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Emotionally dependent adult son

(32 Posts)
Geraldine1949 Thu 23-Mar-17 13:25:17

Can anyone help me overcome the feeling of guilt that my 40 yr old son seems unable to "disconnect" from me? Now he is seeing a therapist who has told him he needs to stop ringing me for advice and support all the time. His (live in) girlfriend of 4 years has left him, saying she is looking for a man to be the father of her children, not a boy. Others have left him before, finding him moody, critical and distant. I feel so guilty that I have never succeeded in emphasising the fact he should trust his own decisions, he is clever, capable, funny and well liked, but he says he still feels like a child inside, frightened of everything, and now lonely and despairing. How can I best help him - by cutting off completely? We have two other children, a disabled daughter who is wonderfully independent, and a younger son, now a father himself. Does anyone know of any books I can read to move myself on from guilt and sadness at the waste of his young life? Has anyone else any experience of this, or is it only me?

paddyann Thu 23-Mar-17 13:41:10

I wouldn't cut him off I think he needs help not abandoned.My children 39 and 29 ask advice regularly and I'm usually happy to give it where appropriate ...then they can discard it as they wish.Did your son feel he got less support growing up than his siblings as your daughter is disabled and the other boy is "the baby" ,maybe he felt left out then and just wants to make sure you care about him as much as his siblings.I see alot of people around his age who behave in ways I dont think we did ,they believ they're too young to settle down and still want to party with their friends.Hopefully he'll meet someone who is on the same page he is and then they'll "grow up* together

Iam64 Thu 23-Mar-17 13:42:41

I'm sure you aren't alone in struggling with an adult child who is over dependent Geraldine. It's positive that he is seeing a therapist.
I wonder why you are considering cutting him off completely, it's probably a sign of how worn out you are by the situation. Have you considered seeing a therapist yourself? This isn't a criticism, it's something that could help you make the changes you want to in your relationship with your son. He is 40 years old, the way his adult life has been isn't all down to his mother. Look after yourself and find a way of changing the way you respond to his calls for advice - stay calm!

gillybob Thu 23-Mar-17 13:50:16

Good post paddyann

Jayanna9040 Thu 23-Mar-17 14:01:11

Please don't cut him off but maybe you should give yourself a bit of a break. You need to some respite. Can you take a long holiday, preferably where you can't be contacted easily. Antarctica springs to mind😀 Seriously, I think that as long as you are readily available he will never take responsibilty for his own life. Maybe when he phones for advice you could just say "I don't know." I went for a short break with a friend whose whole family never stopped phoning her for advice or to update her. It wore me out, never mind her!

Geraldine1949 Thu 23-Mar-17 14:02:26

Thank you both, welling up at the kindness of strangers. Bizarrely I trained as a therapist (ironically discovering my husband was having an affair half way through stopped me finishing as I unravelled!). You are both right, yes - he may not have had all the emotional support when his sister arrived, though others say I spoilt him then. I just want him to find what he wants, self confidence first, then a partner and hopefully a family. I would so happily do something new in my life then, and stop beating myself up which is no use to anyone!

tanith Thu 23-Mar-17 14:37:26

'I would so happily do something new in my life then'

Does this statement mean you are always available to him and put off things you want to do to accommodate him? If so then you need to not be so 'available' I'm not saying ignore his calls but be busy when he calls and tell him to do trust his own judgement and will contact him when you aren't so busy. While he knows you are at the end of the phone all the time he is still going to rely on you.

I hope the counselling helps him but maybe a bit of a step back from you will also encourage him.

SueDonim Thu 23-Mar-17 14:59:27

Is the therapist giving him other strategies to use instead of ringing you for advice etc? It's all very well to say don't do something but he needs to be given tools to help him disconnect.

Have you thought of therapy or a counsellor for yourself, to help unpick what is going on? No one sounds very happy with the current situation so I hope you can find your way through.

Geraldine1949 Thu 23-Mar-17 18:12:50

Thanks again, yes - the therapist has been excellent telling him to text her when feeling desperate, with worries or just random thoughts. I suppose she is intending to wean him off this type of contact with me by being there if needed, whilst trying to get him to become self sufficient. I should have gone back to work but it's always had to be self employment as and when, because of my daughter's needs. Now that she is happy in supported living, my age would be prohibitive in any new career. I'll have a good think! Thanks all of you

Jalima Thu 23-Mar-17 20:12:00

Perhaps when he asks for advice you could turn it back to him and ask him 'what do you think you should do/what do you think would be the best course of action'? and make him think for himself instead of giving him answers and telling him what you think he ought to do. You could talk it through with him, not just leave him with his thoughts but encourage any positive thinking on his part.

janeainsworth Thu 23-Mar-17 22:45:21

Good post Jalima.
I agree - listen to what your son says, then ask him what options he thinks he has.
Then ask what of all those options he thinks would be best for him.
Then how he could get to that position - what small steps he could take.
This is the essence of mentoring - don't tell him what to do, but guide him to the solution that he is comfortable with and which he has thought of himself.
Hopefully in time he will become more self-reliant.
This is a good book which you may be familiar with

Morgana Thu 23-Mar-17 22:59:18

Could he go off on some adventure type holiday where he has to be more self sufficient? My son took 6 months out to go round the world. My husband always says he left a boy and came back a man!

BlueBelle Thu 23-Mar-17 23:50:10

As long as you are answering his queries you are making him believe he cannot make his own decisions, in other words he has no faith in his own opinion and by giving him your opinion you are encouraging his helplessness Can you become a little helpless yourself and find the need to ring him and ask him how to do a b or c and maybe you can say sometimes I won't have my phone on today I ll be in the cinema /out with a friend / resting ... you ll have to pull away a little at a time and gently .

Does he work? Can he make decisions in the workplace?

He's 40...he can't really be expected to go off on a world adventure when he can't manage a few hours without speaking to his mum .. I m sure that would be too huge a leap

If he's just broken up from a relationship you will need to be gentle poor chap the counselling should help but you have to break his dependency, for his happiness and your own peace of mind but don't walk completely away that's far too harsh

f77ms Fri 24-Mar-17 06:23:02

Please don`t cut him off ! jalima s idea is good , try to turn it round to get him to solve his own problem by discussing it with you . He sounds a bit lost and very lacking in confidence . I have an adult son of the same age who is a bit similar , he has had many problems throughout his life and suffers from depression . I do think we tend to blame ourselves and wonder what we did wrong ! flowers

Eloethan Fri 24-Mar-17 08:41:41

geraldine I am sure there are many people who feel guilty regarding their parenting. I feel the same myself, but there is no such thing as a perfect parent and dwelling on such thoughts serves no useful purpose and drains your energy. Having said that, from what you say, it seems that you have done very well. Your son is, you say, "clever, capable, funny and well liked". Your other son appears to be managing OK and you say that your disabled daughter is "wonderfully independent". Quite an achievement I would say.

I don't think it would be wise to cut him off without support, particularly as he is already feeling lonely and distressed. I'm not sure a therapist should be so directive in her comments - the point of counselling is to help people make their own judgments and decisions.

I agree with the suggestion that another poster made that perhaps it would help if sometimes your roles were reversed and you asked your son for his advice/opinion or for practical help.

Best wishes to you and your son - I hope things soon improve.

Anniebach Fri 24-Mar-17 08:53:12

I think you will regret cutting your son off, why do you say he has wasted his life?

SussexGirl60 Fri 24-Mar-17 10:07:59

Hi and can I very respectfully suggest that you 'do something new' as you put it, in your life, before your son changes, rather than wait until he does. If you want him to not be so emotionally dependent I think the best you can do for him is to show him that you love him but that you can be emotionally independent yourself...and that nothing terrible will happen by your both being your own people and extending your life in different areas. This isn't meant as a criticism-god knows-I could write lengthy posts myself about our dysfunctional family dynamics😳, but I do think it's a two way thing. And I think with your therapist training, somewhere, at some level, you may register this yourself. It's just that it's difficult isn't it. ❤️

icanhandthemback Fri 24-Mar-17 10:31:04

It sounds like a form of anxiety and my daughter suffers with the same thing. Her DH is driven mad by the fact she needs to ask me for advice or help. My other children aren't like it and it may be that my parenting is to blame but it is too late to change that now, it is as it is and we need to use our energies to attempt to turn things around. I'd just encourage him to work with the therapist, ask questions rather than giving him the answers and listening skills so that he thinks about the options before coming to a decision. I get my daughter to write down the pros and cons to a situation, giving a score to how she feels about each one before adding them up. At the end she subtracts the score for one side from the other and she has her answer. It has saved me hours!

radicalnan Fri 24-Mar-17 10:46:05

Cutting him off would be cruel.

Where would be the therapeutic value in that?

If he rings for practical advice can't you say 'Google it' and point him in the direction of self help? I am unclear as to why any therpist should tell him to contact her instead of you, that is just transfering the problem and creating new dependancy.

Give him a list of helpful places to look for advice; has loads of sensible advice
Citizens advice
good old Google
the library

He needs to develop his own information networks like the rest of us do. None of us know everything that's why Granset exists. Does he know how dependant everyone else is on other people for advice? It is perfectly normal.

He previous partners seem frustrated by his anxiety which is sad for him but he has had relationships so just hasn't found the right person yet.

He sounds anxious and the only therapy that works for that, is him taking more control not giving it to the therapist.

quizqueen Fri 24-Mar-17 11:28:18

When he asks for advice, instead of giving it to him, ask him what he thinks he might do about each situation. Then get him to write down the pros and cons of each of his suggestions and weigh them up and decide for HIMSELF. If you always provide a solution you have made him dependent on you and he will always come to you first and one day you won't be there. He's not a child anymore, don't give any more advice but point him in other directions- the internet, friends, CAB, banks etc.

Bluegayn58 Fri 24-Mar-17 12:19:25

I agree with quizqueen - by asking him what he thinks he might do would perhaps give him the confidence to gradually make decisions himself.

I wouldn't worry too much about girlfriends leaving - he just hasn't met the right one yet.

I certainly wouldn't cut him off, but rather reduce contact times and not 'being there' so easily. Hope that helps xx

adaunas Fri 24-Mar-17 13:00:59

Some really good advice on here, starting with Jalima. When I volunteered at a phone in support agency, the training taught us not to offer advice and not to flat out refuse to give it but to encourage the callers to talk about what they thought they could/should do, what they'd already tried and how they felt about that. When the OP asked should she cut him off, is a good example. If we'd all said yes, and it went wrong she would have blamed us, likewise if we'd said no.

damewithaname Fri 24-Mar-17 13:15:55

I look at my MIL and her youngest son... and I see how she has indirectly aided his incompetency in the real world. Firstly, do you still make lunch, do his washing, ironing for him? If yes, stop. Here is the saying, "And enabler sets one up for failure."

Sheilasue Fri 24-Mar-17 13:30:31

Counselling would help. It does make a difference.

CardiffJaguar Fri 24-Mar-17 13:31:28

Have you considered that there may be a medical problem? Do not immediately dismiss the thought. The autistic spectrum is very wide and clever adults are difficult to diagnose. Whatever, I suggest that any medical possibility be explored and then dismissed as necessary.