It is a normal part of life for children to spend more time with their friends instead of their family as they get older. According to research on adolescents developing independence and identity, teenagers tend to “move increasingly away from parents and increasingly toward peers.”
However, when your child chooses their boyfriend over you and your family, it can be hurtful and worrisome. As a parent, you wonder what you’ve done wrong.
While your daughter may choose her boyfriend over your family as a mere act of rebellion, it could also be a sign of a toxic relationship if the boyfriend undermines her attachment to your family and her friends.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do as a parent to show your support for your daughter during a complicated situation.
Things You Can Do if Your Daughter Chooses Boyfriend Over Family
1. Be There for Her
Tell your daughter how much you love her. Reassure her that all you want is her happiness and that she can always trust you to be there for her. Remind her she can always call you or text you at any time.
Have an open conversation with her about her feelings, her goals, and her relationship with her boyfriend. Remain calm and listen without judgment. This is key in building her trust and will allow her to open up to you. Offer advice only when asked.
Focus on strengthening or rebuilding your relationship if it had been strained. Try to do things together that you both enjoy.
Maintain a presence in her life. If she lives away from home, visit her – always call ahead to show you respect her time and space. If she lives with her boyfriend, show him kindness and be polite while discreetly noting how he treats her.
2. Be Supportive, but Give Her Space
Always let her know you and the family love her and are always there for her. Assure her she can always come to you for advice and support.
Understand that spending time with her boyfriend or moving in with him doesn’t necessarily mean she automatically chooses him or that she hates your family.
Don’t pressure her to leave her boyfriend or make her choose between him and your family. Doing so will only push her away from you and draw her closer to him.
Remind her of your unconditional love for her, even if you don’t always agree with her choices.
3. Don’t Be Resentful
It is ok to feel hurt, angry, disappointed, or even betrayed by your child’s choices. However, she is still your daughter, and she needs you to be there for her, especially after making a mistake.
Just because she’s made a choice you don’t approve of doesn’t mean your love automatically goes away. Don’t let your emotions blind you to the unconditional love you have for your child.
4. Do a Self-Assessment
Be honest with yourself and consider whether you might have had a role in her decision to choose her boyfriend over your family.
Did you make her feel as though she had to choose? Were you overbearing and controlling? Did you not give her enough attention?
Accepting you might have played a role in your current situation may be difficult to accept. However, it can lead to positive changes if you’re willing to work on yourself and your relationship with your daughter.
5. Discuss What Healthy Relationships Look Like
Chat with your daughter about healthy relationships and what they look like. Have a positive and open conversation about what she should expect out of a relationship and what types of behaviors are unacceptable.
Express to her that a healthy relationship requires trust, honesty, respect, independence, kindness, equality, fun, and independence. She should feel comfortable with the pace at which the relationship progresses, and she should not feel pushed or manipulated to do anything she is not comfortable with.
These conversations can be had anytime and can be kept low-key to avoid getting too intense which could push her away.
6. Build Her Self-Esteem
The better your daughter feels about herself, the more she will expect from the people she dates. When she loves herself, she will not tolerate bad treatment from anyone, including her boyfriend, who is supposed to love her.
Praise her for her accomplishments and give her genuine, concrete compliments on her positive qualities. Allow her room to grow and express herself and watch her confidence soar.
If, on the other hand, all she receives is criticism, she will feel she only deserves bad treatment. She will settle for anyone who treats her semi-decently because she’ll feel lucky to have found anyone who’ll endure such a flawed individual.
7. Encourage Her to Maintain Positive Friendships
By encouraging your daughter to maintain and grow healthy friendships, you will be helping her to hopefully build a support network that will be there for her when things get difficult.
Her friends may help put some distance between her and her boyfriend. And they may point out any toxic or harmful behaviors in their relationship.
Friends can be very influential on our children. By encouraging your daughter to nurture positive friendships, you’ll avoid pressuring your daughter to leave a potentially toxic boyfriend or having to talk badly about him.
8. Offer Opportunities for Family Time
Plan a family gathering where you can all do something she enjoys, have dinner, or have a family game night. Be kind and offer an olive branch to her boyfriend by inviting him, even if you cannot stand him. This is about keeping your daughter in your life, so try to be amicable with him.
Inviting her boyfriend will allow the family to spend time with him and get to know him if they haven’t already. And will allow her to see how he interacts with everyone.
Aim to create new family memories and have fun.
9. Set Boundaries (If She Still Lives at Home)
If your daughter still lives at home, communicate your household rules to her and her boyfriend. Be firm, but kind and understanding.
The goal is to keep her safe while under your roof and give her the freedom to make her own decisions.
10. Family Counseling
If you are still struggling to repair your relationship with your daughter, participating in family counseling may prove beneficial. It may help you work through unresolved issues.
Everyone, however, must be a willing participant. Unless she is underage, you cannot force your daughter to be involved.
11. Be Vigilant for Abusive Behavior
Be watchful for any signs of possible abuse or toxicity in the relationship. Abuse is not just physical. It can also be psychological, verbal, and emotional. If your daughter’s boyfriend is controlling or abusive, he:
- Won’t respect her boundaries or privacy
- Will belittle and criticize her so she’ll feel dependent on him
- Will demand to know where she is, what she’s doing, and who she’s with always
- Will use guilt to manipulate her to do things for or with him
If your daughter is in an unhealthy or dangerous situation, be ready with a supportive network she can call upon at any time. Additionally, plan for an exit strategy and recovery plan for her.
Having your daughter choose her boyfriend over her family can be hurtful and disappointing. You feel as though she has betrayed your love to follow a stranger. However, with patience and support, you can assure her you will be there for her despite her mistakes. Your unconditional love will be especially important if she ever finds herself in a toxic, abusive relationship.