Should I Tell My Daughter That I Don't Trust Her Boyfriend?

If you have grave concerns about the trustworthiness of your daugher's boyfriend, how should you handle it? Out etiquette expert weighs in.

Man with his fingers crossed behind his backAdam Gault

Q. I disapprove of my daughter’s boyfriend. She told me that recently he lied to her about a very important matter: He didn’t tell her that he had been thrown out of law school. I now think he can’t be trusted. Should I let my feelings on this subject be known?
Name withheld by request

A. May my nine-year-old daughter never grow up. Between the lying and whatever it is that got that guy thrown out of law school: Yikes! But you’re lucky, still, that your daughter apparently trusts you enough to confide in you. Right now you should focus on reinforcing that trust between you and your child, not on sharing your thoughts about her boyfriend. Throw frosty judgments at her and you’ll risk chilling your relationship or even sending her straight into the arms of the prevaricating nonlawyer.

If the two of you discuss the matter, tread lightly: Do more asking than telling, and help her figure out how she feels about what happened. If you hear her express doubts about him, repeat the words back to her: “It sounds as if you’re still worried about him lying. Can you imagine trusting him again?”

And keep one possibility in the back of your mind: This could be an isolated incident. Yes, maybe the law-school lie is the tip of a big-jerk iceberg, and the next thing you know, the boyfriend will be faking an M.B.A. and scamming people out of their life savings. But he could simply have been embarrassed and handled the whole thing poorly.

If it’s the former, I’ll keep my fingers crossed for a swift breakup. But if it’s the latter, you might want to think of the experience as a painful lesson for everyone concerned and move past it.

 

— Catherine Newman

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