My son, in his 20s, suffered a traumatic brain injury from an accident. His recovery has been miraculous and he’s now able to live at his own place, and return to his professional job.
His girlfriend of two years lives not far away.
We’ve liked her, and she had appeared to be very caring and concerned about our son.
However, while he was convalescing I was around him a lot by necessity and noticed that she was ignoring him (they communicate through messaging).
When she did respond, it was typically curt, even sarcastic and hurtful, or all about her.
She shows no interest in things important to him and makes fun of how he was in the first weeks after the injury (memory loss, gibberish talk, etc.)
We’d been concerned even prior to the accident because he often seemed sad when we asked about her and they seemed to spend little time together.
We learned that they’d been fighting about her ambivalence and lack of response to messaging.
Now that he’s nearby again, she’s continuing to ghost him or responds caustically. She’s too "busy" to see him or even message, but finds time for all her other passions.
It breaks my heart to see him lovingly messaging her and being ignored.
Normally, I’d stay out of this. But these are not normal circumstances as a very serious brain injury can affect ones' emotional and mental well-being and she’s very aware of this.
All of his family are very concerned, even scared that this cruel behaviour is going to cause a setback, or worse.
We almost lost him – it doesn't feel right to just sit and watch someone toy with his mental well-being. Should his sister contact this girl to discuss what’s going on?
Normally, parental interference in an adult child’s romantic relationship is the kiss of rejection to mom-and-pop advice, plus distancing.
But given how very vulnerable your son’s mental and emotional health still may be from this severe injury, some gentle conversation about your family’s concerns is warranted.
This girl apparently lacks the maturity or compassion to recognize what her own behaviour is signaling to your son. And he, so far, hasn’t wanted to acknowledge those red flags.
She’s too self-absorbed to deal with his recovery needs.
She wants out.
His sister is a wise choice as message-bearer, but I suggest she talk to him first and simply, kindly, report what the family has observed.
Then, she should ask his permission to speak to his girlfriend about it.
He may be greatly relieved. Or, he may not want the stress of a break-up right away, but at least his antenna will be raised.
Reader’s Commentary Regarding the 15-year-old boy’s letter about his father who yelled, insulted, and berated his mom, siblings, and himself (Jan 30):
“This sounds like something my daughter would’ve written years ago. Everything I did was demonized by her, and her (clinically diagnosed) schizophrenic mother.
“Fortunately, I kept a steady head, and after painfully unravelling (the lies) they’d dumped on me, my daughter and her mother withdrew their claims with prejudice.
“This wasn’t a victory. My daughter hasn’t done well. The correct solution would’ve been to get her away from her mother, not her father.”
Ellie – I appreciate your difficult experience but the teenager’s letter doesn’t match your situation.
He and his mother never reported the abuse.
The father lives in the house but now isolates from family through silence.
FEEDBACK Regarding the grandfather who’s been cut off from his grandchildren after his wife’s insulting remarks (Feb. 24):
Reader – “I too had very hurtful remarks made against my wife and her family.
“There may’ve even been psychological abuse from this man’s wife, which I also suffered before finally cutting off both my parents.
“Although, like the son, I had a stronger relationship with my father, he still bears some responsibility for allowing the abusive behaviour from my mother to fester for years, doing nothing about it.
“I could no longer tolerate this.
“I’ll bet this situation’s psychological abuse has been occurring for years, with the son and the grandfather both “gas-lighted” into thinking that they’re the problem.
“Fortunately, the son has the gumption to stand up to those insults on behalf of his late wife’s memory.
“As for the grandfather, he should strongly consider divorce, if only to save himself from a clearly abusive situation.”
Tip of the day:
When a person shows indifference at a partner’s most vulnerable time, the message is clear: She/he wants out.