My 19-year-old daughter was an A & B+ student in high school. She completed "dual enrollment" classes and by graduation was nearly 1/2 way through an Associate’s Degree in Management. She recently landed a good, full-time job. She was playing saxophone. No one in our family smokes or drinks.
Her boyfriend comes from a very dysfunctional family. He hit a teacher in 9th grade and was expelled. He was caught shoplifting soon after and spent time at a juvenile "boot camp". He was a grade behind in school due to his troubles, has ADHD, and was attending a school for "Anger Management". He met my daughter when she was 17, was caught cheating on her in January, got drunk and when she confronted him, he told her that she nags him all the time and tried to hit her. He is lazy and can't hold down a job. He talked her into getting a tattoo. He told a complete stranger (and I met this person later) that he "doesn't have to worry because he has a rich girlfriend with a good job"!
My daughter is now planning on going to a nearby university, but guess who is going to attend (so we're told) a community college in the same city? She stopped playing sax soon after she met him. She's lost all but one friend. She has lost her best friend. She has all but ignored us. When I ask her ANYTHING, she either says that she doesn't know or she just sits mute.
I realize that she is now 19. However, is there ANYTHING I can say or do to make her understand that he is using her, and she's going to be stuck working 3 part-time jobs with a couple kids and living in a dump while he sits on the couch and smokes and hits her and the kids? (That's if he sticks around.) This is a complete nightmare. We have not found a single person that likes him and can get along with him. And she continues to cling to him. My husband and I are distraught. Oh, and we AREN'T rich, we just aren't losers.
I hate to say this, but the short answer I think you already know is no. It sounds like your daughter has been rebelling for the last couple of years. In some ways this is natural and good because she sounds as if she has never rebelled before. Everyone goes through a period of rebelling as they grow up and then usually that subsides. Unfortunately, she seems to have really gone over the edge and it has got to be heartbreaking for you to watch someone with that much promise enter into such a self-destructive relationship.
At the present time it sounds as if she has entered into power struggle with you so that no matter what you say she is going to tune you out and do the opposite. My guess is that she is fighting in a misguided way for her right to be an adult even more than for the relationship. Therefore, if you are going to be effective it is imperative that you focus on reestablishing a relationship with her where she feels loved, accepted, and not judged. You don't have to agree with her choice and you don't need to pretend that you do. Focus instead on where you can find agreement. That could be how well she is doing in school or anything you have in common. Just try to enjoy her again.
I wouldn't even mention the relationship. This is not that it isn't important or that your position doesn't seem right because it sounds as if you are. It is simply that she isn't going to listen at the present time. Be a resource for her when this guy eventually shows his true nature and she is feeling hurt. Make sure that she knows she can come to you for comfort and support without judgment. Wait for your spot where you feel she will really listen and then mostly follow her complaints.
Then instead of trying to get her to see how bad he is explain calmly what a good and healthy relationship looks like. It is also important to have respect for her choice even if you think it is a tremendously bad choice. Evidently, she does love this guy and it is unfortunately not unusual to pick poorly. It is her right even if we feel it is a bad decision. Although unlikely it is also possible that we are wrong and that when they both grow up their relationship would become more healthy and mature. I have been surprised many times by relationships before.
The main thing to look at though is that what you have been trying to do just hasn't been working so I would use a different strategy. Often, when people have no one to defend against they start to see what that person meant and automatically begin to change towards the other person's position. I hope that happens here.
Jef Gazley, M.S. www.asktheinternettherapist.com
This question was answered by Jef Gazley M.S. Jef has practiced psychotherapy for twenty-five years, specializing in Love Addiction, Hypnotherapy, Relationship Management, Dysfunctional Families, Co-Dependency, Professional Coaching, and Trauma Issues. He is a trained counselor in EMDR, NET, TFT, and Applied Kinesiology. He is dedicated to guiding individuals to achieving a life long commitment to mental health and relationship mastery. His private practice locations are Scottsdale and Tempe, Arizona. You can also visit Jef at the internettherapist, the first audiovisual mental health online counseling center on the net.For more information visit: http://www.asktheinternettherapist.com/