Dear Stavroula: A Daughter’s Troubling Relationship

(AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Dear Stavroula,

I have a thirty-year-old daughter who is very beautiful and very successful. She studied applied computer science and has a very good job at a big bank that pays her very well. I could say that she has a dynamic character and is very cultivated. Unfortunately, she was unhappy in her marriage and divorced relatively early because her husband left her for another woman. Since then, she has stayed for many years alone, until five months ago, she started relationship with a man totally unsuitable for her. She has fallen in love with him, and although the relationship is problematic, she will not leave him. Every now and then they have terrible fights, he shouts at her, curses at her, puts her down, and then demands that they split up. After each fight, she is a wreck, asks to see him again, and as soon as they make up, she acts as if nothing has happened. I’m afraid he is taking advantage of her financially, though she does not admit it, because I know he is not working at this time and I see them going out often and taking little weekend trips. I want to help her see the truth about him, but she does not let me. When I go to talk to her about him she gets angry and leaves. I’ve told her we should go to a psychologist but she refuses. I am in despair, how can I help my child to break out?

Evgenia T.

Dear Evgenia,

You write to me that you are very worried about your daughter and her partner and I can very well understand your reasons. It seems that your daughter is in a relationship of intense passion, where the unpleasant feelings of separation and abandonment alternate with the pleasures of reconnection and love. This emotional instability and the tension it causes, makes it harder to think logically, prevents her from seeing the man she is with clearly, and set her limits in a relationship where psychological violence is also being practiced. It is difficult to get out of such relationships and requires awareness of the situation and effort.

Indeed, allowing her partner to put her down and mistreat her may indicate a lack of self-esteem and emotional insecurity.

That is why it would help to talk with a psychologist or some other specialist who would lead her to understand her feelings and her true wishes in order to make decisions. But you write to me that she refuses.

Perhaps this denial means that she is intimately aware that she is in a situation that does not suit her but does not want to hear it, she does not want to accept it. That’s why it will not do you good either to start giving advice or to make bleak predictions about her relationship.

What you can offer her is the ability to talk to you when things are not good and you listen to her with love and understanding. Let her speak more, urge her on with your questions while talking to you, and avoid taking sides. She must understand what is going on and decide what to do.

The more she talks about what concerns her, the more easily she will realize the situation. But to do that, she has to feel secure with you and can trust in you because you will not judge her or discard her. Perhaps your daughter is trying so hard to keep this relationship out of fear of failing her second time in this area, or for fear she cannot succeed in any relationship.

Give your daughter the understanding that we should not feel ashamed of our mistakes and our failures, but learn from them and grow. Share with her examples from your own life, reveal your own mistakes, to bring her truly closer to you. Remind her how important she is, how much she has done in her professional career, to help her to love herself again.