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#294: My daughter is in a dysfunctional relationship, how do I help her?

Dear Captain Awkward,

I know this is a really long post but I hope you read it through. I really need your advice regarding a situation with my daughter. A little background….about 2 years ago, my son at age 20 had an emotional breakdown and thought he was gay. The next 6 months were spent with him finally admitting it and with us dealing with the shock, disappointment, loss of our idea of what we’d envisioned for him and acceptance of the situation. My son is now in a relationship with someone who is smart, ambitious, caring and comes from a good family.

About 3 months after my son finally admitted he was gay, my daughter, who was 22, called me up and told me she was in a relationship with another girl. Needless to say, this was another shock and I couldn’t understand how this was possible for her. She had always been boy crazy, had fallen in love and been devastated when those relationships broke up. She said she wasn’t lesbian but was sexually fluid. The peace I felt with my son was because I came to believe that you don’t choose your sexuality, it’s something you’re born with and it made no sense to me that she would choose this. She seemed surprised at how upset I was and thought I would be fine with it since I was so open minded and yet she knew what I had gone through to deal with my son. I know that our acceptance of our son was hindered by her relationship – I don’t know if you can understand what a parent goes through when their child admits he/she is gay but when it’s both children…..

I was very vocal with my daughter about her relationship which probably wasn’t wise but I wasn’t thinking clearly in this situation. I told her I couldn’t accept it because I felt it was wrong for her. I felt she’d been manipulated by her partner(let’s call her B). B had been in a committed relationship when my daughter befriended them. According to my daughter, B’s partner had been caring and loving and would do anything for B but when her partner’s schedule became too busy, B couldn’t handle it and broke up the relationship. Since she had nowhere else to go, my daughter, feeling bad for B, agreed to let her sleep on the couch in our apartment at college(both my son and daughter shared a condo we own). This went on for a couple of months until graduation since apparently B’s parents are totally unsupportive and abusive and her mom is an alcoholic who checks in and out of rehab. B told my daughter later that she’d broken up because she’d fallen in love with my daughter. My daughter had just come out of a failed relationship and I feel certain that the only reason she got into the new relationship was that she was vulnerable and B took advantage of her when she needed a friend.

For the next 6 months, I basically didn’t talk to my daughter about the relationship although I was still supportive of her in other ways. She was moving across the country to attend law school and we went there to help her look for an apartment, helped her financially and generally tried to make things good for her. We suggested she find a roommate since we thought she would get lonely living by herself but she was adamant that she wanted to live by herself. Unknown to us, she and B(who’d taken a teaching job in the area) moved in together. My daughter would call and be upset and depressed. She kept saying she didn’t have any friends. She sounded so miserable and I told her she should go see a therapist to help her with understanding why she felt so depressed and down. I was worried about her mental state. I’ve always felt that she’s a strong, capable person who is a great friend. She’s smart, funny, caring, loving and ambitious and yet she sounded the opposite on the phone.

She began seeing the therapist and yet nothing changed. Until she called me one day, sobbing and saying she didn’t want to live anymore. She had been having problems with B who had gone out partying with her friends until 4 am for the past couple of weekends. My daughter’s final law school exams were in 2 days and she hadn’t studied. Couldn’t get out of bed, was crying all the time. She was afraid they were breaking up and she didn’t think she could live without her. B decided she wasn’t having fun with my daughter and since she hated her life and her work, she deserved to party with her friends and was going out of town that weekend. She stopped responding to texts and phone calls and my daughter would be texting constantly. My daughter finally told her that if B left , she couldn’t come back and that’s because I was going to be there. I flew across the country to be with my daughter and that’s when I found out that they had been living together. I stayed with her throughout the next couple of weeks, supporting her through her exams, packing her up for the summer and moving her out of the apartment. When I asked my daughter what she criticized B about, I found out that B was broke financially – had thousands of dollars in unpaid parking tickets on top of other debt, had a weed problem, had serious anger issues and would break things and yell when angry. She’d apparently left my daughter a number of times and only came back when my daughter apologized and coaxed her back. She blames everyone else for her problems including her parents who she says are totally unsupportive.

My daughter says the reason she’s having problems with her relationship is because she needs our approval and the fact that we don’t approve is what’s causing her to be critical of B. I don’t think that’s true. I’m sure a small part has to do with wanting our approval but I believe that there are too many other issues that are destructive. Nothing I’ve learned about B has made me feel that a relationship with her would be good for my daughter.

Here’s what I see….since they’re living in different cities, they don’t see each other. There are times when my daughter realizes that they need to break up and when she does, B says she’s going to kill herself and my daughter ends up calling a helpline or getting in touch with B’s mother. This has happened a couple of times. When my daughter stops communicating with B, she’s much happier. Her attitude improves slowly but I can hear the difference in her voice. But then B will send an apologetic email that says how much she loves my daughter and will change and seek therapy etc and be nice and kind and my daughter will start again – debating whether to break up or not and be miserable and can’t get out of bed.

This past weekend, my daughter finally broke it off for good, and there was such a positive change in her outlook. She was happier and felt more hope for her future – it lasted 2 days before B texted and emailed to say her parents were planning to institutionalize her in a terrible place and wouldn’t come to visit her. She was apparently screaming and crying because of the breakup and her parents didn’t know what to do. Of course my daughter became depressed and worried again. We finally blocked her text and phone(with her knowledge) and that’s when the mother sent my daughter an abusive email. Its finally ended up that B is now seeing a therapist instead of going to the institution and is emailing my daughter showing real progress in her attitude. She has asked my daughter to continue the relationship and she would work on her problems because she thinks they’re meant to be with each other. My daughter is now depressed again, crying, can’t get out of bed etc because she thinks she’d be making a mistake by breaking up especially since she’s seen B working positively with the therapist. She’s afraid that no one will love her like B and she’s afraid she won’t love anyone else like she loves B. She says she doesn’t enjoy anyone else’s company and doesn’t have fun with anyone else. She’s gained weight and doesn’t feel good about herself. She’s also afraid that if they break up, B will move forward and live a happy life and be a great partner to someone else while she’ll still be miserable, sad and depressed and will regret breaking up.

I’ve always told my daughter that she needs to learn to be with herself. She’s gone from one relationship to another and has never learned to like her own company. She’s lonely ALL the time and is not confident in her ability to deal with things. I’ve told her not to get into any relationships for at least a year and to seriously start liking herself but she’s seeing all her friends are in relationships and getting engaged and married and she’s afraid she’s going to be lonely and sad.

I’m stressed and don’t know what to do. I suggested she see a psychiatrist and a therapist but since she’s only in her city for the next few weeks, she may have to wait until she gets back to school. I hope you post this so that I can get the benefit of your advice as well as the experience of the commenters.

Thank you,
At my wit’s end

Dear At Wit’s End,

I’m not going to out your identity but I’m going to make an assumption based on your email address that your family’s religious tradition and the way that you were raised contributed heavily to your difficulties in accepting your son’s (and now your daughter’s) sexuality. Is that fair to say? You’re overcoming a lot of upbringing, faith, and culture around this.

I am so glad that you were able to let your love for your son help you support him in coming out and welcome his partner into your lives, and I’m so glad that your love for your daughter has allowed you to help her through the terrible experience of being involved with someone who is not good for her. I want to build a world where LGBTQ kids don’t have to painfully “come out” to their parents and worry about whether they will be accepted or rejected. I want to live in the world where that information doesn’t smash parents’ hopes and dreams for their children, because it is just one of many possible ways you can be and not seen as shameful, deviant, or “other.” Your love for your children is so obvious, so I’d like to ask you right now, as one human on the earth to another, to take a tiny step further toward building that world with me. It will be a world where your children (and their children) will be much happier and much safer.

Because: Your daughter’s trouble with B. is not because she is gay (or bi, or “fluid”), or however she defines herself. It’s because she is with a partner who is not good for her. We have plenty of examples from recent weeks of heterosexual relationships devolving into threats and manipulation when one partner tries to leave. I know it’s very easy for you to think “This problem all started when my daughter said she was gay” but if you’re going to be able to help her through this crisis it would help if you could that argument completely to rest. Here is one possible script for that:

Daughter, I know I said some harsh things about your sexuality when you announced your relationship with B. It seemed to me that the two things were the same – you being in a gay relationship, and you being so unhappy – but I know from watching your brother and his partner that they are not the same. All I want for you is to be happy with someone who loves you and treats you like you deserve to be treated, and I’m sorry if I was judgmental in a way that drove you away from me. Parents are imperfect and we love you imperfectly, but I want you to know how much I do love you and believe in you.”

You can’t control everything that will happen with B., but you can control this: Heal the rift between you and your daughter. Become a united front again. She trusted you to be okay with her relationship after she saw the way you were able to open your heart to her brother and his partner, so it must have been an enormous hurt when you didn’t treat her the same way. Bring your son and his partner into the circle and get their support and love for your daughter as well.

You are taking very smart steps to help your daughter get away from this relationship by helping her cut off communication and trying to get her into some kind of mental health support structure. Maybe having her talk to someone new (in the city she’s staying in now) even if it’s for a brief time will help offer her some additional perspective.

B. sounds like a vulnerable person with a lot of problems who genuinely does deserve compassion, and I am glad she is getting help. I wish your daughter could see that sometimes “working on problems” is not enough, and that you can’t love people into becoming who you need them to be (even if you try really hard), and it’s not fair to make someone your entire world and reason for living (as B. is claiming/threatening to do). I wish she could see that loving someone doesn’t always mean that you can form a happy, functional relationship with them. I wish she knew that you could just end things that aren’t making you happy and that you don’t have to have a perfect, airtight reason. I wish she understood that we can care about people but we can’t do their (caring, living, healing) for them.

Even if your daughter had written to me herself, sadly we can’t make people break up with partners who are bad for them. Honestly, all the smart things I said in the paragraph above I learned the hard way by doing it wrong and staying invested in people who were not right for me way past the time I should have until things got so bad or I grew to the point that I was ready to detach.

So, there are a few concrete things you could do to help your daughter:

  • Make peace.
  • Remind her that you love her.
  • Spend time with her – the whole family, if possible – not in a ‘You are a broken person who needs our help’ sense, but in a ‘Let’s all eat together and go to the movies and be happy and easy in each other’s company’ way.
  • Encourage her to get back in touch with old friends (also in a fun, easy, positive way, not a U R BROKEN way)
  • See if you can block B’s mom’s emails & texts as well.
  • Offer to help your daughter get some kind of therapy right now if she needs it – instead of worrying about B’s mental health issues (which she can’t do anything about), she can focus on getting her own depression under control and building strength and resilience before going back to school.
  • If “B” comes up in conversation, say something neutral like “You already know what I think. But I trust you, and I just want you to take care of you for a while.
  • Focus on self-care in general. Eating well. Getting some exercise and sunshine. Doing things she enjoys. In addition, if you have the money, don’t be afraid to be a little bit consumerist about it. Go get pedicures and/or massages together. Get great haircuts. Go to the art museum, or a concert, or a play, or a boat ride. Go to a nice lunch. Go see Brave together (warning: May make you cry, in a good way).

One more practical suggestion:

Accept that this thing with B. is not over yet and needs to run its course for a little while yet. So maybe switch your narrative from “You need to break off all contact with that woman right now!” (this is not an incorrect point of view, by the way, just not something your daughter can really hear or handle). Sometimes it’s very hard to contemplate cutting off contact with someone (especially someone who is obviously hurting, like B.) FOREVER. That feels final. It feels like the death of hope that things could get better. It feels like betrayal of a friend and a lover. Your daughter is deep in Golden Retriever of Love territory and everything hurts. Understand that we grieve even for relationships that are wrong for us, and the grief is real and painful.

Sometimes it’s more productive to talk about things in terms of small, finite amounts of time. “Those two days you didn’t talk to B. you seemed so happy and relaxed. It was like the sun came out for you again.  I know you love B., and you want to help her and be there for her, but what if you gave yourself a month away from worrying about her to just take care of yourself? You can check in with her a month from now and see if things really are improving, and you’ll be in much better shape to help her or make decisions if you’re feeling better overall.

Because that’s the problem, isn’t it? In trying to take care of B. and this relationship, she forgot how to take care of herself. Remind her how in every small, supportive, loving way you can.

But first, make peace with your daughter. Be brave. Be vulnerable. Make the world a little bit safer for her and for all the other kids who worry about disappointing their parents because of who and how they love.

Excuse me, I’m going to go call my mom and tell her I love her now.

 

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43 comments
  1. Spot on advice, as usual. I was in a really crappy relationship when I was 19, and the breakup was just endless months of wallowing in sadness. My mom was my rock through those months- I called her so many times just crying my eyes out because FEEEEEEEEELINGGGGSSSS. I appreciate the hell out of it now that I can look back on the situation and go “My God, what was I thinking????” It might not seem like it now, but I promise your daughter will one day really appreciate you being there for her. You sound like an awesome mom, and just being a calm voice in the middle of your daughter’s storm of a life will mean a lot to her.

  2. Esti said:

    Completely co-sign this advice. But in addition to what the Captain said, please please please find some counseling for yourself and eventually for you and your daughter together. And specifically, please find a therapist who has experience with parents who have trouble dealing with their child’s sexual orientation. (Above all, do not — DO NOT — go to a therapist who is not explicitly LGBT-friendly when asked!) The fact that you found your children’s sexual orientation so painful, and that you are still not okay with your daughter’s sexuality, is a big issue that is hurting you, your relationship with them, and — especially — hurting your children. However much pain you felt when your daughter came out to you, I can guarantee you that she experienced many magnitudes more as a result of your response. It’s really, really great that you are trying to come to terms with the sexual orientation of your son and daughter in light of your own expectations/belief system, but it is something you are clearly still working on and something that you (and your children) would really benefit from help with.

    Also, as much as your daughter’s relationship does not sound like a healthy one, please try to curb your conviction that all of your daughter’s problems are the result of her sexuality/her relationship with B. Within a short period of time your daughter: a) had what was likely a really painful coming out experience, b) moved to a new city where she didn’t know any/many people, and c) began law school (the first year of which is, for many people, an incredibly stressful, upsetting time regardless of how well the rest of one’s life is going). Even if B had not been in the picture, I would not be remotely surprised if your daughter had difficulty coping with all of that. You cannot make her break up with B, but you can help her tackle all of the other things in her life that are affecting her well-being.

    Encouraging her to see a therapist at the school was a really good idea, and I hope that she continues that. Again, MAKE SURE she is seeing a therapist who is LGBT-friendly. Most schools these days are pretty good about this issue, but if she goes somewhere where there is any question about the school’s approach to these issues — if aren’t any LGBT-identified student groups or journals, if there has been any controversy in the news in the past few years about the treatment of gay students, if calling student services and asking “what support do you offer LGBT students?” doesn’t lead to an immediate and positive answer, etc. — then I would encourage you to help her find, and pay for, an LGBT-supportive therapist off campus. And since the Captain mentioned your religious tradition: on the off chance that the law school she is attending is BYU, you *definitely* need to look outside the school for a supportive therapist (to be clear, it’s totally possible to be Mormon and gay/an ally, but that school has a documented history of very serious problems with its treatment of LGBT students).

    Other things that would probably help a lot: telling her that you are seeing a therapist yourself — not because of how painful you found her sexuality, but rather because you know that you were not as open-minded and supportive as you should have been and you want to learn and grow. Once you have made some progress on your own, joint counseling sessions (maybe possible by phone while she’s away at school? Or in the summer if she is back at home?). Not reacting badly if she needs some time off from school, or if her grades aren’t as high as you’d hoped, or if she has trouble landing a job. Being a good listener, and not putting too much pressure on her to “fix” herself or make a ton of new friends or ace her classes or whatever else. And especially, forcing yourself to act as though you are 100% okay with and supportive of her sexual orientation until the day when you are.

    LW, I know you love your daughter and want the best for her. Gay, straight, bisexual, or whatever else — what matters is her happiness and your relationship with her. Focus your efforts on those things.

    • Emma said:

      Good call! And if you can’t afford or don’t want to see a therapist, I’ve heard a million good things about PFLAG, a support and advocacy organization for parents and friends of LGBT people. You can find a local chapter here: http://community.pflag.org/page.aspx?pid=803.

    • However much pain you felt when your daughter came out to you, I can guarantee you that she experienced many magnitudes more as a result of your response.

      Yes. This aspect of the letter hurt my heart. I can’t comment constructively because it makes me so sad. LW, your daughter didn’t “choose” to be not straight; she just *isn’t* straight. There are lots of different ways of not being straight. I hope you can put your love for your children above your preconceptions about a sexual identity you haven’t experienced yourself.

      (Signed, A queer lady who misses her mom every damn day of her life)

      • irishup said:

        blub.
        This happened to one of my best friends. I am so sorry.
        Jedi hugs if you want them.

        • Oh, to be clear, my mom didn’t reject me when I came out (though she didn’t exactly support me either); she died several years later. But I guess that’s why it pains me so much to hear how much the LW loves her daughter and how repulsed she seems be her at the same time. You only have so much time with your loved ones — it’s such a crazy thing to spend half of it fighting because of her daughter’s sexuality.

      • Martine said:

        Yes, right, the only “choice” that being attracted to women and to men gives you is that you might be able to pretend to be straight and it might be more convincing than if you were exclusively attracted to the same gender (also, I guess, possibly a wider dating pool, depending). But it is pretending, it’s not being straight. It’s hiding part of yourself that could be a big part of your identity. And, of course, if you’re in love with a specific person who is the same gender as you, you can’t just switch that out and be in love with someone who isn’t instead because it would be more acceptable to other people.

        • Annafel said:

          Thank you Martine, that is it exactly.

  3. The Captain’s advice is, as always, great. I’d like to offer a minor edit to her suggested script, though. Instead of “…I’m sorry if I was judgmental in a way that drove you away from me“, make it “I’m sorry that I was judgmental in a way that drove you away from me.

    “I’m sorry if” apologies usually feel insincere to me, like the person wants the forgiveness without having to admit that they actually did something wrong. “I’m sorry that” apologies are very clear that the person knows they did something hurtful.

    Your daughter hasn’t chosen any part of her sexuality. She’s discovered that she’s sometimes attracted to women. My awkward, cliched, why-won’t-this-stupid-embarrassing-feeling-go-away crush on a college professor as an undergrad (and a couple other crushes since then) made it abundantly clear to me that I don’t get to pick who I’m attracted to. I suspect that’s true for most people.

    • JenniferP said:

      Thanks. This edit is 100% approved.

  4. Towel said:

    Dear LW:

    It is difficult to come to terms with one’s own prejudice, but your daughter really, really needs to know that you are OK with her being bisexual, or pansexual, or fluid. It’s OK. Love is love, and humans are humans. There is nothing better in this world than love. Gender is irrelevant.

    Your daughter may be stuck in a situation where she feels like she needs to stick to B because of loyalty, because they both have suffered homophobic rejection from their own parents. She probably feels like she has a special understanding bond with B that nobody else can replace, especially in terms of sexuality. This is likely also because she doesn’t have many close friends. And this is unhealthy for her, because mistaking loyalty and guilt for love is what binds us to toxic people like B.

    I’m sorry if this sounds harsh, but I do not believe in sugarcoating. I know you love your daughter very much, and are really trying hard here. This is brilliant. But you need to keep at it. Your daughter must be suffering immensely from the fact that you don’t accept her sexual orientation, and it would be good for both of you if you had a conversation in which you made explicit that you accept her totally, fluid sexuality included.

    If she can get to the point where she can disentangle “personal sexual orientation” from “relationship with B”, she may be able to take one step away and view things a little differently.

    She needs to know that you support her breaking up with B for her own good, but she also needs to know – this is VITAL – that you will support her next time she falls in love with another woman (or person of whichever gender), as long as the relationship is egalitarian and healthy.

    All the best to you and your daughter.

    • syrens said:

      Her daughter may also be feeling like she has to make her shitty, horrible, bad-for-her relationship Work because Finding True Love with her first girl-sweetie is the Only Way she can justify Ruining Her Mother’s Hopes And Dreams For Her by failing to be heterosexual.

      It may not be the only thing, but it wouldn’t shock me if it was burried in there somewhere.

  5. Aunti Disestablishmentarian said:

    One excellent and amazing group of films deals with people of certain religions coming out to their families:
    http://filmsthatchangetheworld.vswebdev.com/The-Films

    At the website there are links with resources for families who seek support after a coming out.

    So far the film “Trembing before G_D” explores being LGBT and Orthodox or Haredi Jewish.
    http://filmsthatchangetheworld.vswebdev.com/Resources/General-Jewish-GLBT-Resources

    A Jihad for Love explores being LGBT and Muslim.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Jihad_for_Love

    http://filmsthatchangetheworld.vswebdev.com/Resources/Muslim-GLBT-Resources

    You are not alone!

  6. Yvette said:

    Hi there, Captain, LW,

    Great advice, as always. My situation some years ago was very similar, so hopefully I can offer some help. I’m a sister to a ‘naturally’ gay brother; myself a formerly-boy-crazy-queer-woman-in-love-with-another-woman. My family has religious ways of understanding things, both socially and in their beliefs.

    While my brother’s coming out was seen as a final admission of something everyone had ‘always known’, mine was met with accusations of ‘choosing the difficult path again’, suspicion and warnings against ‘leading this girl on’. The difference in response was, indeed, hurtful – and, at the time, served to confirm my belief that my brother was a more true son to his parents, a more worthy heir and generally more deserving of their love. I became incredibly depressed after coming out – I’m not comfortable going into details, but I saw much of what I experienced in the way you describe your daughter’s situation, which made it a very painful read.

    I’m so sorry that you have to watch this at a distance. Believe me that she most likely knows: that her voice is faltering, that she is not the ‘old her’; that you *know* that her relationship is harming her. The Captain’s advice about keeping in touch ( ‘Let’s all eat together and go to the movies and be happy and easy in each other’s company’ ) is very good. I will remember those static interventions, of knife-edge grief concealed by friendly concern: parked in a layby on the way back to my house, or while my dad had gone to pay the check. I look back on them and wince.

    Those more distracting moments where things ‘clicked’, when we were all together as a family, and happy – well, they’re less distinct but they were the things that helped most practically. Kept me going. I don’t want to pretend that my parents were a helpful presence throughout my recovery – sadly, despite their best intentions, their hovering, shaking, ready-to-come-pick-you-up-any-day-you-just-say-any-day just confirmed the enormity of the mistake I’d made. They’d make me a child again – the bad one – if they took me back. And I wasn’t that person any more. I didn’t know who I was any more.

    I am now almost back from the brink. Though the coming-out had co-incided with my depression, it was the dislodging-of-things, the relief that came with letting someone see my vulnerability, that brought it to the fore. It was a flood. The underlying issues keeping me in my situation were rooted in issues ingrained far, far earlier in my life (namely: a fear of not being good enough, being unworthy of love, incredibly low self-esteem, fear of sin and being ‘the black sheep’, and finally very few skills in departments boundary setting/assertiveness/naming and processing of feelings/confronting the awkward). Gestalt therapy has helped me work on all these things, with results beyond what I could have imagined. Other schools work for people, but I thought I’d flag it up as something you might want to google if you haven’t before.

    I don’t want to project too far, but you may find it helpful to learn about the ‘Drama Triangle’. It appears in ‘Games People Play’, a Transactional Analysis book (avoid the misogynist bits though). It is based on there being someone in trouble, a persecutor and a rescuer – and how, over time, that role-playing becomes destructive. My family dynamic, especially with regards to the ‘natural’, good, gay brother and myself, had degenerated into this pattern. I found learning to recognise it, and trying to find alternatives, incredibly constructive.

    I hope that has provided you with some useful information and best of luck.

  7. lonelyolive said:

    LW, I just wanted to say this; I’m very lucky in that my parents are both completely unfussed about my being in a relationship with another woman. They honestly could not care less about the gender of my partner, as long as they make me happy. That’s still sadly pretty unusual, and I never take it for granted.

    Your children are lucky in maybe an even more unusual way; they have a parent whose background and beliefs have made accepting their children’s sexuality difficult – and who has made the effort to overcome that. You’ve made the decision that your love for them is more important than the prejudices you were brought up with. That’s wonderful. Don’t underestimate it. You’re a good parent.

    It sounds to me like both you and your daughter might need some help in accepting that your daughter’s problems with B are nothing to do with her sexuality. Same-sex relationships can go just as wrong as heterosexual ones; it’s not because they’re same-sex relationships, it’s just because they’re relationships.

    I think you need to let go of the idea that B being female has anything to do with the fact that her relationship with your daughter is destructive.
    I think your daughter needs to let go of the idea that your difficulty in accepting the relationship is responsible for how destructive it’s become.

    The problem is, your daughter’s finding it terribly hard to break free of a relationship that is hurting her. I think the fact that the relationship is with another woman is just obscuring and complicating that real problem, for both of you.

    Best of luck to both of you; I hope you manage to find a good way through this. It sounds to me like you can.

    • Celine said:

      “You’re a good parent.” This. You’re an amazing parent, LW. You’re so much more brave and awesome than parents who reject their children for not being straight, and so much more strong and courageous than parents who had no trouble at all accepting gay children because they didn’t have to face the same challenges you did. It was hard for you, but you never lost sight of your love for your children and that is worth everything.

      I feel like the Captain’s advice is good, so I dont have much more to add. (Definitely see Brave. It’s a fabulous mother-daughter film about overcoming obstacles despite previous heartache.) I just wanted to let you know that while some of the comments here may focus on the possible harm not accepting your daughter’s sexuality did, I don’t want you to feel defensive as you read them. Because you’re an awesome mom who loves her children. Believe it or not, some moms don’t, or at least, don’t act like it. Your love shines through in your loyalty to your children. Yes, sometimes things get rough. But your daughter is lucky to have you and I’m sure despite past hurts she knows it.

      • Mel V. said:

        Personally I thought Brave was heavy-handed with its moralizing, and got annoyed with some of the scenes. YMMV. I thought it was really, really good anyway, and OMG BREATHTAKING animation, but if you go see it as a bonding experience I could see it sparking fights if it rubs someone the wrong way.

        LW, I think you’re doing well. If I were in your shoes, I’d try to put a lot of emphasis on letting your daughter know that you love her, and always will, and that doesn’t change. You don’t have to be 100% comfortable with her sexuality to accept her and love her like crazy, and it sounds like you’re working really hard to do that. The practical advice from everyone looks really good to me. If she’s making her way out of a bad relationship, she probably needs to rediscover all the stuff she’s good at, that she’s kind and smart and talented, and that she’s an all-around awesome person. You can help her with that so much! Best wishes to you both!

  8. Britt said:

    Captain, thank you so much for this advice. It was spot on as usual and so very kind to all involved.

    LW, I was in very much your daughter’s position. I came out as bisexual to my family when I started dating my first girlfriend seriously, my mother never liked my girlfriend, the relationship was a disaster for much the same reasons that your daughter’s relationship with B has not been good for her, and it created a lot of strain. Everything the Captain said is absolutely what I would have hoped someone would have told my mom back then.

    One bit of advice that I haven’t seen explicitly mentioned — DO NOT bad mouth B or talk about what a disaster the relationship was, no matter how much you want to or how right you think you are. If your daughter is anything like me (and it sounds like she is at least a bit), that can so, SO easily be heard as a criticism of her judgement or her strength or her choices and all that will do is drive a further wedge between you. The best thing my mom has done to help us rebuild our relationship is that any time my ex comes up, her standard response is “the relationship wasn’t a waste if you learned something about who you are or what you want.” When I was in the throes of “god I am THE WORST because I just spent years in a shitty relationship”, it helped me keep perspective, and it gave me faith that she believes I’m a competent adult who will make the best of my life.

    • The Lizard said:

      This is tremendous advice, well said. It never helps to badmouth someone’s ex in any situation.

      • Britt said:

        It really doesn’t, and it’s one of those things that is so easy to slip into in what we think is some sort of supportive gesture, you know? Saying how awful the ex was is a way of saying that someone is totally right for having dumped that jerk and shouldn’t waste any more energy on them, but it just ends up sounding like “how could you have been so dumb to be with that person and how can you now be so dumb to still have any conflicted feelings?”

  9. Sarah G. said:

    I think a lot of parents have problems with two kids coming out as gay because they think “at least I can get a grandkid from the second one.” Which is, to my way of thinking, rather a bunch of malarkey since practically every lesbian or bisexual woman I know has a kid, and half my gay male friends do, too. Having queer kids isn’t the end of the world, and yes, you will probably have grandkids.

    Yes to therapy for all the reasons above, and even if the daughter is moving back to Law School Land in a few weeks, start the therapy now if possible. There’s short-term and long-term therapy and a few weeks of therapy on some short-term goal could really help a lot. Like, for example, ways to make friends in Lawyer Land if she’s still low on friends, or stress relief tactics, or even a little help with boundary setting. (And for you, too; therapists are nonjudgmental, they don’t gossip, and they make great listeners. You sound frazzled and like you could use a shoulder to lean on.)

    As for the mother/daughter thing, do everything possible, LW, to maintain a healthy relationship with your daughter. My mom didn’t. She basically threw me out at 17 and is only now trying to make peace, 20 years later, and it’s hard and painful for both of us and *I really don’t want to.* I doubt this is what you want. Your love for your daughter should trump all external things, such as her sexuality or who she chooses to love, even if that person is disastrous. (And yes, never badmouth your kid’s ex. It tells them you don’t trust their intelligence or good sense and you think they still need parenting. Even if that’s true, it won’t make them want to be around you.)

    Let me stress this again. Love your daughter without judgment. Find that place in you that cares for her simply because she is YOUR daughter, cling to it, and don’t let it go.

    Oh, and bisexuality? Totally possible. I know a number of bisexual girls who are totally boy crazy. She maybe focused on that during her teens and never said anything about liking girls because it doesn’t sound like it would have been well-received in your household. If this is the environment you helped create, don’t be so surprised that it worked out this way. Just be glad your efforts with your son helped your daughter take the risk of trusting you. You can build on that.

    • Awkward Niece said:

      Yes, absolutely. I think it’s worth gently challenging the idea that a child coming out precludes the possibility of what the parents envisioned coming true for that person. Probably a generalisation, but I’m guessing what most parents envision for their children is a loving partner, a successful career, hopefully kids. All of which is more than possible for your gay offspring, I assure you, and also, of course, not at all guaranteed for your straight children. I’m guessing few parents actually *envision* their kids having PIV sex, which is the only thing I can think of that a coming out makes impossible…

    • I think a lot of parents have problems with two kids coming out as gay because they think “at least I can get a grandkid from the second one.” Which is, to my way of thinking, rather a bunch of malarkey since practically every lesbian or bisexual woman I know has a kid, and half my gay male friends do, too. Having queer kids isn’t the end of the world, and yes, you will probably have grandkids.

      Note to all parents: You are not entitled to grandchildren. That is not your decision to make, regardless of your offspring’s sexual orientation. There are other ways to be positively involved in children’s lives.

  10. Marie said:

    Oh LW, I feel for you. I met my best friend through work, and after a while she confessed to me she had a girlfriend. We’ve always had a weird, rocky friendship, and since Easter it was going downhill again. It made me so miserable that I started seeing a therapist again. It took two sessions for me to realise that my friend is being abused by her girlfriend and that I’m the focus of the girlfriend’s jealousy.

    It sucks. I’m scared for her, there is nothing I can do anymore except stay away, and I really miss her. I’ve read stories here in the comments from people who got out of abusive relationships and who said that people being nice to them gave them the energy to get out, and I definitely gave her all the affection I could, but I don’t know if it was enough. I know she tried to talk to me about it, but in such a cryptic way that the conversations left me confused and I didn’t have anything helpful to say.

    I don’t have any contact with her right now and I spend half my time being angry at her and the other half wanting to hug her. I put cheerful updates on Facebook every few hours in the hope she’s going to read them (as a side effect, I’m becoming really popular with the rest of my Facebook friends – I’ve never had as many “likes”. But she’s not among them). I keep my fingers crossed and I hope she has an exit strategy.

    You’re lucky in one aspect, LW: you’re her mother. Nobody has a more powerful influence on your daughter than you have. That gives you a sizeable edge.

    Many Jedi hugs to you, LW.

  11. You’ve had a lot of great advice here, LW. I’m really happy that you love your kids so much and that you’re putting in the effort to get yourself okay with them; I have so many friends whose families haven’t done the same.

    My parents had no problem with the fact that I was in a relationship with another woman (or if they did have a problem, I never heard a peep about it). I knew going in that they were going to be okay with it, and opening my mouth and telling my mom was still one of the scariest things I’ve ever done in my life. Especially after your daughter saw your efforts to come to terms with your son coming out, your reaction had to have been so confusing and hurtful for her. I’m not saying that to castigate you over what I’m sure you already know, but just to highlight that you probably still have some trust-earning-back to do, even if it doesn’t immediately seem like it on the surface. If you haven’t already had a heart to heart with her about your initial reaction to her sexuality (she didn’t choose it, LW), Cap’s script with @OtherBecky’s edit is a really, really good one.

    The best thing you can do here, I think, is keep loving your kids, keep trying to help your daughter as well as you can (blocking B and her mother seems like a great start, along with finding LGBT-friendly counseling services), and support your daughter while she tries to figure it all out for herself. So basically, I’m nthing Cap’s advice. I especially loved her mention of reaching out to do fun activities, either with the whole family or with just you and your daughter, that you’re all going to enjoy and that could have a side benefit of providing her with distractions. The last time I had a bad break-up and was intensely lonely/stressed due to being in grad school in a country by myself, my mom sent me a small sum of money with instructions to do something nice for myself and then tell her about it. It was the best thing anyone did for me. Cheesy as it is, every time I looked down at my new sparkly shoes, I thought about my mom and how much she loved me, instead of my ex and how much she didn’t. Making small, thoughtful gestures may not seem like a huge deal but could be a help to her.

  12. secretrebel said:

    OP, you’ve come a long way in your understanding and acceptance of gay people. I hope you can travel further and understand more what makes someone bisexual as well.

    When I was 19 I was much like your daughter. I was studying for a degree when I met V. My parents didn’t know I liked women and they were not as supportive as I had hoped. My mother in particular seemed to think I was acting out and that I wasn’t really bisexual. Beacuse she didn’t like V she wasn’t supportive of the relationship.

    Meanwhile V was telling me that my parents didn’t support my sexuality, that they didn’t want me to be myself, that the only person who could understand was her: my lover and best friend all wrapped in one.

    You see, My mother was right! V *was* a horrible toxic dangerous person and for the time that we were together she manipulated me, used me, lied to me and cheated on me. But because I knew my mother wasn’t supportive and I didn’t want her telling me “I told you so” or denying my sexuality I tried to prove her wrong and stayed too long in the relationship with V.

    It wasn’t until my parents really did try hard to accept V and my relationship that I saw the contrast between my loving family and my toxic girlfriend. And when V eventually dumped me, it was my parents I went to straightaway.

    The Captain has given you really good advice, OP. Whether your daughter finds love with a man or a woman or settles down to be a mad cat lady with 100 cats, what she needs is a model of unselfish love from you – so she knows what real support and caring looks like.

  13. Still Evolving said:

    LW here,
    First, thank you to everyone for the advice and insights….it has helped tremendously. When I came across this website, I searched through for posts that would help my daughter and I really liked the no-nonsense advice and the comments. I sent the posts to my daughter so she could realize that she wasn’t alone in these feeling and that other people have lived through the same situations and come out stronger and happier.

    I realize since I started with my son’s situation, everyone might feel I am against my daughter’s relationship because it was same-sex and to be honest, initially it was, but then it all came down to realizing that no matter what, she is still my daughter and I love her and would do anything for her.

    I knew from the beginning that B came from a dsyfunctional family(from comments my daughter had made when I thought they were just friends) and that was my main concern because i believe that you are a product of your upbringing and you bring baggage with you(good or bad) to everything you do. Throughout these past months, the one thing I’ve made clear to my daughter is that regardless of if she were in a relationship with a man or a woman, my advice/suggestion/whatever would be the same – this is not a good relationship for either of them and she needs to realize that she doesn’t deserve to be treated like this by anyone. They bring out the worst in each other and the problems that have to be overcome are so big and would take so much time that waiting for it to get resolved would be destructive to my daughter. I’m not saying my daughter didn’t also contribute to the dsyfunction because she brings baggage with her also(you can’t clap with just one hand) but I think there are times when you have to look at a situation and get out for your own good. I’ve also told her that if she were to break up with B and get into another same-sex relationship, it would be fine with me.

    My daughter and I live in different cities but we’ve traveled to see each other and we keep in touch by text and phone. We’ve always been close She knows my love is unwavering but she doesn’t trust that I want what’s best for her(understandable). Knowing and seeing how unhappy she is is so stressful that I can’t sleep for worrying constantly. I’m tired and I just need to realize that I can’t MAKE her do anything, I just have to wait and see what happens and be there for her.

    • dj pomegranate said:

      I am pulling for you, LW. You seem like a really awesome parent.

    • Annafel said:

      Still Evolving, thank you for clarifying and for being so brave and strong for your daughter. You are totally doing things right. It will take some time but from what you’ve written, I really believe you and your daughter will both be okay, and develop a new level of trust between you. Best of luck.

    • Still Evolving, I admire your determination to fight for your daughter and to be the best mama you can to her. I’m rooting for you both.

      • (Or “papa,” if I’ve guessed incorrectly.)

  14. cendare said:

    Oh LW, I have sympathy for you and for your daughter. I didn’t have the same experience, but I did do some really stupid things, and some really self-destructive things. You mentioned her seeing her friends getting married and in relationships, and she feels like she’ll always be alone. OMG do I get that. I guess what I wanted to say is, life is long and she doesn’t have to get it all correct right at this moment. I know you know that, but I suspect she doesn’t know it, and I don’t know how to tell her except to give examples. I was 29 when I met Mr Cendare, and 32 when we got married, and 35 when I got my first really great job. So that’s a bunch of years noodling around, but I needed to do that to grow up. Also, in my family I have a great-aunt who famously didn’t care for anyone until she was 50 and fell madly in love.

    I know you’re more worried about the immediate issue, the bad relationship. I used to read Breakup Girl back when it existed, and she always said the most helpful thing to do for someone in an abusive relationship was “let them know that they are awesome”. This is good advice anyway, if you’re worried about someone, regardless.

    Maybe talk about how she would like her future to be in general. That’s a kind of conversation people have with their moms. Where does she want to live? What kind of job does she want? Does she want kids? What kind of relationship does she want — both partners working, one staying at home, etc? And in the conversation it will come up whether B wants these things, or how B would fit into the plans, and no matter whether it’s a good vision or a bad one you don’t have to say anything except “Mmmm”. It will get her thinking about it in a less fraught way.

    But mostly I just wish she knew that she doesn’t have to be perfect and she doesn’t have to make the “right” choice.

  15. Yan said:

    LW — just be on Team Daughter. There is a ton of great advice here, and I can speak to only one part of the situation — your strong feelings about B need to be and remain secondary to you being on your daughter’s side. That will help her be strong and get herself in a healthier headspace.

  16. belle said:

    Hey LW, as someone who can really relate to some aspects of your daughter’s situation, I just want to say thank you for writing in and for your humble, generous attitude of wanting to help your daughter.

    I just wanted to add one observation and piece of advice. I noticed several instances in your letter where you took control of your daughter’s situation or had ideas about what is really going on with your daughter. Examples: “Needless to say, this was another shock and I couldn’t understand how this was possible for her. She had always been boy crazy, had fallen in love and been devastated when those relationships broke up.” “We finally blocked her text and phone(with her knowledge).” “I’ve always told my daughter that she needs to learn to be with herself.” “I’ve told her not to get into any relationships for at least a year and to seriously start liking herself but she’s seeing all her friends are in relationships and getting engaged and married and she’s afraid she’s going to be lonely and sad.”

    When folks are in their late teens and early twenties is often the time when their parents really start coming to grips with the fact that their children aren’t children anymore. This is really hard, and being aware of it could make your situation easier for you AND your daughter.

    What if, instead of thinking through your daughter’s sexuality based on your own reasoning, you asked her about it? What do you mean when you say your sexuality is fluid? Does that mean it’s a choice for you? Do your feelings towards men feel different from your feelings towards women? She may not be comfortable answering these questions right away, or maybe ever. You will have to accept that there are some things about your daughter that you don’t understand. That’s okay. She’s her own person.

    Instead of telling your daughter what she needs (to learn to be with herself, to take a year off from relationships), what if you asked her what she thinks she needs? I know you’re having a rough time right now. What do you think you need most right now in order to be healthy? How can I help you get that? This applies to both long-term plans and to things like blocking B’s phone. Blocking B’s phone was definitely the right decision — and it sounds like maybe you made it jointly, so good! I just want to emphasize that letting your daughter make those decisions for herself is really important right now. You can offer her options she might not have thought of, and you can help her carry out the choices she makes. But I can’t stress enough how important it is that you let her be in control of her own life. Unfortunately, that means letting her make mistakes.

    It sounds like B is controlling and manipulating your daughter. Being in a relationship with her, it may be very difficult for your daughter to figure out what SHE really wants and what is best for HER. What she really doesn’t need is another person telling her what to feel or think or do. Even if that person is her mother. Even if your intentions are good. Even if you’re 100% correct about the best course of action. Telling your daughter what to do right now might get her out of the short-term situation with B, but it won’t help her figure out how to be her own person. It won’t help her learn to be with herself. It won’t help her deal with situations like this in the future. Let her make those decisions herself, and things may get worse before they get better. But in the long run, I bet you’ll also be pleasantly surprised by your daughter’s maturity, strength, and resilience.

    Thanks again for writing in and for working hard to be a good parent. Good luck!

    • belle said:

      Hey, I realize I referred to you as a mother even though I don’t know whether that’s accurate. Sorry about that! It should read, “parent.”

  17. Still Evolving said:

    Belle, you guessed right…I am a mother and thank you for your input – it really helped shed a light on how controlling I’m being. And lonelyolive, what you said resonated with me as well….It really makes no difference whether B is male or female, what matters is what’s happening to my daughter. By reading the other comments, I’ve come to realize that I’m not concerned that this is a same-sex relationship and it has absolutely nothing to do with my having grandchildren which I’m grateful to all the posters for bringing me clarity on that. The hardest part is how helpless I feel. I want to protect my daughter. I want to make things right for her. It’s like when you find out your kid is being bullied and your first instinct is to go after the kid or the parent of the kid 🙂

    So here’s an update.
    As I wrote earlier, B has been emailing my daughter and as a result, they are now back together. They now email every couple of days although they don’t text or talk on the phone. My daughter came to visit this weekend and she’s in such a bad way. She had felt justified in breaking up with B as long as B’s life was bad but now that B was dealing with her issues, my daughter feels that she’s making a mistake by breaking up. She feels that if B learned to handle her anger, dealt with her financial problems and her insecurities, she would be a better partner and my daughter wants to “wait and see what happens and if there’s a fallout or B reverts back, then so be it but what if it all works out??”

    My daughter says she doesn’t have the energy to deal with anything. She’s barely able to get up and go to work, cries during the day and comes back in the evening and watches TV or is on the computer. She cancels all her social obligations. She’s become apathetic and doesn’t care about anything. She says no one cares about her…when she first went to $city, she met up with a few people from her law school who were also interning and she tried to get together with them, texted to invite them to stuff she was doing but no one showed up, when they texted her, she would go but in the past few weeks, she hasn’t kept in touch with anyone and no one has contacted her to find out what’s happening in her life and even if they did, I don’t think she would make herself vulnerable enough to tell them what was going on. We’ve tried finding a psychiatrist for her because she says she needs to be on medication for depression and we’re looking for a therapist – I don’t know what it is but there’s a 2 week wait or no one’s taking new patients!! She feels so bad about herself, looks at B’s life improving and sees her own life staying just as miserable as the beginning of the summer. I’m trying to get her to understand that B is at home with her parents, she’s not working and is focusing ALL her time in working with her therapist and getting better while my daughter is in a strange city, living with strangers, having to deal with a demanding job and just the fact that she gets herself to work, feeling the way she feels, is something to be admired.

    She became a member of OKCupid to meet other guys and says that no one has responded to her messages. She feels unattractive and friendless and gets no validation from anyone. I get the feeling that she doesn’t want to be in romantic relationship with B but that she feels B loves her and cares about her and will support her when she’s having trouble and no one else does and it’s better to have someone rather than no one. I’ve suggested that she take a break from law school, come home for a year to take care of herself and get healthy but that’s not an option she wants to consider because she feels humiliated. I’ve refrained from saying anything negative about B and said that she shouldn’t be afraid of talking to me about what was going on with B. I would be there to listen and support her. In wanting to help her, I’ve been sending her posts from this website but she feels that she doesn’t have the energy to do what is suggested. She’d rather just do nothing and let things happen.

    I realize my daughter is an adult and must make her own decisions and her own mistakes. But when I see her spiraling down the way she is, what do I do? How can I just sit back and do nothing? She used to be confident, full of life, happy. I know I can’t make her take care of herself, it has to come from her. My heart hurts for her and all i want is to make her feel better. Has anyone experienced my daughter’s situation? What helped you get better? What can I do?

    • JenniferP said:

      I’m glad you came back to talk with us, Still Evolving. I’m still sitting on your follow-up email, not quite sure how or when I’ll be able to answer it, but I’ll do my best here.

      It sounds like you’re doing all that you reasonably can and some of the “work” has to be done by your daughter. Here’s the site’s most straightforward post about clawing your way out of depression.

      Reading your note, I have a couple of thoughts:

    • Dating seems like a terrible idea right now. It’s just going to reinforce how bad she feels about herself because what she’s bringing to dates is how bad she feels about herself. But if it passes the time, and she wants to do it, so be it.
    • She’s still heavily entangled with B and it’s going to take time for that to work itself out. You’re doing the right thing by remaining as disengaged as possible from passing judgment on that. Some of this is just time. Time and distance. As B. heals she’s going to maybe lean on your daughter less and pull away into her own life. Maybe.
    • Does your daughter want to be a lawyer? Does she like law school? It sounds like she might hate it and that some of this might be totally unrelated to B.
    • B’s problems might seem solvable and manageable next to feeling like you chose the wrong career (or, if you chose correctly, like you are not handling the stress well and may need time off).

      People take breaks from grad school and go back and are fine. Or they do something else.

      • still evolving said:

        No worries CA there’s tons of stuff in your various posts that are super helpful.

        As for law school, she’s really enjoying the classes and is doing really well(except for when she broke down after B took off right before exams). She loves her job and finds it interesting and it helps when she’s busy. And we’ve always told her that just BC she goes to law school doesn’t mean she has to practice law…we see it as a foundation to her future career whatever she chooses to do.

        What she doesn’t like is the competitiveness and the insecurities of everyone at law school (but I think that’s par for the course) and the fact that it is an isolating environment even though there are so many people her own age around

    • commanderlogic said:

      Hey there, Mom. I haven’t been in your daughter’s exact situation, but I do know what it feels like to be on the receiving end of help when I don’t want to – or even need to – be helped.

      You know that your daughter has to make mistakes but it must be SO HARD to do nothing. You were there to band-aid scrapes and brush hair and comfort and console and call the parents of mean kids and all that stuff. All that amazing, protective, caring stuff that parents do for their children. And it is SUPER HARD to turn that off.

      I know you want to MamaHulkOut, in a way that would make your daughter happy and SMASH all the things that made her sad, and we’re telling you all through this thread that that is the opposite of what’s going to help. Your daughter is hurting. It’s natural for you to want to fix it. But she also needs – whether she can articulate this or not – to figure out how to be herself on her own terms.

      If you fix “it” for her, whatever “it” is, you’re subtly sending the message that she can’t do things for herself. You need your young SheHulk to know that she can smash her own battles, even if it looks like apathy and depression for a while.

      She needs to know that someone believes in her strength, her resiliency, and her lovableness. Her jerkbrain isn’t something you can reach in and fix, but you can counter those messages she’s getting with proof.

      “You are so strong. You went to law school in a completely new city. That’s amazing. Do you know how hard that is? And YOU DID IT.”
      “I’m so proud of you. You’re smart and beautiful.”
      “I was never so proud of you as when you told me about B. That took a lot of courage, and if you could do that, what limits are there on what you can do?”
      “You can ask me what I think, but what you do is completely up to you. I will love you whatever you do.”
      “I will help you however you want me to help, and I will back waaaaay off if that’s what you need, but what *I* need is to call you every [time period] just to make sure you’re okay, tell you I love you, and find out if you’ve thought of anything I can help with. Ok?”
      “You amaze me with how far you’ve already come.”

      Send care packages of candy and movies and pretty things that she likes.
      Channel the calming manatee and just listen and say good things.
      Provide no advice or solutions unless asked for them.
      Whenever you’re inclined to provide advice or solutions, bite your tongue and say “What do you think would make you happy/be doable today/be a good idea?”

      I can’t guarantee that it will be okay because I don’t know. But I do know that you can’t change the chemicals in your daughter’s brain, and that you can’t live her life for her, much as you might want to. I honor the MamaHulk in you, but Brucina Banner needs to be your spirit guide for now. Best of luck!

    • Kathmandu said:

      Given that you say your daughter has always jumped from one relationship to another, and doesn’t feel comfortable by herself, and what you say here about “she feels B loves her and cares about her and will support her when she’s having trouble and no one else does and it’s better to have someone rather than no one”, it is entirely possible that she is not short-term capable of leaving this relationship without having another one to jump into. Also, as other commenters have suggested, she may feel that she and B have so much in common and how could she ever meet anyone else who would understand?!

      So I recommend the Alison Bechdel approach. Find out if your daughter’s university has a gay and lesbian club, or a lesbian forum, or anything like that. Does the town it’s in have a lesbian bookstore, club, anything like that? Does your town? Encourage her to go meet people there. Volunteer, chat, help with the newsletter, read something at open-night mike, whatever. It will give her a peer group, positive contact, possible friends, and encounters with people who have been through very similar events and can testify that they Found Love Afterward. Plus, she may meet a new girlfriend and thereby feel safe enough to break up with B. permanently.

      It’s cheaper than a psychiatrist and more fun! Which is to say, this is an entirely independent avenue that can be pursued without two-week waiting periods or being contingent on getting professional counseling.

    • Nan said:

      I’m a girl, also bisexual- not that it matters- and was in an abusive relationship for a period of time, which is a lot like what your daughter’s relationship with B sounds like. The boy I was with did seek help for a time, and did get ever so slightly better before stopping. However, his parents were not involved, nor was anyone else who could help him when we broke up. Honestly, it’s hard to admit it, but your daughter needs to see that she’s being bullied and possibly abused by B. And it won’t come from you. My mother tried to show me all the ways the boy (A) was unhealthy for me without even knowing the half of it, and I stupidly felt like I had to take his side and like it meant I couldn’t talk to my mother about it or anything- that I’d have to prove her wrong.

      The hard thing about recognizing abuse is, it’s not always physical. It’s “easy” to recognize when it’s physical. But when it’s mental, psychological, verbal or emotional, that’s a whole different story. We, the victims, allow it to go on because “it’s not abuse, s/he never hit me and never would.”

      I haven’t read a lot about abuse, sadly. But, I think, finding a good book where the main character goes through what she does, a relationship like that, that she can identify with, (And unlike Twilight) where it shows how she will be possibly miserable for a while after breaking up but that it will get better would be good for her.

      Another thought, one I’ve been telling myself a lot lately that came from a friend, is that there are millions of people on this earth. Everywhere we go we are meeting and seeing more. And, harsh as it sounds, there is no “one special person” made for each of us. Instead, there’s levels of compatibility, and there are many people who could easily fit that compatibility level (in terms of sexual attraction, being able to live together, feeling like the other person’s missing piece, etc.) Just because she lets this one relationship go doesn’t mean she’s doomed to be alone, even if it feels like it, because of this.

      In one of her much older posts, Jennifer talks to talking to a friend in a situation like this as if you were a therapist. Don’t insult. Ask questions, how did that make you feel? When she did this, what was your reaction? Let her break down her own defenses and reasons for staying with B.

      Show her you’re there to support her and help in any way you can. Doing this will make you an ally and someone she can come to when/if B starts giving her problems again. And then you can offer advice or help (by doing things like blocking phones and e-mails.) Likewise, at the same time, if B were to “fully recover” and become a non-bullying person, she wouldn’t have to fear taking sides or losing you or B to a relationship. Instead, she’d just know that you’re there for her, want her happiness, and that she can come to you would she ever have any problems.

      Two early posts that I thought were really good that can relate to this:

      https://captainawkward.com/2011/01/17/reader-question-4-my-friend-is-dating-someone-terrible-or-secrets-of-the-darth-vader-boyfriend/

      This one has a good paraphrase from Harriet J about abuse:
      https://captainawkward.com/2011/01/19/reader-question-6-im-worried-about-my-sister-she-is-still-very-close-to-our-abusive-parents/

  18. I’m tired and I just need to realize that I can’t MAKE her do anything, I just have to wait and see what happens and be there for her.

    It’s hard to do, even when you know it’s the right thing to do, isn’t it?

    A book called Addictions and Family Healing: Strategies That Work had great advice about how to stop yourself from jumping in and trying to fix everything yourself. (A bad relationship isn’t an addiction, but the advice still holds.) When the person with a problem talks about the problem, ask, “What are you going to do about that?”

    Not “You should do X,” or “Here’s my opinion.” Just, “Wow, that sucks. What are you going to do?” It conveys sympathy, but also knowledge that this is your daughter’s job, as well as faith that she’s capable of handling things.

  19. still evolving said:

    For me, not jumping in to fix things is soooo hard.

    And thanks commander logic, for some excellent words to use.

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