What to do?

Avatar for shirley_v
iVillage Member
Registered: 04-29-2000
What to do?
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Fri, 04-04-2014 - 7:41pm

This is not my problem but rather a problem with a friend of mine who has an only daughter who is I think now 27 years old.  This daughter is continuing a university education in drama - getting a university degree that is, after already having a college degree in drama but she wanted a university degree, hence her somewhat advanced age attending university in a city north of ours.  The problem consists of this young woman (we'll call her Angela) having had her first serious relationship with a young man in the same study  at the same university (though he is a year ahead of her...he is graduating, she has one more year).  After a year of their going out, he recently (as of February of this year) broke off their relationship.  Angela is devastated - never saw this coming and can't come to grips with it.  He seems now to have gone on to reunite with an old girlfriend from this same university. 

My friend, (we'll call her Brenda), has been since inundated with phone calls from her daughter (they don't live in the same city) - who cannot seem to get beyond feeling crushed by this breakup.  This upsets Brenda who has tried to offer advice but to no avail, or it hasn't been accepted by said daughter.  Mostly, it seems that now all Brenda can do is listen but is herself continually upset by her daughter's unhappy state.  Angela has seen a university psych counsellor maybe twice but doesn't seemt to think or feel this has been helpful to her.  Often Angela will drink to drown her sorrows, it seems and then phones her mother to cry over the phone to her!  So this has been two months of this behaviour.  Whether this is not unusual or is extreme....well?

I've not had a lot of experience with my own children and their relationship breakups.  Not to say none of them have not had breakups but they seem to have dealt with it in their own way and only have I on occasion had to listen to one of them be upset but it didn't last long.  I suspect that Angela is going through some deep seated issues of her own brought on by this relationship breakup. She doesn't seem to be particularly agreeable to continuing counselling, unless perhaps she'd prefer another counsellor than the one she saw, but it may not be a case of personality - maybe just a resistance to seeking help.  

So what do you tell a daughter who is going through the throes of rejection and breakup for two months or so, after you feel you've exhausted all you could think of what to say and which has not always gone over big with her daughter?  Just listen, or continue to urge her daughter to get professional help?  Has anyone been through something similar with one of their childfren who went through a breakup and was it anything like this? How can my friend get beyond feeling helpless and upset herself, time after time?

Just wondering if this is a problem anyone has encountered before and how it may have been resolved.

Shirley

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Avatar for elc11
Community Leader
Registered: 06-16-1998
In reply to: elc11
Tue, 05-13-2014 - 10:01pm

Sabr, you're so right about the "dump and run". Dd used to do that about the bf she had at 19-20yo. I really tried to like him but just couldn't, for a number of reasons. Some of those reasons also caused friction in their relationship so when she would call me to vent, it was really hard to not say "well, duh". (Also really hard to not criticize him but in dd's case that probably would've caused a "Romeo and Juliet" response.) But every complaint I heard was just another nail in the coffin of my dislike of the guy....it would have been horrible if she had actually married him. After that bf she stopped sharing as much. I did hear some stuff about the guy she broke up with 3 years ago, but we liked him a lot and I think she was trying to justify her actions.

Ds hasn't had a lot of relationship issues that I know of, he vented to me a couple of times several years ago but that's it. I'm really glad that both kids have decided to share elsewhere (if they share at all) because it does put me in a tough spot to hear bad things about a person that I'm supposed to welcome with open arms.

Avatar for shirley_v
iVillage Member
Registered: 04-29-2000
In reply to: shirley_v
Tue, 05-13-2014 - 3:31pm

Sabr, you make a good point about not wanting to be involved in knowing the details, forming an opinion about whom your children are having difficulties with.  Wanting to stay neutral, in other words may be hard to do.  I suppose Ed is wise to not encourage this sort of 'dumping' as you call it.  Ideally, couples, spouses should try to work out their problems without having to get others involved or maybe go seek counselling if it proves to be too difficult - a good experienced counsellor can remain impartial and see maybe both sides of the issues or whatever.  It's not like I've had my kids come to me with upset and complaints about their S.O. (they haven't had too many S.O. for that matter!).  I think I would be inclined to want to listen but I would hope to not take sides.  And if it was beyond my ability I'd refer them to get professional help but like I said, I've not had to get involved in this sort of thing (so far?). 

Shirley

Avatar for sabrtooth
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-03-1999
In reply to: sabrtooth
Tue, 05-13-2014 - 9:11am

Ed & I were talking about this the other day, when he remarked that a co-worker of his's parents barely speak to him any more.  They had not been thrilled with his choice of wife, as she was 15 years older than he, and came with a hotel full of baggage, but they tried to make the best of it.  However, he continually confided her misdeeds whenever they hit a rough spot, and when they finally seperated, the parents were thrilled.  When he decided to go back, that was the final straw.  Since WE know all this, you can see he has a tendancy to overshare.

We are very close with our kids, and they with each other, and in the past, they have been somewhat hurt when Ed has told them he "doesn't want to hear it" when they come over crying.  During this conversation, we talked about how hard it is to stay neutral about our kids' issues, whether it's their love life, their work life, their friends, etc, especially when they tell you the gory details, ask for advice, then do what they want anyway.

It's even harder if they share every tiff with their spouses.  For them, it's "dump & run".   It's just a bump in the road, they want to get it off their chest, and then they are back together.  But the people they "dumped" on, whether it's parents, siblings, friends or co-workers, are left with an opinion about the spouse that is not buffered by love.  So Ed's solution with the kids is, "I don't wanna know".   I, on the other hand, want them to be able to vent, but I don't want to be stuck with an opinion, nor do I want to lie by ommission to Ed.  I've talked with them about the lasting impression this kind of stuff leaves, so if they think they are going to stay with the guy, go see a counselor.  For us, that's not such a stretch, since we saw counselors regularly thru the teen years, and are comfortable with them.

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-13-2010
Mon, 05-12-2014 - 1:42pm

  Shirley...thanks for the congrats!  I am so glad to hear your friend's daughter is doing better.  Anyone suffering heartbreak saddens me since I've been there myself.  It's so hard.  Not long ago, my DD22 had a breakup with her boyfriend.  As usual, she turned to her friends and her sisters and only told ME she'd "had a hard week".  I got the details from my DD30 (who DD22 is closest to) and then DD22 and I talked after that.  She said she was afraid I'd be judgmental of her boyfriend because he had a meltdown, got drunk and totaled his car.  Of course that's concerning, but they're young and, after everything I'VE been through with dh's sons drug use, DUI's, etc...I'm probably the LEAST judgemental person I know.  Besides, as I told HER, we were ALL young once and certainly weren't perfect.  I'm hoping as time goes on, my DDs find that I'm not as judgemental as they think.  At any rate, I always tell my girls that they should thank me for giving them to each other!  It warms my heart that they are close.  :)

Avatar for shirley_v
iVillage Member
Registered: 04-29-2000
In reply to: shirley_v
Fri, 05-09-2014 - 11:10pm

Belated congrats on your 3rd anniversary, Startingover :-) 

As for my friend's DD, I think she's over the worst of it from what I can tell or have heard from my friend.  At least there are no more extreme horror stories lately in this regard.  And there is another new friend (man) in her life, though not sure if this actually would turn into a romance... who knows?

I wonder what the percentage in general of the children of parents who confide deeply with their mother, for example.  My own kids are somewhere in between maybe.... I've had one son phone up once with distress about a girlfriend which eventually sorted itself out.  (He knew he had to leave this relationship).  My DD has turned to me in distress about a certain event, but this was the extreme for her... I am thinking that in some cases she may confide much more in her friends than with me.  It may be that parents aren't always the preferred person to turn to for all upsets.  Sometimes it is better to not always be their sounding board maybe?  My friend's DD is an only child (well she has two half sisters who are much older and are not close to her).  She and her mother have created a close bond but sometimes it sounds to be rather too much...somewhat co-dependent?  My friend was encouraging her DD to get some professional help....I think she felt she needed to have someone impartial to help her DD emotionally - and siphon off some of the distress her DD was always sending her way.  And this is not the first occasion that my friend has felt her DD could use some professional help...a bit of a recurring theme at least on occasion in her life! 

Anyway a lot of us seem to navigate the rough waters of life - but if we recognize we need some professional  help, that's not a bad thing either. 

Shirley

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-13-2010
In reply to: shirley_v
Wed, 05-07-2014 - 3:04pm

 I can't add any more than what the other posters said.  Only time heals all wounds...I know from experience after 25 years of marriage hearing "we're just too different and want a divorce".  It took me many tears, a counselor, family & friends to hold me up, but after a year and a half, I was healed...for the most part.  I probably had what many would call a "breakdown" and sounded much like your friend's daughter does to others...very sad, negative, etc...PLUS having to navigate my way through a nasty divorce.  Maybe that's something your friend could tell her daughter...that her ex-boyfriend simply wasn't the one God intended for her and better she find that out now than after many years of marriage and 4 kids!  I look at myself now and just hope I can be an inspiration to others who have suffered heartbreak at the hands of the man they loved and found their way back to happiness.  On Monday, I celebrated 3 years of marriage to my 2nd husband.  If it could happen to me at 50, it certainly can for a mere girl of 27!  Also, as bad as I feel for your friend's daughter AND your friend (don't our hearts always hurt when our children our hurting?), I could only WISH  one of my 4 daughters would call and cry on my shoulder.  None of my daughters do and never have.  They turn to their friends and to each other in times of strife.  None of them REALLY talk to me about their hard times or feelings.  Kind of makes me sad.

Avatar for shirley_v
iVillage Member
Registered: 04-29-2000
In reply to: shirley_v
Wed, 04-09-2014 - 12:29pm

Oops...yes, I meant to type DD not Dh!  Yes, you make some good points.  I think my friend was worried about her Dd getting sick and going into some downward spiral but chances are she will rebound in time.  It's good to hear of others who have lived through such experiences - as I have not had that experience.  I think what this Dd has to do is stop being so hard on herself, beating herself up.  She has not been very, what's the word, stable in that respect?  While she is an excellent actress and a hard worker in that respect, and intelligent - she also harbours a certain amount of low self-esteem.  So this rejection just seems to fuel or increase her sense of less than feeling worthy, I suspect.  It's that kind of negative thinking and feeling that doesn't help. 

Thanks for your  input.

Shirley

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999
Wed, 04-09-2014 - 11:28am

It's really  hard to see our kids upset and not be able to do anything about it.  I think that one thing your friend should remember is that people get over breakups and although her DD is upset now, it is not going to go on forever and being young, she probably will meet someone else soon enough.  So maybe if she keeps that in mind, she can listen to her DD complain but not take it so hard that she is up all night worrying.  I would tell the DD that drinking too much is only going to cause other problems and that a better way to get rid of the depression would be exercising--alcohol is a depressant while exercise gives people endorphins.  Now that I look back to when I was about 25, I had a relationship of about 1.5 yrs and thought I really might marry the guy (we did talk about it, it was not just in my head) and then he broke up with me.  Well he actually didn't even have the backbone to do that--first it was he wanted to see other people too, than he said he only wanted to see me once in a while--after dating exclusively for over a year, I told him not to bother calling me at all then.  It did take me quite a while to get over him because this was the first person I thought I could marry.  In high school I liked boys but it's not like I was thinking about marriage either.

Avatar for shirley_v
iVillage Member
Registered: 04-29-2000
In reply to: shirley_v
Mon, 04-07-2014 - 12:58pm

You got a few good points, there, Elspeth.  The way I see it, is that as much as my friend is willing to listen to her Dh, she herself gets too negatively impacted by all this upset - all the grief, all the unhappiness and then my friend worries and is upset herself to the point she can't sleep well and well... Seems to me that you can care but somehow is it possible somehow to disengage a bit so that you see it not as your problem as well?  I don't know if her Dh reserves her crying and all for her mother.  It does seem that her Dh is negatively affected most if not all of the time.  But all is only what I can glean from what my friend tells me. I think my friend has come to the point that she realizes that there's lilttle she can really do, which is why she encourages her Dh to see some professional who perhaps can see it in a clearer light and not be emotionally impacted by this. 

Shirley

Avatar for elc11
Community Leader
Registered: 06-16-1998
In reply to: shirley_v
Sun, 04-06-2014 - 5:51pm

My dd used to "share" a lot with me when she was a young adult and living in her own place but still not so grown up yet. I heard about a couple of breakups, and plenty of venting on other topics as well. Eventually it started to feel like I was the dumping ground for all of her negativity. But not the same situation as your friend is in, because my dd was upset about the breakup for a few weeks then moved on enough so that she was not so preoccupied by it. I imagine that this was hard because the bf's were typically part of a larger social circle so she did see them occasionally and heard about them from mutual friends. 

I agree that your friend should continue to make her ear available for listening but should also continue to encourage her dd to seek some professional help. Its normal to grieve the loss of a love but when it interferes with the rest of life that grieving becomes a problem. Or, maybe the dd is going about day to day life fine and saves the venting for her mother? Sometimes kids will spill all their problems on their parent which relieves the dd's stress; the parents assume that the kid is upset all the time. 

In the case of my dd, it could be hard to not get upset by her being upset or to get sucked into her drama so I had to make a conscious effort to prevent that. I privately set a time limit for how long I would listen to the negativity, then discreetly change the subject.

Sometimes the parent actually encourages this kind of unburdening, maybe to continue feeling needed? I guess your friend would need to think about if she wants to make any changes to this scenario (maybe she likes being able to vent about it to you?!) and then carry through with whatever change she decides on...which can be easier said than done.

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