#74 Daughter’s boyfriend tests boundaries / concerned parent trained daughter to create abuse
Dear Annie: Recently everything hit the fan when our daughter’s boyfriend “Tom” called her and said he’s been asked to escort a female friend to a wedding. Tom accepted the invitation.
Tom has been dating our daughter for three years, and they often have discussed marriage and actually shopped for engagement rings. This matter-of-fact announcement left our daughter stunned and upset, and of course, this caused us to get involved out of concern for her.
Tom is determined to go on the “date,” saying it’s only platonic and why should we care what others think or how it looks. Our daughter is deeply hurt and feels betrayed, while we are quickly losing respect for our prospective son-in-law.
Our entire family feels that he is exhibiting a character flaw that suggests he is selfish and spoiled. Are we wrong to view him in this way? Does modern dating protocol allow behavior that, in our opinion, borders on unfaithfulness?
Just a footnote: Tom recently attended a post-christening party, alone, while he went to visit a former girlfriend. Concerned in Connecticut
Dear Connecticut: It is OK for Tom to take a female friend to a major event where the friend needs an escort—the stipulation being it is only friendship, he is doing her a favor and he clears it with your daughter before accepting. If Tom makes a habit of attending parties solo, without asking his steady girlfriend if she objects, we are not sure he understands what it means to be in a serious relationship. And visiting former girlfriends is always questionable, especially if he doesn’t discuss it with his significant other beforehand.
Beyond that, Mom and Dad, please do not become overly involved in your daughter’s personal disagreements with Tom. She must navigate this as she thinks best. —Annie
Hi Connecticut: It’s great that you are concerned. The problem has nothing to do with him or even her. It’s you. You have unconsciously taught your daughter to attract and relate with someone addicted to abuse. It reveals that she is equally addicted to abusing and being abused as are both you and your husband. Worse, you have taught her to blame others for the problems she creates. She is also unaware “stunned” of the fact that she’s had plenty of evidence of her inability to inspire his respect. Respect is a by-product of communication. The disrespect she has created is a result of talking. She has in fact mastered your communication-leadership model. “Talking” is a way of relating that you and I were taught by our parents and teachers. It differs from true communication in that it produces these kinds of undesirable results. My use of the word “true’ is redundant. Communication is a new experience each and every minute. Talking is a learned/programmed mind activity.
Let’s begin with my possibly upsetting use of the word “abuse.” Your daughter irresponsibly created a problem and dumped it in your space. That’s called abuse. It would have been sharing and problem-solving had she, in the same breath, told you how she intended to handle it. Even so, it is a cry for help and for that I commend your relationship with her, for her willingness to share this problem with you. Millions hide such stuff from their parents. These kinds of conversations are what it takes to maintain mutually satisfying extended family relationships.
By now she should have communicated to him that problems are solved through to mutual satisfaction in your family and that he can expect you to deliver your “Rules for Relating in Our Family” speech.
"Hey, you two. I don’t want to hear, when it’s too late, that you’re divorcing each other. Don’t come to me blaming each other. If either of you have a conversation that doesn’t end in an expanded experience of love, you both are on the phone to me. If either of you go to bed feeling incomplete, upset, or confused, I'll take it that you are masterminding a divorce—possibly unconsciously setting it up for your partner to abuse you or to divorce you.”
About Tom: Tom needs equally as much (not more, not less) therapy as the rest of your family. Tom was oblivious to the fact that his abusive ultimatum would cause lots of upset. Even when she shared her upset he persisted, which turned the incident into conscious (premeditated) abuse. I.e. “I know it upsets you but I’m going to do it anyway.” I know it’s tempting to think that he’s the more abusive, except that if she didn’t require her fix of abuse she would have dumped him then and there. She unconsciously set him up to abuse her. During the past three years she has dropped hundreds of “hints” to him that she would put up with such treatment. Sometimes it's a subtle as the "joke" she laughed at along with him. Quite often a person such as Tom who is addicted to abuse simply can’t respect a "nice" girl for being so blind (unconscious) as to date him. All the conscious women have steered away from him, giving him space to heal. But even that is not the source of the problem:
What must she have done or not done (communicated) to cause him to lose respect for her? —it happened within the first few minutes of the relationship, most likely it was a nonverbal communication. For her, this about her karma of a lifetime of perpetrations and abuse to others including her family members. She arrogantly thought she could have life work without cleaning up the messes. (for clues see The Clearing Process and Reunion Conversations)
Now we get to your cause in the matter: No matter what you think or believe, no matter all your wonderful memories of the “good times,” you have not been in-communication with your daughter for a long long time, if ever. The both of you are dragging around thousands (yes thousands) of withholds (thoughts withheld from each other and others). Your integrity is out. She reveals that she has yet to learn (from you) how to communicate openly, honestly, and spontaneously. The both of you have hundreds of unacknowledged perpetrations that are serving as barriers to the experience of communication, of being. They sap your consciousness. For her it’s kept her from being the sharp intelligent person she is, the one who would have sensed in a minute his chauvinism, and his unresolved covert anger. For you, it’s kept you in denial, from being aware that your daughter is addicted to abusing and being abused, that she has no choice but to mirror you and your husband.
Re: "Are we wrong to view him in this way?" No not at all; it's great that you can see this. It's easier to see our own flaws in others. Tom is merely mirroring a character flaw in your daughter who learned it from you and your entire family. He has no idea at all what a privilege and honor it is to be marrying into your family else he would not dare risk offending you.
If you are willing to support her growth, you (not you and your husband) must engage the services of a counselor, therapist, or communicologist; I’m talking a minimum of 25 weekly sessions. If you don’t heal you you will continue to create these kinds of problems, for you and yours, until you get that you are the leader in your family. No one who hangs around you can heal until you do. —Gabby
P.S. Show our coms to all concerned.