Daughter Controlled by a Manipulator

Reader’s Question

I am desperately concerned about my 19-year-old daughter. She has been dating a 17-year-old boy for a little over a year and a half. I never liked, but rather tolerated him during most of that time. There were many incidents with him involving drug use on his part. He was selling drugs, he is unable to hold a job for more than a week, and he dropped out of school this past year and never completed 10th grade. His parents are divorced. His father abuses and degrades him, but he choses to live with him. His mother remarried but always makes excuses for his behavior and provides him with a car and money despite claiming this behavior is appalling.

My daughter is going to be a sophomore at the University of Florida. She graduated at the top of her class from high school and received numerous scholarships. She is a flute player and majors in music performance. Since she has been dating this boy she has nearly cut herself off from most of her friends. She is very outspoken about being opposed to drugs and alcohol. She had one bad incident several years ago because she drank and hasn’t touched it since then. I am sure of this as I am very aware of what she is up to. She had a very difficult freshman year because she was always running home to see him. Several times he promised to drive her back and made her miss the bus and a couple of more classes. Now we are fighting to keep her in school. We had to file an appeal to let her return. Attendance was the reason. Toward the end of the school year, the boy and his father got into a big fight and he went running to her apartment in Gainesville with his mother’s blessing (not ours). She went up there that same weekend and got him an apartment. She says he can get his GED and go to community college there and they can have a beautiful life. When he got there he made her life even more hell — dumped her by the side of the road in the dark several times, punched holes in her apartment wall, spit in her face and told her she was a piece of SH@#!.

Our family went on a cruise last month and soemhow got pursuaded to allow him to come. They fought every day. I blew up when I found out he took weed onto the ship and that when we were on one of our excursions in Belize he went shopping and got more weed. On the final day he threw my daughter’s driver’s license overboard so she could not go into a club. Then, when she confronted him he grabbed her face and spit on her. She ran into the room and told my husband and me; my husband screamed at him and told him he is never welcome anywhere near us or our daughter. I thought maybe she was finally over him. She was dating a very nice 22-year-old policeman. (Actually she went on a few dates behind the boyfriend’s back prior to the cruise and I think she is still talking to him).

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They broke up last week for 4 days. On the 4th day he sat in the parking lot of her work and kept sending me, her and her best friend text messages and calling. I would not respond. He was trying to convince me that he loved her so much and realized that now and that he promised he was a “changed kid”. I knew better. However, that evening his friends started calling because they had not heard from him and were concerned he may do something to himself. He was MIA for over 4 hours and was not answering the phone for anyone. She was hysterical, thinking he had killed himself or something as a friend of his had a few months earlier. Of course, he showed up hours later and she went running to him.

My husband and I made it clear to her that we did not want him near our house. I know in the past that she occassionally snuck him in while we slept, but I told her not to because I have a 17 yr old boy and an 8 yr old daughter that I do not want exposed to this. My husband did not know, and due to their strained relationship I did not want to make it worse.

Now, I am concerned she will be going back to school in 5 weeks. He will follow to her apartment. I so fear that she will stay with him and continue to be abused by him. She is missing out on some of the best years of her life. She is a beautiful and intelligent girl. HOW CAN I HELP MY DAUGHTER???????

Psychologist’s Reply

Your daughter is involved in a relationship with an Antisocial Personality and Loser. I describe the techniques they use in my article Identifying Losers in Relationships. These individuals are highly manipulative and use guilt, suicide threats, physical intimidation, and any other tactic to get what they want. They have no difficulty damaging the lives of those around them. When their victims are too damaged to continue to serve them — they dump them and move to the next victim.

Your daughter is highly invested in this relationship — in a dysfunctional way — but invested. She is experiencing a form of Stockholm Syndrome and due to this investment can’t see the “big picture” of how she is being abused and mistreated. Enlisting your daughter’s cooperation may be difficult. The Loser has convinced her that the family is actually against her — trying to ruin their “perfect” relationship that would be wonderful if only the family and everyone else would leave him alone and not question his behavior.

As a parent, criticism only makes her more defensive. The Loser actually blames her and the family (never himself!) for his outbursts and behaviors. He will continue to use social & emotional pressure — especially if she tries to break up with him. In reality — he has nothing going for himself but her so he will fight to keep her under his control. In this fight, as a criminal individual, he will have few boundaries and as I describe in the Loser article, will use every strategy he can think of to keep you and the family detached from your daughter.

It’s helpful to enlist your daughter’s cooperation in this situation if possible. Ask her to read my Loser and Stockholm Syndrome articles — both available on this website. I’d also recommend that the family view the discussion groups on those article on this website, as they contain the personal stories of people who have had relationships with Antisocial and Loser personalities. If she makes a decision to break-off the relationship, she will need your help. He views her as his “ticket” to something better than living on the streets and for that reason, it may be necessary for her to stay at home for awhile for protection. In reality, she may lose a semester of school, but that ‘s a small price to pay for the losses she would experience if she’s not able to detach from this individual. Counseling will be helpful, and I often recommend that folks print my Loser article and take it to the counselor as an example of what they’re dealing with.

This is a tough spot for a parent…and for your daughter as well. She’s in over her head and like you, doesn’t know what to do. In talking with her, don’t try to criticize his behavior as he’s already excused himself from those incidents. Rather, focus on her emotional state, the distress level in the relationship, and the fact that “love” isn’t supposed to make us miserable.

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