A Matter of Personality

From borderline to narcissism

How to Talk to Relatives about Family Dysfunction

How to recognize and counter the traps that derail constructive problem solving with recalcitrant relatives. Read More

Reconnecting with dysfunctional children

A friend of mine divorced her husband. He got the house. She got some money and blew through it in a few years. She hooked up and went to live with three different men (none of them worked out). She moved about half a dozen times. Now she is in a steady relationship with a good man who treats her like a queen. She has two daughters, early 20's, who went out to live with boyfriends when the divorce happened. They were in their teens at the time. They refuse to have anything to do with my friend. A text message maybe twice a year! They won't talk to her, call her, visit her. She doesn't know how to make this better (nor do I!). It's the big dead fly in the ointment of her new, happier life. Any advice?


Hi anonymous -

Thanks for your question, but unfortunately there is no one-size-fits-all answer. As a therapist I would have to know WAY more information about the whole family history and all of the involved personalities and their previous interactions before I could even begin to make recommendations about how someone like your friend should proceed.

The good news is that when it comes to this sort of thing, where there's a will there is a way to put things right. It's just not at all obvious how to do that.

Can your friend afford to see a therapist? The type of therapists I would recommend are discussed near the end of my blogpost:
http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/matter-personality/201205/finding-go... (She should NOT stay with any therapist who recommends that she should just learn to accept the status quo with more equanimity).

thank you for the answer

I didn't expect an answer so soon. I know, there's no easy answer to friend's situation. I've always told her they need to sit down with a counsellor. I don't know how she would get her girls to agree to such a thing, so....it's unresolved.


It would be great if she could get her kids to go with her to family counseling, but if not, she should go by herself to learn how to approach them.

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David M. Allen, M.D., is a Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Tennessee and author of the book How Dysfunctional Families Spur Mental Disorders.


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