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 Do.not.do.this!
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!