I fell in love with a sixteen-year-old girl. For more than a year I have been trying to start a relationship with her.

The problem is that she could be my daughter, because I am thirty-four years old. My actions have shown her that I am concerned about her well-being. She wanted a cell phone, so I gave her one. Her bedroom was in bad shape, and I fixed it up for her, even adding air conditioning…. But she never shows appreciation for my actions or efforts. I don’t know what to do.

Dear Friend,

Thank you for telling us your story and asking for our counsel. We hope that you will follow the advice that we have for you.

When you say that you are old enough to be her father, you are absolutely correct. But what may not be clear to you is that the ideal age difference between romantic partners varies according to their life stage. When one of them is fifty, an eighteen-year age difference may not be as significant; but for a minor, such as this sixteen-year-old girl, the ideal age of her boyfriends should be her own age or no more than two years older.

Pediatric research has shown that the brain of a person that age is not even fully developed, and it may not be for another five to ten years.(1) In the teenager’s brain, the pre-frontal cortex has not yet made all of the necessary connections. As a result, most teenagers lack impulse control, and they don’t always recognize the relationship between an action and its consequences.

Because the pre-frontal cortex is not fully developed, teenagers must depend on the part of their brains called the amygdala to help them make decisions. The amygdala tends to consider emotions more than reason. That is why many teenagers make decisions based on how they feel rather than on what they know.

It is very important that teenagers have relationships with other teenagers, both of whom are in the same life stage. Teenagers are not ready for the expectations of adult relationships. Their brains are not ready to make adult decisions.

This may be why the girl accepted your gifts, which made her happy, without reciprocating your affections. An adult woman would know that you are spending money as a way of showing that you care for her and want a relationship. A teenager, on the other hand, just takes what is offered without considering what it means.

We don’t know what country’s laws you are subject to. However, in many countries a man of your age would be judged harshly for considering a romantic relationship with a teenager. If the girl’s parents have not objected to your interest in her, they are likely motivated by financial gain rather than by their daughter’s best interests.

We strongly advise you to forget about this girl and to spend your time participating in activities for adults. If you ask God, He will give you the strength and wisdom that you need.

We wish you the best,

1 “What’s Going on in the Teenage Brain?”, Healthy Children Magazine, Fall 2007, American Academy of Pediatrics <https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/ teen/Pages/Whats-Going-On-in-the-Teenage-Brain.aspx> Online 30 July 2020.