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Ask Rene: Bad Boyfriend – How Can I Make My Daughter See Sense?


Dear Rene:

I have a big problem with my 29-year-old daughter’s boyfriend. My daughter has been with him on and off for more than two years now and in that time, he has lied to her, cheated on her and been disrespectful to her family, including her two kids.

Here’s an example. He went over to her place one night and sliced up six garden hoses and her daughter’s outside toys. He apologized to her but never replaced her daughter’s toys or said anything to her daughter or me; two of those hoses were mine that I bought that very same day! He never replaced anything or apologized to anyone. When I mention it, my daughter tells me it’s only $30 worth of stuff and to get over it.

He hasn’t said more than a dozen words to me in the years they’ve been seeing each other and we all work in the same place. The other day, I put a comment on my Facebook page about the Casey Anthony case and he totally slammed me, saying it’s okay to lie because people don’t want the truth anyway.

It’s all come to a head and now my daughter has disowned me.

Help Rene, I miss her and don’t know what to do.


Worried and wanting my daughter back

Dear WW:

Wow, sorry to hear all this. I feel your pain, wish it were better and I’ll try to help you come up with a plan that will make it so, but if I were you, I wouldn’t hold my breath. Here’s why and the things that worry me about this situation.

YOUR DAUGHTER IS AN ADULT: And she doesn’t just have one toe over the line of that mile marker either. She’s had a little time to get in there, kick the tires and give life a spin. She’s too old to play dumb which means she’s consciously aware of the decisions she’s making; I think she even knows how destructive they are. I’ve quoted him before, and I will again, Dr. Phil says, you teach people how to treat you. Clearly she’s okay with this guy treating her like a doormat. As hard as that is for a parent to watch, it will continue until SHE decides to change it.

PAGING MR. PSYCHOPATH! Um, yeah who in the hell cuts up a kid’s toys? Who slices up brand new garden hoses? And even if he had apologized, he still CUT UP HER TOYS! I’ll tell you who does stuff like that; immature people with rage issues.

Now this is the part that worries me. Your daughter is a 29-year-old who, for whatever reason, is choosing to remain in that unhealthy situation. Her daughter, however, is an impressionable child with no say in the matter. This fool is not modeling normal, adult behavior and moreover, I worry about his tenuous grip on things. He probably cut up the toys to get back at your daughter (the hose just to get at you). He knew your daughter would hurt for her child’s loss and was basically using your granddaughter as a conduit. What does that say about how he feels about her? Not much.

THE POTENTIAL FOR PHYSICAL VIOLENCE: You don’t need 20/20 vision to see that violence could be looming (if it’s not there already) and that is VERY troubling. Based on the boyfriend’s disregard for your granddaughter’s feelings, what’s to keep him from physically harming her or your daughter? You say your daughter has disowned you. Do you have any relationship at all; do you speak?  You really need to find out if she’s being physically abused. I do fear if it hasn’t happened yet, it might not be far off so you may need to intervene.

The problem is the Svengali boyfriend already has your daughter’s mind locked up and has her convinced that you’re the enemy. So if she doesn’t listen to you, maybe she’ll listen to a friend or relative. You should also read up on the insidious nature of domestic abuse and find a shelter in your area just in case you need one.

It’s perfectly clear as to why the relationship between you and the boyfriend is strained; you don’t like him because he treats the daughter you love so poorly and he doesn’t like you because he knows you know she deserves better. You work in the same place, which complicates matters so you may just have to steer clear of him. Oh and block him on Facebook. Speaking strictly from a layperson’s perspective, I’m not sure your daughter is exhibiting learned helplessness as much as hard-headedness and if that’s the case, she’s going to have to find her own way out of this. She will, once she’s had her fill.

Good luck, mommy!

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  1. Rebecca

    July 18, 2011 at 9:05 am

    Destruction of property is a criminal act. Were the police called? There needs to be a formal record of this kind of behavior in case you need to get your grandchildren out of there at some point. If any of this stuff is spilling over into work, notify HR. You can’t do anything about the way this guy treats your daughter, but you can do something about how he treats YOU. That’s a good place to start.

  2. b.

    July 18, 2011 at 9:45 am

    I will say this:

    DON’T block him on FB unless he constantly fills your page with craziness (not just once in a while). I say this b/c if he ever posts anything that may be a flag for troublesome behavior/actions you may see it. Use the fact that he’s on your friend list to monitor what he may be saying. Also use SnagIt or some other screen capture device to save a snapshot of such things in case you need it for future reference.

    I’m not much older than your daughter, but I can suggest letting her know that your love for her and her child transcends any relationship she may have. Let her know that you care for her well being more than you care about being “right” about this guy. Try (I just say TRY) to let go of the need to “make her” do what you feel is right, and give her the space she desires to live her life. She may take the space you give her to make changes b/c then she’s doing it of her own accord and not to make you happy (subtle difference). Think about this: she’s pressured on one side to leave, and pressured on the other side to stay. Most of all, she’s pressured within to figure out what is best and maintain autonomy from BOTH of you. (Please understand I’m not saying you’re as bad as this boyfriend…I’m pointing out that there is intense pressure on both sides and few people enjoy being pressured — hence the acting out.)

  3. Margie Crouch

    July 18, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    Dear WW – This guys behavior is so disturbing on so many levels. I am a child advcate and am so upset by your situation. Any time you encounter someone who thinks the solution to a problem is to grab a knief and start slashing, you need to call the cops – your grandchildren are in danger. I don’t care if they were plastic toys ready for the trash bin, this guy is clearly unstable and quite frankly, so is your daughter for allowing him to communicate a threat like that. You need to start asking yourself if addictive behaviors are involved? Is she also a violent person? ( If yes, things could excalte dangerously.) How much damage has this done to your grandchildren? No offense intended towards you or your daughter but her non-reaction and willingness to put up with that kind of behavior is a classic sign of someone who is being abused. “Oh, mom, stop making such a big deal of it blah, blah, blah….” are exactly the kinds of things she might say to you hoping not to rock his boat and get him mad again.
    THINK, ASK AND TAKE ACTION – The overall sense I get from your letter is that you’re in a bit of shock and denial which may be a very normal reaction for some people in your situtation. I hope Rene’s good advice snapped you out of it! If not, let me. You should not be as worried about her lack of communication as you SHOULD BE WORRIED for your grandchildren.
    What can you do? I am a mandated reporter. If a child told me moms boyfriend took a knief and slashed all (or even just one) the toys in the yard last night I would be calling both social services and the police. No matter what the excuse proposed by your daughter or the boy”friend” (?), that behavior is child abuse. Call the police and call social services. Let them know you are concerned about your grandchildren and ask them for advice on how to proceed in protecting them. Plus, you should let all involved know that you work with the offender. Clerks are very cooperative with adults who seem to have the child’s well being first and foremost. By the way, Social Services might already have a file on this guy and you should ask them if they do. Look up your area for registered sex offenders and make sure he is not on the list. Don’t assume, do it. Call and WRITE your child’s school and let them know what you know has happened to your grandchildren – stick to the facts with dates and specific behavioral concerns. ” My grandchild seemed pail and white as she began to tell me that ten of her toys in the yard were slashed with a knief on such and such date by her mother’s boyfriend. She cried and asked if he would do that again…etc, etc, etc,….” Better yet, follow up the call with a thank you letter restating all of the FACTS you told them. Don’t exagerate, stick to the facts and express your concern for the grandchildren. Send all the information you have in a registered letter to the school, police, Social Services, pediatrician, minister, daycare provider, etc… keep the signature copy that they have received it as the letter and their knowledge that there is a concern which by the way, is now submissable in court. Yes, I said court. If you don’t stick up for your grandchildren, who will? If you don’t, you then become a negligent part of the problem rather than the catalist towards a solution, if not a full out rescue. I am sorry to say, your daughter has already crossed the line of negligence which is also a classic reaction of someone in an abusive relationship.
    Have you noticed any behavior changes in the grandchildren or her since this man has been around? Put that in the letter as well. Officials would have to take anything you have not witnessed yourself as hearsay. Put any observed behaviors of the grandchildren in writting – ” I noticed my grandchild seemed sullen and would not eat her favorite meal on date…. she said that her mom and the boyfriend had argued all night etc…”. By doing this, you are making offficials and the school staff aware of the matter. Schools can not discuss the child with you but that does not stop you from writing to them. You most likely will not get a response because of privacy laws but don’t let that stop you from contacting them and don’t be discouraged by their non response to you as it is the law. Hopefully the school will take anything the children might say very seriously. They can get counselors involved as well as their teachers. You should let the school know that you work with the boyfriend and would prefer to remain annonymous. Are you feeling threatened by his behavior? You should communicate that as well with officials. They might honor your request, might not. None of these resources can or should be expected to repair your relationship with your daughter. Make it clear to them that your daughter is no longer speaking to you and you are worried about your grandchildren. In fact, if you do proceed reporting, your daughter may be furious with you which is exactly what an abuser wants from their partner.
    Make it clear that you refuse to get involved in any drama with this man at work or elsewhere but that you are concerned for the safety of your grandchildren. If you have friends at work that you trust to discuss this matter with, make it clear to them that you do not want the matter discussed at work. Let them know you would appreciate it if they encouraged others to not discuss if at work if they encounter gossip at the water cooler. You must act professionally and try to stick with the facts and if need be file a restraining order.
    The fact that she is no longer speaking to you (classic red flag) may also be a sign of abuse as she is allowing him to control who she talks to. I hope not. If you do talk to her tell her she is stronger than she thinks and that you are too! Tell her you believe in her and you know that she is a capable person and that you will do anything to help her if she needs to get out of this relationship which may mean moving her to an undisclosed location. Tell her you will pay for couples counseling or help her find nonprofit that might offer couples counseling services at discount or free. This is another good question to ask Social Services about. If by some miracle they go to counseling, back off and let the pros work with them as counselors are mandated reporters.
    Finally, you need to build a team of supportive professionals and friends around you. Let them know of your concerns. Secrets don’t heal, they only empower abusers!

  4. m.e. johnson

    July 18, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    @Margie C.: Hallelujah!!!!!! Thank you for telling it like it is. Forget all that yakkety yak yak. Time for action. That dude probably already has an extensive police record. Might even be some dead bodies in his wake.

  5. Peppercorn16

    July 18, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    I know how some parents feel that their grown up kids can handle certain issues with their mates and not want to get involved

    But this is one of those cases where the father may have to step in for his grand kids sake. He said the guy cut up the kids toys which means he has a temper and the fact that when he’s in a mood he expresses it by cutting up thing

    So I think the father needs to have a long get in his face talk with this guy about cutting up his grand kids toys or anything else he distroys in a it of anger. This is not going to stop I don’t care how the guy lies and claims he’s sorry. I mean OMG to cut up the kids toys WTF why should the kids suffer because this fool can’t control his temper

    Now it’s time for Grand pa to let this guy know that if he don’t get it together and tame that temper then theres going to be a problem. And if the daughter gets mad at her father for stepping in to protect her and his grand kids. Then she needs a reality check as to whats more important the safety of her herself and her kids or remain in a trainwreck of a relationship with a man who thinks nothing of cheating, lying and cutting up thing when he’s pissed

    I hope she wakes up soon and realize this relationship is not going to get any better. And the jerk just might go from cutting items to cutting her or her kids

  6. @BID316

    July 18, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    Well, where to start?

    The article is too short!!

    1st problem? Co-workers dating. This CAN be handled well, but the percentages are woefully LOW!!

    2nd problem? Just because he disagrees with you (or doesn’t speak to you) doesn’t mean he’s wrong.

    3rd problem? Just because she chose her significant other, over her mother, does not make her wrong. Mother MAY not be getting full truth or whole story. Each person has a tremendous capacity to omit aspects of events which might show her (or him) in a negative (or less than positive) light. So… Is the mother getting the whole truth? Is the mother sharing the whole truth? The daughter may have withheld facts OR the mother may have been concerned with she and/or her daughter may “look.”

    4th problem? If he has cheated and lied, etc, (assuming that they don’t have children together, which was NOT referenced) it speaks to the daughter’s self-esteem or lack thereof as well as her upbringing.

    We may all make assumptions based on the article. But none of us really know the facts. Most of us MAY assume that the article is an accurate portrayal OR draw from events in our own lives.

    Bottom-line: My answer is longer than the article. There’s not enough information shared to make a reasonable judgment.

  7. Yvonne Harding

    July 24, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    This story reminds me of Carla Cunningham’s novel, Trapped in South Africa. That was based on her real life experiences of domestic violence. Everyone needs to read this story! It is a tale of total faith and hope and how Carla gained the ultimate self esteem and life motivation despite living a suppressed life for so many years. Beautifully written and so moving.

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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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