Dealing with a Teen in an Abusive Relationship
Before discussing my son's situation, I want to be very clear that I am placing NO blame. I feel that this young girl has been influenced by her mother and she herself needs to find help. I sincerely hope that she finds it.
My son, about six months ago was in a good, strong and healthy relationship with a wonderful, smart girl. He was involved in school activities and seemed to be thriving. His grades were almost perfect and he enjoyed life. He then met another girl, who approached him and said things such as..."If I was your girlfriend I wouldn't...." I'm attracted to you but you have a girlfriend." "Your girlfriend doesn't seem to...." and so on and so forth. It was at that time, he decided to break up with his girlfriend. His father and I were disappointed because we knew this girl had a lot of things going for her. However, this was only his first relationship and we knew that he needed to grow as a young adult and see what different relationships were like. We made it clear that he couldn't undo his choices once they were made, but we supported his decisions.
As time went on, he found himself in a relationship with this other young girl. (No surprise there) His grades began to slip and he stopped most of his after school activities. At the time, we knew something was wrong. At home, he refused to help around the house, which was unusual for him. During family gatherings, he isolated himself away from everyone and was constantly on his phone. Yes, I know, this is typical of a teenager, however he wouldn't have ever excluded himself away from everything. I mean everything and everyone. Something had changed and it wasn't good. He was becoming more and more depressed.
After long hours of investigation, we found that he and his new girlfriend were texting every single 5 minutes from the time that he woke up to the time that he went to sleep. This is not an exaggeration. She consumed every single minute of his day. He no longer spent time with friends or family. Side note: In our house we have a rule. Our children have cell phones, however everything is monitored. They are not allowed to delete anything from their phones or laptops. They have very little privacy where that is concerned. So when we checked his phone, we knew what we were dealing with, was not a normal healthy relationship. This was our first clue that something just wasn't right. We grounded him from seeing his girlfriend because he was neglecting his household chores, among other responsibilities. Of course, he didn't listen. This girl consumed him. He became a different child.
Meanwhile, her mother was texting us asking if she could pick up our son for this and that. We didn't have a problem with it as long as he was able to get his responsibilities done first. She would make comments like, "He's the only thing that makes my daughter happy." "He's a wonderful boy and is so great for my daughter." "He keeps my daughter from being bored and keeps her happy." As a parent, this concerned me. Was she teaching her daughter to depend on someone else for her happiness? Was she teaching her that here happiness depends upon a man? This was a big red flag for me. I should have listened to my gut and ended it there, but unfortunately I didn't.
As time went on, we kept checking his phone, and even told him to turn it off during family outings and family visits. Nothing changed. Texts from his girlfriend had escalated. She was upset that he spent time with other female friends that lived in our neighborhood. She would send him messages in a jealous rage. Then apologize minutes later. Things began to take a turn for the worse when we found a texts from the girl's mother. Many many texts. We found that she had been texting our teenage son, just as much, if not more than his girlfriend had. She was talking about her divorce, (every detail of her divorce). She was undermining our authority as parents by saying things like, "You are grounded from a person??? That's stupid" "How can they ground you from a person?" "You should delete these messages that I'm sending you so that you won't get into trouble." My son, responded "I cannot delete any messages or I will be in trouble." I'm thankful that he didn't do this and listened to us. This of course put us immediately over the edge. We called the girlfriend's mother and sternly said that this behavior from her will not be tolerated. We do not encourage our children to lie to us and will not tolerate another parent to encourage this either. We did not scream, we did not cuss, although I wanted to! We approached it the best we could. What parent does says these things? What 40 year old woman sends hundreds of texts to a teenage boy about her personal love life?
At this point, we were in way over our heads. We made the decision to immediately end this relationship. We tried to explain to our son that this wasn't a punishment. That this is such an unhealthy situation and an unhealthy relationship. However, he doesn't understand that at this point. He only looks at it as a punishment. We all would have at his age. As parents, this was one of the hardest things that we have had to go through. He went into a rage. Screaming and yelling that we have taken his life away. That we have taken all of his happiness away and that we have grounded him for no reason. There is only so much you can explain at this point because you know that he's not going to understand. Which I think is the hardest part.
After we ended the relationship we thought things would eventually settle down and get better. However, that's when the stalking began. The girlfriend would send hundreds of text messages and pictures of herself to my son. I finally got on his phone and told her that there is no longer a relationship between the two of them and that she should stop contacting him immediately. The mother, then began to text us over and over again and state how we ruined her daughter's happiness and how she has to deal with a crying daughter now. (First let me just say, I am not responsible for her daughter's happiness and neither is our son.) Between the two of them, there were hundreds of messages to which I did not respond. The last message that scared the crap out of me was, "We just drove by your house and I screamed I miss you @*$*@(!!!!! ". (my son's name) The "girlfriend" doesn't have a drivers license, so guess who had to drive her by? Yep, her mother! At this point, I sent her one last message. "Do not contact my son again or I will have no choice in filing a restraining order. I am blocking your number. Do NOT contact us again." Since, she has made several attempts to contact him. My next stop is to the police station. The story hasn't ended. It's still going on. So far it's been a mont of no contact, which is a record.
How do you get a teenage boy to understand that this isn't healthy? His father and I have a pretty solid healthy relationship. It hasn't always been easy of course. We have tried to set a good example. How do you get through? How do you teach healthy relationships to teenagers?
These are the things that we have done:
1. We have our son in counseling now. He will be going twice a week. He still thinks he's in trouble.
2. Blocked all contact with this girl and her mother.
3. Gotten him involved with other activities outside the home.
Parents are not perfect. We do not have a training manual to go by. Looking back on things, we should have seen the red flags and ended things much earlier, but we didn't. Always look for things that just don't feel right. Trust your instinct. If it doesn't feel or look right, stop it immediately. We got lucky. This could have ended a lot worse.