20 yr old college son and 1st girlfriend cut off everyone else

Hope this isn’t too off topic for forum but I could really use some advance from parents who may have been there done that.

I have a rising college junior who has always been very introverted. Met his first girlfriend about 7 months ago at college. The relationship quickly became infatuation and almost obsessive in seeing and only spending time with each other. He stopped calling home, stopped hanging out with friends, stopped doing his extra curriculars at college, spend entire weekends at her family since her school was remote etc. He begrudgingly came home for summer to work since it was financially sensible.

He’s been home a week and it is horrible. He will not leave his bedroom (literally).(his internship is remote from home) Will not talk to any other family members even siblings who he was close to. Acts like we don’t exist. Won’t do anything with anyone. Talks and texts NONSTOP to his girlfriend. She is usually on his FaceTime most of the day. It’s like having another person in the house.

I suggested he come out of his bedroom this morning to eat breakfast with us and he flipped. Said he should have stayed at school because we don’t leave him alone and that this sort of stuff will drive him away more…

I am not sure what to do. His relationship is not sustainable like this. His mental health is concerning. He has cut everyone off. I don’t know what to do because he is of age and I can’t force him to a counselor or anything like that. He does have adhd ocd and anxiety. It’s like the relationship has become an addiction. Do these first relationships slow down after some time. My daughters never acted like this with their boyfriends so this is new to us. Thanks

Does he pay room and board? Has he signed a rental contract to live in your home? Do you pay for him to go to college? Does he pay for the internet, his cell phone, and his computer?

If not, it’s your house and your rules. Frankly, he sounds like a brat who is under the thumb of a domineering girlfriend. Have a frank discussion with him. Ask him how he wants to be treated in his own home and ask him how he feels about how he’s been treating you and the rest of the family. Listen to what he has to say. Get him talking.

Tell him that he is a member of the family, not a stranger, and he is expected to be part of the family as long as you are supporting him. Tell him what the expectations are, that you will not tolerate being treated disrespectfully, you are not a servant, and that he has to do his share of work around the house when he is living at home.

If he continues to be a jerk, tell him if he doesn’t comply with his duties as a a family member, you will not pay for his phone and his share of internet. Tell him he can start paying rent, and you will bill for the food and utilities.

I would not tolerate this behavior. Let him threaten to move out. He’s a big boy and if he can support himself, great. If he isn’t prepared to do that, he will quickly learn a lesson.

If you can get him to see a therapist, great, but that’s a different battle.


And there’s always the old chestnut: take the door off the hinges if necessary. That’s a pretty good wake up call.


Thank you! This is helpful to hear I’m not off base. My husband agrees we need to tell him it’s time to pay his way if he doesn’t like our house and rules. He’s taking advantage. Also suggest to him he can go back to school and live fir the summer on his own dime. He has always been the easiest kid to manage and awesome student. That’s why this is hitting us so hard. We never had a bit of issue with him in HS. I guess it’s finally his time to push the boundaries and it would have been much easier had he done this when he was younger. I agree the girlfriend has an unhealthy control over him as well.


Big hug to you.

For a kid that won’t talk to you- communicate with him in the way he apparently chooses. Make a quick video to send him, you and your H. Read from your notes. Make it as dispassionate and unemotional as possible.

1- Leave out any mention of the GF. That will only antagonize him.
2- This is not about feelings- yours or his.
3- No threats or actions that you are not prepared to act on.

If it were me, I’d outline a landlord/tenant agreement. Rent of X is due every Monday morning starting this week. In exchange for rent, you provide utilities, internet, A/C when temperature gets above X (if you have A/C). If he chooses to eat, his “board” will be in the form of participation in family chores- going grocery shopping once a week, kitchen cleanup duty on a schedule to be posted on the refrigerator, garbage cans to the curb, whatever. If he chooses not to eat with the family, he’s on his own for groceries, cooking and cleanup but you will generously provide him with fridge space. Quiet hours are 11 pm- 7 am so the breadwinners get a good nights sleep before going to work. Etc.

At some point you will get the bill for his next semester, and hopefully by then things will have thawed enough with him to have a discussion about what’s going on, encourage him back into therapy (is he taking meds for his anxiety?). But first things first. If he doesn’t want to be a functioning member of the family, he can be a rent-paying tenant.


TBH this sounds like an abusive situation. More common with males abusing females but it can happen to guys, too. One of the first things an abusive partner does is force the other person to cut off contacts with friends/family.

This needs to be dealt with immediately.


and that is exactly how you wreck a relationship with your child and push them away


If you opt to make it a rental situation, make sure you’re prepared if he walks away and doesn’t return (or call or anything else). I’ve seen it happen way too often.

I’m not a counselor who can guide you in the best way to handle this unfortunately. I only know that once they are this far “gone” (under the control of someone else), they often continue leaving if pushed and may or may not return if the relationship ends at some point.

I’d suggest you seek out some professional advice to examine your best options.


I would speak to a therapist to help decide whether this needs intervention.

I don’t like a heavy-handed approach as it will only drive a further wedge with the family, but this may require professional help and we online have no real way to know. Also, you’re a new poster so we don’t have a history with you and no way to gauge whether you are overreacting. I have experience with this; please get professional advice.


It sounds like his OCD tendencies is focused on his GF and she is gladly lapping this up. I have a feeling if you “kick him out” he would try to go live with her. For a 20 yo this is tricky because he cannot force meds or therapy at this point. Is there any adult in his life not his GF besides family that he trusted before he met her?
I do agree the heavy hand is the treating him living at home as a business. You could say that you owe us X dollars for rent/etc but for things you do , such as hanging out with family, or chores will deduct, or make consessions?
I feel for you , as I dont see this relationship ending well. What happens if she breaks up with him. What would happen to his mental state . Big hugs.

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Thank you. I met with a counselor this week to assess the situation. She definitely felt we had legitimate concerns but she put too much emphasis on it being because of the pandemic. It is not. We have kept life very normal as has my son so I really don’t think this is the case. I will continue to meet with counselor. She suggested we engage him in activities but that is a no go. We’ve tried and no luck at all. The gfriend starts a job soon so I’m hopeful he will reduce the time on phone with her some and maybe long enough to engage with us some.

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No, it’s how you parent. I’m their parent, not their buddy, and I wouldn’t tolerate being treated disrespectfully.


The behavior of the last 7 months is disturbing and warrants additional questions. Do you think the girlfriend is controlling?

As far as home, he has only been home a week and this year with a GF, this coming back home might be a real face smacker in terms of his lifestyle. He may - without added pressure) come out of his room on his own on his own time.

A week can fly by in a moment or be the longest moment in your life depending on where your headspace is.


Is he by any chance on the spectrum?

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He is on meds for anxiety adhd and the ocd. There was talk with the school when he was very young that he qualified for educational autism but really hasn’t seemed to ever really match to that. He is super bright academically gifted.

I always have told my kids that I am their one mother and that they have plenty of friends. But maintaining that line doesn’t mean you have to adopt a “my way or the highway” approach.

This kid is an introvert and having his first relationship. Instead of seeing his behavior as disrespectful, centering yourself in this story, maybe consider that this inexperienced kid is in over his head and needs help.


I’m not sure what you mean, but every parent does what they think is best. Based on the limited information from the OP, I’m offering my advice. The OP is free to use it or not, along with anyone else’s advice.

Talking is always a good way to start, which is why I suggested, “Have a frank discussion with him…Listen to what he has to say. Get him talking.”


I would be leery of adopting the “tough love” approach advocated by some of the posters here. I think this is more likely to make things worse than better. My guess is that it’s just a matter of time before the GF breaks up with your son OP, and the thing I would be most worried about is how will your son react to that? Hopefully, he will be able to make it through ok and will emerge with some perspective and wisdom that will help him maintain healthier relationships in the future.


I’d have concerns too.

Maybe a way to start though is to try to draw him into conversations about the gf so he understands you don’t have anything against her but just would like his company and involvement in the family. Maybe you could even offer a family FaceTime to meet her.


First, I agree with listening to professional help… But my 2 cents is, what about inviting the girlfriend to stay with you?

  1. If it turns out the relationship is good, and they end up together, it’s good to start out welcoming/supportive

  2. If the relationship is bad, having her in your house may have your son see her through your eyes. (This is what happened with my college boyfriend. My parents never, never criticized him, but I suddenly saw him through their eyes and I didn’t like what I saw).