Young people in love often idealize their feelings in a way that is not realistic. They feel that their world is full of romance, innocence and happiness. In reality, teenage relationships can be full of deceit, manipulation and even abuse. Having a daughter with a manipulative boyfriend can be a frustrating and difficult situation, and you need to deal with it in a delicate manner. The wrong choice of words or a careless or antagonistic attitude can alienate your daughter, which can bring her closer to her manipulator – and possibly put her in danger.
Schedule a time where you can meet with your daughter to share how you feel about her relationship. This discussion is delicate, and it can be result in your daughter embracing your advice or if she pushes you away in annoyance, defiance or anger. Choose a place or activity that you both enjoy doing before you broach the topic with her. In your own mind, have an attitude that you are there to help her, rather than to try to force her to see things your way. Be objective with your choice of words and discuss specific observations rather than generalizations. Educate her on identifying what kinds of tactics are manipulative. This is not always an easy distinction for someone to make, unless that person has been trained to see the differences. "What distinguishes 'manipulation' from 'influence' is the intention of taking without giving in return,” says psychologist Dr. Jeremy Nicholson in the June 2011 "Psychology Today" article, "How To Defend Against Manipulative Dating Games: Part One." Allow your daughter plenty of opportunities to talk and share her own perspective. Be patient.
Don't take your daughter's negative reactions personally. More than likely, your daughter is in denial that she is in a manipulative relationship. In this type of relationships, the victim often experiences what is known as Stockholm Syndrome, in which she feels empathy and love toward her manipulator. Avoid arguing her about her boyfriend and do not attack her perspective. Stay positive and objective when having discussions that involve him. Ask questions such as, "Why don't you spend time with your friends anymore?" or "What is keeping you from the dance class that you loved so much?" Even though it may take some time, questions like these will help her reach her own conclusions about the extent of her boyfriend's manipulation.
Enlist the help of friends. Chances are that your daughter's friends have noticed her that boyfriend has manipulative behavior. Ask her closest friends to speak to your daughter about her abusive relationship, because your daughter may be more willing to listen to her close friends than to her mother. Come up with ways in which you can support her friends in helping your daughter leave that relationship. Develop a safety plan in which your daughter's friends can contact you if they ever feel that she is in a dangerous situation with her manipulative boyfriend.
Get close to your daughter's boyfriend, if that is possible. Often, manipulators are struggling with insecurities and issues of their own. Reach out to him in a personable way and allow him to open up and feel your support. When you feel the time is right, speak to him about the unacceptable behavior you see that he has displayed and how this behavior affects your daughter. If he denies that his behavior is abusive, pull back, but do not give up. He might feel too defensive to admit that his behavior is abusive – even to himself. Continue to stay close to him and let him know that you are always available if he has questions or if he needs help. This helps him believe that you are on his side and that you are not against him. Work with your daughter and her boyfriend on how to set healthy and reasonable boundaries. Share your own experiences with past relationships and dating and what you have learned from them.
- Reassure your daughter that if she ever feels in danger to contact you immediately.
- If you see that your daughter's boyfriend's behavior is becoming worse or that he might be dangerous to your daughter's safety and well-being, contact the authorities at once, so that your daughter is safe. If you can, remove her from his presence or stay with her until the authorities arrive.
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