I have had a very difficult relationship with my two oldest children, which resulted in my having no contact with them, because I am a pushover and they used me until I blew up and then they walked. I am falling into that same pattern again; if I don’t allow Laura to live off us and let her set all these unreasonable rules, she will walk and I will lose yet another daughter. She knows I am afraid of that, so she dictates all, she spends my husband’s paycheck, we sit at home, she controls everything, and we are too afraid to go against her because losing another child is too painful. My husband and I are trapped. Is there a way to help her to get an independent life and thereby free ourselves without losing her, or is it too late? HELP PLEASE! — Afraid of Losing Another Daughter
Laura is not lovely. She is manipulative and unloving and taking advantage of you. What would you really miss about your relationship with her right now if she were to “walk”? Would it be feeling like an incompetent idiot? Being a prisoner in your own home? Having no money after she spends all of your husband’s paycheck? Let Laura walk. Where is she going to walk to? My guess is in a big circle right back to your front door where she’ll try to guilt and manipulate you into giving her money to live on. Maybe she’ll stop at her sisters’ homes first and try to manipulate them into taking care of her. A 30-year-old grown ass woman. Let her.
I know you’re afraid of losing her – of living through the pain you’ve already felt losing your other two kids. But how is the pain you’re experiencing in the relationship you currently have with her any better? How is living like a prisoner in your own home better than setting some long-overdue boundaries with a daughter who shows you zero appreciation and love? It sounds like you’ve already lost her and hope that enabling her to continue using you will somehow protect you from feeling the pain of that loss, but it doesn’t protect you from that, does it?
I don’t know what happened in your home/family life that you have such damaged relationships with all three of your grown kids, but I urge you to explore this with the help of a good therapist. I don’t know if there’s a family thread of mental illness that hasn’t been adequately treated or if there was trauma in your family’s past, but there is something that is standing in the way of your daughters — or at least, your youngest daughter – living a fulfilling, independent life. There is something standing in the way of mutually-satisfying relationships between you and all your kids. I don’t know if these relationships can be repaired or whether reparation is even in your control. But what I do know is that even – especially – if these relationships are damaged beyond repair, you need the guidance of someone trained in these kinds of family dynamics to help you process your grief in a healthy way. If the relationships can be repaired, you need guidance in how to get there and how to set appropriate boundaries.
To love someone sometimes means letting them fall so that they might harness their own strength to get back up. To love yourself sometimes means letting go of relationships that no longer serve you – that cause you more pain and grief than joy (even when these relationships are with your own grown children). I believe that, in the case of your daughter, you’ve reached the level of letting go for both of your sakes. The relationship you’re so desperate to hang on to doesn’t exist. If it did exist at one point, think about when it changed and what, if any, inciting incident precipitated its shift (this would be good to walk through with a therapist). It may be too late to repair what broke, but it’s not too late to avoid further damage to your well-being, to your marriage, to your health, and to your financial security. It’s time to let Laura walk. In fact, it’s time not to just let her go, but also to show her the door.