Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My 38-Year-Old Girlfriend is Keeping Me a Secret From Her Father”

Beauti of India

I’m a 58-year-old man, a “WASP,” twice-divorced, with five children, and not wealthy. My girlfriend of eight months is 38, twice-divorced, a single mother with a 9-year-old daughter, and the only child of very wealthy Iranian-Jewish parents. Her mom is having an end-of-summer party which I was not invited to. I’ve met her mom and stepfather a few times and we get along well, but her father will also be at the party and he still doesn’t know we’ve been dating. He supports my girlfriend as she is in some legal trouble, and he is incredibly controlling, abusive, and volatile. My girlfriend has been fearful of his reaction to learning about me.

I understand the party is not the place for “coming out,” but until her father knows about us, I will always be excluded from events that he is attending and I’m feeling…uncomfortable about that. I don’t like keeping secrets and I’m being excluded because my girlfriend is keeping one from her dad.

I’ve been treading lightly on this so far, but I’m not sure if I should ask her to consider bringing “us” up with her dad. She’s said she feels OK to some extent because her mom and stepfather know about us, but I still remain a “secret” to a significant relationship in her life. Would she keep things from ME in the future from fear of those consequences? — 58 and Kept a Secret

If your biggest concern here is that you’re wondering if your girlfriend would keep things from YOU in the future if she feared the consequences, consider that she has particular reason to fear her father that she (hopefully!) doesn’t have in regards to you. You say her father is “incredibly controlling, abusive and volatile.” You, I hope, are none of those things. On top of those traits, her father is also in a position of power because he supports your girlfriend while she deals with legal trouble and raises her 9-year-old daughter. If she only had herself to worry about, that would be one thing. But she has a daughter and, for whatever reason, is relying on her “incredibly controlling, abusive and volatile” father to help support them. That’s a really vulnerable and precarious position to be in, and, while I certainly understand your frustration in being excluded from events in her life and being kept a secret from her father, I think you would do well to continue treading lightly here and be careful not to push someone who seems to be sitting on a foundation that sounds particularly imbalanced and unstable.

That said, after eight months I’d say it’s reasonable to broach some discussions with your girlfriend about the status of your relationship and where you both see things going. If she sees you in her life for the foreseeable future, does she have some idea when she’ll have independence from her father and not rely on him for financial support? Will you be in a position to support her if he cuts her off because he doesn’t approve of you? (If you aren’t, then you really, REALLY need to tread lightly; if you are, that gives you a bit more leverage). As two divorced people, does either of you have interest in getting married again? What about living together? Once you have some discussions and clarity about these topics, you will better be able to gauge when your girlfriend thinks she’ll be in a position to tell her father about you (and deal with the consequences of sharing that news with him).

In the meantime, think about the consequences YOU face in being too pushy on this issue. While it’s understandable that you want to be “out” with your girlfriend, consider that pushing too hard and too fast might cost you your relationship (and consider that, if she does acquiesce and tell her father about you, she may face dire consequences, especially if he’s abusive as you say he is). Think about what it is that being “out” means to you — would it prove her love to you? Validate your relationship? Give you a sense that she’s serious about you and sees a future with you? Figure out what it is you need in your relationship right now that you think being fully “out” will give you and consider whether there’s anything else that would give you the same result without sacrificing your girlfriend’s current financial support, relationship with her father, and, potentially, her well-being. And then communicate that with her. And let her know you understand her predicament and you plan to be patient with her, but that eventually you will need to be a full part of her life, and not hidden away during family events, if you two are to continue a committed relationship together.

***************

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at [email protected].

22 comments… add one
  • avatar

    Penguingina September 10, 2014, 9:19 am

    Hey Wendy, two thirds through your first paragraph you have “an really” 🙂

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  • avatar

    Sunshine Brite September 10, 2014, 9:35 am

    Love this advice! LW, keep remembering that fear that she has and remember the last time you were truly scared about something. Usually I feel like we encourage adults to “out” their relationships but it seems like there is fear behind this, perhaps cultural and age difference too. Don’t push too hard, just open the lines of communication and see where they take you.

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  • avatar

    Essie September 10, 2014, 10:07 am

    LW, I don’t think I’d be worrying about this being a sign that she’d be keeping things from you. This seems like a somewhat unique situation, and given the possible consequences: a) he goes nuts and harms her or her child, or b) she’s got no money to take care of herself and her child….I think she’s more than justified in being cautious. it’s not just her safety and security that’s at stake here, she’s got her daughter to protect as well.

    Also, given that this is only an eight-month relationship, I’d suggest that you back off. Many people haven’t introduced a new boyfriend/girlfriend to any family members by this point, let alone routinely invited them to family events. Especially if they have a child. It’s great that she’s introduced you to her mom and stepfather.

    She’s in a precarious situation. She needs support, not pressure.

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  • something random

    something random September 10, 2014, 10:33 am

    Honestly lw, If you have five kids needing your physical, emotional, and financial presence the last thing you need is to get up in all of this drama. Your girlfriend appears to be in a really bad place. You don’t need to be getting involved in it and I’d avoid distracting yourself from you primary responsibilities. I’m not saying you don’t deserve a life or that girlfriends a bad person but you’ve got other priorities. And if you don’t think so, you have other relationships you need to mend first.

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    • something random

      something random September 10, 2014, 12:05 pm

      I’m curious and am going to poke at a hornets nest here. I do so in the spirit of respect in genuine curiosity. I’m not trying to start letter-writer mud slinging or go on a feminist tangent. I really am curious because my own reaction is usually pretty in line with some of the posters here and in this case its not, so I wonder if I have some weird bias playing out.

      If this letter read
      “I’m a mom who has been divorced twice and have five children between my marriages. I’ve been dating a man for nine months who is twenty years younger than me. I like this man but he a single dad in his thirties who is in financially dependent on his controlling, abusive, rich, Iranian dad. My boyfriend is in legal trouble and up against a wall and I’m not rich enough to help him. While my younger boyfriend has introduced me to some of his family, I haven’t met his dad because that might cause his father to cut off support or act crazy. Should I be worried that he will hide things from me in the future instead of confronting them?”

      My feelings with the role reversal are that the mom is putting herself in a crappy situation. But maybe I have a bias against parents being financially dependent on their parents? Or an age bias?

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      • something random

        something random September 10, 2014, 12:14 pm

        Or maybe a multiple divorce bias?

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      • avatar

        Sue Jones September 10, 2014, 12:17 pm

        In many other cultures besides America, children of wealth are often supported by their parents. Think Royal Family??? And many other Europeans that I have known. Only in America do we have this pull yourself up by the bootstraps myth. I say myth since I happen to live in a city full of young and old trustifarians (alas I am not one… And have been self supporting since I finished college so it took me a while to understand how people who barely work can afford a 800k house…). I think people who are not from wealthy families don’t understand that wealth sometime has it’s own issues – like parental control as an adult.

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      • something random

        something random September 10, 2014, 12:25 pm

        That makes sense. I can clearly see now that the real issue for me is control. I would never want to be with someone who I thought had given up personal power or control of their lives.

        This is certainly a very westernized attitude and definitely very a new, more contemporary point of view. And it is definitely a bias of my life and observations.

        Thanks Sue, I get it now.

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      • something random

        something random September 10, 2014, 12:26 pm

        One of these days I’ll slow down and check my grammar. I’m sorry my posts are so hard to read.

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      • Portia

        Portia September 10, 2014, 7:58 pm

        Trustifarians – that is a great word! I’d never heard it, but certainly have known some people who would fit that description.

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  • avatar

    Sue Jones September 10, 2014, 11:12 am

    Yes, LW, back off. Your GF of less than 1 year knows her father and what he is capable of better than you do. She and her daughter really rely on his financial support right now and it is really not your place, unless you 2 are married, to insist upon being “out”. There were plenty of times that I kept things from my volatile parents when they were alive because I knew that they were not the logical, balanced, free-thinking people that I, or any significant other, wished them to be .

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  • coconot

    coconot September 10, 2014, 11:44 am

    I have some experience in this bc my now husband and I had to keep our relationship a secret from our parents (and as a result could not tell many of our friends) for 2 years for various cultural/age difference/possibly unbalanced parents reasons. It was rough at times to keep the secret, and our parents were not happy to have been lied to for so long, but I don’t believe my husband and I would still be together now 7 years later if we hadn’t kept the secret. Moreover, we didn’t even have to deal with children or financial dependence or past divorces! Definitely wait it out and get your relationship validation elsewhere. And as Wendy says, it speaks a lot towards her commitment to you that she told her mother and step father about you.

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  • bittergaymark

    Bittergaymark September 10, 2014, 1:32 pm

    LW. Question. Would you put up with this shit if she was 58? Of course not! But she ‘s some hot mess of a 38 year old … Surprise. Surprise. This is the problem/price that comes with dating children — they often act like children. Helpless. Dependent on others. Immature… Sexy, isn’t it?

    …Oh. Right. I get it. She’s 38…. And so of course you ‘ll gladly put up with this shit. So STOP complaining already. Besides , she ‘ll dump you soon enough.

    …LOVE to know the nature of her legal issues. As I am so SURE they are hilariously gross and totally of her own making. But hey… She ‘s 38! Fucking hot, man!

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    • Dear Wendy

      Dear Wendy September 10, 2014, 2:05 pm

      As a woman who just turned 28 a few days ago, I want to thank BGM for this comment. I haven’t felt so young since the last time I was carded.

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      • Diablo

        Diablo September 10, 2014, 2:54 pm

        If you’re so well-adjusted, how come you typed 28 instead of 38? Hmm….
        Signed, Jealous 48 year Old.

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      • Dear Wendy

        Dear Wendy September 10, 2014, 3:04 pm

        Haha Freudian typo!

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      • Dear Wendy

        Dear Wendy September 10, 2014, 3:04 pm

        slash wishful thinking.

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    • Addie Pray

      Addie Pray September 10, 2014, 3:22 pm

      Yesssssss to the idea that at 38 you can still be a hot young mess!!!!!!

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      • avatar

        Sue Jones September 10, 2014, 5:44 pm

        Could a 53 year old be considered a “hot young mess” to a 70 year old? Just wondering…

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      • fast eddie

        fast eddie September 10, 2014, 8:11 pm

        Mot assuredly Sue, says this old fat old man at 73. 😉

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  • avatar

    freckles September 10, 2014, 2:38 pm

    LW, it’s obviously not you. She introduced you to her mother and her stepfather. If she were keeping you a secret from both of her parents, I would say you would have more reason to question. (Not that keeping it a secret from both parents isn’t legitimate, as evidenced by other comments above, just that you would have more reason to question until you found out the truth). I say let it go.

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