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

That sounds like good plan to me. Good luck.

This type of behavior sounds like a person with an autistic spectrum disorder (which often has comorbidities of ADHD, OCD, anxiety).

I would NOT push him towards anything. You will LOSE him. Handle him gently. Know that when the relationship ends (as it likely eventually will), it’s going to hit him very hard, much harder than with neurotypicals, because he doesn’t have a lot of outside support, especially since he has cut off all other relationships.

If you can get him in with a warm, sympathetic, supportive, kind counselor, preferably male, please do so, because he needs at least one other human relationship.

I’m glad he has the online relationship with the GF. Invite her to visit. Be only warm and supportive and kind to him. Tough love is not the answer right now.

These sort of kids are years behind in socioemotional development. He may be brilliant, but you’re dealing with a 15 year old, socioemotionally, from what you’re describing. If he were 15, you could combine carrot and stick, but right now, with him being 20, he could just walk out, drop out, and you won’t hear from him for years, if ever. Be careful! You’re lucky he’s back in your house.

If you can get through this, eventually these kids often do grow up, and do realize how lucky they are to have supportive parents who have helped them with everything. But he’s not there yet. Right now, he feels like no one in the world has ever felt like him, there has never been a love like his, and the rest of the world means NOTHING to him, especially his parents. You’ve got to handle him very, very carefully and gently, or you will lose him. If you do that, worst case scenario is that he spends the summer in his room, online internship, goes back to school with no damage done to your relationship, and you stay in communication with him. If you try tough love on him, he will run to the GF’s house, maybe drop out if you withdraw tuition support, and your relationship may be irrevocably damaged.


Knowing how anxiety and OCD can mess with someone’s perception, I can imagine this young man feels a combination of anxiety/obsession/compulsion that if he changes anything about the way he and his girlfriend interact – their patterns, their schedules – that it will all collapse and he will be lost. So he continues the patterns to ensure that there is no change and is terrified by the demand for change. You may be familiar with witnessing the helplessness they can feel when their compulsion “demands” they act a certain way, and the terror that, if they don’t follow the demands of the compulsion, horrible things will happen. That may be how he is feeling right now, which explains his lashing out and his inability to conform to family expectations.

Plus, there is the typical adjustment for families when a newly independent rising college sophomore returns home and is stunned, just stunned, to discover they cannot exercise the same freedoms at home – around parents who have to work regular hours and younger sibs who have school and commitments – as they did at college surrounded by 18-22 year olds.

With the girlfriend starting her job soon, that will hopefully affect her availability, at least a little. Try to give it a week or so, and see if there is some light. Consider some basic “house” rules – presumably, as a college student, he had to do some kind of "roommate agreement’ so the idea of basic rules for people living together should be “saleable” to him. For instance, if he eats in his bedroom, he needs to bring the dishes down and take care of them so there aren’t varmints; he does his laundry, like at school; if he’d like specific food, please put it on the grocery list or, even better, offer to do the shopping once in a while, just like presumably, it was his turn to take care of things with his roommate.

Hang in there!

Edited to add: and look for ways to celebrate his relationship, share that you are so happy he has found someone he cares about, and that you understand how much that means, especially during the pandemic. As @parentologist said (so wisely), you want to keep your relationship with your son open and warm, and that means meeting him more on his terms. If your son has his “go to” tools for dealing with anxiety and OCD, look for an opening to remind him about how he can use those. Not framed specifically in terms of his GF, but more broadly, perhaps in terms of adapting to the demands of the virtual internship etc. and adjusting back to life at home.

For someone with anxiety and OCD, their brain just doesn’t work the way other people’s do, and demanding compliance – when there is OCD involved – doesn’t work, at all.


This is spot on in terms of us socioemotional
Development. He has always been behind other kids his age in this regard and the introversion didn’t help that. Very helpful insight!


Some of the traits made me wonder; they can be both AG and ASD. I’m not trying to diagnose, just curious about the change in mannerisms. Was he hyper focused on topics before the girlfriend? If so, did that focus shift away from those other topics (not just family interactions, meaning did he used to only participate/talk about a couple narrow interests (i.e. gaming, computers, art, science …) and has that stopped? Reason I’m asking is I’ve seen this in high functioning ASD (again, not trying to diagnose), usually AG teens. I often seen a complete shift of that hyper focus/intensity to the new GF/BF. They usually seem to be completely unaware as they are hyper focused; they then meltdown when confronted.

Yes, he has always had very narrow interests and he goes through phases with what those are. I chalked it up to AG since my younger son is similar but who knows. For instance when he was 4 he did nothing but study the globe. Knew everything about every where! The last few years he was more obsessed with video games but now won’t touch the video games.

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Were this my kid, I’d be concerned that he might be vulnerable to an abusive/controlling partner and wouldn’t at all see it.

ETA: I have a son exactly the same age, also a rising junior.


I’d set a few rules, like he must eat dinner with you 3 times per week. 30 minutes, not on his phone. And he has one chore, like cutting the grass once a week or whatever he did prior to college (walk the dog, put the trash out, take the car for a wash). And he definitely must bring his dishes to the kitchen every day. Baby steps.

This really is no different than every other kid coming home from college the first summer. You have to set some rules. I remember the girl who lived across the street coming home for the first time and her parents reinstated the curfew and we we all rather shocked (most of us didn’t have a curfew, but she did and so did her sister, who was my age). Their home, their rules. When I was young there were no cell phones, but my parents still had rules about how long we could be on the phone (one phone, 6 kids, do the math). We had to share the TV, walk the dog, clean up the kitchen if we made something.

He doesn’t just get to live there and do nothing. He needs structure, both for his working hours and his own health.


First of all hugs to you. The most important thing is to keep communication open. I would not do any drastic moves like cutting his budget yet. I would invite his girlfriend to spend time in my house. I would like to meet person who is that important to my child. You see just one side. She might be lovely person your son very attracted to and she might have no idea how he behaves outside of their relationship. First relationship can be very intense. Whatever you decide just keep communication open.


Ahh, ok. Then @parentologist had some good suggestions, as he probably doesn’t process the same as neurotypicals. There is a fine line parents need to walk with neuro diverse kids; it’s a tightrope really. Sway too far in any direction and the whole thing comes down. That said; it is possible to set respectful boundaries and expectations from your son. You’ve probably developed these skills over the years without even realizing it. You know when to push, when to step back a bit, what phrases and words get the best response. You can be firm, without being confrontational. Again; he’s probably completely hyper focused and unaware at the moment. Calm conversations or simple written expectations work well. I’m guessing you’ve noticed multiple, rapid fire questions don’t work, but keep an eye on his internship. Sometimes the higher pressure jobs can be affected as well; entry level may go well, but the next rung up when they need to develop savy corporate political skills can be a challenge. Good news is emotional age (if that is an issue) usually catches up by the 2nd or third job. As @parentologist said, this will probably end, and it will hit very hard; it’ll be important to be there to help him process and then redirect his focus.


Thank you! I should have mentioned and didn’t that we all have met her. We just recently spent 2 days with her in same Airbnb for a family function.
She seems very nice but we were concerned at the constant attachment they had. I realize she didn’t know us well but it was beyond that. They were not out of each others sight for a minute. Even extended family questioned the intensity.

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Lived it, helped families with it. Sounds utterly familiar to me. They grow up, just later.


What you are describing is pretty classic. I’ve often seen in boys the first obsession being maps/geography.


FWIW, IME, neurodiverse tend to gravitate towards other neurodiverse partners. Not sure if your son and his GF are like this, but it can be very uncomfortable when a couple is very clingy (not lots of snogging, but lots of handholding, arms around each other, leaning heads on each other’s shoulders or my personal favorite, the extended arm goodbye fingertip touch). Doesn’t sound bad, but when it’s incessant with strangers in the room it can be uncomfortable.


Still amazed about a college junior coming home for the summer.

I know nothing about psychological disorders. Regardless, your son seems to be a sensitive, introvert who is experiencing his first love & beginning to feel like an independent adult. His actions seem normal to me although a bit intense.

My completely uneducated suggestion:

Let your son enjoy this time. He is developing a sense of self-worth. The relationship will probably change within a year or less. Consider only talking to / with your son about positives. If his love life comes crashing down in the future, he will need you.

In short, my opinion is that both sets of parents are over-reacting. Loving your child means showing patience and respect even when difficult. Let him grow & let him experience the joy and the pain of his first love. Then be there for him when needed.

Again, your son seems completely normal from my viewpoint.

P.S. Plus, if you were ever worried about the possibility of never having grandkids, it looks like all systems are go !

P.P.S. Not intending to be flippant, but I would be more concerned if your son was refusing to eat pizza than with his current behavior.


Publisher- I don’t think it’s “normal” for a college kid to ignore his siblings when home for the summer. And I don’t think it’s “normal” for a kid to treat his parents like the help/innkeepers. I had an immigrant parent so I am aware that what was normal for me growing up (MUCH more respect required from my parents than was “normal” in my friends homes) isn’t typical. But I didn’t care what was happening in my kids lives- true love, infatuation, bad breakup, etc.- they were expected to extend a modicum of common courtesy when living in my house. EVERYONE did chores (two working parents, kids with jobs, the house would fall apart without a joint effort to keep the fridge stocked and the laundry done), EVERYONE was expected to be polite to each other even if you were having a bad day.

Kid is not neurotypical and suffers from anxiety- that gives him a pass on being rude to his siblings? This is “completely normal”?


He is a young adult experiencing his first love. For one in this condition, there is no “normal”.

Growing pains are not just experienced by an individual, but by all family members. Patience & positives.

Do not give your son any reason to blame you–the parent or parents–when the relationship dissolves. Give him a reason–or give any young adult experiencing a first love reason–to blame a parent or parents for any eventual break-up, then a real problem is created. Better to deal with change now in a patient & positive manner, then deal with a real crises later on.

Your son is normal. And heterosexual. And growing. And may soon experience his first heartbreak. Better to be available for him then when he might feel that his world has crumbled.


Yes!! This is exactly what we were seeing. It was very uncomfortable for all of us.


@blossom, I almost always agree with you, but I have to say that dealing with someone with OCD means the rules really are different about what is reasonable to ask. When someone is in the throes of an obsession or compulsion, they are struggling already and it is a real challenge to know where to push and where to give.


I’ve experienced that discomfort many times. I may be off-base on my read of your situation, but IME, I’d call it somewhat “typical.” As DH says, it’s what happens when neurodiverse individuals finally meet someone who speaks the same “language.”
I’d personally discuss clear expectations of attitude, chores, reasonable family participation, etc. (Nightly dinners would probably be unreasonable, but dinner 2 or 3 times a week may work). Maybe sit down and ask for his input on reasonable expectations; buy-in can help, although you’ll probably still need to remind him. If at any time you think it’s crossed into unhealthy, definitely bring in some reinforcements. Good luck!