by Nancy Martin
While in high school, my daughter had a boyfriend who wouldn't let her go. Everywhere she went, he was wrapped around her somehow--usually with a tight arm locked around her waist. If he could have climbed inside her skin, I think he'd have done it My husband, amused at first, wanted them to wear this T-shirt: Public Displays of Affection R-Us.
Last week in my town, a fresh-faced high school cheerleader was stabbed sixteen times by her lovesick teenage boyfriend, who was enraged that she wanted to break up with him. After killing her, he slashed his own throat. At her funeral, friends and family released pink balloons. After he was discharged from the hospital, he was charged with her murder.
It's a sad, although not uncommon story--the kind of thing that catches the interest of a mystery writer. But the mother in me was seized by the throat and shaken hard.
A parent's nightmare, right? For both sets of parents.
If you have a daughter, chances are she'll encounter at least one possessive boyfriend--a kid who perhaps seems sweet and trustworthy on the outside--maybe with good grades and coming from a nice, church-going family. Maybe he's on a sports team or plays in the marching band, or he performs in the school musical. But he doesn't like to let your daughter out of his sight. He keeps his hand clamped on hers and wants to know where she is all the time. Eventually the day comes when he tells her not to go out with her friends because he wants her to himself. Which, to her, is flattering at first. But soon if he's not in actual physical contact, he's phoning or text-messaging or chatting online or using whatever technological form of communication can best keep him in constant touch with your child. And if he can't reach her, he gets angry. First he might be manipulative, using guilt to get her to obey his wishes. Maybe he eventually turns threatening. You catch her whispering, pleading into the phone in the middle of the night. Or weeping while she taps the keys of her computer in a darkened room when she thinks everyone else in the house is asleep.
To a girl who has memorized the plots of all the Jane Austen movies and knows Colin Firth's dialogue by heart, it's a pleasure for her to have an attentive boyfriend.
But here's a good example of how these kinds of relationships deteriorate.
It's amazing how fast it happens. Possessive becomes controlling which morphs into verbal and then physical abuse. The boyfriend's got plenty of psychological issues, but your daughter is the one who ends up in trouble. Or worse.
How do you help your daughter develop the skills to cope or avoid such relationships? I know it starts early--long before boyfriends are even in the family lexicon. But how do you build her self-esteen and develop her radar? And give her the cool head and right language to fend off a kid who's determined to become a big part of her life? How do you help her end it when puppy love gets to the Protection From Abuse stage?
People ask me all the time where I get my ideas as a writer. Well, it's stories like this one that make me itch to write a story that will be meaningful to readers. But as a mother, this kind of story is very real.