while she is choosing to stay with him if you put pressure on her to get out she will not feel she can talk to you.

The more you can be a supportive presence in her life loving and affirming her despite the poor choices she is making, the more she will have something positive to counteract his abuse.

Tough Love?

Some people advocate the tough love road, particularly if there are addictions and drugs involved. Personally, I think that totally depends on the situation. If you are shelling out money, constantly rescuing her and if she is lying and stealing from you then yes, getting really tough is important.

You can set healthy boundaries, both to protect yourself and so you are not actually helping her to stay in an unhealthy relationship (ie by paying her bills, giving her money).

I think it is pretty important that you maintain as close a relationship with her as you can, despite the boyfriend and your unhappiness with her choice. The more you disapprove, judge and criticize her in some ways the more she has to
rebel or feel she has to swing to his control.

Sadly when our kids pull away from our influence, they don't always look to their own source of power or knowing about what is the best choices. Falling in love is an emotional roller coaster and for a girl whose self esteem is not strong, a man can have a huge amount of power over her.

Part Three Follows . . .

How To Support Not Enable - Part Three
by: Annie Desantis

We can see that this love of him is not in actual fact LOVING - it is likely to be neediness on her part - for approval, to be loved, and perhaps a strong sexual chemistry. We can see it is not a healthy loving supportive relationship, but at this stage she is not willing to let go of her hopes and dreams with this man.

This man is hurting and damaged too or he would not be behaving so badly. More than likely your daughter feels she can heal him by being there and loving him. But just as you can't fix her, neither can she fix him, no matter how much she tries to please him.

Hard though it is, you can't make her leave him and the more you pressure her to, the more you drive a wedge between you and her.

You can find out about the support services in her area so that when she is willing to get help she knows where to go - or you can point her in the right direction when she asks for help. You may also find some support for yourself - often there are support groups for families.

See And Reinforce Her Strengths

The other thing you can do, is hold a vision of her as happy, healthy and enjoying life. The more you worry about her and have a vision of her being beaten or abused, you are actually adding negative energy to the situation. If you can reinforce all the good points about her then you add some helpful energy around her, and will bolster up some of her flagging self esteem.

Sometimes as parents we actually make a bad situation worse because we are worrying so much. That means every interaction you have with her is clouded by judgements, by worry, by fear - and it does not help in the slightest. Yes you can let her know you are concerned and you find it hard to understand why she would be in such a relationship when she is worth so much more.

But you also need to let her know that you believe she has lots of strengths and abilities - and be specific about them. Don't see her as a victim, that dis-empowers her even more. You want to be holding and reinforcing all the good things about her and her strengths and that she is loved and supported despite her current choices.

Being in a bad relationship is not who she is. Being a victim is not who she is. She is so much more and even though it seems like this situation is a really horrible one, she is actually gaining a whole heap of life experiences that may well be a contribution to something wonderful in her future.

Good luck with it all Trisha, and make sure you too get support that helps you to be able to let go of some of the stress of it all, and to be able to just connect with your love and strength.

Go gently,
Annie Desantis

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