Q. My 26-year-old daughter is dating a young man who has made some comments that we think are demeaning to her. For example, she mispronounced a word and he sneered and said, “You won’t get far in life when you can’t even say words correctly.” Another time when she wasn’t leaving the restaurant as quickly as he wanted to her, he snarled (my interpretation), “Just get your fat ass in the car.” We seem to see less and less of her and we’re scared for her. What do you think?

A. As a parent I would be terrified! Any potential son-in-law who makes these types of demeaning comments or insulting references to or about any female before marriage is likely going to be much worse after marriage. It may be difficult for you to get your daughter’s attention, however, for several reasons:

  1. If she has decided at age 26 that this is her “only chance for marriage,” she may refuse to hear your concerns at all.
  2. If she does “hear” you, she will need to make a decision about her safety and so it may be easier for her just to refuse to listen to any negative comments about her boyfriend’s behavior.

Typically, these types of males are very insecure and have issues of either low self-worth or inflated self-worth (either way the self-esteem issues can be a big problem). They temporarily make themselves feel more powerful through their putting-down-others comments and by trying to be in control or to be perceived as better than others.

I have no idea the type of relationship you have had with your daughter – even if it has been very good, she may be more open to having someone else gently point out their concerns for her safety. One strategy is to delay the wedding for a year or two... it can be very difficult for masochistic or abusive males to keep their behaviors hidden for more than a few months (although some can). You may recall seeing an interview recently on Good Morning America with the young woman who dated a well-known sports figure for several years – and finally came forward to explain his abuse and tell how frightened she was (in the hope, she said, that other women would pay attention to how their male boyfriend treats them or speaks about other females).