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Ask Rene: My Daughter’s Boyfriend Is A LOSER!


Rene, HELP!

I know you’ve written about this before and hope you will again. My daughter, Lucy, has a serious boyfriend, her first in fact. But unfortunately Kevin is one, bad apple. All he does is toy with her heart and feelings and use her. He’ll say things like, “I’m thinking maybe we can get back together” then later says he’s not ready.  This always happens whenever Lucy starts to move forward. 

She pays for everything since Kevin has no money due to court expenses from a DWI and school loans from college (which he never finished). She turned 20 this month and he didn’t even make her a card, never mind get her a gift.  They are technically not together and she claims because of that, she told him not to get her anything. My thing is if Kevin was really looking to change and be with her, then he wouldn’t have even asked. He should have at least brought her a flower to show that he was thinking of her. 

I am at my wits’ end with this relationship; my next step is to talk with Kevin myself and tell him to cut her loose. I haven’t even told my husband that they are seeing each other again, since he will totally flip out. All of her friends think he’s a loser too. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.  I am not a mother who will stand by and let her be broken once again.


Mom at a Loss!

Dear Mom AAL:

Yes, it’s true, I have written about this topic before but I really don’t mind tackling it again as each instance is different. But the fixes are generally the same, especially when dealing with adult children. Now, you wrote me and I sincerely think you want help in dealing with this. The problem is the mixed message you send at the end of your letter. “Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated.  I am not a mother who will stand by and let her be broken once again.”  What this says to me is that you’re really only PARTIALLY open to suggestions and those had better fit in with what you want, which is him, out of her life. I think that can and WILL happen (eventually) but I’m not so sure you’re gonna be up for what it’s going to take to get there.

TALK TO YOUR DAUGHTER: This strategy as with all good ones, starts with communication. Sit Lucy down and talk to her about the big picture. By that I mean, the kind of life she wants to have. I do this with my own kids, usually as a way to hammer home why learning math today helps them tomorrow. I talk about the need to get good grades, in order to get into a good college because that (hopefully) translates to a good job (salary). We look at the housing prices and neighborhoods and I explain what it’s going to take to live in a place like that. I would do the same with Lucy; give her concrete examples of what her life could look like with someone who doesn’t finish what he starts (college) and already has a DWI. Without preaching, explain how that DWI will impact him in the future. Now this is not to say he can’t turn his life around; people do it all the time but she does need to know it won’t be easy.

DO NOT TALK TO HIM! This is a HORRIBLE idea! Do not do this. Let’s play this as we would a chess game, looking at the moves down the line. Let’s say you talk to him and tell him to please leave Lucy alone. He says, “Oh yeah? What’s it worth to you?” You, because you’re desperate to get this cad away from her, agree to something; maybe it’s paying his rent for a month or throwing him some beer money. And you think that it’s over right? WRONG! He’ll be back, when the rent is due and the refrigerator is empty. And he’ll have his hand out. Now, he’s really got you over a barrel because if you don’t agree, he tells Lucy what you did. Can you IMAGINE how she’ll feel then? It’s one thing to be hurt by a boyfriend, but no amount of, “We did this for you, honey” is going to ease the pain. Even if he doesn’t demand something from you (and yes, that is a worse case scenario) let’s say during the next argument they have he blurts out, “I should have done what your folks asked me to do anyway!” and, well, see above comment. Shudder!

LET IT GO! Okay mom, time for the bit of advice you are going to hate. You have got to be much less invested in this relationship. Yes, she is your daughter but she’s 20 not 12. She’s capable of making her own (sometimes, bad) decisions. You need to be much more of a safety net than a safety harness. In other words, you need to be there for her when she falls, but don’t hold her in place and keep her from learning. Let’s say you get this guy out of her life. What then? What will you do when at 28 she’s dating a guy you don’t approve of? What about when she’s 32? And so on. She’s got to figure out on her own what she wants in a man. Eventually she’ll wise up and get tired of paying for everything and being treated like this. And then she, alone, will cut this guy loose. Guess what else? She’ll be all the wiser for it, and will know what NOT to go for next time.

For you, tell her one FINAL time, how you feel, that you’re not happy about it but that you trust her to make good decisions and you’ll be there for her if she needs you. Then let it go! For real. I think you’ll be quite surprised at what happens when you back off. Of course, as always in cases like this, I have to say, if Lucy is in physical danger  then you have to do whatever you can to keep her safe. But barring that, I say, let her make, and learn, from her mistakes.

Good luck mommy!

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  1. Cody Williams

    November 18, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    Again, good advice, Rene.

    “I am at my wits’ end with this relationship.”

    What? It’s not your relationship, Tuts. Get out of it. As long as he does not pose a physical danger to her, let her learn life’s lessons the way we all do. As an adult.

    As I once told my mom, “you can’t live eight lives.” (Mom had seven kids and lord know she tried.)

  2. A Daughter

    November 18, 2011 at 8:01 pm


    Awesome advice. While I haven’t had an annoying BF before, that’s really great straightforward advice. But what about when a gal has a terrific guy, but has a mama that is all up in their Kool-Aid?? I’ll have to admit, if I ever fall in love with a great guy who asks me to be his wife, I know I will have to stand up for and shield him from certain folk in my family, so he can be who he needs to be for our home. Sheesh!

    I read your piece on the difference between safety harness and safety net. I got the “safety harness” who makes me feel bad if I don’t take her advice…unsolicited advice! I don’t get mad if I ask for the advice, but my feathers get ruffled when I talk about my life with my “harness” and end up feeling belittled for a decision that I am sharing with her. I’ve also learned not to take her money. I’m great about not asking for money, but I don’t even hint that something could be wrong financially, but she’ll give it and I’ll hear about it later. It’s “if you take me money, you can take my advice.” Plus, I am learning to increase my faith that God will take care of me. You know?

    Rene, when we tell ours moms to “let me handle” or “butt out”, or “I got this”, how come some moms don’t know how to do that and get really, REALLY offended when we want to handle situations on our own? Is it because for so long, our moms have been our moms and are use to telling us what to do? It’s like we adult kids tend to get questioned on almost EVERY single “grown” decision we make. We just need a sound board… We know are our parents have a plethera of wisdom and knowledge, but that came from learning about life on their own, too. RIght? Shouldn’t there be a balance? See, I’m not a GEM, yet (have to get hitched first), so I can’t say how a parent feels. I just want to understand. 🙂

  3. DynamoNatalie

    November 19, 2011 at 10:02 am

    Great advice, Rene. As a daughter with a VERY vocal and meddling mom, I can say that the daughter needs space to decide for herself. If not, she’ll stay in a bad situation longer than necessary……out….of…spite. And yes, sometimes a bad relationship IS necessary to teach a person what NOT to do/put up with in the future.I hope the daughter ditches the bum and not the parents.

  4. Sad in ca

    December 6, 2011 at 11:48 pm

    Am in a similar situation with my 17 year old. He is emotionally abusive to her but because we have been so against him(because of an assault he was involved in last year and references to drugs and alcohol on his fb)!that now it and everything else is a battle. I try to model that hating is unhealthy for the hater but I hate this person for what he has down to my daughter and hate myself for feeling this way and letting him insert himself into her life, and ours. She will be out of the house by the end of this year and she tells us all the time that time is running out and that she is going to be gone for good, I am so incredibly sad all the time about it. Every chance you get, hug your child and tell her you love her. When things are really rough I pray that my child will hear my voice and know that I am always with her.

  5. Rene Syler

    December 7, 2011 at 5:45 am

    @sad in ca: I am so sorry to hear this. I hope everything works out. I think it will. Be patient and pray for her safety *hugs*

  6. Mary Southard

    July 18, 2012 at 11:06 pm

    Sad in Ca: My heart goes out to you. I am praying for you, also. I hope things are better at this time.

    With you in New Mexico

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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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