Dear Patricia Marie

I was so thrilled to see that The Lady now has an agony aunt as I have been deeply concerned lately about my daughter and would welcome some help.

Jenny (my daughter) who is 19, and lives at home with me, has a boyfriend who seems intent on controlling her life.  He tells her he loves her but from my point of view he seems to be very dominant over her.  If she gets ready to go out and he doesn't like her outfit, he will tell her and she will immediately go and change.  If she suggests that she would like to go out with her friends, he will say he wants to accompany her, and that it is strange if she doesn't want that.  If she doesn't text and ring him constantly, and be always available to receive his phone calls, then he accuses her of seeing someone else.

They have now been dating for six months, but he has mentioned getting engaged and I feel this would be disastrous.  What can I do to make her see what he is doing? I really dislike him to the point I just want him to find another girlfriend and leave my daughter alone.

Patricia Marie says...

You're a mother and of course you worry about your daughter. She may be 19, but is still your little girl and your need to protect her from an abusive boyfriend is perfectly understandable. However, if she's not complaining about him and prepared to put up with his behaviour, then you have to accept she is a grown woman with her own mind and capable of making her own decisions.

By telling your daughter what to do would merely be mirroring her boyfriend's controlling behaviour, and the last thing you want is to cause friction between you and your daughter by expressing your dislike of her boyfriend. She will not only resent you for interfering, but worse, she could even consider leaving home. At least whilst shes living with you, you're able to keep an eye on her, and be there for her when she needs you.

Concentrate on bonding with your daughter - spend some quality time together. Offering a loving, compassionate, concerned and non-judgemental presence will create trust. And if she does open up to you, be prepared to advise. Remind her that domestic violence often starts as mental abuse, with the abuser controlling their partner, including choosing what they wear and dictating their friendships.

Standing back and watching our children make mistakes is the hardest thing for any parent.  Nevertheless, you can still be her hero, but let her be her own hero too, by allowing her to solve her own problems, and learn from any bad decisions.

For your continued support I recommend reading:  BUT I LOVE HIM: Protecting your daughter from controlling, abusive relationships by Jill Murray. Finally, the National Domestic Violence Helpline offer a free 24 hour helpline: 0808 2000 247. It may be wise to make this number available to your daughter.

Have a dilemma? Please email  Please note, while Patricia cannot respond to all emails, she does read them all.

In need of further support? Patricia Marie offers a counselling service in Harley Street, contact details as follows