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My Daughter’s Boyfriend Has Made Us Want to Move Away

woman with hands covering face

Help4t has stood by her daughter through both addiction and the long turmoil of a boyfriend with substance use and (related) criminal problems. She’s let her daughter know that she’s had enough, but the daughter’s still asking her to accept him. The choice here may be more complicated than Yes or No. And that’s a good thing.

©Kat Jayne/

It’s been a while since I have written in. My daughter’s boyfriend ended up going to jail for eight months after the cops broke into her apartment to get him. So much criminal activity I can’t even begin to address. I was able to spend time with my daughter and help her in recovery. We had a lot of really good times together, took vacations, visited family and friends, etc. But through it all she still insisted that she wanted to have contact with her boyfriend in jail and when he got out. I told her I could never welcome that back into my life. There was way too much drama with him, and his criminal activities go against all that we stand for. Not to mention all the continued drama with his two kids and their mothers. His immediate family is also full of addiction issues and drama.  

Her dad and I need to be able to move away from all this. It’s way too stressful—her drama is enough. I really thought that my daughter wanted more as well. I told her that if she wanted us to be part of her life and relationship, she would need to have one good year of working, making friends etc.  

Fast forward: he’s out, and they are back together. She is insistent about us being involved with him, wants to bring him to family events, etc. We have said no. We’ve had enough. No one knows what my husband and I have gone through with her addiction and all that has come with it, let alone the cast of characters brought into our life as a result. We are done. I have reread the modules and still feel the need to separate from her when she’s with him. I know initially it would be easier to give in, but in the long run we know what the outcome will be. I am seriously considering selling our house here in MA and moving to our FL home just to start over. I can’t get past this no matter how hard I try. Thanks for listening.

A New Chapter In a Challenging Story 

I read through all our early exchanges, help4tgoing back six years now. I am struck again buy your quiet courage, the good questions you pose, and the lovely ally you are to your daughter. Your willingness to try CRAFT, and to write in with your successes and heartbreaks, has helped many. Thank you for your openness. 

Your daughter is back with a boyfriend who recently got out of jail after serving time for drug-related crimes (shoplifting). I can tell that it’s a huge letdown for you, as your daughter was doing so well during those eight months he was incarcerated.  

From your comment, it sounds like she is still doing well in terms of drug use, though being with this person is worrisome. His return is so upsetting you are thinking you should leave Massachusetts just to get away from the drama.  

Perhaps he is not using drugs either: if you know or suspect, you didn’t say. Jails are providing more addiction treatment than ever, so perhaps he received some form of treatment while incarcerated. In any case, you are braced for the worst and just want to leave. 

Boundaries Can Be Positive For All Concerned 

Laurie MacDougall recently wrote a two-part piece (here are Part One and Part Two) on how to set a boundary and keep it. Boundaries are not necessarily something you expect another person to respect. Rather a boundary is set to protect you, and it is for you to uphold. 

You do not wish to interact with your daughter’s boyfriend. You don’t want him in your house. You probably don’t want to talk about him either. It is just too upsetting. This isn’t about your daughter. This is about you, your home, and your peace.  

I sense that part of you doesn’t want to let down your daughter. She wants you to accept him, which you can’t. Perhaps you fear losing her if you don’t accept him. My sense of you and your daughter is that the love between you will outweigh any short-term reaction she or the boyfriend has to not being welcomed into your home.  

Control Vs. Influence 

Here is a snippet of what Laurie discovered: 

Another gain for me in all of this is that I am better able to determine what is mine to solve and what is his. Boundaries have become really important to me. I use them to keep myself safe. I will not lie for him or make up excuses. My boundaries are in place to uphold my integrity and morals and values. I will not bend on my boundaries or my values, but I will always stay respectful. He can be loud and try to manipulate me as much as he wants, but I will quietly not lose myself. If I did, the disease would win.

Couples who bond over drugs don’t function well. You don’t have a choice over who your daughter chooses to be with, but you do have some influence.  

So one option is to hold a very firm line. You might find yourself needing to say something like this to your daughter: “I’m sorry, I don’t have anything in me right now for him. He cannot come around here. I need my space. I don’t want to talk about him. I hope you can understand.” 

Saying this now doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily saying it forever (and that too is something you could let your daughter know). Meanwhile, setting boundaries isn’t the only positive action you can take. 

Love the one (s)he’s with… 

This next idea may require you sit down. I’d like for you to consider conjuring up an occasional nice thought for the boyfriend—even, perhaps, sending him a bit of love. Can you soften how you feel towards him? Can you drum up a moment of compassion? He too is living day-to-day, caught by drugs. He too is not reaching his potential. He too may need guidance and a friendly hand to guide him toward treatment. He too is not being the dad he wants to be.  

It’s all so sad, but you have to hang on to yourself nonetheless. In AA, the talk is of “praying for someone.” You pray for someone with whom you are angry or whom you dislike. Prayer and meditation are the basis of Step 11 in AA. You pray for another as a way to soften your own feelings. Silencing the hate and softening your feelings towards the boyfriend is good positive psychology that will give you some relief.  

If all this sounds like a stretch, perhaps it is. You have to decide what you have the strength and focus to do. 

Speaking from experience though, I have found the quickest way to get through one of these “bad boys” or “bad girls,” as the parent of the young woman in this case, is not to dig in but to soften your feelings towards them. The boundary I spoke of creates room for you to try, and pushes any future drama away from you and back into your daughter’s lap. Your daughter will have to deal with the drama he causes without you. 

Your Daughter’s Imagining a Better Future. Can you? 

One last stretch. Is it possible he could recover from his addiction? The answer is yes, it absolutely is.  

Can you see yourself finding her boyfriend treatment as well? Can you see applying the treatment-engagement intervention from Module 8 on him? Perhaps your daughter even gets behind the idea and learns some CRAFT?  

I am reminded just how easy it is for me, seated here in front of this screen, to make suggestions. I often say that CRAFT is easy to learn but hard to do. It requires judgment of the circumstances, what is safe to try, and consideration of your own needs.  

Thank you for raising this question, help4t. So many parents are dealing with a situation like you described here today. 



In your comments, please show respect for each other and do not give advice. Please consider that your choice of words has the power to reduce stigma and change opinions (ie, "person struggling with substance use" vs. "addict", "use" vs. "abuse"...)

  1. I did spend quite a bit of time reading the blogs and the modules, which as always brought me solace and peace.

    1. After setting my boundaries (I told her I needed some time for me and that I did not feel I could be as respectful and caring as I should be if he came around, so it was best that he didn’t.) She continued to call, text and visit. She was very respectful of my boundaries which helped me to move on. He was also hired by a very reputable plumbing company and after a few weeks was given a company van. This spoke volumes to me.

    2. We had a family funeral that he was going to drive her to and leave. She asked if it would be ok, if he came and sat in the back. I shocked myself and said that would be fine. It was fine. I was very happy that she was there on time and sitting with our family. She was happy, which made me happy. We welcomed him back to the family gathering which again delighted her and my husband (her Dad) as well. I was able to sit back and watch him mingle and interact. I was actually pleasantly surprised.

    3. I decided to offer them over for a cookout, just the 4 of us. They came and we had a very nice time. Her Dad got to spend quite a bit of time talking to him and I took advantage of having my very happy daughter to myself. She never asked me why I changed my mind, but thanked me again and again for having him take part in our family.

    4. I had them over again, a few weeks ago. This time, I spent some time alone with him while my daughter had her Dad checked out a few things in her car. I was able to apologize to him for something very disrespectful that I had said about him to my daughter while I was on speaker. I was also able to tell him the concerns that I had re their relationship, but also understood it was not mine to govern. I did let him know my concerns, re my daughter’s well being and wanted him to promise me he would let us know if there was anything life threatening going on with her. I told him that I was sure my daughter made him aware of the moral life we lived and what we expected of her. He apologized for his bad choices while he was with my daughter and indicated that he wanted nothing more than to stay clean and be the best man, boyfriend and Dad that he could be.

    I feel much calmer now. Boundaries were what I needed initially, but once they started to make me feel uneasy, I started to re-evaluate.
    I am not sure what the future will hold for them, but I do know that I am in their corner and will be praying for them and cheering on all their accomplishments.

    It’s a good day.
    Thanks again for all that you do. This site has been a blessing to me.