TELL ME ABOUT IT
I have been dating a woman for six months. While we get along pretty well, we often argue about her parents. They call her at least five times per day. Once to wake her up, instead of an alarm, once when she’s on the way to work, once driving home, once when safely inside, and once when she is going to bed. My girlfriend, 31, believes this is normal. I could not disagree more.
Her parents routinely stop by, let themselves in, with or without permission, to stock groceries or drop off a work uniform that my girlfriend couldn’t get the stains out of.
If she stays over with me, her father calls her a slut. Her parents don’t like me, and my girlfriend just goes along with what they tell her, or she makes up another guy’s name just to get them to back off.
Could you please address this overbearing couple? Not only do they make my relationship with their daughter tough, it makes their daughter dependent on them. What would happen if they suddenly died?
— J. F. She’d oversleep, and you’d need an alibi. Beyond that, I won’t address this overbearing couple. My reason is in your letter, verbatim; I’ll let you figure out which phrase it is, so it really sticks. ( Hint: It starts with “ My girlfriend, 31,” and it ends with “ believes this is normal.”)
Without her complicity, there is no overbearing couple. There are just two people who leave obnoxious voice mail and whose daughter may fly in to see them once a year. Maybe.
To create these monsters, though, the adult child needs to answer the phone, copy her key, surrender her uniforms and tiptoe around parental criticism.
About that criticism. A parent who calls his daughter a “ slut” is not overbearing, he’s abusive. That she still grants her abuser( s) such extensive control over her life suggests she needs companions who stand up for her, not to her. Even then she could use some good, professional help to sort through this. Whether you recognize it or not, you’re dangerously close to pushing for your definition of “ right” to displace Mommy’s and Daddy’s.
Since you and she argue “ often,” she’s not the only one getting a regular wake- up call: Your arguments are pointless. They will remain so until she recognizes and deals with the damage her parents have done.
But she’ll probably never do that as long as you keep forcing her to defend her family. It seems like she’s heard, all her life, that she’s wrong about this, blind about that, too X for Y. You’re just the latest to take up the cause — soon to be someone else better lied to than confronted.
So I doubt she even hears you. It’s a long shot, but she may hear someone who listens to her, who sees her, and respects her for who she is. That’s someone who can build her confidence — if not enough for her to start connecting the dots on her own, then at least to seek good counseling.
Whether that someone is you, you have to decide. Either way, she has an entrenched problem she may never face. Don’t make the mistake of thinking she has to, just because the audience agrees that she should.