What to do?
Hi Dr. Bradley,
I have written to you before and here I again. I have a situation that does not fit ONE category, but covers a few. Your bed stays by my nightstand, highlighted, read and recommended numerous times. But this situation has me frustrated and unsure of what to do.
My daughter is now 17. She is going into her senior year in high school. For all intensive purposes..she is an amazing kid. She is a conscientious student, a high achiever, etc.. Her father and I divorced when she was 7. It was clearly hard on her. He lives nearby and is active in her life. He is also quite unpredictable, although a new wife is a good influence on my daughter. This is good because her father can be quite unstable. He does love her and however crazy he is I do believe his presence is important in her life.
I have a long term boyfriend and for all intensive purposes we are like a married couple. We bought a house together 3 years ago...and my daughter has always been first on the agenda in terms of needs. My boyfriend has been very good to her..from buying her things..to picking a house with an amazing room for her..etc...He has no children on his own...and definitely is not used to the adolescent...but has really let me hold the ball. My daughter and him have generally had a pretty decent relationship.
Now to the problem
I started to take my daughter to a therapist because there were certain stress signs that concerned me....(pot smoking,,,,self esteem, possible eating disorder issues anxiety ). Meanwhile, she continued to thrive in school, has nice friends...etc...but I wanted to make sure she has someone to talk to. At times she can get nasty with me and this really upsets my boyfriend..but he has shut his mouth.
About 4 months ago, she got really nasty with me, and after 6 years together, my boyfriend lost it on her....He got very nasty with her, and it even became slightly physical.(he pushed her back into a chair when she got in his face)
She left the house in hysterics, went to her father's and has not been back since. Our therapist agreed it was a good decision for now and was very concerned about her state of mind. My boyfriend took our advice..sought help to make some changes , understand..and is tortured with remorse and wanting her to forgive him and come home. She refuses. "You chose your piece of **** boyfriend over me......" This is the gist of her sentiments.
Shortly after, I was informed that my daughter should begin some treatment for bulemia. Apparently it had been going on for a while, but was manageable until this ordeal. She is in treatment..and has been put on Prozac and does seem to be improving.
Now the REAL PROBLEM. My daughter continues to refuse to deal with my boyfriend....this means that any family function becomes a huge ordeal for me, because it's either him or her..you can imagine how I am feeling. I have a family bar mitzvah coming up, as well as the Jewish holidays...and you can imagine the anxiety it is presenting. My boyfriend is a really good person who has reached out to her numerous times and she just will not budge. It's like she is trying to control the "him or me" status.
I am really feeling that she is just allowed too much control in this. Our therapist has been really allowing this feeling that she is fragile and to push it is not good..just to give her time, but how much is she allowed to dictate? I am getting very resentful. I have put my life into her..she has ALWAYS come first..but at what point do you say enough. I would really like to know your opinion on this situation. I am sorry for the long letter...but I wanted you to have as much info as possible. I would welcome any and all advice on this.
What a terrible situation for you. But there are a few cards you might play to make things better.
First know that the odds are that your boyfriend is likely just a convenient target for all of your daughter's pain (which sounds substantial). She can take all of her high-achieving, broken-family, control-need pressures and dump them all on this guy who made one bad mistake.
That said, it would be wise for him to ask for an apology session with her therapist so that he can take full responsibility for that incident even though she was so provocative (re-read the apology section of the book). If she refuses, he should send a good (no excuses) hand written apology to her.
Beyond that you must let go of (and stop showing her) your need for your kid to make you feel more comfortable at your family gatherings. Otherwise she might continue to use that to try to hurt you (show you how mad she is) by refusing to attend. And, yes, you must continue to calmly reach out to ask her to attend, but when she asks if “he’s” coming say that your boyfriend will be coming with you since you choose not to choose between two people you love who happen to be imperfect. If she continues to boycott, let her know that you miss and love her, and to please let you know what you guys can do to repair things.
And then you'll just have to wait it out. The good news is that as she gets a little older her abilities for adult insight (and forgiveness) will grow and she likely will be back. But pressuring her will only delay that day. So play your hand for the long term relationship, not for the next bar mitzvah.
Dr. Mike Bradley
Dear Dr. Bradley,
I appreciate your reply so much. I want you to know that our therapist and you are totally on the same wavelength, yet it is still so hard.
You are truly a gift to parents. Thank you so much for having this forum and hearing our stories.