My Daughter's Boyfriend Has Torn Our Family Apart—What Should I Do?

Dear Newsweek, My daughter is 19 and she has been my caregiver for two years. This happened after my 43-year-old son died. I had a brain bleed and I am on dialysis, and mostly need help with cooking.

In November she had a baby with her boyfriend of three years. He doesn't work and manipulates her through anger and other ways. I let him move in with us two years ago because he had become homeless. He works off and on but doesn't hold a steady job.

I recently moved to Georgia to be with my other grandchildren and they moved with me. No one in my family likes him because he is not sociable and goes to his room if anyone comes over. This has always happened even in the other state as well. My granddaughter is constantly torn between the two of us because we do not like one another. I would like him if he would work and support his family. She says he is constantly applying for jobs but never gets one.

He says I am too demanding when I ask her to cook or at least microwave for me. She is my caregiver and talked me out of going into assisted living because she and the baby would be homeless.

Tonight we had a blowup because the grab bars in my bathroom have not been installed and I need her to help me with my shower. He cannot install the grab bars, I guess. He also will not help with moving in as there are several items that need to be assembled and the kitchen is always dirty.

I do not know what to do and my family does not realize how bad it has gotten and I am desperate. Do you have any advice?

Vicki, Georgia

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Daughter's boyfriend is manipulative -WSID?
Stock image. Disabled woman on a wheelchair. Couple with a baby arguing. A woman has written to Newsweek to talk about her daughter's boyfriend who is unemployed and manipulative and their situation at home is now "desperate." Getty Images

Do Not Sacrifice Your Own Basic Health Needs

Chloe Carmichael, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and the author of "Nervous Energy: Harness the Power of Your Anxiety" as well as "Dr. Chloe's 10 Commandments of Dating."

Vicki, I am truly sorry to hear about your situation. There are many layers to this: your health, your family relationships, and your concern for what may be an emotionally or financially harmful man in your daughter's life, to name a few. But of all these concerns, what's most important here is that you get the care you need. As you have indicated, you are feeling "desperate" and unable to straighten this out yourself. I am ethically and morally obligated to refer you to social services for concerns of 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 postponing them until you get into a safe and secure place where your basic needs are met. You may find that once you have a certain amount of stability in your life, you have a new perspective on the other issues. Do not worry about whether you moving into an assisted living facility causes housing difficulties for younger family members. Their housing is their responsibility, not yours.

Do not enable their dysfunction by sacrificing your own basic health needs, being enabled could actually end up being unhelpful to them in the long run, and you must take care of yourself. Remember the old adage about pulling down your own oxygen mask first so that you can stay strong for others.

Wishing you all the best, and do not stop till you're connected with social support.

If They Would Like to Continue Living in Your Home, They Need To Change

Karri Francisco, Director of Family Programming at APN.

From a therapeutic lens, a few things stand out; first, you mention that your family does not realize how bad it has gotten. Often, when in conflict with our loved ones, isolation from the more extensive family system occurs. This isolation may be a way to protect yourself, or you may be too overwhelmed to reach out; this keeps the cycle of conflict protected and can worsen the situation. You should reach out to trusted family and/or friends to gain emotional support.

Regarding the current situation and how to address this with your daughter and her boyfriend, they need to have clear boundaries and expectations if they would like to continue living in your home. The boundaries and expectations should be reasonable and not demands. If the boundary or expectation is unmet, they need to know what steps you will take to protect yourself.

An example of this could be to define the caretaking duties that need to be met clearly, and if your daughter cannot meet those, you will need to meet your own needs by moving to assisted living.

Part of what I hear is your desire to protect your granddaughter, and it creates inner conflict and likely feeds into the isolation of not seeking support from others or making a decision that is best for your own health.

Your daughter and granddaughter also need you to care for your health as you model self-care to them. Suppose you continue to allow your needs not to be met to care for another. In that case, you are giving them a subconscious message that their needs are not as great as another's, which could contribute to how your daughter interacts with her boyfriend, sacrificing herself for his well-being in a similar way that you are sacrificing your needs for hers. Patterns like this are often learned and difficult to break if you continue within this cycle.