Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Our Daughters and their Abusive Boyfriends

I was recently contacted by a woman who has a 19 year old daughter who is involved with a boy who mentally, emotionally and physically abuses her.

The mom is distraught. Her daughter makes excuses for the black eyes, the bruises about her arms, and for the late night arguments that take place at night in his car in front of their home.

This mom is affluent; a CEO in fact, of a Fortune 500 company. Her husband is a lawyer, and her daughter was to enroll in Med School this coming Fall. So what went wrong?

Mom begged for understanding. How is it that my husband and I, who have loved our daughter unconditionally, who has had everything the world has had to offer, wind up with a guy who has nothing to offer her at all, and on top of it, causes her emotional and physical harm?

I don't know this woman, this man, or this young woman. But I do know human emotion. I do know what it is all humans want way below the surface; below the BMW's; below the Ivy League educations; below the 6 bedroom house.

Way beneath all that the world has to offer superficially is the seed that carries in it the secret to what drives us all.

And if this seed is not planted, cultivated, watered and bombarded with intense bouts of sunshine, it will warp into a species it was not intended to be. It will change the programming of the seed, and make it go array, and behave completely differently than what God created it to be. Instead of being a rose, it will become a dandelion instead.

It is obvious to me this mother and father love their daughter dearly. It was important for them to give their children the THINGS they themselves did not have as children. The world of the material altered their perception of priorities, and lead them to believe that because their daughter had THINGS, and received EVERYTHING she asked for, they believed their daughter knew they loved her. All the late night meetings, missed family meals, and structured family vacations were paying off, so they believed.

In turn this beautiful little rose, that doesn't know she is a rose, learned to believe in THINGS too. Only one problem. THINGS can't water you. THINGS can't feed you. THINGS can't nourish you. THINGS can't bask you in warmth. And THINGS can't help you grow.

This child has been touched by something that the expensive THINGS her parents have showered her with never could. This child has been touched by human emotion. This relationship, with all its ups and downs has stirred her soul like no pretty little four wheeled toy could. It doesn't matter if what she feels is negative or positive. What matters to this seed, is that she feels at all.

Imagine you were starving, thirsty, and longing for nourishment. Imagine all you knew was the desert sand, and the beating sun. Imagine if your whole life you craved for food, and then one day you happen upon a landfill of rotting food. What do you think? What do you do?

Obviously you think you are the luckiest person in the world for having found such bounty. You ignore the maggots crawling in and out of the half eaten hamburger you have found. You might even eat them too. You are undisturbed by the wretched smell of rotting animal flesh, and you eat until your belly is full. In your thoughts, you hear yourself thanking God because you are alive.

You are happy because you have no frame of reference. You have nothing to compare this rancid meal too. All your body and mind understand is that you are no longer starving.

The soul is a lot like our bellies. We all do it. Sometimes when we are hungry, we settle for anything just to shut the hunger off. The soul is no different. Sometimes we are so hungry to FEEL something, we settle for anything that either makes us feel something, or for something that helps mask the horrifying fact that we FEEL nothing.

The dynamic shows up in children who cut themselves. They cut their flesh open, because the pain makes them feel real. On top of that, the pain releases endorphins in the brain which tricks the brain into believing the cutting is good. The brain then makes the connection between cutting and feeling alive, or feeling good. What follows is a cycle of self inflicted abuse the child has no idea how to get out of.

Abusive relationships, like obesity, eating disorders, perfectionism, dependency and alike, are all forms of slow suicide.

The young girl involved in this dysfunctional relationship has yet to be convinced her parents loved her for who and what she is. Because she has not been convinced on a heart level of her parents devotion, the walls of her soul have been left untouched. This relationship, although dysfunctional, is full of highs and lows that increase endorphins in her brain, and flutters in her heart. Because she has not learned to believe in her parents love for her, she does not yet know she is a rose, and instead behaves like a dandelion which requires very little to survive. A rose on the other hand, in order to be as majestic as she is, accepts nothing but the best, because she knows she is worth it.

There is nothing more significant in a child's life than the love of their parents. A child cannot flourish unless true, deep love is reflected back into their soul. Unless children are mirrored unconditional love on a HEART level, they cannot know their own worth. Unconditional, heart level love, has nothing to do with anything we can touch, taste, hear or smell. It can only be felt in the heart and transmitted on a spiritual plane from a parents soul to their child's soul.

My advice to the mom was to reach out to the daughter on a heart level. Forget reminding her that she has a future and that med school is around the corner. Forget making her fear not having a future because this guy is ruining her. Forget telling her she deserves better. Forget throwing all that you have done for her in her face. Forget it, and remember this is not a battle that can be won with words.

I suggested the family take one month off from their work to plan a vacation that included backpacking, hiking, climbing, boating, and roughing it, to some extent. My goal was to create a situation in which the family needed to rely on one another to get through whatever challenges they may have had to face. A vacation in Dubai would do this family no good if all the members were doing was being catered to, chatting on cell phones, getting massages, and having their feet rubbed. No, uh uh...this family needs some good old fashioned together time.

I was asked to accompany this family on their month long excursion, and then reminded this wonderful mother, that I had two daughters I am raising on my own to fill with love. She laughed and said, "I understand."

Next week the family heads off to Texas for a month long vacation of rock climbing lessons, river rafting excursions and family cook outs on prairies and planes.

I cautioned the mom to let her guard down, and the dad too. This young daughter must see the heart side of both parents. She must learn to believe that she is like them; human, vulnerable, and alive, because if they don't, they just might lose her forever to the thrills of dysfunction simply because she has no frame of reference to compare that version of love to.

Her dad specifically must learn to open up, let go, and bare his soul to his precious little angel, so that he might lasso her heart before he loses it forever. Children cry. Children weep. Children feel, and unless we find the strength to let out what our own hearts have forgotten, we teach our children to deny their own worth, and to disconnect from love.

It is our job as parents, to not only give our children the things we never received in terms of the material, but it also our job to give them our hearts.

It's scary stuff, but if we don't learn to let our guard down, be vulnerable, and express the true love we feel for our daughters in our hearts verbally to them, they will be forced to find that connection in all the wrong places....

Phew...this parenting stuff is rough stuff...but so worth it...

God Bless all those parents out there, struggling to get it right....