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Hi Bruce, I'm hoping you can help me with something that has been difficult for me. I'm almost 21, and I've been dating a guy who is 43. We met online a couple years ago, and started dating when I was 19. He lives 6 hours away from me, so we only see each other for one weekend every month or so. My family knows nothing about him, because when we first met in person I was not living with my parents. But I moved back in with my parents a little over a year ago and I've been seeing him in secret. I guess the reason I didn't tell them was because of the age difference and I didn't want them to assume that he's somehow using me or that our relationship is inappropriate. Also because my parents are very hard-set against any sexual behavior before marriage and I didn't want to disappoint them. But it's getting to the point where the relationship is serious, and I want him to get to know my family. I also feel that at my age, I am too old to lie about something like this. I had planned to move closer to him (he can't move because of his job and his daughter, but I can) and introduce him to my parents sometime after that. It seems like it would be easier if I wasn't living with them. But I don't know how soon that will happen. And I'm sick of lying to my parents and saying I'm going to stay with a girl friend every time I'm meeting up with him for a few days. I want to be honest with them, but I don't want to upset them by telling them I've been lying to them for over a year. I really want my parents to like him, and I think telling them I've kept it a secret will be a bad way to start things off. I'm also worried that my dad will feel bad about the age difference. My dad and I didn't get along when I was growing up, and that's the reason I had moved out. But since I moved back, we've been doing a lot better. I don't want my dad to think I'm dating an older guy because I have "daddy issues" as that is definitely not the case. Do you have any advice on how or when to tell them about it?

Answer
Hi, Rachel, thanks for your questions. Here are my thoughts.


"I want to be honest with them, but I don't want to upset them ..."
---- yes, well, you don't really have any control over how other people feel. Not only that, but you don't have any right to ask other people to feel the way you want them to feel.

"I've been lying to them for over a year."
---- almost every parent will be upset about that

"I really want my parents to like him, and I think telling them I've kept it a secret will be a bad way to start things off."
---- probably so, but again, you don't have a right to try to get people to feel the way you want them to feel. That's called manipulation, and it's the mark of an immature person. Mature people own up to their mistakes, take the consequences, and deal with it - even if those consequences are severe.

"I don't want my dad to think I'm dating an older guy because I have "daddy issues" "
--- the truth is, Rachel, we ALL have daddy and mommy issues. One of the main themes of relationship 'life', if you will, is that we either are attracted to 'Daddies', or 'not-Daddies' (or, for men, Mommies or not-Mommies). Not only that, but for those of us who marry the anti-parent, we go out of our way to turn them into the parent we didn't want them to be.

"Do you have any advice on how or when to tell them about it?"
-------I assume you mean by this is "what can I say or do so that I can get out of any negative consequences for my behavior, and so that I can get my parents to do what I want them to do"?

The short answer is, of course, you can't. Especially given that they are your parents, they will unconsciously limit your influence over their thinking, behavior, and feelings. Also, given that you've been hiding this, they will have even less potential to see things your way. Just imagine, if you will, when you are 40ish and your parents are 60ish - it would be extremely unlikely that you will be sneaking around, lying about who you are dating. Most parents will disapprove of a 40ish man dating their 20yo daughter, that's just how it is.

At the very least, they will be thinking about the pragmatics of it - in 20 years, he will want to retire, and you will be in your prime. In 40 years, he may well be dead, and you will spend your retirement alone. That is, if you last that long. I'm not saying it's impossible, but most women who marry young end up rebelling at about 30 - they want to live life more fully, but a 50ish man is ready to settle down.

You should be ready to accept whatever the consequences are when you do tell them. Trying to 'get out of it' will only make things worse. Plus, you know they will find out eventually, so putting it off forever won't be easy to do
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Bruce Borkosky, Psy.D.

Expertise

questions framed similarly to 'what are some ways to respond when someone does/says X' are best. Questions posed in the form of 'why does my father do/say Y', or 'how would you diagnose my mother when she does/says Z' are difficult, if not impossible, to answer. I will probably reframe your question to fit the first question (what do I do). Nay question regarding any family member is fair game. Some of the most difficult are in the area of step-parenting and divorcing families.

Experience

I've been a licensed psychologist in Florida since 1994. I've evaluated and/or treated thousands of patients.

Organizations
American Psychological Association Florida Psychological association National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology

Publications
www.bruceborkosky.blogger.com

Education/Credentials
Psy.D., Miami Institute of Psychology, 1993 M.CS., U. of Dayton, 1984 B.A., Ohio Wesleyan U., 1978

Awards and Honors
Award for Years of Dedicated Service, Palm Beach County Legal Aid Society, 1999

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