Daughter Hides Relationship with Mom???

Thank you for allowing myself, and others, the opportunity to ask personal questions that we may not feel comfortable to ask anyone else. My Ex-husband was abusive. Toward the end of the marriage, my then teenage daughter was emulating him, and they both became abusive toward me. I left her senior year of high school, and her father would not allow her to have contact with me. Subsequently, she went to college in another state, started to contact me, and we have come so far. She calls me everyday, and we talk about everything. When she comes home we always spend time together. However, she has never come home (her fathers house) in the past four years for longer then a week. She avoids coming there. Even though we have become very close, she never introduces me to her girlfriends or boyfriends. She has pictures all around her apartment of her father and brother, but none of me. It is as though she has a secret relationship with me that she wants no one to know about. At her recent college graduation, while I was able to attend the actual graduation; I was not permitted to attend any of the family graduation functions, as her father told her he would not attend if I was included. Why does she want to keep our relationship hidden? She will not talk openly about any family issues. Additionally, she has a severe problem with her relationships with men. She always breaks it off with them, tells them she wants to be friends, and then when they contact her, she creates some form of drama with everyone that they (ex-boyfriends) are stalking her. What is going on with her, and how can I help her? Thank you so much.

Ben's Answer:

What seems clear is that your daughter doesn't want to lose either one of her parents. Even though her dad has a history of being abusive towards you, she aligned herself with him as a teenager - (not uncommon in that stage of life) - and has continued to have a relationship with him. He's obviously got a lot of spite towards you, and doesn't even have the maturity to put aside his feelings and be in the same room with you for the sake of his own daughter....

But from her perspective, she still has to choose between parents. If she's open about her relationship with you, her father is probably self-centered enough to punish her, or abandon her. She doesn't want to lose her father. So she's remained in a relationship with a father who continues to show contempt and disrespect for her mother, and she tolerates it and looks the other way. No wonder she's confused when it comes to relationships with men.

We are programmed to attract and to be attracted to those people who have the same qualities as our own parents. If she can't see the depth of her father's abuse towards you, and she can't bring herself to confront him, set a limit with him and tell him it's unacceptable behavior, then she's going to passively continue to get drawn into dysfunctional relationships.

If she's always breaking it off with men, then they're probably either showing signs of being abusers, or she's got the fear that every man will turn out to be abusive like her father. In any case, there is no doubt that her relationship with her dad is the pattern that she is repeating with other men in her life.

You can't force her to change, but why not ask her why she keeps her relationship with you hidden?

Take Care,
Ben Schwarcz, MFT
Santa Rosa Psychotherapist

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