Dear Prudence

Help! I’m Closer in Age to My Boyfriend’s Daughter Than to Him.

I’m so nervous about meeting her.

Two people are smiling at each other, cut off above the nose.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Hoby Finn/Getty Images Plus. 

Our advice columnists have heard it all over the years. Each Sunday, we dive into the Dear Prudie archives and share a selection of classic letters with our readers. Join Slate Plus for even more advice columns—your first month is only $1.

Dear Prudence,

I’ve been dating a divorced man who is more than 20 years my senior for three months, and I like him a lot. I’m meeting some of his friends and his teenage daughter later this week. I’m so nervous about meeting his daughter, especially because I’m closer to her age than his, and he has said that she can be very protective of him. How can I avoid screwing up this meeting? What is the best way to approach his daughter that is respectful and nonthreatening to her?

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Letting go of the expectation that you can control her reaction is going to be your best bet. You might be friendly and relaxed, with a real fun aunt vibe, and she might find the mere fact that you’re close to her age and dating her dad upsetting anyway. The best approach, I think, is to ask your boyfriend a lot of questions and be ready to postpone the meeting until you feel like you’re all as prepared as possible. Has he introduced his daughter to women he’s dated before? How has that gone? What has he told her about you, and how does she seem to be adjusting to the news? What does he mean by “very protective”? While you’re at it, ask yourself if you feel ready to get even tangentially involved in his daughter’s life after a three-month relationship and before you’ve gotten really emotionally invested. If you don’t trust that your boyfriend’s put a lot of thought and energy into planning this meeting, it’s worth putting off. If you decide to go ahead with it anyway, be friendly, and don’t try to wring any particular response out of her. Let her be distant or moody or reserved if she wants, and strive for pleasant neutrality. —Danny M. Lavery

Advertisement
Advertisement

From: “I’m 20 Years Younger Than My Boyfriend. How Do I Get His Teenage Daughter to Like Me?” (March 21, 2019)

Dear Prudence,

There are two little girls in my neighborhood seeking my attention. Several weeks ago they started coming up to my house uninvited to play on my porch swing. One day I noticed they were playing a little too roughly, and I told them that they’re only allowed to sit there as long as they swing gently. I stayed outside for about 20 minutes and talked to them about school, favorite movies, pets, and such. Ever since that conversation, they flock to my porch and have begun ringing my doorbell daily to ask if I can talk to them. I don’t always oblige, but when I do it’s usually the better part of an hour before I can manage to duck out of the incessant chattering. They’re sweet and I don’t mind spending time with them once in a while. They live with their single father, who has a limited income and has a gruff personality and doesn’t behave very tenderly toward his daughters. I’m pretty sure they lack a stable female influence, which is why I feel so guilty for being annoyed by them. They could clearly use a sensitive listener in their lives. How can I tell them that the badgering must stop without making them feel as if I’m rejecting them?

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

I wish you hadn’t painted such a poignant picture of these two little girls longing for someone in their lives who has a motherly gentleness and regard. You have no obligation to them beyond being pleasant in a distant, neighborly way. But I hope you will be moved to do more. It’s commonplace to hear stories of successful people who came from difficult childhoods and credit a teacher, a neighbor, a volunteer, with making them feel special, encouraged, heard. Perhaps you can set up a time for the girls to help you with certain chores—they could join you in weeding and watering the garden, walking the dog, cooking. That way you wouldn’t feel they’re a drain on your time, and conversation would flow while you were doing your tasks and they were learning from you. If you make your get-togethers regular and contained, say, every Thursday afternoon for an hour or so, then it would be much easier to set limits at other times. (“Girls, I have work, so I can’t talk to you now. But I look forward to spending time with you in two days.”) You would have to run this idea by their father, but please don’t imply they are imposing on your or becoming pests—that would likely result in a serious reprimand. You can also tell the girls they are welcome on your porch if they swing gently, but you can’t come out all the time because you are busy. If you do see them consistently, then down the road you would be in a position to suggest to the father that Big Brothers Big Sisters, for example, might be a good organization for the girls. It’s possible, if you step up, that you will find you’re getting as much out of this friendship as they are. —Emily Yoffe

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

From: “Help! My Little Neighbor Girls Need a Mother Figure, but Why Me?” (June 21, 2012)

Dear Prudence,

I’m sort of worried my husband is an a–hole. Not to me. To me, he is sweet and thoughtful and very much the wonderful man I married. But, for reasons I can’t wrap my head around, he’s not like that to strangers.

To waiters, support staff, concierge? Perfectly pleasant. To the bike rider who runs a stop sign? Angry, like the bike rider murdered a puppy. To my mom who can be a bit tough to handle? Patient as can be. To the teenage girl bumping into him because she was walking down the sidewalk, staring at her phone? Livid, like she told him she had personally canceled his favorite TV show.

Advertisement

Yes, I get it. The world is full of rude people. But my husband takes pleasure in being rude to the people who are rude to him first. I say, ignore it. Focus on the real issues. But he says he’s just giving out the same energy he receives. How do I make him stop?

The bad news, I’m afraid, is that you can’t make him stop if he doesn’t want to, and if he sees his boorish, inappropriately angry responses to everyday inconveniences as justified, then he may not be interested in changing his behavior. But you can at the very least make it clear that you find his anger jarring, inexplicable, and indicative of a deeper problem. I don’t know what this conversation will look like going forward. If he’s generally polite and not abusing waitstaff or short with your mother, then it may not be the biggest problem in your marriage, but I think you should, if nothing else, pay very close attention to the fact that you’re concerned about the way your husband handles his own anger. This is worth revisiting. —D.L.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

From: “Help! My Otherwise Lovely Husband Loses His Temper With Strangers. Did I Marry a Jerk?” (Oct. 31, 2017)

Dear Prudence,

My new wife, “Brenda,” and I are supposed to be on our honeymoon but instead, she is sharing her bed with someone else. I know it sounds ridiculous, but should I be worried? She is extremely close to her best friend, “Sadie”—they were young women together in the city. Their friendship involves sleepovers, and sometimes Brenda would spend the night with Sadie instead of me. Some of my friends, including females, said they think Brenda and Sadie are lesbians. I asked Brenda once if they did anything sexual during these sleepovers and Brenda laughed it off and told me they just watched movies and drank wine. Sadie had a long-distance boyfriend who she was very much in love with (and who I suspected was married man). The day after our wedding Sadie’s boyfriend died. Instead of leaving for Hawaii with me, Brenda ran to Sadie’s side. I’m not sure how long she intends to stay. Do women really do this? Should I be glad that my new wife is so loyal to her best friend, or should I be thinking about contacting a divorce lawyer?

Advertisement
Advertisement

There you were, about to board the plane, expecting in a few hours you would be draped with leis and heading to the hotel to get laid. Now it sounds as if you should be watching The Descendants and comforting yourself that George Clooney’s character is having a worse time being in Hawaii than you are not being there. The issue is not whether “women” don’t go on their honeymoons because a friend has an emergency, but that Brenda didn’t go on hers with you. You say your friends have suggested Brenda and Sadie are lovers. Maybe your pals collectively have salacious minds, or perhaps they just have good gaydar. After all, you had enough unease about Brenda and Sadie’s sleeping arrangements to put the question directly to your beloved. You got an answer, but it sounds as if you weren’t entirely convinced. It’s also odd that either you didn’t feel comfortable enough to bring up your suspicions about Sadie’s relationship, or that Brenda didn’t trust you enough to confirm that Sadie’s boyfriend was mostly absent because it’s hard to slip away from one’s wife. But now that you’ve found out how easy it was for your wife to slip away from you, you appear to have lost all ability to have a conversation with her. It’s not unreasonable that Brenda postponed her honeymoon because of Sadie’s loss. Before your bride crawled into the bed of her friend, obviously you two should have discussed delaying your departure for, say, a week, then agreed to check in with each other daily about how things were looking. (It would also make sense for Sadie to get a fold-out couch.) You are indicating that you and Brenda are so incommunicado that it’s made you ready to hum Aloha ‘Oe while on hold with the divorce lawyer. But before blowing up your marriage like Kīlauea, it would be a good idea to take care of the basics first. In your case that would mean seeing if your new wife will return your call and tell you what’s up. —Emily Yoffe

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

From: “Help! My Wife Ditched Our Honeymoon To Be With Her Best Friend.” (April 26, 2012)

More Advice From Dear Prudence

Dear Prudence,

I agreed to be my sister’s maid of honor before I knew I was pregnant, and my due date is smack dead center in the week of her destination wedding. I very obviously will not be able to go, but I still want to help out before the baby takes over my life. I also have insisted my parents go on to the wedding. My husband and I just want it to be us for the birth and have everyone come in later. My sister, however, has retreated into toddlerhood. She makes pointed “jokes” about how I am trying to steal her thunder and abandoning her for the baby.

Advertisement