TELL ME ABOUT IT

The Washington Post Sunday - - Sunday Source - BY CAROLYN HAX

Dear Carolyn:

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.

BY NICK GALIFIANAKIS FOR THE WASH­ING­TON POST

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