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Son in a relationship I fear is emotionally abusive(24 Posts)
My 17 year old son is in a relationship with a young woman of the same age and I am worried about it. They have broken up previously as a result of her behaviour but are now back together again and have been for a few months.
She has threatened to harm herself if he leaves her, more than once.
She tries to make him responsible for her emotional wellbeing by throwing tantrums or sinking into dark depressions if he does not give her what she considers to be enough attention (the underlying implication being that again, she may harm herself).
If he says he is busy and cannot see her that weekend she will turn up unnanounced at the friends house where she knows him to be (this involves a train journey for her - not just a walk around the corner.)
He is forced to switch off his phone in order to avoid her repeatedly contacting him if he is busy or wants to sleep. She will explicitly tell him that he has not spoken to her enough that day and that she will not allow him to sleep until he has. She has even rung the landline and contacted me via Facebook asking to speak to him when she cannot contact him via other means, after him explicitly telling her that he is busy/sleeping/doesn't want to talk right now.
My son has spoken to me about this behaviour, which is great. And after much soul searching I spoke to him and told him that what she was doing was not ok, that threatening to harm herself was emotional blackmail, and emotionally abusive. I said that I could not stop him from seeing her if that was what he wanted to do, and that it was his life, but that I could set my own boundaries. And those were that I did not feel comfortable with her spending time at her home. I told him I felt that if I allowed her to keep coming here, I was sending the message that her behaviour wasn't a problem. So he sees her at her home instead.
The problem is that she and her father criticise and ridicule me for having set these boundaries when my son spends time there. I'm not sure if her father knows the full extent of her behaviour - he definitely knows about some of it and seems to feel that it's not a problem. Also my sons own father dismisses it and says, "Aw she's just a teenager" and has no problem with her staying there.
So I feel very out on a limb. I'm trying to teach my children to have some boundaries and standards in relationships and I'm trying to have boundaries myself. But my son is receiving the message that I'm being ridiculous.
I'm starting to doubt myself and could do with some advice.
P.S. I've made it very clear to my son that I do not dislike his girlfriend as a person, that I can see her many good qualities, but that it is her behaviour I consider to be unnacceptable.
Your son is very young still, and I think it's great that you are making it clear that he doesn't have to pander to anyone's dramatics.
Is he not at all inclined to just cut her off? It all seems like too much work when he should be concentrating on exams etc.
Is he planning a gap year or anything? Something to remind him of life outside her bubble?
I think you're handling it well. If it were one of my sons I'd do whatever I could to help him get rid of this nightmare.
Does your son really not want to admit he is indeed being controlled and abused here?.
Here are some behaviours characteristic of emotionally abusive women:-
◾Gaslighting (lying and then claiming he is crazy)
◾Withholding affection and sex
You are right to be concerned. Your son to my mind is in an abusive relationship. At least he has talked to you about this. At 17 he really has no life experience behind him though and needs your further guidance. I would hate my son to choose someone like her to date; theirs is truly a unequal relationship that could also all too easily colour any future expectations of later relationships that he has.
Re her dad I was going to say like father like daughter. He is no decent role model to her; they are two peas from the same rotten pod. Do not forget that such behaviour is often learnt and she has likely learnt this from him. His opinion therefore should be disregarded as irrelevant. Her own childhood was probably not ideal either but it is still no justification, reason or excuse to act as she has done towards your son.
How does your son feel about the boundaries you yourself have set?.
I would also ask your son what he gets out of this relationship; he gets something from it so what is that?. What needs of his are being met by her?. Does he really want to try and love her "better", is he trying to be her white knight rescuer here?. If he is that is all doomed to failure.
I wouldn't ban her from the house.
I'd have her over loads and would be having words.
My DD was with someone similar.
I told her that the only persons happiness she is responsible for is her own.
It was her best friend that finally convinced her that he was controlling.
It was 'fun' when she finished with him.
But she is out now and far happier.
He will get there. Just support him through it all.
It sounds like a case of she's much more into him than he is to her.
Why is he stringing her along?
for the sex
If he doesn't want to be with someone who wants this level of attention he needs to break up with her.
If not I really don't think baning her from your house is going to help anyone.
Yes he is still young. I have asked him what he feels he's getting from the relationship. He seems unsure, other than that she is his longest lasting relationship and he feels an attachment. Also, that his fathers relationship with his partner involves a lot of drama and shouting and saying incredibly hurtful things that can't be taken back, and he feels this has normalised unhealthy relationships for him.
He has a lot of awareness I think, but for whatever reason doesn't want to leave. Like I said, he did end things once, but has gone back.
I just want to do the right thing by him. And I thought I was, but her father and his father seem to disagree and I'm starting to doubt myself.
I agree with Hells - I would actually want to keep an eye on them and try to model more healthy relationship structures and behaviour for her.
There is a certain amount of truth to "she's just a teen" - at that age all relationships are incredibly intense. But it sounds like she's been brought up to believe in TRU WUV and if they leave you must KILL URSELF or it wasn't TRU WUV
He does say he can understand why I've taken the decision I have. He doesn't seem upset by it to be honest.
Nothing really of substance to add, I just wanted to agree with the PP that your instincts are spot on, as is the way you're supporting your son. However, I'm not sure I would ban her from the house- keep your friends close, and all that. I'm worried you might end up pushing your son into spending more time in her family's unhealthy influence.
I think that's a fair point Fetchez and other posters.
I thought when he went back to her it would fizzle out quickly (or at least that's what I hoped). It hasn't and now he is asking if I can ever see myself being happy to have her round at the house.
I've said it's something I want to give some thought to. Am completely unsure as to what to do for the best.
"He seems unsure, other than that she is his longest lasting relationship and he feels an attachment. Also, that his fathers relationship with his partner involves a lot of drama and shouting and saying incredibly hurtful things that can't be taken back, and he feels this has normalised unhealthy relationships for him".
What has he learnt about relationships in general here to date?. I think he is going to have to now unlearn an awful lot of stuff he has already picked up. Will he be willing and able to put the work in to do that?.
How can he learn about relationships that are healthy; there are plenty of online resources that could help him.
That last part of your sentence is probably one part of many as to why he is still with this abusive lady. His dad for one has not shown him an emotionally healthy relationship and perhaps regards what he has now as "normal".
oh god I dread this kind of thing
i saw this with my younger brother...had a v v controlling and needy girlfriend, he was with her from the age of 15, she was his first girlfriend but it was a really stifling and unhealthy relationship. he never seemed that happy apart from the first few months, but he was scared to leave because of what she might do. they would have screaming arguments and she even slapped him a few times, me and my parents used to dread her getting pregnant
he finally left her at 24 but I really do feel he wasted a lot of his youth on her, they were like an old couple, he was never allowed out with mates etc
no real advice I am afraid but hope other wise mners will have some x for you
its also vv good your son can talk to you about this.
Atilla I think his father sees it as not that bad, and my son tells me that he doesn't believe she really thinks she's doing anything wrong, although she will apologise simply to smooth things over and stop him leaving. Clearly her own father doesn't see it as anything serious either. I feel as if I am the only one going, 'Hang on, this is fucking awful!'
So I can see why for my son, this is difficult. I am the only adult in his life saying this is unnacceptable.
I'm sorry your brother went through that Froglet.
I think banning her could have the good effect of giving him a safe haven. But it means more time with her family.
Can you print out some teen abuse resources for him to read?
It's a good idea - thanks to the posters that have mentioned online resources. I'll have a look.
"I think his father sees it as not that bad, and my son tells me that he doesn't believe she really thinks she's doing anything wrong, although she will apologise simply to smooth things over and stop him leaving"
No surprise there, such people never really apologise nor accept any responsibility for their own actions. I would certainly challenge his dad's reasoning.
Your son needs to see this for what this really is, abuse. Unfortunately he may well end up getting badly hurt before he at all realises. I would keep the lines of communication open to him, do not let her get between you and your son.
This is a website that may be useful to your son:-
I'm glad you're supporting him - he sounds lovely! She sounds unhinged though - this is more intense than the usual "teenage intensity".
I agree WitchWay. Yes teenagers can be emotionally immature and all over the place, but there still have to be lines surely? I want my son to know that her behaviour is not normal and not ok.
Please don't doubt yourself, she sounds like very bad news to me. Could you ask a male family member or friend with an enlightened understanding of what constitutes a healthy relationship to have a talk with your son? He might need an adult male to point out to him that she's batshit.
Also I'd allow her back in your house, but on condition that X, Y, Z and then you explain to her the behaviours you find unacceptable. Your house your rules.
I really think if the genders were reversed here people would have suggested you call woman's aid or the equivalent by now...
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