Seeking input about a guy who is petitioning to be my daughter's boyfriend....
Maybe you wonderful women can help me to sort this out in my head.
First of all, I realize that my daughter's boyfriend is HER DECISION, but she hasn't decided yet and she does tend to respect my opinion.
He is Mexican, an illegal immigrant (as are so many of our friends), and hence the 'petitioning to be her boyfriend' thing. It's a very respectful, honorable tradition of the Mexican culture. He is a very very nice young man and I do like him.
Here are my confusions/concerns.
1. He's 23 and she's just about to turn 17. I'm a little concerned about the age difference, but not too much.
2. I'm a little concerned that if they get serious and he's deported, she'll go through a lot of changes and potentially decide to marry for that reason. I would hate to see her get married for that reason. I did it myself, with her father who is French. It was disasterous, in large part due to the language difference which is my last major concern.
3. He speaks almost no English. Her Spanish is getting better, but is still really limited. I know from personal experience how hard it can be to really know someone when there are serious communication issues stemming from language differences. I also know how easy it is to think that a person is someone they are not because with extremely limited ability to communicate, it is very easy to project onto a person.
The things I really love about the guy;
1. He's a friend of the family and we all like spending time with him and him with us. We've only known him a few months but his mom is my best friend. (Another concern I guess; don't want our friendship to be strained if it doesn't workout with him).
2. He's tender and sweet. He is very attentive to her and treats her well. (We've all seen this coming, obviously).
3. I think she has a need to be treated the way that he treats her. Previous boyfriends have been disappointments to her, and it's affected her self-esteem. On the other hand, I recognize the dangers of having your self esteem dictated by how men treat you.
AGH! I'm not sure what 'advice' to give her, other than to just get to know him while I'm teaching him to speak English and her to speak Spanish.
...keep in mind, my daughter is American. Multicultural, yes, but we are very much American women, all of my daughters and I.
My eldest daughter, the one in question, is American and of course half French, but her father has never been a real part of her life.
My youngest two are biracial. Their father, my husband, is an excellent father and very laid back, leaving most of the major decisions to me, although he doesn't hesitate to make his feelings known. We just tend to agree about most things and it seems that everything of real import, we pretty much see the same. He has the same mixed feelings as I do about this situation.
Adding to the mix, I have custody of my sister's son, Mohammad, who is half Pakistani. Mohammad is autistic, which makes exposing him to his cultural heritage a bit of a challenge.
So, yeah, our household is very mixed culturally, but the women are AMERICAN WOMEN. Very independent.
Age difference: Are their relative maturity levels compatible? If so, I think the age difference is significant but ok.
Deportation worries: Is this a concern because of your daughter's personality or because of your history?
Language: I definitely know what you mean about language barriers changing how you perceive people, but in general this wouldn't be a huge concern for me. They will find a way to work it out or the relationship will naturally fizzle.
Two things jumped out at me: 1) your daughter isn't sure what to do. Why not? What concerns does she have? Is she just not that interested? I would want to know more about this only because most of the time it's pretty easy to decide if you want to be with someone or not.
2) I'd worry less about language and more about culture. Latino culture still has some pretty strong machismo, in some places and some families more than in others. Machismo includes both the sweet, attentive boyfriend side as well as the jealous, controlling cheater side; so the fact that he's treating her well does not preclude these other aspects. OF COURSE not all Latino men are like that, but I wanted to mention it in case you haven't thought of that yet. My concern is that if he has some very traditional beliefs, he may be more apt to grow up around machismo; and that combined with a DD who assigns even a little self-worth to how others treat her is a dangerous combination.
In the interest of full disclosure, I'm married to a Latino 9 years my senior.
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The issue here has nothing to do with the boy being Mexican or your daughter being an 'American woman', it is about her age and the potential future of that relationship.
I think 16-17 is awfully young to be in any kind of relationship, especially with someone older. I would question why a 23 year old would want to be with a child. It would actually be illegal in many places. I would tell them to wait until she is older. If they truly are in love it wont matter and if they are not, she will avoid the heartache in the event that he gets deported.
16 is way too young to have a history of being treated badly and have a low self-esteem because of it. She needs to chill for a while, rebuild her self-esteem and mature a little before even considering entering a new relationship.
Deportation being one of them. Also, if he is respectful/traditional in this way, is he going to maintain other male/female traditions in the relationship or marriage if they decide to marry? If so, how will she as an American woman feel about that? Is she a feminist?
I don't have a problem with the age gap. I met dh when I was 18 (barely) and he was 28. In many cultures that's very normal. His English was not so great, but I found that after spending a lot of time with him, I could understand him even when others couldn't--I learned how to translate his version of English. As far as traditions--an American feminist would *hate* being married to my dh (eta, it occurs to me that an American feminist wouldn't even consider for a second marrying my dh ) . Even as a non-feminist and pretty traditional gal, having grown up in the US made it very difficult for me to get used to some of dh's attitudes and assumptions about marriage and relationships. We did eventually make peace but it got ugly for a while there.
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IMHO, there are just too many unknowns to approach the relationship from a base of fear about what could happen. Lots of things happen in life and we learn how to handle them and handle ourselves.
The important thing at this point is to stay closely connected with your daughter and stay focused on the here and now. In an old-fashioned, traditional Mexican "courting" situation, the young couple is never left alone. The young man comes and spends time with the young woman's family. If they go out on dates, it's with a group. It's rather harmless and yes, very sweet, as you described it in the OP.
I would encourage you to let your daughter take the lead on this. Encourage her to really sort through her feelings, her thoughts, and her instincts about this young man. Trust her.
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