My daughter's boyfriend is verbally abusing her

Visitor's Question from a 41-50 year old Female
My 18 yr old daughter is in a relationship with a 19 yr old guy whose parents were very young at his birth (13 & 17) and who've told him all his life that he ruined theirs. His life has been tragic--filthy living quarters, very little food, and drug use/selling was the norm. He learned young that dad is gay and left home at 11. His parents divorced; he's lived in lots of places with lots of people, moving on when his welcome ran out. All of this has caused him to have little self-esteem. His love relationships haven't been very good, either; one girl got pregnant while with him by her old boyfriend, whom she then married.

Our daughter's life has been totally opposite of his; her dad and I have been married for 29 years, and she has never gone hungry or needed anything. He's told me that he's dreamed of having what she's had, and I think he resents her somewhat for this reality. However, he loves us, so that somewhat counters the negativity. BUT, he is jealous of practically every other relationship that she has, especially the old boyfriend, who remains a friend.

YET, the biggest problem is that he is so critical of her; he says cruel things about her and accuses her of contributing more that she deserves for their problems. She KNOWS that she is not like he sees her, but she cares about him and is still willing to try. We just do not understand why he is so critical and so verbally abusive to her. HELP! Advice
It really sounds like he is trying to 'bring her down' to his level so that he doesn't worry that she is too good for him. He looks at her and sees that unattainable dream that he had hoped for for so long - and wonders how someone like her could possible ever want to be with a guy like him. So he tries to get her to be more like him - and also he tries to beat down her psyche so that she feels she's "lucky to have him" because nobody else would want her. It's his way of handling his inferiority and jealousy issues.

Of course being a parent, trying to tell her that is probably nearly impossible. She will try to defend her loved one against the non-understanding out of touch adults. There are always ways to justify and back up abusive behavior. But really, it is verbal abuse, which can be just as nasty as physical abuse. And it rarely just "fixes itself" - it instead becomes a standard part of the relationship that becomes harder and harder to weed out the longer it stays in.

A relationship should never, ever be about one person IN the relationship harming the other. Ever. It should be about two people actively supporting each other. It is critical that your daughter understand this and really work towards it. This isn't just a 'this guy' issue, it's a "her entire life" issue. She should NEVER let someone treat her like that because it encourages them to continue and it damages her self esteem, which makes it harder to resist the next time and so on.

I would really suggest to her that she and her boyfriend do some therapy together to help him with his anger management. You can offer to pay. This isn't saying he's "Bad" - it's just saying he needs "help dealing with xxxx". She probably will agree that he needs help. And having a third party trained in the issue doing the help will seem reasonable. If he refuses to go, she needs to be prepared to do this for him OUT OF HER LOVE FOR HIM. Obviously he isn't happy if he's capable of lashing out at the one he loves. Either she helps him get this resolved, or it will get worse and worse and destroy him. For HIS sake, she needs to help him out while this is still a small problem.

-- from Jenn
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