Ask Lisa: Help for My Emotionally Unavailable, Unmarried Daughter

My question is about my 33 year old unmarried daughter who is becoming more and more difficult by the day.She does very well financially at her job and appears to have lost perspective even though I am a simple person and have brought her up to enjoy a simple but sophisticated life style.

I am a divorced mother of two girls who do not have much contact with their father and are quite resentful of his lack of involvement. I have tried to encourage them to meet him half way (although I did not proactively do this earlier when we were divorced and the girls were 8 and 10 years then)

She says she wants to settle down but criticizes every male she meets (often stating that they are mentally disturbed). She dislikes other countries she visits and is usually unpleasant if someone touches her seat or she feels they are too close. Most smells and sounds bother her and make her irritable. She is a work-out addict and is generally stressed at her job.

She is not available emotionally to anyone and communicates and participates on her terms . Her behavior is passive aggressive as she is pleasant on the surface in a controlled way when we are together. Please help!

Lisa’s thoughts…

It’s hard for any of us to see someone we care about struggling emotionally – particularly a family member.  I can’t really know what’s going on for her but I can share some initial thoughts I have based on your description of her behavior.

In my experience, when people are emotionally unavailable to others – they are wounded themselves and find it safer to retreat then engage and take the chance of being vulnerable. If there are particular issues around men in general, I would wonder how the absence of her father has impacted her idea of men and her ability to rely or trust them. The sensitivity to others being in her personal space may be a further expression of her level of insecurity with letting others too close.  It sounds as though she can might benefit from therapy but it’s not clear to me whethershe believes there is a problem.

What’s clear is you are worried about your daughter and the impact of how she functions.  The only thing you can do is gently express your concern while being cautious around how you shape your language.  Approach her with curiosity, openness, validation and empathy.  If she’s open to the possibility of counseling to work on her stress level as an initial issue, then perhaps more will rise to the surface and she can choose to tackle the rest.

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