Relationship My daughter (18) triggers my husband often. How do I empower her to set boundaries with him without making things worse?

Choosingjoy

New Here
That's a complicated situation, @Choosingjoy - a couple of things come to mind.

One would be - have you considered family therapy, for all four of you? I'm bringing it up because often, it's an excellent way for an entire household to go through a learning curve together, on improving communication and setting boundaries.

The concept of boundaries is often misunderstood. People tend to think that boundaries are rules that should be shared with other people, to tell them where they can and cannot "go" with us (in conversation, or in actions, etc.). And that when someone crosses one of our boundaries, they are breaking our rules, and we need to tell them our boundaries again, just louder this time. This never works - because ultimately, we cannot control anyone's behavior except our own. So expecting that people will adjust to our own rules is just unrealistic.

Instead - we set boundaries so that WE know what we're going to do when things are going in the wrong direction.

Like the case with your daughter and husband. She has strong non-verbal communication that she uses to show her displeasure:

I'm gonna guess she thinks this is her best option to shut down or redirect the conversation - which means, she is assuming that she's got no other option...she can't NOT sit down for that lecture when he tells her to. But she isn't going to shut off her feelings about it, so she'll make sure he knows she's displeased/disagrees with whatever he's saying.


That's just ONE way to go about this. By 'healthy adult' I think you mean 'loving parent' - because if your daughter did this to a manager at a job, or to a cop during a traffic stop, or any other scenario outside the family? She would not be owed any grace and love, not at the age of 18.

So, your way is to go gently with her. Nothing wrong with that - but can you see how the scenario is doomed from the outset?

There are plenty of ways to construct some guidelines - boundaries - around how parenting is going to work, between her, your husband, and you. But she would need to be willing to dig a bit more into what she'd like parenting to look like, now that she's older. I doubt she could place a boundary that neither you nor your husband is allowed to require her attention; that she will walk away whenever she doesn't want to hear what you're saying. But maybe, she wants some topics to be off-limits? Or maybe, she wants to know in advance and have a time set for the conversation, so she's not blindsided?

Your husband sees her sighing or rolling her eyes, and he thinks he needs to parent harder and louder. Which of course isn't working. But I don't think it's wrong for him to want her to be willing to listen. So, while you all are trying to sort this out - he may need a boundary for himself, that says "when she rolls her eyes at me, I'll end the conversation, instead of blowing up. I'll walk away from it - because I can't change that behavior of hers all on my own."

But still - there will need to be a place/time where you all can get help with the core issue, which is: How to relate to your kid when they've become a young adult, but are still under the roof, and under our care?"

PTSD will make things more challenging for your husband, because his reactivity will naturally be rather high. But it's still about parenting, not PTSD (IMO).
Thank you so much for the practical advice. This is what I was seeking. He did walk away this last time and that worked well. We have a resource that we just went through about “parenting” with a young adult and I think that is helping. Making certain topics off limits is a great idea. That is what causes issues once in a while. Family counseling is my goal for us.
 

SmallSteps

New Here
Hey, I know this might not be what you want to hear but my father was like that too. Sometimes worse, and I grew up dreading coming home. I had no self-esteem, and after 19 years of co-existing with my father, I had all the fights knocked out of me. He never had to hit me to traumatize me, and unfortunately, I have met all the criteria for PTSD (or C-PTSD depending on the medical professional). I am in the process of healing in therapy, and I am going to tell you what I wish someone had told my mom.

A father is supposed to protect you. A father is under no circumstance supposed to treat his daughter that way, much less you. Stand up to him.
do it for your daughter who will spend years unlearning the behavior he taught her. Do it for your son who might have some time left. Do what you can to get both of them in therapy.
I can tell you growing up in a verbally abusive household is not what you want for your kids, for anyone's kids. Other abusive personalities flock to me like flies to honey. In my life, I can name 3 friends of mine who treated me like a person worthy of being loved. I didn't have an example of healthy love. It took me way too long to realize the people I called my friends were amplifying my father's words, treating me like no child deserved to be treated. And when I noticed I was so scared to be alone I stuck by them. I wish I had known earlier, I wish I was still the girl that stood up to my father. But a child can only take so much from the people closest to them before they lose themselves.

I still have vivid memories of being a child screaming and crying "You were supposed to be my father". I am not supposed to come home and have to fight tooth and nail to be respected, to be loved to be told I am enough.
I was always enough, if I had failed every grade, never accomplished anything that I did in the hopes of making my father proud, guess what? I would still be enough.
Because even the "worst" (I mean that loosely as defined by what was constantly ingrained in my mind as a child, no judgment on anyone else's path)
is a child that deserves a safe home.

please don't be complacent about verbal abuse, it's not a victimless crime. Your daughter already lacks a father figure looking out for her, don't let her go through this alone. you need to be the mother she needs right now.
 

Choosingjoy

New Here
Hey, I know this might not be what you want to hear but my father was like that too. Sometimes worse, and I grew up dreading coming home. I had no self-esteem, and after 19 years of co-existing with my father, I had all the fights knocked out of me. He never had to hit me to traumatize me, and unfortunately, I have met all the criteria for PTSD (or C-PTSD depending on the medical professional). I am in the process of healing in therapy, and I am going to tell you what I wish someone had told my mom.

A father is supposed to protect you. A father is under no circumstance supposed to treat his daughter that way, much less you. Stand up to him.
do it for your daughter who will spend years unlearning the behavior he taught her. Do it for your son who might have some time left. Do what you can to get both of them in therapy.
I can tell you growing up in a verbally abusive household is not what you want for your kids, for anyone's kids. Other abusive personalities flock to me like flies to honey. In my life, I can name 3 friends of mine who treated me like a person worthy of being loved. I didn't have an example of healthy love. It took me way too long to realize the people I called my friends were amplifying my father's words, treating me like no child deserved to be treated. And when I noticed I was so scared to be alone I stuck by them. I wish I had known earlier, I wish I was still the girl that stood up to my father. But a child can only take so much from the people closest to them before they lose themselves.

I still have vivid memories of being a child screaming and crying "You were supposed to be my father". I am not supposed to come home and have to fight tooth and nail to be respected, to be loved to be told I am enough.
I was always enough, if I had failed every grade, never accomplished anything that I did in the hopes of making my father proud, guess what? I would still be enough.
Because even the "worst" (I mean that loosely as defined by what was constantly ingrained in my mind as a child, no judgment on anyone else's path)
is a child that deserves a safe home.

please don't be complacent about verbal abuse, it's not a victimless crime. Your daughter already lacks a father figure looking out for her, don't let her go through this alone. you need to be the mother she needs right now.
Thank you so much for for honesty and insight. I’m sorry you had to go through that. She has expressed very similar thoughts to me recently and it broke my heart. My immediate goal for her is to help her get out on her own asap and for her to get therapy. As for my son, I can’t even remember the last time he had an incident with him and he rarely witnessed any outbursts because he was either in bed or at school. It’s mostly been with the daughters (his and mine) and me. I’ve just learned about setting boundaries and got several resources to show me how to do that (and my therapist).
 

SmallSteps

New Here
Thank you so much for for honesty and insight. I’m sorry you had to go through that. She has expressed very similar thoughts to me recently and it broke my heart. My immediate goal for her is to help her get out on her own asap and for her to get therapy. As for my son, I can’t even remember the last time he had an incident with him and he rarely witnessed any outbursts because he was either in bed or at school. It’s mostly been with the daughters (his and mine) and me. I’ve just learned about setting boundaries and got several resources to show me how to do that (and my therapist).
Can I just say, thank you so much for your response? After hearing you had replied to my comment I was a little bit wary, but seeing that you understood that I was not trying to pass judgment on your situation. I was just trying to use my own experiences to advocate for your daughter, thank you for acknowledging what can be a really uncomfortable truth.

It makes me so happy to hear all the steps you are taking, and I hope along the way your daughter finds the peace she deserves. Even in my life (my parents are divorced but I am still financially dependent on my father) I haven’t had the strength to set boundaries with my father as an adult, but I hope to very soon.

As for your son, I have a little brother as well. On the surface, it seems that my dad "adores" him. And though my brother has been there to see the ways my father treated me growing up, I don't think he had the worst of it. when I was living with my father I would do all I could to protect my brother, Honestly, quite a few fights were in his place because I knew he didn't want to risk my dad and his relationship. Our relationship was pretty nonexistent, so if I had to be the bad guy I would be.
The issue is that now for my own mental health I stay as far away from my father as I can, and my mother being divorced is no longer a target for his anger.
He runs his household with military precision, and though I hope he treats my brother better than he did me I can't know for sure.

I also have a little sister who may be a better comparison, because she adores my father. The first thing she will say to me will be "You didn't respond to his texts and he's very angry at you." It hurts because I love my sister but growing up she cared more about keeping the peace than defending either my brother or me. I don't blame her, but I wish she knew how her non-support of me stings. I do have to say, even with her unrelenting support of my father regardless of how irredeemable his actions were not able to "save" her from mental health symptoms. She suffers from panic attacks, and the heavy burden of being perfect my father placed on all of us.

I wish only the best for you and your family, good luck with your journey.
 

caroline_13

MyPTSD Pro
90% of my husband’s triggers involves my now 18 yr old daughter (his step-daughter) who still lives with us. She’s a really good kid and never gets into trouble, doesn’t party, comes home at a decent hour, etc. She has always been a strong willed child though and can be vocal about her opinions (which sometimes varies from his). She especially doesn’t like people telling her what to do (who to date, life advice, etc,) and will sigh or roll her eyes when he sits her down for a lengthy lecture on these things - and that behavior sets him off frequently. A healthy adult handles her behavior with grace and love yet has a healthy conversation about how to better handle differences of opinions. My husband however loses his mind. He blames, accuses and verbalizes negative outlandish outcomes of her future on her during his fits of rage which she is made to sit and listen to because “he deserves her respect” because we pay for everything. This has been happening since she was 4 years old and has emotional trauma, low self esteem and anxiety now. She refuses to get counseling. Now that she’s 18, can she set her own boundaries with him (even though she lives with us and we pay for everything for her still)? Bow would that even look? He feels like she “owes” it to him to sit and listen to his lectures when he tells her to do so (usually when he’s triggered out of the blue because he’s been silently stewing for a few days about a comment she made). She wants to move out to protect herself from the emotional rollercoaster, but hasn’t finished her schooling and she works part time so she can’t afford to live on her own yet. If I say anything to him about how he is treating her, or try to explain a situation he only has part of the story about, or even try to show him her perspective (even using facts about her generation, psychology or medical science, etc), he turns on me too and says I think he’s an idiot and she has “manipulated me” against him, then it becomes my fault he’s angry, etc, etc. I just started counseling (and anxiety meds Lol) and I’m trying to learn how to cope with all of this. Even our son (who’s in middle school) has had anxiety for a few years due to all this. He only triggers on him occasionally, but our son is still observing this behavior and is picking up on it like it’s normal. My son adores him, but I don’t want my son to grow up treating his wife and kids this way too. How do I stop it?
You cannot control your husband. You cannot make him stop.

You can only remove yourself and your children from that situation to protect them.

I came here for advice, not shaming. I didn't know until last year his diagnoses to know what was going on. I thought he just had a bad temper or something and there was a personlity conflict between them. He has also started seeing a counselor and is better understanding how to manage his triggers, so these occurances has decreased in frequency and intensity but still happens occasionally. I have felt helpless up until recently when I began to see a counselor. I now understand what is happening and how I can manage my reactions when he is triggered. My counselor suggested we have have family counseling, which my husband was open to last I brought it up to him. My kids have not been diagnosed with a mental illness, but mild anxiety has been suggested when they were evaluated by previous behavioral theaprists in the past (no medications were suggested either). Like I mentioned before - the occurances of these episodes are occasional, most of the time he is a loving, attentive and engaged father.
I Don't think anyone's intention is to shame you. That may be what you feel, naturally, after we are calling it like we see it.

Having PTSD or any other trigger is not carte blanche to act the way your husband acts.

All abusers have redeeming qualities, and good moments. That's why it's so hard.

Thank you so much for for honesty and insight. I’m sorry you had to go through that. She has expressed very similar thoughts to me recently and it broke my heart. My immediate goal for her is to help her get out on her own asap and for her to get therapy. As for my son, I can’t even remember the last time he had an incident with him and he rarely witnessed any outbursts because he was either in bed or at school. It’s mostly been with the daughters (his and mine) and me. I’ve just learned about setting boundaries and got several resources to show me how to do that (and my therapist).
Even if your son isn't a percipient witness first hand to episodes, he is picking up on everything and carrying it with him. I guarantee it.

Can I just say, thank you so much for your response? After hearing you had replied to my comment I was a little bit wary, but seeing that you understood that I was not trying to pass judgment on your situation. I was just trying to use my own experiences to advocate for your daughter, thank you for acknowledging what can be a really uncomfortable truth.

It makes me so happy to hear all the steps you are taking, and I hope along the way your daughter finds the peace she deserves. Even in my life (my parents are divorced but I am still financially dependent on my father) I haven’t had the strength to set boundaries with my father as an adult, but I hope to very soon.

As for your son, I have a little brother as well. On the surface, it seems that my dad "adores" him. And though my brother has been there to see the ways my father treated me growing up, I don't think he had the worst of it. when I was living with my father I would do all I could to protect my brother, Honestly, quite a few fights were in his place because I knew he didn't want to risk my dad and his relationship. Our relationship was pretty nonexistent, so if I had to be the bad guy I would be.
The issue is that now for my own mental health I stay as far away from my father as I can, and my mother being divorced is no longer a target for his anger.
He runs his household with military precision, and though I hope he treats my brother better than he did me I can't know for sure.

I also have a little sister who may be a better comparison, because she adores my father. The first thing she will say to me will be "You didn't respond to his texts and he's very angry at you." It hurts because I love my sister but growing up she cared more about keeping the peace than defending either my brother or me. I don't blame her, but I wish she knew how her non-support of me stings. I do have to say, even with her unrelenting support of my father regardless of how irredeemable his actions were not able to "save" her from mental health symptoms. She suffers from panic attacks, and the heavy burden of being perfect my father placed on all of us.

I wish only the best for you and your family, good luck with your journey.
At least you are here and trying.

Many of us had a "non abusive" parent who stuck their hand in the sand.
 

Tinyflame

MyPTSD Pro
I really like the wisdom and candor of @SmallSteps post and reply (though I wish of course she hadn't gone through the damage and pain). And your honesty also @Choosingjoy .

I think @Choosingjoy you will be able to apply much of this. And your H is trying too by the sounds of it. Although how we manage our emotions +/ or triggers is our sole responsibility. Thankfully your kids also take in what is right and good. But I would expect it is worse than they'll admit. At least as regards your daughter.

When you 1st apply boundaries there is usually push back.

Good luck to all and hopefully there will be increasingly better, gentler, more loving and peaceful times ahead, in quality and quantity. Best wishes to you all.
 
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