My daughter secretly met her mother’s boyfriend even though they had no previous relationship

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My daughter secretly met her mothers boyfriend even though they had no previous relationship

I have a daughter. Let’s call her Jenny. Yes, I became a father when I was 18. When my baby was 1 year old her mother confessed that she has recently cheated on me with someone I was even not familiar with so we broke up. As I was a student back then and so was my ex-girlfriend, my mother (Jenny’s grandma) decided to step in and take care of our daugther. So Jenny moved to my mother’s house as I couldn’t afford my own house or an apartment and had to continue studying in a university which was in another city. Jenny’s mother didn’t mind that. Fastforward 3 years, my ex dies in an accident. After 5 more years I got married, me and my wife rented a house and decided that it’s time for us to reunite with my daugther. 

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This is when I receive a phone call from a guy who was familiar with Jenny’s mother. He claims that he was “a close friend” of my ex, that he was also familiar with my daughter and asked my permission to see my daughter from time to time, buy her presents for her birthdays etc because she “reminds him of his friend that passed away”. This actually looked kind of weird to me. A stranger wishes to spend time with my child, ugh…so I just refused without even diving into any investigation. He never called again and I just forgot this incident for good. 

So now my daughter is 15 and a year ago my wife spotted a man chatting with Jenny on the street. When she came closer the man rapidly walked away. My wife asked Jenny about the man and Jenny told her that it’s just a friend who visited her sometimes when she lived with her grandma. When I confronted my mother she admitted that there was some guy coming to her house with the parents of my ex when they came to visit the grave of Jenny’s mother once or twice a year. He was introduced as “a family friend” so she didn’t even consider it necessary to tell me (yeah, that’s my mom).

Here I should mention that our relationship with Jenny was really nice. I’m not an ideal parent but I did my best to make her feel loved and cared of as she is an essential part of the family. They do really get along with my wife, sometimes Jenny calls her “mom”, sometimes not but anyway the atmosphere inside my family is really warm. Jenny loves to hug with both of us, we play board games, everything is pretty fine.

We had a talk together and I told Jenny that she should not continue that communication as this man is not related to our family and we don’t know his true intentions. She seemed to agree and promised not to talk to that man again. We changed her mobile phone number so he couldn’t reach her anymore.

2 months after I asked Jenny if he tried to contact her again and she said he didn’t. 

Half a year after that I have spotted a strange message popped up on her phone which said something like “are we meeting today? Don’t let Helen know about it!” (Helen is my wife). 

I insisted on inspecting Jenny’s phone and voila! Tons of messages and even photos with that guy. He calls her “my sweet” and “honey”, he also confesses that he was a lover of her mom and has feelings (damn, what feelings exactly?) towards my daughter but beside of that there’s no evidence that there was something between him and Jenny other than casual chatting and occational brief encounters (but who knows!?). He even somehow managed to have secret meetings with Jenny when she lived with my mother as well as meeting Jenny secretly when she moved to our house. I discovered that my daughter used any opportunity to meet him and did this so many times and hid it so skillfully that both me and my wife have never suspected anything.

I don’t remember Jenny lying to me before and I had no reasons not to trust my child when she asked my permission to go to the trade center with her friends, to the school club etc.

I filed a police report but I don’t think that any evidence that he did anything punishable by laws of my country can be collected. Chatting with someone’s child is not a crime here unless you send them d-pics. 

Jenny says they were just casually hanging around like friends do, nothing sexual or even romantic but I’m not sure I believe her as she kept lying to me about them stopped their communication. My warm connection with my daughter is gone. I cannot trust her anymore when she says she’s going to meet her school friends so I have banned all her activities beside those where I or my wife are involved so we can keep an eye on her.

So at this point I don’t know how I can keep this man off my daugher as it’s clear that she’s seeking to meet him disregarding my ban and our talks about it being dangerous. I have arranged a meeting of Jenny with a psychologist but I’m not sure it’s gonna work. I feel that something is broken between me and my daughter now and I don’t know how to repair that. Any advice appreciated. 

John M. Kaman’s answer: Navigating through what you’ve shared, it’s clear you’re in a profoundly difficult and delicate situation. The concern for your daughter’s safety, coupled with the betrayal of trust, places you in uncharted waters as a parent. Let’s approach this with a mix of compassion and pragmatism, shall we?

Firstly, your protective instincts towards Jenny are entirely justified. The involvement of an adult man, who claims a past connection with her deceased mother and exhibits this level of interest in a teenager, is unsettling. Your actions in response—contacting the police and restricting Jenny’s activities—are understandable reactions aimed at safeguarding her. However, the complexity of this situation lies in balancing protection with the preservation of your relationship with Jenny.

On Trust and Communication: It’s clear that trust has been shaken on both sides. Jenny hid her continued communication with this man, likely understanding your concerns but also feeling a connection or curiosity she wasn’t ready to dismiss. On your side, discovering this breach has understandably eroded your trust in her assurances.

The key to navigating forward, as challenging as it might seem, is rebuilding trust through open, non-judgmental communication. It might be helpful to have a calm, heartfelt conversation with Jenny, not just about the dangers of interacting with this man but also about why she feels drawn to him. Is it curiosity about her mother? A sense of connection to her past? Understanding her motivations can guide your response.

Professional Support: Arranging for Jenny to see a psychologist is a wise move. It’s important, though, to frame this not as a punishment but as support—a safe space for her to explore her feelings and the complexities of this situation. It might also be beneficial for you to seek guidance, either individually or through family therapy, to navigate this situation and learn strategies for rebuilding trust.

Boundaries and Autonomy: As Jenny grows, her need for autonomy will increase. While your instinct to protect her is valid, consider integrating her in the decision-making process regarding safety and interactions outside the home. This doesn’t mean lifting all restrictions but rather working together to establish guidelines she understands and has a stake in. It’s about teaching her to navigate risks with wisdom rather than through outright prohibition, which she may attempt to circumvent.

Legal and Safety Measures: Continue to monitor the situation closely and document any interactions with this man, especially if they escalate or become more concerning. While chatting might not be punishable, any grooming behavior or inappropriate advances certainly are. Keep open lines of communication with law enforcement about your concerns.

Rebuilding Your Relationship: Focus on mending the bond with Jenny. This might mean finding new activities to enjoy together, setting aside time for regular check-ins where she can share her thoughts and feelings without fear of immediate repercussion, and reassuring her of your unconditional love and support, even when you disagree or are disappointed in her actions.

Remember, Jenny is navigating the challenging teenage years, compounded by the complex emotions surrounding her mother’s death and her father’s past relationship. She needs reassurance that she can trust you with her feelings and mistakes, knowing you’ll guide rather than punish her.

Patience, empathy, and open lines of communication will be your allies as you work through this. Repairing trust won’t happen overnight, but with consistent effort and understanding, it’s entirely possible to rebuild a strong, supportive relationship with your daughter.

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