DEAR HARRIETTE: I am a sophomore in college, and I’m in a relationship with my professor. He’s 27 and just graduated from grad school last year, so we’re within the same age group, since I just turned 20.
My friends think it’s crazy that we’re together, but he’s exactly the type of man I see myself with: He’s smart, handsome and kind, and things have been going well. We are secretive about our relationship because he says if the school were to find out, he could get in trouble. I wouldn’t want him to lose his job, but making sure we go to restaurants and other activities away from campus is a lot. Do you think this relationship will work out, with the sneaking around? -- Lost Girl, Washington, D.C.
DEAR LOST GIRL: You both need to throw a little cold water in your faces. Find out what the school’s policy is about faculty dating students. Don’t guess at it. It may not be against the rules, considering your age, but you need to find out for sure. If, indeed, you are breaking a clear moral code of the school, you may want to consider cooling off until you graduate. Yes, that’s a long time from now, but if you honestly believe this could be your guy, be disciplined about not crossing the line anymore. Difficult but possible to do! Otherwise, you jeopardize his career and future and your chances of ever being able to be with him.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I just found out my daughter is sexually active -- at 15! My wife and I found out through her text messages because our iClouds are connected. I just want to ground her. My wife told me it’s OK, and we have to act calm, but I can’t. She’s my little girl, and I wasn’t prepared for this to happen. My wife thinks this is her area of expertise, which I can agree with because she has been through this, but I think I should be in the conversation. Should I let my wife handle this, or do you think I participate as well? -- Stressed-Out Father, Winston-Salem, North Carolina
DEAR STRESSED OUT FATHER: If your wife thinks your daughter will listen to her, let her begin the conversation. What you both want to avoid is getting so angry that you speak to her in a way that shuts her down. What needs to happen is for you to get through to her. Perhaps her mom can start the conversation, letting her know what you have learned and asking her to talk about it. The goal is to create space for meaningful conversation. You want to find out who the sexual partner(s) may be, how long this has been happening and if she is using protection. Find out if she has been forced to do anything she's uncomfortable with. And learn what her intentions are. She needs to be either taught or reminded of the consequences of sexual activity before being mature enough to manage it. Personally, I think your wife should encourage your daughter to reconsider her sexual activity.
Your wife should take your daughter to the doctor for a thorough examination to ensure that she is not pregnant and to rule out sexually transmitted infections. The doctor can also talk to her about sexual protection and activity.
When you feel less upset, it will be your turn to talk to your daughter. At that time, speak from your heart, but do your best to avoid judgment. You want to reinforce your family’s values.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to email@example.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)