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My just-recently-turned 16 year old son has a girlfriend for 1 year now. They live a 1/2 hour drive from each other, so don't see each other much at all. However they talk everyday without fail online, including during school.

They are both obsessed with "the relationship". They say they are life partners.

She has visited our home about 5 times, and every time, she makes my husband and I feel uncomfortable. We find her to be very disrespectful and she behaves very sexually towards our son in front of us.

Her mother is pushing the relationship and has suggested they have sleepovers (when they were 15) We have said no to that. The girlfriend tries to manipulate our son by crying and hyperventilating in order to force our hand (to allow them to meet up as well as many other things.) She often upsets him saying she is going to go overseas without him etc..He just can not see logic when she plays these games.

He has become moody, secretive, won't do his chores, and his grades have slipped.

We know we can't ban them from having contact, but we really don't know how to handle this obsession as it appears to have become. We are desperate for any advice.

  • 3
    This is only my opinion. I think you have to tell him that she is manipulating him and that as he is 16, you are saying 'no' to the relationship. You get to take a hard line. Give him a chance to act appropriately, but if he can't stand on his own, you have to do it for him. Be careful because he may use it as an excuse to lie to you. My heart goes out to you. – WRX Dec 1 '16 at 22:06
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    The unhealthyness has nothing to do with their age. It is unhealthy, full stop. Teenage relationships (even if the teens have sex) can be healthy. But this isn't. If they were in their 20s it wouldn't sound healthy either. Try to think of it not being a problem with their age, but more specific things, and then give advice. He is too old for you to forbid him things without it becoming tantalizing. – Ida Dec 1 '16 at 23:40
  • 1
    Is this the first time your son is in a serious relationship? – Erik Dec 2 '16 at 10:06
  • It's probably a bit late now, and he might not be ready for it in the first place, but perhaps some reading material on how to recognize "psychological warfare" might be good for your son. If she really is manipulative, perhaps that will help him, over time, to realize it. – w00t Dec 5 '16 at 20:16
  • Actually, you CAN ban them from having contact. You are the parents. – user24631 Dec 22 '16 at 4:31
20

TL:DR It is counter-productive to forbid the relationship. Maintain boundaries to help, and show through non-judgmental ways what good and bad relationships are like.

I'm answering as someone who was in a teenage relationship with a young man my parents did not approve of, and then later in life an abusive man.

Don't forbid the relationship.

When my parent's forbid the relationship with the young man, that just meant that I hid the relationship from them. We dated at school -- kissing, hanging out, etc. and we found ways to be together among mutual friends. Forbidding the relationship means that he will no longer come to you for help when things get rough because he doesn't want to get in trouble. This will impact your relationship with him.

What you can do is set boundaries like you are doing based on your morals. No sleepovers, no letting the girlfriend into his bedroom, etc. He's a teenager, but it is still your house, as for as long as he lives there he can be made to respect your morals.

Show him what good relationships look like

You want to discourage the relationship without alienating him. One way to do that is to talk in general terms about what healthy relationships look like, and what are signs of unhealthy relationships. You do this by modeling good conflict resolution in front of your son. While he was young I'm sure you saved any conflict for when he wasn't in earshot, but now that he is in relationships he needs to see how loving people can disagree. Also talk to him about it. Things like

Did you ever hear me and [SO] scream at each other when we disagreed? Did I/they cry to get what they want? No, we talked it out until we came to an agreement.

Show him how loving couples resolve disputes because he doesn't seem to get that what he is experiencing isn't normal. You can also in list other family in this effort. My aunt shared with me her experience in an abusive relationship. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other community members that your son listens to and respects can help him get a holistic view of good and bad relationships.

Encourage him to hang out with friends

One thing abusers do real well is they try to alienate the abused so they have no one to talk to. This is why it is important to not alienate your son by forbidding the relationship. You need to maintain a good relationship with him through this (and that will be hard). He also needs to maintain his other friendships that he had before the girlfriend came around. Encourage him to spend time with his friends, maybe even inviting his them over. Keeping a healthy social life is important right now. If he is in extra-curriculars, don't let the girlfriend talk him out of participating. My abusive boyfriend flipped out when I had the audacity to spend one evening with a long time friend instead of him. This can be an eye-opening experience for him if/when that happens.

Be supportive while gently opening his eyes

When this girlfriend pulls her stunts, be supportive of him. Acknowledge his feelings, but also gently point out what she is doing. Within reason, let him make his choices, but make sure he is aware of how much time he is spending with her.

My parents would ask things like "when was the last time he did what YOU wanted?" and "How does it make you feel when he does that?" When the drama dies down, talk about how the drama makes HIM feel and if this girlfriend ever peacefully does what your son asks/needs. Like if "I have homework I gotta do so I can't come over" ever is accepted by her without drama and tears.

Make rules like "no chores, no date" and "grades slip, no date" to align your goals with his.

  • 1
    The one thing I'd add to this is to try to model the good relationship and to share reflections in it outside of big, long talks. Try to bring up topics when the behavior you object to is NOT happening that moment. Try to make the comments non-accusatory "me-statements" so you're sharing what you experience and know and care about. Encourage questions. Empathize with your son's feelings since first loves are very powerful. Questions that are genuinely posed to build understanding can be of great value while statements of judgment shut down trust and communication. Hang in there! They grow up! – Judith Williamson Dec 20 '16 at 1:41
  • There is a cultural element here, in that what is a "good" relationship for some peope may not be for others. A Generational gap is, more than anything, a culture barrier. – Weckar E. Dec 28 '16 at 11:52
  • @WeckarE. sure with the sex thing there is a culture gap which is why I spend maybe 2 sentences on it, and DRF does a good job handling that. But whether it is the 1800s, 1900s, or today emotional manipulation is not ok and that is the current path the gf is on. That is what I am mainly trying to address here. – adeady Dec 28 '16 at 14:43
  • @adeady I was actually not specifically referring to the sex thing. More the idea that one's relationship should be modeled at all after others'. But thanks for the clarification. – Weckar E. Dec 29 '16 at 8:20
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I think the highly up voted answer is pretty much spot on, but I would like to add one small thing.

Consider the fact that the way you perceive his girlfriend might actually not be fully objective. You say she behaves overly sexually towards him in front of you and is disrespectful. Given that she obviously comes from family with a different background (her mother encouraged sleepovers at age 15) she might have somewhat different standards.

While it's easy to say that those standards are "wrong" and thus she's disrespectful and bad, that might not be the best solution. In fact it might not even be true. Standards in today's culture (in the US and Europe at least) differ quite a bit and just because someone else has different ones doesn't mean they are inherently bad.

What I'm trying to get at is it's one thing to try and get your son out of an abusive relationship and another to try and get him out of a relationship with someone you personally don't agree with. And the latter can easily masquerade as the former especially to the eyes of the parents.

  • "Standards in today's culture differ quite a bit..." sigh. – nope Dec 14 '16 at 2:13
  • @MDXF Mind elaborating what you mean with that? I honestly don't get what you are sighing at. – Weckar E. Dec 28 '16 at 11:53
4

As a teenager who's been in this kind of a relationship, I'd like to throw my two cents in. All this is based off of past experience, so it probably won't be exactly fitted to your scenario, though I'm sure you can get a few things out of it.

TL;DR Talk to him. Make sure he knows that you're there for him, and that you only want the best for him and his relationships.

Just FYI, I'm going to state everything as fact because it's much easier to provide advice that way. Let it be noted that everything except my personal experience is opinion.

She has visited our home about 5 times, and every time, she makes my husband and I feel uncomfortable. We find her to be very disrespectful and she behaves very sexually towards our son in front of us.

This is the biggest concern, the sexual behavior. While your statement that you can't cut off his contact with her is completely valid, you can put your foot down and refuse to allow her in the house. If you have good reason to keep her out of your home (which it seems you do), do it.

The girlfriend tries to manipulate our son by crying and hyperventilating in order to force our hand (to allow them to meet up as well as many other things.) She often upsets him saying she is going to go overseas without him etc..He just can not see logic when she plays these games.

This seems like a typical manipulative girlfriend, and a boy who's simply convinced that he's in love with her. IMHO, the girl doesn't seem like a great person. It's possible that she's simply going through struggles in her life, and will get over her behavior, but for now, their relationship isn't very healthy (as you've noticed). I think a great thing you could do for your son is to sit down and have a long talk with him about... life. Girls and relationships in general make for a good, long, heart-to-heart talk. You could take this approach, with emphasis on his current one, and how she's not good for him.

A couple of points you might want to include are:

  • She may only be using him for his body. (This is what happened to me - I was sure I loved a girl, and sure she loved me, and it turned out... she just wanted sex).
  • He may just be telling himself that he's in love. A young man will often do this - when a girl is attractive, or attracted to him, he will easily overlook her obviously negative qualities, things that would not make a good life partner.

He has become moody, secretive, won't do his chores, and his grades have slipped.

Well, this is typical for teenage relationships, especially first ones. Moodiness and secretiveness are to be expected from a teenager in general, so it's not too big of a problem. If it concerns you enough or seems to be a big enough deal, you could try to assure him you'll listen to him and help him through anything he needs.

Not doing chores may be a sign that he isn't feeling love or support from you - and you're not in the wrong to withhold support for his relationship. He needs to realize that you know and understand what he's going through. As I previously stated, have a heart-to-heart talk with him. But you'd do well to make sure it doesn't turn into a lecture; teens (*cough*) don't take lectures well.

The slipping grades are a sign that he's talking to her too much, and in the place of his studies. Members of the opposite gender* are distracting in general, but when a teenager is in a relationship, it's even harder to focus on the important things in life.

*Please don't hate on me for gender inequality. I wasn't being insensitive to any types of people; I'm simply stating my opinions and views on the matter.

I'm not sure what you can do for him in this case. Teenagers are exceptionally stubborn about relationships (which you'll find out soon enough, and you probably experienced as a youth). If he cares more about texting her than about keeping up his grades... you might want to try punishment*.

*I know this isn't my place; it's just a suggestion.

We really don't know how to handle this obsession as it appears to have become.

There are three things that will probably happen:

  • He'll realize on his own that the relationship is unhealthy, and break it off.
  • He'll eventually listen to your judgement after being internally conflicted for a bit.
  • She'll do something hurtful to him, and he'll end it.

I can (most likely) assure you that this relationship will not last; you don't have to worry about that. If talking doesn't work, just wait. It may take months or even years, but it will die. Your son will come off better because of it; he'll realize what he actually wants in a partner, and he probably won't make the same mistake again.

I'd say it's imperative that while giving him the due amount of privacy a teenager should have, make sure he knows that he can always come to talk to you about anything.

Hope this helps.

1

Here's my advice to you, not knowing the entire situation, but only based on a general idea of what you've stated.

This scenario seems somewhat normal for many kids within this age range.

I disagree with some of the other posters that state that you should 'give in' and just let them do what ever they want, since it'll only get worse. Please ignore their advice. They most likely believe that they're giving you helpful advice, but I assure you, it's definitely incorrect.

The truth of the matter is this, you have raised your son with certain values over the past 16 years and i'm sure you've woven his character into that of a good young man. However, these boundaries will be tested now and over the coming years. He understands that he can make many of his own decisions, he will often be confused and trying to find his 'place' in the world and he will undergo experimentation and testing. This is why a very strong, happy, supportive/nurturing household in which the parents openly communicate with their child/children and are reasonably fair yet firm with them is extremely important. It's critical that the the parents are not preaching one method and walking a different path. The kids will do what they see their parents do - right or wrong.

I suggest that you consider getting your son involved in some activities that he enjoys. If he enjoys the arts, playing an instrument, volleyball, basketball, etc... just get him involved in more activities. What this will do is get him out and about and meeting a lot of great people that are his age that have some passion in their lives. He'll meet new friends, including girls and he will no longer be so 'closed off' to only a single person.

As the child gets older, they will obviously be more and more difficult to help guide along the path of life. As a loving parent, they'll always be your little one and you'll always be protective.

I'm sure you've done a great job so far, but it really begins with what the household has brought him over the past years.

Our childrens' future BEGINS with a strong, happy, healthy, supportive, disciplined/structured householdhold - which should place an exceptionally high value on Integrity.

Wish you and the family the very best,

tTurn3

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1

Some great answers here, but I disagree with the person who suggests strong authoritarianism and control. That said, I think the intentions in that answer were intended as good, and I also believe some of the values inherent in that answer are sound.

However, the sexualized behavior on the part of the young woman is of concern and could be a sign that she's being abused and manipulated herself. She could be a victim herself and using emotional manipulation and hyper-sexualized behavior with your son based on what she's seeing modeled in her own home.

You should not be uncomfortable with her behavior in your own home, and I'm wondering if you can gently share with her that you're uncomfortable by behavior -- be specific and focus on a single, specific behavior. You could ask nicely that she consider your own feelings in your own home and offer a non-judgmental and more appropriate change that you wish to see. Again, be specific and focus on one thing that's accomplished with an easy change. After you've seen this change a few times, be sure to thank her for considering your feelings and tell her that you feel better and appreciate her respect for your feelings in your own home. Try to do this in a caring and sincere way devoid of judgments that could make her feel any shame. Keep it simple, direct and in a discussion that helps her understand your own comfort levels in your own space.

You also should take some time to feel thankful that your son is trying to connect with another person and to engage in a committed relationship. He's not old enough to fully understand the big picture as he doesn't have the experience that you have, and he's not your son's parent, right?

So, what's I'm advocating for here is for you to respect yourselves as parents and to open greater communication in a calm, supportive and kind way that will set some boundaries in order to help you set reasonable limits in your domestic space.

-2

That's true that you can't ban them from having contact.

But you can deny paying bills for his phone and just take away his phone if it's bought by you. Weak grades are enough for doing this. You can also take his computer away unless he fix his behavior and grades.

You definitely can forbid to sleepovers and any contacts after specific hour. You can demand better grades from him and you have instruments for forcing (or just trying to force) him to learn better. If he is not interested - he can just leave you home after he will be 18 (I don't know which country we are talking about).

It's all just for his good. You should talk with him and just give him strict borders and things which you can demand.

  • 1
    This is just going to get your teenager pissed off at you and even more involved with their relationship. – Erik Dec 2 '16 at 10:06

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