‘I want to pursue a long-term relationship with my friend’s father’

Tell Me About It: ‘He wants to keep our relationship a secret as he fears his daughter won’t understand’

PROBLEM: I am a 24-year-old woman, and have a great career, family, life and friends. I have had a few relationships and was once very close to getting engaged, but it didn’t work out, which was probably for the best since our attraction was only really ever physical.

During the pandemic I moved back to the family home. I decided to work from my friend’s home for several reasons – she lives in the centre of the local town with access to shops, cafes etc and has better wifi.

She lives with her dad, who is divorced and in his mid-50s. I have known him since I was a child. Over the course of several months the three of us worked diligently together from the same house, enjoying long lunches and often a few drinks in the evening and I would stay over.

After about eight months, due to the nature of her work, my friend needed to return to her office. She said that it would be okay if I continued to work from the house for a short period of time, as I had got myself into a good and productive routine and, anyway, she returned home each evening.

During her absences I started to spend more time with her dad and started to become closer to him. After about three weeks we started to sleep together, and the sex is the best I have ever had. We both say that we love each other and want to have a relationship.

The issue is that he wants this to be a secret. He is terrified that his daughter won’t understand and that my family and the people we both know will think that as he had known me as a child that in someway he has groomed me.

I think this is nonsense. I am a mature and experienced woman who can make her own choices and mistakes. I have never been with a man more than a couple of years older than me, nor have I ever really desired to do so until now. I think we have a real long-term future together and holding this as a secret is reinforcing the problem.

ADVICE: As two adults there is no legal barrier to you being together, but you can see that both your friend, her family and your own family might have difficulties with this relationship. There are issues of age difference that might lead to questions of power inequalities and of course your friend might have an issue with you dating her dad and see it as a betrayal of your friendship or indeed a breach of her special relationship with her dad.

All this suggests that you proceed with caution.

Covid has cocooned you with your friend and this man, and there is really no great surprise that attraction grew and developed during this time but there is a question about whether this will be maintained when you move fully back into a world of external stimuli and action.

The possible consequences of announcing this relationship as primary are potentially serious (in terms of community and friendship) and this behoves you to be very sure of your choices.

If you are planning a long-term future, you may need to consider big questions, such as having children of your own, living in a community that might have strong opinions about you and your own family, and their support or otherwise of the choice you are being faced with.

You say you have a good career and social life and while all relationships require some sacrifice (you have to consider another’s needs as well as your own), this one might make wider demands on you with less support than you might otherwise have expected.

If you and your friend’s dad decide to go public with the relationship, you might do so with consideration for those closest to both of you. Your friend’s siblings, her mother, your own parents and siblings need to be told in advance, so they have time to come to terms with their own feelings about this new relationship and adjust their expectations accordingly. A slow, well-paced delivery of the news might allow for understanding and support to arise, but it is likely that some people will be upset, worried or even angry at the news and you cannot simply dismiss them.

Listening fully to the responses of those closest to you will demonstrate respect and care for the speaker, and this will in turn open them up to hearing what you have to say.

If both you and your partner can show confidence in your relationship, and resilience in your determination to be a couple, others will take direction from this stance and be more open to its viability.

However, this still leaves your relationship with your friend with a potential huge rift so she may need you to be patient and loyal to her as she navigates this territory. Not only does she stand to lose her close friend, but also her relationship with her beloved parent is up for grabs, and this could be a doomsday choice for her.

Be very aware of this and know that she has already gone through a parental divorce and so will be familiar with loss, separation and grief.

If you are serious about forming a long-term relationship with her dad, take the long view and allow his daughter all the time she needs to come to terms with this before launching a formal disclosure.