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The question

My daughter hates that I'm dating. She's 32; I'm 65. Her dad has never been in the picture, but now that I've found a serious relationship, she's having real trouble accepting another person having my attention. What can I do?

The answer

Kids - even when they're adults - can have trouble accepting a new partner in a parent's life. When a parent has gone through a divorce or been widowed, a child may have difficulty accepting a new relationship. A range of emotions can surface for a child even when the new relationship is not replacing the role of another parent, like in your situation.

I'm assuming that this is one of the first significant relationships. Your daughter has gotten used to your undivided attention (and more importantly your undivided affection), and that she is struggling with accepting an actual (or perceived) shift in the relationship she has with you.

This may feel difficult and hurtful to you, as it may come across as though she is unhappy to see you happy. I suspect this may be bringing up some mixed feelings for you. You likely feel guilty - which is normal.

Have an open discussion with her: Let her know what you have observed and your feelings about the situation. Don't assume that her feelings relate to her difficulty accepting that another person has your attention - she may be feeling confused, sad, or fear that the relationship between you and her will change.

She may be feeling protective toward you and wanting to ensure you don't get hurt. Check-in with her on her feelings and thoughts about the situation, as they may surprise you.

Speak to her about how you feel about your partner, and the positives added to your life by being in this relationship so that she better understands your perspective. Reassure your daughter that your partner will not in any way take the place of your relationship with her. You may need to identify ways that you and she can continue to spend individual time together nurturing your relationship. Ask her for ideas on what she would like to see.

I suspect that your daughter is simply going to need some time to adjust to a "new normal." Maintain open lines of communication with her, but at the same time stay firm and do not allow her feelings to dissuade you or contribute to you feeling guilty about fulfilling an important part of your life.

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