Daughter in Abusive Relationship

A mother asks what she can do to help her pregnant 18-year-old daughter, who is embroiled in a bad relationship.
My 18-year-old daughter has gotten involved with a married man and is pregnant; he is the father. The wife is aware of the situation ; the couple has four children. This man is 14 years older than my daughter and he keeps making her all kinds of promises about "their future." I cannot make her see the harmful situation she is in. This man has been released from his employment because of theft, dishonesty, and corruption. He screams at her all the time, and to top it off, has moved my daughter into his home, where the wife has been abusive. My hands seemed to be tied. No matter what I say, it makes things worse and seems to push her more towards him and further away from me. She acts like she is totally oblivious to any moral values, let alone any self-respect. I can't stomach any of this and it is driving me crazy. Now she is five-and-a-half months pregnant. The thought of her bringing a child into that mess makes me ill. What do I do?
What a horrible situation for your daughter. Pregnant, abused, and exploited by a man to tragic ends. You understandably are sick over this and feel powerless to save your daughter from further harm. In fact, your efforts on her behalf appear to be distancing her even more from you. Your daughter is not rational: You cannot take what she is saying to you as being representative of who she really is.

Since your daughter is 18, you cannot legally force her to obey you. I wonder if this man could be legally accused of rape if your daughter were considered under the age of consent when she became pregnant or when he began having sex with her. I can't imagine how his wife could sanction your daughter's presence among her children and in her household. This is a very pathological situation.

You need to get help for yourself so you can know how best to help your daughter. Please see a talented therapist who can offer you sound advice and support during these trying times. This is too much for you to figure out alone. Your daughter does need you and will need you even more as this situation moves toward its inevitable meltdown. I'll be thinking of you and hoping for a turn in events.

Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

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