Murphy’s Love: Advice on Intimacy and Relationships — Old Enough for a Boyfriend?

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Dear Stacy,

We are hoping for your advice about our 16-year-old daughter. After spending her high school years (so far) going out with groups of friends on the weekends and going to dances on group dates, etc., she wants to start dating a boy exclusively. My husband and I have our reservations about whether this is a good idea.

For example, she has a tendency to get distracted by social things when she’s at school. While her grades are good, that is the only negative feedback we’ve received from her teachers in the last few years. I am also not sure I trust her judgment, as she has chosen some friends in the recent past whom I would not consider to be good matches for her.

We have not spent time with the boy she wants to see except when she’s invited her entire friend group to our house (not often), so I don’t have a strong opinion about him. She has made it clear that she thinks he’s something special and has brought us into the conversation about it, but I’m not sure I can give her my permission. What would you do? Is a distractible teenager old enough to have a boyfriend?

— Concerned Parent

Dear Concerned:

Let me ask a few questions about Daughter. Is she old enough to let rejection roll off her back? Is she ready to experience the highest highs of emotional connection before first period, only to crash to the lowest of lows due to an offhand remark at lunchtime? Is she advanced enough to be able to predict relational outcomes before the relationship even gets started? Is she equipped to have her heart broken?

If your answer to any of these questions is “no,” then maybe she’s not old enough to have a boyfriend — but no one ever is. It’s the dating process that molds our relational expectations of others, and our own relational self-image. Is anyone ever prepared for that kind of impact? No! But guess what? She’s basically already dating him, so you’re off the hook. The will-they-or-won’t-they? is not your problem. It’s the “during” and the aftermath that are yours to supervise. And be glad you have the heads-up that it’s happening.

The fact that she has brought you into the conversation is lovely, but it’s also a courtesy. Please view it that way. While your opinion certainly matters to her, play out the scenario in which you don’t give your “permission” and she decides to go for it anyway. Right? See? You will have created the plot point that drives our couple together, giving their union a purpose: defying your wishes.

Stacy Notaras Murphy is a licensed professional counselor in Georgetown. Visit her on the web at stacymurphylpc.com. This column is meant for entertainment only and should not be considered a substitute for professional counseling. Send your confidential question to stacy@stacymurphylpc.com.

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