Life Advice



Parents fret about daughter's abusive relationship

By Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: My daughter, "Catherine," began a relationship with her girlfriend, "Sharon," shortly after coming out.

We were concerned that Sharon was domineering, but Catherine professed to be happy. Five years later, Catherine has opened up to us about how controlling and manipulative Sharon is. She describes their relationship as emotionally abusive, non-supportive, and undermining.

Catherine is allowed no friends or activities outside of things she and Sharon do together. She is isolated. All of our family lives in the upper Northwest, while they live in the South.

Catherine has been physically ill off and on for the last six months, and says she has no energy, confidence or the self-esteem to break up with Sharon.

We talk frequently, and it seems like I'm dragging her up out of a hole. I've encouraged her to take the obvious steps: getting her own apartment, bank account, seeing a therapist, studying for the grad school entrance exam, and exercising, if she's able.

She's just overwhelmed by anxiety, worrying about Sharon's reaction to everything -- from not immediately answering a text or call, to the prospect of her dad and me wanting to visit.


Catherine is an amazing young woman who has done extensive work and important research in remote parts of Africa. It's hard for me to understand why such a smart, capable person can't exit from what she admits is a bad relationship.

Your recommendations?

-- Worried Mom

Dear Worried: Having a loved-one embroiled in an abusive relationship is extremely challenging for the whole family. Until a person is ready, motivated, or able to leave the relationship, they have the right to stay in it, even if staying is a terrible choice.


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