My daughter is engaged to a narcissist. I hardly recognize her anymore. What can I do to help?

Dear Evie. I’m incredibly worried about my daughter. For context, she’s engaged to her partner of 5 years and they have a son together. I didn’t really spot the red flags until recently, as they were living abroad and only visiting for short periods of time. But now that they’ve moved nearby, I’m noticing that my daughter has changed. A lot. And not for good. She’s incredibly attached to her fiance. She’s given up working (even though she was highly independent before) and has an “I can’t” attitude toward everything, which is so unlike the feisty little girl I raised. Other family members are concerned too. Her husband acts nice in front of everyone, but he makes a lot of snide remarks (passive-aggressive I’ve come to realize). He doesn’t support or encourage her. He complains about our extended family and seems to have a very entitled attitude. I wanted to raise a strong, independent woman, and she was. But this guy seems to have set her back to the 50s when women were seen but not heard. My daughter is either oblivious, too knackered to care, or in denial. She doesn’t open up to me anymore even though I see her quite frequently. What can I do about this situation? – Kerry, UK

Dear Kerry,

Your concerns are both legitimate and heartbreaking. It’s good that you wrote in. Watching a daughter, once vibrant and independent, transform into someone who seems diminished by her partner’s influence is a tough pill to swallow. Your observations of her changes, your concern for her well-being, and your suspicion of her partner’s subtle control tactics are all important pieces of this troubling puzzle.

First, let’s get real about the situation. Your daughter’s drastic change in behavior—from independence to dependency—signals something deeper. It’s likely she’s caught in a web of subtle emotional manipulation. This kind of control can be insidious, often cloaked in passive-aggressive comments and an undermining attitude that chips away at a person’s self-worth and autonomy over time.

Now, it’s crucial to approach this with both strategy and empathy. Here are some steps you can take:

  • Create a Safe Space: Your daughter needs to feel safe to open up to you. Avoid direct criticism of her fiancé, which might make her defensive. Instead, express your concern for her well-being and your observations in a non-judgmental way. Let her know that you are there for her, no matter what.
  • Encourage Small Steps: Gently encourage her to take small steps towards regaining her independence. This might mean suggesting she revisits a hobby, meets up with old friends, or even takes on a small freelance project if she’s inclined. The goal is to remind her of her own strengths and capabilities.
  • Strengthen Family Ties: Plan regular family activities that do not include her fiancé. This will give her a break from his influence and remind her of the support system she has outside her relationship.
  • Educate on Emotional Abuse: Subtly share resources on emotional abuse and manipulation. This could be in the form of articles, books, or even TV shows that address the topic. The aim is to help her recognize the signs herself without feeling directly attacked.
  • Seek Professional Help: Encourage her to speak to a therapist. Sometimes, an impartial third party can make a significant difference. If she’s resistant, consider going yourself to gain insight on how to best support her.
  • Stay Patient and Observant: Change won’t happen overnight. Keep a watchful eye on her well-being, and be ready to step in if things take a more drastic turn. Your consistent presence and support are more powerful than you might realize.

Remember, the ultimate goal is to empower your daughter to see her own worth and capabilities again. She may be in denial now, but your unwavering support can be the beacon she needs to find her way back to herself. Stay strong, and trust that your love and patience will eventually make a difference.

All the best, 


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Ask Evie

Evie is on a mission to revolutionize relationships and help you sort through your emotional woes. Her popular column helps readers break free from societal restraints and create empowering relationships - both with their inner selves and with those around them. With a wealth of experience in relationship counseling, backed by several professional certifications, she’s open-minded, big-hearted, and extremely compassionate… But she’ll also be completely honest in telling you the (sometimes) brutal truth, so you can get straight to the heart of the matter. Maybe you’re trying to save a marriage that currently feels like a sinking ship? Or worrying that your new friend isn’t quite as nice as they seem? Perhaps you’ve accidentally killed your partner’s goldfish and are weighing up the pros and cons of going to the pet store and finding a doppelganger, or fessing up? Whatever the dilemma, Evie’s at the ready to help sort through the emotional turmoil and guide you towards the next best step. To get in touch with Evie, click here.

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