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I Do Not Approve of My Daughter's Relationship

I'm disappointed about my daughter's choice.

Dear Dr. G.,

I have 2 children, a 21 year old daughter and a 12 year old son. Two months ago my daughter sent me an email from Europe (where she studied for 6 months in a study abroad program). In this email she explained that 4 years ago when we sent her on a trip for the first time (as her high school graduation trip to my uncle's house) something bad happened to her. She was raped by my 30 year old cousin. She didn't dare to open up to us for 4 years. This news devastated my husband and I. We reacted wisely and got help before doing anything.

Now we have another problem. Our daughter is in a relationship with a guy 13 years older than her. It has been a while and she wanted to introduce him to us which we refused. We told her that meeting him means our approval and we don't want to give him the wrong message. He is not educated and too old for my daughter. We told her that she can go out with him but she is not allowed to bring him to us. Also, we asked her to slow down and think everything over. We have cultural differences too. All of our family is highly educated and education is a big deal for us. Our daughter is also a good student in a good university. She was working on her medical school entrance exam when she met him. She is not happy at home at all. She just sleeps during the day and waits for him to come back from work and take her out every night. She lost her other interests.

We need advice. Help us please.

A Distressed Mother

Dear Mother,

I certainly understand your concerns about your daughter. It is tragic that she was raped by a relative but I am glad that she chose to share this with you even if it did take 4 years. Some women and men are so troubled by the reactions that their parents may have that they never tell their parents. I am going to presume that your daughter finds comfort in your acceptance or she would never have confided in you.I also hope that she got therapy to deal with this.

Regarding the current situation with your daughter and her older boyfriend I have a number of feelings. Yes, you can express your concerns to your daughter about this man's age and educational differences but keep in mind that who she chooses as a partner is ultimately her decision. I would strongly encourage you to meet him. By not meeting him you are coming across as very harsh and critical with your daughter. This may be why she is so distressed at home. Meeting the man does not mean that you are a fan of the relationship. Instead, it means that you are a fan of your daughter. Ultimately, your goal should be to do no harm to the relationship between you and your daughter and to keep the dialogue going.

We as parents are unfortunately not part of the committee who decides who they are going to have chemistry with and be in a relationship with. Certainly, individuals of different ages and educational levels can form supportive and lasting relationships. On the other hand individuals of similar ages and educational levels can develop problematic relationships with lots of discord.

I recommend that you meet this young man. At the very least you will get to know your daughter better. You may even be able to figure out what appeals to her about this man. I am never in favor of relationship cut-offs and if your daughter ultimately chooses to marry this man she may choose to cut off her disapproving family.

Good luck and please get back to me.


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