I am 46, divorced with no children. My fiance is 40 with a 14-year old son from a prior marriage.The problems seem to stem from his (her son’s) desire to control his mother. He has rejected all of her suitors and made it very difficult for us.We lived together in my home for a while but it became so difficult he went back to his dads with the threat that he wouldn’t live with her if she lived with me. Well, she moved back to her house and he came back. But now he is committing emotional blackmail with her, saying that he might not love her if she continued to see me.He was in tears when she asked him if he wanted to ‘give her away’at the wedding, thinking he was losing her. What can she do to tell him (and how should she do it) that she and I are an item and it’s not up to him. What will make it so we can all three be together.o of them on vacations.
Before I give you behavioral strategies regarding what to say or do, we need to first understand why this problem is occurring. Without this understanding, no strategies will ever provide a lasting resolution.I know that you have asked me what your fiance can say or do to ‘fix’her son. I am afraid that we are focusing on the wrong person. We need to focus on your fiance, not the son. It is she who is, without knowing it, is sending her son the message that he can wrap her around his finger.You gave me one clear example of how she encourages his blackmail. When he threatened not to live with her if she lived with you, she came running home to him! She needs to see that her behavior is telling her son that she will give him his way whenever he throws a tantrum.I can already hear you planning new behavioral strategies for her that include telling her to stop giving in to him. This is surely a good plan. But, once again, before she can change the behaviors that are encouraging her son’s tyranny, she needs to understand the motivations of her own behaviors. She needs to ask herself why she allows her son to blackmail her.Is she feeling guilty that her divorce has deprived her son of a father? Is she trying to make it up to him by giving in to his every whim? On a deeper level, is she a people pleaser? Is she afraid to have loved ones angry at her? Is she afraid to be abandoned or rejected if she stands her ground?The fact that her kid threatens to abandon her if she doesn’t give in to him, tell me that he has got her number, which he’s playing to the hilt. The kids knows that she’s scared to have him angry at her. He also knows that she’s scared to have him withdraw his love. Each time she gives in to his threats, she merely strengthens the hold he has on her.Believe me when I tell you, her fear of being abandoned if she doesn’t obey predates the existence of her son. Her problem began when she was a young child.Someone traumatized, threatened and bullied your fiance when she was growing up. She learned early in life that to give in is to insure that your loved ones still love you, and don’t abandon or abuse you. Her son is simply following in her parents’footsteps. She didn’t need to tell him anything about her past. Children read their parents’unconscious minds, and they know how to push their parents’ panic buttons, weak points, and so on.This being said, the only way to stop her son from blackmailing her is for her to face her own issues and work them through. When she does, she will be able to put her foot down, walk away from his tantrums, call his bluffs, etc. . You don’t want to even think about suggesting behavioral techniques for putting a stop to her son. This is because they simply won’t work unless she has done the self-work that she needs to do.When she accomplishes what I describe, she won’t need anyone to give her any techniques. She will feel free to put her foot down and stop rewarding threats and tantrums. I think that she isn’t going to be able to accomplish this self-growth without the help of a therapist. If she won’t go by herself, then go with her. A good couples therapist should be able to manoeuver the conversation back to her.