Our 30-year-old daughter has been engaged for a year to a man she met three years ago through a friend.
He’s 36, they both have successful careers, and are equally dedicated to family, friends, continued education, and hard work.
They’re living together and she appears to be happy. She says he’s very good to her.
Yet we also see his controlling nature, including critical instructions regarding her weight.
She seldom comes home to visit anymore, nor calls as often as she did in the past.
He’s helped her achieve independence from us.
Sadly, he suffers from an incurable disease that’s expected to shorten his life expectancy by half.
He’s frequently ill and regularly drinks to excess. He’s also a big spender.
We know that our daughter has started seeing a therapist.
She’s already familiar with regular hospital visits, with medical interventions to keep him alive, and days that he’s too weak to get up.
We love our daughter. Where do we go from here to help her?
Very Worried Parents
Follow her example. You and your husband should privately see a therapist to discuss which of your fears for her are understandable and can be confronted.
And which fears are over-reactions (albeit natural under the circumstances) and should be given a watchful eye over time.
His illness is the most worrisome issue in their future together. Yet she’s knowledgeable about it, and courageously decided to stay by his side.
Yes, it may be far more difficult than she knows, and she may end up alone too soon. But your role here is to be supportive all the way through.
His “ controlling” nature is also worrisome even though it may partly be how he copes with his disease.
BUT, unless he’s abusive – which requires immediate reaction - the response to his pronouncements about her weight and other controls must come from her.
This may be why she’s getting counselling.
If you suspect she’s caving in too often, or losing self-confidence, stay in closer contact.
(Set-up a regular mother-daughter time to go for coffee, or take a walk together without him).
Listen to her. If the signals increase, urge her to address the issue openly with him (so long as there’s no hint of retaliation).
She does NOT have to give in to his whims or orders, because he’s sick.
If she loves him and is determined to marry him, she’ll need you even more through time.
But if you come to feel certain that she’s caught up in the role of rescuing caregiver, under his pressure, ask leading questions for her to think about with her therapist.
For the past several years, my husband and I befriended a younger relative who has financial needs and mental health issues.
It’s become tiring and expensive, as we get older.
We now need all our resources for our own needs/ projects.
We want this relative to become more self-reliant and don't want to set up a lasting dependency.
Yet I don't want to pull the rug out from under her at a low point in her life.
What's the kindest way to withdraw - quietly and gradually? A frank talk, which may upset her? (No one else in the family’s prepared to help).
A slow withdrawal, combined with efforts to link her to community agency help, is the kindest approach.
Also, be clear but gentle about the realities of your having more needs now, yourselves.
Maintain some contact rather than abandon her.
My step-mother slaps me, and lies to my dad about me. He doesn't say No to her.
She told me that things are going to be worse for me.
I don't want to make my father unhappy.
I’d love to have a good relationship with both of them but she treats me like trash.
What Should I Do?
Mixed Up Teen
Find a chance to talk to your dad alone. Tell him about the incidents of physical/emotional abuse – slapping, threatening, etc.
If he doesn’t believe you or ignores your situation, confide in a trusted relative if possible (mother, grandmother, aunt?).
Or talk to an adult at your school (teacher, principal, counselor).
If nothing changes, call the Kids Help Phone (Teens included) free line – 1-800-668-6868 – and talk to a counselor. It’s confidential and anonymous.
You’ll get guidance about finding a place of safety if needed, or how to handle the situation.
Tip of the day:
Support adult daughter’s brave choice along with her counselling.