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Ask Rene: My Daughter’s Back With Her Bad Boyfriend


Hi Rene:

I hope you can help me.

My daughter is an intelligent, 25-year-old woman with very little dating experience. She met a man six years older than her and dated him for about a year until she found out he was cheating on her with emails, 900 numbers and such. Not only that, he also lied about smoking.

She broke up with him and was deeply upset. Her father and I helped her through that break-up only to find out two years later she’s back to dating him; in fact, she was dating him for a year and a half without telling us.

He hurt her once and we worry it will happen again. We don’t like this guy and the feeling is mutual. But she seems to love him. We feel like she’s making a big mistake. What can we do?


Concerned Mom

Dear Concerned Mom,

Ugh, this is hard. Not for me to say but for you to hear. Your young, smart daughter, with her whole life ahead of her is about to muck it all up by dating some ne-er-do-well and you want to know what you can do to stop it. Here’s the hard part I was talking about. Nothing. You can do nothing and here’s why.

YOUR DAUGHTER IS AN ADULT: I feel like this is a common theme running through, at least lately. Listen, your daughter is 25, not 15. She is at an age where she is responsible for her actions, no matter had shortsighted and misguided they may be. I think the hard part for us as parents is to sit on the sidelines and watch our kids make mistakes. But you may know by now my theory on mistakes, don’t you? I believe they are powerful teaching tools. Your daughter had all the proof she needed the first time around; the guy PROVED he was a worthless lout, yet for some reason the attraction was too great and your daughter went back. She knew you and your husband wouldn’t approve so she kept it a secret. This is someone who is old enough to make his or her own decisions/mistakes. Let it go.

KEEP AN EYE OUT AND COMMUNICATION OPEN: While you cannot do anything to change your daughter’s heart or mind, you can let her know you will be there for her. I remember when I was young my mother used to always let me know that no matter what I did, I could always go home again. I’m not sure she meant that literally but in a figurative sense it meant that no mistake was so bad that I would never be welcomed in her home again. That was a tremendous source of comfort to me as I ventured out on my own. I would urge you to extend the same offer to your daughter. She needs to know that if this ends badly, she has a soft place to land. Whatever happens, resist the urge to say, “I told you so.”

KEEP A CLOSE EYE ON THE BOYFRIEND:  You know that old saying “Keep your friends close but your enemies closer”? It’s very applicable here. You are going to need to independently verify what’s going on in that relationship, to the best of your ability. Of course, you won’t know everything but I suspect you’ll be able to see enough of the puzzle to piece together an adequate picture. Now, I’m not really sure what “Keeping an eye on the boyfriend” looks like but I suspect that is going to involve you holding your nose and extending an olive branch so you can invite him to Sunday dinners. Then you can get close enough to put your arm around him, look in his eye and whisper in his ear that he’d better not hurt your daughter again or he’ll have to answer to you and your husband. But you want to hear the crazy part? It just might be that if you adopt this approach, open heart, open mind, the boyfriend might come around. He may learn to value the relationship with you and your husband and realize that he needs to treat your daughter with love and respect. We all make mistakes; maybe the smoking and 900 numbers and such was a mistake for which he is ready to atone. If he is, will you be ready to forgive?

Now the one caveat in this is that if your daughter is in any sort of danger, all bets are off and you do what you must to get her away from him.

Good luck mommy!

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  1. Amy Koehler

    July 25, 2011 at 7:09 am

    Timing couldn’t be better. Going thru the same situation with our 17-year-old daughter. Not quite as serious as if shwas ere 25 but fearful that this could become a pattern. I know because it became one for me but, thankfully, I broke the pattern when I met her dad. Fingers crossed 🙂

  2. Janie

    July 25, 2011 at 8:29 am

    At 25, I don’t think there is a lot that you can do. I know it is torture to watch your child making, what you think, are mistakes.
    She already knows that you don’t want her in this relationship – she’s been hiding it from you because she knows!
    The only thing you can do is explain why you feel the way you do about it and tell her that it is because you love her so much that you don’t want to see her get hurt by this guy again. She is an adult and has obviously made a choice to be with this guy.
    How about giving the guy a chance, try to get to know him, maybe you will see why she loves him and if not well she will see that you put forth the effort for her sake. If you keep the relationship in tact without ultimatums and threats, she will be free to come to you when things are not going well instead of being afraid that you will wag your finger and tell her “I told you so.”
    It totally sucks watching your adult children make mistakes or live their lives totally contrary to everything you taught them about life, love and relationships. The best thing is to keep the lines of communication open without judgement and be there to listen when they need it most.

  3. m.e. johnson

    July 25, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    Correct, Rene and Janie. Some of these controlling parents (Holy Hovercraft!) are gonna be mighty lonely in the old folks’ home.

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Combing the aisles at Target in search of the best deal on Cheerios, it hit Rene Syler like the stench of a dirty diaper on a hot summer’s day. Not only is perfection overrated its utterly impossible! Suddenly empowered, she figuratively donned her cape, scooped up another taco kit for dinner and Good Enough Mother was born.

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