How Do I Accept That My 18 Yo Daughter Is Dating a 30 Yo Man?

Updated on February 05, 2019
R.D. asks from Woodbridge, NJ
14 answers

My 18 yo daughter is a freshman in college across state. A 30 yo man that we only knew of as her friend took her away for an off-the-grid, no cell service camping trip her first weekend in college He lives in our hometown so It was quite opportunistic of him to drive 7 hours to whisk her away from her first college weekend. Since then they are together forever. While my daughter seems happy, he has done nothing to demonstrate to us that he respects her or our values. As they are both adults it’s reasonable that they are sexual. But I’m having a very hard time accepting the age difference as they are are in completely different stages of life. My daughter is just starting out and until that first weekend in college she was so ambitious and excited about her college experience. Now she waits for his twice a month visits and now wants to move home for college so that they can be in the same town (where he still lives with his parents). On his frequent visits they spend the weekend in motels which I find a little creepy with the age difference. Again, I’m not naive, but he is making no effort to demonstrate that he respects her and holds her to a higher standard. We have talked and I’ve requested that when he visits her that he pick her up from the dorm, takes her in a legit date —and I know a lot can happen there—then returns her to her dorm. He straight out told me no and that I needed to accept the fact that they enjoy sharing the same bed. I know my concerns sound more about appearances but he is a grown man. If she were closer to his age and a grown, independent woman I would have no reason for such a request or convo about their sleeping arrangement. I know college students are capable of sleeping together but it’s his age and her lack of interest in anything other than him that I’m struggling with. She’s not the first child Ii’ve sent to college so I know how to let go. Does anyone have any thoughts or advice?

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So What Happened?

Thank you everyone for your responses. My intentions are to focus on my relationship with my daughter which I think is already positive with open communication. I have to remind myself to not nag her about him but sometimes a little steam escapes. Your advice will help me do that better. She has so many positive qualities I hate that this issue takes over at times.
It helps to know that others understand my concerns. Thank you again.

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answers from Louisville on

Like it or not shes an adult and can do what she wants. I know it sounds like a huge age difference but its really not. THe bigger deal you make about it the more it will push her away. Let her live and learn. Good luck!

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answers from Portland on

I think in your daughter's case, it sounds like a toxic, unhealthy relationship.

I dated a man my age in college (who didn't go to college and was a dud) - and it was a toxic relationship. I lost myself in that relationship, and it's what I focused on - instead of my future.

Whereas I have a sibling who met a man while she was in college who was older, and it was a very healthy, rewarding relationship and they married when she graduated. They are still married and have a big family. He is very supportive and loving.

So - to me, it's the guy, not the age difference.

I think it's your daughter and the guy - the dud - that is the issue. Why is your daughter dating a dud?

My mom focussed on that - when I dated the dud. She tried to focus on the problem - not the guy - and that helped. She felt I must have low self esteem to date a person who really wasn't suited to me. She was right. In the end, she helped me to see that I deserved better. It took a long time for me to realize that.

By being there for your daughter, and helping to see she's a wonderful, smart, deserving, attractive young woman, hopefully she'll see she has other opportunities - not just this guy. Gently encourage her to go out with friends to other social things, to meet other guys (gently) without her realizing that's what you're doing, etc.

Often we pick duds when we think that's all we can attract. That's a bigger issue.

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answers from Norfolk on

That would bother me too but there's not much you can do about it.
She's discovered sex (whoop de do) - congratulations, she found her crotch just like 7 billion other people on the planet do sooner or later.
As long as she is in school and getting good grades I would help pay for it.
If she drops out then she needs to get a job and support herself.

If she comes home to live with you, you need to have an understanding about the rules of living under your roof.
She won't be a minor that you HAVE to support and she doesn't get to treat your home like a hotel or love shack although she can date who ever she wants to she can't be bringing him (or anyone) home and into her room.
Write up a contract that covers everything - rent, chores, responsibilities and privileges - for her and you - as well as the consequences for failure to honor the contract.

It's more likely that she will move in with the 30 yr old - if his parents will allow it.
In which case you can offer to keep her birth control up to date and send over a bag of groceries every now and then and maybe take her out to dinner every so often - don't give her any money.
If they get their own apartment - good for them - looks like they might be growing up - the hard way - but some people just have to do things the hard way in order for them to learn from it.

If he is into teenagers then your daughter won't be with him for more than a few years and then he'll be cruising the high schools looking for his next girlfriend.
It's possible/probable that he has a few exes that have aged out.
I wonder if it would be possible to find out who they were.
It might be an eye opener to have a chat with them but it could be hard to find them and/or they might not be willing to discuss anything about him.

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answers from Chicago on

I think you’re right to be concerned, but this is a tricky situation because she thinks she is an adult, and legally she is an adult, but her brain is not yet fully developed and her judgment is not the best here. As adults, we can see that a 30 year old dating an 18 year old college student is a red flag. 30 year old men who are dating 18 year olds are usually interested in someone they can control. The way he spoke to you worries me. A 30 year old living with his parents is also a red flag, unless he’s helping elderly parents and is working and otherwise independent. But she can’t see the flags. She is seeing something else. So talk with her, but mostly to listen, not to talk. You talked with him, but it’s not clear what you’ve said to her, so I apologize if you’re already doing these things…...

What does she like about him? What good qualities does he have? What is she liking about school? What doesn’t she like? Maybe part of his appeal is that she isn’t really happy at her school, hasn’t bonded with friends or professors? Listen to her. Maybe give her ideas for whatever she is struggling with, but try not to criticize him. You want her to be able to be in touch with her own doubts, which I’m sure she has. Hopefully, the more she is feeling good about herself and school, the less interested in him she will be. Don’t try to argue with her or talk her into anything, mostly just listen, but if she isn’t expressing any doubts at all, try to gently plant some seeds of doubt. You can express gentle concerns, but always with the utmost of respect for this being her decision.

For example, you could say, “In my experience, by 30 a man is usually independent. What do you think about him living with his parents?” Or, “In my experience, a 30 year old man who is interested in a 18 year old is looking for someone to control. Do you see any signs of that in this relationship?” What do her friends think of him? My concern would be that he is isolating her from friends, so if that is the case, you want her to see that. I know this won’t be comfortable, but ask her if she is enjoying the sex; is he sensitive to her needs or is it all about him? If she doesn’t have a lot of experience, she might be unaware of what to expect, what a healthy relationship should look like. Maybe find things about him that you like, and agree with her as much as possible if she is telling you how wonderful he is, but remind her that such a wonderful guy will also be supportive of her pursuing her goals, will be respectful to her friends and family, etc. You can be older and wiser, but in a matter of fact way, not controlling.

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answers from Seattle on

When I was 19 i dated a man who was 32. We dated for almost 4 years.
It worked for us. I told him that I was just looking to date, didn't want kids, and didn't want to get married. And then...3 years later told him I did. I see the other women saying this guy is gross or disgusting. I don't know him, but I can say that the guy I dated was not either one of those things.
You have no say. You don't get to ask him to take her out on "legit dates." This is all up to your daughter. SHE needs to demand the respect and "higher standard." SHE needs to demand the dates. SHE needs to not sleep in hotels. SHE needs to be the one to talk to him.
Build your daughter up, make her understand her value.

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answers from Washington DC on


your daughter is an adult. the more you argue against this guy - the more she will be attracted to him.

At the age of 30 and still living with his parents SHOULD be a red flag. Does he work? Has he ever been married? Any kids?

Sounds like he is going to try and control her and limit your access to her - especially if you fight the relationship.

Gush over him. Swoon over him. Tell her that she's going to love taking care of him after she graduates from college and gets a job! Life will be grand!

I know you want to choke on that - but really. The more you fight it - the more she will want it.

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answers from Minneapolis on

Well if she really wants to move home and transfer schools, I think you need to be clear on ground rules *before* allowing her to move back into your home. If this man still lives with his parents, and she would be living in your home, they will be looking for someplace semi-private to sleep together. She's an adult, so you can't give her a curfew. But motels are going to get old and get expensive after awhile unless he has a lot of money, which I'm guessing he does not. She may be a legal adult, but you can be clear to her you will not allow him as an overnight guest (or any overnight guests of hers to be fair) in your home or to be entertained in her room, or to visit when you or your husband are not at home, whatever you decide. Your house, your rules. You can't prohibit her from meeting him in public, or at his place, but you don't have to enable this. Maybe she will see for herself after the honeymoon stage wears off that it's not so much fun to date a 30 year old who still lives with his own parents. Pay for her tuition and food only. Make sure she has to pay for 100 percent of whatever could go into this relationship, gas, spending money to go out to eat, entertainment, etc. Then wait it out. Don't say anything bad about him. I think it will fizzle on its own.

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answers from Chicago on

I do find the timing of this a bit suspicious. Like he waited until she was far enough away from you guys so that you couldn’t interfere with his agenda, and also with your daughter learning to live independently of you by going away (7 hours) to school.

Going away to school is such a psychological and emotional milestone for young adults, that her latching on to a semi-adult may indicate she is overwhelmed with this change. It might be good for her to return home and go to a local college. This may allow you to run more ‘intereference’ with their dating, and I would guess he will be less attractive once he isn’t rescuing her from campus. You don’t mention her pursuing any romantic relationship with him when she was home (and knew him, correct?).

I think Margie G. gave you a great example how to talk with her. Keep your relationship focused on her, what she needs and what she wants. Stay very neutral in your comments about him. You just have to be patient and let her find her way (hugs, I can only imagine how hard this will be).

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answers from Chicago on

Oh God this man is disgusting! I am so sorry you are having to deal with this. I hope he tires of her quickly and moves on. Yuck. In the meantime, you have to stay close to your daughter, even if that means putting up with him. If you rebuke him too much or too strongly, you will lose her to him. Keep your focus on her, what she needs, getting through school, and absolutely NOT getting pregnant with this pile of trash. Hopefully, she will mature a bit sooner rather than later, and focus on herself, her education, and her college peers instead. Stay strong, M.! Also, be ready (mentally and otherwise) in case she calls some night or some weekend and needs you. You have to be there.

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answers from Washington DC on

i too would be worried if she seems to be altering her plans to accommodate him. and i'd be less than thrilled that he's 30 and still living with his parents.

some of your comments aren't really making sense to me, though. i mean, he tells you outright that they enjoy sharing a bed, and you know they stay in motels, yet you find it 'reasonable that they are sexual.' um. yeah.

at least he didn't beat around the bush when you tried to manage their dating scenario. did you really think that would work?

i do get your concern. i'd be pretty upset too. but i'm a little baffled by just how you've decied to try to interfere. it's her overarching plans that would worry me- switching schools to be near him etc. not the structure of their dates.

what is the 'higher standard' you want him to demonstrate, exactly?

i think your only choices are to sit down and discuss your concerns with your daughter, trying really really hard to stick to the important things (ie not where they're having sex). or accept that she's an adult, trust that your parenting and family philosophy will win out in the end, and make sure she knows she can come to you at any time if she needs to bounce things off you.

ultimately this is not yours to control.


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answers from New Orleans on

I’m going to say this, when I was a little over 19, I had a thing for this older man(32) at my job. Of course what he told me that his deceased brother passed away and he was “taking” care of his brother wife and three children and that was it. She actually worked up at the same job also. At the time my boyfriend (husband now) was on and off in a relationship.I believed this man.

He mentioned before about at the another job how he was messing with girls that were 17-19. I didn’t think much of it. He took me to a hotel after “our” work shift. I knew what he was getting at. I think part of me wanted to do it but was unsure because of things(wasn’t a virgin at the time) but of my other relationship with my off and on boyfriend. We did it of course and wasn’t proud of myself. I learned I didn’t have those feelings like I did with my boyfriend. Of course one day his so called deceased brothers wife came into work with hickies on her neck and I knew he was playing me. And later one night i almost got my butt kick from her when she found we were messing around a few times. I think he was trying to feel “young” and think he was good and attractive and still can get a young girl. I saw pictures online and not so attractive anymore. I think I had daddy issues as what my mom told me since me and my father didn’t have a good relationship and I like the way he treated me and cared for me but truly he wanted was the sex and thought he was a hot shot that could score a young clueless girl(taking about me). I grew up a lot and now in my 30s and realize I would of change a lot in that time and would done things differently.

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answers from Atlanta on

Ahh...I'm fortunate to have only boys. However, i have struggled with the girlfriend or two I didn't like. I know that with my oldest, the more I resisted her? He would "love" her that much more. I found a way to be "nice" and "polite" without showing my disdain for her. He lost interest after a few months (whew!!)

For your daughter? I would tell her that I hope she looks around and sees what's out there for her before she falls head over heels with one. Tell her she's got plenty of time to play and not settle.

when he confronts you? I would stay calm and tell him that I support my daughter, even as a grown adult. If she's happy? I'm happy.

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answers from Boca Raton on

Check him out via Investigator or online service. Do you know his parents? If not, go introduce yourself, tell them of your concerns and ask them of theirs. Talking to your daughter and boyfriend goes in one ear and out the other. Stand your ground for yourself and for family, and let them know you're watching them. He sounds, from the onset, to be a Red may be alarmist; but she is your daughter, so best to you.

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answers from Portland on

Your post seems to focus on three reasons you're upset with this relationship. His age. He's a loser. He doesn't have the same values as your family. These reasons really have more to do with you than your daughter. Why is she attracted to him. What needs does he fulfill for her? What are your daughter's values? Is it possible that she's taking this way to rebel?

Do you know why he still lives with his parents? Does he have a responsible job,? Why is he attracted to an 18 yo?

What are your values, your daughter's values and his? Which of his values are important to you and why? What are your daughter's values? Do his values conflict with hers? How do you know he disrespects your daughter? Does your daughter feel disrespected? If not, why not?

Of course your daughter isn't listening to you. Have you listened to her? What does she say about the reasons for having this relationship? Sounds like she disagrees with your reasons to not have this relationship. I suggest you take a different approach, acknowledging that she has the right to make this and other decisions related to her. The only way we can influence someone is to respect them and their choices. We don't have to agree with them. We just have to respect that these are her choices and only she can make different choices. When you argue with her you are saying "I'm right and you're wrong." You take away her right to make decisions as a new adult. You're putting her down. Putting her down is disrespectful. Why would she listen to you? She wants to be in control of her life. She has to fight you to feel she is in control.

Try more listening than talking. Tell her you love her and you're worried. Respectfully ask questions and listen. Tell her because you're worried you came down too hard on her. Admit your worry is so intense you're angry because she doesn't understand. Tell her you don't understand why she has chosen this person as a boyfriend. Give her the right to have power and respect her choices.

Eighteen and leaving home is a very difficult stage for both you and your daughter. I suggest you get help on learning how to make it through this stage. Gone are your days of parenting. It's time to learn a different way to relate with your daughter.

I agree 30 is too old, that he may be a loser but you'll never convince your daughter. So stop trying. Be loving and kind. Only give her advice if she asks for it. I know it's not make comments and give advice. My daughter and I had a difficult relationship the first couple of years after she turned 18. I knew what was best for her. Ha! She had a difficult time becoming an adult. She rebelled. We fought with each other. She made major life changing decisions that were painful for both of us. She has a life different than what I would choose. It is her life. She is a different person than me. I learned from my choices. My daughter is learning from her's.I can only love her and be there to support her in a loving way. We cannot protect our children from life.

Added. My brother had2 marries and a couple of long term relationships that did not work out. Our Mom said, "that if he can live with them, she can walk around them." Good advice.

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