Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Mother Is Frightened About Daughter’s Relationship

DEAR NATALIE: About a month ago I asked my daughter about a necklace she was wearing that I had not noticed before. It took me a week to get it out of her. She sat me down and told me she had been Skyping for about a year with a guy that she met online. They have been secretly meeting and are romantically involved. He is an engineer in Detroit. He drives here to spend a weekend with her about every two weeks. He is originally from India (comes from a good family) and has lived in the U.S. for four years. He came here to get his master's degree and encourages her to study, and she has wonderful grades because of his help. He treats her well and wines and dines her. I went to lunch with them last weekend, and he seemed nice. I am just fearful that he may be just using her for sex, and/or possibly to marry her to get a visa. He has a work visa for another three years. He does not know what he will do after that. I am just worried sick over this. She is very naive and has always been sheltered. I just have a hard time wrapping my brain around a 25-year-old man with an excellent career going after a 20-year-old college girl. Am I being crazy or should I be worried? -- Scared Mama

DEAR SCARED MAMA: I've re-read your letter several times, looking for something to see as a red flag. The only things I see are positive. Her grades are improving because of him. He treats her with kindness and respect. He dotes on her. A five-year age gap may seem like a lot to you, but in the big scheme of things, it really isn't. As far as being concerned that he is looking for a visa to stay in the country, let it play itself out. If he proposes next week, then yes, I would start to question his sincerity. But, if they stick together for a few years and your daughter seems happy, then it would only make sense that he would stay here instead of going back home. Try not to let your fears and prejudices cloud your opinion. Get to know him, continue to have open dialogue with your daughter and whatever you do ... don't discourage her. The more you tell her not to do something, the more she will cling to him. At the end of the day, we just want our children to be happy and healthy, and love knows none of the limits we impose on ourselves and each other.

Please send your relationship and lifestyle questions to nbencivenga@post-gazette.com or tweet them to @NBSeen. You can also send postal letters to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15212

(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)