Dear Papa Bear,
First off, I would like to say I greatly enjoy reading your column.
Now onto my problem. A few days ago, one of my friends (for simplicity's sake, I'll call her "Fox") messaged me and some other friends via Facebook that she met a guy (I'll call him "Lion") and was going on a first date later that day. I found that to be good for her, especially because she had never dated anyone before. Later that day, she messaged us that she had kissed him. That was the first thing that concerned me as it seemed to have happened a bit too quickly.
Today "Fox" described behavior from "Lion" that sounded way to soon for the amount of time they had been together and very clingy, including making out and cuddling. If I recall correctly, it happened during only the second date. I warned her about it and to be careful and she assured me she was being careful.
Later today, another friend asked her how old "Lion" is. The answer shocked me. "Lion" is 30. "Fox" is 18. Yes, she is a legal adult, but a 12 year age gap, to me, is enormous, especially considering she has never dated before.
I must give some background on "Fox." From what I have heard from her before, she does not have a very good home life. As far as I can tell, her parents, who were never married and live apart, are not abusive, but neither are good parents. This includes threatening to not help her pay tuition if she went to community college instead of a university.
As to how this relates to "Lion," I believe what she is actually looking for in him is not a boyfriend, but a father figure and an escape from her family. I also believe "Lion" may be getting desperate, although I do not know how many previous relationships he's had, but it would explain the clingy behavior.
"Fox" is a good friend of mine and I want to help her. What do you think? Should I pull her aside and tell her my concerns, and if I do, what should I say?
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Thanks for the compliment :-3
It’s great that you care about the welfare of your friend, Fox. You could be right in your assessment of the situation. However, you could also be incorrect. When you lace your letter with phrases like “if I recall,” “from what I have heard,” and “as far as I can tell,” we can conclude you are not standing on completely firm ground.
Instead of jumping to conclusions, sit down with Fox and—without being fake about it—ask how she’s doing and ask her to tell you more about Lion, and also talk about her and her life.
It sounds to Papabear like, although you are friends with Fox, you are not best or close friends. Even close friends should be wary about interfering with other people’s lives, unless they are asked to give advice. You are neither extremely close, nor has Fox asked you for your input, so don’t stick your snout in where it doesn’t belong.
What you can do is offer her your (nonjudgmental) ear and be a friend. Also—not that this came up, but I’m covering bases here—do not gossip about Fox and Lion to your other friends.
Just because there’s a 12 year age gap between Lion and Fox does not preclude the possibility they are actually in love. I know a number of people who are married who have gaps that large or larger. You shouldn’t leap into an assumption, risking not only their relationship but also your friendship with Fox.
There’s a difference between being a friend and being a nosy busybody. Tread lightly.
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