How to respond to 17 year old daughter going out with a 25 year old man?

89

25

I have just found out that my 17 year old daughter is going out with a local 25 year old. I feel the age gap is way too big at her age. We're in the UK, so it's perfectly legal.

He does seem a very sensible person. He owns his own successful business although he still lives with parents.

I just think that, at their ages, they cannot possibly have anything in common. They haven't shared the same live experiences, they'll soon want different things, etc. I can only think he's with her for one reason!

I'm concerned that she'll get hurt, pregnant or that, even if they are truly in love, she'll end up growing up too quickly and miss out on things girls her age do like university, traveling, and building a career.

I know its only 8 years difference but it's the difference between him being at an age where he must be thinking about starting a family, marriage, etc and her starting out in life.

I don't know what to do. Do I let them get on with it or should I try to explain my above concerns at the risk of pushing them together?

Product Designer

Posted 2017-04-09T14:31:40.683

Reputation: 555

5Please use comments for clarification, not tangential observations (or answers) -- use [chat] if you want to discuss! – Erica – 2017-04-09T20:51:54.763

1What are the mental ages versus the physical? My wife and I are 16 years apart, but we are mentally compatible. – JohnP – 2017-04-12T14:39:14.533

9"him being at an age where he must be thinking about starting a family, marriage" - while this is possible, I wouldn't make that assumption. – Matthew – 2017-04-12T19:58:48.563

1A boy at 25 thinking about starting a family? I think still living with his parents and as a man having a biological clock that won't start ticking for another 20 years chances are high they will start thinking marriage and kids at about the same time in 10 years and even than it could still be that she will grow up faster than him... – Falco – 2017-04-13T14:08:12.740

4Sorry, I don't understand your point, "I can only think he's with her for one reason!" could you explain for what one reason? – wonderich – 2017-04-13T18:33:37.820

4@wonderich - obviously the OP means "for sexual intercourse". (If you're not a native English speaker, that phrase "for one reason!" is an idiom meaning sexual intercourse.) – Fattie – 2017-04-14T12:43:48.920

What country are you in? I think the local culture will make a lot of difference, for example in the US the drinking age is 21 which pretty much precludes them going out socially. – ventsyv – 2017-04-14T13:47:17.413

@Adwaenyth I see your point, but I don't think the trends of past generations are necessarily relevant to a modern young couple. – user30031 – 2017-04-14T14:11:37.030

4@ Fattie, I am not a native speaker, but isn't that contradictory to OP: "he must be thinking about starting a family, marriage, etc and her starting out in life." Well -- I feel that it totally contradicts the earlier "I can only think he's with her for one reason!" I cannot see the logic here. It contradicts the premise. Based on the logic, it shows that "Reductio ad absurdum." – wonderich – 2017-04-14T20:09:30.520

"Reductio ad absurdum"--- so I don't know what is the claim here for his purpose. – wonderich – 2017-04-14T20:09:57.620

1What if... you're daughter would date another 17 year old dude. Would you still be concerned? Of course you would, because her feelings would be like the same for that guy (although the 25 year old fella will probably find better arguments when she mentions your concerns to him) and he will still hurt her a lot when he leaves her. And the probability, that the first relationship is not a "success", is fairly high. It's part of growing up nowadays. But I totally understand your view as a father. It's as natural as her wish to date a dude who is older than her. – TrudleR – 2017-04-14T22:02:37.403

1My cousin is in his late twenties (27-28 I think) and he's had a child with an 18 year old girl (they were together but not married, the child was unplanned and they also live in the UK). So far their relationship has been one of the least chaotic in my family (ignoring my cousin's financial troubles and tendancy to waste money on unnecessary and expensive gadgets). Like the others say though, don't assume he wants a family. Aside from the fact men can have children much later in life (and they do), some men just don't want children at all. Without getting to know this man, you can't assume. – Pharap – 2017-04-16T01:58:49.500

"I can only think he's with her for one reason!" - ok, so? You never did that when you were young?.. – JonathanReez – 2017-04-18T11:42:19.607

Answers

162

I was 19 and ran off with a 27 year old woman from America. (I'm British and she is American). My mother disowned me and we didn't speak for a year.

My relationship with my wife lasted 16 years and produced 3 lovely children. So I could never say 'it was a mistake'. But. I was reckless and foolish and as an adult 20 years later I can easily recognize this.

However, as MY children reach their teenage years I of course see everything from the perspective as a parent.

I think the most important thing to do is not push your daughter away with any shouting matches or 'you are doing the wrong thing' this is what my mother did and although she was doing her best in a difficult situation - the shouting and threats simply pushed me away further.

The new found love that your daughter has found is fantastically powerful and she is overwhelmed with feelings in so much that nothing else truly matters. It's like a drug and despite parents, friends, or even common sense whispering behind the scenes 'don't do this'. She continues because the feelings she has are too strong.

You have every right to express your concerns. But I would be careful in how you deliver your feelings. Recognize the powerful grip the 25 yr old has and that is normal. She is 'in lust mode' and everything is rosy.

I would try and create a containment bubble around a situation you have limited control over but in reality you do have a way to contain the situation.

For instance:

  1. You have knowledge of the guys work and living situation.
  2. They presumably live close
  3. You have another set of parents you can communicate with.
  4. You KNOW about the situation. It's not a secret.

So don't panic. These are good things.

Outline your concerns but let your daughter know you love and support her and that it is only natural for you to be worried. Reinforce her education about the risks of getting pregnant and maybe set some soft rules like 'education comes first' Maybe she is in sixth form. I don't know.

It could be that the relationship is successful but if something goes wrong be sure she knows you are there for her if things collapse.

I get myself sick with worry in regards to my kids. But at the end of the day, I know at least they are healthy and safe.

You sound like a great parent and I wish the very best to you and your daughter.

user2694864

Posted 2017-04-09T14:31:40.683

Reputation: 1 301

Legally she has to be in some form of education, so whatever that is (A Levels / Apprenticeship / iBac / other vocational training / some alternative) you can make it clear that her studies are important - especially as we (potentially, depending on the course) approach exams. – Tim – 2017-04-10T00:09:12.420

Has that changed? I left England 20 years ago. You could walk from school at 16. Maybe it is different now... – user2694864 – 2017-04-10T00:12:05.183

4that changed 2 years ago. My year is the first year to be required to stay in full time education until the academic year in which we turn 18. The child in question is either my year or the year below. (A level or AS level) – Tim – 2017-04-10T00:18:08.577

2@Tim OP said UK not England. Scotland and Wales is still 16 – Doctor Two – 2017-04-10T12:00:02.253

1I'm not saying this is a bad answer, but it is quite anecdotal. – user30031 – 2017-04-14T14:14:31.193

@Fattie Age difference matters less once your older, but as a teenager the gap is much more pronounced and thus concerning. – user30031 – 2017-04-14T14:15:15.937

Hmm, for the last 40, maybe 50 years, there has been a (historically, incredibly unusual) trend for people to get married really late. So, for all of human existence people got married at 12. Since say 1800 in the West, there was a huge change and people got married at 15 or 16. Since like WW2, there was a mindboggling change and people didn't get married until 25 or even later. In all those domains it's completely typical that the male is some years years older. – Fattie – 2017-04-14T14:27:48.633

1@Fattie respectfully, that sounds like a complete assumption on your part. – user30031 – 2017-04-14T14:38:07.687

69

I don't know what to do, do I let them get on with it or should I try to explain my above concerns at the risk of pushing them together?

Why not do both?

It's natural to be concerned. You might also be concerned if he were 17, given that what you are afraid of (her getting hurt, pregnant, or growing up too quickly, or him being with her just for one reason) can easily happen with a 17 year old boyfriend too. While such concerns are natural, and perfectly understandable, they are also irrational. It's not likely that anything worse will happen to her with this "sensible" 25 year old, than what would happen with a random 17 year old.

Your daughter is an adult now, in all but the legal sense, so treat her like an adult. You can not tell her to stop seeing her boyfriend, and you should not warn her from her boyfriend only to be able to tell her "I told you so" when/if things go south.

What you can do, depending on your relationship to her, is to share your concerns, while acknowledging that they are irrational. That way you don't force her to change her life, yet still make her aware of the concerns.

Peter

Posted 2017-04-09T14:31:40.683

Reputation: 2 887

1

Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation is not constructive and has been moved to chat.

– Rory Alsop – 2017-04-14T19:05:22.917

48

Several answers already, but I want to address a couple of your concerns.

You are worried about your daughter missing opportunities (travelling, studies). I started dating my wife when she was barely 17, and I was 28. We married two years later, and had our first daughter 9 months after we married, with my wife still 19.

That was 20 years ago, so I can tell you how it turned out.

  • We are happier than ever.

  • We have 7 amazing kids, ages 18 to 2. Our oldest is already succeding at university.

  • In between having kids, my wife obtained a BA Honours in Psychology, then went to earn an MA in Philosophy, and is now working on her Ph.D. All three in English, which she started learning after marriage.

  • Travelling: since marriage, my wife has done 15+ major international leisure trips (flights longer than 10 hours) and many more shorter trips (say, we have driven across all Canadian provinces several times, about 25 US states, and about half of Mexico), lots of camping, ski trips, etc.

  • On top of the above three points, she still finds time to volunteer, and to be the favourite mom among our kids' friends.

All in all, most likely not what my father in law had in mind when she was little, but an exciting life.

Martin Argerami

Posted 2017-04-09T14:31:40.683

Reputation: 990

4You married a 17-year-old at 28? You ol' dog, you! ;) – Omegacron – 2017-04-10T14:31:54.540

18Nope. I married a 19-year-old, when I was 30. And, 20 years ago, legal age in Argentina (for marriage, not to go to the war) was 21, so her parents had to sign an authorization :) – Martin Argerami – 2017-04-10T14:34:39.740

2My husband and I got married early and travelled after, together. it was a great experience for us both. – None – 2017-04-11T21:12:53.917

1I couldn't agree more with this answer - great story, Martin. An age difference of the man being 7 years older is utterly normal for a married couple - it's hard to see the point of this question really? – Fattie – 2017-04-14T12:39:31.413

5I'm glad this all worked out for you, but it's very anecdotal and I don't feel it offers OP any real advice. – user30031 – 2017-04-14T14:18:34.663

2Giving birth at 17 means that the person in question would never get to experience fully independent life. I'd be extremely wary of such advice. – JonathanReez – 2017-04-14T21:28:46.250

@user30031: as my answer explicitly says, I'm addressing concrete concerns of the OP about studying and travelling (concretely, the fourth paragraph in the actual form of the question). – Martin Argerami – 2017-04-14T21:48:01.170

1@user30031 -- I must disagree. Much advice is exemplary. The commenter is saying, "It worked out for me." That's not proof, but it is one data-point. – Malvolio – 2017-04-15T17:56:30.253

1@JonathanReez Nobody gave birth at 17. – JaneDoe1337 – 2017-04-18T11:12:00.370

@JaneDoe1337 Still quite early and you never get to experience the feeling of having zero obligations/commitments to anyone. But as always - YMMV. – JonathanReez – 2017-04-18T11:29:09.800

36

The general rule of thumb for age appropriateness is half plus 7.

The obligatory XKCD cartoon:

enter image description here

25 and 17 is slightly over. However, generally speaking women mature earlier than men. Assuming your daughter is at least average maturity for her age, and there are no other worrying signs, I wouldn't worry too much. It could also be a lot worse.

You also say 'going out' - i.e. they aren't (yet) setting up a home and living together. Your daughter is, as you point out, an adult with all that entails, including the freedom to make her own mistakes.

I can only think he's with her for one reason!

A theoretical 17 year old man could equally, if not more so, be with her for only one reason. Equally, becoming pregnant and having to postpone things such as career isn't age relevant.

I'd recommend waiting. If the relationship develops, you could express your concerns, though not in a judgemental way - otherwise you could risk damaging your relationship with your daughter and pushing them together.

Pete

Posted 2017-04-09T14:31:40.683

Reputation: 395

19How did you do the math? (25/2) + 7 = 19.5 in my calculation, which is more than just "slightly over", it's 2 years too young. Not that I disagree with your answer but using the rule of thumb here may not be the best argument. – None – 2017-04-10T06:35:03.047

14This is terrible advice. – jwg – 2017-04-10T08:58:18.047

1@stanri: it is 2/17=12% or 2/25=8% offset. – Crowley – 2017-04-10T10:51:26.617

5Just adding that this is a well-known "metric" (anti creep factor) in Scandinavia as well. – KlaymenDK – 2017-04-10T13:22:21.627

3The "edge of the bell curve". Nice touch. Take my +1. – AnoE – 2017-04-10T14:19:26.027

5@anoe Did you upvote this answer because the comic made a funny unrelated joke? How is that relevant for the parent asking advice about their teenage daughter... – Konerak – 2017-04-11T07:57:42.820

4IMHO, the comic is relevant, because it seems OP main concern is about their age difference. – Thariq Nugrohotomo – 2017-04-11T08:29:09.577

6In 3 years they will be a perfectly acceptable couple. Just don't let them do things until then :D – Adam Hunyadi – 2017-04-11T08:49:49.533

@stanri: Exactly : that's the very point of this equation. The older you are, the less important the delta is. At 14, the allowed deviation is exactly zero, at 50, it's between [-18, +36]. But at 17, it's [-1.5, +3] and at 25, it's [-5.5, +11]. From this equation, 25 is 5 whole years too old for 17, and 17 is 2.5 too young for 25. Using this equation for 17 and 25 and saying "slightly over" is completely missing the point. – Eric Duminil – 2017-04-11T12:36:41.617

1@Crowley: Nope. According to this formula, the max partner age for a 17-year-old is 20. So it's a 5/17~29% offset. – Eric Duminil – 2017-04-11T12:40:17.937

@AdamHunyadi: Your math is off. In 3 years, he'll be 28 and she'll be 20; 28/2 + 7 is 21, so still out of bounds by the "rule". It'll be 5 years until they're on the edge of acceptable, when he is 30, and she is 22; 30 / 2 + 7 gets 22. – ShadowRanger – 2017-04-14T05:41:35.277

3"Women mature faster than men" is often misused and here is no different. That refers only to physical maturity (puberty) and NOT mental maturity. – user30031 – 2017-04-14T14:20:48.580

generally speaking women mature earlier than men where are the scientific studies that prove this? Maturity is related to life experience, and at that age, boys and girls have generally the same experience (I mean nothing that can make them mature the way you think). But still, even if a child sounds mature/smart this does not justify he/she could sleep with an adult (even when laws say it is legal) – Billal BEGUERADJ – 2017-04-17T14:44:33.337

12

Is it love? You have not even mentioned that important fact.

As others have said, you need to have some serious talks with your daughter. If she thinks she is in love, but the subject of marriage has not come up, you still have time. Use it but don't alienate her. If this person is going to join your family, it should be on friendly and welcoming terms.

If the subject of marriage has come up, you can start bargaining of some kind. Ask if they can wait for marriage until she finishes her education. Even if she does not work as a married woman, divorce or widowhood is not a remote possibility, and if she has no marketable skills, she will find herself falling upon difficult times. If they don't want to wait, then ask the husband to carry ample life insurance should the worst happen.

All these subjects can be discussed honestly and with respect.

anongoodnurse

Posted 2017-04-09T14:31:40.683

Reputation: 48 167

You raise a great point here! If she becomes a traditional wife and mother, he will definitely want to invest in a strong life insurance policy. – iyrin – 2017-04-10T07:11:46.097

15Unfortunately, with a 17-year-old, it's impossible to say if it's really love. They can't even answer that question themselves, because for them it's ALWAYS true love... until suddenly it's not. – Omegacron – 2017-04-10T14:27:28.930

18What does "Is it love?" mean? – DRF – 2017-04-10T15:16:01.347

1@Omegacron - to be fair, that is a generalization. As anecdotal evidence: I was around that age when my husband and I started dating and he is 4 years older than me. We have been together for 6 years and happily married for almost 4 years now. That said, we were also both in the same stage of life and met in university which does not seem to be the case in the OP. – SnyperBunny – 2017-04-10T15:21:05.527

1@SnyperBunny - it is a generalization AND a stereotype, but mainly because it's true for the majority of people that age. If you "fell in love" at 17 and the relationship worked out for you, then you're the exception to the rule. – Omegacron – 2017-04-10T15:29:54.443

1@Omegacron this is true :) I think however, that it is important to always remember two things: Stereotypes and generalizations exist for a reason. There are always exceptions to generalizations. – SnyperBunny – 2017-04-10T16:46:45.390

3@omegacron What is this "True love" you keep talking about? I would like to know because I strongly suspect it's the culprit of all the divorces. With a little less "true love" and "Love" with a capital "L" people might end up actually getting to know each other as people, liking each other and marrying because they understand they are a good fit and can work together long term even when everything isn't all rosy. – DRF – 2017-04-11T07:48:43.810

2I really don’t understand this. What do marriage and education have to do with each other here? Surely her getting married (if indeed that option has even been raised) doesn’t have anything to do with whether or not she finishes her education. This answer reads as if it’s based on a notion that the default course of events for a 17-year-old girl going out with a guy is that they will get married and she will become a housewife, which is not a notion I would normally associate with you… so I’m confused. – Janus Bahs Jacquet – 2017-04-11T14:26:44.563

@JanusBahsJacquet - Fair point. Going by what the OP assumed. – anongoodnurse – 2017-04-11T15:08:55.483

@DRF I suppose it's an old song) :D

– ABcDexter – 2017-04-12T12:13:58.273

@Omegacron that statement can be made about any person at any age. – Chris Marisic – 2017-05-01T22:19:44.740

11

I don't know if it helps, but when I met my girlfriend she was 16 and I was 23, one year later we came together. At that age I was working but lived with my mother. She went to high school and lived with her parents. Since then almost 4 years past and we live together in another city and we are both happy and in love.

Since the first time I feel like she is the perfect match for me and she thinks also like that. I was afraid in the beginning that this age difference could be a problem, but it's not. She was grown up enough in thinking and I never felt like I'm dating a "child".

I was able to share my feelings and my experience about finishing exams at high school, about university also I was able to live those things again. We enjoy the same kind of music, movies and thinking the same about life. My career path and what I'm doing helped her to find out what she want to do after university. But I could also mention many things in she helped me to achieve (including move out from home). And many of these are not age-related.

Of course your daughter can get hurt, but that's possible in every single relationship. The same about getting pregnant. And what can she miss? I think if you raised her well enough, than she won't do anything stupid and still she can go to university, travel and build her career, just as my girlfriend is doing.

I remember the reactions from both her mother and mine, and those were awful. In my opinion you should try to get to know her boyfriend and treat him as you would like to be treated. In my opinion you can do the biggest harm if you overthink this situation.

matthew3r

Posted 2017-04-09T14:31:40.683

Reputation: 226

This is more of a comment than an answer, no? – user30031 – 2017-04-14T14:23:50.070

I'm not sure. I wrote my opinion about this topic as the "grown up guy" to help the questioner decide what to do. 10 people found my answer useful so I think it was worth the try. – matthew3r – 2017-04-20T06:39:53.580

10

First and foremost, let me just state, I think I get where you're coming from. You have legitimate concerns: What do they have in common? What experiences and mutual understanding could they even build a healthy connection on? Could they possibly have a meaningful future together in the long-term? Is he just using her or taking advantage?

I'm going to suggest something that the other answers touch upon, but in a more actionable, what-can-you-do-right-now way: Re-word these concerns into questions, and ask your daughter these questions. Try to word them so they don't give off an impression of being against the relationship: I think you'll get the best results by opening the conversation with the attitude that you're just curious and want to genuinely get to know what your daughter is currently going through better.

That's not to say that you shouldn't already disapprove - while I personally wouldn't start feeling disapproval just from what you've described, your feelings are very understandable - but regardless of how you might initially feel, you can always tell her you disapprove a little later, once you've gotten as much of her perspective as she's willing to share. But at first, it's better if you can be simply inquisitive: You don't want her to feel like you've already made up your mind before you've had a chance to thoroughly discuss it, right? I think sometimes people just disengage and become resistant to anything we say if they feel we're already against what they're doing, which reduces our ability to actually help them significantly.

Approaching with an inquisitive attitude helps everyone involved: If you ultimately decide you disapprove or that there are real concerns, you'll be able to present your position much more thoroughly, pointing to the concerning details from what she herself has told you. In the process of asking her these questions, she might even start thinking about issues she might have overlooked herself. And maybe in the process, you'll learn something about why they're drawn to each other and how they both think and feel that makes you feel more comfortable with the whole thing.

Personally, I'd just start with something like "hey, I was just wondering, could you tell me more about how this relationship started and what made you like him?". Unfortunately, it can be hard to find a way to word things without causing misinterpretations. For example, at least where I'm from, a curt and direct "So what do you see in him" can give a very negative, even judgmental impression, even though taken literally it's almost the same question. So maybe soften it with clarification, like "don't take this the wrong way, I'm just asking so that I understand what you're thinking and feeling, because I've decided that since this relationship seems to be important to you, I want to fully understand where that's coming from".

I think this a good starting point - it immediately gets at the root of investigating how much your concerns apply to this specific case, helps lead your daughter to spotting any problems that might be looming in this relationship without just making her feel like she's being told "no", builds mutual understanding and a possibility of openly discussing relationships, including the tough parts, between you and your daughter, and has the opportunity to show her by example what kind of questions to ask when figuring out if a person is right for her in a relationship.

Best case scenario, she and her romantic interest will positively surprise you with mature and well-considered perspectives on why they're right for each other. But if not, I think the above will put both you and your daughter in a better position to navigate any troubles that might come up, together.

mtraceur

Posted 2017-04-09T14:31:40.683

Reputation: 235

8

As a guy who watched lots of the girls his age at college start to date guys 5+ years older than themselves I remember feeling jealous at the great insight they were able to get from those experiences. Children with older brothers or sisters are usually much more sensible and grown up than those without, and the same goes for girls who date older men. It's probably just a sign that she is highly intelligent and mature for her age anyway.

Women mature much quicker than men and by dating up in this way they continue to surround themselves with much more mature and sensible people.

It totally depends on the character of this person - which by the sounds of it is good - but he may be a really good influence on her. Far better than dating a guy her own age. Do you remember what you were like at 17? Weren't boys at that age more likely to be 'only after one thing?' It's no wonder women aren't interested in men their own age. Teenage boys have literally nothing of value to offer anyone.

Also anything you do say or do will only make the situation bad between you and her. If he actually mistreats her or starts seeming like a bad influence then sure jump in there and say something, but otherwise you are probably worrying needlessly and causing undue drama.

My 2 cents.

Chuck Muffinn

Posted 2017-04-09T14:31:40.683

Reputation: 81

1"Women mature much quicker than men" this is generally meant to refer to physical maturity only. This phrase is often misused in this way and it's is a very big problem when discussing issues like this. – user30031 – 2017-04-14T14:27:08.453

4@user30031: What? No, it usually refers to emotional and cognitive maturity, not physical maturity. – Christoffer Hammarström – 2017-04-16T14:33:15.220

8

25-year-old, single male from the UK here and I wonder if my perspective might be useful.

Whilst the people I go on dates with are somewhere between 20-30 (I use an app that allows you to configure this) and I'd be very cautious at dating anybody younger, I wouldn't necessarily draw the line at dating a 17-year-old if they seemed mature (and that's something exists almost entirely independently of age).

You obviously can't force them apart and so I think the best thing you can do is try to open a dialog and get to know this guy and later on - if it's appropriate - with his parents/family.

Invite him for dinner and family days out. In this way, you'll be able to keep a weather eye on things.

With regards to her education and career, you really only can do what any normal parent would do with a 17-year-old, that is, encourage them in the right direction.

Travelling is something she will or won't do of her own accord and isn't a pre-requisite to successful grown-upping.

Regarding pregnancy however, you ought to encourage her use of contraception. The kind would be some sort of implant that require her to make a conscious decision to discontinue use.

I hope this of some comfort.

Throwaway

Posted 2017-04-09T14:31:40.683

Reputation: 351

6

One thing which no other post has covered, and which you probably don't want to hear, but is the plain and brutal truth...

Sex is REALLY fun. Younger people are still learning and experimenting with what they can do, and they naturally want to do as much of it as they can, and have it be as enjoyable as possible.

As a rational person, it would make complete sense for her to get her experiences of what it should be like with someone who is actually competent. Most guys her own age are not going to be highly competent, so it makes sense for her not to play with them. 25 is close enough to her own age that it isn't creepy, but is still old enough that he's got the experience to know what he's doing.

The truth may simply be that she has no interest in a long-term romantic relationship with him, and they are purely enjoying having sex with each other. You might not like to hear this about your 17-year-old daughter, but you do need to face that she has sexual needs and as an adult is fully entitled to do absolutely anything she likes with absolutely anyone she chooses. You can choose what happens under your roof of course, and you can intervene if time spent with him is detracting from her school/college work, but that's about the limit of it.

Graham

Posted 2017-04-09T14:31:40.683

Reputation: 649

4

Your main motivation is probably to protect your daughter from whatever harm may befall her.

I would concentrate on exactly this, and only this.

This means that you leave everything regarding feelings, broken hearts, morality and so on to her to decide or experience on her own. That's her obligation and lawful right. It's basic accountability. She's of age, which goes both ways.

I see two objective risks you have to be concerned about:

  1. Her getting pregnant and the boy leaving her to fend for herself.
  2. Being in an abusive relationship which will leave her earnestly damaged.

(And maybe 3. he trying to get some material value out of it, but I assume there is no risk of that as she probably doesn't own anything that he could possibly steal - this would be a consideration for a much later phase of life.)

Both those things would do real damage to her, likely for life.

What to do about this? You should try to stay close to both of them (or at least her) so she has you as a confidante, a trustworthy person - i.e., when signs of trouble appear, she will tell you. You cannot expect to be successful in digging around behind her back anyways. So, support her, make sure she knows that you are there for her, be (truly) happy that she found someone etc.

You can try to pull the guy into the family; i.e., invite him to BBQs, that kind of thing. Make those relaxed events, not "tests".

If and when you see signs of danger; then you act, with decisiveness. By supporting her, confronting the boy, and so on.

Aside from that, you have precious little leverage, and being negative about it upfront will likely spoil whatever "power" you have in the situation.

AnoE

Posted 2017-04-09T14:31:40.683

Reputation: 1 802

4

Get to know him as a friend

I heard stories from my parents: when he took her home after a date, it was her bedtime (she was in high school), so she would retire to her room. But he would stay on with her parents, playing cards sometimes late into the night.

So, her parents (my maternal grandparents) got to know Dad as a friend and potential son-in-law, through their own play-dates, not just from whole-family gatherings.

I suggest trying that.


Also, they were only 4½ years apart, but that was still enough to be in “different places”. But things were different then — she was trained by her mother to be a housewife and was not expected to go to school past 12th grade. Her own mother only went to school through 8th grade, which was normal for girls at that time.

So, it seems to me that the issue isn't the difference in their ages, so much as that she's too young (in this time) to have a serious relationship that could be potentially long term. A younger man would realize that they both have further life changes, but he might already be on a career track. But that depends on the career: he might still have yeaes of school and internships ahead, too! So maybe they are closer together in terms of life stages, than implied in the post.

So we really can’t know, from the information given, how the age difference is really going to present itself.

So I repeat my conclusion above: get to know him as an individual with a separate relationship than your daughter’s “plus one”.

JDługosz

Posted 2017-04-09T14:31:40.683

Reputation: 227

2

It is perfectly reasonable for you to be feeling anxious about the well being of your daughter. Age differences aside, she is moving into a life of her own. Training wheels are off and she is going out into the world. There's always something you could find to be worried about as a parent. If it's not age difference in the guy she's dating, it could be something else.

But let's look at some of the biggest concerns you've mentioned.

I'm concerned that she'll get hurt, pregnant or that even if they are truly in love that she'll end up growing up too quickly and miss out on what girls her age do, university, traveling building a career.

The risk of being hurt in a relationship is universal. I don't think that is any more or less likely due to a mildly larger age gap than might be expected of a young woman. There are certainly couples with a larger age gap who are happy. There's really no guarantee and she just has to live through her own relationship experience.

As far as getting pregnant, throughout human history, nay mammalian history, females have served an integral role as mothers. It's a relatively recent and perhaps even baseless assumption that she will be happier pursuing university studies and a career. What is there to worry about her missing out on or that she will grow up to quickly if she finds a fulfilling life as a mother, just as many women have throughout history? Yes, even those mothers who are young by modern expectations can have a very fulfilling life.

But all of the studies showing stay at home moms are happier and all of the examples of childless women who pursued their careers and ended up with regrets really don't mean anything when it comes to what will be the best life for your daughter. She may find that she wants to pursue that university and career path after all. Either way, if you are going to adopt the modern outlook on such things, you are going to have to accept that it's entirely up to her to choose her own path in life.

I know the real concern. You don't want to end up taking care of another newborn! Well, provided her partner has his life together, you could be a proud grandfather. Hopefully they are responsible enough to plan such a thing without any surprises. But if she gets pregnant and it doesn't work out, he's in a far worse situation than she. It's in his best interest to not get her pregnant because these days a man can lose all of his parenting rights and every penny he makes in such a situation. It's certainly cause for hesitation. Maybe it would put you at ease to remind him that family courts most certainly will not be on his side and gauge how sensible he is when it comes to responsibly having premarital sex with your daughter.

He does seem a very sensible person, he owns his own successful business although still living with parents.

It sounds like they have something in common. Hey he could be a lot more mature and experienced than the guys her age. It could very well be much worse. Unless there's some specific cause for alarm, I can't see anything to worry about here any more than if she were dating a guy who is 20.

I hope it helps.

iyrin

Posted 2017-04-09T14:31:40.683

Reputation: 179

3I can tell you mean well, but I think there's a couple of things in your answer that might turn off the asker and similar parents from taking in the positives from your answer. For example, maybe moving the key gist of the first "motherhood is the happier path" paragraph into the second one touching on the topic would feel less "preachy" to many people? And do you think the wording of "I know the real concern" is likely to be read correctly, or are people likely to read that as you just dismissing/denying what the person is saying about their concerns/thoughts on the matter? – mtraceur – 2017-04-10T09:50:56.503

Well, I never did assert that motherhood will be the happier path for his daughter. As far as how others "may" read it, I can only write it. I can't read it for them. I think if you read more carefully you'll see it is fine as it is. It's very similar to many other answers here. Please read carefully and don't blame me for misinterpretations beyond my control. – iyrin – 2017-04-10T11:51:20.703

2It would be really unfair to the asker for me to assume that they are so sensitive that they would be unable to comprehend what I've written. I really can't bring myself to edit my answer without feeling I am insulting the reader's intelligence. – iyrin – 2017-04-10T12:00:35.697

2-1 for the gist of "OP's concern is not valid and he just doesn't see". Forced motherhood = happier life? Really? There are representative studies for that? – AnoE – 2017-04-10T22:36:07.987

2Please don't quote things I did not say. Nowhere did I say or imply anything about "forced motherhood" or that the asker's concerns are not valid. If you have negative views toward motherhood, don't take them out on me and things I did not say. Go write your own answer and leave mine alone. – iyrin – 2017-04-11T00:14:31.190

3There are plenty of polls indicating that women who choose to stay at home with children are happier, if you care to look into it. I'm saying they are not necessarily relevant to his daughters personal decision. Where on Earth did you get "forced motherhood" from?? I have no idea where this criticism of things I never said is even coming from. Stay at home moms constantly face these kinds of negative attacks and I think you should think before making just attacks on people who choose to care for their children. – iyrin – 2017-04-11T00:22:05.920

2+1. maybe mention the risks of pregnancy related to age - apparently about 18 to 25 is healthiest for mother & child, and having the most energy too. References for that & happiness & parenting would be excellent. – Xen2050 – 2017-04-11T01:18:18.650

Well, I didn't want to get too off the topic as my emphasis was meant to be on what's best for the individual and putting some of the worries at ease surrounding motherhood. There are multiple polls and studies done on this topic though. http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2011/12/working-moms.aspx

– iyrin – 2017-04-11T01:29:58.663

2There's some good advice in here, but I don't feel comfortable upvoting it with your "disclaimer". Putting commentary aimed at specific users is generally a bad idea; it distracts from your relevant points (especially when you have to get past such a lengthy and irrelevant intro). Please consider removing it; it seems like you're really addressing just one or two users, at the cost of the quality of your answer. – None – 2017-04-11T13:03:16.600

Please add "all of the studies" to the answer. Frankly, this answer makes some bold claims which need supporting references to get the most usefulness for the site. – user30031 – 2017-04-14T14:36:27.313

2

I can only speak from personal experience here, but I'd like to offer my two cents.

I got together with my current girlfriend when she was 16 and I was 22. Not AS big a difference, but a significant enough of one to be a concern for myself as well as it took a long time for me to be truly sure her parents approved. It was rather awkward for me to ask about it, as you'll understand, but it would have saved us all quite a bit of a headache if we had opened this conversation from either side.

The core reason I didn't go around my girlfriend to ask her parents this was mostly out of respect for her autonomy. She was "old for her age", and in the end it turned out her parents had never expected differently from her.

Try to have this conversation with him. You'll both be glad you did.

Weckar E.

Posted 2017-04-09T14:31:40.683

Reputation: 510

1

Reading some of the other answers, I think everyone is pushing too much advice onto you and as a parent you already know much of what they are saying.

I want to recap on some of the other answers and add some practical advice:

  1. Become closer to her boyfriend and carefully insert yourself into his life. You can do this by asking a favour from him and/or his family that makes him feel useful and go from there.

  2. Have a conversation with your daughter about her excitement and experience instead of voicing your concerns. Make it about sharing what she is going through and what her fears are. Reassure her that love is not something to be afraid of. Tell her to embrace the intensity of her emotions so she can always remember these feelings.

  3. Begin placing responsibility onto your daughter that keeps her involved in her own family's life. For example you can decide that Sundays she must help you to cook so that you can pass on your tricks to her.

  4. Go with her to do STI screenings and teach her that one must always keep getting checked regardless of monogamy and commitment. It's just good habit.

  5. You already sound like a great parent so just continue being that. My first love was 14 years older than me and I can tell you that your concerns are justified. If he begins to mistreat her or you see any signs of emotional abuse then you can put your foot down in a loving and parental way. 17 is not grown up, she does need to be protected. Her boyfriend (and his family) should be well aware of this fact.

Kevin van Zyl

Posted 2017-04-09T14:31:40.683

Reputation: 11

0

I do think the teen/twenties coupling can be sometimes awkward or downright suspicious especially if the male is older.

Parental concern is a legitimate function, especially father/daughter, and you are very much obligated as a parent. Things are above-board and within bounds, it seems. If you trust your daughters judgement and maturity then you can ration your concerns (or reserve them for indications of the pace of progress in the relationship). Relative age difference will diminish quickly over time.

I don't have much else to add but I would bring you to note that age is not just a chronological number. There is biological age and your mental and emotional age to consider. The specific circumstances in your daughter's instance might not be out of order.

Always keep some concern. You know what males are.

PCARR

Posted 2017-04-09T14:31:40.683

Reputation: 423

-1

Your daughter is in a high risk, but also high reward situation. You can't and shouldn't prevent the relationship, but you should set some ground rules to minimize the risks, and maximize the rewards.

I am reminded of an old (American) story of a 19-year old girl who chased (and won) a 31-year old military officer, who later became a General, William Westmoreland. At an early age, she had latched on to a "winner," and her life was made. I see a possibility of that happening here.

It's comforting to know that the young man "seems a very sensible person, and owns his own successful business." Under the circumstances, even his living with his parents is a plus, because it might have moderated his otherwise "bachelor" ways. If he is also "honourable," and this is the key, he will protect your daughter. If this is the case, "the game is worth the candle." This opportunity came earlier in your daughter's life than you are I would like to see, but it may be worth exploring because there may be few others like it.

The main thing is to set some standards. First, that "protection" is used for all physical activities. Second, that she keeps track of where the relationship is at all times. Third, that she comes to you for help and guidance if she ever feels that she's in over her head.

Adolescent girls are more mature than guys (by several years), in the late teens and early 20s. So the eight year difference in ages may be more like four or five in maturity. It could be that two people who are both unusually mature for their ages "found" each other at a young age. If that's the case, they will be more compatible over the long term than either with other, more "random," people closer to their own age. It's also possible that one or both of them senses this. As parents, I wouldn't stand in their way, but I would "stand by" for possible trouble.

Tom Au

Posted 2017-04-09T14:31:40.683

Reputation: 374