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Dr. Mark
Dr. Mark, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5333
Experience:  Dr. Mark is a PhD in psychology in private practice
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I have a 23 year old daughter that was living at home, at 21

Customer Question

I have a 23 year old daughter that was living at home, at 21 and going to college she was lying about seeing a boyfriend because she thought I would not approve. She was telling me she was on campus while in reality she was at his apartment. She would come home late, and I did not suspect anything as she had always been honest up to that point .She let him drive her car which was under my name, he got into a car accident, and three people were trying to sue me for over a year as the car was under my name as I had bought it for her. In the course of the accident investigation, it was learned he had a previous criminal record, that she was not aware of. She never saw him again after the trauma of the situation. She graduated college, lived at home for a year and a half with no problems, she got another car, found a job, and within three weeks of working there met a 43 year old man who infatuated her and she has moved out with his support. They see each other sexually, and I am concerned about her well being emotionally and mentally as I feel she is making some poor choices. She is a young beautiful attractive educated intelligent girl. Since meeting this man, she has distanced herself from her family. She lied to us about his age, said he was 30, and was sneaking out with him prior to moving out and telling us she was going to a friends house or working late. I caught her in a lie and that is when she moved out. I helped purchase another car after the accident and feel betrayed by her lies. Is her behavior normal or should I just leave her alone and not worry?
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Dr. Mark replied 5 years ago.

Hi! I believe I can be of help with this issue.

I can imagine how frustrating and worrisome this situation must be for you. You are clearly a loving and caring mother. And your daughter is clearly acting in ways guaranteed to frustrate loving parents. What do I mean?

She's successful in so many areas of her life. Her thinking is clear about so many things. She makes you feel confident about her in so many ways. BUT...

There's men and romantic relationships.

It's as if all of her clear thinking goes out the window and she is impulsive and seems to seek out failure. Right. And if someone were to guess about her early relationships with men in her life when she was a girl growing up, would it have been the kind of modeling that would tend to give her clarity in this area?

Usually, this is the number one problem for young women: they have no framework for understanding how to make a healthy relationship with a man and how to fit it into their lives. So they learn by trial and error. Usually a lot of error.

So what to do?

Your question is: is her behavior normal? Well, her behavior is of course not normal. It's unhealthy as she's lying to make it happen and has a 90% chance of failure. That she's lying is telling us two things: she KNOWS that it's not normal. And either she doesn't know how to make normal happen or she's got a hang up about doing what's normal.

You are clearly so intelligent and competent that my guess is that she's got a hang up about doing what's normal, that she knows how to be normal. She does indeed have some emotional issues that she's not clear about in herself most likely and that she doesn't know how to address. So she addresses it in unhealthy ways. (I think they write songs about women seeking love in the wrong places, don't they?)

But the other choice you give in your question is should you remain silent and not worry. Well that's impractical isn't it?

You're not only a smart person, you love your daughter. How could you not worry? But you have to worry in a smart way. What do I mean?

No lecturing. No advice. No correcting. But you invite talk. How?

By empathizing. By actually imagining what it must feel like for her and then telling her what you think it must feel like when she brings something up. Being there for her. (But not signing anything for her any more!)

In other words, doing a lot more listening and asking questions. Asking her questions so that she knows you're interested. And not offering advice. Even when she asks, you ask back if she's sure she feels she needs your advice or does she have an opinion on what she should do. In other words, getting her to talk things through. To weigh things. To consider things. That this is how you are encouraging her to make decisions.

She's already created a pattern of lying to allow herself to act impulsively. So this is going to take time. You don't have many options anyways, and so don't try to rush to solve her problems. It will just drive her further away and further into lying.

Okay, I wish you the very best!

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