Q&A with Geoff: Why is My Daughter Allowing Her Abusive Ex-Husband Back into Her Life?

q&a with geoff Feb 08, 2023


How do you make sense of a daughter who allows her abusive ex-husband to come live with her because he’s being evicted from his apartment? As parents, we are devastated, heartbroken and mad. This man has ruined our family and our relationship with our daughter and her sons that live with her.

The past abuse he has put his family through is horrible and now our daughter has allowed him in her apartment. He’s not only abusive but he has sent sexual content texts to me and several female family members. How can we have a relationship with our daughter with him living with her? Is that even possible?


Knowing how to respond to someone who is in abusive relationship isn’t easy. It’s agonizing to watch your loved ones repeatedly put themselves in harm’s way, especially when there’s a substantiated pattern of abuse. Even though you can’t influence your daughter to choose something different, you can decide how you’ll respond to her situation. 

First, if you suspect he is abusing your daughter or grandchildren again, do not hesitate to report your concerns to the appropriate authorities. If you’re concerned this type of report will put your daughter and grandchildren in more danger, then make sure you share these specific concerns with child welfare or law enforcement to help them determine their course of action.

If you’re unsure of your rights and obligations to report, please consult the resources on this website

It’s also tempting to focus your energy on making sense of her decision to bring him back into her home. When dealing with abuse, searching for the “why” might be instinctive, but it doesn’t lead to providing more safety for the victims. The “why” can only be examined once the victim has reached safety and is able to focus on deeper healing.

Getting to safety is the priority and even though you can’t force him out of their home, your connection to her and your grandchildren will keep a bridge open so there can be some type of lifeline if things return to previous patterns. 

It’s important for you to become educated about the challenges associated with living in an abusive relationship. It can help you be more strategic and aware of how to proceed with your daughter. Leaving an abusive situation is complicated, overwhelming and often dangerous for the victims.

Dr. Jason Whiting compiled a summary of the eight most challenging dynamics that keep women in abusive relationships:

  1. Distorted Thoughts
  2. Damaged Self-Worth
  3. Fear
  4. Wanting to be a Savior
  5. Children
  6. Family Expectations and Experiences
  7. Financial Constraints
  8. Isolation

You can read more about each of these research findings here. Before you make efforts to talk her out of her situation, make sure you educate yourself about these dynamics so can offer the right kind of support. If you spend your energy criticizing her choice to bring him back into her life, it will likely be received by her as victim blaming, judgment and rejection.

Instead, I encourage you to focus on how you can stay connected to her in the healthiest way possible. Of course, this may be difficult, as abusers will use isolation from family and friends to control their victims.

I don’t know if she’ll allow you to have a relationship with her or her children. However, I encourage you to do everything you can to keep the lines of communication open so you can be a resource for her and your grandchildren. Your presence and involvement in their lives can potentially provide a lighthouse for them when the darkness of abuse closes in.

Your willingness to stay close, believe them, report any concerns and offer resources is a blessing to this struggling family. Continue to seek education on how you can be a support to your family under these conditions. I recognize it’s not as direct as plucking them out of this situation and carrying them to safety.

However, she has primary responsibility for herself and her children right now. If she’s unable to carry out that responsibility, there are ways to intervene, as already described. 

Even though you may need to have your own personal limits about closeness and distance with her situation as she integrates him back into her life, you can still find ways to stay connected to her and your grandchildren. If she seems open to it, you might also be able to offer her access to individual counseling with a trained professional.

I don’t recommend you suggest marriage or relationship counseling, as this will only make the abuse dynamics worse and put her in more danger.

I recognize there aren’t direct and clear ways to help your daughter and grandchildren in this tense situation. It’s agonizing to feel like your only option is to wait and watch for something awful to happen.

Please know that your interest, prayers, vigilance, courage, and commitment to this family are not small things, so continue to stay grounded and aware so you can find the appropriate ways to help them.  

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