Dear Harlan: My daughter wants to go on vacation with her boyfriend this summer and meet up with a group of friends. She is a senior in high school who just graduated. They would drive a few hours to meet up with a group of friends and stay at someone’s beach house. They would most likely share a room.
My daughter doesn’t see the problem. She says she will be in college next year and will be free to do whatever she wants. I told her she could wait until next year. I’m not ready for this. She says that I need to learn how to trust her. Am I being overprotective? I was raised in a conservative home where this would never have been acceptable. — Concerned Mom
Dear Concerned Mom: I can’t tell you how to parent. You know your daughter. You have your guiding principles. I respect that.
The truth is that you’re both right. She will be able to do whatever she wants with whomever she wants next year. You won’t be able to control it. That’s scary for you. Make sure you understand what’s really bothering you about this trip. Is it the lack of control? Is it the inability to protect her? Is it all the changes coming your way? Be careful.
Hanging on tighter and restricting her more isn’t going to bring her closer to you. It actually might push her away. She might not feel comfortable sharing with you and asking for help and advice. If you don’t approve, she might not think you’re in her corner.
There’s a balance to protecting her and protecting yourself. All these changes can be overwhelming. Make sure this is about her, not you.
Dear Harlan: I’m in a three-month relationship with a woman I really like. We have become official. My girlfriend revealed to me that she has dated women in the past. She said she wanted to be honest since we are getting more serious. I said thanks and that it didn’t change anything.
After thinking about this, it confuses me. Why would telling me this matter? Why is this important for me to know? Do I now need to worry about her leaving me for another woman? Why do you think she felt like I needed to know this information? I can ask her, but I didn’t want to turn this into something bigger than it needs to be. — Questioning
Dear Questioning: I agree: I wouldn’t turn this into a problem. Sharing secrets with you that no one else knows is part of getting closer to you. It’s part of intimacy. She also might want to make sure you know about her past so if you bump into an ex or if she wants to share lessons from past relationships, she can openly tell you.
I wouldn’t worry about her running off with another woman. She could just as easily run off with another guy, too. She chooses you. She wants to get closer and commit to you. If you still have questions, tell her that you are grateful that she can share this part of her past with you.
Ask her why it was important for her to share this with you. If you make it safe, she will be more willing to tell you the reason, and you can use this to bring you closer.