My Daughter, Age 20, Is Acting Out

Question: Dear Luise: I am divorced about 5 years now and have 2 adult daughters.  There has been nothing easy about any of it, but I know I did the right thing and am determined to continue to move forward.  I have taken better care of myself since the divorce, and I think I let myself be in a bad relationship for way too long. I was not perfect in the marriage.  My husband was a reformed alcoholic that used pot 2 to 3 times a day and the drug use caused a wall between us that became alarming to me when my girls became teenagers.  I did not use drugs, or abuse alcohol, but as my daughters got older, and I got lonelier in my relationship.  I had an emotional relationship outside of my marriage that I now know was wrong.  In hind sight I think it was the beginning of me understanding there was something wrong with my relationship and I wanted someone in my life that was capable of engaging in a emotional relationship. I now know a lot of things about my ex husband, and I am not a “basher” but I knew he had relationships in the marriage, and I know he is an emotional abuser.  My ex began drinking again in the last years of my marriage and became fairly involved in alcohol.  He was no longer trustworthy when he played music at “gigs” and was meeting up with women he was emailing, and calling on his cell. I no longer trusted or respected him.  We then finally divorced. My real problems happened about a year after the divorce when my ex stopped drinking and started going to AA.  He was very righteous, indigent and aggressive towards me.  He took no responsibility for anything he did, just like it never happened. He not only expected to be my equal (he gave me uncontested sole custody and wanted no visitation at the divorce), but wanted to control my actions.  It is not enough to agree with him on anything, but he demands to dictate how things are done as well. My councilor used the term narcissistic, and when I looked it up on the Internet it was the first time I began to have some understanding. My problem now is my 20 year-old daughter. She tries to dig up dirt on me and my past and takes her father on face value. I have tried to have a relationship with her, but she acts out every time I am around her, and her behavior is not only out of hand, but hurts on a deep level. Do you have any advice at this point? C.

Answer: Dear C.: The greatest source of combined wisdom I can offer you is my Web-forum, which I started over a year ago to address issues with adult children. My thoughts are there and so are the experiences of everyone who participates on the site. Support, understanding and healing come to many there.

It’s a huge problem. Our children reach the age of majority but they usually have so much to learn. They often make poor choices and have no idea how to cope with the consequences. Blaming is a very high priority for them, since denial of responsibility seems like a ready answer and moms are so incredibly handy.

Please come over to and join us. Blessings, Luise

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