Difficulties with daughter

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-25-2001
Difficulties with daughter
Fri, 03-08-2013 - 9:58pm

I'm not sure where to start or how to tell this story, but the bottom line is that I've had a troubled relationship with my daughter for a very long time.  She is often at odds witih other family members too, but I am the one she has the most hostility for.  She is now 40 and I am 60.  The difficulties go back to her teenaged years when she began to say that she didn't want to be anything like us (her father and me) and started getting involved with people and things most parents would want to keep their kids away from.  I'll say that her choices brought her into contact with unsavory situations.  We never understood why she would be motivated to be "nothing like us," considering that we had a comfortable home and loving family life.  We thought she would grow out of it, but still ... during those teenaged years, we devoted a lot of energy to keeping her from self-destruction.  We also took her to counseling for years.  No matter how much we tried to offer guidance and support, she continually chose a bad path.  Even though nicer kids and boys invited her places early on, she would turn them down to go off with these shady characters.  It's not that our judgment was ultra conservative; these were usually people who had been in jail or likely to end up there and who had dropped out of school.  She would say that other people were "boring".

As you can imagine, she did not outgrow the difficult period.  She ended up with a man who seemed better than the rest at first because he had a job and was not overtly headed for trouble.  However, it became clear that he did not treat her well and did not really care about her.  She pursued him relentlessly and ended up getting pregnant - twice.  The first time he forced her to have an abortion (which he told her to pay for).  The second time, she moved in with him and they eventually got married, with family pressure.  That was 18 years ago.  They now have 3 kids, from 3-18, each of which she "surprised" him with because she knew he did not want children.  It has been a bad situation over the years and keeps getting worse.  He is emotionally and financially abusive to her, and they live in poor circumstances while he drinks and gambles - not to the point of losing everything but providing just enough to give them only the most basic of food and shelter.  Our daughter did finish an associates degree in early childhood education before marriage, but she has not been able to find work that pays well or is close enough to home (you can imagine that she does not have a reliable vehicle).  We have tried to encourage her to go back to school and maybe even become independent of him, but she is not interested.  It is probably a typical abusive pattern of dysfunction and chaos, then they make up.  Of course, it is distressing to us.

Over the years, we have maintained a "close" relationship, if you can call it that.  What the relationship amounts to is that she calls frequently and wants someone to talk to.  It doesn't necessarily matter who it is, her father, me, or any other person (and I really mean any), as long as the person listens to her stories without questioning her in any way.   If questioned, she becomes irrate.  She doesn't talk about anything that involves having insight, but often about people she's at odds with.  She's convinced she's always right and has put herself on a pedestal, especially as a mother, convinced that she's just the greatest even though their household is truly crazy, with fighting, swearing, and no respect whatsoever for their home - walls kicked, etc.  it's not just between her and her husband, although they fight plenty; her older kids have joined in as well.  And the truth is that their household is also extremely unkept, and I'm trying not to use another word but there is an emphasis on "extremely".  I hate to admit this but I dread going to visit them.  It literally makes me cringe.

Another part of our relationship is that it is completely one-sided.  I do not talk about myself, having learned that no matter what I say, she will snap at me.  For instance, if I say I'm sick, she will snap that lots of people get sick and it's "no big deal".  If I say that I have to go to work, she will snap that she's just as busy, more so of course.  You get the idea.  I have learned to not say anything at all and to not share anything about my life with her.  This has gone on for many years.  And that's just fine with her - she doesn't ask!   She just talks, often complaining about someone or something (and truthfully, she can be funny telling a story).  I accept all of this and just try to make the best of it, hoping that her life and our relationship might be better in the future.   But the worst part is, whenever the mood strikes her, she is downright abusive to me.  And that is fairly frequent.  I am her scapegoat.  She tells me I'm a terrible mother.  She resents that her dad and I have a good relationship after 41 years and that he treats me well.  To write some of the things she has said is too painful, so I will leave it to your imagination, but believe me, she is cruel and filled with hostility toward me.  I am not a perfect person by any means, but I know I do not deserve her treatment.  I feel bad for her but I also feel sad for myself, that I do not have a loving relationship with my daughter, even at these late ages.  I don't know if there is "advice" really, but I just wanted to write my story.


iVillage Member
Registered: 09-06-2010
Sat, 03-09-2013 - 1:04am

I'm sorry, SJGerman. My feeling is plenty of kids go through that rebellious stage and it is very dangerous because a fair number of them don't find their way back. Also, possibly she has undiagnosed mental illness. In any case, with family members in general who are trouble, I have just put up walls as much as I needed to to protect myself from the crazy. I even picture a big automatic wall around my house going up as far as it needs to, which is probably nuts but it is what goes through my mind and then I feel peaceful and secure, no crazies allowed, I don't care who you are. I am grateful that those in my immediate household are a joy to live with. We have peace, happiness, no undue drama and trauma and that is my priority because it has to be or I will be a basket case. Your daughter is quite grown, her problems are not your fault. I think I would tell her you will be hanging up on her if she gets rude and then do so every time. Just take that control away, you know, if she is abusive or just extremely self-centered, well gotta go, bye hon! Also, I don't know  how involved you feel obligated to be, but I put people I have a lot of trouble with on email rather than phone. It's much calmer and if they're obnoxious I just click it off. If you don't answer the phone by answer by email, it seems to become a habit after awhile. I say that because the only thing I have found to work is more and more and more distance. You just can't change anyone, all they do is drag you donw with them. You know? Anyway, that is just my experience and thank god not with my children (fingers crossed). Good luck.

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-08-2006
Sat, 03-09-2013 - 8:02am
Sjgerman, i am sure this was a difficult letter to write and a difficult situation to live. Is this your only child? Are you concerned that if she were not in your life you would lose access to your grandchildren? I agree with Fruitbat that there may be some element of mental illness in play, but perhaps not. And unless she perceives there is a problem, it is probably not going to get any attention. You cannot change your daughter...you already know that. All you can do. Is change your own behavior. If you set boundaries...like not allowing her to be abusive to you...she may actually at first attempt it even more. But if you are consistent, you can prevent that. But the cost might be that she will not contact you at all. For a mother, I think that would be very hard. Have you thought of some counseling for yourself to help sort through the risk and reward of setting boundaries with her? Best wishes on finding some peace in this situation.
iVillage Member
Registered: 02-25-2001
Sat, 03-09-2013 - 11:08am

Thank you, Fruitbat and Happysj56.  I really appreciate your thoughts.

No, she is not our only child.  She is the oldest of 3, and our other two kids are boys (men now!).  Our older son is married and expecting a child.  He and his wife are wonderful and respectful to us.  We enjoy each other's company so much, it's almost 180 degrees from this troubled relationship.  Our younger son is in college, going through his own time of figuring out his future.  But, we have a good relationship with him too.  Both of them realize that their sister continues to put herself in bad situations (I did not go into detail on that in my original message for the sake of not going on too long, but she finds new ways to walk on the wild side) and that her attacks are very disturbing and stressful.

And yes, the grandparenting part is very hard but not so much in the way of fearing she will keep them from us.  That is not likely.  What is the case, though, is that she has always tried to manipulate us with guilt, and I think she's been pretty successful with that.  For instance, she will make huge trouble, criticize everything we do, say, stand for, rip us down to the core, then after creating/keeping this immense rift, will come back a day or two later and tell us to "get over it," (never apologize) and basically say that we have to take it for the sake of being connected to our grandkids.  Her attitude is that if we get upset enough with her to disconnect, we would be abandoning our grandkids.  I've tried to stay connected to them while keeping distance from her, but it never works.  So, there is this tremendous guilt that I think I will never shake - first, about her mental health and where did we go wrong because I will always feel that I could have or should have fixed it somehow; secondly, about my wish to be free of her abusiveness (I know that I don't really have to take it but there's always the nagging feeling that parents can never really walk away from their kids, no matter what); and thirdly, that we are not the grandparents we could have been if the situation had been different.  You probably won't be surprised to hear that she has often told her kids that we're no good, and with mixed results - their judgment is sometimes better than hers, although they really don't know what to think.

As I write about this, I realize the situation sounds like such a mess.  And, it is.  But on a day-to-day basis, it's sometimes not so bad.  We stay abreast of her life (she shares almost everything), and when she's not attacking, she and I talk and laugh (only in the one-sided way, though).  Also, I do have a lot of stability and support in relationships with my husband and sons.  And, as awful as she can be, I think that deep down she must still be our sweet little girl.  When my mother was alive (she passed away two years ago), she knew of the troublies and always said that our daughter would mellow with years.  My mother reinforced the idea that I couldn't walk away, no matter what.  Now that my daughter and I have reached the milestone years of 40 and 60, I do question if my mother was right about her mellowing.  It may not happen.  I have to accept that her life may always be tumultous and that, in this lifetime at least, we may not really connect emotionally as grown mother and daughter.  I think I've wanted to write something like this for a long time, and I appreciate having this forum. 

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999
Sat, 03-09-2013 - 4:54pm

I think that the first step is to be rid of the guilt.  Since you have a normal family life & your other kids turned out fine, you must have been a good mother, so you didn't create the problems that your DD has.  I would not let her abuse you.  I would start speaking up, like when she starts talking badly to you, I think you should just say "well I am not going to listen to you and I"m going to end this conversation if that's how you are going to talk to me" and just hang up.  It might not stop her from trying but at least you won't have to listen to her any more.

As for the grandchildren, I think it depends on how old they are.  If they are older, then I think you can start to have relationships with them directly that don't involve their mother.  IF they have cell phones, you can call them directly, etc.  If the house is really a pigsty and your DD is doing dangerous things, then you could even call child protective services.

My exH was the youngest of 6 kids--they are all very close in age, since there are triplet in there.  Well all of the kids turned out normally except the 2nd oldest, his sister.  When I knew her, we were in our 20's and she was always nice to me, but she didn't do the expected route of getting married, having kids, getting a job, etc.  She eloped to Vegas with a divorced guy (this was very unacceptable since the parents were religious), he ended up committing suicide, so her mom paid for her to come back home, but that didn't last long.  She went back there, was on drugs, ended up with HIV.  When the parents died, and she was going to inherit some money when their house was sold, I was the executor and she would just call to berate me and ask when she was going to get her money.  I think my other SIL hit it when she figured out that this one sis might have bipolar disorder and it was never diagnosed so of course she was never treated.  Well lately though things seem to have improved as she has a place to live, I think stopped doing drugs and is even going to church.  But it's sad that she's all the way across the country alone and not seeing the rest of the family.

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-20-2009
Sun, 03-10-2013 - 1:31pm

I'm sorry about your difficulties with your daughter, but maybe the time has come to just learn that she is who she is, and you'll never change her.  For your own sanity, don't allow her to "use" you as a sounding board anymore.  I've got several years on you, and I've found over the years that no one, not parents, not children, not inlaws and not friends has a one way pass with me.  When someone gives you nothing but grief and unhappiness, then it's time for them to be out of your life.  You did the best you could for her, just as you did for your sons.  She wants to live her life her own way, so let her.  Ir's her choice.  And you need to tell her that........     As far as your grandchildren are concerned, all you can do is hope for the best.  Keep in contact with THEM if you can, don't say anything negative about their mother, and with any luck, they'll be in your life.  It's very hard to cut someone out of your life, but it is YOUR life, and you have the right to keep the negativity away!  At 40, she's chosen her own lifestyle, and you do NOT have to approve of it, or allow her to dump her problems on you or anyone  else in the family.  The next time she calls, tell her "sorry, I'm busy" and hang up on her. 

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-25-2001
Tue, 03-12-2013 - 3:24pm

Thank you to everyone who has responded.  It has been helpful to read words of support and encouragement about setting boundaries.  It has also been helpful in considering whether, or to what extent, I can really distance myself.  I have to admit that I probably can't really walk away entirely, although I would often like to, so I'll probably work more on the boundary part instead!  It's a process of accepting that this is how it is, instead of ruminating over disappointment and loss for what *could* have been or on critical self-evaluations to find "answers".  I have to also admit that I'll still be available if a real crisis evolves for her (apart from the day-to-day crises she calls to talk about) and will stay be open to developing a different kind of relationship with her, if maturity or a desire to change on her part takes place.  I'm not expecting it, though!

Avatar for deenow17
iVillage Member
Registered: 10-12-2004
Wed, 03-13-2013 - 11:48am

I'm so sorry for the relationship you have with your daughter and I understand the guilt you feel. When my youngest DS was a troubled teen, a counselor told me that good parents have kids who do bad things & it's not always a reflection on what we do as parents. I have remembered that over the years & used it myself with others dealing with troubled teens as it helps to lesson the guilt even if it doesn't totally go away.

I'm with the others in that I agree to you to stop taking her abuse. By taking it, you are showing her that this is appropriate behaviour which you know it isn't. I believe as parents we never stop parenting. I would assume your DD hits out at you because she feels powerless in her own life. You need to let her know that you are there for her but that you won't take the abuse. You said the kids range from 3 to 18. The 18 yr old is old enough to have their own relationship with you. Be a loving grandmother who is always there for them. Use email, cell phones, whatever to maintain contact with your grandchildren. You will have to hope that the older grandkids influence the 3 yr old if your DD cuts off your contact.

This won't be easy but your DD isn't likely to change unless she sees a reason to do so. My mother rarely asks about my life, her grandkids or great grandkids. She has almost no interest but she & my stepfather have no problem calling me up to yell at me about their life as if I was responsible. They have no problem talking about themselves & all their wonderful friends. I have learned to put up boundaries & keep call display on my phone purely to avoid most of their calls.




iVillage Member
Registered: 01-22-2004
Sun, 03-24-2013 - 5:03pm

Please, buy and read the book "Boundaries". If you think you are helping your daughter by allowing her to treat you bad, sorry to tell you but you are just enabling her, this misbehavior. There are kids that are just like that rebellious and want to do the opposite of what they have seen at home, even though that means to dig their own burial.

I also would suggest you to read about codependency. I know it is very sad to see someone you love to spoil their lives in front of you and there is nothing you can do about it. Reading about codependence will help you deal with this. If you change, her chances to improve will grow, but at the end to make her change is not the issue with codependency.

When you let go you feel a lot of sadness, but when it passes you will feel better.

Give her to God because you can´t change her, pray and detach, detach in love and detach in anger.

I know it is very painful, but it will be more painful later if you don´t make changes in yourself.

She needs a courageous mother and you have to show her how courageous you can be setting boundaries.

Wish you the best, hoping I have helped.


iVillage Member
Registered: 01-22-2004
Mon, 03-25-2013 - 3:39pm

Just to add a little thing to my post. Because you said you daughter found steady boys boring. Probably she is the kind of people who lives MORE ALIVE in chaos, she might be a kind of adrenaline addict, and you don´t seem to be the same.

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-25-2001
Fri, 03-29-2013 - 1:27pm

Thank you, Sonyserg.  Yes, you were helpful.  I just read your message and have ordered the book.  Since it will be on my Kindle, I expect to start reading right away!  Best wishes, Sue