My college-aged daughter has been going out with a guy. It is a secret relationship that bothers me because she has never introduced him as her boyfriend. I’m not sure if she is ashamed of him or what is going on. I don’t know how to counsel my daughter because I tend to criticize the guy, and that could hurt her feelings. I prefer to not bring it up. He would be the first boyfriend that my daughter has had, and… he could be taking advantage of her.

How can I get my daughter to think it over? This guy has come to our house very few times. Normally they meet when they are out somewhere or at his house, and I don’t know if that is her decision or his.

Dear Friend,

It is very clear why your daughter has kept this relationship a secret. She thinks that she cannot tell you the truth because you obviously disapprove of the guy. She doesn’t bring him around much because she may be afraid that you will criticize him to his face, or say something else that would embarrass her. We suggest that you invite him to have dinner with your family and that you treat him with respect and kindness, no matter what your inner feelings are.

We are sorry to tell you that it is too late to prepare your daughter for adult relationships. The time to prepare her was while she was still a child growing up in your home. The time to speak with her about relationships was when she was an adolescent. The time to supervise her dates was while she was in high school.

Now your daughter is an adult. She will choose to accept your advice or to reject it. If she still lives in your home and you support her financially, then you can make rules that she must follow. However, making unreasonable rules for her as an adult will drive her away very quickly. So instead of dictating rules and giving her warnings, it would be much better to treat her as an adult and respect her opinions and choices. As you do that, she will be more willing to talk to you about her personal life. When she talks and you listen without interrupting, opportunities will eventually come for you to share your own experiences and the reasons why you have concerns for her.

When the apostle Paul gave instructions to the people in Ephesus, he told children to obey and honor their parents. But he added that fathers should not exasperate their children.(1) The kind of behavior that irritates or annoys adult children is when their parents continue to treat them as children, even though they are now adults.

We don’t know if this guy is good for your daughter or whether he will try to take advantage of her. But she is not the one asking for our advice. The best thing that you can do is to pray for your daughter to have the wisdom that she needs, and while you’re praying, ask God to give you wisdom in how to treat your daughter now that she is an adult.

We wish you well,

Linda and Charles
1 Eph 6:1-4