Daughter Trapped in Relationship with a Loser

Reader’s Question

My 27-year old daughter, who is a double lung transplant recipient, has been in a two-year relationship with someone whom my husband and I consider a “loser.” He is 18 years her senior, divorced, unemployed, hooked on pain medication, oral methadone, soma, and medicinal marijuana. He’s convinced her that his I.Q. is “off the charts,” and has told her stories of his once working for the Drug Enforcement Administration. In spite of our skepticism, up until last week, she kept us thinking that she was blissfully in love, even though she always looks unhealthy and underweight.

Last week, however, she called me saying that he has been yelling and raging at her for the last month, and everytime she tries to bring up their bills, he blames her for upsetting him, bringing things up always at the wrong time, or calling her an idiot because she forgot to pay a bill.

She said she was going to break up with him, and asked if we would let her move back in. Maybe in our happiness to hear that she had finally seen the “loser” side of this guy, we were too hasty, but we said, “of course,” she could move back in when she was ready. Two days later, she asked me to pick her up on the pretext that she was borrowing some money from us (her boyfriend had told her to ask us). She was a shaking, nervous wreck, and after hearing her stories of emotional abuse, we convinced her that she needed to get away from him, but all her anti-rejection medication and other essential belongings were still at his house, and she knew he wouldn’t let her get them if she tried to leave. We called the police for an escort, and she was able to get the few things she needed to get her through the next few days.

Well, of course he started calling, text messaging, etc., and she couldn’t resist answering. Her guilt over abandoning him got the better of her. When my husband and I went to work the next morning, she arranged to meet with him and they got back together. During his text messaging, he told her he had gotten her an “engagement” ring (but he “might as well take it back now”), and he convinced her that she (and we) overreacted, and that we were the ones trying to manipulate and control her. Somehow, he convinced her to add his name to her car registration.

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The question:

As parents, how can we support our daughter emotionally, yet not get sucked into her “dance” with this “loser”? My husband and I have always been protective (maybe over-protective) of her because of her cystic fibrosis, but she is choosing to sever that “lifeline,” for her relationship. We don’t want to be “enablers,” but we don’t want to abandon her either.

What should we do?

Psychologist’s Reply

Your daughter is in a relationship with a Loser…and a con artist. I’ve described those individuals in an article on this website entitled Identifying Losers in Relationships. Your family should read it, and pass it to your daughter if possible. Your situation and some strategies to deal with your daughter’s captivity is addressed in another article: Love and Stockholm Syndrome. It’s also available on this website.

I’d also recommend that you and your daughter read the website blogs on those two articles. We have several hundred entries that describe a relationship with a Loser, Controller, and Abuser. Under the Stockholm Syndrome blog, parents discuss their similar situations. You are not alone. Your daughter is being held an emotional hostage, but there are ways to help as I’ve listed in the articles.

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