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Ask The Experts

My Daughter Changed So Fast


I am having difficulties with my 18 year old daughter. She was a model high school kid. Cheerleader, honor student, big sister, on and on. Last year she started dating a guy and things changed. She still maintains all the looks of being a good kid, except any relationship with her parents and siblings. She started by lying to get to see this boy more often. She let me know several times that he was not happy unless she was right by his side all the time. As time went by she changed her college choice so she could be close to him. She now is living with him and his parents. I have let her know I am not happy with her decisions so now I am not being talked to at all. No answers to texts, calls or visits from her. We are thinking of stopping all financial contributions, which is car, school, housing, phone…but worried it will chase her away because her boyfriends family will take care of her. What should I do?

Victor Schwartz, M.D., Medical Director, The Jed Foundation answers:

As young people begin to experience romantic relationships, they often have trouble finding a healthy balance between being wanted/needed and maintaining a sense of independence. It feels really good in the short term to feel desperately needed or wanted by someone else. Over the long term, this is obviously not very healthy.

There is unfortunately no simple answer in these kinds of situations. It is certainly concerning that your daughter’s relationship with this young man is so intense and that he seems either so dependent, needy or controlling that he (and seemingly his family) is (are) intent on keeping you and your daughter apart.

Do you have reason to believe he is abusing her or otherwise endangering her? Is she still attending school regularly and otherwise caring for herself? If she appears generally ok, then you probably have more latitude and time to work this out. Have you tried to reach out to his family? Is it possible they do not understand what is going on? There may be other intermediaries-a trusted friend, teacher or clergy member- who could reach out to your daughter and express the concern that any relationship that is so limiting is likely to be problematic and unhealthy. This might help to re-establish contact.

It might make sense for you to speak with a local therapist or counselor so that you can discuss the situation in more detail and receive ongoing support and guidance. Maybe your daughter would agree to meet with you and a family therapist to discuss how to improve relations. It might be that she and her boyfriend for some reason believe you are intent on breaking them up and maybe if they understand that you are not against the relationship per se, just concerned with how intense and one sided it is, they will become more comfortable and begin including you and the family in their lives. It is important to keep trying to communicate and maintain contact even if she does not respond, since over time, if this relationship falters (as is likely to happen) your daughter will know you are there for her as a support.