May 14, 2010 in Features

Daughter’s date concerns mother

Washington Post

Dear Carolyn: I’ve been divorced for a year from an emotional abuser. I was married to him for 21 years. My question concerns my daughter. She is 20, and in a fairly new relationship. I just met the guy, and was alarmed to see behavior very very similar to my ex’s. I was polite, but during the conversation afterward about what I thought, I was honest with her. I said I had huge reservations, that he reminded me of her father at that age. She demanded examples and I gave her a few. Of course she defended him, denied everything.

How can I help? She has had counseling in the past, but refuses it now. I am praying you can tell me some way to reach her. It will break my heart to see her make the same mistakes I did. – A distraught mom

I am hoping you can reach her, and other people like her, yourself: I have changed some of the identifying details of your letter, and left others intact.

This way, anyone who reads this and feels a twinge of recognition will be able to think, is this me? Or, more important, won’t be able to say, “That’s not me.”

Once people allow that it’s possible you’re talking about them, then that’s an opening for their reasoning-dominoes to start falling: “Well, my parents’ messed-up marriage was my primary emotional template”; “I do struggle with low confidence”; “This new person I’m seeing is kind of possessive/critical/ moody”; “I am very defensive when people question my relationship.”

Admitting even one of these is admitting a red flag – and admitting a red flag brings a person just that much closer to admitting the possibility of an abusive relationship.

So, to anyone reading this who gets defensive about a boyfriend or girlfriend: You may have your reasons for tuning out your distraught parent/sibling/friend, but it can’t hurt just to hear this one out.

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email