Advice Needed on Extricating My Daughter from a Manipulative Relationship

Updated on December 08, 2013
M.S. asks from Fairfax, VA
12 answers

My daughter is in a relationship with a young man who is manipulating her (and so is his mother). Over the past 4 years he and his mother have virtually "stolen" our daughter away. We used to have a wonderfully close relationship but now she only seems to care for her partner and HIS family. They use all sorts of excuses to keep her attention on them and when she graduated university she went to California with him (that's where HE wanted to study). He also persuaded her to sell her car and at holiday times his mother pays for them all to go to Hawaii.
We saw our daughter at Christmas and she seems like a total stranger. She says she is happy but she has gained a tremendous amount of weight and doesn't seem to bother about her looks any more.
I have no idea what to do - all I know is that we need to get her away from this man and his family. Can anyone offer advice please?

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answers from Washington DC on

Staying in an unhappy abusive relationship is a sign of a lack of self confidence. She is going to cling to that relationship until she gains self-confidence or until he gets bored with her and dumps him. My only suggestion is to stay close to her emotionally so that she can fall back on you when the relationship falls apart. And if you can find any ways to help her grow some self-esteem then she will get out on her own.

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answers from Richmond on

I hope that your daughter isn't really unhappy but I can see where you are coming from. I had a friend get married to a man that we all knew would not make her happy. He was a decent enough guy (had a good job, etc.) but was very selfish and started throwing fits when he didn't get his way. She was unhappy and gained A LOT of weight b/c food became her outlet. The problem was, so many of us had been so negative that she didn't want to prove us "right" by showing that her fantasy had crumbled. So she stayed too long and was miserable. Fortunately??? he cheated and she found out and that was the final straw. The best thing was that everyone had stayed close, accepted her husband and kept their mouths shut once they were married. This went a long way to letting her leave him - she still had the support and love of her friends and family. Whatever you do, don't TELL your daughter what to do - she will only dig in and stay that much longer but stay supportive and stay in touch!

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answers from Washington DC on

Also try to be present in her life (invitaions, visits, daily phone calls). Don't let you daughter at the mercy of other people even if they love her. If problems occur, she will see you by her side and will talk to you more easily.

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answers from Danville on

Hi M.,
I am sorry to hear that you are going through such a rough time. Just like some of the other mothers stated, since she is grown it's not much that you can do about how she is living her life.

However, to help ease your mind and find out if your assumptions are correct, I would plan a trip to California. As parents we need to some times see things for ourselves to believe what our children are saying. You never know what is really going on with her until you see it first hand.

If you have her address, go to Cali. unannounced and see what's going on. I know it sounds a little deceitful but if you feel that your daughter is really in an unhealthy relationship it may be worth it. Just prepare yourself for the unexpected. Your daughter could actually be living the life that she really wants. It hurts because you are being excluded.

If a trip is not feesible right now continue to contact your daughter and let her know how much you love her and you want to be a part of her life. Causually ask questions about her life and about her boyfriend and his family. Do what you can to get as much information as possible.

If you have a computer or access to one, check on face book to see if she is on there. Don't ask her, just find her. Some times children feel that parents are not interested in things such as facebook, therefore they reveal a lot more information because they think "we" are not going to see it. See if there are any pictures that can help you get an understanding of what's going on in her life.

I pray that all will turn out well for you and your daughter.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Here are my suggestions --
1. If she has a facebook or myspace account, you get a facebook or myspace account and 'friend' her.

2. Send her little things out of the blue via the mail- notes, flowers, a magazine subscription, etc. just to say that you are thinking of her. Things that she would know would be from you and not from him.

3. If the opportunity is there, take a trip out ot Cali for a few days and visit with her. Nothing says that she always has to come to you.

4. If you send her an email, select the 'receipt' option that will send you an email when its been read.

5. Call her, just to say hi. No agenda. No lecture. Just to see how she is doing.


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answers from Washington DC on

Good Luck with getting her away from him. If she is happy and if you and your husband start to be negative towards her she will never leave him. You don't mention how old she is, but if she went off to college my guess is about early 20's or so perhaps younger. You also say she has gained alot of weight is it that she doesn't care about how she looks, has she always been like that? Do you try and talk to her about it and the relationsship to see if she is very happy or not. Does the "other mother" have any daughters that you know of? Your daughter just might have to figure it out on her own. Good Luck and I will keep you in my prayers.

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answers from Washington DC on

My heart goes out to you because my parents are in a similar situation with my sister. My dad started having health issues due to all the anxiety she has caused him. She literally seems to be brainwashed by a certain man and he dictates everything she does. My parents finally were able to convince her to leave him. They broke up for about a year and my sister got married to another man. But the manipulative man convinced her she's in an abusive relationship and told people that my parents forced her to marry that guy (completely false). They got divorced after 6 months. And my sister started telling people the same story that the manipulative man made up.

Since then, my sister has been in multiple relationships at the same time with other men but threatens my parents to marry this manipulative man even though he has made no effort to marry her. Meanwhile, he showers her with empty promises of a dream wedding and life together. I also checked his background and he has been lying about his job and credentials. I revealed all this to my sister but she is so manipulative herself now that it is impossible to know if she believes me (which I doubt) or she knows about the truth and is lying about things as well. She is now without a job, stays with my parents without any regard or respect to them, manipulates people in her life and milks her boyfriends and my parents for gifts and money. The thing is, her friends do the same thing and sometimes I wonder if it's a trend in her generation.

I know I'm not much help but bottom line is that she is an adult and she has to live her own life. My parents are suffering so much and are so heartbroken over this. I even brought them for counseling but they couldn't be compliant because they want to be involved in my sister's life.

If there's any advice I can give, it will be to seek professional help for yourself because you need all the strength and mental health you can get to deal with this difficult situation. You can even talk to your primary care doctor or call your insurance company for suggestions or a referral. I'm not her parent but my sister's issues have affected the whole family and I myself had to seek help to deal with it. I love my parents and my sister so much but it's the worst seeing my parents suffer. If you have other children, please think about them too. They need you just as much.

I forgot to mention. As for as my sister is concerned, she thinks that she's doing the right thing since she doesn't have to worry about a job or paying bills. In fact, she's got more in her retirement account than any of us. So in her eyes, she's the best off compared to all the rest of us. And if anybody would ask her, she's perfectly happy the way things are. The rest of us care more but that's our downfall in her eyes, because it just makes us more worried and concerned for no reason.
You did the right thing to reach out for help. I wish you the best.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

People do things when they love people - she could just be happy with him and therefore going to Cali to be with him, eating when she wants, spending all her time with him and his family, is hard for families that miss the one in love, but try to be happy for her....he could be looking out for her best interest as well - like suggesting she sell her car for a good reason that they have agreed upon, etc.....However! Mother's intuition could be kicking in, and if you have a sixth sense that he is manipulating her in a destructive way (and it's not just your jealousy talking), unfortunately, there's not too much you can do about it except be there for her when she needs it - and pray. If he is manipulating her with family money, etc...then she will have to figure that out on her own - but in the meantime, you can keep in touch with her - even if it is not returned - send her cards, call her, plan outings with her, etc....let her know how much you love her and how much she is still a part of the family - but try not to manipulate her yourself - she is an adult and needs to make her own decisions....even if it is worrisome to you. Give her some credit - she will figure it out.
In my experience, I was the one in a bad relationship - I dated a VERY manipulative guy - he wasn't physically abusive, but definitely emotionally abusive (I never gained weight, but I lived at home and my mom could tell how stressed I was all the time). She never told me that I shouldn't be with him, etc...but she would be completely understanding to both of us and always welcomed him and talked to me when I needed her. The fact she didn't judge him allowed me to bring him around my family as well and she could keep a closer eye on me...very smart mom!! All my dad said was, "There's other fish out in the ocean." Haha...that was his way of telling me maybe this guy wasn't the one. I took his cue, but it was VERY difficult - if your daughter IS being manipulated, she may think there is no other guy in the world that would be as perfect or good for her as he is. She may think she can fix the relationship and doesn't want to give up on him or 'them.' It's a good trait to not want to quit or give up - but if she is unhappy, she will get to a point where it is obvious that he is not the one for her. For me, it was one night when he showed up at my workplace and I basically felt like he was stalking me and watching my every move - he would tell me what to do and follow me everywhere to make sure I was living up to his expectations, etc...he followed me into a dark parking lot after my shift and didn't let me leave because he felt like we had to work out our problems. Luckily, my mom called because she was worried about me and he let me answer the phone (which he had in his hands because he took it away from me) and that was the only way he would let me leave - my mom told me to get in the car, lock the door, leave, etc...and he knew he had to let me leave because she could hear everything going on. I felt totally helpless when he was forcing me to stay against my will - he took my keys, phone, etc...and even when I drove away finally, he followed me in his car - and I had to make an illegal turn in order to escape him...I called my mom back and she and my dad were waiting out on the back porch to make sure he wasn't lurking in the bushes so I could get in safely..all while he was calling my cell phone 100 times. That was the final straw - with everything else that had happened, it took that night for me to realize he was mentally imbalanced - and even after I had told him it was over, he would call incessantly- and I still felt love for him regardless and would cry and cry and cry because I had to force myself not to answer or get back with him because I knew I was susceptible to him manipulating me. Don't let this story worry you more - let it reassure you that your daughter is smart and she will realize when it is out of hand before it is too late - as long as you leave an open line of communication and don't judge her - just be understanding and there for her. I thank God for my mom and her worrying about me, but she let me make my own decisions and I think that's the only way I would have figured out for myself what I needed and wanted in the long run.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Lynchburg on

First, take a deep breath! Then ask if relationship is manipulative or if it's what she wants! You mentioned she doesn't seem to care about her looks anymore-maybe you made her feel they were too important and she feels she has the FREEDOM to not wear makeup everyday, to gain weight, to eat what she wants when she wants it. And where are the excuses coming from? Are you hearing them from your daughter, b/c maybe she WANTS to be with them, and is TELLING you the REASONS, instead of making excuses to not see you. If you think she's so great, then don't think she's been easily manipulated, or that she continues to be. My mother started calling me fat when I was 8, and when I was pregnant with my son and later with my daughter, all she did was complain that I didn't clean my house enough and I didn't focus on my appearance enough. She didn't care that my pregnancies were TERRIBLE and I cried myself to sleep at night b/c I didn't have the energy to clean or play with my son (when it was my second pregnancy). She didn't care about the hospital visits to get fluids b/c I was so dehydrated from getting sick. She didn't even say congratulations. So OF COURSE I'd much rather spend time with my in-laws who were very supportive of me. They asked how I was feeling, called and emailed on a regular basis, sent up little gifts, fully agreed that I was doing the right thing by playing with my son instead of cleaning...the list goes on and on. Maybe your daughter feels like you're too critical and judgemental (whether you think you're being that way or not-I'm sure my mother has no idea of how I felt, not b/c I didn't try to tell her-I did many times, but she didn't listen). If your daughter is saying she's happy, maybe it's b/c she IS! And if she finished college and left it sounds like you need to try to let go a little bit-let her be her own person, not the one who want her to be. You raised her, and now she's on her own. As for the trips to Hawaii-they sound wonderful. Can't you be happy for her?



answers from Washington DC on

Unfortunately there really isn't anything you can do. She's a grown woman and can make her own decisions, whether they be smart decisions or not. The best advice I can give you is continue to stay in her life as much as possible and let her know that you'll always be there for her and that she can come home at ANYTIME, NO QUESTIONS ASKED. And mean it.

The move to CA doesn't seem all that strange to me. It's warm and sunny there. In fact it's absolutely gorgeous there and I miss it terribly. And some places in CA (L.A. and San Fran mainly) having a car isn't necessary because traffic is a nightmare and the public transit system is SOOOOOO fantastic. Or it could be that she couldn't afford the car anymore and just didn't want to share that info with you.

Many people gain weight and stop caring as much about their looks when they are in a relationship. Especially if their partner loves them as they are and for the person they are, rather than how they look. But it can also be an indication of depression, but only a DR can determine if that's the case or just a case of becoming more sedentary because of being in a relationship.

So basically unless you plan on kidnapping her or trying to have her declared mentally unstable and unable to make decisions for herself, there's no way you can get her away from him unless she wants to get away from him. Be there for her, love her, let her know she's welcome home at ANY time and DO NOT complain about him or his family. Complaining about him constantly is more likely to push her away and inspire her to defend him than bring her home to you.

And if anyone had given me the option of Hawaii or the cold/humidity of ohio for holidays, ON THEM ... I'd be packing my shorts, flip flops, swimsuit and sunscreen before they could finish the sentence LOL



answers from Richmond on

ok real quick, figure out who is paying for things in this
twisted relationship, in this case it is the mother that has the cash, not the son. next thing is to not give anymore money to your child because if they are not a source of cash, the boy will lose interest in her faster, the next thing to do, is to do a background check on the boy and his mother, then hire a private investigator to figure out how long they have been conning young women. once you have your information, contact the boys mother and tell her that if she and her son do not pull their flithy claws out of your child, you will expose them in their local paper. unless they are true pros they will, drop her like a hot rock and scuttle away as fast as they can
K. h.



answers from New York on

I am in the same situation with my 17 year old daughter currently and the scary part is she is being manipulated into thinking she should forget college and just move to where he will be attending university. I keep trying to figure out where I went wrong. I always put my kids first, never dated after taking us out of the domestic violence we were in, worked and provided them with whatever they wanted, and let them know I would be here for them. While I expect them to grow and separate from me I never expected to be suddenly dumped like yesterday's trash. She is being manipulated to the point she is pushing away anyone from family to close friends she had and will not talk to anyone when she is not with him. Her boyfriend does not talk, cannot be bothered getting to know her family and is overall rude. All I can tell you is if you protest or try to show her how manipulative he is being you will lose the battle and push her further away. Go on with your life and focus on taking care of yourself, just let her know you will be there if the time comes she finds herself in a situation with no where else to turn.

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