My daughter being in a bad relationship, turned out to be an understatement, for my husband and I. There are precious few resources in what to do when you realize your child is in a bad/abusive relationship and may be in danger.
The biggest thing we found and were told, is that parents need to be quiet and let their kid figure it out for themselves. That isn’t any help at all! How do I cope with this situation? Is that really all I can do, sit and watch this happen?!
What I Did
I had searched the internet with little help. Most of the help was for those in the relationship and how to get out. There wasn’t really anything for those watching a loved one being abused. Out of desperation, I talked to everyone. I couldn’t help it! As well as losing my daughter, I was losing my mind!
People would ask how are you doing, how are things going, etc. and I would dissolve into tears. Tearfully I told strangers how sorry I was, I can’t think about anything other than the danger my daughter is in with her very controlling husband and how he had moved her, to isolate her.
I found soooo many people who had been in my daughter’s place! Also, I found those parents I was searching for, who had been through this!
Those who had been in my daughter’s shoes, I wanted to know what their parents could have done and if there was anything that helped them. From the parents I wanted to know about their whole experience and learn from them.
What I learned from those who had bad relationships
If you try to pull them out before they are ready one of two things usually happens:
- They dig their heels in and feel like they have to protect their significant other regardless of how bad they are. There are all these feelings about protecting the one you are with and these feelings are especially strong when it is the parent who is disapproving and negative about the relationship.
One person I talked to really resonated with me. She said that as soon as her mom quit saying negative things about her spouse, she didn’t have to defend him anymore. Because she wasn’t defending him, she could see more clearly who he was and how abusive he was being. Out of defense mode she could come to terms with what was happening in the relationship.
- They get out and then they go back. This can happen multiple times! I recommend learning about trauma bonding. It seems to be the biggest reason for this to happen.
The Best Advice Given
There are things parents can do and it isn’t easy. It takes a lot of patience and self control. This advice came from a long time friend, that I hadn’t seen in a very long time. Sometime, I need to write more about this experience, because it was amazing! I will tell you this, God is good and He is in the details of our lives!
Here is the advice she gave to me and my husband:
- Be positive about her spouse! She didn’t mean to be untruthful or disingenuous, but NEVER say negative or judgmental things about him, to her. Basically, if you don’t have something nice to say, keep your mouth shut. If you can say something nice, don’t hold back.
- Make contact with her every week! This was important! Her husband had really isolated her and told her not to talk to us about anything. He told her and us that everything is private. There was a very long list of subjects that were off limits. The only think I was really allowed to talk to her about was her work and a little about her pregnancy. (I had to step lightly there, as well.)
I didn’t have to do this alone, my husband needed to be a part of this and we tag teamed making contact. There were times when I just mentally and emotionally couldn’t do it. I need a separate post about all of this because there is more that happened with all of this.
- Make sure she knows you love her. Don’t judge her and her choices. She is in survival mode and she is just trying to get through the day, every day. In fact, minute by minute may be hard and she’s just trying to get to the next minute.
We made a point to frequently tell her we love her. For us, we were inspired to frequently tell her, “you have infinite worth”. After she had her baby, we frequently found things to lift her up, “you are a good mom”, “you are doing a good job” and “you are doing better than you think you are”. (All of which was true.)
- To my husband our friend told him to give our daughter a priesthood blessing whenever he saw her. We are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and priesthood blessings are a special and important part of what we believe.
- I am including prayer, in this section. My friend did not give this as part of her advice, but it played a huge role for me. I am a big believer in prayer and help from above. I am so grateful to my Father in Heaven for the strength He gave me in this very difficult situation. Through it all, I was prompted to do things and inspired about what was happening. I know the Lord helped my daughter get free of the monster she was married to.
The Biggest Difference
The best advice I was given, made the biggest difference. She knew we loved her. We were there for her, because we reached out to her on a regular basis.
She told us, once she was free of him, that the constant contact helped her to open up and say she was done! (This is why isolation is so dangerous!)
In short, here is what you can do if your child is in a bad relationship:
- Don’t say negative or judgmental things about your child or their significant other
- Make contact, anyway you can, even if you think they don’t want to talk to you. Keep it light.
- Make sure your child knows you love them. Find things to compliment them on and say “I love you”.
- Don’t judge or be negative to your child. That just puts a wedge.
- If you are a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, have a priesthood holder regularly offer priesthood blessings.
- Prayer. Pray for you child and talk to the Lord about what is going on and what you are worried about. Pray for help for you and your child. Lean on your faith and God. I couldn’t have done this without God and my faith in Him.
My Child is in a Bad Relationship, Conclusion
Knowing your child is in a bad relationship is heartbreaking and more difficult than I ever could have imagined. My heart ached constantly. I am so grateful for all the people I met who listened to me cry and let me tell my story about what was going on.
I am so grateful to those who shared their experiences and advice and offered sympathy and empathy as I cried all over the place. I am so grateful to those I have met in this journey. It isn’t over, but it is in a much better place!
If you are going through this with your child, I hope my experience helps you. I hope you are able to hold onto your child and that they are able to break free and be safe.
We have been able to offer our daughter and granddaughter a safe place, help her through the trauma bonding and fight for the safety of her child. I wish all the troubles ended with the divorce; unfortunately that isn’t the case. Be prepared that your child (male or female) will need support moving forward. There are a lot of wounds and it is challenging.