Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Daughter’s Boyfriend Is Taking Her Away From Us”

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I am the mother of three adult daughters. The two oldest ones live out of state with their normal, secure husbands, and we get together when we can, as families do. Since they live far away, I don’t have many opportunities to do things with them often, which feels really sad to me. My youngest daughter, 22, lives nearby, but is with a guy 20 years her senior who refuses to have anything to do with us. He’s only met me twice and my husband once. He actually chatted to me a little in the background while my daughter and I were on the phone (he was complaining about the government and how he shouldn’t have to pay child support for one of his kids). He considers himself the black sheep of his own family and doesn’t have anything to do with them because of the unfair way they treat him.

My daughter used to be big into a family get togethers, but now it isn’t important anymore because his rudeness seems to be rubbing off on her. This guy also seems to have a very hard time being fair with her, and has a bad temper and an extremely hard time admitting he’s wrong. She gets 90% of the blame. They also work together, with her as his apprentice, which in itself is a weird arrangement.

I feel anger and resentment towards my daughter’s boyfriend now — and somewhat towards my daughter too, to allow this behavior. We see her less because he makes sure to use up her whole weekend and we feel cheated by that. She complains about him more than saying good things about them together. What is your opinion or suggestions? — Not Happy with Her Boyfriend

My opinion is that you’re really lucky to have two sons-in-law you like, get along with, consider “normal and secure,” and who make time to visit you despite living far away. You’re lucky to enjoy family get-togethers with the daughters who have continued to make time to visit you and you’re lucky you have one daughter who lives close by who is young enough that the choices she’s making today aren’t necessarily paved in stone (and could very well just be “phases”). I also think that you are being incredibly judgmental toward a man you have met all of two times — a man who has distanced himself from his own family because of unfair — likely similarly judgmental — behavior from them, and that you would be wise, considering the influence you believe he has on your daughter, to befriend him instead of alienate him.

Best case scenario: This relationship runs its course and your daughter moves on before any major or life-changing event, like a baby or marriage, happens. If they do break up, she’ll need and want your support. Even if you don’t like him and even if she comes to not like him herself, a break-up will still hurt. She’ll want to know you’ve got her back despite any behavior you haven’t appreciated. Conversely, if they stay together and even eventually marry, she will need your support even more if this guy treats her as poorly as you believe he does. If you continue acting like you aren’t a fan of his, she will continue distancing herself more and more from you, and not only will you see less of her but also she won’t come to you for support when she needs it.

If you want to keep this daughter in your life in both the short-term and the long-term, you have to accept this boyfriend and treat him as kindly as you can so you don’t alienate your daughter and don’t turn her and her boyfriend into a team against you and the rest of your family. Don’t give the guy ammunition to use in manipulating your daughter to turn against you. Be the kind of family his own family doesn’t seem to be. Extend warm invitations to him but be understanding and flexible if he doesn’t show up. Remember him on his birthday. Ask about him (in a sincere, well-meaning way) when you talk to your daughter, and always tell her to send your regards to him. Remain neutral when she complains about him and don’t even bring up past complaints or negative observations you have made. She — and he — need to believe you are on their team (even if you really aren’t) or else they’re going to believe you’re against them, and, believe me, you’d much rather them think you’re on the same team here.

Finally, if you ever believe that this boyfriend is more than just rude and unfair — if you think, God forbid, that he might actually be abusing her in some way, then, obviously, acting nice to him isn’t going to cut it. Here are some tips to help support a victim of domestic violence if you should ever need them (and I pray you don’t!). And remember, the less you alienate your daughter now, the more likely she will be to turn to you and trust you in the event that she ever does need the kind of support you hope she won’t come to need.

***************

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

19 comments… add one
  • avatar

    ktfran April 30, 2015, 9:00 am

    I agree with Wendy. LW, your daughter is still young and impressionable and is trying to find her way. I know from experience that an independent spirit will pull back a bit from family in order to figure things out. She’ll come back to you, I think…. but only if you follow Wendy’s advice and let her be. If you push, she’ll pull back even farther. Be there for her. Support her. Don’t talk negatively. She’ll eventually figure this out and I suspect she’ll realize how much she misses her SUPPORTIVE family.

    I was that independent spirit and my parents might not always agree with my life choices, but they keep quiet about it and let me either flourish or fail on my own… both have happened… and we have a wonderful relationship. If your daughter is anything like me, she’ll realize in time how important you all are.

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  • avatar

    Essie April 30, 2015, 9:03 am

    Unfortunately, LW, about all you can do is trust your daughter to figure it out. And I think she will. This guy doesn’t sound like a winner to me, either, and it must be incredibly frustrating to watch this play out. But this is where all the work you did in raising her (hopefully) pays off.
    .
    As Wendy said, be supportive. Be kind. Let her vent, but don’t trash him when you she talks to you about their problems. Keep the focus on her. “How you do you feel when he does that?” “What do you think you should do?”
    .
    If this guy is indeed someone she’s going to break up with….it’ll take time for her to come to that point. It’s embarrassing to admit that you’re dating a jerk. 🙂 And since she’s young and so doesn’t have a lot of relationship experience, she’s got a lot to think through.

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  • avatar

    Sunshine Brite April 30, 2015, 9:39 am

    It doesn’t mention how long that they have dated. Even if she lives close, meeting with family only a few times a year isn’t uncommon with a newer relationship. It sounds like he doesn’t fit in your family culture or his. I know so much of it is tone, but not doing family get-togethers as often in your early 20s isn’t necessarily rude, but a process of growing, exploring, and changing. At best, he sounds like a challenge to like. Right now, she sees something in him and is putting her career in a precarious position to see him outside work. He likely feels the anger and resentment from you and I’m sure she does. It’s good that she still comes to you as an outlet to complain. I use one friend to complain about my husband but makes sure she hears the good parts too which far outweigh the complaints in his case. Past relationships haven’t been as good and eventually I woke up to that. It will be good for her if you’re still there. There open and trying to put the judgments aside when that happens.
    .
    I know that when I was 22 and living a couple hours from my parents that they had to be disappointed that even though I was single I wasn’t coming home on the weekends. My brother did (and still does pretty often) for years because he still has good friends in his hometown. I would feel awful if they felt cheated by that. Relationships grow and change.

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  • avatar

    bostonpupgal April 30, 2015, 10:31 am

    Alarm bells went off for me reading this letter. The most concerning part is that the daughter is his direct employee at work. He’s two decades older than her, acting childishly and blaming her, her contact with her family has become heavily reduced, he has terrible relationships with his own family (a fact he blames solely on them), and complains about having to support his own children. At best, he is someone who makes very, very poor decisions. At worst he’s an abuser who is crossing into manipulation and emotional abuse, isolating her, and could use his position as her work superior to force her to stay.

    I agree that the LW’s attitude isn’t helping, but I’m not sure being nice to someone who is clearly bad news is the way to go. The next time your daughter complains about him, maybe take the time to say how much you love her and how worried you are about her being with this person.. Ask her honest questions, and don’t judge her answers, about what she wants and if she’s happy. Let her know you’ll always be there for her. LW, your letter seems to give the impression that you’re making this all about you. It’s not, it’s about your daughter, and she may be in a very dangerous position. Offer her your love and support.

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    • avatar

      Taylor April 30, 2015, 10:57 am

      Agreed!

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      • avatar

        Ethel Davis November 15, 2017, 10:18 pm

        I agree. I have the same situation going on. I cry every night. This man hasn’t actually turned my daughter against me. The crazy thing isn’t I accepted him and did all the things people say you should do not to push your child away. It didn’t work. It’s hurts to know a child that you’re so close to, you raised with real family values and morales act as if none of it ever existed. The most hurtful thing is my daughter actually went to the police and said she was being abused at home. It’s unbelievable!! None of this EVER happened!! When I say NONE!! I mean NONE!! I don’t understand. Regardless of who you are and how much love you show, sometimes it feels like you failed because someone was able to come in and turn your child against you. It just doesn’t make sense. I am so upset and heartbroken by my daughter for allowing this to happen. I now hate him. He must have hated me from the start because all he would ever say was I know you and her are close because she talks about you all the time. Now, she doesn’t even speak to me!! It’s like a part of the story is missing but it’s not!! That’s why for the most part is hurts tremendously bad because nothing happened to make this happen. Nothing was ever about we don’t like him. I read a text from him to her that said if you don’t want to do anything your mom/dad tells you to do then you don’t have to do it because you are 18. Stand up and be a woman and make me proud!! What????? And she did it! When I tell you that blow ups and police been called all over me telling her to clean the bathroom!!! How doesn’t that happen?? It’s crazy and I’m so hurt

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    • Lyra

      Lyra April 30, 2015, 12:04 pm

      Completely agree with this.

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    • avatar

      tbrucemom April 30, 2015, 12:37 pm

      Yep, I think this guy is bad news and I don’t think the LW is being judgemental. The fact that he’s alienated from hiw OWN family and now he doesn’t want anything to do with the LW’s family and the daughter is following his lead is very disconcerting. He’s her senior (by 20 years) and her supervisor at work. He has WAY too much control over her and is obviously manipulative and possibly abusive. The part about the bad temper and not wanting to pay child support would make me more worried about the daughter than the limited family time. Of course what to do about it? There’s not a whole lot the LW can do except keep the lines of communication open and let the daughter know that the LW is always there for her because I guarantee at some point she’s going to need her mother. Let her concerns be known without “bad mouthing” the BF. I wonder if she’s putting up with him because of the work dynamic? Maybe she needs to finish her apprenticeship before she can move on to someone else?

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      • avatar

        Ange April 30, 2015, 6:22 pm

        I don’t think the LW is necessarily being judgemental either. As they saying goes if you meet an a**hole in the morning, you met one a**hole. If you keep meeting a**holes all day then you’re the asshole. Sounds like old mate might just be that a**hole.

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  • avatar

    Taylor April 30, 2015, 10:59 am

    Hey Wendy!
    Just a heads up, clicking on the link for this column and trying to login took me to a shopping site (shopping monkey!).

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    • Dear Wendy

      Dear Wendy April 30, 2015, 12:01 pm

      Thanks, I’ll look into it!

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      • avatar

        SpaceySteph April 30, 2015, 12:48 pm

        I just got a similar thing– a redirect to Netherlands-tourism.com.

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    SpaceySteph April 30, 2015, 11:09 am

    It’s normal for adult children in their 20s to go through a period of distancing from their parents. IT’s just a part of growing up. Sure it seems coupled with this new bf, but its just as likely that the boyfriend is the mechanism of distance rather than the driver. (i.e. she is avoiding you by hanging out with this guy, not because she’s hanging out with this guy). Regardless, the people responsible for your relationship with your daughter are you and your daughter, not this guy. Blaming him isn’t going to do any good. Instead it’ll probably drive her farther away.

    What you need to do:
    – Accept that your adult daughter is going through a phase of distancing herself from family.
    – Keep inviting her (and him, they are a social unit) to things, but don’t be whiny, needy, or rude if she bows out.
    – Don’t badmouth her boyfriend, even when she is. Remain a supportive listening ear.

    It sounds like he’s kind of a jerk but not outright terrible. I dated a guy like that at her age (although he was not 40) and eventually it ran its course. I found out after the fact that my mom hated him (and was right to, honestly) and I’m glad she kept that to herself because when it ended I felt she was a sympathetic person I could cry to, rather than a bitch who was just going to say “told you so.” Remember, LW, you’re playing the long game. Your job is to outlast the bad boyfriends, not to beat them.

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  • avatar

    Miss B April 30, 2015, 11:13 am

    Although as a mom I know your heart is aching and all you want is the best for your daughter, the more you push her to leave him, the longer she will be with him. By all means if she asks your opinion tell her! But otherwise just try to keep those lines of communications over and she will get smart and get away from him and you will be there as her mom to give her support & encouragement.

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  • Lyra

    Lyra April 30, 2015, 12:12 pm

    Personally I don’t know if having an open mind and being nice to this guy is the answer. I also had warning bells going off in my head, specifically with the fact that he is her DIRECT supervisor at work. I would assume that she is fresh out of college, and probably pretty impressionable…the fact that he doesn’t seem to have any boundaries at work with young 20-somethings gives me the creeps.
    .
    Regardless, if you tell your daughter all of your concerns, she will distance herself even more — which sucks. I like other suggestions of framing it around how she feels when she complains about him instead of voicing ALL of the things that worry you about him. Hopefully in time she will realize how creepy this all is, but until then, be very careful how you phrase things when you talk to her so she doesn’t distance herself farther.

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  • Monkeysmommy

    Monkeys mommy April 30, 2015, 1:52 pm

    I would also caution you not to give her too much shit for not coming around as often, LW. I am a 33 year old woman with three kids and a husband (2nd marriage). When I met my now DH, I lived 5 minutes from my parents and both sets of grandparents, and had for 25 years. My husband and I moved 2 hours away, and they pouted hard, but coped. Then I got an amazing job offer in my field at my dream location in a sunny, always warm state 10 hours away. They freaked. Every time I see or talk to them, all I hear is how I never come home, they never see the kids, I never call, blah blah blah. No kidding, who wants to call and hear that constantly?? I work full time and raise 3 kids; I don’t have a lot of free time. Also, traveling home by car is exhausting and flying is expensive for 5. The best part is how they blame my husband, when I was the one who took the job. Sometimes you have to give them space,LW, and make it pleasant for your daughter to see and talk to you, rather than complain a lot about what she isn’t doing.

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  • Dear Wendy

    Dear Wendy May 1, 2015, 11:59 am

    From the LW:

    “Thank you for your reply to our problems. I want you to know, that my daughter and I have a very close and good relationship now, and would never give her a reason to push away for me. I would also, not let a guy so unfriendly, get between us. She knows I am always here for her, and always will be. There is a lot you Don’t know about all this. Unfortunately, the letter to you cannot be very long, and I condensed it as best I could, only telling what I thought were the most important pieces. I already do the things you suggested. I tell her to tell him hi, continue to invite him, I tell her to extend how I hope he feels better when he is sick, and I’m friendly when I do see him. I think you might have got the wrong impression of me, based on just one letter.

    I did not like that you actually think that I am being incredibly judge mental, when all the facts about him, have been straight from my daughter to me. You cannot determine that his own family has been incredibly judge mental either, without knowing more about him or them. He has actually admitted to my daughter, how he cut a man’s penis off, because the man made a comment about a child the guy liked. That is only One of my concerns of what I was told. I wonder if his family’s assessments of him, were based just on that one thing. I guess we won’t know a lot of things about him or his family, so we cannot judge about them.

    I do realize that this is a great service that you offer the public. I guess it must be hard for the person writing in with the issue, without writing a book, and also kind of hard for you to get a full view of the whole picture, due to the limited amount we can write.

    At any rate, I do thank you for your opinions and appreciate your prompt response. I will continue doing what I have been doing, being friendly when I see him walk past, sending my regards and inviting him to events.”

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  • avatar

    karenwalker May 1, 2015, 7:51 pm

    He cut a man’s penis off? Did that man not go to the police?!

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  • avatar

    McLovin May 1, 2015, 8:55 pm

    Wtf? Cut off a guy’s dick? Things really went sideways there.

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