How Can I get Her To Change?

Question: Dear Luise.  I’m currently living with a wonderful woman. We had been married, divorced and are now living together again. I’m 50, she’s 41.  She has four children, all of whom hated me for a number of years.  Three of them have matured and have apologized for their actions.  One refuses to admit her faults.  She made it a point to make our lives as difficult as possible in order to break us up.  She succeeded a couple of years ago, but we got back together a short time after the divorce.  I’ve admitted to my “wife” that many of my actions during that earlier time were less than honorable and have apologized to her for that.  My problem is, this daughter is lazy, filthy, refuses to take care of her own child (who lives with me and my wife as a result) and constantly makes the most horrible life choices.  My “wife” refuses to make her daughter deal with her choices and grow up.  She throws money at her that we can’t afford to do without.  Now she wants to bring her daughter to live with us.  I want nothing to do with the girl.  I refuse to let her in the house for fear of never being rid of her again.  My “wife” is on the verge of leaving me again because of this girl.  This will be the second time!  I love my “wife” immensely and don’t want to lose her but I can’t tolerate her daughter.  Is there any hope?  How do you get a mother to change her parenting style for the benefit of your relationship or is that even possible? M.

Answer: Dear M.: There is no way I know of to get a person to change. Sometimes, even when they want to, it isn’t possible. Habits can run deep and the interactive dynamics between two people can become habitual. It’s a known fact that those who go to prison often behave the same way after they get out. They don’t change.

One of the hardest things for a mother to do is to see that she needs to let go if an adult-child and allow him/her to face the consequences of unwise choices. It’s a learning process and serious damage can be done if it is interrupted. You know that…but a mom can often have blinders. An irresponsible adult-child can also play on guilt and use it to manipulate. I’m sure you know that, as well.

Counseling is sometimes an option in trying to learn how to provide “tough love” but it is not always successful. My guess is that your “wife” is going to let her daughter do it again and then see herself as “helpless.” No one is helpless…not really, they just don’t want to face the consequences of their actions. In your case the daughter and the mother have set up dynamics of mutual helplessness.

You obviously have a deep and meaningful relationship but you aren’t being given the support, maturity and loyalty you need. You deserve a whole lot better. Blessings, Luise

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