Relationship Connection: What if my daughter marries an abuser?

Question

I recently read an article written by young lady who said she was duped after she got married. It stated that when she first met her husband, he was charming, gentlemanly, funny, religious, and considerate. She wrote that she quickly fell in love and agreed to marry him. The story turned dark when she told how he began abusing her on their wedding night.

As a father of three daughters, how can I know if a guy (daughter’s boyfriend) is really a good person and not an abusive two-faced loser? I guess I just don’t want my daughters to be deceived and see them go through such painful heartache. Any advice would be appreciated.

Answer

While you may not be able to predict whether or not your daughters will marry abusive men, you can work now to help your daughters develop into confident women who can quickly recognize the signs of abuse and, ultimately, refuse to tolerate abusive behavior from men.

In fact, this is the best protection for your daughters, as it’s likely that any guy who wants to be two-faced will only show you his more desirable qualities. Your daughter will have more exposure to his true character behind closed doors. She can learn what’s healthy so she develops a strong internal sense of what’s safe and unsafe as she navigates close relationships.

One point I need to mention is that I hope you have a realistic view of marriage and don’t mistake normal relationship repair as abuse. There won’t be a guy out there who won’t cause your daughter emotional pain. As you know, both men and women hurt each other’s feelings in marriage and do things that are selfish, inconsiderate, and insensitive. Abuse, on the other hand, is a more pervasive pattern of diminishing another person’s dignity as a human being.

Former Brigham Young University president Jeffrey R. Holland gave the following counsel about finding safe romantic partners:

There are many qualities you will want to look for in a friend or a serious date — to say nothing of a spouse — but surely among the very first and most basic of those qualities will be those of care and sensitivity toward others, a minimum of self-centeredness that allows compassion and courtesy to be evident.

In a dating and courtship relationship, I would not have you spend five minutes with someone who belittles you, who is constantly critical of you, who is cruel at your expense and may even call it humor. Life is tough enough without having the person who is supposed to love you leading the assault on your self-esteem, your sense of dignity, your confidence, and your joy. In this person’s care you deserve to feel physically safe and emotionally secure.

If you have a close and open relationship with your daughters where they regularly seek out your advice and counsel about their lives, they might invite you to share your opinion on their dates. I’m sure you’ll have opportunities to observe and counsel with them about their relationships as they date a variety of guys.

You can teach your daughters to get to know lots of different guys and not just settle for the first guy that wants a serious relationship. My wife’s father challenged her back when she was a teenager to get to know 100 different guys before she decided on whom she would marry. My wife was very clear on what she wanted when we met and began dating. She said that as she spent time with different guy friends, dates, and boyfriends over the years, she noticed patterns and personality traits that would have been harder to detect without the contrast of interacting with so many different individuals.

You can also teach your daughters how to recognize when something feels uncomfortable and not second-guess their emotions or instincts. In a safe relationship, there is room to say, “I’m not comfortable with that,” and expect the other person to be considerate. She can learn that if her partner refuses to make space for her feelings, needs, or preferences, she should be careful.

As you build a strong relationship with your daughters and show them what respect, kindness, and consideration look like, they will learn what to expect that in their romantic relationships.

Encourage your girls to spend time in a variety of settings and contexts with their romantic partners so they can experience his reactions to different people and situations. Even if he checks out and then begins acting abusive after they’re married, she can have good reflexes to stand up for herself and either get the help she needs for her relationship or exit it entirely, depending on the severity of the situation.

Your daughters are fortunate to have a father who is looking out for their safety. You don’t need to be afraid for them as you help them develop confidence in trusting what they feel and experience. They will know if something isn’t right and they will need permission throughout their lives to respond to anything that feels dangerous or uncomfortable.

Stay connected!

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Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Facebook: facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

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10 Comments

  • Suffragette July 2, 2014 at 9:02 am

    The single most important thing a father — or mother or bother or sister — can do to ensure that a daughter does not enter into or get stuck in an abusive relationship is ensure her economic independence by encouraging education and career development before marriage. While certainly not the only factor, economic dependence causes nore women to stay in abusive relationships than anything else.

  • Female Abusers July 2, 2014 at 9:22 am

    What if you raised your daughter to be so self-centered that she becomes an abuser? Women can be extremely verbally abusive as well as physically abusive. Some play the victim, where they start the battle, escalate it and then run crying to family and friends claiming the guy is abusing her. And of course, the parents who raised their little princess to get her way all the time and believe every lie she tells and side with her against everyone, even those who she wronged…. well, of course they will believe she is a victim. But then, Utah is somewhat known for controlling men who forcefully push their women around and treat them like possessions. It’s the culture in Utah. Put your women their place, control them.

  • Utah Religious Tradition July 2, 2014 at 12:00 pm

    There are people who believe Lucinda (Taylor) Hamblin was a survivor of a controlling and abusive husband. Nowhere can you find any positive comments about Lucinda (Taylor) Hamblin in Jacob’s stories, stories that suggest a degree of narcissism and self-importance. Imagine being a woman forced to join a religion, forced to move, forced to accept your husband having other women, forced to have to work harder with house chores and having a husband who just wanted to do what he wanted to do (his “calling”) rather than a husband devoted to his (one) wife, his family and his home first and foremost.

  • Dixie People July 2, 2014 at 4:03 pm

    Guys in Dixie are some of the most violent and aggressive people

  • Republican July 2, 2014 at 4:08 pm

    The guy should run for congress under the republican party since those republican male congressmen seem bent on controlling women.

  • Please leave July 2, 2014 at 6:06 pm

    How do all you stupid people afford a computer ? You are the same ones that thought prostitution was ok. An independent study shows that stupid people are raised by stupid people or they have become stupid because they are. In the case of the responders of this news story I can tell they are just stupid. When I moved to America I was told to be careful that the stupid didn’t rub off on to me. I now realize what they where talking about.

    • LOL'd July 3, 2014 at 12:06 am

      i agree with you… the quality of these comments is going in to the poo hole.

    • Go back July 3, 2014 at 7:12 am

      100% is the maximum. You can’t get anymore stupid than you already are.

  • Mark July 3, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    If the women would do what they are told the first time, this wouldn’t happen, @please leave, it has rubbed on you, you need to go, bye bye.

  • Freedom July 6, 2014 at 8:40 am

    Who was that guy from Dixie who had a lot of guns who shot and killed his girlfriend and her daughter. There are some violent Dixie Dudes. Maybe that’s what women should ask potential dates, “Are you from Dixie?” If he says yes, she had better run!

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