After my husband died, both kids were doing pretty well except my daughter started becoming very depressed and talking about killing herself to be with her dad. I started allowing her to stay home from school, and I took her to a therapist. Looking back, I think I was trying to make her happy by giving her what she wanted.
A few months after my husband’s death I started talking with somebody online. This developed into a relationship that I am in now. He is a very loving man who would do anything for us. My daughter hated him from the start. He can do nothing right. I slowly introduced him into our lives, but she resisted. After two years she still says she hates him and tells me that, if I was a good mom, I would never have started seeing him, or that at least I should break up with him now to make her happy.
He has never bought into her drama. He sees her as spoiled and manipulative. I can’t say he’s wrong. She used to come up with emergencies when I would be going to see him. She is disrespectful and downright rude. I am thinking of spending my life with him and being happy, but I can’t because she will do whatever she can to try to make me choose her over him.
I have had her to three therapists and three psychologists. She has been on countless medications hoping to hit the right one that will pull her out of her misery. She is a miserable person overall with only one true friend who will put up with her demands. Everyone (and not just her family) should do things her way or she will make them miserable. Everyone is out to get her and nothing goes her way.
I am to the point of thinking about breaking up with my boyfriend just to have some peace. Then, in my next thought, I know that that is just what she wants me to do, so I am feeding it. Why should I give up my happiness for her? I am eating myself up inside trying to balance my feelings.
I guess I just need to know if I should drop everything for my daughter or demand she respect my life and my choices. — Distracted By Her Misery
Um, neither? I don’t think either option will work. So, you drop everything for your daughter and what does that solve? You continue enabling her, letting her believe that, as long as she protests loudly enough, she can get her way — a lesson that has not served her well, as her lack of friends, for example, has shown. And then you end up sad and resentful, forcing an even bigger wedge in your already obviously-strained relationship. On the other hand, how will “demanding respect for your life and your choices” actually work? If you could really demand certain behavior from your daughter, knowing she would comply, you would have done so a long, long time ago. You know very well no amount of demands on her will amount to jack squat.
What you’ve been doing so far — giving in to your daughter’s demands for seventeen years–hasn’t worked. Nor have, apparently, the six different counselors you’ve taken your daughter to. Did any of them have any suggestions for you? Any insight into what might be atypical about your daughter? Have you done a neuropsych evaluation on her? What about a psychoeducational assessment? Do her teachers report similar behavior at school? Does she get any services at school? Does she have an IEP (Individualized Education Plan)? Have you tried joint therapy? Have you tried individual therapy for yourself?
Having only tip-toed into this world a little bit myself, I can appreciate how overwhelming it is, how tempting it is to give in to your kid’s demands, and how frustrating it can be to not have an easy answer — to have to continue searching for the right combination of support. But… that’s what you do when you have a child who has some special needs. You keep searching for the combination of support that will meet those needs. And those needs change as a child develops and as he or she experiences different emotional triggers — like adolescence, starting a new school, and losing a parent to cancer. So, while six counselors and countless meds may sound like a lot of intervention over the course of seventeen years, if they aren’t the right ones, it doesn’t really matter.
And while I can certainly empathize with how you must feel having tried different things with little to no relief, I can imagine that however you feel is probably nothing compared to how your daughter feels. Because this is all happening inside of her, inside her head. At a time in her life when she craves some control, she probably feels like she has zero. Not over herself, not over her own emotions, not over her father’s health. And so she grabs at whatever might give her the illusion of control — like making you nuts. She knows that that, at least, is something she’s been successful at, and she knows exactly how to do it. She’s been doing it her whole life, and it works. What’s the best way to make you nuts? Ruin the thing that’s bringing you happiness. And as long as you continue giving her the reaction she’s seeking, she’ll keep doing what works. So, change the way you react to her. Continue searching for the right combination of support — for both of you! — that will help you both. Because she needs your help, and she needs your love. Whatever is up with her isn’t new, and it isn’t her fault. She isn’t the way she is to ruin your life. She’s the way she is because she’s the way she is.
I would suggest finding a parent support group for yourself — it could even be a page on Facebook — for parents who experience similar struggles. You may find the collective wisdom, from people who have tried some of the things you’ve tried as well as things you haven’t yet tried, to be super helpful. Both the practical support and the emotional support could do wonders for you. In addition, please consider a neuropsych evaluation for your daughter if you haven’t already. They can be quite pricey, and I don’t know whether your insurance will cover any of it, but committing your daughter — or yourself! — to a psych ward would be more expensive. If your daughter has been this way all her life, and you have a son whose behavior seems typical (i.e. not like hers), it suggests that nurture may not be the cause of your daughter’s behavior (at least, not the full cause of it) — that there’s a strong possibility that there’s something going on in her brain that’s atypical and needs to be supported. Until that’s addressed, I’m not sure there’s much you can do at this point to counter her. It’s kind of like driving with a flat tire. You can drive more slowly, pull over to the side of the road, yell at the tire, ignore the tire, even put a donut on it for a bit. But the fact remains: Until the flat is addressed, you won’t be able to drive at optimum speed and performance.
That was the long answer. The shorter answer to your question is this: Don’t give up your boyfriend for your daughter. But do give up the idea that there’s an easy fix to all of this. These are complicated issues that require longterm commitment — from you, from your daughter, and from whoever will be intimately involved in your lives, including your boyfriend, so, if he’s not up for the challenge, he may not be the right fit for you. And if he is? Then, congrats — having his emotional support will help bolster your strength as you continue seeking the right combination of support for your daughter, and it will likely bring you closer together.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.