My daughter’s boyfriend tore our family apart – what should I do?

Dear Newsweek, My daughter is 19 and has been my caregiver for two years. This happened after the death of my 43 year old son. I’ve had a brain hemorrhage, I’m on dialysis and most of all I need help cooking.

In November, she had a baby with her three-year-old boyfriend. He doesn’t work and manipulates her through anger and other ways. I let him move in with us two years ago because he became homeless. He works part-time, but has no permanent job.

I recently moved to Georgia to be with my other grandchildren and they moved with me. Nobody in my family likes him because he is not social and goes to his room when someone comes over. That always happened in the other state too. My granddaughter is constantly torn between the two of us because we don’t like each other. I would like him if he worked and supported his family. She says he is keeps applying for jobs but never gets one.

He says I’m too demanding if I ask her to cook for me, or at least cook in the microwave. She is my caregiver and advised me against going into assisted living because she and the baby would be homeless.

Tonight we had a blast because the grab bars in my bathroom weren’t installed and I need them to help me shower. He can’t install the grab bars I think. He doesn’t help with moving in either, since a few things still have to be assembled and the kitchen is always dirty.

I don’t know what to do and my family doesn’t realize how bad it has gotten and I’m desperate. Do you have any advice?

Vicky, Georgia

Newsweek’s “What should I do?” offers readers expert advice. If you have a personal dilemma, let us know at We can ask experts for advice on relationships, family, friends, money and work, and your story could be featured on WSID at Newsweek.

Daughter's boyfriend is manipulative - WSID?
Image from a photo agency. Disabled woman in a wheelchair. Quarrel couple with a baby. A woman has written to Newsweek to speak out about her daughter’s unemployed and manipulative boyfriend, saying her situation at home is now “desperate”.
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Don’t sacrifice your own basic health needs

Chloe Carmichael, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and author of “Nervous Energy: Harnessing the Power of Your Fear” as well as “dr Chloe’s 10 commandments of dating.”

Vicki, I’m really sorry to hear about your situation. This is on many levels: your health, your family relationships, and your concern for a potentially emotionally or financially damaging man in your daughter’s life, to name a few. But of all these concerns, the most important thing here is that you get the care you need. As you have indicated, you feel “desperate” and unable to fix this yourself. I have an ethical and moral obligation to refer you to social services for elder abuse and/or abuse or neglect of a disabled person. Call Georgia’s Aging and Disability Network at 1-866-552-4464 as soon as possible.

As for the other relationship issues, I would actually suggest mentally putting them off until you get to a safe place where your basic needs are met. You may find that once you have a degree of stability in your life, you have a fresh perspective on the other issues. Don’t worry if your move to an assisted living facility will cause housing difficulties for younger family members. Your accommodation is your responsibility, not yours.

Don’t enable their dysfunction by sacrificing your own basic health needs. In fact, if you get activated it might not be helpful to them in the long run and you need to take care of yourself. Remember the old adage that you pull down your own oxygen mask first so you can stay strong for others.

Best of luck to you and don’t stop until you’re connected to social support.

If they want to continue living in your house, they will have to change

Karri Francisco, Director of Family Programming at APN.

There are a few things that stand out about a therapeutic lens; First you mention that your family doesn’t realize how bad things have gotten. When we come into conflict with loved ones, isolation from the larger family system often results. This isolation can be a way to protect yourself, or you may be too overwhelmed to speak up. This keeps the cycle of conflict protected and can aggravate the situation. You should turn to trusted family members and/or friends for emotional support.

Regarding the current situation and how to approach this with your daughter and her boyfriend, they need to have clear boundaries and expectations if they want to continue living in your home. Boundaries and expectations should be reasonable and not demands. If the limit or expectation is not met, they need to know what steps you will take to protect yourself.

An example of this could be to clearly define the care responsibilities that you need to fulfill, and if your daughter cannot fulfill these, you will need to meet your own needs by moving into assisted living.

Part of what I hear is your desire to protect your granddaughter and it creates inner conflict and is likely to lead to isolation from seeking support from others or making a decision that is best for your own health.

Your daughter and granddaughter also need you to take care of their health while you model self-care for them. Suppose you continue to allow your needs to go unmet in order to take care of another. In this case, you are giving them an unconscious message that their needs are not as great as someone else’s, which could contribute to how your daughter interacts with her boyfriend and sacrifices herself for his well-being in a similar way that you sacrifice your needs for your. Patterns like this are often learned and difficult to break as you continue in this cycle. My daughter’s boyfriend tore our family apart – what should I do?

Rick Schindler

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