So your 21-year-old daughter is dating an older man. For most parents, that typically is a point of concern. As a parent of a young adult myself, I’m concerned when my daughter dates anyone let alone an older man.
Before we dive into more details about how to have a conversation with her about the situation there is something very important you need to understand.
Even though you may be concerned your 21-year-old daughter is dating an older man, she is an adult and it is ultimately up to her. As long as there is no evidence of physical or mental harm she is responsible for making her own decisions.
Most parents do not want to hear this.
Why is My Daughter Dating an Older Man
The reality is, there is no one answer to this question. There are common reasons why women date older men but there is no one size fits all. Here are the most common reasons women date older men.
21-year-old men are pretty immature. A common reason a young woman would date an older man is that she is looking for someone more mature than the men her age.
Another reason that is not as common as most people may think is money. The older a man is, the more time he has had to accumulate money and wealth. Some women are more attracted to men with money and that typically means a man that is older.
Freud would say that a woman that is dating an older man is because of a poor or damaged relationship with her father. If this is the case, it can be difficult to diagnose, even by a professional.
Hopefully, your 21-year-old daughter is dating an older man because he is a good man that makes her happy. This is the best case situation. Just because one person is older than the other does not mean there is anything weird or predatory going on. It could just be that a woman fell in love with a man that is older than her, plain and simple.
If your daughter is having trouble with the relationship, there are things that can be done there also.
Age is Just a Number
I know this is one of those annoying clichés but age really is just a number. Rather than focusing on the age of the man she is dating, you should spend more time focusing on the quality of the man she is dating.
Take the time to get to know the person rather than just assuming they are not good for your daughter. Who knows, this “older man” you are so afraid of her dating could actually be good for her, the only way to find out is to get to know them better as a person.
People fall in love all the time regardless of age. Age is when of the last things that should be taken into consideration when choosing a partner. There are many more important details like their personality, confidence, and drive.
You should be more concerned with is this person good for my daughter, not is this person age-appropriate for my daughter. I was a 21-year-old boy before and trust me, they are no walk in the park.
Approach your Daughter about Dating an Older Man
The next step is to have a real and honest conversation with your daughter about the man she is dating. Now the way this conversation goes could set up the relationship you and your daughter have for years to come.
21-years-old is a delicate age. If you do not have a strong foundation with your daughter already, having a conversation incorrectly could really damage your relationship with your daughter.
How to Not Have the Conversation
- Do not approach your daughter as an authority figure. You are a friend having a conversation with another friend. If you set the tone of the conversation as I am your parent and you need to listen to me, it won’t go well.
- Do not tell her what to do. That is the fastest way to get her to stop taking your advice completely. Offer your advice only when prompted. As the previous point mentioned, you are not having a parent/daughter conversation, you are having a conversation with a friend.
- Don’t lecture. Your job in this conversation is to listen, not to speak.
- Do not make accusations. Accusing her of dating an older man for specific reasons is a fast way for the conversation to go south.
- Do not bad mouth her boyfriend. Remember, she loves or at least has strong feelings for this person. Do not make it feel like it’s you against him.
- Coming off as judgmental and disapproving will only deepen her interest in the older man. Even as teens turn into young adults they still enjoy rebelling against their parents, even if it is subconscious.
How to Have the Conversation Correctly
Try to do as little talking as possible. Ask open-ended questions and allow your daughter to do most of the talking. Ask open-ended questions like, “Tell me more about him?” rather than “Does he smoke?”. This is not an interview.
Although the only thing you want to ask is “Why are you dating a man so much older than you?” that is the one question you should not ask. It makes it sound like what she is doing is wrong somehow. By asking the right questions, you can get the answer to that question without asking it.
The best way to approach your daughter would be for genuine interest in the person she is dating. Ask questions with real interest rather than with contempt. Also, be sure to watch your tone. Sometimes tone can be more reveling than words.
Get to Know Him
The easiest and healthiest way to get over the discomfort with your daughter dating an older man is to get to know him better. By getting to know him, hopefully, you will be able to see what she sees in him.
Try to see him in different situations at different times. People can only hide who they really are for so long. Invite him over to dinner or to the next family gathering.
A good way to get to know someone well quickly is to go on vacation with them. Plan a family vacation with you, your daughter, and her boyfriend. This will give you a good idea quickly of who this person is over an extended period of time.
Look out for classic red flags like him getting angry over small things or the way he speaks to your daughter. Do not go on this trip trying to find something wrong with him, go on this trip to get to know him better.
Put age aside and get to know him as a person.
What To Do if He is Bad For My Daughter?
This is a hard question with an even harder answer.
There is nothing you can do about your daughter dating someone you don’t like or someone you think is bad for her. The reality is, she is an adult now and can do what she likes.
If you see any signs of mental, physical, or sexual abuse it may be time to contact a professional to better assess the situation. Although she may hate you for it, if there are signs of abuse, action needs to be taken.
If that’s not the case unfortunately there is nothing you can do but let them ride the relationship out.
It can difficult to see your daughter dating an older man. The best thing you can do is stop seeing him as an older man and get to know him as a person. How does he treat your daughter? What are the things he says about her?
The reality is, there is little you can actually do if you don’t like the fact that your 21-year-old daughter is dating an older man. Be sure to be delicate in your conversation with her about the matter.