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A Cautionary Tale for Permissive Parents

paul_in_utah's picture

Been a while since I posted, but to recap, I am dating a woman who is a permissive "friend parent" to her daughter.  My girlfiend is a very nice woman, intelligent, pretty and kind.  We get along well and do have a lot of fun together.  That said, while she has some challenges in other areas of her life, my girlfriend's biggest issue is her daughter.

As I've mentioned before, this girl is just about to turn 18, and is a complete trainwreck.  My girlfriend and her ex spoiled this girl from the day she was born, which is not all that unusual.  However, they also, for lack of a better work, "enfebiled" this girl, to the point that she has missed major development milestones.  This is not so common.

Some of the biggest issues with the daughter:  Afraid of the dark, so she can't sleep by herself.  A complete slob, leaves messes EVERYWHERE.  She is capable of cooking but never does the dishes, and leaves big messes in the kitchen too.  Doesn't know the value of money, so she wastes food, breaks items and doesn't care since "she'll just get another one."  Has a loser boyfriend who mooches of my the daughter AND my girlfriend.  The daughter used her supposed "Anxiety Disorder" as leverage to compel my girlfriend into letting the daughter's boyfriend stay overnight, because my girlfriend is afraid "she'll lose her daughter" if she says no.

Personally, I think the "Anxiety Disorder" is bullshit.  I think it is more a reflection of the daughter's dissatisfaction with the lifestyle downgrade after the divorce.  My girlfriend has a decent job, but not enough to comfortably support herself and the daughter (she doesn't get child support - long story for another post).  I don't see an "Anxious" teen when I'm around her, just a spoiled, lazy, enititled, and exceptionally arrogant brat.  For example, there was an important event for her a few months ago, and she took forever to get ready.  When I saw the look on her face, I didn't see a girl that was panicked and "anxious."  I saw a girl who relished in making other people wait on her.  Of course you can't say anything to her without triggering an "anxiety attack." She is without a doubt the most selfish teenager I've ever met.  

She is  also obsessed with this loser boyfriend, and sticks up for him no matter what.  This guy has worked a total of 3 weeks over the last 4 months, and was "too good" to work a food service or retail job.  My girlfriend's family hates this guy, and has banned him from all family events.  This, of course, means that the daughter doesn't go, because she has to "protest the injustice."  The daugther's boyfriend has some leverage over my girlfriend which could get her in trouble with her landlord, and has made not-so-subtle threats about sharing this information with the landlord.  He's physcially violent and has broken things around the house.  However, he's a "bad boy," so the daughter is completely, utterly devoted to him.  It's sickening.

There is more, but you get the idea.  My girlfriend will never admit it, but I think she "enfebiled" her daughter in order to keep her from ever launching.  She makes no bones about being great "friends" with the daughter, and treats her as an equal.  She gets mad at the daughter and fights with her, but she never lays down any consequences becaues she is afradi that will compel the daughter to move out.  So she let's her get away with everyhing, while simultaneosuly resenting the daughter for being a feral shithead who trashes her house.

So, before the obvious is thrown at me by the group:  NO, we don't live together.  NO, I don't plan on living arrangments where the daughter is a free-loading, permanent adult "guest" in my home.  NO, we are not getting married any time soon, if ever.  NO, I do not engage with the daugther beyond the cursory "Hello" or "How are you doing."  

I do care about my girlfriend, and want to have a life together.  I feel like we are in a kind of limbo thought.  I know it will be very tough to be together if the daughter doesn't launch in the next couple of years.  She is a selfish troublemaker, and I could not handle her being in my house long-term.  I'm willing to stay in a holding pattern for now, and see what happens.  There is at least a chance that the daughter moves in with the boyfriend, but of course she could boomerang back when he decies to move on to someone else.  I also realize that she may be the type that NEVER launches, and freeloads for the rest of her life.

Not really looking for specific advice, just wanted to vent, and to stress this point, which most of the people on here know so well:  Do not be a friend parent!  It doesn't work, and you will end up with a kid like my girlfriend's daughter.  Kids need boundries, rules, and consequences in order to develop properly.  Absent that, you have chaos.  I think kids can become "friends" with their parents once they themselves reach adulthood, but they should respect their parents as, you know, ACTUAL PARENTS while they are still young.  Say no to Friend Parenting!

ESMOD's picture

I think it makes the parent feel "good" that their child relies on them and can't live without their help. 

momjeans's picture


My in-laws are the poster parents of this. Horribly enabling and enmeshed with their adult children. 

Exjuliemccoy's picture

My FIL did this with his daughters. They were such a devoted family and he was such a "great dad", however my pov is he did what he did for mainly selfish reasons with a sprinkle of guilt.

He had trouble with women, so got hooked on that pure father-daughter love feeling. He spoiled, enabled, looked the other way, defended the indefensible, and bankrupted himself in order to feel good. Allowing his daughters to waste their potential meant he could keep them close and dependent on him forever. And then he died. One is okay (because she's married to a lovely man), but the other has led a life of addiction and self abuse and can't take care of herself.

Paul, I think it's progress that you are able to recognize these issue for the dysfunction they are, and hope you're continuing to work on yourself. Please continue to put your needs first and maintain a healthy level of detachment. I don't see this woman being in your life forever (because BAGGAGE), but if you do the work on yourself with a professional, you'll be able to move forward when the time is right. 

megansider's picture

I have a friend like this too. Both of her kids are well into their 20's and still living with her. Even though they both have part time jobs, only one is still attending college. They are both heavy drinkers and marijuana smokers. Even though they do not have girls over they frequently don't come home at night and party a lot. This woman is in her 50's and is still picking up after them, cleaning their rooms, doing their laundry, cooking thier meals, giving them gas money, providing them with groceries, etc. Neither has any plans to move out anytime soon. One recently got into legal trouble and she paid to bail him out. The other had a pregnancy scare with his gf and needed money to take care of that. It sounds like a nightmare but I guess she's happy.

Harry's picture

Just make sure you are not putting great amount of money into this relationship.  Her DD will never move out.  The BF will just move in.  So she will be supporting both of them.  Do you ever get away with your GF alone.  As a weekend alone someplace?  Or a Vacation alone,  with out her DD ?   

I think this is the best it’s going to get .  

paul_in_utah's picture

No, not putting in much money.  I buy meals/groceries sometimes, but that’s about it.  An occasional small present, etc  

Yes, we do get alone time, and have plenty of intimacy.  My girlfriend is very affectionate and does do a good job of taking care of me, and is appreciative of what I do to help.  But at the end of the day, unless the boyfriend is staying over, or the girl sleeps in the living room with her brother (separate couches thankfully), I have to go home at night. 

We have take one small trip out of town, and have a big trip planned later in the year.  Curious to see if the daughter tries to sabotage that with an “emergency” after we get down there.  That’s why I have insurance on the vacation.