true confessions

True Confessions Agony Aunt: A family friend is dating my 20 year-old daughter

Sunday, April 3, 2011
Family disagreement

Question:

An old friend of mine has started going out with our 20 year old daughter and we are so upset.

My wife is distraught and I can hardly sleep thinking about this horrible man pawing my lovely daughter and that he seems to have no shame over taking advantage of her and our friendship.

He was at her 18th birthday party with his then girlfriend and has known our daughter since she was born – how could he possibly be thinking of her in this way when he knew her as a little girl?

We've tried talking to her but she says she loves him, it’s none of our business and she is old enough to see whoever she chooses.

She stays in a flat with friends and seems to think she’s done a great favour in telling us about it as she says she could have seen him without us knowing.

I find the 24 year age difference absolutely disgusting and I keep wondering if he was waiting for her to grow up before he made his move.

She says they would like to come round to see us together but that’s like agreeing to this.

Answer:

No it’s not – your daughter and your friend know how you feel but all you can do is sit this out, hard though it is.

Sometimes a relationship with a big age difference can work and you don’t want to lose your daughter by refusing to accept this possibility, though it could take you and your wife a long time to come to terms with it.

Another worry is your daughter’s reaction if you turn this into Romeo and Juliet and drive them together, because the one thing she wants to do at the moment is prove that she’s right, even if it means clinging onto a relationship which isn’t going to last the distance.

The age difference would probably have been difficult for you anyway but the added issue of him already being your friend is making it worse.

Discuss with your wife how you can take the drama out of all of this, even though that’s currently the last thing on your mind. You want this over and life to go back to what it was, but that’s not going to happen while you remain visibly upset about it and nor is it going to happen just because that is what you want.

Keep things low key, agree that she can bring him round for a coffee and diffuse any grand declarations of love before they happen by saying that it came as a shock but you realise that she’s an adult and you’ll leave them to get on with it.

Then talk about anything else, stay determinedly cheerful and if either of them go on about how wonderful it is to have found each other be maddeningly distracted – ‘Lovely. Another slice of cake anyone?’

It’s not ideal but if you stay calm maybe the contrast between their ages will kick in soon and finish it naturally, with your daughter still close to you and confident you’re not going to say ‘ I told you so.’

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